Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I was proper naughty yesterday.  I went on to Amazon to order Rob Mackenzie's collection and, surprise, surprise, I didn't feel entirely satisfied until some hours later, after buying lots of other sparkly things.

As well as a good sized hoard of DVDs, I also ordered several more books: Alice Oswald's A Sleepwalk on the Severn  (I really enjoyed Woods etc., so wanted to try some more of hers) and a couple of books by Margaret Atwood - Eating Fire, which is a selection of her work from 1965 to 95, and her latest collection, The Door.

I, like many other people, I suspect, knew Atwood as a novel writer before realising she wrote poetry - she does it pretty well too...  I particularly love her poem, 'You Begin', which I first came across in the Norton Anthology.  I read it as a parent / grandparent speaking to an infant, although I guess that if you looked at it a more spiritual way, it could be a god-like life creator speaking to a human of any age.  Although I aren't a very spiritual person, I kind of like the second reading better...

You Begin

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.

by Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Who hasn’t owned one at some point in their life?  They’re fun, and frequently cheap and tacky, but have you ever thought of them as art?

Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz have certainly had that thought and have produced a collection of suitably insane tableaux to sit inside them.  This one is Traveler 63 at Night from 2003 and is one of my favourites – I’m wondering if it might inspire me to write something chilling for Halloween.

I do love a bit of quirky art.

Monday, October 12, 2009


So, I got started on the William Butler Yeats lectures today. As my Mother’s countrymen would say – Jaysus! I’m only 2/3rds through the lectures yet but, so far, I’m not a fan of Mr Yeats – which is always a hard thing to say about such a big shot in the canon. Hopefully, I will come to appreciate him but looking at his early to middle poetry, my impression is he needs to “try and have his writing make sense".  Don't get me wrong, I am sure it makes perfect sense if one makes the effort to analyse it but, to be frank, it is so over flowery that I slip into a coma before I get that far.

And now, from Yeats to me (a very small step, I’m sure you’ll agree – see I rhymed there, I really am a poet). Here’s the piece I started working on yesterday, I’m not sure what I think of this yet either:

Filial visit to Ward 1

What was that she said
when she spoke of sleep;
was it “good”, or “not good”?
I moil to tune my ear,
today I intend to please.

I say I’m glad (got it right),
she sighs and talks of pain,
of sitting straight and needing
recipes for soup.
So, she’s feeling kind.

My choice is to collaborate,
to speak enthusiastically
of roasted vegetables,
the taste of butternut squash.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I really didn’t think I’d want to so soon, but having submerged myself in poetry somewhat over the last few days, I have written a little myself today.  Not sure yet what I think of it, will leave it to simmer a while.  Meanwhile I took out some old pieces to read and found it all a little disappointing.  The upside of this is that feeling that way didn’t come as a surprise – I think it is a perfectly normal reaction for most writers – especially those who are still learning their craft.

I’ve also been reading some of the books I’ve bought but not found time to read yet – Anon Five and Hugo Williams’ West End.  From the first, Anon Five, I really enjoyed Humdinger by John Whitworth – it actually made me squeal with delight!  Also Clumsy by Cat Dickson – a poet who seems to have done quite a lot but doesn’t have a presence I can find on the web.  As for the Hugo Williams book, I’m enjoying it, but am struggling a little as it is the first of his I’ve read, but the tenth collection he’s published.  I think I will get his Collected Poems and read that before re-visiting West End.

Also on the menu yesterday and today was attending some Yale Modern Poetry lectures online, which were really enjoyable.  So far, I’ve completed the Introduction and the Robert Frost sections of the course.  Although I’ve read most of the poets covered here to some extent, I haven’t studied them (or this period of literature) before, so plan to work my way through all the lectures.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


As well as returning to my blog, I also decided to go dip my toe back into reading and critiquing at the PFFA, but boy it’s quiet!

Admittedly, I’ve only been visiting there again for half a week, but I’ve been shocked at how few postings there have been. I’m sure that when I was last there, there would be half a board’s worth of new postings (mostly awful, of course) on General every day – over the last three days, there have only been one or two a day.

Maybe this is just a quiet week. Or maybe PFFA has taken all the available fresh meat with tortured souls and cut skins, melded them into poets, and now the pool of potential is empty? [sharp intake of breath] surely not?

Well, I don’t think they’re quite there yet, a plagiarist was squished and sent Outside in the last week and the newest newbie is called ‘fallenangel’, which is promising….

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Okay, so I’m a little bit drunk.

It is him indoors’ birthday today and we’ve been to our local high quality eatery for a slap up and several vats of wine. Relatively speaking (as compared to the hours kept in my youthful years) we’re home early at 10:45 (why does the published time of this post think it is an hour earlier than it is? I'm too squiffy to work it out...), but we’ve spent grandly and are feeling quite jolly.

Isn’t it funny how one is easily satisfied with so much less excitement as one ages? In my teen years, I wouldn't have thought I'd had a good night out with anything less than pre-drinks in the venue of choice (Babycham in the local park - I've always been a classy bird), a glittering disco extravaganza  (for which, read tunes spun by the local loser DJ, Miss Selfridge body glitter worn across a boob tube bound décolletage at the Saturday night village hall 'do'), a grand and highly dramatic evening of flirting, 'necking' and slow dancing with the cutest guy at the disco, all finished off with a huge fight with Mum and Dad on returning home decorated with love bites and smeared kohl eyes.

Aaahhh, those were the days...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I've been aware of Truman Capote as a 'famous' person for a long time, and have seen the movie, 'Capote' that documented him writing the nonfiction novel In Cold Blood but until recently, I had never read anything of his.

As I always enjoy reading about murder and the like (I've stopped questioning why and just accept this fact about myself by now), it seemed sensible to start with In Cold Blood, so that's what I've done. I'm about half way through at the moment and just love his writing style – his voice is languorous, cultured, slightly drawling, which in itself I find highly enjoyable – but what is truly striking is his ability to set a scene and unfold his story with such a cool hand whilst, at the same time, being able to build such desire in the reader to turn the page.

The other striking thing about Capote’s approach to the story is how he chose to present the killers. He tells their background story in the same matter of fact way he tells that of their victims (the Clutter family) and, so far, I don’t particularly detect sympathy for either group of characters. It will be interesting to see if this develops later in the book.

Almost equally intriguing is why Capote chose to write this book in the first place – and dedicate so much time to it (4 years of research, apparently). This story was one of several he was considering ‘using’ to exercise this new genre he had created of nonfiction. Perhaps his almost detached cool style of writing gives us a clue that he wasn’t so much interested in the story itself, or the people involved, but perhaps more in his own literary experiment? He was a writer who lived in the spotlight too, so I can just imagine how he must have enjoyed the prospect of unveiling the double shock factor of multiple murder committed in apple pie heaven and his innovative presentation of it.

I’ll reserve final opinion until I’ve finished reading but, for now, my impressions are that Capote was a very media savvy guy with a big appetite for limelight – but boy, he could write.