Tuesday, 27 October 2009


You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me - the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods -
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open windowin a country house - and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon, -
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, seperate, in the evening…

and for the german speakers....

Du im Voraus
verlorne Geliebte, Nimmergekommene,
nicht weiß ich, welche Töne dir lieb sind.
Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommende wogt,

zu erkennen. Alle die großen
Bilder in mir, im Fernen erfahrene Landschaft,
Städte und Türme und Brücken und un-
vermutete Wendung der Wege
und das Gewaltige jener von Göttern
einst durchwachsenen Länder:
steigt zur Bedeutung in mir
deiner, Entgehende, an.

Ach, die Gärten bist du,
ach, ich sah sie mit solcher
Hoffnung. Ein offenes Fenster
im Landhaus - , und du tratest beinahe
mir nachdenklich heran. Gassen fand ich, -
du warst sie gerade gegangen,
und die Spiegel manchmal der Läden der Händler
waren noch schwindlich von dir und gaben erschrocken
mein zu plötzliches Bild. - Wer weiß, ob derselbe
Vogel nicht hinklang durch uns
gestern, einzeln, im Abend?

selling a bike

after being unable to sell my (motor) bike earlier in the summer - got to be thankful for the credit crunch for something - it turns out i've got someone interested in my old alpinestars almega that's been sitting as a rebuild project in my garage/shed/flats since about 1997.

and yet when i got it all out yesterday and took pictures for the guy who's going to restore it i couldn't help but get mist eyed. here was the custom lacquered frame of my early mountain biking days, the first really 'fast' bike i'd had, my pride and joy, the scene of many of those early adventures. in the end it got itself replace with a univega y bike that i never really preferred and i stupidly loaned it to an idiot who never cleaned it which is how it ended up in bits. the friendship never really recovered!

it's just a stack of metal and bits yet i feel very attached to it, just like the worn out bits of kit i can't part with and leave out for t to dispose of when i'm not looking. what is it that makes us so attached to inanimate things. i can;t figure it out. whatever, the bike is going, it has to go. at least until i change my mind!

Monday, 19 October 2009

the astronomy

as i ambled my way back into consciousness on saturday the phone rang. geo and fs were up at the bothy. telescopes had been set up. did we want to come? t and i unfurled our inner geeks and set off immediately.
true the quietest and loveliest part of our day was the walk up the glen, geo being a person who fears the quiet, so that the rest of our weekend was accompanied to the sound of constant radio 3 and the winding up of radios but this was small complaint in light of our location, where t had not not been.
i'd talked up fs and his sky knowledge what with him being qualified in the astrphysics and all and he didn't let us down. within an hour the clarity of the sky was letting us seeing the banding on jupiter. as the night fell t managed to spot all manner of other things including andromeda, the beehive cluster. shooting stars and satellites among others. later i'd get a spot of jupiter with all four moons.
but really what beguiled us, as usual, was, in the absence of any significant light pollution, the night sky and how fabulously ignorant we are of it. having a mate to guide you round it and having the time to see how it moves is well worth it. we had a real sense of how truncated our city type life is by not being able to do that thing that most of our ancestors could - looking up and being amazed.
as ever with the astronomy our time was limited by incoming cloud so by morning (the pics above) the glen was much more what you'd expect of an october morning in scotland. what you can't hear is the shouting of the deer...

Friday, 16 October 2009

david crystal

no t in the house to distract me, tv watching creeps insidiously into my tea time. in this case it's the bbc's it's only a theory, a dreadfully formatted programme in which various academic types present theories to a panel and they vote on whether it's valid. awful, esp when you've got someone genuinely interesting on.

in this case, david crystal. i loved crystal's books when i was doing the linguistics bit of my last degree, so much so i'd still really fancy doing more education solely on the topic. but, it struck me as i saw his name pop up in the schedules, i've never actually heard him speak.

brilliant. proper boffin beard, passionate enthusiastic, fighting the corner of the young with respect to language and his theory that texting is good for english, not bad. watch it on iplayer. dreadful programme ( it is tv!) but worth it for him alone. thoughts of dc are available at his blog

what books would i recommend? all of them!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

ann drysdale

The Ram's Skull

There it sits on the table.
An exercise in metaphor.
Eyeholes vacant;
Overstated horns akimbo.
Ridiculous in death.
The tutor speaks:
"Forget reality. See shapes. See thoughts.
See half-formed visions of a greater consciousness.
Just look and see and, having seen, say."

They look. I look. We look,
And one by one they speak,
Saying they see landscapes, caverns and waterfalls,
Great rocks and oceans and the homes of eagles.

Now comes my turn: "Ann, tell us what you see."
I see a ram's skull; heft it at arm's length,
Ponder in pantomime,
Then to the word-befuddled class declare
"Alas, poor Herdwick!" - and they roar
Till all that carefully constructed metaphor
Falls like a clown's trousers round the tutor's feet.

I feel myself dismissed - his tight lips telegraph:
"Trust you to settle for a cheap and easy laugh..."
Later, alone, I beg to contradict,
Such laughs are easy but they don't come cheap.

Who wants to be a poet anyway?
Sometimes I hate poets. Hate them for not knowing
The ram beneath the skull.

A Swaledale tup.
He'd have got bonny gimmers, this old chap -
For old he was; some of his teeth are gone.
See how the horns curl round and round again
Finishing in the comic little lift
Left over from his lambhood. Close and tight
They sat upon his cheeks, trapping his head
Till someone cut a slice from each of them
To ease the workings of his mighty jaw.
Somebody did a nifty hacksaw job;
Somebody else sweated to hold him still,
Digging their fingers into the greasy elf-locks,
Pinning his ear back with a grubby thumb.

Somebody cared. He'd not have lived so long
Without a good master. All of seven-shear.
Keen, too. See in one horn the drilled hole
Where they close-coupled him to a companion.
Ramshackled, lest they tupped the ewes too soon.

Seven times a fleece fell, damp and rank-smelling,
Stained with the old musk, bedewed on the skin side
With his essential oils. Oh, the rare stink of him
In the height of the season.

And once, on a latefrost morning, he was new.
Licked into life by an old blackfaced ewe.
Perhaps a child fed him and knew the touch
Of whiskery lips, the thrust of his blunt head.

How could they look at a ram's skull and not see
That once that skull would have been small enough
To fit roundly, slick as a cricket ball,
Into the cupped palm of a shepherd's hand.

things one should not do

favours. especially those involving computers.

can you do a book for the writers group i am asked.
no problem i say. 35 lines for poetry, asap.
1st arrival, 52 lines. nice

but that's okay and not altogether unexpected. no worries. just send me the stuff when you've got it. and it arrives, no content but some odd files and the message, i've just laid it out. uh-huh. but you can't send the layout given the programme we're using.

if you just put it in a folder with the files.


sorry about that, will i just send it anyway?

roughly translated, you've shown me what to do and i'm going to piss about, piss you about, waste your time and go off and do something completely different. excellent.

and while i'm on the subject. deadlines.

is there something in the 'creative' brain that can't process the concept?
i fear there must be as i'm sitting waiting at the moment for work (illustrations) which i'm not only using to publicise the person making it, but which i'm also paying them for! what am i getting? nothing, nothing at all, that's what.

then last night's gem as we embark on another new venture i get asked but how is it getting funded? well that'd be me. which of course i should realise is the wrong answer because in arty world poetry really is supposed to make things happen, as opposed to money which actually does.

even the venal world of advertising is better. but at least i'm not in the theatre. i swear to god if someone mentions 'craft' to me this week outside the world of cheese i won't be responsible for what happens.

* you can scotticise any of the above by inserting any of the popular expletives we know and love anywhere in the text. and frequently

Friday, 9 October 2009

kate clanchy

Poem for a Man with No Sense of Smell

This is simply to inform you:

that the thickest line in the kink of my hand
smells like the feel of an old school desk,
the deep carved names worn sleek with sweat;

that beneath the spray of my expensive scent
my armpits sound a bass note strong
as the boom of a palm on a kettle drum;

that the wet flush of my fear is sharp
as the taste of an iron pipe, midwinter,
on a child's hot tongue; and that sometimes,

in a breeze, the delicate hairs on the nape
of my neck, just where you might bend
your head, might hesitate and brush your lips,

hold a scent frail and precise as a fleet
of tiny origami ships, just setting out to sea.

i meet kate clanchy briefly earlier this year after a pre stanza reading. i don't normally go for the meeting of the poet thing but, given i've only the most vestigial sense of smell, i was so taken with the above poem that, once she'd finished, i felt i had to tell her. which obviously wasn't creepy at all! but i did get the impression it wasn't the first time it had happened, indicating perhaps the surprising prevalence of anosmic type conditions and possibly the lack of writing describing it.

anyway, i was quite taken with la clanchy, not just because she seemed decent but because she falls into that small group of women who constitute poets of my age. so not only did i get some of her poetry but, as i was in tesco's the other day, thought i'd give her latest, antigona and me a whirl.

and glad i was of it. the book, prose not poetry, features the relationship between clanchy and her helpmeet/friend antigona, an albanian refugee. true clanchy's london existence is not to me as distant as that of the albanian mountains but both are distinctly not my mode of being so either portrayal was of interest. clanchy was unflinching in highlighting the many conflicts in her middle class existence and its effects on people like antigona while at the same time doing a good job, i thought, in portraying antigona's transition from the stratified world of her birth into the confusing one of london.

it'd be easy to dismiss, esp seeing it on the shelves as tesco, as another chick book but it really isn't and is well worth a look if only to remind ourselves of the cossetted and privileged nature of our existence. i like the domestic world clanchy creates in her poetry. it's a difficult trick to get right and she succeeds in transferring that to this work without any of the faux sentimentality that clogs so much of its equivalent.

cheap at tescos. buy it!

*the poem comes from canchy's collection slattern. you can hear ot being read here at about 9:30 tho it's not clanchy and has annoying piano music

Thursday, 8 October 2009

stanza 2010

stanza 2010's headline writers have been announced and it's a very strong lineup so far.

note also the virtual poetry thing coming up on the 14th nov.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

the hospitality of montrose

so me and t got ourselves up to the gingham curtained world of montrose to have a look at the wildlife in the basin. having done this we headed up to rachel's for a visit.

small girl refused to recognise us until parental approval had been granted. he's dressed this time said the lady of the house so you may speak to them. will we feed them ma-ma said the small one. yes said the dowager after some thought, but don't use the good china. we perched ourselves on the wooden chairs while rachel said a short grace. i haven;t seen one of those cake trees for a while but hers was lovely. no really.

politeness forbids me from revealing the details of our small talk but suffice to say some efforts of character assassination were made. herself even went so far as to accuse someone of being a parvenu. a bumbling one at that. we went to make our leave but rachel had hidden my car keys so instead small girl quizzed us on the kings and queens of england until she felt we were sufficiently well versed to be allowed to leave. out the back door obviously as rachel called to her neighbours 'tradespeople!'

* it should be pointed out that the above is a confection of outrageous exaggeration and downright lies. we had a lovely time, we were baked for (yes, really) and small girl kept us thoroughly entertained. a cold is throwing racing into doubt for this weekend so we may return friday. thanks again ; )

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

autumn colours

so off we go to spend a weekend in the tweed valley. i'm off on the bike with some of the singletrack people. day one we're up on minch moor, along part of the southern upland way. wind is forecast and it doesn't disappoint. we receive a bracing battering and agree it's the only time we've seen bikes blown about when they're lying flat. the rain doesn't fail us either! but changeable tho the weather is, it's a fabulous day.

the following day, the weather's died down a bit, the sun is shining and seventeen of us embark out onto the gypsy glen route at glentress. for those of us who've been out the day before it's sore on the legs. but the descent down the ridge back into gt is the best i've done this year. unfortunately we then have to climb back out of peebles up to the top of gt red. by this time i haven't the legs for a technical descent so i take the easy way down the red route but even then i have to detour onto the blue two thirds of the way down as my legs are done.

meanwhile after a day of craft investigation in peebles on the saturday t takes advantage of the weather to get herself along to the gardens at dawyck. as she correctly points out, i should have been there but as i wasn't it doesn't interfere with her picture taking...