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Tuesday 31 August 2010

Haiku #249

They're using iphones now
to listen to the heart beats -

Monday 30 August 2010

Haiku #248

R.I.P. O.E.D.
no more to be seen in print
downgraded to web

Sunday 29 August 2010

On The Poetry Bus: Three Special Needs Children

Karen, self-styled schoolmarm at Keeping Secrets has asked us to compose poems to do with schools and schooling. She has primed the pump with a couple of excellent ones of her own. You might want to pop over there. It would be worth your while.

Some may experience a slight feeling of deja vu reading the first of my poems. I have introduced this young lady before (here) . Indeed, I painted a somewhat fuller portrait of her on that occasion, even if a rather similar one. The two poems relate two very similar occasions. Unfortunately, there were many such.

Art Period

A crackle of fine lines across the brow,
the final detail of her painting done --
another from the frontier of fear.
They might have been a veil, those lines, but now
she says it is her sister, 'Ashcan', and
she's given her the family disease:
her hair roots push down through her skull
and choke what little brain she has. "She dull,
I hopes the 'ole disease don't get to me!"
As after-thought: a baby in a pram --
naked for some reason -- shows inchoate
root invasion on her brow. "Niece, she dumb --
Don't speak", she adds to clarify. "I draws
her head and roots in anyways. And they
do sting, them roots -- and if you pulls them, squeaks."

The occasion of this next poem was a school journey undertaken during the early sixties when we began to become familiar with pictures of the earth taken from space.

School Journey

Walking to Ventnor
Peter running on
and first to breast the downs.
"Quick, come on up and look!" his cry,
"Hurry, you can see the whole
wide world from here!"
That's how it looked,
I guess, like one of those new
photographs from space:
The Isle of Wight laid out below
was Earth, the sea full-circle round it,
space. And yet he was the first to see
the flaw in what he'd thought:

down where The Needles should have been --
had it still been The Isle of Wight --
a wisp of mist, but clear enough.
There, like a stocking laddered,
space was torn, did not
full-circle Earth. A causeway,
sliver of earth material or bridge,
stretched out
connecting us to God-knew-what-
but-wouldn't-tell. Nor who
or what might cross it in the night.

So easily
a happy simile
becomes a source of angst.

The Goodenough Draw-A-Man Test 

(This an intelligence test sometimes given in those days to young children.)

I'm drawing me...
"Do best you can," she said.
"youm very best."
"And talk", she said.
"Say what youm doing as you go..."

Eyes first -- up here. That's it.
Big. Gotta be. I see the room.
Got all of that in them.
That big!

The head go round the eyes.
Body hangs on underneath.

Arms long
go right across the desk.
Legs, can't see.
Not long. Down here.
There... me!

Haiku #247

L.B.D. makes it -
a dictionary entry
for Little Black Dress

Saturday 28 August 2010

Haiku #246

Digitise the books
democratise the libraries
they say -- Google hears?

Friday 27 August 2010

Haiku #245

Thirty seven now
for those first time house buyers
their average age

Thursday 26 August 2010

Haiku #244

Leather sandal freaks
though worn with socks -- the Romans
in our Northern chill.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

"Forgotten" Artists - Part 2

For a few blissful years in my early twenties I was a frequent visitor of the London art galleries. Not many days would pass without me wandering into one of the big ones or several of the small commercial galleries. During that time I would occasionally come across a painting by Frederick Cayley Robinson, though as I recall it now, such an encounter became more and more a rarity as time went by.

He was never a household name and I would think few people these days would have heard of him. In those days I suppose you could have said he had something of a cult following, would have been known to a close circle of fans, to those who collected and exhibited his work and maybe a few more. A few more because, inexplicably, he was awarded a show at The National Gallery. Indeed, as a result of that he became known as the least well-known artist ever to show there. However, the show must be one of the two events which helped prevent him being completely forgotten. The other was the acquisition by the Wellcome Library of what must be regarded as the jewel in his crown, the four panels of his mural Acts of Mercy, a work that puts me in mind of that of Mildred Elsie Eldridge , my first in this mini series of Forgotten Artists. They have something of the same clear-cut quality.

The quality comes from a different source, though. Cayley Robinson was a passionate sailor and after graduating from The Royal Academy Schools he spent some years sailing round the British coastline. Later still, he settled in turn in three Cornish seaside resorts: Newlyn, Lamorna and St Ives.
I think the strange Cornish coastal light is clearly to be seen in many of his paintings and most clearly in Acts of Mercy. But there was possibly a yet more powerful influence: for a time he studied at the Academy Julian in Paris and there he became much influenced by the works of Burne Jones and Puvis de Chavannes , as a result of which latter influence his paintings took on a flat faux tempera style. It was during this period, too, that he developed symbolist aspects to his work, something he was not to share with Mildred Eldridge.

It is something of a strange coincidence, though, that they should both be best known for a mural of four panels painted for a hospital, in his case commissioned for The Middlesex Hospital in London. Also, like her, he was an illustrator as well as a painter, though that is not unusual, of course. There, though, I think the similarities end. Not everyone was - or is - as drawn to Cayley Robinson's work as I am. Many find them strange, the figures trance-like, melancholic and full of some strange wistfulness, even longing. Yet I have called them clear-cut. They have cool, even cold, clear tones and the figures seem to have been almost mathematically calculated and positioned within clear outlines. Yet always there is a touch of nightmare, a feeling that a perfect beauty has been just slightly marred, a crystal-sharp clarity smudged. That, I think, is what first drew me to his work as I am sure it is what most repels many. The few landscapes I have seen were also of the nightmare variety, though not crudely so. There would be nothing obviously out of the ordinary - except the slight shiver that ran down the spine.

The mural, The Quality of Mercy which I have already mentioned, is no exception. It shows a crocodile of orphans queuing for their bowls of milk or gruel or whatever. They all wear the same starched uniforms, as though they are nurses or orderlies. The scene is everything such a scene should be - in the eyes of some. It is serene and well-ordered, nothing and no-one out of place. Disciplined and well-behaved. Except that one of the orphans exerts her independence - by breaking through the picture's frame, in point of fact. It has been claimed that many a young nurse upset by the never-ending confrontation with death, would take solace from this figure and identify with it. The orphans queuing on a staircase look ike they might be descending into hell. They could hardly look more despondent. Desolate even.

Two other panels show the exterior of the hospital and soldiers, casualties from the First World War, being treated. They, too, are lacking individuality, being dressed in the convalescent blues of the period. The panels were all painted between 1915 and 1920 and were a feature of the entrance all until 2007.

However, it should not be thought that there is nothing else in his oeuvre to compare with the murals. That he was a passionate sailor I have already mentioned, and many of his earlier works had to do with the sea and with ships. Then from 1898 to 1902 he studied in Florence, studying the works of Mantegna, Giotto and Michelangelo, as a result of which his style underwent a radical transformation. Somewhat
surprisingly, however, his interest in all things nautical survived in the light-toned, flat, schematic style which he had developed.

The milestones to his career were more than might have been imagined: an exhibition at the Royal Academy, RWS and ARA, a Professorship at The Glasgow School of Art, publication of his work in an extra winter edition of
Studio magazine, and although today it could not be said that he is as forgotten as Mrs RS Thomas, his reputation and status is in sad decline, no doubt in large part due to the low esteem in which symbolist painting is held.

Haiku #243

Helium balloons must rise
they're being sold too cheaply -
the gas is running out

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Haiku #242

I've got the symptoms
it's a myth - so am I mythic?
The male menopause

Monday 23 August 2010

Haiku #241

they closed the beaches
the French at the croc' alerts -
driftwood in the channel

Sunday 22 August 2010

On Waking on the Poetry Bus

Very challenging, this week's journey on The Poetry Bus. Driven by the demon driver
Chiccoreal, I can't wait to see what the other passengers are up to!

First thoughts on Waking

First thoughts on waking up this morning? Same
as any other day, the same routine. Same
questions:"Time. What is?"
A metaphysical conundrum, that.
Far better brains than mine. Too early for.
Stay practical: "How long 'till morning cuppa time?
How long 'till I can shake a leg and make the brew?"
"Will bathroom visit wait 'till then?"
"Ought I be getting back to kip?"
"5.20 - ish..." that's "40 minutes - ish..." and then
a problematic "Yes... relax" before the final "Nope!"
But relaxation brings new issues in its train:
"What did I think of as I died last night?"
Another metaphysical whatever! Did
something find a resolution as I slept?
Some lines somehow composed, perhaps?
"Should I be writing something down?"
Give answers in reverse, last first, first last -
as it will be in Heaven, so we're told. So, "yes" and "yes".
They're fading fast. I'll write them down.
Not Wordsworth, granted, but you should have been around
when yesterday's conglomeration of odd words
did damage to the ears - no, preferably not!

Re-reading Ulysses last night for the third time - ah yes,
most lovely book of all books and most difficult to read -
did I not say how hedonist and masochist are met in me?
All masochists are hedonists, I've heard it said. Maybe...
Scrub that: I dropped off thinking: nightmares --
Mr Breen's, in point of fact, as told by Mrs B, in which
The Ace of Spades went walkabout and climbed the stairs --
though how, we are not told: might it have tiptoed, crept
or scrambled, flounced or strode? Joyce doesn't tell.
Slipped up, I'd say. Now me: deliberate,
the way I seed my sleepy mind with thoughts to influence --
to see if I can influence -- the course or content of my dreams.
Don't think I dreamed at all last night... I must have...
Can't remember. Inconclusive that, or what?
Instead, I am reminded of some childhood nightmares.
Still vivid, some. One in particular, a shop, quite bare,
save for a long, curved counter disappearing to infinity,
behind which stood my mother smiling her warm smile.
I walk up to the bar and peer across. I see
the floor is home to countless crocodiles, a mass
of scales and writhing legs and snapping teeth and jaws.

Crocodile shoes... Favourite songs I do not do,
but if I did, this one would be there too.
I cut my teeth on crocodile stiletto shoes.
All ended badly. Floods of tears.
You've guessed it now.
My old croc' shoes were crying too
Crocodile tears.
Then Jimmy Nail revived it all. Maybe I'll try tonight
to seed my dreams with them.

Haiku #240

Critics think them odd -
cerebral women writers -
thinks A.S.Byatt

Saturday 21 August 2010

Haiku #239

They're making millions -
family and one-man firms
selling wares on E-bay

Friday 20 August 2010

Smile time

(Well, it made me smile.) South Midlands police force has been officially warned against wearing thongs or bright boxer shorts. A retired officer relates that in his day (now?) the uniform material was "so serge" that many of them took to wearing pyjama bottoms. - presumably under their uniform! (Heard on Radio 2 this morning.)

Haiku #238

calls his fruit and veg below par -
he's new in the job

Thursday 19 August 2010

Spirit Longboat on the Basingstoke Canal

Haiku #237

Damaging kids ears
doing it for twenty years 
they're saying - iphones

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Haiku #236 and I had to smile...

Not man but climate change
replacing grass with forests
killed off the mammoths

I had to smile...
at Graeme Swann's excuse for driving over the limit:-
he had to go fetch a screwdriver to rescue the cat.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Haiku #235

the subconscious bins life's junk -
What, even laptops?

Monday 16 August 2010

Haiku #234

For China a pear
shaped like an embracing couple -
for Valentine's day

Sunday 15 August 2010

Aboard the Poetry Bus

To Cut a Long Story...

Our delightful friend at Enchanted Oak offered two photographs this week, one to be used as stimulus for the ride. I chose this one:-

I waited hours in Longstone Creek that day
concealed in long grass, out of view, where long-
beaked geese were wont to fly. A longspur and
a longeared owl came by -- and one lone goose
who settled not a long way off. I crouched,
and heard among long honks and hisses, this:
Allow your mind the thing you've longed for most,
and for the longest time, then hang that dream
high on the longest branch of yonder tree.

Eyes closed, my longboat dream ran real again --
easy to see my craft on that long bough,
rocked by the trees as though by long sea waves.
Opening my eyes, the goose no longer there.
Instead, a wraith-like longshoreman had come
who whittled long-beaked geese from driftwood bits,
and said For you, sweet lass, a punt! The words,
half lost in loud, long honks and hissing sounds,
confirmed his longest finger pointing out
the longan tree's long wishing branch, from which
my longboat slowly drifted down towards
the sea's long inlet, there. We walked along
the path by the long barrow, where he said,
So now you've seen my long home. Let's move on!
and almost dug that long mound with his thumb.
We reached my long punt, boarding her with care,
but first he cut the long branch down and stripped
it bare to make of it a long pole, leaned
his long frame in, and showed me how to punt.
All that took place so very long ago --

a short time after which, I married him.

Haiku #233

Women take top spot
thanks to multi-tasking skills --
at adultery.

Saturday 14 August 2010

This made me smile

A letter in this morning's Guardian recalls a nonconformist minister who, leading his congregation in prayer, began:-

Oh Lord, as though has doubtless read in last Thursday's Guardian...

Apocryphal, possibly, but it did remind me of the Welsh Methodist minister I knew who, also leading his flock in prayer, first thanked the Lord for his wisdom in sending both sun and rain and then added:- ... though there have been times these last weeks, O Lord, when we have been sorely tempted to doubt thy wisdom"

Friday 13 August 2010

Haiku #232

The English are thick,
not human, ruled by mafia -
Iran's Vice-President

Thursday 12 August 2010

Forgotten Artists - Part 1

Two or three weeks ago Jim at The Truth About Lies was kind enough to send me a DVD which he thought might interest me and might even form the basis of a post. He was correct on both counts. The DVD was a BBC Wales production, a recording of a documentary put out on the life and work of Mildred (Elsi[e]) Eldridge. Who? Well, exactly, that was the point of it. I have always had more than a passing interest in the question of how it is that poets, artists and others who were highly regarded in their day, were even thought to be important, can come to be disregarded, neglected even, by later generations. Sometimes they bounce back, but not always. There are many reasons, of course why they fall into disfavour. Sometimes it will be that they were simply over-rated and couldn't stand the test of time. At least, that's the explanation most often given. Sometimes they just become unfashionable. But saying that begs the question of why some are then reinstated when the new fashion has passed, but others are not. Mildred Eldridge hasn't so much been neglected as completely forgotten. It is incredibly difficult to turn up any information on her. Pop Mildred Elsie Eldridge into Wikipedia and it will ask you if you meant Mildred Eddie Eldridge. Try reducing it to Mildred Eldridge and it will offer you other Eldridges, but not Mildred. The BBC Wales production relied very heavily on the memories of her son, Gwydion, and various friends and neighbours.

So who was she, this mysterious person? She was a painter and illustrator. The title of the documentary was Mrs R. S. Thomas. That's right, she was the wife of R.S.Thomas, the Welsh Priest and Poet. Try Mildred Elsie Eldridge in Google and you will be offered a few references, mostly in Welsh, to do with the BBC documentary or the odd book reference, the majority of which are books that she illustrated. Some of these illustrations were to be found on the web, but what I have been unable to find so far (with one exception - more of that later), are any usable images of any of her paintings - of which it is said she produced over one thousand. Google Mrs Thomas and you will get her husband by the page load.

Let's begin again, back at the beginning: she lived and went to school in Wimbledon, South London, was utterly miserable at school, and eventually escaped to The Wimbledon School of Art. I could find very little about her childhood and early student days (R.S. Thomas's autobiography is about him, not her), but we find her a few years later, one of the most successful students at The Royal College of Art. She is something of a work-a-holic - at least that is probably how she would be described these days - working until 9.o'clock every night. Which seems to have paid off, for when it came to her final exhibition, she was the first student to sell all of her exhibits. Move on a bit and she is a successful artist, critically, financially and socially. She has a series of one-man shows, the most notable probably being the one at London's Beaux Arts Gallery. She has travelled on a scholarship across the continent to further her studies, and you would have had to part with a small fortune to pay for one of her paintings from a London Gallery.

There was a downside. She felt she was in danger of being sucked in to the social whirl, and decided that she needed to flee the bright lights, both for that reason and to escape the clutches of an unwanted lover. Maybe it was that which was her undoing, so far as posterity is concerned. She took off for the solitude of the Welsh borders, which was where, eventually, she came to meet R.S.Thomas. He was not at that stage either a fully ordained priest or a known poet. He was just beginning to make his way. They found themselves in the same lodging house, Bryn Coed, though his account merely says, rather ambiguously and somewhat disingenuously that she was lodging fairly close by. In fact, she was teaching at the Oswestry Grammar School. It must be true to say that her world was very different from his and that her horizons were far broader than his. She dressed very much in the Bohemian style, in stark contrast to Thomas, who was from a Bourgeois family from Holyhead. R. S. and Elsi (she would henceforth be known as Elsi) Eldridge were married in Llanycil, on the shore of Bala Lake on 5 July 1940. Many years later he would write the following, recalling their life together.

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
love's moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
`Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance, And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

So now I have fallen into the trap. Time after time, looking up a reference to her, I would find information on, or work by, not her, but R.S.Thomas. Gwydion recalls that as a boy he used to wonder which of his parents would eventually be the more famous. People are always remarking to him, he says, on how prolific was his father, with over 2000 poems, though her 1,000 paintings must have compared very favourably. It seems to me there are two main reasons for her neglect: one I have mentioned, her self-contrived isolation from the centre of things, from other artists and critics and from the social whirl that might have kept her work before the public eye; and, not unrelated to that, the fact that her work was (and is) mainly in private hands and not in important collections or public galleries. There was one exception. A commission to paint a mural, The Dance of Life, for the staff canteen in the Gobowen Orthopaedic Hospital. It was a huge undertaking for someone who had no studio, being composed of six panels and in all a hundred and twenty feet long. Physically this would have been a daunting task at the best of times, but to make it more so, the family moved house when the work was half way through. Gwydion maintains that the mural can be compared to the Whistler panels. Alas, they are not still in situ but were taken down in 1950 to facilitate alterations to the hospital, and have been in store since then.

It has proved extremely difficult to uncover any images, even of the mural, which must be considered her major work. Gwydion maintains that the time has come for her to be given her long over-due notice and critical acclaim. For that to happen, it might not be a bad idea for those who have access to her works to make them known on the web. It seems to me that would be a good place to start.
I have been able to find only three tiny details (more accurately, one tiny detail - shown above - and two microscopic ones) from the mural and a couple of her illustrations,shown further down. They are illustrations to Walter de la Mare's Journey Round My Skull. Many commentators seem to suggest that the reason for her eclipse was R.S., that she lived in his shadow. It's true that she did, though it was from choice. Gwydion says she chose not to go her original route, and that is true. Furthermore, in many ways she facilitated Thomas's poetry - but that's another story, and not one, I would think, that impinges on our neglect of her..

I had intended this post to be a look at forgotten painters and sculptors in general, but I have found Elsi compelling enough to have devoted the whole of it to her. Maybe I will fulfil my original intention at a later date.

Haiku #231

Breathe easier now -
the swine 'flu pandemic is
history, my friend

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Haiku #230 - plus, the joke's on me!

Time 2 get up (2)
Mum's second text of the day -
saves calling upstairs

This only brought a smile because, glancing at it quickly, I misconstrued it:-

After rummaging a lost volume in her book-packed house, Hill vowed to spend a year reading only the titles on her shelves.

What it is to have a literal mind!

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Haiku #229

They jump to their deaths,
workers at an i-phone plant -
so now there are nets.

Monday 9 August 2010

Haiku #228

Room cleaning's extra
as is storing your luggage -
new budget hotels

Sunday 8 August 2010

Giotto and the Smell of Oranges

(The Poetry Bus)
A special medal of commendation should struck for Jeanne who not only took over the driving of the bus at short notice, but came up with a range of beautiful options from which it was exceedingly difficult to choose. Eventually, I came down in favour of my favourite summer sensory memories. Thanks Jeanne.

A summer treat,
our Charing Cross Road Pilgrimage,
my annual rummage through its shrines:
bookshops by the mile,
books by the shelf, the tray, the pile.
All mine! Collecting them
like stamps, not always
understanding them.

The musty smell
to me a form of incense
to others like old clothes
the smells of jumble sales.
The dust like snuff, that rose:
the violent sneeze;
thick papers, yellow, ribbed
like corduroy, that thumb
and finger rubbed -- once nearly
rubbed away, so friable,
erasing part of Blake's
The Keys of Calais, which I bought.

But some I'd feel
the way I'd seen my gran
feel fruit in Surrey Street,
the Croydon market. Some
were bright and shiny,
full of colour, like the fruit,
and had the same faint
tang of acid. There was one
that smelt of oranges, of pine
and maybe of vanilla -- though
I never quite made up my mind.
Its stained and wrinkled pages,
stuck together front and back,
are treasured still -- The Frescoes of
with its gorgeous plates
(two missing) pasted in.

My mother's music bag
tucked underneath my arm
would bulge increasingly.
I'd hope for rain and turn
my face towards it if it came
to feel it on my skin
and feel the joy
of knowing that my books were dry.

So many subjects went home
in that bag and waited there,
for years sometimes, for me
to understand their meanings --
all introduced by way
of arbitrary odours
or a textured feel. To me
Giotto and the smell of oranges
are one of this world's items.

Haiku #227

Life more virtual
when Royal Mail deprives us
of our county names?

Saturday 7 August 2010

What Google Puts at Risk

I apologise to those of you who left comments yesterday that have not yet been answered. This maybe a partial answer to some. This being the result of further reading and further thought. (Both of which, perhaps, I should have done yesterday before posting.) A further thought or two then on yesterday's post.

There was some confusion, caused in large measure by my too free use of the word free. The concept of net neutrality seems also to be a stumbling block. What is meant by it is no more than that the expectation that I will be able to download your web page at the same speed that I can download the BBC's or any other created by one of the internet giants - other things being equal. Giants like the BBC should have no unfair advantages over you when it comes to putting stuff on the web.

If that ceases to be so, if, for example, it pans out that Facebook is given preferential treatment over its competitors and is able to stream its content more quickly than they can, then very soon it will have no competitors, for everyone will have migrated to Facebook.

I mentioned yesterday the way that the BBC with its i-player is devouring the network, but not the fact that the government is committed to seeing every household equipped with broadband before the next election. However, neither the BBC nor the government are contributing any cash towards their laudable aims. That being so, too big a dose of net neutrality may cause the net to grind to a stop before too long.

Haiku #226

Thanks to Ramadan
Sales of Vimto fruit squash rise -
a fasting tonic

This made me smile

From: I Never Knew There Was A Word For It
a nakhur is a camel that will not give milk until her nostrils are tickled.
a blatteroon is a person who talks too incessantly.

Friday 6 August 2010

This concerns us all: Is Google doing evil?

Some people think so. People better informed than am I think so. And it's nothing to do with its recent rather shady history: spying on public Wifi spots, intruding on privacy with its Street View program, sailing close to the wind with its grabbing of material that might be or might not be copyright, the privacy time bomb of its Google Watch website, and on...

No, this time the word is that Google (motto: Don't be evil) is about to end net neutrality, the fundamental principle (until now) that the net is ungoverned and therefore equally open to access by one and all. The word is that Google is about to enter into a bilateral agreement with an outfit called Verizon whereby Minders will be appointed, Gatekeepers if you prefer, to control who goes where and when and how fast. How fast, because part of the plan is to set up fast lanes for heavy users of video and music.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive has explained that Google is merely trying to reach an agreement about what is meant by net neutrality. To me that sounds as though he is trying to change what is meant by it. It seems pretty clear that they are trying to agree exemptions from it, including the possibility of Internet operators offering premium services to some Internet companies
- including, no doubt, Google.

Certainly there are many who fear that Google will be buying preferential access for itself. Not so, not me Guv, says Google. I just saw this fight brewing in the playground and thought that someone ought to get between them. Nip it in the bud before it gets bad. And to be honest, it has been getting bad. There have been worries that the web could break down altogether. The BBC is probably the biggest culprit with its i-player. But there has been an exponential explosion of streaming of all sorts. Nevertheless, the principle that you have as much right to the broadband to sent Aunt Jane your holiday video as the BBC has to make its programmes available to the world, is an important and highly regarded one.

Google is its usual reassuring self. It intends, it has said, that any discrimination should be only across data types and not within them. Come again?
Well, they will not give preference to the BBC's colossal streaming excercise over your video to Uncle George, but they might well give such preference to another person's music. Across data types is okay then? Not sure how that helps... And at the end of the day, money will speak volumes, I have no doubt.

I do not like cliches. Should I be pleased that this level playing field is about to go?

Haiku 225

An important skill,
they overlook it in the schools
talking to yourself.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Tyger, tyger turning green...

In November 2007 I included in a post on anthologies a review of Carol Ann Duffy's Answering Back. (here). CAD had had the brilliant idea of writing to all the leading poets and asking them first to choose a famous poem and then to write a poem in answer to it. Fifty poets obliged. Since when  it has been an idea at the back of my head for a rainy day when inspiration had run out. I hadn't intended to bring it out just yet, but then it happen ed. I was rereading William Blake's The Tyger when  it began to morph into what follows. I kept to what I believe to be the generally accepted interpretation of Blake's poem: i.e. that the tiger is a metaphor for the industrial revolution. The 3rd and 4th stanzas make that clear with their convincing description of a skilled and powerful blacksmith, but I have extended it to include modern technology and its effects on society and the climate. Lower down I give the Blake poem for those who might want to refer to it. (Sure it would have been more logical to start with it, but there was no way I was going to follow Blake!)

Tyger, tyger, taking fright
now the forests are alight,
coal and oil, though burning bright,
are the fuels of our night.

Tyger, tyger, tooth and claw
chained and pistoned, fired no more,
still the fires you started roar,
blacken canopy and floor.

Tyger, tyger, search the sky,
see the eagle there on high.
Winds and tides have passed us by,
seize them or your cubs will die.

Algorithms in your eyes
promise much, but all are lies,
all depend on heart, not mind.
Heart is stony, you will find.

Tyger, tyger, keyboard-bound,
your truths grow more and more profound,
but truths to turn the world around
are lying there on open ground.

Tyger, King of your small wood,
how can endless growth be good?
When at last you're out of land,
can our dying globe expand?

Was it you with pesticide
gave the bugs nowhere to hide,
nor yet the baby or the bride,
'til finally the farmer died?

and was it yours, that express scheme
for baking dough -- that merchant's dream! --
that gave the yeast no time to rise
nor wheat proteins to neutralise,

who added things to lunch and tea
that were not good for you or me?
who spilt the oil upon the sea,
depleting algae grievously?

Tyger, tyger, you were born
victim of a spurious dawn,
can you lie with lambs at rest?
Dulce et decorum est.

For you were born to hunt and kill,
yet our birthrights serve us ill.
Tyger from the ashes rise --
or we are victims of our lies.

Note: Dulce et decorum est. : Latin for Sweet and fitting it is
It also happens to be the title of one of the best WWI war poems by Wilfred Owen.

And here, for anyone who might find it useful, Blake's famous poem:

The Tyger:-

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Haiku #224

He's Irish begorra
and crossing The Irish Sea
in a bath tub

Wednesday 4 August 2010

The 10 Best Slam Poets and Haiku #223

The good folk at Online Universities have sent me this link to videos of The Ten Best Slam Poets which I thought might interest some of you. They would be interested to hear of anything similar you happen to come across or know about.

The coalition
consulted us, Joe public,
but ruled out all our views

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Grinny-stuff and Tanka #8

For the start of the season... presenting England's new sponsors.

And the Tanka

Choice has got too complex
made ditherers of us all
ergo we're depressed
can't decide on daily issues -
technology's the culprit.

Monday 2 August 2010

Smile-worthy? and Haiku #222

 I already knew it, but just read it again and the absurdity struck me.
Iain Duncan Smith is becoming frustrated
because the treasury is unwilling to fund his cuts... yes, I know...

For us elderlies,
the vuvuzela-loud mobile -
I'll be ringing you.

Sunday 1 August 2010

A Game of Scrobble - plus.

Well friends, that fabulous Nanu person over at Have Genes Will Travel is driving the bus and the ticket this week is for a tour of those non words that confront us on some blogs and that are there to establish beyond reasonable doubt that we are too robotic to be a machine and must therefor be some kind of humanoid. Brilliant idea. Opens up the ride to all manner of zany and goonish extravaganzas. Only trouble is I tried it last month. Cheated, actually, for that was not the task set before us on that occasion. Now I wish I'd kept my contribution stuffed up me shirt until now. Could do with it this week. Fortunately, though, I had kept me non-word pool stuffed up me shirt.

So here it is, friends, me contribootion - ooer, I'm getting ahead of mesel'!

"Scabulus!" schreekd Werrnel Capscudd stunkinj each skware with his frist fflinjer as he splammed the last of his tiles down on the board. "Treebel letter, treebel letter, treebel werdle - 'Sumpteen towsernd poynts!" "Schitt-borlls! Fluckue! There's nosnitch werdle!" schreekd Shammeer Sharrash. "Cheeet!" they all shreekd toogeter. You veitode 'bubosive, atorgalt, unfesibl and ocandi', so you kantafv 'scabulus!'" cryed Orphoris Mingor. Then wivoot wornin the board and all the tiles wasseint fli-inng to the crappet, spelling out the pharse: "Tanksa lot to Nanu for the trippe."

Smile-Worthy Stuff
Thought this was initially. Not so sure now:-
The owner of a Budgens Store in North London, asked why he is stocking squirrel meat, replied: "For reasons of sustainability".

Haiku  #221
Take it on Twitter
your Holy Communion
tweeting your Amens.