Friday, 31 December 2010

A final Bus

photo by Mark Stephenson, "Sunrise over the river Tay"

There is one more Poetry Bus for 2010. A selection box of prompts came from Jeanne Iris (here) and I chose this one:

Ask yourself what it is that you will do this year to advance humanity (or simply yourself) toward a higher level of consciousness. Then write a poem about it.

No small prompt!

Xmas is a funny time I find. Too much food, not enough routine... either you're working and wish you weren't or you aren't working and, after a few days of intense family life, you wish you were. Or maybe I'm just never contented... rarely at this time of year it must be said. My mother-out-law told me that growing up she was told “Christmas is for Christians, Hogmanay is for heathens”... hell, no wonder I've always preferred the latter. And we're nearly there, nearly out of the woods.

Like most folk we've watched our share of movies this holiday and in one of them I heard the simple line “you have to look for your life” (well, movie spotters... what is it? What movie?). This year I will be looking for my life in some new places, I know that for sure... (big trip coming up... my family's crazy half-gap year... but more of that later). For now here's a simple poem for the end of this year and the beginning of the next (and it somehow relates back to this one that I posted almost exactly two years ago). May 2011 be a good one for us all.

Moving on

There might be flying
But it will be different

We will fly from the soles of our feet
To the very tips of our fingers

And we will think we are running
But it will be much, much more

RF 2010

p.s. A friend bought me a book of Alastair Reid's poetry for Xmas. Straightaway I love this poem (also, bizarrely considering the heathen business, here). Onwards, my friends, onwards. The exit's here somewhere.


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Pass the crisps

And on it goes... the festive season... my, how it can drag...

I try to read something really unseasonal at this time of year (a form of escape!) and right now I am ensconced with Quentin Crisp and his "The Naked Civil Servant" (1968). A friend left it here for me to read a couple of years ago and I've only just managed to reach for it recently. It looks something like this:

Crisp is eminently quotable (and not for the tiny-minded...) but so far my favourite quote is in the first chapter:

"... keeping up with the Joneses was a full-time job with my mother and father. It was not until many years later when I lived alone that I realized how much cheaper it was to drag the Joneses down to my level."

I've missed one Poetry Bus but might make the next one at the weekend (prompt here).


Friday, 24 December 2010

Busy times

Cooking, cleaning, shopping... whoever called this the holiday season? We've got visitors and a still-pretty-excited daughter so no time to be online... see you on the other side...

p.s. The photo above was taken on 12th December in Montrose... it's snowed again since! The day before yesterday the big tree at the other end of the square looked like this:


Monday, 20 December 2010

This week at Middlebrow Manor...

... let's talk about Shakespeare's sonnets!

Well, let's start with a totally non-academic fact - my Mum, Margaret Fox, shared her birthday with William Shakespeare (23rd April not the year, obviously). This may not seem very important in the great scheme of things but it mattered to me because Margaret (1924-2010) was a huge fan of the one they call 'the bard' (the one by whom all poets in English shall be judged... 1564-1616). She particularly loved going to the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon - she would go for a few days whenever she could, see play after play after play and think she was in heaven. She was a bit of a culture vulture (and a some time snob, it must be said) and so the RSC was her idea of top entertainment (well, that and Saturday night TV... ). Part of the reason she loved the RSC and all that went with it was that she'd had an odd, and in many ways hard, upbringing in the 1930s without a lot of cultural content and I know she loved to experience that 'look at me, enjoying Shakespeare, this is life as it should be lived' feeling. I used to gently take the piss out of her for it ('my snobby mother, ha!' - easy target) but she was perfectly entitled to her feelings and really I could have let it go (though of course she got me back regularly by making faces at what she saw as my own low culture tastes and life choices... she once said 'I think you could do better than poetry, dear'! Ouch...).

Anyway, this spring, in the last week or so of Mum's life, I kept trying to read to her when it got to the point where she was restless and fed up but couldn't read to herself any more (she'd always been a devoted reader). After several false starts I realised that just a page or so of a Shakespeare play would do it (the nearest one on the bookshelf was 'Twelfth Night') and as soon as I started to read it aloud her face relaxed and I could see that it was just the thing she wanted to hear. I could see that it made her happy ('my life still has culture! I may be dying but I still have this and I am not in an old people's home listening to “Eastenders” or bingo numbers'). Also it reminded her of happy times and it helped her to fall asleep (very quickly – she was hardly sleeping at night). Overall I'm pleased I thought to do it – it is a happy memory from a pretty difficult time.

Like my mother, I too have loved Shakespeare's plays (well, the tragedies certainly). I studied several in school ('Macbeth', 'Hamlet', 'Measure for Measure') and I went to see those (and loads of others) when I was 16-18 and living in London. I was lucky enough to have good English teachers who really encouraged a love of the plays and though I've rarely gone back to Will's work since then I should think that the love of Macbeth's torments and Hamlet's confusions will be with me forever... in some form or another.

Shakespeare's sonnets though...all 154 of them... I've never really seen the attraction and therefore the new Faber & Faber edition of them (complete with commentary throughout from Scottish poet Don Paterson) was aimed precisely at people like me (oiks what are a bit cultured but not as much as they could be...). I bought the book a little while back and have been reading it steadily (I love Faber books... could lick them... though this one, I note with shock, has more typos than any book I've read in years! Disgraceful really.). The front cover looks like this:

So, what's my position now? Have the sonnets and all their talk of love found a place in my heart..? Or in my head..?

Well, for a start I must warn you that Paterson guides the reader in a very particular way and from the reviews it is apparent that some people like his approach more than others. The marvellous Adam Mars Jones (in the Guardian here) is pretty scathing but other reviews (here, here and here) are more positive. For me, the approach was... OK, quite more-ish, certainly not dull. He's slangy and funny about... 70% of the time... and then erudite and high-powered for the other 30% (but I managed to skim a lot of the latter... whenever he said 'anorak alert' I confess I did press fast-forward on the eyes hating, as I do, so much of that poetry-as-science-and-here-look-at-the-length-of-my-terminology business). As for the jokes, some were funny, some weren't but that is the way with jokes, I find, no matter who's tellin' 'em. Overall his chatting-to-a-mate-in-the-pub style worked for me in the simple sense that it got me through the book and that without it I'm not sure the sonnets themselves would have kept me reading (and yes, I do know you don't have to read them all at once but, on this occasion, I did... it was all or nothing). I was glad, I must admit, that Paterson had done all the background reading (so we oiks don't have to...) because lit. crit. has never been a place I've felt at home. Plus he's good with the vocabulary of the time (vital so you don't get the wrong end of the innuendo...) and in a good number of cases I found the explanations (just literally 'what the hell is this sonnet about?') necessary and helpful (even if I didn't always agree with all his decisions and directions). Now I come to think about it I disagreed with him fairly regularly but I suspect a lot of that is just to do with taste, life experience and the fact that I'm about as arrogant and temporarily overconfident as he is sometimes (or as his writing persona is sometimes anyway). As for where I disagreed... well, for a start I wasn't hugely keen on all the 'what poets do' and 'what poets think' that the commentary contained... as though they/we were all one happy band of campers working in the same way (I'm not sure that that could be any further from the truth...). Also he often hated the end couplets (last two lines) of the sonnets and found them unnecessary, whilst more often than not they were my favourite bit. Finally he wrote a lot about the whole 'Will's gay, Will hates women but still dabbles with them now and again' thing (for context purposes) and whilst I didn't necessarily disagree with what he said on that score I did feel he spent a lot more time talking about it than I really wanted him to (and I LOVE gays... and women...). The more he pondered 'who Will was shagging when' the more I found I just didn't want to try and come up with a 'what Will was doing at this point in this life' scenario (because we just don't know so it's like a game with no rules, no point, no end... and I'm a person who's interested in people, on the whole...). I know why he banged on about the gay content and issues so much (he feels other critics/commentators have ignored it, got it wrong etc.) but still it felt a bit forced to me at times... or a bit too matey somehow (in a 'hey, we all know what relationships are like, don't we, got gay friends, haven't we, eh?'). It's hard to explain why but this did get on my nerves and even a bit under my skin. Maybe DP and I just think about people and relationships in very different ways... or maybe I should have read the book more in snatches here and there... or maybe I moan too much (and not in a sexual way). Bloody readers - always moaning about something.

As for the poems themselves - Paterson is very clear in his 'some are good, some are not so good' commentary but try as I might I couldn't get very excited even about the ones he INSISTED were beyond compare. On this reading at least, I found again and again that I just didn't like these sonnets very much (the odd line here and there but not many whole poems). They seemed so nowt-but-showy, so in-the-knowy, so woe-is-me-oh-woey (must stop this now...). In fact I got so restless that I found myself playing a little game called 'give the sonnet a silly subtitle' (some of them 20th century song lyrics...). The more I read the more they made me long for the plays, for some substance, for some direction, for something (anything!) other than all this whining and obsessing with looks and beauty and 'oh, how time will ruin you my young bunion, but I'll still love you and commemorate you in me lovely verse' (and am I judging them by my own 21st Century silly sensibility... well yes, it appears so... but I can blame Paterson and his constant use of 21st century silly language and catchphrases throughout for that... innit though?). Perhaps one of the things about reading the sonnets was that I found them, as a whole, quite depressing, strangely hollow. For me, there seemed to be very little love in them at all (or at least little that I could recognise as love... and love has kind of been my life's work - we talked about love poetry back here, remember... though I suppose it could be partly the several hundred years time difference...). Or maybe it's that Shakespeare just didn't love anyone very well (men or women). Or maybe no-one loved him (that might explain the great tragedies...). Or maybe he just loved himself (that wouldn't be unheard of for a writer now would it?). But I'll stop there because, as I said, we'll never know. This may shock you but I struggled to find even one sonnet in the book that I'd like to copy and paste for you here – and that helped me understand why every time a newspaper has one of those 'print some famous people's favourite Shakespeare sonnets' I'm always bemused by all the choices (and yet I could print excerpts from his plays till the coos come hame). It's not even that I don't like sonnets and formal poems... anyone who reads here regularly will know that I do (50% of the time at least... I wrote a sonnet last post... and did I mention... save the villanelle! In fact email Faber and Faber to that effect if you don't mind – I'd like an anthology of them please by Easter!). In the end I picked this one (102) to share with you (it's all nightingales and 'I know I'm not writing about you as much as I used to but I still love you, honest, in fact it's more special now...'):

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear.
That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming
The owner's tongue doth publish everywhere.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days.
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night;
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,
Because I would not dull you with my song.

So, there you have it – Shakespeare's sonnets 4 out of 10... must try harder. Would anyone even read them if it weren't for all the plays (controversial, sensationalist, moi?)? Maybe I'll feel a bit more rational about this in a month or two but it is interesting to note that this book partly came about because Paterson realised that, like many of us, he referred to Shakespeare's sonnets as 'classics' without really knowing them. Well, maybe there's a reason so many of us don't know them very well (and some of the ones we think we know we get completely back to front...). Maybe they're just not that classic. Maybe we worry about what is and what isn't 'classic' too much.

Anyway, to finish this broadcast I bring you something else about love but this time from that great cultural resource - 21st century TV (an episode from series 3 of the wonderful 'Six Feet Under', to be precise... could only find the bit I wanted with subtitles and an abrupt end...). We're a bit late to this series (as ever... so no spoilers for later series please) and this clip about love had me snivelling when I watched it last week. Coincidentally it's a gay character speaking here and the clip must be good because I enjoy it even though it has o'pra in it (I don't like o'pra much - my culture vulture Mum adored it of course...).

It's nearly Xmas, isn't it? Peace and joy to you all, peeps, and love too of course - good quality love.


Friday, 17 December 2010

Weaver's Starry Bus (great name for a band that... )

Last week the moon... this week a starry prompt for the Poetry Bus from the Weaver of Grass. Being a bit busy with family Xmas stuff just now I thought I might just recycle something for this... but then this morning I thought I'd have a go at a star sonnet (yes, I'm still reading the new Don Paterson Shakespeare's Sonnets Book... well, just finished it actually... report on that next week... expect huge generalisations... up now - here). And what do you know... I sat down to write this morning and lo, a sonnet appeared. So here is my sort of Xmassy, sort of starry sonnet (and I had to get the word 'eyes' into it... Shakespeare uses it in practically every one of those dratted sonnets). Now I'm off to wash some socks or something...


I'd love to look above and see a star
One spark of bright to help me find my way
The thought that light can guide us from afar
That is a hope that shines for some each day
But others of us look up to the skies
When times are hard, when nights are long and cold
We see not one but myriad shining eyes
Each one a shepherd to a different fold
We cannot make a choice, we want them all
We want to see each road, each glint and glow
And though some roads lead only to a fall
The only way to learn that is to go
We take the paths we take, it is alright
When we have one another kept in sight

RF 2010

A song you say? A starry one? Maybe this from the 1980s...

Although (no surprise) I really prefer this one from the 1970s...

p.s. 'Books I've read this year' post back here (oh, and I've added one I'd missed first time round...).


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Looking for a book?

Last Xmas I wrote a ridiculously long post about the films I'd watched in the last year (back here). This year I present to you a much shorter trip through all the books I've read this year (not counting poetry... that's such awkward stuff... it needs a post of its own...). As I did last year I've included my own private reading matter and the books I've read to our daughter at night (she still likes to be read to so I'm going to keep going as long as she'll take it without barricading me out of the room - she's ten now... it won't be long). Last year I gave movies a score out of ten so I've decided to do the same with the books. It seems a bit cruel maybe, scoring a book out of ten, but it's a cruel world, n'est-ce pas? These are such varied books that the scores will show you nothing more than how much I liked each individual book and how much I would like to recommend it to you (or not).

I've gone through the books in the order I read them so, what did I read in January..?

Jack Kerouac “On the Road” (publ. 1957)

Bought cheap in the supermarket with a voucher I got as a present
Also mentioned here, I'd never read this and felt I should but I found it really quite dull and only got about two thirds of the way through before putting it down and not picking it up again. It's still on the bedside table but low down the pile.

Stephen Fry “Making History” (1997)

Borrowed from a friend
I'm not a mega Fry fan like some but I can sometimes admire what he does and says and he makes me laugh now and again. His books though I find a bit Lib-Dem, if you know what I mean (sorry for those outside the UK... that reference won't mean much). And what do I mean by that? They have good moments and some promise but are ultimately disappointing.

Neil Gaiman “Coraline” (2002)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
We both enjoyed this slight novel well enough but they did take it up a notch (or twenty) with the film (which is fantastic – one of our real faves).
8/10 (she says 8½)

Dave Eggers “What is the What” (2006)

Bought this a few years back after reading an article about it... left it sitting in the 'to read' pile for ages (mainly because someone else said it was very harrowing and I was scared to read it... sorry)
This book is really, really, REALLY good – both its fiction and its truth. I wrote about it back here (though I didn't really say very much). Read it, read it, read it!

Mark Steel “Reasons to be Cheerful” (2001)

Bought this because I read and really enjoyed his “What's Going On”(2008) last year

A lot of 'funny' written matter just doesn't make me laugh but Mark Steel books are almost guaranteed to make me splurt out noisily on the bus. The jokes don't always work (and can be a little laboured from time to time) but overall I really love his outlook, dedication and way with words and images.

Frances Hodgson Burnett “A Little Princess” (1904)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
I loved this as a kid and enjoyed it even more this time round (and Miss I'm Ten loved it too). It is SO sad (I cried real tears, whilst reading...) and it prompted us to talk a lot about inequality too – always good.
9/10 (she says 9½)

Nora Chassler “Miss Thing” (2010)
Bought from the publisher, recommended by a friend
This is a lively, spiky, pretty intellectual piece of New York-based fiction via Scottish Two Ravens Press. I very much enjoyed it – though I had to look a few things up (I knew all the drug references but not so much the philosophers....). I'll be interested to see what this writer does next... especially now she lives in Tayside...

Wendy Cook “So farewell then Peter Cook” (2006)

Borrowed from a friend
This memoir takes namedropping to a new level. There were some interesting details about comedian Peter Cook's life but a lot of flannel too. Disappointing.

Dave Eggers “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” (2000)

Bought it after reading 'What is the What' (see above)
The first section of this I really enjoyed (the heartbreaking bit) but once he moved out to California I'm afraid the genius side of things started to wear a bit thin and whiney for me. Still, it wasn't uninteresting and it got Eggers started on the path that led a lot of the very interesting work he's doing now.

Lauren St.John“The White Giraffe” (2007)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
Adventure with animals in South Africa. A bit cheesey but Miss I'm Ten loved it.
6/10 (she says 8½)

A.S.Byatt “The Children's Book” (2009)

Bought it in Smiths
This is one of my very favourite reads of the year (I wrote a little about it here). A huge book in every sense.

Robert Graves “Goodbye to all that” (1929)

From local library
This has such a good reputation but I'm afraid I skimmed a lot of it. There was one line in it about singing with the soldiers that I liked but I forgot to write it down.

Rose Tremain “Trespass” (2010)

Mum's copy – she was quite a Tremain fan
Moody, sad... I read this at the right time (just after Mum died). Not amazing but perfectly readable.

Mark Steel “Vive la revolution” (2003)

As “Reasons...” above
A history of the French Revolution, this isn't my favourite of Steel's books... in fact I didn't finish it. But then I did read Hilary Mantel's “A Place of Greater Safety” last year so maybe I just didn't need more Danton and friends quite yet.

Robert Graves “On English Poetry” (1922)

From local library
I loved this – loads of bonkers quotes about poetry (I posted some here and here).

Barack Obama “Dreams from my Father” (1995)

Mum's copy
I loved this too – wrote about it here. Although my favourite Obama line has to be from comedian Reginald D Hunter on TV's 'Have I got news for you' – I can't find it online but it went something like 'yeh, a black man gets to be in the white house – now that the whole country ain't worth a damn'.

Lewis Carroll “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There” (1871)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
I am not a Carroll fan (I know, stone me!). I read the first Alice to Miss I'm Ten last year and I couldn't bear it (she enjoyed it – she likes most books... especially if there's a female central character and/or animals in it). I did find this one more enjoyable but still... I find the books flat somehow, lifeless. I am aware that lots of people (and poets in particular) do not feel this way (hysteria if you ask me).
7/10 (she says 8)

Kurt Vonnegut “Slaughterhouse-Five” (1969)

Borrowed from a friend
This is another classic I'd not read. It is powerful and very well-written and quite ahead of its time in its crazy style. I can't say I could rave about it just yet (like some of you do...) but heck I'd take it over Kerouac any day! I might read it again.

Rose Tremain “Sacred Country” (1992)

Mum's copy
I much preferred this to her 'Trespass' (above) largely, I suppose, because it didn't have the middle-class stamp so clearly right the way through it. This is a really fascinating, well-told tale about ordinary English people doing what might be thought of as very extraordinary things. I found it very moving and it's that simple thing - a good novel.

Zadie Smith “Changing my Mind” (2009)

Mum's copy
There was the odd essay in here that lost me completely but overall I thought it was a terrific collection of work and writing. I wrote about it here. And you can read one of my favourite sections of the book (about comedy) here.

Rhona Cameron “Nineteen Seventy Nine” (2004)

Borrowed from a friend
Funny and hugely emotional, this gritty '70s childhood memoir really gets to the heart of life in a small Scottish town. I wrote about it here.

Jacqueline Wilson “Secrets” (2002)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
Miss I'm Ten is a serious JW fan so there are a lot of her books in this house. This one is a modern day Little Princess/Prince and Pauper affair but, like all her books, it works like a charm on the fans.
8/10 (she says 9½)

“Q.I. Book of the Dead” (2009)

Bought this for Mark last Xmas - don't know why... much more my kind of thing than his!

I've dipped into this on and off all year. It's basically lots of potted life stories and I have learned lots of interesting facts from it. Sadly, because I'm not really good with facts, I'm afraid I've forgotten most of them again already. Quite frustrating, I can tell you.

Kathleen Jamie “Findings” (2005)

Bought second hand in Edinburgh
A smashing book of non-fiction pieces – I wrote about it here.

Steven Poole “Unspeak” (2006)

Bought second hand locally
This attempt to dissect a lot of the nonsense language in news reporting started well but then lost me about a third of the way in. Maybe another time I will come back and explain why... At the moment it sits on the forgotten pile keeping Kerouac company.

Alexander McCall Smith “Dream Angus” (2006)

Mum's copy
This is simply fabulous - myth with modern twist. Highly recommended.

Astrid Lindgren “Pippi Longstocking” (various dates - this edition 2007)

Read as bedtime story to daughter – the new edition with the Lauren Child illustrations
This is another one I'd somehow missed as a child. Miss I'm Ten loved it because the heroine is an eccentric redhead (close to home..?). We both enjoyed the 'child given total freedom' storylines though I can't say it's stayed with me much since finishing it a couple of months ago.
7/10 (she says 9½)

Bill Bryson “Shakespeare” (2007)

Mum's copy
I nearly put this in the Brilliant Poetry raffle but then I decided to give it a go. I suppose this is the height of middlebrow non-fiction but, you know, his books sell well for a reason or two (and none of them to do with a Katie Price lifestyle...). It was informative, entertaining, clever. I particularly liked all the details about the London of Shakespeare's time – Bryson really brought it to life for those of us with zero historical background (facts you see...).

Peter Ackroyd “Milton in America” (1997)

Mum's copy
A fictional account of a poet's fictional trip in the seventeenth century. I started it, got bored, stopped. Then I started it again, got bored again, put it in the pile with 'On the Road'. It felt really forced to me.

Cathy Cassidy “Indigo Blue” (2005)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
These books are very like Jacqueline Wilson's from what I can see (though the writer is younger than JW and you can kind of feel that somehow). I started thinking it was going to be a bit of a copy cat (didn't like the cover either) but in fact we both really enjoyed it and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
8/10 (she says 9)

Jacqueline Wilson “Secret Teenage Diary” (2009)

Read as bedtime story to daughter
This is the second volume of Jacqueline's own life story (written with her young audience very much in mind). Just as with the first volume with Miss I'm Ten and I really enjoyed this – some great details about an ordinary 1950s teenage year-in-the-life.
8/10 (she says 9)

Gregory Maguire “Wicked” (1995)

Borrowed from a friend
As we were seeing the musical show in London this year I fancied reading this original reworking of the Oz story (though I probably never would have got to it otherwise). People seem quite split on this book but overall I did enjoy it (though of course it is very different to the show – much more adult content!). There are some strong ideas and the characters and places came over well, I'd say. It's one of those... I wouldn't say 'rush to read it' but I wouldn't say 'don't ever read it' either.

And that's me - sacrilegious, full of shite or on the money? You decide.

p.s. Forgot one we finished just recently

Ray Bradbury "The Halloween Tree" (1972)

Borrowed from a friend and read to daughter
I'm afraid neither of us could get as excited about this book as the friend who lent it to us! Miss I'm Ten really struggled with it (lots of description and historical facts content, very little characterisation or story) and I found it poetic (in the sense that I almost wish he'd gone the whole hog and made it into a poem). Great illustrations though (by Joseph Mugnaini).
7/10 (we agreed on this one)


Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Titus Bus – and the little dog jumped over the moon

So this week... our first Poetry Bus prompt from Titus the Dog (see here). I chose the video option and so, on Thursday morning, I watched this:

and, being me, straightaway I had to look up who the music was by (details here). Then I wrote the beginnings of this little piece:

cooking up something

be in your work
be in your world

RF 2010

Then later in the afternoon I wrote the walking/ghostly/snow poem that's in the last post (here) and so I suppose that should really be included in this prompt too (but I'm not going to post it again here... that would be silly...). Then finally I walked the dog on Friday morning and realised that a line that hadn't fitted into the above 'cooking up' poem could set off a little piece of its own:

Luna la

The moon sings us a lullaby
We don't know how, we don't know why
But as each day takes turn to fly
I'm sure I hear a moonrock sigh

RF 2010

After all this I remembered what the original art video had made me think of – a song and character from a kids TV show. I used to love this song (and her voice) every time I heard it when our Girl was teeny. She had the soundtrack CD for this show as well so we heard it a lot!

Added later - the voice of Luna belonged to Lynne Thigpen (1948-2003). She was in many other TV shows and movies and was the radio DJ in 1979's 'The Warriors' (remember you never see her whole face... I loved that movie when I was a teenager!). Never knew that link till today.


Thursday, 9 December 2010


Snow way-out

I was out walking deep in the snow today
When I met myself coming the other way
I said "hey me-you – where are you going, friend?"
It said "far be it from me to start a trend
But I heard there's a way-out just down there"
And off it slipped into the wintry air
I called "please take care, don't get cold or lost"
It was quick with a cheery chirped riposte
"Don't worry yourself, I've been here before"
And I looked and shrugged and I walked some more

RF 2010

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The dead man and me

I've already mentioned this on facebook but I know that not all the people who read this read that so here I go again...

Very exciting snail mail post arrived here yesterday... a magazine with a front cover that looks like this:

This is the Journal of the Philip Larkin Society (current issue – number 30 - free to members) and inside it are lots of articles (about Larkin – obviously) and a few poems by other people. Most excitingly (for me) two of the poems in this issue are written by one Rachel Fox of Montrose (hurray! And you will understand the cheering if you know anything about how bad my record is with those arsewipes the majority of paper poetry magazines!). The poems of mine included are “The way life should be” (a villanelle! Even more exciting if you remember this post) and “Significant other deceased” (blogged here ages ago... also a postcard). I was quite surprised by the poems they chose to use... but I'm not complaining (in fact I'm thrilled). The issue also contains poems by Alison Mace.

English poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is not to everyone's taste (his poetry, his life, all of him) but he is, as I've said here before, one of my very favourites. Here he is reading one of his quite well-known poems (and beware – this one has a 'fuck' in it):

He reads so well. And that 'long slide'... makes me wonder if it got into my head for a poem I posted back here. While we're at it the whole 'looking from age to age' makes me think about my last post's poem and some of the comments there too. He is SO my kind of guy.

You can join the Philip Larkin Society (here). You can read his poems all over the place – especially this year as it's the 25th anniversary of his death (whole website about that here). You can read about one of my favourite Larkin poems back here (if you missed it first time round). You can even get a bit of Larkin tonight on BBC4 ('Philip Larkin and the Third Woman'). So gorge yourselves! Fill up with Phil! Start the T.S. Eliot plan diet in the New Year or something...


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Kat's Bus in the pub

This week's Poetry Bus task comes from Kat (details here) and she wants us to take a pub's name and come up with something fun and funny. Hm... fun... I can't say I'm really in the mood for writing fun this week. I have been watching a lot of funny TV shows of late but I think that's in a bid to rediscover laughing (after the sad changes of recent months). I've been watching, in case you're interested, 'Big Bang Theory' (excellent – so tight, so well-written), 'Miranda' (charming, innocent, nostalgic... daughter loves it too), 'Six Feet Under' (not really a comedy programme but some wicked funny moments) and 'The Trip' (not funny very often but still... beautifully made and oddly addictive, I find). I've always lived and worked in a place that's caught somewhere between music and comedy, if you know what I mean.

But for now there isn't a funny poem brewing anywhere round these parts I'm afraid – and in fact I think I've only ever written funny poems unintentionally. I'd say 'sorry' about this but I've already posted a poem that has a lot of sorries this week (back here). So instead I present you a new poem about pubs – or about a pub-related memory anyway. After a couple of formal weeks (villanelle two weeks ago... sonnet last week) this is more your splurge of freedom poem. Splat! Take that! Kapow!


We were never meant to be there at all
We were years too young
Still smelled of homework

But tapped crazy cats all psyched and hyper
We ran up the street in the dark, dark night
Let doors bang shut 'Hello! Hello!'

Inside, the lights all twinkling, sparkling
Glasses of warm intoxication
And men at the tables, instead of boys

RF 2010


Friday, 3 December 2010

Snow, panic, disappointment

Snow, snow, snow... and gradually our daughter learns why grown-ups are sometimes less than excited about that white stuff (because almost everything gets cancelled in this country when it snows!). The headlines in the papers are already promising months of freeze, the whole island running out of fuel and so on and so on. I'd happily go to bed for a week or more if I could.

Anyway, I will get to this week's Poetry Bus later in the weekend (driven by Kat - prompt here) though can't promise I will manage to obey all the instructions. In the meantime here's a small poem of mine that came to mind the other day. It's quite an old one (p.76 of little green book).

About the thing

Sorry for every shout
Sorry it was never worth
Even being cross about

Sorry for decisions made
For all the drips of selfishness and
Errors I cannot explain

Sorry for not being it
The big success
The worldwide hit

Sorry that I didn't try
Do you think that?
Worse still, do I?

RF 2005