Tuesday, 29 September 2009

muriel rukeyser


The word in the bread feeds me,
The word in the moon leads me,
The word in the seed breeds me,
The word in the child needs me.

The word in the sand builds me,
The word in the fruit fills me,
The word in the body mills me,
The word in the war kills me.

The word in the man takes me,
The word in the storm shakes me,
The word in the work makes me,
The word in the woman rakes me,
The word in the word wakes me.

carl sandburg


Here is dust remembers it was a rose
one time and lay in a woman's hair.
Here is dust remembers it was a woman
one time and in her hair lay a rose.
Oh things one time dust, what else now is it
you dream and remember of old days?

more than the tdf

while it's true the vuelta left me a bit cold this year i did enjoy both the tour of ireland and the tour of britain even if neither matched up to the spectacle of the tour de france. that said i have turned t to the dark side of bike race viewing, maybe it's the men in shorts, so much so i think she may make the trip into london.

so i put the men's world championship road race on with little expectation on sunday having spent way too much time watching the women's event after work on saturday morning! nicole cook, a shame, but emma pooley looking forward to stepping into those shoes.

anyway, so i watched the beginning, we had breakfast, lolled about and the cycling men did their thing. i meant to go out on the bike but i'm struggling with the training miles at the moment so did several other things which weren't that. then came back to where the peloton were still doing their thing. than again later to watch different coverage, much to t's chagrin, because the last couple of laps really were that good.

fabien cancellara. what a star. having, unsurprisingly, aced the time trial, he was well up for a win in the road race as well. the noise of the crowd when he hit the front was tremendous. so much for the dour swiss! but it was a race in which the italians and the spanish, particularly the spanish, raced not to lose to cancellara rather than win for themselves. you could see the frustration as they marked him out of the race, both covering his repeated attacks and then refusing, or more charitably, unable, to attack themselves. what a performance from cancellara, and zorg for getting him up there. what a shame he was to be frustrated.

kolubnev launched himself out for a gap and while he was on his own, just like cancellara, he isn;t cancellara. the move was covered by rodrigues, who couldn't or wouldn't work. kolubnev kept his head down, focused. cancellara made a couple of half hearted stabs but you sensed that he knew as well as us his race was over.

then all of a sudden a familiar figure. cadel evans, for it was he, had toiled to get into the lead group, now all of a sudden he was out of it, accelerating, attacking! stupidly, dunderheadedly the group gazed bovinely at each other. quite rightly cancellara just shrugged, why should he be the one? and evans was gone. gone up to kolubnev and rodrigues. past that pair and up the road. mr second place, yesterday's man had a gap, then a bigger gap. the eurosport guys were beside themselves. could evans finally do what he just hasn't been doing? actually win?

the gap grew bigger. would he have a mechanical? would he, a la vuelta, puncture and get swept up? would somehow his notoriously fragile personality, for which the words mercurial and eccentric seem to have been made, kick into play? none of the above. he coasted it. over the line and a brief kiss to the crowd and that was it. evans wins!

to their shame, and despite some quality protesting from david harmon for which it would be a travesty if he was disciplined, neither eurosport or the bbc managed a decent post race interview. it would've been great to have seen the fragile evans happy for once. at least he can say no-one will ever criticise him for not attacking again! it may be he'll never be the easiest character in the peloton, tho having seen the circus that surrounds the likes of armstrong, i strongly suspect i'd be the same but i can't help feeling, as with so many, he's deserved more out of his career. it may not be a grand tour but the rainbow stripes are at least something, a recognition.

chapeau, cadel evans. at last!

me? the rain pours down. i have to fix some brakes then settle down on the trainer. the joys!

Monday, 28 September 2009

they are reading

pandora by jilly cooper

the sort of book she says that makes her feel dirty just by reading it. but she tells me her flatmate has, for reasons she won't share, everything by danielle steel and ,being a compulsive reader, she couldn't leave the house without a book. and this was the result. she makes no excuses. she does reveal however that when she was young she had a speech impediment so her parents made her read out loud every day. so she shares some steel with us. it's not pretty.

it means mischief by kate thompson

what is it about? she can't say. it's the type of thing, she tells me, that's perfect for the night shift. without substance, un-memorable, totally non-taxing. she buys them from charity shops and returns them when she's finished.

Monday, 21 September 2009


we made one of increasingly less frequent forays into tv land last night mainly because i wanted to see what jonathan meades was up to in his latest round britain excursion after seeing his rather fantastic exposition on the architecture of aberdeen last week. this week he was off to lewis and harris, a place not unfamilar to us so we were curious to see what he made of it.

lovely. possibly the best documentary on lewis and harris i've ever seen. true it's jonathan meades and his singular style is possibly not for everyone but they've got 1001 x-factor clones to watch. equally true, from an island point of view, he's an incomer but then again, so's half the population. but it's that incomer perspective that lights up the screen. instantly he's in love with the landscape (and it being harris why wouldn't you be?) and we're treated to fantastic panoramas of green seas, cloud over the clisham and ariel shots of luskentyre. pus a hundred and one others that kept the familiar island viewer guessing where he was.

he had a go at the church but came out firmly for sabbatarianism or at least one day when everything is shut. i could've applauded! he did this leaning against the facade of one of the stornoway pubs i drank less frequently in but the first one in which t did, and famously disgraced herself by trying the foolish gambit of trying to drink as much as i did. i may not drink much now, if anything, but then i was deep in my proper island drinking the only thing that i hadn't done, in the view of some of the locals, was to fall in the harbour, at which point i'd be a 'proper stornoway man'. ah yes, those were the days and meades didn't fail us with pictures of the locals tottering about in howling rain of a friday night.

lastly he addressed the issue of all the crap that lies about the island, particularly in lewis. so he was up on the barvas moor looking at the sheds and musing on just how it's possible to get a vehicle so far into a peat bog. and then onto it's roof!

absolutely a must watch. i defy anyone who's lived there for any length of time not to have at least a wry smile. there are for sure a couple of things that may niggle a bit, but it's jonathan meades, it's what he's there for. at the very least you'll see a house identical to the one i lived in, mainly on the grounds it's lewis specific housing design 1 and therefore everywhere. and yes, even i had a bit of a yearning to go back. on the next ferry!

the element of lavishness

continuing on the letter writing...

i'm currently reading the element of lavishness, the edited letters of william maxwell and sylvia townsend warner and they are fabulous. i could go on and on about them but instead i'll give you a couple of examples (using titus's p161 method to yield the following)

Warner to Maxwell, January 4th, 1966

We are both sympathetic to your views on violent games. When Valentine had been finished in Paris, the height of elegance with a skull on her dressing table and everything fashion demanded of her, her parents went mad and decided she must have a course at South Coast College of Domestic Science. There she was called upon to play hockey. since she did not know how to play hockey she was put to keep goal (I do not follow the reasoning). There she stood, detached as a heron, all scorn and misery, till she saw twenty two beefy young women rushing towards her, brandishing hockey sticks. She cast down her stick, and RAN for her life.

Warner to Maxwell, January 24th, 1966

...I shall worry about you, not that I want to. But i am convinced it is very dangerous to have anything to do with the law. I think you should carry a little bunch of sweet herbs to ward off jail-fever, and a foot-warmer in case there is a power cut while you are considering your verdict, and some kind of sustaining meat lozenge for the same reason and a small foam rubber cushion. Two months, good God, with intermittent sessions hereafter. I hopes at least you have some of Wordsworth's sonnets at heart; since there will be no advertisements to read and translate and versify and set in canon and mentally embroider in cross stitch. You will have my prayers and i will write to you regularly.

They maintain this arch and playful tone throughout there letters, with real poignancy at the end of warner's life as her ill health bears down upon her. it's a real insight into a different, vanished world and the beautiful language of both is a joy to read.

further on the letter writing subject i was listening to if you're reading this a documentary on letters written by soldiers to be read in the event of their death. it'd bring a tear to a glass eye. worth the listen.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

letter writing

i was posting things today and it struck me i couldn't remember the last time i'd written, far less posted, a letter.

i had a conversation recently, somebody or other had died, can't remember if it was a patient or a staff member's relative tho i think it might have been the latter, and what they had left was letters. it seemed rather poignant and got me to thinking that maybe we aren't as emotionally numbed as we like to make out, rather that we can make fine distinctions when we need to.

i have a box of letters up the stairs from when i was in my teens and very early twenties. whether i've written them or received them doesn't matter so much as their being there. i have some from the first person i ever lived with and thinking of them i can see her both then and now much more clearly, can connect with them emotionally far better.

i miss the paraphernalia of letter writing, the choosing of paper, the look of the writing, the colour of the ink, the particularity of the pen. i miss getting letters. true all the communication we have now is convenient but compared to that letter, that special communication, the anticipation of opening it. when i lived in the states, in the days before the internet, my mates would send me letters, missives from home, the best of which came one christmas accompanied by a c90 of random recordings of the radio. i still have it somewhere and when i look at it i can still fell both the closeness and the distance.

more letters i say ( on a blog!). we will lose this custom at our peril!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

bike story of the week

from here, reproduced in full

If you were cycling along Littlehampton seafront, last monday, I'm sorry, on behalf of my wife and 3 year old daughter.

They happened to be out practising riding with a child seat. My competitive Wifey spotted you in front, and set off in hot pursuit. (Neither of us have done much cycling since the kids arrived).

Sadly for me, her catching you isn't what I'm apologising for.

I'm really really sorry that when overtaking my daughter pretended to 'zip up' before raising her fingers and pointing skywards, a la Alberto. (she enjoyed watching Le Tour).


robert herrick

To a Bed of Tulips

Bright tulips, we do know,
You had your comming hither;
And fading-time do's show,
That Ye must quickly wither.

Your Sister-hoods may stay,
And smile here for your houre,
But dye ye mst away:
Even as the meanest Flower.

Come Virgins then, and see
Your frailties; and bemone ye;
For lost like these, 'twill be,
As Time had never known ye.

tour of britain

an early start then and we're off down to peebles to watch the start of the third stage of the tour of britain. my plan is to park up at glentress then cycle back into town. i neglect two factors - it's monday and i should've left at least half an hour earlier in order to get around edinburgh and my plan to cycle the mile into peebles means that t will actually have to go on her bike, which i've cunningly placed in the back of the van but which, up until we reached peebles, she was unaware of or ignoring.

sure enough we're too late to get parked in peebles so we head to glentress. i get all excited when i see the katusha squad roll by. t is not so impressed. i'll have to cycle on the pavement she says. no problem, i say, it goes all the way to peebles. but i have no helmet, she says. oh yes you do i say. and so forth. all of which sees us eating cake and drinking coffee in the hub cafe before wandering down to the bottom of the road to watch the road pass. we do not cycle - 'it may be gravelly'.

many, many motorcyclists pass including a great number of police - surely denuding motorcycle departments across the country, then the cars and finally the racers. i see them long enough to take two pictures and then they're gone. but is that it blusters t, ruined by a summer of tour and vuelta coverage. well yes, i say, that is it, failing to convince her that there were indeed a hundred or so guys in the peloton.

back to gt where i hammer into the red route on the new bike while t has a wander round the walker path to look at the nature. we both declare ourselves well satisfied.

later we have a wander round peebles where, unbelievably, she's never been and it's a shame we didn't make it as all the shops are done up, there's bunting and all that stuff. but she's very taken with it all. so much so she suggests we spend more time there, a fine suggestion i think and i've only mentioned dawyck very briefly in passing.

and the tour. the kai reus story is a good one, coming back after a serious head injury a tricky business at the best of times far less to top end sport. but it's thomas de gendt who's caught the imagination with his crazy attack from the front, from the start 'tactics' which, although they saw him in trouble yesterday, have still got him in both green and polkadot.

a fine way to spend a day. will i be back to cycle the stage 3 route. probably. will i be able to do it in anything approaching 4 hours. i doubt it!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

he is reading

the oxford handook of acute medicine

he is drawing a diagram of nerve pathways in the brain. it would be easier, he says, if the brain wasn't so complicated. it makes his hurt just by thinking about it and he is sure when he is finished his diagram it will not look like a functional map of the brain, only his deepening confusion.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

emily dickinson

Water, is taught by thirst.

Water, is taught by thirst.
Land - by the Oceans passed.
Transport - by throe -
Peace - by its battles told -
Love, by Memorial Mold -
Birds, by the Snow.

dannie abse

The Water Diviner

Late, I have come to a parched land
doubting my gift, if gift I have,
the inspiration of water spilt,
swallowed in the sand.

To hear once more water trickle,
to stand in a stretch of silence
the divining pen twisting in the hand:
sign of depths alluvial.

Water owns no permanent shape,
sags, is most itself descending;
now, under the shadow of the idol,
dry mouth and dry landscape.

No rain falls with a refreshing sound
to settle tubular in a well,
elliptical in a bowl. No grape
lusciously moulds it round.

Clouds have no constant resemblance
to anything, blown by a hot wind,
flying mirages; the blue background,
light constructions of chance.

To hold back chaos I transformed
amorphous mass - and fire and cloud -
so that the agèd gods might dance
and golden structures form.

I should have built, plain brick on brick,
a water tower. The sun flies
on arid wastes, barren hells too warm
and me with a hazel stick!

Rivulets vanished in the dust long ago,
great compositions vaporized,
salt on the tongue so thick
that drinking, still I thirst.

Repeated desert, recurring drought,
sometimes hearing water trickle,
sometimes not, I, by doubting first,
believe; believing, doubt.

lorine niedecker

My Life by Water

My life
by water -

first frog
or board

out on the cold


to wild green
arts and letters

my lettuce
One boat

two -
pointed toward
my shore

thru birdstart

of the soft
and serious -

bike news

it'd have been foolish of me to expect that i'd go a whole year without buying a new bike. true i'd mulled over both a tourer and a replacement front end road bike but in the end, post moray, a full suss race bike was definitely on the cards. naturally its purchase has increased the entrenchment of the weather system!

not that this is the bike i actually want to use today, much to t's bemusement. the cx bike is out of the shed and, esp given the weather, i'd much rather be here practising for the start of the cross season. but even that must wait as i'm out tonight with the tuesday girls trying to persuade them an hour long race really shouldn;t be beyond them

on the racing front all congratulations to new world champion, family man and general good guy steve peat. for over excited commentary i do believe there is no equivalent to rob warner - go to about 1:36 on the link. highlights -

nick beer - a man with a perfect name
this man is so calculating he makes socrates look like he's got learning difficulties
i'm going to have a stroke....

peat thoroughly deserves it and it's been a long time coming. it makes a great change from the plastic interview techniques of the bbc/sky etc to see the post race interview, bemused, inarticulate, just like the rest of us. and warner in tears! (peat and warner are long time friends. warner is a famous idiot)

fuck, i knew you had it in you, you fucker

not on terrestrial tv! apparently some cloth heads are trying to make something of peaty's waving of the english flag on the podium. fools. for many of us, even if only for that day, peat is the greatest living englishman. well done.

the sharp eyed

may have noticed an increase in the length of the label list this last couple of days. i was getting frustrated not remembering what poetry i'd listed ages ago so i've labelled it all for convenience.
henrik nordbrandt and octavio paz emerge as poetic top bananas. which is fair

p161, sentence 5

reach out from the computer, pick the book my hand falls on. open the page, count the sentences....

From ethnology to pedagogy, we see that the guaranteed success of writing hinges on an initial defeat and lack, as if discourse were constructed as the result and occultation of a loss that is the condition of its possibility, as if the meaning of all scriptural conquests were that they multiply products that substitute for an absent voice, without ever succeeding in capturing it, in bringing it inside the frontiers of the text, in impressing it as an alien element.

Monday, 7 September 2009

e. j. scovell

Deaths of Flowers

I would if I could choose
Age and die outwards as a tulip does
Not as this iris drawing in, in coiling
Its complex strange taut inflorescence, willing
Itself a bud again - though all achieved is
No more than a clenched sadness,

The tears of gum not flowing.
I would choose the tulip's reckless way of going;
Whose petals answer light, altering by fractions
From closed to wide, from one through many perfections,
Till wrecked, flamboyant, strayed beyond recall,
Like lakes of fire they piecemeal fall.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

theodore roethke

The Geranium

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine -
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip)

The things she endured! -
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
she leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me -
And that was scary -
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But i sacked that presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely

Saturday, 5 September 2009

50 years of naked lunch

it's been a long time since i was into william burroughs but, in those days, it'd have been a foolish person, to have dared question my burroughs knowledge. seeing the chemical boys at the spl this week brought back memories of that enthusiasm - is burroughs i wondered, mainly the territory of young men with reasonably specific extracurricular interests?

but no, perhaps not. t returned form craft business today with a copy of artwork tucked in her pocket and scant details of a burroughs 50th symposium in paris. despite my earlier week misgivings i was buying the plane ticket! only to find it was in july! the website is in french but it's worth a look for the burroughs fan, if only to have that sinking feeling of regret about what we've missed.

fear not tho, there's all manner of other events, including some in englandshire. me, i'm buyiong a new bike tomorrow but despite that i;m going to try and find a way to see if i can go to new york. other than that i'll be getting the book of essays - did some stuff with ian mcfadyen years ago and an interesting fellow he was.

now where is that copy of western lands...?

she is reading

nothing lasts forever by sidney sheldon

its great she says. three women, one investigates a murder, one gets murdered and the other sleeps her way to the top!!!! i should use more exclamation marks to get across the enthusiasm with which she describes her read. she's totally into it and doesn't do that 'you must read it' thing - for her the read is something she totally disappears into. talking to her gets a smile on my face tinged with regret that i don't seem to have that total absorption any more.

i do have another candidate for tonight's reader but the book she's reading is in russian. you should know what it's about she tells me. come on, i protest, i only learned a few words of russian when i was six. she laughs dismissively at this and tells me that she could tell me what she was reading but how would i know it was the truth. those bulgarians! lol

Thursday, 3 September 2009


bum to it all
i'm going to die
i'm going to cut off my
head and fry it in garlic
fry fry fry
then you will all see that
i am not
alive anymore

"Garlic head Death", Sylvia Plath

so says the uncyclopedia on writers
very funny and worth checking out if only as an escape from all this relentless rain

Frank M. Chipasula

The Burning Rose

an elegy for Mkwapatira Mhango

You handed them a rose of truth
but they pitched it in the fire

The rose burst into Lux in Tenebris and raged
across the early morning lake
from Mulowe to Monkey Bay
And the rose rose and bled and fell down,
rose and bled, rose and bled, and flew
up in one raging flame that licked your house
and ate up your wives, swallowed your children
and your guests like a rose hungry for love;
And the rose flapped against the walls
of the house that rose in flames like fiery roses;
And the rose bared its thorns like in a lovely snarl,
Thorns hefty liked a crazed cow's goring horns,
Hoofed with hatred, while a blazing petal
Wagged its long tongue up through the roof
And licked the children's cries
that rang like cathedral bells clanging
in the bald-headed tyrant's ears. And the rose,
Kyrie Eleison, fell like showers of clotted
blood poured in lavish libations on the kerosene
rose that bloomed from a terrible matchstick.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

sotto voce at the spl

so we pile into the car and dash off to the spl for the sotto voce slam, arriving with mere seconds to spare meaning, handily, i don't get my name on the list so i can sit back and enjoy the readers.

a high standard and a wide range was set and congratulations to claire for walking off with the magnificent statuette. her poem about miners was, i think, my favourite of all the poems i've heard/read by her even if it was her granny poem that got the crowd going (and t blubbing in the car in the way home - mark of a good poem claire!)

it was good for me to sink myself in an evening of poetry as i've been feeling poetically out of sorts lately. i was restored by the range of material on display, from some deft wordery by some young bloke whose name i immediately forgot to anne connelly's clever spin on the doping, in the aeronautical sense. t esp liked her poem about sailor's knitted jersey - ganzie? sometimes it's easy to get into a state where you feel a bit isolated so it was great to be in about a group of like minded people. work for both of us meant we had to dash off so apologies to those we didn;t get a chance to blether to.

and it turns out it was t's first time in the poetry library! i can;t understand how this can be. so next day off we ave together it's definitely a visit back.

marianne moore

The Fish

through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash heaps;
opening and shutting itself like

injured fan.
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the

split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices -
in and out, illuminating

turquoise sea
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron through the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars

rice-grains, ink-
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.

marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice -
all the physical features of

cident - lack
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, those things stand
out on it, the chasm-side is

evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

colin mackay


Morning sky
blue as the robe of glory
warm as my dreams.
What still lives in the meadow
settles on what doesn't.
The butchered grow a million
black buzzing wings.

In the burnt-out cafe
stray pigs from a nearby farm feed
on Ivan the chef and his two pretty waitresses.

the thud of mortars
somewhere the splatter of shots
the scream of an incoming shell,
but beyond the blackened hole
where the window used to be
under the still functioning Coca-Cola sign
the pigs feed on.

And I gape at them,
I can't take my eyes off them.
Everyone else is appalled, but
I laugh
because it is so funny to see pigs
sitting in a cafe eating roast humans
that I laugh
and can't stop laughing
until a medic in a blue helmet
comes and sticks a needle full of something
into my arm and I fall asleep.

And dream of the morning sky
blue as the robe of glory,
warm as my childhood,
which stretches all the way back
to Scotland where
the office will be having its coffee break
about now and the Number 27 bus
will be halfway up Dundas Street
and no one will believe that
any of these things are happening
in the same world as the office
and the 27 bus.

Dreaming, they will say, dreaming,
you have cracked up, you
can;t tell dream from reality
any more, and perhaps they are right -
certainly they are right.

But the pigs are still feeding
on Natasha's breasts and Ivan's buttocks
done to a nicety and crisp round the edges,
and the morning sky
is blue as the robe of glory
and warm as my love,
so glad to be alive
to make these ashes speak.