Thursday, 26 July 2012

Nils Økland

thinking about arvo part gets me to think about nils okland. so here's some of that....


as if it wasn't enough the end of the chapter is signalled with anne sexton and one of my favourites at that.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone

then, just in case we're not getting it in comes james dickey and the life guard

I wash the black mud from my hands.
On a light given off by the grave
I kneel in the quick of the moon
At the heart of a distant forest
And hold in my arms a child
Of water, water, water.

but while i'm looking at dickey and in my head i'm comparing both of these to elizabeth bishop and adrienne rich i'm not actually reading anything american. no, i'm at tim winton's dirt music and the part in which the protagonist luther fox finds himself driving north with an old couple, music fans, the wife a retired english teacher, dying of bowel cancer. they drive and drive, bess quoting sexton and dickey and the car filled with music...

Luther fox flinches at this. He has to get out. Bess stabs the tape into the machine and slowly, tidally, the vehicle fills with the tolling of a bell and a descending string lick starts up. Something rolling down inevitably, compulsively, almost obsessive. Down. Diving. Skin-crackling. so beautiful it hurts.

That bell drones on and on, trapping him beneath a sky and moon of his very own, on his knees, like the last man alive hearing the sound of the others lifting off into oblivion....

which has me saying to myself immediately - arvo part, i'm going to be listening to some of that right now.

both myself and t agree you don't hear organs enough in music. but the organ in what we're listening to seems to have more to do with electronica than what might be considered in keeping with 'classical' music. these drones cut across the voices like a searchlight. much of part's music is apparently devotional. listing to it you'd need to be dropped from space not to suspect this but, as it seems to be about his orthodox beliefs who knows what he's on about? and to be honest i don't much care.

i like to use -ental words about it. elemental, fundamental, anything else like that that occupies the same space in the thesaurus. listening to the likes of fratres i say to t that if i was going to film it i'd take the camera up to the fields around the brooch of gurness and film the wind on the barley. there's a something about the quality of the music that gets me back into these primal landscapes, places i made with my childhood tongue, the shape of old words, sandstone under the fingertips.

part's music does for me all the stuff that the poetry i really like does but beyond the words. enough of that tho, here's fur alina and then him in action

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012

what i'm reading


In den Bäumen kann ich keine Bäume mehr sehen.
Die Äste haben nicht die Blätter, die sie in den Wind halten.
Die Früchte sind süß, aber ohne Liebe.
Sie sättigen nicht einmal.
Was soll nur warden?
Vor meinen augen flieht der Wald,
vor meinem Ohr Schließen die Vögel den Mund,
für mich wird keine Wiese zum Bett.
Ich bin satt der Zeit
und hunger nach ihr.
Was soll nur warden?

Auf den Bergen warden nachts die Feuer brennen.
Soll ich mich aufmachen, mich allem wieder nähern?

Ich kann in keinem Weg mehr Weg sehen.

so, as i said, just because i'm not going to be posting that much poetry doesn't mean i'm not reading it or that i won't be posting any! i was flicking thru my wish list the other week when i noticed that amazon had this warehouse clearance thing going on. apparently these are books damaged in storage. and what should i find there but darkness spoken, the collected poems of ingeborg bachmann. For £4! And the damage amounting to barely a crease on the cover. Bargain of the year!

The above poem was the one i opened the book at and instantly knew i was exactly where i wanted to be when i ordered it. I didn't know she had anything to do with paul celan but after reading the foreword and intro it was no surprise that she did, if only briefly.

what's to like? i mention celan because reading this i can feel the same neurons being fired (these in my vestigial german brain!) albeit that she's not so linguistically impervious(?) as celan can be but, at the same time, i still have the sense of reading one thing but it all being about something else entirely. i didn't know much about her. i didn't know she stopped writing poetry so that most of what's in this book was never published in her lifetime. i didn't know how she died.

so what you appear to get is some sort of working back into writing poetry, some sort of poetic exploration of ideas. i really don't have anything else like it. plus there's that other thing that suits scottish speakers (and esp now that any romance languages have withered away to nothing on my tongue) that german seems made for us to read out loud. and these are great to read. filkins translations are approachable but by spealing out loud the prblematic nature of the translation becomes apparent.


Within the trees I no longer can see any trees.
The branches are bare of leaves, carried off by the wind.
The fruits are sweet, but empty of love.
They do not even satisfy.
What shall happen?
Before my eyes the forest fless,
the birds no longer sing to my ears,
and for me no pasture will become a bed.
I am full with time
yet hunger for it.
What shall happen?

Nightly upon the mountains the fires will burn.
Shall I head out, draw near to them once again?

I can no longer see on any path a path.

trans by peter filkins

elswhere in poetryland i've been watching rather than taking part in one of those pointless and circular 'debates' about poetry and rhyming (with a healthy side argument of meter). you can find this all over the place so the side-taking needs no re-iteration. this particular discussion had some interesting points but, as is usual, there was a degree of hand wringing from the poetry=rhyme squad (who, equally, are not quite so handy in the meter discussion) that rhyming poetry isn't being published. aside from that argument being patent tosh you have to wonder if these folk actually read the poetry they're admiring/complaining about!

which lands me at ros barber's the marlowe papers, a novel in verse. i came across this in waterstones of all places when i was on one of my don't need it already own it but it looks pretty book buying browses. opening the cover i knew that i'd be having this immediately. my previous experience with this size of long form poetry, at least from modern times, is most likely limited to fred d'aguiar's bloodlines about which i can remember nothing at this time of the morning but which i liked so much it's made me keen for anyhting remotely similar.

and this is remotely similar. there are a couple of things to get over, it is writeen in verse, yes, but that doesn't mean it has to rhyme even if it often does (see above discussion!). also, and perhaps more pertinently, you have to accept the book's premise which is that christopher marlowe doesn't die but goes into hiding and from there writes the works of shakespeare. this entails a degree of elasticity and, so far, although, i know rnough about this period to be able to point the finger, there's nothing i'm not prepared to set aside to get into the narrative.

and what a ride! i'm eking it out so i don't have to finish it but the act of reading is like being blanketed in language. it takes a bit of reading - this isn't a novel so you can't skim it nor have i wanted to. so far i've resisted any recourse to any history books to chack any background solely because i don't want to spoil my expertience. like the bachmann this is a great book to read out loud because there is no escaping the rhythm that drives the language forward.

my only slight niggle is the construction. it looks lovely but the covers are like a board book and the instant you start reading it wear and tear becomes apparent. maybe that's the intent but i like my books looking pristine so every read is like a tiny bit of destruction! it is brilliant tho so if the phrase novel in verse bakes your poetic biscuit i'd be running out and buying this now.

To the Wise or Unwise Reader

What can a dead man say that you will hear?
Suppose you swear him underneath the earth,
stabbed to the brain with some almighty curse,
would you recognise his voice if it appeared?

The tapping on the coffin lid is heard
as death watch beetle. He becomes a name;
a cipher whose identity is plain
to anyone who understands a word.

So what divine device should he employ
to settle with the world beyond his grave,
unmask the life that learnt its human folly
from death’s warm distance, how else can he save
himself from oblivion, but with poetry?
Stop. Pay attention. Hear a dead man speak.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

calocoris stysi

if you let your garden get overgrown it's time to see some unusual things start to arrive...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

what we watched

so we're off on the pharmacy run and, maybe it's a habit thing, but i find myself in waterstones which, while nominally a bookshop, isn't really. needs must tho and the notion of browsing bookshelves dies hard. anyway while i'm mulling away i overhear two young guys discussing prometheus. bookshop guy likes it so i eavesdrop a while until it's all too much. sorry, i say, i don't mean to butt in but you liked the concept? really?

i tell t this and she sighs and says, you know that you're really starting to turn into that old guy as if it's some sort of surprise. and to be honest, i really don't mind as, most likely, that's always been the plan.

but we did go to see prometheus, the best thing i can find to say about it was that the opening landscape scenes in iceland were about the only thing we actually enjoyed. true, it did continue to be lovely to look at but the rest of it was so vacuous it was overwhelming. in space no-one can hear your boredom. the underlying premise, that maybe we were created by aliens, seems so trite that i'm sure if i went back to my school days i would find something about it scribbled in a notebook, right alongside the copied artwork of various heavy metal album covers heavily influenced by large breasted barbarian women. in fact, if memory serves i believe i wrote just such a story in my second year english class to be told by my teacher it was all a bit pish and had been done to death. no need to stop ridley scott tho.

that aside there were many howlers. what fan of sci fi, or anyone who's watched galaxy quest, could honestly watch the bit where they take off their helmets on the alien planet without suppressing a snort. and the mapping guy,the one with the rinky dinky devices that can chart the labyrinth, he's the guy who's going to get lost. and that's before charlize theron's character who, not unlike the hapless derek zoolander, cannot turn left or right when she runs. oh but it was dire and the moreso because the alien movies occupy such a warm fuzzy place for those who like that sort of thing. we were so disappointed and progressively more angry on the way back we had to watch original star trek episodes to get over it. and all this before we hear ridley scott is going to make blade runner 2!!

which brings us neatly to john carter. outside of jules verne i think john carter may have been the first science fiction i ever read, long before i knew there was such a thing as science fiction (not that i'm convinced that john carter really counts as science fiction but that's a by the by). it may even be that i owned some of the comics when i was wee. come film time all i can remember is the name barsoom and something about tall aliens and distant worlds.which when i was a wee boy was all i needed.

off to the moviehouse and the first scene monologues into a predator city and ships that sail on light. we were hooked and that was it. true, you're not going to be going to see john carter for great cinema any more that you're going to watch johnny weissmuller in tarzan for the same reason but after years of watching and hearing speilberg and lucas drone on about the films of their childhood at last here was something that put me right back to when flash gordon (the series not the movie) on the tv seemed liked something truly amazing.

in due course the dvd comes out and, along with the rest of the woeful marketing of the film, sports a truly dire cover. again i say to f at my work she should get and watch it and finally she does. omg, she txts me later, this is everything star wars never was. it's totally my new favourite film. later we'll discuss it and, while it may be that the plot isn't super far removed from a good episode of scooby-doo, among other things we'll express surprise that 100 years ago you could have a female heroine who is easily the equal of her male counterpart for intelligence, fighting and whatnot and yet today you can count her genre equivalents on one hand.

aside from all of that there's loads of lovely design, from t waxing lyrical about the textiles on the thirns to a myriad of red tattoos which we all agree we would have had if there'd be a tattooist available immediately after watching. and that's not to forget that nice plot device that this is a story being told by a fictional character to another fictional character called edgar rice burroughs who is being written by an actual person called edgar rice burroughs but who is disguising himself under the name norman bean. ah, if only such complexity had been manifested in avatar to which many poorly made comparisons have been drawn, esp the amusingly ironic one that somehow johm carter 'wasn't original'. then again maybe we shouldn't be looking for too much depth in big dumbass blockbusters. or maybe perhaps we should.

some sort of cinematic redemption came in the form of the descendants which had those twin neat tricks that so many larger budget movies manage to overlook i.e. a plot and characters. no cars are chased, no stuff blows up, there is no neat denouement - the dying woman around whom the plot revolves even looks like she's actually dying. true, i had expectations - this is the alexander payne of both sideways and election and the former especially can be seen in the george clooney character (payne apparently bumped clooney for sideways as he was 'too famous'). not that payne can take all the credit for this. it is totally worth reading the book after watching the film if only to see just how well it's been adapted. but the book does give some insights that the film only hints at.

aside form the script there was so much to like. the performances are uniformly excellent but it's the younger characters who really steal the show and clooney does well to stand back and act as bewildered as he feels alongside them.

in short, if you're loaded on painkiller, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, the rain is pouring outside and walking from one end of the house is a major endeavour then john carter will press all the switch your brain off and enjoy the ride buttons. but, once you're thru being violated at the hospital and wellness is more than a concept then the descendants is a fine choice. and prometheus? maybe if you were trapped on a desert island you could use the dvd to signal for help....

that's going to smart....

ouch! johan van summeren must've bathed in ointment. but still going.....

Monday, 9 July 2012

wiggins amok

is surely the best headline associated with bradley wiggins post race outburst yesterday - danish it's true, but pleasing to my eyes.

the last two weeks have been sick time in the swiss household but the happy outcome is that the afternoons have seen me and t crawl out from bed to couch and languish in front of eurosport for the tour. and what a race so far. crashes aside one of the things that has leapt into view is the shattering of the field when the going gets uphill. except that is for sky. now, aside from the fact they've made very plain they've spent who knows how long in tenerife riding up the hill and down the hill in the heat for weeks, it's a performance that's bound to race a few eyebrows particularly in view of say, the whole history of professional cycling!

that said, there's always peter sagan, who's been a revelation (but no surprise) and the inevitable hardness of cadel evans who. it seems, can more or less shed his team in the face of the sky might and still attack. maybe not chris froome tho but, despite wiggins statements to the contrary, had that last wee stretch been longer yesterday it would've been an angliru situation all over again with, possibly, evans the only winner.

than again, maybe that's just me. i've liked cuddles since the tour lion incident but especially since the world championship and he showed that he just won't lie down. wiggins i've just never drawn to, maybe a bit too high maintenance and maybe just too much paul weller identification. plus post vuelta last year there's the notion that froome is, and let's face it a british win is sky's declared aim, maybe a bit too african for them in terms of their tour aspirations (but if the latest gossip is to be believed he'll get a lead role at the vuelta this year)

but i did have some sympathy for wiggins when in the press conference yesterday he gets asked about the sky/us postal 'similarity'. given the dubious quality of previous questioning i think i too would have been less than charitable in my response. but, and most likely moreso than wiggins, working in a profession where it seems it's okay for anyone to make any form of statement, shout any form of abuse, i still don't think i would have called them a shower of fucking wankers no matter how much i would've wanted to.

naturally there's been much blubbing into the journalistic porridge at this 'foul mouthed outburst' as if the use of the demotic amongst uk english speakers is somehow a surprise. and obviously for certain sections of the english speaking community amongst our transatlantic cousins the dropping of the c-bomb at a press conference equates with the end times and the coming of the rapture. me personally, i'm with charlie brooker on the responses of sporting types or for that matter all the indignation generally. it's a bike race, a professional bike race. for money. get over it. oh aye and see that tv. it's got an off button. you could be on your bike....

and, a slight aside on the cycling rant, t did note the number of nurses who, while she was in hospital last week, were prone to the use of familiar language, such as 'dear' or 'love'. i pointed out that this was exactly the sort of thing that the hei was against and obviously, despite the many pressures on the nhs these days, this was one area where we'd be pursuing a robust disciplinary response. t, who found the familiarity deeply comforting, responded in a very anglo-saxon manner. as well she should...!