Friday, 21 November 2008


so off we go to st andrew's to see inklight's open mic night. being used to spartan attendances i took some stuff in my bag but didn't need it as it was packed! we were highly entertained. we particularly liked the bloke who managed to get a rhyme in with oubliette, the boy callum who was on for far too short a time and my favourite, the girl who managed to get a poem out of whatever it was she was studying in maths. no mean trick!

plus, they had a bunch of people reading for the first time which has to be a good sign. there was totally none of the tenseness (or aggression!) i remember from when i started - no hecklers either in the venue or coming in from outside! they even had people reading a bit of prose. i was far less convinced by this than the poetry, it being trickier to get right i think, but i came away feeling very positive.

or at least i did until the drive back. you realise we probably stuck out a bit said t. you think so i said. yes, she replied, they probably thought we were someone's mum and dad. ouch!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

full on!

it may be that i'm getting more sedentary but i'm reassured that i can live vicariously through others. you can get a flavour of the drop here. outside of concern about my spine at the bottom would i have tried such a stunt? absolutely!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

jayanta mahapatra


Awaken then; they are knobs of sound
that seem to melt and crumple up
like some tropical jellyfish of tropical seas,
torn from sleep with a hand lined by prophecies.
Listen hard; their male, gaunt world sprawls the page
like rows of tree trunks reeking in the smoke
of ages, the branches glazed and dead;
as though longing to make up with the sky,
but having lost touch with themselves
were unable to find themselves, hold meaning.

And yet, down the steps unto the water at Varanasi,
where the lifeless bodies seem to grow human,
the shaggy heads of the word-buds move back and forth
between the harsh castanets of the rain
and the noiseless feathers of summer -
aware that their syllables' overwhelming silence
would not escape the hearers now, and which
must remain that mysterious divine path
guarded by drifts of queer, quivering banyans:
a language of clogs over cobbles, casting
its uncertain spell, trembling sadly into mist.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

jorge luis borges

Nadie a tu lado.
Anoche maté a un hombre en la batalla.
Era animoso y alto, de la clara estirpe de Anlaf.
La espada entró en el pecho, un poco a la izquierda.
Rodó por tierra y fue una cosa,
una cosa del cuervo.
En vano lo esperarás, mujer que no he visto.
No lo traerán las naves que huyeron
sobre el agua amarilla.
En la hora del alba,
tu mano desde el sueño lo buscará.
Tu lecho está frío.
Anoche maté a un hombre en Brunanburh.

Nobody at your side

Last night I killed a man in battle
high spirited, of the bright blood of Anlaf
The sword entered his chest, a little to the left
He fell to the earth, no more a man,
carrion feast for crows
You will wait for him in vain, unseen woman
the ships that fled on the golden water
will not return him
In the hour of the dawn,
your hand will seek his only in dreams
your milk stilled and cold.

Last night I killed a man in Brunanburh

version by me

i don't know anything about this, where it comes from or if it forms part of a larger work. found it last night during a quiet moment at work

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

the battle of brunanburh

The Battle of Brunanburh

In this year King Aethelstan, Lord of warriors,
ring-giver to men, and his brother also,
Prince Eadmund, won eternal glory
in battle with sword edges
around Brunanburh. They split the shield-wall,
they hewed battle shields with the remnants of hammers.
The sons of Eadweard, it was only befitting their noble descentf
rom their ancestors that they should often
defend their land in battle against each hostile people,
horde and home. The enemy perished,
Scots men and seamen,
fated they fell. The field flowed
with blood of warriors, from sun up
in the morning, when the glorious star
glided over the earth, God's bright candle,
eternal lord, till that noble creation
sank to its seat. There lay many a warrior
by spears destroyed; Northern men
shot over shield, likewise Scottish as well,
weary, war sated.

The West-Saxons pushed onward
all day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind
with swords sharp from the grinding.
The Mercians did not refuse hard hand-play to any warrior
who came with Anlaf over the sea-surge
in the bosom of a ship, those who sought land,
fated to fight. Five lay dead
on the battle-field, young kings,
put to sleep by swords, likewise also seven
of Anlaf's earls, countless of the army,
sailors and Scots. There the North-men's chief was put
to flight, by need constrained
to the prow of a ship with little company:
he pressed the ship afloat, the king went out
on the dusky flood-tide, he saved his life.
Likewise, there also the old campaigner through flight came
to his own region in the north--Constantine--
hoary warrior. He had no reason to exult
the great meeting; he was of his kinsmen bereft,
friends fell on the battle-field,
killed at strife: even his son, young in battle, he left
in the place of slaughter, ground to pieces with wounds.
That grizzle-haired warrior had no
reason to boast of sword-slaughter,
old deceitful one, no more did Anlaf;
with their remnant of an army they had no reason to
laugh that they were better in deed of war
in battle-field--collision of banners,
encounter of spears, encounter of men,
trading of blows--when they played against
the sons of Eadweard on the battle field.

Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
sought Dublin over the deep water,
leaving Dinges mere
to return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.
Likewise the brothers, both together,
King and Prince, sought their home,
West-Saxon land, exultant from battle.
They left behind them, to enjoy the corpses,
the dark coated one, the dark horny-beaked raven
and the dusky-coated one,
the eagle white from behind, to partake of carrion,
greedy war-hawk, and that gray animal
the wolf in the forest.

Never was there more slaughter
on this island, never yet as many
people killed before this
with sword's edge: never according to those who tell us
from books, old wisemen,
since from the east Angles and Saxons came up
over the broad sea. Britain they sought,
Proud war-smiths who overcame the Welsh,
glorious warriors they took hold of the land.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

and further

just to add the icing to the cake of disenchantment i've been baking this week, this gem from the bbc featuring, for a change, that other 'religion of peace' christianity. er, i think not, these boys seem to have missed the point a bit. maybe there's something in the water in jerusalem...

Saturday, 8 November 2008


still agog at the vacuity of the coverage of the obama compaign by the british press (or the obama fan club as they should rightly be known) and the bbc in particular - i believe there's something in their charter about impartiality but i'm guessing as in so much else it doesn't apply
to johnny foreigner. esp when we're bombing them.

but today, on the day trevor phillips announced there couldn't be a british obama (referring to the speed of his ascent), in response to which some labour wag responded that 'it's called the parliamentary system', i was further astonished by the coverage of the anniversary of WWI. not only did the announcer not appear to realise that sunday wasn't, in fact, 90 years 'to the day' when WWI ended, apparently forgetting all that eleventh hour business, but he also banged on about how we were still learning the lessons of all those ninety years ago. now call me cynical but i'd suggest that if we haven't learned a lesson in ninety years chances are that lesson is not going to be learned

Friday, 7 November 2008

claribel alegria

I Am Root

More than polished stone
more than morning dusk
more than the dream of the tree
and those of flower and fruit
I am root
a winding, crawling root
without luster, without a future
blind to any vision
hardening to the ground
as I work through it
testing the fallen bread
of misfortune
the opacity of wingless birds
the overshadowed dawn
and its leaden clouds
hours that pass without dark messages
an undulating, twining root
perhaps bringing up from the ground
that lightning, that stone
once on the beach moving among
weeds, alone among the rubbish, searching
cinerous root, mortal root
diver of my darkest regions
obscure calligraphy
inheritance of gallows, of cabala
poison root, imprisoned
by the time of a place
mirror of myself without water, thirsty
your blood tastes of the earth
your bark,summer
imprisoned, you don't look
for openings, you look for death
a quiet death, disguised
as days without omens
and as time without dates
and the gray willing faces of the hours
without birds where an instant
simply dissolves
the life I've yet to live
does not inspire me
in my lips there are crevices
and my face is stone
I do not allow a storm to enter
silently, I submerge myself
in a sea which no longer moves
the murmur ends
the appearances and disappearances
all dreams in which we can only
dream of ourselves
the remains of that daggered love
and the other, hidden love
the names of Eros and Thanatos
everything vanishes
your crystal song never reaches me
nor your wet touch, nor your lips
nor the teeth of your love
I gather my fragments and slip away,
I slither, I smell the sea
in which one day my memory will be
buried and I will not know pain
demands, or fear
and I will then be no more
than a calm spin in a tomb of water

trans carolyn forche

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

was there an election?

i do believe there was. it seems like lots of people were getting excited about it. apparently there's a big change afoot. there must be because both the candidates were telling us there would be. especially that obama fellow. we will change america he said, and then the world. brilliant, more of america changing the world, that's just what we need.

it all seems so familiar. all so... tony blair. i hear obama and i hear blair's voice in monkey dust. the same thing over and over and over. and listening to mccain wasn't much better. ummmm, policies?

i go to work and i ask one of the iraqis i work with if he feels obama's election will make a difference. he is instantly animated ,angry. two years ago, he says, your troops were supposed to leave my country. they're still there. do you think i believe the americans will leave? and if they do what will they leave behind?

two of his cousins, he tells me, were killed by americans, shot in the street as they got into their car. his father who is seventy five and no longer opens his business because he is tired of finding bodies in the street ,has been shot at in his car three times. it's only luck he hasn't been injured or killed. his sisters, who are lecturers, have just been given a pay rise. they're not happy as they fear it may result in kidnap or killing. but people know this, he insists. no they don't, i think, they just see it on tv.

another iraqi guy i know, who i can't really talk about because of the danger to him in this country, he wants to go back, to help rebuild. but they'll totally kill him i say when i hear. he knows this, i am told

so forgive me if i don't join in with the delight that's sweeping the globe. the faces may have changed but the message remains the same - america first, change the world. i think the world's had about enough of the rich telling it what to do when it's expedient for them.

as for my iraqi colleague he says, after all this who knows, maybe we were better under the last guy

magic beans for everyone...

Monday, 3 November 2008

hafiz of shiraz


Do not, puritanically disposed ascetic, censure the depraved:
The sin of others will not be recorded against you.

Whether I am good and whether bad, you go and test yourself!
In the end everyone harvests what he has sown.

Everyone, sober or drunk, is in quest of the Friend:
Every place is the house of love, whether mosque or temple.

My head in submission and the brick of the wine-shop's door;
If the disputer doesn't understand this, say, 'Beat your head against the wall.'

Do not make me hopeless of Eternity without Begninng's erstwhile kindness.
What do you know who behind the veil is good and who bad?

Not only have I tumbled out of the secluded abode of piety:
My father also let Paradise slip from his grasp.

If your mind is on all this, fine for the mind!
And if your nature is on all this, good for a good nature!

O Hafiz, if the Day of Doom you raise a cup,
From the street of the tavern go at once straight to Heaven.

trans peter avery