Friday, 31 December 2010

derek walcott


The full moon is so fierce that I can count the
coconuts' cross-hatched shade on bungalows,
their white walls raging with insomnia.
The stars leak drop by drop on the tin plates
of the sea almonds, and the jeering clouds
are luminously rumpled as the sheets.
The surf, insatiably promiscuous,
groans through the walls; I feel my mind
whiten to moonlight, altering that form
which daylight unambiguously designed,
from a tree to a girl's body bent in foam;
then, treading close, the black hump of a hill,
its nostrils softly snorting, nearing the
naked girl splashing her breasts with silver.
Both would have kept their proper distance still,
if the chaste moon hadn't swiftly drawn the drapes
of a dark cloud, coupling their shapes.

She teases with those flashes, yes, but once
you yield to human horniness, you see
through all that moonshine what they really were,
those gods as seed-bulls, gods as rutting swans -
an overheated farmhand's literature.
Who ever saw her pale arms hook his horns,
her thighs clamped tight in their deep-plunging ride,
watched, in the hiss of the exhausted foam,
her white flesh constellate to phosphorous
as in salt darkness beast and woman come?
Nothing is there, just as it always was,
but the foam's wedge to the horizon-light,
then, wire-thin, the studded armature,
like drops still quivering on his matted hide,
the hooves and horn-points anagramed in stars.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

robin robertson

for Cait

The brimstone is back
in the woken hills of Tuscany,
passing the word
from speedwell to violet
wood anemone to celandine.
I could walk to you now
with Spring just ahead of me,
north over flat ground
at two miles an hour,
the sap moving with me,
under the rising
grass of the field
like a dragged magnet
the lights of the flowers
coming on in waves
as I walked with the budburst
and the flushing of trees.
If I started now,
I could bring you the Spring
for your birthday.

Monday, 27 December 2010

lu yun

The Valley Wind

Living in retirement beyond the world,
Silently enjoying isolation,
I pull the rope of my door tighter
And stuff my window with roots and ferns.
My spirit is tuned to the Spring-season:
At the fall of the year there is autumn in my heart,
Thus imitating cosmic changes
My cottage becomes a Universe.

trans by arthur waley

Sunday, 26 December 2010

liking those books got for christmas but not sure where to put them. ease yourself into some booklover bliss here.  i don't know how tumblr works so i can't read any of the notes - anyone figures this out please tell me. in the meantime t and me will be utilising our current book storage system (other wise known as the floor) to be reading this and this. anything but mroe food....

Saturday, 25 December 2010

edward lear

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long have we tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Friday, 24 December 2010

lola haskins

Sleep Positions

This is how we sleep:
On our backs, with pillows covering our chests, heavy as dirt
On our sides, like wistful spoons
Clenched, knees in-tucked, arms folded
Wide, like sprawling-rooted lotuses

In Iowa on top of pictures of Hawaii, huge white flowers on blue
In New York on black satin
In China on straw.

This is how our dreams arrive:
As hot yellow taxicabs;
As sudden blazing steam, we who have been pots on a stove,
looking only at our own lids;
As uninvited insects, all at once on our tongues.

O hairdresser, auditor, hardknuckled puller of crabtraps, you who
think poetry was school, you who believe you never had
a flying thought,
lie down.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

and that was that

so, it's the time of year when i like to reveal my best and worsts except that this year as i started getting into good flow about those films, especially films, and books i hadn't enjoyed (or downright loathed) i found myself becoming drawn into the relentless net of girniness that seems to have accompanied the cold weather in scotland. icy frowns, frigid moaning, it's not for me so, entertaining as a good rant can be, i can't bring myself to it with any enthusiasm. and so to the film and book highlights of the year...

it's a reasonable certainty i'll pick up an epistolary novel so the year was off to a good start in the form of teru miyamato's kinshu: autumn brocade. a divorced couple meet by chance and exchange letters that explain the roots of their separation and the course of their lives after. nothing much happens other than that and it's not the less for it. the characters behave like adults and the exchanges are so well balanced it's easy for the reader to be drawn in.

similarly i enjoyed yoko agawa's the diving pool, described as three novellas but really just big short stories. but again a focus on getting the job done, telling a story, rounding out a narrator, drawing the reader in rather than focusing on a theme or location and letting that do the work. in both of these the reader's left to make up their own mind rather than getting beaten round the head with the writer's leaden point.

the selected works of t.s. spivet found much favour with me, even if i wasn't fussed for the ending. it concerns a young boy with a penchant for mapmaking who manages to win a competition at the smithsonian without anyone realising he's a child. off he goes across america. normally i can;t be doing with these quirky american journey novels but i loved the first half of this and the dodgy ending was more than made up for by the design of the book itself which is clustered with maps and footnotes made by the protagonist (who surely must be loving joseph cornell). it's a beautiful thing to idle thru on a rainy day and if you're ever short of a book for the map afficionado in your house then this'll fit the bill.

another thing that made me smile was grandville by brian talbot which is an anthropomorphic conspiracy tale set in a steampunk britain defeated by napoleon and featuring as its main character the bodybuilding badger, lebrock of the yard. not only is this the only british fiction that made it anywhere near my faves for this year it was very nearly top of my list and was easily the most entertaining from the daft (but curiously compelling) set up and a graphic style from cover to finish that was old school but never old.

sadly i finished all my wllliam maxwell's this year after managing to eke them out over the course of a couple of years. the chateau is possibly the weakest but that's only in comparison with the others. collected stories adds valuable insight and the element of lavishness, his collected letters, which i've gone on about on here before is a classic which everyone should own. buy them, but them all and then off and read them, preferably on a verandah.

a tail end surprise was intuition by allegra goodman. usually if a novel has anything to do with lecturers, universities and the like i feel a twinge of depression but this one appealed to my inner geek set as it was in a lab and featuring debatable results. sure there were the usual relationship shenanigans but these didn't overwhelm the plot and served in large part to illustrate the central dilemmas. i think a lot of my entertainment from this came from its recognisability but i wouldn't let that put the non-anoraks amongst you off.

but there was only one winner for fiction. and that winner was moby dick. no, not the melville (that was a favourite years ago)one but this one. yes, it's in french but it's illustrated by bill sienkewicz who is perfect (have a look at the images) for capturing the psychological elements of moby dick that you'd imagine the truncated form of a graphic novel couldn't. the effect is mesmeric, so much so that the language is incidental - of you know the book you know what's being said anyway but even for t, who hasn't read it before, the effect was visceral. even better just to get you in the mood there's a cd of incidental music. you could strip out the dialogue, play the cd and show this as an installation. best book of the year by a country mile.

on the non-fiction front my year was more reassuring. i got peter hill's stargazing early in the year and it found a lot of favour with both me and t. it details the author's experiences as a trainee lighthouseman in the days just before the system was automated. a grand read and the best £1 i spent in a charity shop this year.

i followed the whale theme with philip hoare's leviathan which was worthwhile. graham robb's parisians and simon winder's germania got me thru the holidays while at the same time, with any of these three, perhaps contributed to my lack of fiction reading by proving that true stories are often more interesting.

there were many cycling books as usual but the standout among them was laurent fignon's autobiography we were young and carefree. poignancy was added by fignon's recent demise but he came out as an engaging and mercurial figure. which is pretty much how i remember him!

but really it was the year of eduardo galeano. i read a few of his but it was mirrors that stood out for me. still polemical but historical as opposed to football or overt politics. kind of like watching a coked up slavoj zizek in its delivery but, if anything, more entertaining. like having a distant, well-read uncle in your house sitting in a corner having a rant and all of a sudden you realise he's not drunk. each segment comes fragmented and not necessarily connected but there's a passsion and a joy in it that had me laughing out loud.
non fiction book of the year. accept no other.

films. i have to say that for mainstream american cinema this was the most dire year i can remember with a truly staggering lack of imagination on show. one might be forced to conclude that notions of narrative, character and the ability to make an original film as opposed to a remake or sequel were absent. thankfully they have alternatives.

thomas mccarthy's the visitor and also the station agent. the first of these concerns damaged lecturer going to a conference in new york to find that his apartment has been sublet to an immigrant couple. i can't say more for fear of spoilers but this is the best film i've seen that deals with contemporary american domestic policy in years. it is brilliant. but, if you're not so much in for a bit of drama, check out the station agent which, if anything, is even better. peter dinklage is a young guy with restricted growth who inherits a railway wagon that he goes to live in. he meets other people and becomes less isolated. that's it, that's all you get. i adored this film, as did t. a proper couplet of films to watch if you want to see no car chases, nothing blowing up and actual characters!

stuff did blow up in district 9 and we liked that. i sold the selkie theme for ondine which despite a hasty and non too satisfactory end saw something of a return to form for colin farrell and an excellent supporting cast but still a beautiful and well balanced wee gem if a film.

not so much as a return to form as a total shock to the system was colin firth in tom ford's a single man. ignore any impression you may have had of him as mr darcy or his many clones, firth is nothing short of amazing in this. like the last film i wasn't fussed for the end but who cared. this film was staggering beautiful to look at and firth burns up the screen with pathos and loss. julianne moore is great in a support role also. find this and watch it. if you don't like you should most likely be watching the expendables, or maybe 27 dresses. or space chimps. whatever, if you don't like this you're just plain wrong.

also in my top three is jacques audiard's a prophet. i took my time getting round to this having roundly hated the beat my heart skipped but it was worth the wait. sure there are prison drama tropes in here but so what, this was powerful film making. uncomfortable, unsettling and definitely not the most enjoyable experience i totally lost myself in this. off the top of my head i can't think of a prison film that better explores the notion of what a prison is about (no, shawshank doesn't count!).

but my favourite film of the year? kick ass. yes, you can watch it as a (kind of) standard action film, though i don't see how, but for me it had some of the care and attention to detail of a single man both in terms of use of colour and placement of artworks while not flinching away from the detail of violence that was present in a prophet. but at the same time undermining both. yes, it was laugh out loud funny but, for me, there was never a moment (and esp on repeat watching which it bears) when it wasn't engaged in our culture's fascination with violence and the consequences of that. not the easiest film to get your head round in that context but worth the effort to do.

and poetry you ask,seeing as there's some amount of that on here? i don;t usually include much of that as i'm no good at finishing poetry books and to be on the year end list a thing has to complete rather than just looked at. but of those that i did....

mario susko's eternity on hold. lovely.
small expectations by donald s. murray. which wasn't just poetry and did involve an exhibition called the net mender parts of which we saw and enjoyed rather a lot
and i also rather enjoyed child of nature by luljeta lleshanaku, which you can read more about here
but my favourite poetry came late and in the form of a pamphlet rather than a book, courtesy of mariscat press at the scottish poetry pamphlet fair. it is r. v. bailey's the losing game and concerns the death of her partner, u.a. fanthorpe. doing poems about dying and loss is always going to be a hard sell for someone like me but this is poetry that sears off the page. it is staggeringly good.
and you can get it for the stupidly reasonable price of £4 here

robert hayden

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

rhina p espaillat

Rachmaninoff on the Mass Pike

It calls the heart, this music, to a place
more intimate than home, than self, that face
aging in the hall mirror. This is not
music to age by - no sprightly gavotte
or orderly pavane, counting each beat,
confining motion to the pointed feet
and sagely nodding head; not Chopin, wise
enough to keep some distance in his eyes
between perceiver and the thing perceived.
No, this is song that means to be believed,
that quite believes itself, each rising wave
of passionate crescendo wild and brave.
The silly girl who lived inside my skin
once loved this music; its melodic din
was like the voice she dreamed in, sad, intense.
She didn't know a thing, she had no sense;
she scorned - and needed - calendar and clock,
the rules, the steps, the lines, Sebastian Bach;
she wanted life to break her like a tide,
but not too painfully. On either side
the turnpike trundles by, nurseries, farms,
small towns with schools and markets in their arms,
small industry, green spaces now and then.
All the heart wants is to be called again.

Monday, 20 December 2010

judith pordon

After Their Death

You might be covered
by eyelids closed
over your whole being,

or reach with desperation
for something alive
to hold onto.

Your fingertips will hide
in a fist. No more palms
open to life.

Humbled, the very ground
will seem so large. Someday
the earth will own you.

Or you see theres no time
to waste, and plow
into previously feared goals.

Try to be patient
if it takes you years
to return.

This is the exit from Eden,
when you have chosen life
while wanting to die.

This is the fall that gives
wisdom, perspective, gratefulness.
It is worth the crawl, back to life.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

jean nordhaus


Would it surprise you to learn
that years beyond your longest winter
you still get letters from your bank, your old
philanthropies, cold flakes drifting
through the mail-slot with your name?
Though it's been a long time since your face
interrupted the light in my door-frame,
and the last tremblings of your voice
have drained from my telephone wire,
from the lists of the likely, your name
is not missing. It circles in the shadow-world
of the machines, a wind-blown ghost. For generosity
will be exalted, and good credit
outlasts death. Caribbean cruises, recipes,
low-interest loans. For you who asked
so much of life, who lived acutely
even in duress, the brimming world
awaits your signature. Cancer and heart disease
are still counting on you for a cure.
B'nai Brith numbers you among the blessed.
They miss you. They want you back.

Friday, 17 December 2010

bill mohr

Big Band, Slow Dance

Were you close? I'm asked, as if grief
Would sting less deeply were we friends
As well as son and father. Further apart
Two men could never meet, though blood bends

Through arteries, veins and capillaries
Summoned into Presence by his pleasure.
Oh that I could have grown more slowly -
Remember being held, and cradled like treasure.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

al purdy

Trees at the Arctic Circle
(Salix Cordifolia - Ground Willow)

They are 18 inches long
or even less
crawling under rocks
groveling among the lichens
bending and curling to escape
making themselves small
finding new ways to hide
Coward trees
I am angry to see them
like this
not proud of what they are
bowing to weather instead
careful of themselves
worried about the sky
afraid of exposing their limbs
like a Victorian married couple

I call to mind great Douglas firs
I see tall maples waving green
and oaks like gods in autumn gold
the whole horizon jungle dark
and I crouched under that continual night
But these
even the dwarf shrubs of Ontario
mock them
Coward trees

And yet- and yet-
their seed pods glow
like delicate gray earrings
their leaves are veined and intricate
like tiny parkas
They have about three months
to make sure the species does not die
and that's how they spend their time
unbothered by any human opinion
just digging in here and now
sending their roots down down down
And you know it occurs to me
about 2 feet under
those roots must touch permafrost
ice that remains ice forever
and they use it for their nourishment
they use death to remain alive

I see that I've been carried away
in my scorn of the dwarf trees
most foolish in my judgments
To take away the dignity
of any living thing
even tho it cannot understand
the scornful words
is to make life itself trivial
and yourself the Pontifex Maximus
of nullity
I have been stupid in a poem
I will not alter the poem
but let the stupidity remain permanent
as the trees are
in a poem
the dwarf trees of Baffin Island

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

louis macneice


Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those almost intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding noughts in vain.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

czeslaw milosz


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesnt matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesnt always understand.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

eiléan ní chuilleanáin

Man Watching A Woman

The sound of everything folding into sleep,
A sense of being nowhere at all,
Set him on his way (traffic far off, and wind
In tall trees) to a back gate, a dark yard.
A path goes past the bins, the kitchen door,
Switches to a gravel walk by the windows
Lit softly above the privet hedge.
He stops and watches. He needs to see this:

A woman working late in the refectory,
Sewing a curtain, the lines of her face
Dropping into fatigue, severity, age,
The hair falling out of its claps at her poll.
The hands are raised to thread the needle,
The tongue moves behind her lips.
He cannot see the feet or shoes, they are trapped
In toils of cloth. He is comforted.

He can move on, while the night combs out
Long rushing sounds into quiet,
On to the scene, the wide cafés –
Trombone music over polished tables.
He will watch the faces behind the bar, tired girls,
Their muscles bracing under breakers of music
And the weight of their balancing trays, drinks, ice and change.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


i fear a certain time of life has arrived. while i'm loving working on the picture i'm doing at the moment it does require quite a lot of close work. in combination with the need to be quite specific about the shades of colour that i'm using i'm finding my glasses need to be on then on the floor, balanced on the easel, perched on my head and falling off all of the same and narrowly avoiding stepping on them.

i need those things that hold your glasses around your neck. yes, the ones that wee old grannies use. some of them. preferably without the beads.

or i need to get my eyeballs lasered!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

al purdy

The Dead Poet

I was altered in the placenta
by the dead brother before me
who built a place in the womb
knowing I was coming:
he wrote words on the walls of flesh
painting a woman inside a woman
whispering a faint lullaby
that sings in my blind heart still

The others were lumberjacks
backwoods wrestlers and farmers
their women were meek and mild
nothing of them survives
but an image inside an image
of a cookstove and the kettle boiling
- how else explain myself to myself
where does the song come from?

Now on my wanderings:
at the Alhambra's lyric dazzle
where the Moors built stone poems
a wan white face peering out
- and the shadow in Plato's cave
remembers the small dead one
- at Samarkand in pale blue light
the words came slowly from him
- I recall the music of blood
on the Street of the Silversmiths

Sleep softly spirit of earth
as the days and nights join hands
when everything becomes one thing
wait softly brother
but do not expect it to happen
that great whoop announcing resurrection
expect only a small whisper
of birds nesting and green things growing
and a brief saying of them
and know where the words came from

Monday, 6 December 2010

raymond carver

What The Doctor Said

He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

Sunday, 5 December 2010

a week goes by

and i remain marooned in the house. true i'm out briefly on the bike and i'm commited to the trainer but by friday my legs feel off and there's a persistent hint of sneeze about me. of course there's the heating to blame but really what i need is a couple of days off. but i've been off all week and can't go anywhere and digging snow has completely lost its appeal.

what to do? something, anything. t drops broad hints about me being 'out'. even i can recognise this so off we go for some lunch and a bit of library. the library saves us. i'm no good at lunch, it's all that sitting still and eating faster than everyone else but at least there's books to talk about and the cup cakes are good, if only to spur t into baking activity. but i have to do something. i know this. i'm no picnic to live with at the best of times but a week of cabin fever and something's got to give.

except it doesn't. t gets herself off to the kitchen for some proper cookie baking while i settle down for an afternoons drawing. not just drawing as i'm prepping a canvas but layers take time to dry so drawing seems like a good way to absorb time. plus i've set myself the challenge of trying to draw in a different style. and it works. these are good t says. i would never draw anything like this i say. do some more she says. and so the day goes. it turns out my canvas/embroidery project will be much more light based and non embroidered for the time being. if anyone knows a safe way to get a light source round the back of a canvas that provides a uniform light field please tell me.

but the drawing. back when we were wee it was my sister who did the line drawing and me who did the colour. true we could both do both but we knew where our strengths lay. and i really like my sister's drawings so never felt the need to do more than she already could. but getting back to the drawing took me back to windy houses on isolated islands with no tv, the excitement of getting a new set of pastels or coloured pencils. writing, drawing, playing an instrument, all those things are infinitely better than the computer, the tv or their many proxies.

and then today finally we get the car out. it's brilliant to be back in the world, see what it all looks like again. at least until we get to tescos and then it's not so great. this week we've gotten into walking to the shop, doing stuff around the house, cooking, reading montaigne out loud, playing the guitar, feeding the birds, going for a walk, a bit of writing, a bit of painting, drawing. it's as if the daily routines we slip into so easily have been buried along with everything else under the snow. a week on and i'm not mad keen for them to re-appear...

Friday, 3 December 2010

and only yesterday

was the day when i gave up on the other bike, put my snow tyre on the front and the bad boy that is my ice tyre on the back of my race bike and abandoned the dubious joy that is the trainer and off out into the snow.

true i got a few strange looks from the blokes digging out their cars on the streets but i knew that i had better gear for the weather than they had. and so it proved right to the end of the street, down the beginning of the path and the bottom of the hill. and then the problems started. the path itself is just about doable. or it would be if trees hadn't fallen down on it due to the cold and the weight of snow. picturesque but otherwise unhelpful. plus a crust of snow on the inclines that even my ice tyre couldn't cope with. but, i thought, i'm outside, once i get to the top of the hill surely it'll be better.

foolish words, foolish words. more overnight snowfall saw the top track knee deep in powder. madness!

so back down the hill. tricky but doable, then off down the town through the ice and slush. again people look at me like i'm some sort of mirage. or brain damaged lab monkey. on a bike. and i feel like an organ donor. no, really. and if i wasn't sure then the few cars remind that really i am by trying to push me into the snow banks. not nice!

but i do make it to the next hill which, i assume, no car bound idiot will be foolish enough to attempt. i look up and away in the distance two snowboarders are carving beautiful turns into virgin snow. i know there's no possibility i'll be cycling up there but it's still some sort of beautiful as i get my head down, catch some rhythm and get into the hill. oh yes, until at least when i come across the car bound idiot who thought he'd take his dog for a walk. brilliant.

so me and a couple of other guys mull about for a half hour as he fails to free his car. what is it about the overwhelming majority of car drivers that the notion that it's a bad thing to spin your wheels madly just doesn't penetrate? fortunately a tractor comes and i get on my way. the cycling is terrible. the snow has turned into that awful cloying sugary stuff and once i get off road there's an easy two foot of snow before the drifts. but the sun is shining through the pine trees and there's not a soul. i have the bike on my back old school style for long periods and the day gives me just enough of a break that i get a few wobbly metres down the track.

the downhill on the way back is ugly. lots of freezing slush and so, so cold. but brilliant.

and today? overnight was a balmy -18 so what do you think? it's a rest day, feet up in front of the fire. go out there again? no chance!

nguyen quyen

Pairs of Shoes

My future lives come to me in dreams
Come silently with torn soles.
I am like a skilled shoemaker
Greeting the wandering breath of these feet.

These dreams-my other selves
Sprawl out to sleep like a litter of puppies,
Pinches of ashy fur standing up in tufts
Their young hair like hens fluffed feathers
They lie on their stomachs, pressing against my shadow.

Pairs of shoes from yesterday will come tomorrow
Am I their native land, or a land foreign to them?
Their house, or an inn?
Which road guided them to me?

Tonight I decide to open myself to these dreams,
As anxious for their arrival as a child yearning for milk.
Perhaps fireflies will draw them in a different direction
And perhaps the shoes are no longer ripped.

I feel as empty as a new-born creature.
I spread out like a homeless evening
To meet these footprints turning toward me.

translated by ben tran

game changer

nasa kindly dropped this in my inbox today


once upon a time i could've explained just why this is such big news but i'm just a bit too thick these days. but i'm still not so biochemically illiterate that i'm not (very) geekily excited to see precisely where these organisms are using arsenic and what for.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

pj harvey

it should be no surprise to anyone that pj harvey floats near the top of my most listened to female artists. i did nearly meet her once and maybe i should've done but i kind of subscribe that you should never meet the people you build your imaginary soundscapes around.

anyway, i was delighted to hear another track from her forthcoming album today

i am marooned. i hate the snow. i am fabulously restless!


i'm very happy to to discover recently that a) my old copy of montaigne had vanished and that b) getting a new and better copy from amazon would be a right and fine thing to do.

and it was with montaigne buzzing about in my brain (one day it is true i will do a cypress hill/montaigne spoof) that i got to thinking about copyright and the like with respect to poetry and the like. coincidentally when my big book of montaigne had thudded thru the door it was this passage that it opened to at first glance.

La fama, ch'invaghisce a un dolce suono

Gli superbi mortali, et par si bella,
E un eco, un sogno, anzi d'un sogno un'ombra,
Ch'ad ogni vento si dilegua a sgombra."

["Fame, which with alluring sound charms proud mortals, and appears
so fair, is but an echo, a dream, nay, the shadow of a dream, which
at every breath vanishes and dissolves."
- Tasso, Gerus., xiv. 63.]

and that was followed by the more oft quoted -

Even those who argue against fame still want the books they write against it to bear their name in the title and hope to become famous for despising it.

and while i'm spending more time in on solitude than on not sharing one's fame it was back to these i came when the copyright issue, with specific respect to poetry, came to mind.

it's a funny game poetry, what with being so popular and all, so many readers, so many books sold, indeed in scotland it's almost impossible to walk the streets without some poetry reading going on or some poet coming up to you and rattling off a few lines. it's a great thing that the government invests so much in supporting its poets and artists but one would expect no less given the heightened respect and public love for culture that exists in this little plot of geography.

except of course none of that happens. people don't read it, even less buy it, bookstores don't stock it and publishers won't publish it. and then there's the poets, or as they're known in the collective - a disagreement. yet while i can take all those little divisions - the rhyme/don't rhyme, i know you/i don't know you, the squabbles, the endless positioning and on and on. and on - the copyright thing for me is one that gets me going. now i'm not suggesting that anyone should be able to reproduce a work, or that any organisation or the like should be able to appropriate work for their own ends but this odd position (i'll call it the wendy cope) that you read a poem you like and then stick up on your blog/site/twitter etc is something wrong and you should pay for seems to me like the all too familar (to my generation) home taping is killing music argument. which it didn't. not even remotely. in fact, as far as my own personal experience it spawned an entire generation of people who listened and as soon as they were able bought and talked about a load of music.

imagine then, if back in the day, when you were making up your c90 of top tunes that someone came knocking on your door and said not only that you couldn't but if you did you needed to be paying for it (i'll call that the metallica defence). of course, paying. because the bottom line is the bottom line and it is, was and always will be about the money.

and of course where's there's money, there's power. not being able to put a poem on a blog is one thing but the ramifications are wider and more insidious.

take the case of horacio potel, whom i'll now quote at length

- - - - - - - - - -

Do you see your case as part of a wider-reaching debate on the dissemination of and access to culture?

The Internet gives us the means to free ourselves from the clutches of the self-proclaimed cultural intercessors and delegates and to chose our own cultural heritage. This makes the old cultural industry nervous, as does the fact that the dissemination of information is taking place so incredibly more efficiently and inexpensively that ever before, makin the dream of free culture potentially available to everyone.

Nothing is being done to bring 20th century libraries up to scratch. They don't have enough of anything, their stocks are outdated, and at the same time, the libraries of the future are being stifled in their infancy by putting injunctions on librarians. And the ultimate insult is that this is being facilitated by laws with such pompous-sounding names as "the law for the advancement of the book and the culture of reading" which, by defending the monopoly on the right to reproduction, is ultimately rubber-stamping the disappearance of texts and the culture of reading. One should not forget that my trial was intended to close three public libraries. That was the intention of the Argentinian Book Chamber and the cultural attache of the French Embassy. Luckily they failed.

As much as we should avoid the trap of thinking that "the book" belongs to the representatives of the publishing industry, we should also guard against the false belief that copyright defends the rights of the copyright holder. The opposite is the case. Copyright favours the control of our cultural heritage by an ever smaller number of private owners. The copyright is the medium that book-printing corporations use to appropriate the works of writers for purely commercial ends, so that all other companies, and the authors themselves, are robbed of the right to reproduce even their own work. Copyright confers a monopoly on the utilisation of content, and like every monopoly, it prevents competition which could at least bring down the exorbitant price of books. This is particularly pertinent in a country like ours where the majority of philosophy books are printed by foreign companies who compel us to pay through the nose for their products.

Culture, knowledge and tradition are not the work of "authors". It is astonishing that the same gentlemen who carried the enlightened idea of the free and sovereign individual to the grave so as to sell us the consumerism of the subordinated subject instead, are now appealing to the metaphysics of subjectivity with an eye on maximising profits. And it is astounding that they are choosing to do so in a case that involves Heidegger and Derrida who both opposed the notion of creative subjectivity as the origin of the "work" or the "book". There are no privileged atoms which are kissed by the muse and spread light among the passive masses. There are no atoms and the constitution of the "author" grows, like everything else, out of the metamorphosis of things that came before.

Heidegger and Derrida showed that before or in the process of the formation of a subject that calls itself "I", an entire world was already in place, that we are formed before we are, by heritage and tradition, through the passing down and continuation of messages. Moreover, for Derrida everything begins with a summons: with a "come". His "come" is the signal which calls for sending, the first email which calls for the correspondence in which we are already involved, correspondence with an other which is always there. To put an end to this correspondence is synonymous with death, and this is precisely what the militant copyright fundamentalists want to impose on the Internet in order to domesticate it and use it as a tool for selling their own bric-a-brac. But as Derrida said: "I inherit something which I must pass on: this might sound shocking, but there is no proprietary right to inheritance." It is this inheritance that belongs to no one and influences all of us; it is this common heritage on which the new is built which is the focus of the attacks on free culture

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

for me the poem, the book, culture should belong to everyone. it begins a dialogue, it gets people talking in a way that mere possession cannot and will not allow.

it's not too difficult to find evangelists for the form in music, art, writing, those people who are not into it for the money, the fame, but who spread the word, that creative effort is a mode of human being that lifts us up and out and into each other. these people, and i'm lucky enough to know one or two, are like saints. they are not about ownership, they are not about permission but about giving people the means. and that is a kind of wonderful.

jorge luis borges

The Art of Poetry

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadnesssuch is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there's a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

what i learned this weekend

only last week the countryside looked something like this

then the snow came. not a lot of snow but enough i was happy enough to take the specialised out. and even tho the first lesson of the day is that mud tyres are not snow tyres it was okay.

okay that is until i tried to change gear. but why should that be you ask, haven't you had that mech into two separate bike shops on five different occasions? on the grounds you have spatial dyslexia and can't tell left from right? and they've all assured you that your diagnosis - i need a new mech - is the wrong one. yes, yes, it's that bike. the one that always breaks at strathpuffer, the cables freeze and due to some vagary of the bar set up it makes me feel like i've got a broken wrist after about two hours. yes i love that bike.

but even so to be out early doors with blue skies and a couple of inches of fresh powder was something like sublime. even on my now single speed bike coming down the back hill with not even a footprint for company was something special

i figured a couple of weeks of that would be just lovely. and then the snow came. and it snowed and snowed and snowed. and over the weekend we become something like an island as all the main roads were effectively blocked. it was a bit like that episode of the simpsons where there's no tv. people came out walking. we spoke to each other.

they didn't go very far tho. which was fine as it meant me and t had what should have been my daily cycle all to ourselves. (i would've gone out, no really i would've but, as i said to my lbs guy today i need to work my way into snow and thick snow is just a bit much for me. it's tricky, forgrounds all those bits of technique that you lack - and i lack technique in so many, many areas!). and it looked a bit like this -

it was all rather lovely. and got lovelier when we got back, stoked up the fire and i got busy in the kitchen making all manner of tasty goodness including marmalade. which t obligingly converted into cake. perhaps this was what did for her in the end...

jaime sabine

La luna

La luna se puede tomar a cucharadas
o como una cápsula cada dos horas.
Es buena como hipnótico y sedante
y también alivia
a los que se han intoxicado de filosofía
Un pedazo de luna en el bolsillo
es el mejor amuleto que la pata de conejo:
sirve para encontrar a quien se ama,
y para alejar a los médicos y las clínicas.
Se puede dar de postre a los niños
cuando no se han dormido,
y unas gotas de luna en los ojos de los ancianos
ayudan a bien morir

Pon una hoja tierna de la luna
debajo de tu almohada
y mirarás lo que quieras ver.
Lleva siempre un frasquito del aire de la luna
para cuando te ahogues,
y dale la llave de la luna
a los presos y a los desencantados.
Para los condenados a muerte
y para los condenados a vida
no hay mejor estimulante que la luna
en dosis precisas y controladas

The Moon

You can take the moon by the spoonful
or in capsules every two hours.
It's useful as a hypnotic and sedative
and besides it relieves
those who have had too much philosophy.
A piece of moon in your purse
works better than a rabbit's foot.
Helps you find a lover
or get rich without anyone knowing,
and it staves off doctors and clinics.
You can give it to children like candy
when they've not gone to sleep,
and a few drops of moon in the eyes of the old
helps them to die in peace.

Put a new leaf of moon
under your pillow
and you'll see what you want to.
Always carry a little bottle of air of the moon
to keep you from drowning.
Give the key to the moon
to prisoners and the disappointed.
For those who are sentenced to death
and for those who are sentenced to life
there is no better tonic than the moon
in precise and regular doses.

translated by w. s. merwin

Sunday, 28 November 2010

andre breton

Toujours pour la première fois

C’est à peine si je te connais de vue
Tu rentres à telle heure de la nuit dans une maison oblique à ma fenêtre
Maison tout imaginaire
C’est là que d’une seconde à l’autre
Dans le noir intact
Je m’attends à ce que se produise une fois de plus la déchirure fascinante
La déchirure unique
De la façade et se mon cœur
Plus je m’approche de toi
En réalité
Plue la clé chante à la porte de la chambre inconnue
Où tu m’apparais seule
Tu es d’abord tout entière fondue dans le brillant
L’angle fugitif d’un rideau
C’est un champ de jasmin que j’ai contemplé à l’aube sur une route des environs de Grasse
Avec ses cueilleuses en diagonale
Derrière elles l’aile sombre tombante des plants dégarnis
Devant elles l’équerre de l’éblouissant
Le rideau invisiblement soulevé
Rentrent en tumulte toutes les fleurs
C’est toi aux prises avec cette heure trop longue jamais assez trouble jusqu’au sommeil
Toi comme si tu pouvais être
La même à cela près que je ne te rencontrerai peut-être jamais
Tu fais semblant de ne pas savoir que je t’observe
Merveilleusement je ne suis plus sûr que tu le sais
Ton désœuvrement m’emplit lex yeux de larmes
Une nuée d’interprétations entoure chacun de tes gestes
C’est une chasse à la miellée
Il y a des rocking-chairs sur un pont il y a des branchages qui risquent de t’égratingner dans la forét
Il y a dans une vitrine run Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Deux belles jambes croisées prises dans de hauts bas
Qui sévasent au centre d’un grand trèfle blanc
Il y a une échelle de soie déroulée sur le lierre
Il y a
Qu’à me pencher sue le précipice et de ton absence
J’ai trouvé le secret
De t’aimer
Toujours pour le première fois

Always for the first time

Hardly do I know you by sight
You return at some hour of the night to a house at an angle to my window
A wholly imaginary house
It is there that from one second to the next
In the inviolate darkness
I anticipate once more the fascinating rift occurring
The one and only rift
In the facade and in my heart
The closer I come to you
In reality
The more the key sings at the door of the unknown room
Where you appear alone before me
At first you coalesce entirely with the brightness
The elusive angle of a curtain
It’s a field of jasmine I gazed upon at dawn on a road in the vicinity of Grasse
With the diagonal slant of its girls picking
Behind them the dark falling wing of the plants stripped bare
Before them a T-square of dazzling light
The curtain invisibly raised
In a frenzy all the flowers swarm back in
It is you at grips with that too long hour never dim enough until sleep
You as though you could be
The same except that I shall perhaps never meet you
You pretend not to know I am watching you
Marvelously I am no longer sure you know
You idleness brings tears to my eyes
A swarm of interpretations surrounds each of your gestures
It’s a honeydew hunt
There are rocking chairs on a deck there are branches that may well scratch you in the forest
There are in a shop window in the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Two lovely crossed legs caught in long stockings
Flaring out in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
There is
By my leaning over the precipice
Of your presence and your absence in hopeless fusion
My finding the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time

trans unknown

Saturday, 27 November 2010

chap hop/cricket rap

a niche if ever there was one

but anyone who can rhyme tawdry with charles haughtrey is alright with me

and if you liked that check out professor elemental on the topic of brown joy

the history of chap hop you ask?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

jaroslav vrchlicky

To Be a Poet

Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.

In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlickys death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.

Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.

Flare up, flame of words,
and soar,
even if my fingers get burned!

A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on ones finger.
But not even Puchmajers Rhyming Dictionary
was any used to me.

In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a womans smile and
wind-blown hair.

That has been my destiny.
And Ive been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.

translated by ewald osers

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Monday, 22 November 2010

what you should not do

is be less than sensible about where you put all your notebooks.

and most especially after getting it together to have some sort of system to keep track of them all you shouldn't lose the one you've been using most, yes the one with all the notes of all the writing you've been doing since april and should've, was going to, maybe tomorrow but honest really i'll get to it all that writing up, yes that one. that's the note book you really shouldn't lose.

i'm sure it's in the house somewhere. i really, really hope it is....

Sunday, 21 November 2010

women in science

those of sharper memory might remember the poem i did about mary somerville a while back so it was a happy find today when i came across this article in the guardian today. better yet - and is it really two years since richard holmes' age of wonder was my book of the year - it turns out that richard holmes has a follow-up, the lost women of victorian science, coming out sometime in the next year. i can hardly wait.

best not read the comments section in the above if you've enjoyed the article. may spoil it!

miroslav holub

In the Microscope

Here too are dreaming landscapes,
lunar, derelict.
Here too are the masses,
tillers of the soil.
And cells, fighters
who lay down their lives
for a song.

Here too are cemetaries,
fame and snow.
And I hear murmuring,
the revolt of immense estates.

trans by ian milner

Friday, 19 November 2010

norman maccaig

should you have access to iplayer and a spare hour i'd highly recommend using it to watch billy connelly and ally bain in fishing for poetry where they commemorate they late friend norman maccaig. well worth a watch.
and aly bain a man utd fan? what's all that about?

Thursday, 18 November 2010


you just want to kick yourself. much excitement as i read that james turrell is doing a show at the gagosian. faster than a take that fan on news of their reunion i'm straight onto the website. london, easy. when can i get a ticket. except it's not my plane/train ticket that's the problem, more tha fact that the show itself is completely booked out.


heaped upon disaster as i decide that i'll do a bit of googling to find out what he's been up to recently, only to discover that rather than noodling about in his crater, as i very much like to imagine him doing, he's had a big show on in wolfsburg at the beginning of the year.

it's like some sort of stupidity affected attention deficit disorder sometimes....

James Turrell - The Wolfsburg Project - English subtitles from Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg on Vimeo.

lisel mueller


It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.
It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.
It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.
It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

it's not the crashing

but the aftermath that matters. i'm off up to destination x on monday. i notice, on the drive up the glen, it's just a wee tad icy. no matter i think, a couple of hours of 'sunshine' will sort that nicely. sadly no. i do avoid sliding off down the hill in one direction and into a cliff in the other, all this observed by some woman who's been doing a u-turn to avoid the slidiness. being an audi driver tho, she decides that the most appropriate response to my weaving about is to drive about fifteen feet behind me. choice! so i think i've made it, just at the last corner before the main road, when the van loses it and i plough into a field. audi woman drives past, face full of inconvenience, doesn't stop, doesn't acknowledge me, nothing.

the next car along does, four wee old folk looking out, slowing down, saying 'look there's some boy crashed into a field.'. stopping, offers of help? nothing. and then the next car! and again nada.

later i get asked how the crashing makes me feel. great, i say (not the answer that was being looked for!), i like that out of control then getting to walk away feeling. true, the banging about didn;t make my spine feel the best but otherwise, no problem. what gets me is the folk driving by. i don't understand that. a daily uncaring that makes me die a little every time i see it. these people i think, must be a different species.

and then to the cycling. the planned trip to destination x is off due o the icy crash risk so we decide we'll go out more locally. gymbolina has, as predicted, dodged out of an appearance. all the better for me to get more training in for next time! and more specifically because the impending races seem awfully close. but off we go up the hill. take it easy on us say the boys as we make our way up the steepest way possible. and i sort of do. my legs feel better than last week but i'm still getting strange drops in power. fortunately my head seems set right so i just ease off and cycle within myself. i'm still a front ring below where i should be tho.

anyway, the general meandering goes on. my erratic performance means everyone gets a chance to overtake me (or leave me behind!) which is great for the group dynamic and, in its way, good for me. our alternate destination is a good choice as it's almost dry and out of the (chilly) wind. we have a few detours thru some more technical forest sections, just to remind them what they'd be getting in destination x and there is much hilarity. of course i then get lost, have to put a bit of speed on to catch up. the problem being that the last bit we do is beech forest so the ground is leaf covered. of course when i say the ground i mean the fallen branches. fallen branches covered in moisture and general leaf mould.

my front wheel slides over a monster one of these, like i'm doing some sort of rail grind. except i'm really not. i catapult off the bike. dead sailor? no, a proper head over heels somersault followed by some it really should be on the gymastics mat rolls before i faceplant in the mulch. easily the biggest and best off i've had this year. i get up, dust myself off - unbelievably unhurt! and then i look around. not a soul. not even a glimmer of lights.

of course when i find them no-one wants to know. what took you they say. i had a massive off i say. yeah right they respond and off down the hill, an unwitnessed off being like the fish that got away - a story that might well have truth in it but with no one to see it isn't even worth the retelling.

i get home, mud spattered and happy. i fell off my bike i declare. did you dear, says t, now go and wash...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

when i think of afghanistan

this does not leap to mind

SKATEISTAN: TO LIVE AND SKATE KABUL from Diesel New Voices on Vimeo.


more lucille clifton

Song at Midnight

…do not send me out
among strangers
Sonia Sanchez

this big woman
carries much sweetness
in the folds of her flesh.
her hair
is white with wonderful.
she is
rounder than the moon
and far more faithful.
who will hold her,
who will find her beautiful
if you do not?

Poem in praise of menstruation

if there is a river
more beautiful than this
bright as the blood
red edge of the moon if
there is a river
more faithful than this
returning each month
to the same delta if there

is a river
braver than this
coming and coming in a surge
of passion, of pain if there is

a river
more ancient than this
daughter of eve
mother of cain and of abel if there is in

the universe such a river if
there is some where water
more powerful than this wild

pray that it flows also
through animals
beautiful and faithful and ancient
and female and brave

Monday, 15 November 2010

lucille clifton

to my last period

well girl, goodbye,
after thirty-eight years.
thirty-eight years and you
never arrived
splendid in your red dress
without trouble for me
somewhere, somehow.

now it is done
and I feel just like
the grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn't she
beautiful? wasn't she beautiful?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

virgil suarez

Hail Storm

The last time my mother visited Cuba
she found a car and driver to take her
to the province of Las Villas, seven
hours from Havana, and on the way
it started to rain, and the driver, a young
man kept telling her to relax, that this
was the way it always rained in Cuba
this time of year, and she kept telling
him she wasnt a tourist, that she'd been
born here, and the driver drove on
in the wolf-mouth-dark of the road,
insects and sleet rain crossing the head
lights, and my mother couldnt relax,
and when it started to hail, fists pounding
on the hood of the automobile, she
panicked, prayed to the point she spooked
the young driver into stopping by
the side of the road, if only until the hail
storm stopped, if only until her heart
settled and she began to recognize
that what was pounding the car wasn't
ice balls, but her memories falling back,
her life welcoming her where she belongs.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

return of the turntable

*disclaimer - unless you have had an enduring love for a turntable and the playing of vinyl records then this is probably a very dull post and best avoided.

once upon a time a owned a michell hydraulic reference turntable, a beautiful thing even if was a mirrored green in finish. stuff happened and i sold it, sort of, to my friend euan for a song in order, as he said, to buy 'other things' but wiht a long term understanding that one day i'd be getting it back. quite when that was wasn't specified and he always refused to commit saying that the extra time was justified so that, as he said. it could ' be a lesson for me'.

later i got myself an even more beautiful oracle delphi mark II. it was a nightmare to set up and even more fiddly to work than the michell but sooooo lovely to look at that when the divine s, with whom i lived at the time, changed status from partner to best friend (albeit with a hiatus of not really being very able to tolerate each other), she couldn;t bear to be parted from it and to this day occasionally taunts me with her possession of it (along with the vile music she plays on it).

in the interim i got some sort of thorens, easily the worst turntable i've ever owned. as i was into electronic music at the time it didn't seem to matter even if, as it turned out, i stopped listening to vinyl altogether. it gave up the ghost a couple of years ago and has sat, taunting me with its non-function and generally acting as an expensive and useless shelf.

which brings us up to the present. euan is now dead and i'd kind of thought that both the turntable and the records would fall to me. certainly when he died the first thing i did, aside from the blubbing, was go and listen to lots of music that we used to listen together. all very sad. but no turntable. and no vinyl. those went to his brother, the kaiser.

now the kaiser is a man with baggage, to put it mildly. at the same time he's my oldest friend and has easily earned the right to be the biggest - something between arse and galoot but with a completely contrary dose of affection - i know and get away with it, a right he exercises frequently and with gusto. but i love him with the same frustrated tolerance i would a brother so that's that.

anyway, recently he's being having the michell refurbished. he thinks it's a gyrodec (there's one on the cover of that morcheeba album he tells me. big calm, i say. hate it) and who am i to tell him differently? so, kindly, he's offered me his old linn (for money obviously, there's no giving of things in the lexicon of the kaiser). of course there's needle there. i always used to say i'd never have a linn in the house, back when such things made a difference (the pre-thorens days). and there was always the issue that the kaiser's stereo equipment, of which he made much, was the aural equivalent of a ford mondeo. and kind of still is. me, i've given up on all of that, even to the point of the linn. but, we're still who we are!

which is why we spent a very pleasant afternoon, despite the undercurrents (offering to sell me his dead brother's big black records. to me! the wrongness! but only if they were worth something mind. otherwise he's keeping them despite not liking them. a buffoon of a man!), along with geo, listening to old music, at an age now where we're too lazy to demand we make the choices. for two of us at least, and maybe, just maybe, for the kaiser, it was just a bit sublime.

and then back to the house where today i rejigged the bits, set up the linn (oh gods of sterophilia look away now) and settled down for an evening of vinyl listening at my gentlemanly ease (t being away for the night). i'm not saying vinyl sounds better, certainly not with what's left of my hearing, but really, it kind of does. if you like mp3s well there's really no talking about the notion of sound quality and cds, even allowing for things like hearing and system deficits there's still that tactile thing that is the physical fact of 12 inches of vinyl. proper, heavy in the hand and, because you've got to turn the thing over, it's not something you just have in the background. you have to stop a bit. listen. and that's kind of wonderful.

so what did i listen to? these -

my life in the bush of ghosts - david byrne and brian eno
speaking in tongues - talking heads
satyricon - meat beat manifesto
sandwiches - the detroit grand pu bahs
automatic - the jesus and mary chain
nico and the faction - camera obscura
beethoven's concerto no 5 in e-flat - allegro - boston symphony feat artur rubinstein

and then t came back. 'did you have a nice time?' she asked. 'listening to your old records?'
yes, i said, yes i did. and i had.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

carola luther

'I watch the bees slow down the summer'

I watch the bees slow down the summer. Honeysuckle sink
beneath their substance. Yellow busbies stuffed with sleep
and ochre powder making journeys, wavery, vague,
full of just-remembered purpose, so I come to think
of geriatric gardeners, with their pots and hats and secret
pockets full of dust, casting stuff on yellow air so seconds
stretch (a whole, long, summer each, if we could only enter them)
a gift of sorts, for us, a hunch, as if they've guessed, the bees,
and understood the rock at the garden's end, the crouching
sky, the path on its narrow belly, dropping to the sea.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

christmas is coming

and swiss is getting fat....

training for cyclocross and strathpuffer is not aided by three weeks off the bike, two of which consist of gorging on cakes. no, it is not. and while i might allude to t being a bit of a feeder it is she who forces me out into the cold for a night out with tuesday boys.

and after a few weeks with very few of the regulars showing up tonight there were five of us including that very individual who claimed he wouldn't be out as the group 'weren't fit enough'. great i thought, of all the weeks i turn up it's the one where i've conditioned with lard.

so i stick on the wheel of gymbolina (he's done ten miles today already. on a trainer. yeah, right) to see his form. and he's in the granny waaaaay too early, unfortunately as he's being tailed by a wheezing fat man it doesn't bother him overmuch.

so i guddle along, falling back, catching up. there's a study to be done somewhere about the detrimental effects of night shift on the body. i'm missng a gear and there's nothing i can do about it. still, gymbolina is alive with cracks. he can only climb at one pace - his - and he's just plain not good when he's off the fire road. and his head is rubbish. he likes to nip off your lines on the overtake even if you're queueing up behind. i briefly mug him on a singletrack climb before sliding off a rock and gracelessly into a bush. the acceleration does me for the next climb. i slide down into the wee gears and bide my time.

which is the singletrack back along the river. again we're lolling beind him, gymbolina closing off any attempt at speed. until suddenly there's a fallen tree and i'm off, a clear half mile into him in five minutes. finally my mud tyres are doing what they're supposed to. and even better dr k decides he's keeping me in sight and drops gymbolina also.

at the end the boys decide they want a tour around destination x. gymbolina says he'll come but we all know the subtext. destination x is a hell of mud, technical sections and bad, bad roots - all the stuff the boys have realised gymbolina can't do. the blood is in the water! and of course there's not a one of them who, seeing my ample winter layers, won't be fancying putting one over on me on my home forest.

in the mean time we will return to our lives as family guys, middle aged working types until next week's installment where, in our little world we are grimpeurs, racers, hard eyed bike men! you have to laugh...

james dickey

The Heaven of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycles center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

Monday, 8 November 2010

william carlos williams

The World Contracted to a Recognizable Image

at the small end of an illness
there was a picture
probably Japanese
which filled my eye

an idiotic picture
except it was all I recognised
the wall lived for me in that picture
I clung to it as to a fly

Friday, 5 November 2010

strathpuffer is go

this year my strathpuffer entry was in about thirty seconds after the website was opened so come january yet again i'll be out in the winter darkness trying not to break me, my bike or both before the dawn actually comes around.

we'll be doing it in conjunction with slp in some form or another. currently, along with the usual shenanigans we're thinking about some form of moby dick type thing going on (it was a close run thing with ulysses but the whale won!) so if anyone's got any favourite passages from the book they feel are compatible with a 24hr bike race in scotland i'd be glad to hear them.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

and i listened to

walking down the street i noticed that mulatu astatke was playing - the week after we left!

then, after seeing a copy of fear of a black planet in a shop, had a conversation with t's brother about the many reasons why chuck d must be foaming into his cornflakes. so you're wanting rap about something sked t's brother. you want to be listening to immortal technique (definitely nsfw or if the limits of your listening to rap are defined by fiddy/puffy or any of that lot)

which led to a lovely discussion around gil scott heron

back on the boat i managed some quiet time and lost myself in louis sclavis. revelational!

and sweden

began and ended with a mess of children with almost constant contact with t's new niece inbetween. this last few times we've really done nothing much except the family thing while we've been in stockholm and while thta may have left us a bit culturally lacking we've more than made up for it in terms of getting into the swedish, at least the stockholm version of it, society. (i should point out that we did plan a wee venture out to upsalla but the weather did that thing that makes it essential that you stay indoors, drink coffee and eat cake)

it must have been all that watching of wallander but despite the time it's been since we were last there my comprehension has come on leaps and bounds. true, my spoken swedish is still rubbish but even after ten days getting back to scotland both of us were having a bit of difficulty readjusting back to english for the daily pleasantries. i could even make jokes on the fishing trip!

ah yes, the fishing trip. being as sweden is some sort of valhalla for sport fishing it's inevitable that i spend at least one day out on a boat. that and the fact that my presence seems to have a synergistic effect on t's brother so that we always catch a bunch of fish! also the fact that i'm scottish is always a novelty for the locals as well as the fact that i fish in a notedly swedish style. i really should leave all my gear over there as i don't fish anywhere else!

in the interim myself and t had been riding the tunnelbana to see what the outskirts were like. one place we hadn't been was sodertalje 'where all the immigrants live' so it was a happy coincidence to be meeting the boat guy there. and i would've seen more had it not dropped about three inches of snow over night. usually it gets snowy in the north first. not that day! digging the boat out of the snow at the side of the lake was grim but the day turned out lovely. out round the archipelago on a boat is one of the best places to see that bit of sweden even if the cold is chewing the front of your face off!

one thing was is happening at the moment is some nut job is shooting immigrants in malmo. this, coupled with the election of the sweden democrats at the recent election is causing much exercise of swedish minds. it's easy, being a tourist in central stockholm, to imagine this as the country of blond, tall people. it'a only when you take the train to the outskirts, or maybe at seven in the morning when the workers are out, that a different reality is apparent. on our excursions it was very easy, once outside the centre, to be in a carriage full of immigrants. which of course is precisely what the sweden democrats are blethering about in their special incoherent way.

and not helped by the left for whom immigrants, it seems, are all brown people (obviously the sweden democrats have a special place for brown muslim people!). so where does that place 'my' family? we're chilean/argentinian/middle eastern/swedish/english/eastern european/korean. and now of course, scottish. so what do we look like in the park? like something beautiful!

childrens' parks in sweden are not like in the uk. they exist for one thing! but there are no fences and no cameras. children can run around. all the adults watch out for them. during the week it's mainly occupied by stay at home fathers and their kids. there are things for children to climb up, fall off - health and safety is no less prevalent here, just different.

you realise t's brother observes, that if you ever move over here, we'll be the worst sort of immigrants, the ones who bring across the rest of their families! sitting in the park polarises the issue for me. there has to be a better way of discussing the issues of immigration than 'them and us', something more like 'you and i' which migrates into 'we'.

on the last day we have a bunch of the kids round. the youngest (a proper little viking) likes being held upside down and chased and is finally silenced by a pippi longstocking video which has him entranced. the middle kids are outside playing with the cat. i make idiot faces thru the window. the oldest girl (7) is, at first the most withdrawn. she can speak english but doesn't - it's her parents 'secret' language - so i have to resort ot subterfuge. i get a bunch of them drawing. she has never seen drawing technique like mine. she can't help looking at it. a face emerges. flicka i say, pointing at her. her drawing is much more line based and leaves out the awkward fact of my glasses. pojke she writes. a bit of origami later and lack of shared language no longer matters. true i'll never compete against ice cream but in our funny little family situation i've become the rarely appearing eccentric farbror. and that'll do me.

in the end i'm glad to get home. i miss my books, i miss my bikes, i miss my ....everything but the first thing we do is buy a halloween outfit for the baby, for the party we won't be at. there are tears from t when we leave. and me? even i get a little danp eyed, just for a moment!


so while the whole swedish thing was basically a family visit we did manage some time off (esp as we were staying about two minnutes away) to get up to the moderna museet for a general wander about. or so we thought.

we were well impressed with the architecture museum the last time we were there so it didn't take much persuading, esp as i mumbled something about a craft exhibit, for t to go again. and so glad that we did. at last, some sort of arts and crafts that actually blends both the art and the craft! this was easily the best art and craft thing i've ever been to and, sadly, different to anything we see around here. loads to see and think about and a great springboard to enthuse us about projects we want to start over the winter.

on then to the moderna where, along with their permanent collection, they were showcasing 54 of the best in swedish art. sometimes that might make the heart sink a bit but not this time.again, it was fabulous. there was even video work i sat down and watched. and watched. and watched. to pick one work at random there was kajsa dahlberg's a thousand libraries which entailed going round all of sweden's libraries and photcopying any annotated pages of virginia woolf's a room of one's own, then presenting the lot as a limited edition artist's book which can now be found in most of the aforesaid libraries. obviously you'd think being able to read swedish would be an advantage but in the end really not as to be functionally illiterate was to be able to appreciate the emotions in the handwriting, the double underlinings, exclamations marks and other fulminations. it was both beguiling and intriguing.

after all that, the permanent collection was, to be honest, a bit drab although, to be fair, we were kind of hungry by that time and we have seen most of it many times before. i'm still liking the yves klein tho and they had a big display of rodchenko posters that was never going to do less than catch the eye

Saturday, 16 October 2010

if only offices looked like this....

EepyBird's Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

one post in october!

yes, it's true, i am a lax blogger.

and one who's off for a bit of swedish style family time so it could be that these are the sum total of october's efforts.

perhaps when i'm back and the nights are drawing in...

Friday, 1 October 2010

and the excitement is escalating

faster than an irish debt crisis!

yes, finally, the poetry bus magazine is on its way!

at last!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

what to do

when recovering from the flu. probably best not to decide that last night was the night to get back out with the tuesday boys. true, i was fooled by the fact that although i could feel the rain in the air it wasn't actually raining, at least not until i'd got ten minutes up the road. another sign, aside from the drenched nature of the car park, should have been that only two others turned up but never mind - i had my mud guard on and that, along with the fact i was wearing 3/4's and long fingered gloves, was preparation enough for me.

it turns out in interim that one of the longer absentees in the group is refusing to come out on the grounds 'none of the rest of us are fit enough to keep up with him'. he said that i say? and make a mental note.

but not for last night. my legs don't feel bad in the flu aftermath but equally they're not great tho on the bright side the expected lung chunder, happily, does not arrive. rather than the drag up to the loch we decide to go a different route which entails a bit of tarmac at the start rather than at the end, a novelty for us and we ascend a route we more often descend.

after a bit of an early wobble i settle into the fact that the middle ring is what i'll be climbing in and ease up. i realise that this is the first night ride i've been on this year! so i edge myself away from the other two so that i can find my pace and also just to enjoy the forest which is drippy wet and eery with mist. i switch my lights off and ease thru it like a ghost. the pine needles look silver and the only sound is water. that's right, i remember, this is why i do this!

i'll give the boys their due - at the top of the climb as we rejoin the main track they gamely volunteer for a second climb, steeper and longer than the first. it has to be said that at the top i'm starting to feel it, not least because last time i was up i did most of it in the big ring and this time i'm struggling in the middle. granny to the top and it's fine. down to the loch isn't quite so easy, not least because i haven't gotten round to taking my dry weather race tyres off this bike. mud is slidey but the rocks are unfeasibly slidey! and then there's the frogs. t would be proud of my frog avoidance skills!

and it's very wet. at the loch i get cold. and then i realise, yes, i'm not over the flu. i never get cold! even the boys notice that one! on the descent i notice how amazingly tentative i am with lack of night practice even allowing for the tyre issue. mr p falls off with a balletic grace that voids any concern i may have had when he went over the bars. i particularly admire the second roll he does before landing in the mud!

both me and g have been ruined by summer cycling and are expressing concern by the time we hit the road and our bikes are creaking and grinding with grit and gloop. of course now mr p decides it's time to get the head down. i notice that g is conserving himself. he notices that i notice but what he doesn't notice is that i'm freewheeling with a fistful of gears. mr p loves a crazy break so i stick to his back wheel and watch him push the pace. as soon as the road steepens i'm off. shouts of frustration behind! g makes a manful effort to catch up on the flat but to no avail. and then we're back at the car park, old maybe, slow definitely but still laughing like idiots. top night!

so today my winter bike goes into the shop to get the stuff done i should've done at the beginning of summer.
and today will be the day, as it really is only weather for ducks, that the trainer comes out of the shed. not having a day off you might ask? absolutely not. because it's that time of year (and esp with me being away for relentless) when the subject of strathpuffer rears its head and even asking that question means that any day off the bike is a potential regret in the dark hours of a january morning!

alexander pushkin

Day's Rain is Done

Day's rain is done. The rainy mist of night
Spreads on the sky, leaden apparel wearing,
And through the pine-trees, like a ghost appearing,
The moon comes up with hidden light.
All in my soul drags me to dark surrender.
There, far away, rises the moon in splendour.
There all the air is drunk with evening heat,
There move the waters in a sumptuous heat,
And overhead the azure skies...
It is the hour. From high hills she has gone
To sea-shores flooding in the waves' loud cries;
There, where the holy cliffs arise,
Now she sits melancholy and alone...
Alone... Before her none is weeping, fretting,
None, on his knees, is kissing her, forgetting;
Alone... To no one's lips is she betraying
Her shoulders, her wet lips, her snow-white bosom.

No one is worthy of her heavenly love.
'Tis true?... Alone... You weep... I do not move.

Yet if...

trans unknown

Monday, 27 September 2010

what we did

when we had the flu.

nothing says you care like sharing so far be it for me, having dragged myself to work earlier the week, not to allow t the same experience.

friday passed in a dream like torpor, me in recovery and t, less fortunately, on the ugly slide to two days of unpleasantness.

on saturday we could manage no more than our planned matthew vaughan triple bill. we did manage a bit of a conversation around jane goldman's script writing and what marked out layer cake as vaughan's first film but, it has to be said, a leaky face and persistent cough does not make for critical thought. that said, we got the fire stoked up for the first time this year and surprised ourselves with just how much a bit of flame will make you feel a bit better psychologically.

i'd hoped t would be better for sunday but sadly not. i managed out into the garden in the morning which was lovely, given that it's been the nicest weekend this autumn, beautiful for cycling, getting out in the boats or whatever else it was that we weren't able to do. as it was geo turned up, fresh from a week away with the eccentric boys (we were supposed to visit for the weekend but..) and, to his credit, dragged me straight out for a wander along the gask ridge which was just lovely even if we did feel a bit guilty leaving t leaking on the couch. i did phone but all i got was a tirade that she'd exhausted all her crap tv and had been reduced to watching deep space 9 ('a bunch of blokes running about with fannies on their heads'). we returned and soothed her with ice cream.

we listened to many things but mainly amalia rodrigues and tara fuki and all in all, aside form the obvious flu related issues, it was all very relaxing. not as much tho, as drifting down the river yesterday would've been but what can you do. our next weekend off together (aside form the stockhom baby trip) - that would be january!

lisel mueller

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

jimmy santiago baca

I Am Offering this Poem

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;

I love you.