Saturday, 31 January 2009

jenni daiches


for M. B.

We talked till late
of circles and straight
lines, of gendered time,
of women living in the round
and the onwardness of men.

And then,
today I made a circle, walked
from Seven Sisters Road
to Upper Street and found
bistros and brasseries
but the shop gone
that cut the butter
into quarter pounds.

The Hare and Hounds
still there, thank God, where
he and I ate lunch
that very first of days.
Then to the Angel
to complete the circle
I'd begun
when i was regrettably young.

Meanwhile the men
race on, leaving the earth
rather than bend
as if life were straight,
as if to follow a curve
were to deviate.

Friday, 30 January 2009

journaling the apocalypse

those nice qarrtsiluni people have brought out their first print edition via lulu. it consists of last quarter's journaling the apocalypse submissions and looks good. my copy is ordered...

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

robert burns

i think there was some sort of burns happening this week. which there is every year or, for that matter, really any time you fancy it. in fact, shocking as it may sound you don't even need the tatties and neeps far less the whisky (this in itself has to be a sort of scottish blasphemy), you could just pick up a book.

but no. we're scottish and we're not going to be doing anything prosaic as actually reading the bard (there i've said it, only the once, i shan't do it again). no, not unless we're school children, because we all know that most kids just love being force to speak poetry out loud in a dialect they don't speak, oh yes they do, and heaven forbid we'd actually memorise any of his work let alone sing it (having an eddi reader cd doesn't count)

and then there's that homecoming thing. naturally alex salmond, a batrachian fellow for whom the word 'fud' was surely created, is up for that. so rather than talk bout rbs, gaza, any of those things, he dribbles off to dumfries for a wee photo opportunity. there's a snp burns night here - the sort of thing that makes you want to walk in front of a bus (i should point out that other than the obvious vitriol i don't have anything specific against the snp but we don't appear to have a labour party in scotland any more). i have a look at the homecoming thing. there's burns, yup, i know it's him because some tit is dressed as him, with a feather and waving whisky, if only i could get him round the house to sponge off me, shag t, have an illegitimate child and abandon them i'd feel my nationhood fulfilled.

problem is that burns appears under the section labelled great minds and innovations. okay then, where are they at? i see tobias smollet's name (pop quiz fellow scots - three of smollet's books without googling) but no-one else. strange. maybe i'm missing something. so i look at the quiz, maybe it's there. except the first question - who is the lead singer of marillion. marillion! the bus seems like the easy option now.

what the scottish government diddies are forgetting is that their site is aimed at tourists. the sort of people who'll probably know who the likes of david hume, adam ferguson, adam smith robert fergusson and other contemporaries of burns are. and if they're german, probably speak some gaelic. not our folk, oh no. james clerk maxwell? no, man, marillion, man. while smoking a bong and drinking grouse....

bbc scotland did try. in the broadest sense of the word. no holds bard, a comedy about burns reading, was cringingly bad, the sort of thing that strips the tar from the road. the people who did this should be burned. andrew o'hagan, a man for whom i've fostered a long dislike, brought his lack of personality to bear with burns: the people's poet, which was at least in some way informative, even if you could actually hear o'hagan sucking the life out of his subject. the culture show did a spot featuring siobhan redmond, richard wilson and robert carlyle that, if nothing else, shows how different people twist burns to fit their own personal agenda. all should read ye jacobites. and i'm not talking about prince fecking charles. no i'm not

in the end if you take two scottish people and ask them about burns you'll probably get an argument, it being more likely the less they know. this in scotland, applies to pretty much any subject. that said, as with any good poet, burns lends himself to this multiplicity of readings, readings that gather depth when placed in the context of the scottish enlightenment. true, some of the language isn't the most obvious, but there's lots of good annotated versions about and failing that, there's plenty of spoken word material on the internet, and the eddi reader cd is good for the songs.

there's many ways to read burns. there's a wealth of material to read him in a critical context. and for all the nonsense a burns supper, no matter what day you have it on, is something that should be done at least once. but most important, just read burns. to a mouse, to a louse, red, red rose a man's a man, all those things are absolute classics that no-one should deny themselves the pleasure of reading.

R. S. Thomas


I have been all men known to history,
Wondering at the world and at time passing;
I have seen evil, and the light blessing
Innocent love under a spring sky.

I have been Merlin wandering in the woods
Of a far country, where the winds waken
Unnatural voices, my mind broken
By a sudden acquaintance with man's rage.

I have been Glyn Dwr set in the vast night,
Scanning the stars for the propitious omen,
A leader of men, yet cursed by the crazed women
Mourning their dead under the same stars.

I have been Goronwy, forced from my own land
To taste the bitterness of the salt ocean;
I have known exile and a wild passion
Of longing changing to a cold ache.

King, beggar and fool, I have been all by turns,
Knowing the body's sweetness, the mind's treason;
Taliesin still, I show you a new world, risen,
Stubborn with beauty, out of the heart's need.

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre,
Which will last to the end of the world.
My patron is Elphin...

I know why there is an echo in a hollow;
Why silver gleams; why breath is black; why liver is bloody;
Why a cow has horns; why a woman is affectionate;
Why milk is white; why holly is green;
Why a kid is bearded; why the cow-parsnip is hollow;
Why brine is salt; why ale is bitter;
Why the linnet is green and berries red;
Why a cuckoo complains; why it sings;
I know where the cuckoos of summer are in winter.
I know what beasts there are at the bottom of the sea;
How many spears in battle; how may drops in a shower;
Why a river drowned Pharaoh's people;
Why fishes have scales.
Why a white swan has black feet...

I have been a blue salmon,
I have been a dog, a stag, a roebuck on the mountain,
A stock, a spade, an axe in the hand,
A stallion, a bull, a buck,
I was reaped and placed in an oven;
I fell to the ground when I was being roasted
And a hen swallowed me.
For nine nights was I in her crop.
I have been dead, I have been alive.
I am Taliesin.

anon, from the mabinogion, trans ifor williams

here's some r.s.thomas for sorlil. i need to read more but i remain to be convinced. the mabinogion thing tho - i'll be after more of that!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

john tripp

In the National Museum

I went there on Tuesday
sat lunchtime, to look
at the Impressionists. Their colours
could take me into an old French summer
and let Cardiff sink in the Taff.
I never told her I went there
because she despised arty men.

Outside, at the top of the steps,
I took off my deerstalker
and hid my sandwich-tin behind a pillar.
Inside, under the big dome and high balcony,
there was dignity in the marble hush.
I adjusted my steel-rimmed specs
for the feast ahead. Then I saw the back of her
with an arm through some man’s
going up the wide stairs. I turned back
to the revolving doors, scared,
thinking I would strangle her later.
She was wearing her best dress
and her hair was like a flame.

it strikes me i have little by way of welsh poetry on here. i do know who dylan thomas is but outside of him if anyone's got any suggestions, welsh or english, i'd like to hear them

and lastly

i spent a fascinating time this weekend recording a track for some cd i'm on. for reasons i can't quite explain, it appears i've never been in a proper recording studio before. it was great fun!

of course i nailed my recording but i did find that standing up, using a music stand worked well for me. after that i got to listen to the others doing their thing. not only did i find that i could listen far more closely to the technicalities of their language than i would say in a reading, but i was also aware that i was far more conscious of the voice (elizabeth alexander and her knockers take note!)

because we were with musicians we had a really good exchange about the difference between speaking and singing, the thought processes that go into spoken word as opposed to lyric and playing. much was said about rhyme and metre as well as word choice. it was great!

not only that, i was introduced to the arcane world of studio talk. i have no idea what the differences are between mikes, only that it does indeed make a difference. and where myself and the musicians talked about rhythm, intonation, delivery the studio people had a vocabulary so different i can't even recall it (no notebook!) - sound envelopes, dynamics etc.

what a difference it makes, to put yourself in a space where there's people working in different media, with different approaches to yourself. as adam smith says (because i;m still on the smith thing)

Society and conversation.... are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity

i have also been

exploring new parts of blogland. pre-christmas i'd found myself kind of stuck in scandinavia but here in 2009 the world of irish and romanian bloggery has opened up.

obvious thanks go to roxana and radge for this and either blog is a good jumping off point into their respective blogworlds.

as a result of these blogulic (it's my neologism and i like it!) perambulations conspiracy post of the week, if not the the year has to go to c'est la craic for this fine revelation. i for one am rushing to my cheque book!

Monday, 26 January 2009

then there was

the race. of course there's always the race.

i finally got to my physio to get some work done on my many aches and pains. there was twisting, there was stretching, there was the crunching of joints. it hurt. a lot. there is no part of your body, she said, that doesn't need attention. i shouldn't tell you i'm doing a 24hr endurance race in four days then i offered. she concurred. but i did it anyway.

the bit of the day that was sunshiney ie. the bit between the gales, rain and sleet and the gales rain and snow, was lovely. but wet. so yes kind readers it is true that i rubbed a hole in my nethers. pleasant it was not. but i'm not a man to let a bit of raw flesh hold me back, no i am not. so off into the darkness i went only to hear a suspicious cracking as i started down the slidey downhill. i looked behind me and saw what you see above. welcome to the seat of pain. yes, every time the back of the bike came up i was treated to a spike (or two) or just the blunt force of the seat post up my already raw bottom. my other bike was broken so i heeded the signs. enough was enough. i went to bed.

as strathpuffer's go for me this has to have been the best organised. at the very least gales didn't blow away the marquees this year and returning to the old start at contin was welcome, if tricky for the parking. all the stuff at the start was well put together and shows the experience of the last four years. i missed the cheering girls at the top of the hill but was more than compensated by the party caravan at the top of the forest road. on my last lap i climbed up to the strains of zeppelin banging out across the glen. it wasn't the best race for me but it's certainly the one i've
enjoyed the most.

aside from the spiking. obviously.

and in that gap

barack obama finally gets himself into the white house. yes it's a great day for african americans, of that there is no doubt but the speech? reminds me of those old british types who still think they've got an empire. it's the same old frontier talk, rising to the challenge and america leading the world again. sorry mr obama but despite the gushing nature of much of our media the rest of the world didn't elect you..

still, action on guantanamo right away can't be bad. and i'm pleased with the way he's looking at aid. so fingers crossed and here's hoping but i'm still reserving judgment for a while.

what has surprised me a bit is the tone of the response to elizabeth alexander's inauguration reading, esp on this side of the atlantic. last time we had poetry read when a prime minister was elected? yeah, thought not. and the same amount of criticism re yo yo ma and the recording? hmmm. no.

what did i think? i didn't think it was that bad as a poem, other than the length but hey, it's america and brevity is never going to be a strong suit. plus delivery? for a start look at who she is. an interesting reading by some academic? i think not. but again, as evidenced by her appearance on the colbert report, a game attitude, and again, last time a poet appeared on a comedy show in the uk? yeah, thought not. and, given the awfulness of some of the readings i've heard this year i'd like to see how other would've handled an audience of a million plus in addition to the rest of the world watching. nervous? i should think so.

depression about the state of the poetry world has negatively impacted the swiss lounge publishing effort this year but along with that, i've also been reading a fair bit of adam smith, who supplied me with the following gem. the hideous nature of poets and their 'art'? it was ever thus -

They are very apt to divide themselves into a sort of literary factions; each cabal being often avowedly, and almost always secretly, the mortal enemy of the reputation of every other, and employing all mean arts of intrigue and solicitation to preoccupy the public opinions in favour of the works of its own members, and against those of its enemies and rivals.

from The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Tuesday, 6 January 2009



when it comes to people patience is a quality i feel i have in spades.

when it comes to inanimate objects it's a whole other story. non-functionality can lead to instant, violent, wildly incandescent rages. which may sound funny but really isn't and is why i don't indulge myself much in the way of the practical. i can do a bit of labouring, if directed, but beyond that it's neither wise nor safe to let me near anything involving mechanical things or tools.

which brings me neatly to computers. back in the day when i wanted to record something i pressed two buttons. if i wanted to play it back i pressed one. the recording medium was something called a cassette. this was a standard. everyone had one.

not so in the computer world. i can record a sound with my mike plugged in but i can't hear it unless it's unplugged. i can record in wav but i can't play it. i can save in aup but not in mp3. but i can export in ogg vorbis. but if you don't have the same thingumijigs as me you can't play it. unless you download more files. and then more files to unzip those files. but those files aren't compatible with other files and things start not to work. then they stop working and the things you could originally listen to you can't any more

don't start me on images

it's time to step away for a while. call it a lacuna....

Monday, 5 January 2009


so we're watching tv. and then this.....thing comes on. it can't be true. but it is. the wrongness is off the scale.

iggy pop is the face of swift cover car insurance


the plan. get up early. go to bike shop. go to library.

i get up. eat breakfast. read book. check blogs. read again. where is t? still in bed as if drugged. no movement is forthcoming. after yesterday's watery weather performance today the frost os back and it's a beautiful day. the bike is in the back of the van, calling to me. i think i have a stress fracture in my right wrist. typical! but it only has to last this week, then rest for another week until race day then i'll stick to the road bike for a while until it sorts itself out. the dayd are getting longer. the year feels fresh!

i read some poetry. this guy seems familiar

Sunday, 4 January 2009


Orion Dead

(Artemis speaks)

The cornel-trees
uplift from the furrows,
the roots at their bases
strike lower through the barley-sprays.

So arise and face me.
I am poisoned with the rage of song.

I once pierced the flesh
of the wild-deer,
now am I afraid to touch
the blue and the gold-veined hyacinths?

I will tear the full flowers
and the little heads
of the grape-hyacinths.
I will strip the life from the bulb
until the ivory layers
lie like narcissus petals
on the black earth.

lest I bend an ash-tree
into a taut bow,
and slay -- and tear
all the roots from the earth.

The cornel-wood blazes
and strikes through the barley-sprays,
but I have lost heart for this.

I break a staff.
I break the tough branch.
I know no light in the woods.
I have lost pace with the winds.

richard aldington

The Poplar

Why do you always stand there shivering
Between the white stream and the road?

The people pass through the dust
On bicycles, in carts, in motor-cars;
The waggoners go by at down;
The lovers walk on the grass path at night.

Stir from your roots, walk, poplar!
You are more beautiful than they are.

I know that the white wind loves you,
Is always kissing you and turning up
The white lining of your green petticoat.
The sky darts through you like blue rain,
And the grey rain drips on your flanks
And loves you.
And I have seen the moon
Slip his silver penny into your pocket
As you straightened your hair;
And the white mist curling and hesitating
Like a bashful lover about your knees.

I know you, poplar;
I have watched you since I was ten.
But if you had a little real love,
A little strength,
You would leave your nonchalant idle lovers
And go walking down the white road
Behind the waggoners.

There are beautiful beeches down beyond the hill.
Will you always stand there shivering?

this one's for sorlil, who puts me in mind of the imagists

Saturday, 3 January 2009

and then there was new year

and really, it wasn't too bad at all. they did make me work new year's day as well which added some insult to injury but again, tho busy wasn't the apocalyptic vision of post drinking gi bleeds and pancreatitis i'd predicted. t went off to london so in my off time i watched the wire, 'the best tv ever made', which it isn't but all the internecine struggling and corruption looked strangely familiar over the christmas period.

not that i can actually talk about any of it. i did think about changing jobs but the selling of houses doesn't look the most feasible and while living apart from t is a possibility it's not one i really want to entertain. shame as i fancied the move but them's the breaks. what would i like for christmas next year? while i wouldn't want to wish harm on anyone there would be a certain irony of our health minister could suffer, if only temporarily (for a while!) some sort of demeaning and painful chronic condition necessitating multiple hospital admissions

looking back at the last year of the blog i see that, although i'd started with good intentions, my work posts grew less frequent. i did not get any sense of how many dead people i see in a year and i wasn't altogether happy on the confidentiality front, describing the situations i'd gotten myself involved in. that and the fact that reiteration seemed to be counteracting the comforting blanket that is a dodgy memory. i should give it up but i find they've trapped me with the money and the fact that if i do i'll just be just one more experienced person leaving the service and where does that leave the people coming up, far less the folk we look after?

as to those. t goes to london, where the people across the road from her mum get their house broken into, assaulted and beaten and a gun put in the face of the baby before the guys that did it realised they were in the wrong house! and i come in on new years day to find one of my colleagues in a bit of a state because one of our other colleagues has been murdered. nothing at all in the news. could it be because she was an immigrant? in the face of any other factors you have to draw this conclusion. he that did the murdering is in the jail but pleading 'circumstances' so i have to explain to my colleagues that this means he'll probably serve maybe eight years.

none of it is cheery. so what do you do? the sun is shining. you get out on your bike, circling and circling....