Sunday 21 December 2008

Solstice Greetings

Barge Collage
Grand Union Canal, London, Summer 2008

The Winter Solstice feels like what I want to celebrate this year. Retreat and symbolic rebirth badly needed.

Fondest greetings, warmest thanks and my best wishes to all who read here and all whose online words and pictures delight me, feed me, keep me company.

Back sometime soon.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Imaginary friend

I walk about the common with my imaginary medieval friend.
"The ponds are so shallow. Why are they nearly dried out?" he says, amazed at the state of the grass.
"What's happened to all the cowslips and buttercups - and the hay rattle flowers? Where are the clouds of butterflies that used to rise up before the scythe?
"It's so quiet. Where are the voices of the children stone-picking in the fields, where is the birdsong, where are the grasshoppers?"

Roger Deakin
from Notes from Walnut Tree Farm

Friday 19 December 2008

Thursday 18 December 2008

Offcut VII

Through a glass darkly

Sauvignon blanc, National Gallery Cafe.
A favourite place. I like the food and drink,
that it's never overcrowded,

most of all the high ceiling and high windows,

the clear but muted, appropriately painterly light.

Nice chairs too.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Iron in the soul

Wake from sporadic, uneasy sleep to darkness, and a longer stretch of dark, bitter days than there has been for years - the weather in London and in me, mutually reinforcing.

Yesterday I saw
for the first time in some months a friend I am particularly fond of. This year has been a journey beyond all hope of much human contact, into a cold and broken place of relentless work and loneliness. But still there can suddenly be this searing awareness of a loved person's particularity: the curve of face and body, animated by the curve of just that mind-set. Shocking. Better, perhaps - easier, certainly - if this too would leave. But that really would be as good as death.

Lest this sound too dramatic, it was, of course, the thought of a moment only - a moment of smiles and chat, at that - in the midst of a day of ordinariness. Ah, the quality of the ordinariness is the killer, not the moment's pain. The days will grow longer again.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Monday 15 December 2008

Friday 12 December 2008


" all those writers with whom—or sometimes against whom—I have lived. To the Africans: Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ahmadou Kourouma, Mongo Beti, to Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, to Thomas Mofolo's Chaka. To the great Mauritian author Malcolm de Chazal, who wrote, among other things, Judas. To the Hindi-language Mauritian novelist Abhimanyu Unnuth, for Lal passina (Sweating Blood) to the Urdu novelist Qurratulain Hyder for her epic novel Ag ka Darya (River of Fire). To the defiant Danyèl Waro of La Réunion, for his maloya songs; to the Kanak poetess Déwé Gorodey, who defied the colonial powers all the way to prison; to the rebellious Abdourahman Waberi. To Juan Rulfo and Pedro Paramo, and his short stories El llano en llamas, and the simple and tragic photographs he took of rural Mexico. To John Reed for Insurgent Mexico; to Jean Meyer who was the spokesman for Aurelio Acevedo and the Cristeros insurgents of central Mexico. To Luis González, author of Pueblo en vilo. To John Nichols, who wrote about the bitter land of The Milagro Beanfield War; to Henry Roth, my neighbour on New York Street in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Call it Sleep. To Jean-Paul Sartre, for the tears contained in his play Morts sans sépulture. To Wilfred Owen, the poet who died on the banks of the Marne in 1914. To J.D. Salinger, because he succeeded in putting us in the shoes of a young fourteen-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield. To the writers of the first nations in America – Sherman Alexie the Sioux, Scott Momaday the Navajo for The Names. To Rita Mestokosho, an Innu poet from Mingan, Quebec, who lends her voice to trees and animals. To José Maria Arguedas, Octavio Paz, Miguel Angel Asturias. To the poets of the oases of Oualata and Chinguetti. For their great imagination, to Alphonse Allais and Raymond Queneau. To Georges Perec for Quel petit vélo à guidon chromé au fond de la cour? To the West Indian authors Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau, to René Depestre from Haiti, to André Schwartz-Bart for Le Dernier des justes. To the Mexican poet Homero Aridjis who allows us to imagine the life of a leatherback turtle, and who evokes the rivers flowing orange with Monarch butterflies along the streets of his village, Contepec. To Vénus Koury Ghata who speaks of Lebanon as of a tragic, invincible lover. To Khalil Gibran. To Rimbaud. To Emile Nelligan. To Réjean Ducharme, for life."

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 7 December 2008, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Czio thanks the writers who have influenced him. Just a bit of catching up for most of us to do there! A terrific lecture, as were Doris Lessing's and Orhan Pamuk's before him.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Annie Liebovitz: too much

Not really expecting to like it and certainly not to warm to it. Mega glossy celebrity stuff, bah! However stunningly talented, bah! No postcards here. No photos on the exhibition leaflet, not even tiny ones, not even written-across. Bah! There was nonetheless the thought that an opportunity to see a whole lot of the work of a great photographer should not be passed up.

Well, it wasn't quite like that. Not so easy. The huge, flashy, overwhelmingly perfect works are interspersed with photos of her family and friends: small, powerful pictures of love and death. Holding, responding to the two modes simultaneously was a complex and troubling experience. The two poles, perhaps, of what photography can be, or convince you that it is: personal and mechanical, distilled reality and pure artifice. They can cancel each other out, but here were both so blatantly present that they didn't, just existed in powerful contradiction.

I was both compelled and repelled, both pleasured and sickened, and on the whole came away feeling less negative about the photographer, more interested, and pretty impressed really by what could inspire such a strong and complicated response.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Sunday 7 December 2008

Friday 5 December 2008

Cello love

The wonderful Zoe Keating.
I was going to say she looks like a perfect metaphor for her music,
simultaneously iconic and iconoclastic, but I guess
it's the other way around, the music that's the metaphor.

Pity anyone who lives or works in my vicinity and doesn't share my taste in music, as I tend to play a newly discovered piece or artist over and over obsessively. Recently, since a friend linked to her, it's been avant-garde cellist Zoe Keating.

Is it cello music I love best, more even than choral? Maybe not quite, because I can't split listening to any choral music from the memory of first seriously listening with Jean-Marie, on his very good hi-fi with the enormous speakers (bigger was better in the 1970s, ever-so-many 'watts': say it with a French accent, like 'ouate', which is French for cotton-wool). I remember always how my silly young heart would soar with the voices, soar with how much I adored him, how his eyes would close and his mouth change shape and his pale, sinewy hands move just a little, watching him escape into the music, having no idea, bless me, what it was that this witty, attractive man with his lovely parents, his lovely wife and children, his satisfying career, might want to escape from, but sensing something deep and fundamental.

Being musically not very knowledgeable and, sadly, rather tone deaf (but also a bit synaesthesic, I think), my appreciation of music is always that subjective, that much attached to personal narrative, always blurred, or if focused then narrowly so - thence, perhaps, the tendency to obsessiveness.

So I couldn't tell you how I love Fauré's Requiem without mentioning Jean-Marie. But while I could tell you with equal emotion, for example, that I love Simone de Beauvoir because her many, big, fat books filled my lonely, neurasthenic evenings living in Ambe
rt, I could also give you several other, specific, informed, nuanced reasons why I love them.

Simple, blurry love and complex, illuminated love: I wouldn't say one was better, just different.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Dulwich trees in December

We have so many big, old trees around where I live. Native
species that used to fringe and hedge the large farms that covered this area until in the mid nineteenth century it became more lucrative to sell off the land to the builders throwing up the sprawling red-brick Victorian suburbs. And lush plantings of both native trees and exotica in the two large public parks that are also our legacy from Victorian planners. Thanks to those municipal park designers and to Dulwich College, which has vast land holdings and has kept of lot of them green (though in other ways they are a less benign landlord, keeping out useful, ordinary shops and services by their extortionate rents)
, the trees shelter us on all sides from city filth and ugliness, a blessed counterweight (though, squinting up, up, up through the viewfinder, one of these days I'm going to overbalance).

Tuesday 2 December 2008


Wood s Lot linked to my photos. Here's what Struan Gray, of Twiglog, said about Mark Woods' wonderful blog, and his feelings when Mark recently linked to him. I couldn't possible say it better.
Wood s Lot is special because it bucks the seemingly universal trend towards ever more simplified and edited sources of information. Although it is cunningly disguised as a collation of fragmentary links and severed chunks, the blog as a whole presents a consistent and coherent engagement with art, literature, politics and the world of thought... So when Wood s Lot picked up on my... post, I felt rather like a small child seeing the Presidential cavalcade stop, and the great man getting out of his limo to congratulate me on my flag waving skills.


Monday 1 December 2008

The visible world

Autumn's curtain call

It makes me very happy that quite a few people liked my 'under' photos, below, and they actually inspired two poems, Bill's in the Comments below and Dave's on his own blog! This means a lot to me especially because I took them when feeling pretty wretched. The effort to be attentive, it seems, is never lost. As long as you keep looking around and trying to express something, there is an accumulated quality of attention that may creep up and surprise you, creep up from somewhere way deeper than the currently prevailing mood.

The redoubtable Whiskey River has a lovely quotation today from Czeslaw Milosz:

"... for I have learned to doubt philosophy
and the visible world is all that remains."

Sunday 30 November 2008


That was NaBloPoMo. Decided on seventy words a day, a length I could easily write to, and it proved SO HARD. Reluctant work-out for a miserable mind that wanted to cower in silence. No. Bugger it. Go away. No words. But there are always words, and words are something. A small confrontation with the nature of writing. The mind telling itself: yes, I'm here. However hopeless, I am conscious, someone.

Saturday 29 November 2008


lots more under-people here

Trafalgar Square on a freezing, rainy day when the wet pavement shone like a cold, still lake. Clicking away, thinking: this surface is so good, there’ll surely be something of interest. Looked at what I’d got and thought at first there was nothing. Then, looking below the people instead of straight at them, realised there was a lot – a brief, clear view into the underworld peopled by all our doppelgangers.

Friday 28 November 2008


Struan Gray: Elder

Via Wood s Lot, a beguiling new blog, Twiglog, by Struan Gray in Lund, Sweden: my commonplace book …ideas, musings and works in progress …and photos, naturally. He also has a photo website: photographs which move me the most are the ones taken ...on repeated visits to the same small places. His is an aesthetic that resonates completely with me and I know will also with many of my blogging friends.

Thursday 27 November 2008


Difficult one. I'm feeling ungrateful. And guilty. Very Protestant. It’s a problem, perhaps, that for most of us now there is no annual harvest. We’re genetically programmed, I think, for cycles of feast and famine. The hamster-wheel life of regular work and regular pay, however well padded your wheel, may be less conducive to well-being.

I’m truly grateful for my American friends (especially Tamar - check out the video at 0.49 min) and hope they’re all enjoying a long weekend off.

Yes, that's more than 70 words (Tamar's fault). In brackets or italics doesn't count.

Wednesday 26 November 2008


Albrecht Dürer: Young Woman with Bound Hair, 1497

The exhibition was worth the major effort it cost me to get out of bed at the weekend. Such treasures of deep, luminous, intelligent beauty. Gazing at this lovely painting – the colours! the gravity! the delicacy! her nose! her wrist! - I heard myself silently ask: are you enough? Is art enough to make life worth living? And got no answer. I suppose the answer is ‘sometimes’ – better than ‘no’.

Monday 24 November 2008


Leaving the Renaissance Faces, the sublimely, timelessly poignant and inscrutable, and having heard about some smart-arsed photo of a woman with a plastic bag on her head, it was tempting not to bother with the annual photographic portrait exhibition next door. But it was free, and raining outside. In fact, the photo in question is beautiful, the subject's pale, Flemish face as haunting as those of her ancestors, as translucent as... well, as the plastic bag.


Eating pea soup for Sunday lunch, I remember something I never notice but suddenly noticed some months ago in a crowded silent retreat dining room. My manner of eating soup labels me - age: over fifty; social class of origin: lower aspiring (my grandmother had been in domestic service and raised her kids to ape their betters). Instinctively, infallibly, I spoon the soup away from me. Most people, these days, don't.

Saturday 22 November 2008


Another meme going around lately: post the sixth photo from the sixth file on your computer. Here it is. An early effort with my first camera. Not so bad. St Barnabas Church, Dulwich. I like those trees. They survived the fire that destroyed the Victorian church sixteen years ago, look just as good against the new church, completed in 1996, and perhaps influenced the form and positioning of its spire.

Friday 21 November 2008


Ernesto linked to this article about Sheila Jeffreys' clear-eyed condemnation of the global sex industry. Thirty years ago, she was a leader of radical, separatist feminism in England. Remembering how they tore my life apart, for I loved a man. No, unfair. My own immaturity, ambivalence and inability to trust my own feelings tore my life apart. Theirs was a brave voice of dissent. Such voices needed, then and now.

Thursday 20 November 2008


Dave King, whom I've got to know quite recently, first through his kind comments here and then his thoughtful, knowledgeable, sometimes lyrical blog, passed me a 'seven facts about yourself' meme, which he's just done himself. Here's a link to when I last did something similar - lazy solution, but also it's much more interesting than anything I could come up with today! And I'll just issue a general invitation...

Wednesday 19 November 2008


…photo from Sunday. Because today, spent in a spin, has no fixed image. This month of blogging is proving hugely challenging because I don't want to crystalise my current experience in words on a screen. I want to be numb, and writing even a couple of sentences every day makes that harder. The degree to which I want to stop this has become in itself a motivation for continuing. This hit home.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Postal Poetry

On a not at all negative note, I have something up at Postal Poetry today. I'm delighted about this, as I love the format and they've been publishing some really terrific, resonant stuff. I've very much enjoyed playing with this. Quite new to me, as I don't have Photoshop. The free image manipulation software, Gimp, is not bad though. Do consider having a go!


The wonderful PsychoTherapist likes my use of negative space (below). My current space is not just visually negative! Wondering whether words worth reading can come from such a space. Can there still be a perception of beauty or a satisfying verbal pattern? Or better shut up? Andy decides to shut up for now, and I’m sorry. His words, even when bleak, are never unengaging because he writes so well. Hmm.

Monday 17 November 2008


the white air hollowed out

A quiet Sunday of books, music, sleep, last leaves and, suddenly, silence: Sunday suburban silence like there used to be when I was young. The white air hollowed out and every surface (once the rain had dried) matt, dusty, friable. Tap and it echoes. Tap of few feet on deserted pavements. Pale crackle of those last leaves. Thought bubbles surfacing and bursting softly in the emptied, slowed-down space.

Sunday 16 November 2008


May Sarton: painted in 1937, photographed in 1992

Decide to reread all May Sarton's journals, beginning with the iconic Journal of a Solitude. It doesn't disappoint. Memory plays tricks, though. I had the journals down as all of a piece: limpid, vigorous, poetic dispatches from old age, and am shocked to realise she wrote Journal of a Solitude twelve years before its first UK publication in 1985. She was 58, scarcely older than I am now.

Saturday 15 November 2008


Radio Three Early Music Show on almost lost music from the Dutch Golden Age. Music for voice, strings, organ by Hooft, Huygens, Sweelinck. Notes as pure and intense as the colours in Vermeer's paintings. I was on the way out, but hover, listening, instead. Feel plucked, bowed. Multiple orgasms in the brain. Gorgeous music rising in the air, like mist rising from the dark waters of an Amsterdam canal. Wow.

Friday 14 November 2008


Anything new on the damn computer, my brain blocks. I'm from another time, began this too late, in my thirties. I hate this repeated blank incomprehension, want to run, screaming and flailing, from my dithering, humiliating incompetence. I know it will usually slide into place, given time and patience. But the fear is almost overwhelming. If I can't keep abreast of this, I can't make a living. And then what will become of me?

Thursday 13 November 2008


Beyond tired, beyond ill and beyond depressed, a flickering, sharp-edged place I've never been before, whose name I do not know, or whether it is to be welcomed or feared. Rewind, go on, as long as the mechanism responds. Maybe in the end that's all there is. But so far through the story, isn't it strange, this blankness, the links and assumptions breaking, the pages unwriting themselves?

Wednesday 12 November 2008


yellow-green leaves like a Tiffany window

Reading a prize-winning first novel, The First Verse, by Irish writer Barry McCrea, and disappointingly unbeguiled by it, although it's rich and surprising. But just read Diary of a Bad Year by J M Coetzee, a spare, dry semi-fiction, with great pleasure. Changing tastes are interesting, but also alarming and undermining because I've always, in the absence of successful relationships with real people, found self-reflection, validation in novels, films and music.

Tuesday 11 November 2008


From my sleepy, early morning kitchen, South-East facing, the sun, unseen for a week or more, is a blast of white light on the horizon - gone as quickly as it came, but silvery minnows slip now through the grey, watery clouds, followed by bigger fish, bigger, and finally blue whales, crowding the sky. Against the blue: the beech tree's remaining leaves, intensely yellow-green, like a Tiffany window.

Monday 10 November 2008


Derek Walcott writes a poem for Barack Obama, who’s been sighted with a copy of his Collected Poems. Walcott’s Omeros sits on my bookshelf, a present a dozen years ago from an older, better read colleague - sits unopened: I didn’t read poetry then. These days, a long reading voyage later (through books but mostly, amazingly, through the Internet) I’ve begun, very late, to read poetry, and now eye the book.

Sunday 9 November 2008


Through a veil of rain and a fog of fever (lousy cold), the quiet Sunday world is all echoes and contrasts, rushing and flagging, Autumn embers sliding down dark trees to lay thick, slimy carpets on the pavement. My inner kaleidoscope, flickering and shifting from black and white to lurid colour, shivery cold to fiery hot, and back again, turning it all into a crazy unfamiliar 3D picture show.

From now until Spring, it's a mole-like existence, with working days spent tunnelled deep and no idea what the sun is doing. So surfacing on Saturday to find it's not doing very much, lost above a roof of purple rain-clouds, is a bit disappointing. The cold and wet on your skin, though, on your dripping snout protruding from the ambit of your umbrella, do tell you you're alive.

Friday 7 November 2008


The squat, harrassed bus-driver smiles ruefully, which changes everything. London bus-drivers, frazzled, underpaid and usually from the least privileged ethnic groups, rarely smile. They get that fragile sense of control that feels so essential to sanity from sailing past crowded bus-stops, swearing at passengers and braking hard so we fall over. Meditators know there is no control - accept it, it won't kill you. Remind self to meditate, and smile.

Thursday 6 November 2008


An eye for found art (well, no, just inertia really) let them dry and drop, and the effect is haunting. They remind me of a small, dark oil study in just these red-brown hues, of dropping flowers in a vase - the only painting we had by my father, who had been a talented, if derivative, amateur artist before he was overtaken by the demands of a late, misguided marriage.

Wednesday 5 November 2008


Well, I'm very glad, of course. Especially for all my friends who campaigned for Obama, who tremulously, then less tremulously, hoped. But, well, for myself, I note this morning a depressing sourness and inability to be moved. The Blair years have made me despise and fear the genus Politician, pretty much regardless of species. I wait, and long, to be convinced. Slow-burning hope is the strongest kind.

Tuesday 4 November 2008


My 'other America' is my blogging friends, in none of whose name the war and the waste have been, any more than the crazed antics of the British acolyte have been in mine. I was going to post the Buddhists for Obama logo, but the time for labels is past, I think. Today, though, in good Buddhist fashion, I'll sit still and breathe out love across the ocean.

Monday 3 November 2008


The tree is losing its foliage in a strange way. Brown leaves litter the ground, but those not yet shed are as vivid a green as ever. You wouldn't know how brittle, unless you touch, how comparatively sparse now, unless you'd seen their previous luxuriance. The next brusque squall, some moody November dawn in the next week or two, will bring on shocking instant baldness.

The crunch quite gone, last night's rain left a world carved from sodden sponge. If I broke off the church steeple, wavering there in the blurred, mauve air, and poked myself with it, I'm sure it would be blunt and water would cascade from the tip. Nothing like yesterday's talk of sleep and dreaming to make you sleep and sleep and .... uh-oh, not now, I'll miss my bus stop.

Up early on a Saturday to go and and hear a talk on dreaming and dying! My cynical side sees more than a touch of masochism, and a sad need to fill my life with something, anything, while my idealistic side goes gladly, seeks devotion and discipline, and admires the teacher. In the stark morning, frosted leaves crunching underfoot, my head snaps crazily between the two.

Friday 31 October 2008


I've submitted this, and a couple of other recent efforts, to the latest Festival of the Trees, at Via Negativa

Going to a buddhist workshop on death and lucid dreaming, scheduled for this weekend, I imagine, with a smile.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime

My cinema going, once fairly obsessional, has ground almost to a halt, with the growing realisation that 'losing myself', being emotionally manipulated to identify in the particularly powerful way that film invokes, no longer appeals to me all that much. The few films I do see are usually French - their focused, small-scale, highly crafted articulacy still does it for me sometimes.

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime / I've Loved You So Long
is a wonderfully satisfying example of this kind of film-making, with Kristin Scott Thomas in the performance of her life, quietly, often silently, spellbinding in almost every scene. Receiving the performance through the vehicle of her French, which sounds like mine - pretty convincing, but a few ineradicable English vowels - made it particularly touching, I think. She haunted my dreams the night I saw it, and will for a while.

Here's an informative review and a trailer from The Guardian. And another good review from John Baker - I don't agree with John (I often do agree with him) about the ending as a weakness: I think catharsis and redemption, not realism, are the intent, and the film worked well for me on that level.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Triangles in the air

John Berger talks about translation. It’s triangular, he says, arms drawing giant triangles in the air. The process is a triangular, not a linear, one. We have to get behind the text, get to the pre-verbal, and bring it back in our own language.

It was a wrestling match, the Palestinian academic Rema Hammami says of their work together on an English translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, Mural. She began with a set of aspirations all of which she ended by abandoning, began by trying to be technically faithful, thinking that was the best way to honour the Arabic language and the poet. She was scandalised by what he came up with – not translation, she thought, but re-writing. And so they struggled, back and forth, giving birth to the translation.

Wait till I pack my bag Death
my toothbrush soap after-shave and some clothes

Is the climate warm over there?
Do the seasons change in the eternal whiteness?

Or does the weather stay fixed in autumn or winter?

Will one book be enough to read in non-time?

Or should I take a library?

And what do they talk over there?

vernacular or classical?

At the Queen Elizabeth Hall last Friday, Berger and Hammami read their translation of Mural (a longer extract is here) and showed a film of Darwish, physically frail but verbally vigorous, at his last public reading not long before his death in August. In discussion with David Constantine, co-editor with his wife Helen of Modern Poetry in Translation, whose Palestine issue included the work, they talked in terms both modest and enormous about translating poetry today. The significance of poetry in dark times. How potentially global the audience now is. They talked about the autonomy, the truth, the transcendence of poetry amidst lies and chaos, in a world out of control. How poets are on the move all over the world, yet poetry only works if it is rooted in the particular. How poetry is the last resort, an ‘appeal to the sky’, but also heard by other people. How it can become a ‘nodule of energy’, shared energy, capable, in some unquantifiable way, of increasing endurance, building strength for action.

I made copious notes throughout – something I never do – wanting to remember, to capture that nodule of energy.

From the Resist Network (who have some other great stuff on their website):
John Berger reads from the translation of Mural.

Monday 27 October 2008

The week's edge

The sky is a uniform soft blue, like brushed denim. My breath, harshly visible before me when I left the house an hour ago, is barely there now, a vague, suggestive trickle of me into the out-there.

All weekend, I hid, curled up, chewing my fingers. Go away. Go away. That frightening, fragile edge. This tender, mysterious edge.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Not yet shrivel'd

An Editorial in
The Reader magazine (free issue available for download) directs me to this poem, published in 1633 by George Herbert. How wondrous is the Internet!

The Flower

How Fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.

Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greennesse? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an houre;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell,
We say amisse,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.

O that I once past changing were;
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offring at heav’n, growing and groning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-showre,
My sinnes and I joining together;

But while I grow to a straight line;
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?

And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.

These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can finde and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Thursday 16 October 2008

When you stop

What happens when you stop?, I’d been wondering, and thinking: nothing good - and it wasn’t. Yesterday was TOIL (who invented that bloody acronym?), and I slept and walked and cried and slept a lot more, twelve, fifteen hours, with needy, disturbing dreams. Cathartic, I suppose, but wretched.

Working like this, I plod on, losing myself in work, losing myself in expanding flesh (that horrible Spanish expression, entrada en carnes - encased in meat), the small spark of self threatening to be squeezed and squeezed until it snuffs out. I wonder why I mind so much, since I can’t but view this ‘self’ as a cumulative disaster. But I do, I do.

Lately, on the bus, I’ve been reading books about the brain, about neurological damage (Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia; Claire Morrall: The Language of Others), reading with a chill of recognition and wondering if some of my deficits are neurological as well as psychological (does it matter?). Painful thoughts, but the will not to be snuffed out is strong for all that.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In brief periods of wakefulness yesterday, I was glad to have read two excellent and very different blog posts from Zen Habits and from Via Negativa, for Blog Action Day on Poverty.

Tuesday 14 October 2008


(Do you have this annoying optical illusion effect that the top photo isn't straight?

Monday 13 October 2008

Orhan Pamuk remembers beginning

"When I was seventeen or eighteen, and began to spend most of my time on my own, reading... like every Turk who loved reading, I started writing poetry... I was like one of those innocent souls who, when they see an 'abstract' painting think: 'I could do that'... I started wanting to write poetry and I sat down at my desk and wrote some."

From a lovely article by Pamuk on his life with books, published in El Pa
ís on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Turkey will be Guest of Honour this year - I expect this long piece will surface somewhere in English.