Tuesday, 30 August 2011

edwin morgan

The Glass

To love you in shadow as in the light
is light itself. In subterranean night
you sow the fields with fireflies of delight.

Lanarkshire holds you, under its grim grass.
But I hold what you were, like a bright glass
I carry brimming through the darkening pass.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

john ashberry

What is Poetry

The medieval town, with frieze
Of boy scouts from Nagoya? The snow

That came when we wanted it to snow?
Beautiful images? Trying to avoid

Ideas, as in this poem? But we
Go back to them as to a wife, leaving

The mistress we desire? Now they
Will have to believe it

As we believe it. In school
All the thought got combed out:

What was left was like a field.
Shut your eyes, ad you can feel it for miles around.

Now open them on a thin vertical path.
It might give us – what? – some flowers soon?

Friday, 26 August 2011

lack of comment

it seems there something funny at play with blogger in that i can only comment on certain blogger blogs and then only with a computer that's not my old one. if then i seem peculiarly unresponsive and you have one of those blogs that's got the wee account box at the bottom of the comments bit tht's your answer right there.

i have no idea why this should be and can only apologize

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

kenneth white mikhail bakhtin death match

as i attempt to re-don my critical theory trousers i have abandoned a (much) longer post about bakhtin and white on the grounds it felt a wee bit negative (and for that i can look to ian bell).
what i will say is that a return to reading bakhtin was like a joy. and in the ensuing googlefight (yes, such is the extent of my critical engagement) there could be only one winner

mikhail bakhtin wins!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

charlotte mew

Not for That City

Not for that city of the level sun,
Its golden streets and glittering gates ablaze –
The shadeless, sleepless city of white days,
White nights, or nights and days, that are as one –
We weary, when all is said, all thought, all done.
We strain our eyes beyond this dusk to see
What, from the threshold of eternity
We shall step into. No, I think we shun
The splendour of that everlasting glare,
The clamour of that never-ending song.
And if for anything we greatly long,
It is for some remote and quiet stair
Which winds to silence and a space of sleep
Too sound for waking and fro dreams too deep.

Monday, 22 August 2011

the collaboration charabanc

it's a jolly wee life just now sitting in my workspace, finishing off a couple of paintings, listening away to whatever internet radio takes my fancy but there;s always that temptation to look away, click on the internetathimgumajiggy and lose a bit of time. worse, it can lead to the guardian, the tabloid broadsheet of those middle classes of whom i am so very much one.

first off this catches my eye. so far, so dandy you might say, i am after all the one who likes all the collaboration and what not. so why then do i find this article so profoundly depressing? i'm all about the science, history of it and all of that. i like marc quinn, i was all happy when blood head made an appearance in kick-ass. and yet when i see a title like 'we share our chemistry with the stars' i can't help but think that it's all a bit leadenly simplistic.

sure the whole art/science thing is in vogue just now. i guess it's a chance for the science types to step a bit outside themselves for a wee while but it seems a whole lot more to do with the arts types to feel just a wee bit (even more) self important. lavinia greenlaw may feel she's 'ridiculously analytical' but, and respect to her point of view, really, she's not.

maybe i'm just a wee bit jealous and hey, who wouldn't be, to get a chance to do all this cool stuff but at the same time, there just seems to be a lack of rigour. and, dare i say it, elegance? i remember it from my time as a science boy, that kind of unfolding, deep satisfaction at recreating an elegant experiment, or interpretation of a set of data, the instinctual (i'm rubbish at maths) pleasure the vision of a well laid out set of equations, exactly the same feeling as i get when i look at a painting or read a poem.

i think someone says it in the comments section - artists are not scientists and scientists are not artists - it's a statement that doesn't stand up (tho it's nowhere near the ridiculousness of say, irigaray's gendered equation nonsense!) but surely, these days, there are enough people who do both? certainly the two fields didn't used to be exclusive. or maybe i'm just being just a tad precious and up on my soapbox!

in which case back to the guardian! old words being retired? what's this? for a start i can't quite see how they make the leap to 'retiring' succedaneum even if it is for this particular use rather than the caput succedaneum with which i'm far more familiar (can you hear the soapbox being dragged back out?). aerodrome? i refuse to believe that the word aerodrome isn't appearing often enough for collins to include it and even if it isn't they should keep it because it's such a perfect word. back when i was really young and first going up in gliders we did so from an aerodrome. such a place is not an 'airport' by any means but a place of grass, of sunlight and buttercups, of struts and hangers, magical in a way that the non spaces of a terminal can never be. but worst of all - charabanc? that must be the lexicographical equivalent of a human rights crime. charabanc is one of my favourite words and a language without it is all the poorer.

which leads neatly to a finally and the sort of story that's a nap for guardian readers. the cafe that borges used to go to taken over by nike. i very much suspect that the average guardian reader views borges a bit like one of their five a day vegetables - they know they should but when it comes right down to it they just don't, even if they like to slip borgesian in as an adjective every now and again. all of which is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel - fun but not fair! i've never been to buenos aires but if i was to you can be sure i'd want to be doing some sort of borgesian (see what i did there!) tour. and while yes, things change and all that, there seems sufficient evidence on the strength of the article to suggest the developers knew exactly what they were about. shame.

oh well, that's a nice half hour passed. back to work....

children of crake

after a decidedly mixed break t decides to have some time in the garden this last weekend. sure enough it's not long, the street these days being awash with the under sevens, when some of her wee pals arrive to see what she's about. what's that smell they demand. that's the herbs says t. it smells like poo, the girls declare and cover their faces. what's a herb asks one of them. you eat them on your food says t. horror from one, why from the other. because they taste nice, says t. the curious one deigns to smell a bit of sage, then a bit of oregano. the other does not. they cycle off.

they return. no t. where has she gone they ask each other. t returns and begins raking the grass. what're you doing they ask. i'm raking up the grass says t. why they ask in unison. because of i don't the dead grass will turn all yucky t say after some thought. how can you pick it up in your hands asks one of them. like this says t. oh they say and watch for a while. can we do that? i'm sure you could says t. can we come in your garden they ask. only if your mum says it's okay says t. why do we need to ask her they ask. because it's polite says t.

this causes some debate. they return to their own house. shortly after a noise that can only be described as bawling ensues. this is not uncommon. they return. a debate ensues on how big a bike they will soon own. that, and the fact that one of them still uses stabilisers and the other doesn't. the fact the gardening is over doesn't seem to bother them. their mother thinks that child labour in the garden, far from being a bad thing, should be encouraged, especially if it's not her garden.

briefly i appear. they are silent. as soon as i've gone they ask, who was that? t tells them. does he live here they ask. yes, says t. is he your husband they ask. no says t. who is he then they ask. he's my boyfriend says t. oh, they say, so where's your husband? t admits later that a rather more elaborate answer than the one she gives suggested itself to her! i don't have a husband she says. oh, say the girls.

later they will return en masse tho this time neither the garden nor i are interesting to them, more the fact that one of the girls has taken one the of the wee boys and 'squeezed his head'. his mother is not bothered by this but does want him to come in to the house as she's sleepy and wants to go to bed. he is unimpressed with this as a gambit to entice him away from the playing.

t comes back inside. i feel like that snowman in oryx and crake trying to explain stuff to the children of crake. and launches off into an exposition on children generally, the children of crake, the hymns in year of the flood and many things atwoodian. draw her a picture of a bunny will you margaret atwood and this is where that sort of caper leads. i firmly expect some sort of appearance of gardener hymns sometime in the near future.

we have a bunch of wee kids in the street these days along with another bunch who are not so wee that we've seen growing up this past few years. it seems a shame that the family has been so limited in recent times and the role of those others, neighbours, friends etc so marginalised as to have been almost criminalised, esp if you're male. we're lucky not to have too much of this looperdom where we are but its effects can be felt at the very least. everything is a threat, everything a danger down to the food they eat (tho this fortunately means they don't rifle our berry crop!). it seems such a shame that we've got to this. children it seems to me benefit those around them so much and they in turn, when exposed to a variety of influences, are benefited themselves. i remember my own childhood in this respect with some fondness but even then i was aware that i just didn't have sufficient in the way of older people around me while i was growing up. the best i can do these days is to be seen reading or drawing outside, looking at insects in the garden or just generally being on my bike

- why are you going on your bike in football boots

- these aren't football boots, these are cycling shoes

- cycling shoes?

- yes, they have these wee clips on the bottom that attach me to the pedals

- can i see?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

hart crane


Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulnes is like a bird whose wing are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless, -
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.

Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, - or a child.
Forgetfuness is white, - white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.

I can remember much forgetfulness.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

john berryman

Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me a a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
People bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, like a drag
and somehow a dog
had taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

robert lowell

The Flaw

A seal swims lie a poodle through the sheet
of blinding salt. A country graveyard, here
and there a rock, and here and there a pine,
throbs on the essence of the gasoline.
Some mote, some eye-flaw, wobbles in te heat,
hair-thin, hair-dark, the fragment of a hair-

a noose, a question? All is possible;
if there’s freewill, it’s something likeis hair,
inside my eye, outside my eye, yet free,
airless as grace, if the good God… I see.
Our bodies quiver. In the rustling air,
all’s possible, all’s unpredictable.

Old wives and husbands! Look, their gravestones wait
in couples with the names and half the date –
one future and one freedom. In a flash
I see us whiten into skeletons,
our eager, sharpened cries, a pair of stones,
cutting like shark-fins through the boundless wash.

Two walking cobwebs, almost bodiless,
crossed paths here once, kept house, and lay in beds.
Your fingertips once touched my fingertips
and set us tingling through a thousand threads.
Poor pulsing Fête Champêtre! The summer slips
Between our fingers into nothingness.

We to lean forward, as the heat waves roll
over our bodies, grown insensible,
ready to dwindle off into the soul,
two motes or eye-flaws, the invisible…
Hope of the hopeless launched and cast adrift
on the great flaw that gives the final gift.

Dear Figure curving like a question mark,
how will you hear my answer in the dark?

Thursday, 11 August 2011


The Celestial Fire

Now an angel of the Lord appeared to
Moses in a blazing fire –

a fire that devours fire; a fire that burns
in things dry and moist; a fire that
glows amid snow and ice; a fire that is
like a crouching lion; a fire that reveals
itself in many forms; a fire that is, and
never expires; a fire that shines and
roars; a fire that blazes and sparkles; a
fire that flies in a storm wind; a fire
that burns without wood; a fire that
renews itself every day; a fire that is
not fanned by fire; a fire that billows
like palm branches; a fire whose sparks
are flashes of lightning; a fire black as
a raven; a fire, curled, like the colours
of the rainbow!

trans by t. carmi

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

langston hughes

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay-
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again-
The land that never has been yet-
And yet must be-the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine-the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME-
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain-
All, all the stretch of these great green states-
And make America again!

Monday, 8 August 2011

today's the day

so, half of that. sun's shining so i'm just geting my bottles etc filled and the trailer hooked up. exciting!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

the (slightly) unbroken truth

after last month's shenanigans the mountain bikes have stayed firmly in the shed and it's been a ginger process of getting back on the road bike and seeing what my injured leg can do. all of which has been fine in the main despite not getting to see any of my mtb pals in an age and most likely another month before that starts happening again. i can cycle that much is true but i still can't get down on the bars going uphill without feeling an all too familiar tearing sensation in my right hip.

bothersome but not overcomeable. so, post the graeme obree advice, i get myself a carry freedom trailer, a device of sublime function that has also had the handy side effect that i very much doubt i will ever, ever use panniers again. i took it out last week for a test run (load = all my tools) and met these weegie guys escaping their environment for the loveliness of perthshire. not only could i keep up but they were well impressed by how little it impeded me on the downs or corners. you can feel it on the up - there's no dodging the extra kilos! - but i feel in this mode i should start to work on the belly (the groundwork for which i've put in) and wee beard that seems to characterise the touring cyclist. i may even ditch the clipless pedals and go old school!

so the plan for my return to form is a long half loop up from perth, braemar, cairngorms, down the great glen, around loch eil, down the coast of loch linnhe, into morvern, across to mull, over to oban and then down argyll to meet t at the end of the week in machrihanish for kayak and wave based fun. i do have a return via dunoon but no time to do it. it may be i get there quicker than planned if my leg holds up and i go easy but there's some choice hills along the way that may have a say in that!

today's the day i should've been away but, obviously, there's a severe weather warning and flooding so it looks like a day's delay and a sunday watching of some of t's 'creature feature' dvds on the couch. could be worse!

so what's been done during injury time? the jam making has been lovely and it's generally been berrytastic in the garden. the raspberries haven't done us so well this year (the wild season is just starting so we're not too bothered) but the red currants are a ruby red abundance. the beans and peas are now starting to really go for it so much beaniness in sage, tomato and olive oil. plus the first of the potatoes. we've had what maybe a bit of blight so they're all cut back and we've got all historical on the topic.

having comprehensively binned tv watching this month we've gotten all bookish. i have roasted thru a bunch of kenneth white essays while t has gone margaret atwood daft. she's wheeched thru oryx and drake (loved it), made plans on in the year of the flood, finished alias grace, done some of the poetry and is currently eyeing the blind assassin. all this after atwood's drawing of a bunny! me, my favourite read so far is zachary mason's lost books of the odyssey.

we've spent quite some time gearing up for the next set of outdooriness, keeping our motivation up over the last couple of days by having a good laugh watching some of alastair humphries videos (we highly recommend the tour of shetland on a brompton). we came across alastair via kate and the fact it turning out he was just down the road from us at strathpuffer and have been very taken with his notion of micro adventures. i put it to t that her recent paddle across loch lubnaig was just such. she retorted that it was no such thing. but you did something new and you faced your fears i said. because I WAS IN THE FRONT OF THE CANOE she asserted strongly and with feeling. no matter, the pair of us being out on the water, even if it was just for a short time and even, yes, even if she did have a panic attack it has been one of my top experiences of the year and i have no doubt she'll be back in the kayak in machrihanish (tho only if they really teeny-tiny waves!)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

lady sute-jo


Woman –
How hot the skin
She covers

trans by lucien stryk and takashi ikemoto

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

jacques prévert

Pater Noster

Our Father who art in Heaven
Stay there
And we’ll stay here on earth
Which is sometimes so pretty
With its mysteries of New York
And its mysteries of Paris
At least as good as that of the Trinity
With its little canal at Ourcq
Its great wall of China
Its river at Morlaix
Its candy canes
With its Pacific Ocean
And its two basins in the Tuileries
With its good children and bad people
With all the wonders of the world
Which are here
Simply on the earth
Offered to everyone
Strewn about
Wondering at the wonder of themselves
And daring not to avow it
As a naked pretty girl dares not show herself
With the world’s outrageous misfortunes
Which are legion
With legionaries
With torturers
With the masters of this world
The masters with their priests their traitors and their troops
With the seasons
With the years
With the pretty girls and with the old bastards
With the straw of misery rotting in the steel
Of cannons

trans by lawrence ferlinghetti

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

peony moon

i'm happy to say that myself and marion appear in peony moon this week. i've been reading the letters of william maxwell and frank o'connor recently and, i'm sure it's in there, it recounts how if one were to go round to see maxwell for an interview it was pointless taking a dictaphone as it was his habit to type the answers to questions. i like that description and it puts me in mind of this 'interview'. it's nice to be able to sit back and consider for a time, almost like writing a letter and certainly more time friendly than twitter, facebook or any of those other forms that i don't entertain! it was something of a pleasure to do.

in the doing tho i discovered that maxwell lived just around the corner from me when i was living in new york. that i could have passed him in the street, and most likely did, fills me with some non-specific sense of loss, of having missed an opportunity even if, at that age, i most likely wouldn't have taken it.

so when queried on peony moon as to why i hadn't mentioned george mackay brown i was surprised to feel myself experiencing something of the same. the short answer as to why i hadn't mentioned george mackay brown is that the question related to poets and mackay brown is simply a writer whose poetry i'm not that familiar with. the novels yes but, beyond the inscription on his gravestone, not so the poetry.

not so very long ago i was listening sorley maclean and having a bit of difficulty with it so i went to see one of my workmates who was a first language gaelic speaker to ask her what the deal was. oh, she said, he's from skye but not only that he speaks bodach gaelic, old man's gaelic. and there it was that divide not only between me (mangled college lewis gaelic) and my hearrach (harris) speaking colleague but also an age related thing, a language passing and past. out in uig somewhere there's a handwritten text of old gaelic seafaring and boat language, all gone now. apparently it was to be published but there was some shenanigans with the publishers doing what gaelic speakers do, fiddling with it, changing it and that's the last i ever heard of it.

going back to orkney now everything i remember is gone. the trees i planted when i was wee are thirty feet high (an answer to that old trope that trees won't grow - plant some!), the house i lived in is now in a housing estate, the places and names that are so familiar yet strange on my tongue are not the memories i have of them. kirkwall is much like any other wee town, lovelier i'll grant you, but still much the same. it's stromness i like to walk through - the flagstones don't seem to have lost their age, there's no way to unjumble the houses and closes.

i'm guessing mackay brown was still here when i was wee. i can't say i didn't know this, he was writing for the orcadian so i must have read him at some point but i was too young to be reading his novels and even then i was more interested in the sagas. severed heads versus mackay brown would've been no contest!

my own copy of greenvoe is up on the shelf beside where i'm writing this, nearly thirty years old. i take it down, marvel at the cheapness (which wasn't so cheap in the day) open it up and find the inscription inside faded and watermarked into the opposite page. here's a good book for you to read it says. and it's not wrong. where we lived in bruntsfield was still a bit ragged, not what it's become these days and this book was, i imagine, bought in the wee book shop across the street (long since gone, the same place i would buy the copy of lanark that sits beside greenvoe.

i remember being alone in the bruntsfield flat reading it for the first time. what a brilliant book. it wasn't so much what it talked about - even at seventeen i knew that life was done - but the manner in which it did. this was the orkney i remembered, the old geezers down the harbour who were dying out even in my time. i remember, like timmy (tho much later), having to sign for meths! maybe on the smaller islands there was still a life that resembled what mackay brown described but on the mainland change was coming hard.

so that's where it sits, alongside hawkfall, magnus and the sun's net. i don't read them much these days. vanished landscapes are all fine and good except when they're your own. i remember coming up over the hill to kirkwall after years of absence and not recognising the place. not for the worse, you can see where the oil money's gone but as if the world has slipped, become strange.

maybe i'll read it this afternoon, the rain is hosing down and the bike seems just too uncomfortable a proposition, but most likely i won't. these days, as seems to be the way for those of us who read his prose when we were younger, it seems it's his poetry that's emerging in insistent fragments...

(you can get lots of mackay brown info here and hear him reading here)

A Work for Poets

To have carved on the days of our vanity

A sun

A ship

A star

A cornstalk

Also a few marks

From an ancient forgotten time

A child may read

That not far from the stone

A well

Might open for wayfarers

Here is a work for poets -

Carve the runes

Then be content with silence.