Wednesday, March 31, 2004

... Just Googlewhacked With ...

Wire or wood constructions used to imprison Avian Animals


The word which refers to a word which sounds like what it refers to.

Sad isn't it but it must be done at least once.

Phew! Very tired now so bye all.

I Thought The Repo Man Had Come To Get Me

"And the award for the best overuse of commas goes to ...."

Listening to Macedonian Woman's Rant - Peatbog Faeries

I nearly ran over Alex Cox yesterday! Now being a sort-of-Liverpool, film director I could understand what he was doing in the city but on our site? Maybe he is making a cutting and slightly surreal film about life in the fast lane of a hard-working-but-slightly-bizarre IT department. No? One day we will find out. I was going to stop and show him what was in the boot (trunk) but I thought better of it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Academia and the Sad, Blue Blade

Listening to New York Counterpoint - Steve Reich

As I am listening to this, some deep bit of it cries out to be written down, to have its detail defined in words so that you can hear how it is.

I have gone back to reading the Andrew Motion Biography of Philip Larkin after finishing The White Stuff. There is a passage, which I cannot recall in detail where Larkin defines poetry as something like a tenth of the intensity that the poet originally intended when he thought of the moment that he was trying to describe. I took my daughter to a party this weekend, and while I sat ostensibly keeping an eye on her as she sailed through the air on the bouncy castle, I wrote in my notebook. The stuff I wrote was just what was in my head at the time and it seemed to burn into the pages. I am not saying that it was good poetry but it certainly meant something to me at the time and conveyed images to me. Larkin, despite his being a cantankerous old sod with unsavoury prejudices, sometimes said things that were just so correct and beautiful that you have to bow to his superior knowledge of things. See The Whitsun Weddings. I was possibly on the point of giving up on the book but that has renewed my vigour and determination to complete it. Thank you Martin.

The White Stuff was a wonderful book by the way. A book with a defined solution that then returns to your mind later to say well that wasn't a proper solution - leaving the way open for a whole new book. Not that there will be one; I think that is the point.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Random Friday - Tribute to Spalding Gray

They gave me money to go to Cambodia to take in the music, to revel in the humidity and the culture and I refused to go. I went to Bali instead - much safer then I thought but not now. That beating bronze is wonderful. The low notes are the gently swaying body, the mid-range melody represents the arms while that fluttering of fingers is the stereo of the Kotekan, the interlocking parts in the top-end. There is so much grace in this land that it hurts to watch and listen. The dogs are used to this noise and stay asleep in the cooler parts of the village. We had to drive over rice to get here, laid out on the road to dry or cure or some other food processing I could not make out in the squall of information they gave me. I felt guilty as I though that this might be all they had to eat but then you see the piled up offerings, the reality of the plenty that is this island. There is poverty here; I have photographs of beggar children in the road with sticks that could be threatening or could be just self-protection; there are I am sure plenty of people from both sides of the world who want to hurt them.

There is a continuous sound track to this place. If it is not the distant interactions of two village orchestras competing in the night, it is the sound of frogs and insects, the almost sub-sonic scuttling of Geckos over the walls, or the ever-present wind which makes the island so good for kite-flying. But there is little distinction between the music and the natural sounds for they are rooted in the same thing. The music tells stories of the natural world and the natural world is not bothered; it does not listen but instead carries on with its own melodies and dramas. Everywhere you ste there are animals and plants growing and fighting and eating and making noise and music. Here is a performance of the Ramayana a shadow play that lasts for an hour and takes up all the attention of everyone in the village. It is fire behind the screen, an orange glow which makes everything that takes place on the stage of the screen seem to have a heavenly off-island quality.

Everywhere here is defined by its direction relative to the mountains. There is no North or West, just towards the sacred mountain or away from the sacred mountain. Their mountain is therefore the centre of the universe, the thing from which all others are derived. These islanders with water in sight at every gap in the green hills, are not great mariners or even great local fishermen but they know fish and they cook it well whenever they can, firing it up with things that would be off any normal range of the Scoville scale for us. We eat chillies for fun here and guzzle the water for which we have to bargain. Your first offer is always an insult to the seller's entire family but you will leave with a smile after having paid only a few pence over that first figure. Water is good at any time; cold water could be traded for the Holy Grail.

The radio plays some Balinese/Hip-Hop hybrid, a meld of metalphone and big beats, the sound of a filing cabinet being dropped down a lift shaft. I should have bought as many of these records as I thought I could safely get back with me. They have done this once - who can say that they will not try again? Are we not safer here now than we were before. This peaceful race was violated by that bomb. How can you not see that? I love everybody. The whole world is vanishing before my eyes given a lift to the sacred mountain with an explosion. Hell is that way boys but I expect you already know that. Don't expect Virgil to show you round just because he is in Limbo. Sad place but the conversation is great. Up and up to the stratosphere. I could not think I would get this far. Does this repeat like that poor man blown up by his own bomb in the book about the policeman gradually becoming one with his bicycle? A book written entirely in foot notes. We have no space for the novel itself. De Selby and the Anchovy, just one, a little one but one which tastes so much of the distant world from which you have come. I have forgotten my own name now. I know that something bad happened here so many times. Brother killed brother and the valleys were filled with the results of political violence.

Life is so safe here. The music is safe; the roads are safe. It is just in here (points to head) that the danger lies. Music ties up with some bad thing in my memory and becomes that terrible repeating error that makes you ill. The morning in the showere when you realise that you have had one line of some inane song which you hate going round and round in your head. I go hazy like the sight of this island through the mist and low clouds. It rains here so often, a warm rain but then again you wouldn't expect snow would you. We sat in the van in the middle of fields. Anyone could jump me here but I knew they would not. The outsiders are not liked but they always smile nicely. The music fades in, a gentle drone with no percussion. It interests me for a few seconds until I realise that it is not music but the sound of a billion insects flying down from the mountain. The rains have flooded the crater lake and washing away everything they have started the journey to the sea, to the resorts, the gold-courses, the two islands. All that vegetation will be like mud in a few minutes and we will be in the warm sea with the turtles and the parrots. Europe is so far away. I cannot get back. They must send me back before I drown, here I can pay the tax you ask for. What is that powder on the baggage? Just chalk! A cross to indicate the exoticness of my destination. The butterflies are over my head, an eclipse of powdery wings, showering us with coloured scales until the landscape is no more than grey. We need to money to see this sight reserved for millionaires and billionaires. The bomb in the baby carriage took out half of downtown Denpasar and yet we do not have mines and missiles. This war is so strange. They have the non-vertebrate world on their side. Whole armies of insects and cephalopods have made there way here to get their own back they say, to hurt the exploiting owners of the planet. It is not ours they tell me. Here is a laughing squid held up in some jar of blue water, mad and single-eyed. It speaks only in adjectives, which makes conversation difficult. But of course it did not have the advantages I had, the education, the learning to talk. I was crawling while this mass of edible jelly was just about dragging itself along the sandy bottom of the shallow bay. I am hungry now. This is obviously lunch, the sweet and crunchy antagonist. I take the glass-bound enemy and slice him up, fry him quickly and then eat him. He has no concept of hell but this must be close to what we think he would imagine.

This is hell. The orange glow of the Ramayana becomes the orange glow of petrol tanks burning. The storm has taken so many away here and made so many cry. The cause of grief has no remorse and thinks he will get his reward; the pornographic movies he sees in his head keep with him until the trigger is squeezed or better still those many years in front of him roll out as boredom and the point of death comes to his smiling face in some damp cell. And a split second before the oblivion hits him, the truth is known; self-knowledge defines how he dies. I know he is wrong. And now so does he.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Dexter is so Sinister

I said I would not get a book at our next trip to library but while looking for more Martin Amis I found The White Stuff, the new novel by Simon Armitage. This has only just been published so the library service is definitely on the ball here. All of his books have an element of magic realism and still manages to feel constructed, always a way of making one read on. There is something about The White Stuff I can't quite define though it may be a sense of familiarity with the characters maybe because I am the same age as both the author and the guy in the book.

I can't build up any enthusiasm for anything much today. All the talk of terrorism and troubles puts me in the "Why bother?" mood. Some of my colleagues talk about the political implications of various reactions to terrorist acts but I think that the perpetrators simply want to see dead bodies and twisted metal. They have no political aim in the long term other than a perverse sort of revenge for some ill-undefined misdeed done to them in the past. Some people say that they want to replace our political system with their own but they must know that that is not going to happen until the whole of the western world is laid waste ... and then why bother? I can't even get it together enough to start undoing mistakes in yesterday's entry. I have a cold again - they seem to come around every three weeks at the moment. To top it all, I thought it was Thursday today ... so happy St. Patrick's Day - anyone seen that snake?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Nothing Here But Us

Listening to - Not listened to play list on WMP - at present - Gary Numan - remember I was Vapour

The air felt strange this morning. It has been quite light on my drive to work for the last few weeks but today it was darker again with a very heavy sky. Togather with this, all I could feel was a real sense of something about to happen. Now of course we all know what we are expecting. But there is nothing happening. When it does happen and it is not us, how are we going to react?

Monday, March 15, 2004

Still Swimming To Cambodia

More here on Spalding Gray.

I watched The Killing Fields again this weekend. I was expecting it to be lacking something because of the way film has changed in the twenty years since it was made but I was wrong. It captures all the confusion of the war in which the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Cambodian Government, the sadness at not getting Dith Pran out of the country and the simplicity and downright evil of the KR regime. I kept seeing nineteen-eighty-four in the attitude of the kids towards the past. The teenager with the handful of blue bags used to suffocate her victims was especially chilling - far more so than the gruesome pile of decomposing bodies into which Pran stumbled while trying to escape.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

[Title Deleted]

You must continue to look at the world with some positivity at least.

Listening to - From Gardens Where We Feel Secure - Virginia Astley

... because I really need to at the moment. There are no bombs in this world; the sounds are just of tree growing and birds singing. Fall into this wood and fear no future. Fight the fight and the future. What seems so meaningless to us can have so much significance to those who carry out the act but events of this nature go beyond any real understanding. Let them all have their little countries and then let big business join them all up again. This is the murky world of seats, a random page torn from some dusty book. We all travelled back to the Wellingtonia and hugged every tree along the way. There are bells in the distance and the sound of a river close by a church. There are no bombs in this world: the crusades were too long ago to remember but somewhere in the world those times are built into the mind of every child. We continue all the mindlessness, years and years of this stuff, a brand in the meninges, almost a gene for it. Read this and do you understand how to fight this? We think ourselves intelligent but we are simply big bacteria staining the silver surface of this planet until something wipes us out, some cosmic antiseptic. But we are our own destiny; we have got all that we ask for and it comes right back at us. This literary stream is just the wordy version of our thoughts, the stripped-out line of sight that is our mind.
Space Lab

Can The Flat Earth Society still be serious about what they are saying. The basic idea of a flat Earth was not that ludicrous but all the extra stuff (All places called Springfield being linked in space) is just silly. I suppose we have to trust scientists about things we cannot see but a flat Earth seems against our own experience of the world. How much different would our navigation systems have to be to allow safe air travel across the weirdly-shaped Earth of the FES? Can't see why I am bothering to write this; must be for the sake of words which have been lacking recently - though of course the poems are doozies.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Dryad and Naiad

Murder and men on fire; I have seen the eyes of living dead. They paint you with light, capture you at the point of your own death and here we see you like a ghost in a ludicrous repetition of the inexcusable mistakes made by all of us. They tumble bombs into your villages and make you run into the arms of either America or the revolutionary. What do you think happens?

Well At Least He Saw Pol Pot Go First

Very sad to see that Spalding Gray has died. However, as the Guardian Obituary says, this might all be an elaborate ruse to allow him to attend his own funeral and write a monologue about it. Gray played a relatively minor part in The Killing Fields (which I borrowed on DVD this weekend) but came to major note for his filmed monologue Swimming To Cambodia. This is simply Gray, at a table, in front of an audience in what appears to be a simple New-York theatre stage, mouthing off about whatever interests him. Very powerful and very funny. See it!

While trying to find a picture of the dead Pol Pot, just as proof that he really has gone, I came across many pictures of the Victims of his regime taken by their own guards. There are many prison-style photos, a sort of ludicrous repetition of the utter evil of what was done to them in the name of pure political extremism.

And now, with no real link from one thing to another, The Henry Kissinger Show. Satire is dead! Long Live Satire.

Monday, March 08, 2004

We'll call them Frida and Kahlo!

Who do you see in this picture?

Listening to - 99.9 F - Suzanne Vega

I finally finished Money this weekend and by coincidence, it was mentioned in the next book I read as having only one semicolon - something about which Martin Amis was more than usually smug about - author's words not mine and maybe not quite hers exactly. I was going to read Wintering but I though I ought to finish Eats Shoots and Leaves first, hence the semicolon stuff. I don't remember the semicolon in Money. Reliance on Cliché? Ha! Never.

A child hangs at an angle against the rain-blasted gatepost of the garden to her house. This is a small rural farm in some state of abandonment but she lives there and likes living there. The afternoon is warm though the sky is not entirely clear. The image flows, becomes a broken scene for seconds and the girl's first words are lost in the staticky crackle of the failed tape on which it is stored. We have an idea that this is a country place, the fields stretch away to the limit of our sight, but there are the sounds of engines and technology mixed in with the birds and wind and almost-sea of the shaking trees. The white noise of the billowing woods fades in and out to make all speech a patchwork. I lie in the shade of the edge of the nearest field, not quite with a piece of straw in my mouth but it would not look odd if I had. What is my accent in this place? I have that guttural, dolty sound that divides the town from the country with such ease. You must think I dream of tractors and ploughs and not having to get up early to do the milking. But my house is the centre of the future, the blazing heart of a revolution in thinking that will overturn the very way you see the world. Or so I heard someone say. My sister calls me again and I stand and wave as coolly as is possible when you are my age. She shrugs and turns to go in. I have rhymes and the secret of something in my head; talking to her will only make me lose this and then we will fight. She fights better than I do and I daren't hit her; she is a girl after all and she is the one with all the ideas.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Waulking Music

Listening to - Spiritchaser - Dead Can Dance

Melange! Now that's a good word for something. I will remember that and keep it for use in something later. I can hear every ancestor shouting in the distance. What spirit can cause someone to do this? This is not a man; it is a bird, a Loon, a Great Northern Diver. That call; its just gets me here. The short night comes to us and the bird is still alone. This cry for a mate has made us all think of how the light is changing. Our eyes do not see things in the same way that they did so many years ago. I see evenings and sinking suns, making shadows long and helpless. Crossing the Corpus Callosum a bass desire for a faultless memory. This twister is so much a pool for deep resonance and sustenance through music. The thoughts are on that bridge, somehow stopped between the two halves of my brain, this little tingling of hope and ecstasy. Yo La Ley Legear. What meaning in so little! The black song, the blank words of the east, the sad songs of those broken places, the big divide that one day may take us all to see who is right. I build nothing in the waves; they knock down everything I try with their blowsy cataracts, their forces of nature and desire. Dim Dacha in the moonlight. See that place? That is where your father took on the whole revolution one snowy day; nearly made it they say but that is where he fell bloody and screaming at the window as the booted ones took him out with little red books. See here is his jacket and there on it, the blood he spilled for us. Don't you think that this is getting needlessly messianic? I am here forever, a black root twisted off and left by the roadside. We are not safe anymore. You must not err on the side of caution or you will end up flattened, crushed and breathless in some firestorm, but spared the long-term evils of the fallout and the radiation sickness. We flattened a china town, turned it to ruins in one night with a thousand planes. This phase is simply simple, a two guitar dream of two tracks against each other to show you how two countries can live together without worrying about the future. How many times have we fought our neighbours? Those triple-generation wars we had with them have left us always suspicious of them and yet we aid each other in the real times of crisis. Those beeps and whistles make me mad. It is too bright now. The afternoons of spring take too much from the sun and leave in flapping like a fish, across my table, glancing off the paper to polarise into faded lasers on the ceiling. This reel and shanty helps me but does not go south in the winter. We sledged over that hill and revealed our nationality, a word I had to think of. Telling me what, the hell to do now! Telling me what, the hell to do now! A Phase or two to help you through. A Phase or two. These words turn into the music, loud in my ears, the edge of pain but at the peak of excitement at how loud something can be and still mean to stop all functions but dancing. This music sounds like obscenity this loud; it is a screw-you shout, the tale of tubs and how to get there through the air and time to ancient history. In the garden I fell over the wall and drunkenly hushed my colleague, my batman, the other soldier in this two-person war against the future. Overly! What a word. Kingsley hated it and so do I. Verb-wise, verbifying; a self-referential word to show the trail of language from that old minstrel to the false laureate we have today. Call yourself a poet man? Keyhole surgery! You there! What's the bleeding time? Keyhole Poetry and verse to die for. So long my friend. The Loon still calls on that mirror lake. It has no time to go before it must leave for southern places, the mate it found as ghost so long ago has lit its way to Oregon. A Loon. A Loon. The guitar speaks.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Anyone Remember Murun Buchstansangur?

Listening to - Electric Guitar Phase - Steve Reich

This needs to be very loud to get the full ludicrously repeated phrase into your head. Every scratch and squall of every string is audible on both tracks and whereas each track would be simple and boring after just a few cycles, the two together slightly out of phase and tempo creates a beautiful mess of gut-shaking rock/system music. Brilliant. It just ended this second; stopped on a dime. I am trying to resist doing a random Thursday. Last Fridays random entry was quite interesting though I got the feeling I was trying to write a single paragraph poem a bit like these ones from Carrie Etter.

We are reading The Magician's Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia to my daughter at the moment while I am still reading Money by Martin Amis. I must be in Martin Amis mode because the short sentences of the CS Lewis book are causing me to stumble simply because the sentences in Money are so damn long; they would surely come up in Word as "Long Sentence (No Suggestions)". The Carrie Etter poems have made me think even more, that Amis writes Novel length poems when before I always thought of him as a hip gangland style of author who happened to do one book about the Holocaust. (No problem with the capitalisation there.) The biography often quoted poems both because of his friendship with Philip Larkin and the fact that his father wrote them, which I never even suspected.

As I mentioned, I have the Andrew Motion biography of Larkin that is clamouring for attention on the bedside table. I have to not get any books at the next library trip or I will never finish anything. Meanwhile, go and read The Whitsun Weddings. It does so much of what I have tried to do with my poems over the years and does it without trying.
I Could Almost Be Back In Mytholmroyd

Listening to - Tehillim - Steve Reich

I forgot to write anything about Tuesday Night's Homeground program about Ted and Sylvia. Well we both knew it was only half an hour but my wife said she wanted another hour and a half. Pragmatically you cannot expect two hours about poetry on the mainstream channels. Maybe you could get away with it on BBC4 especially with the film and recent revival of interest. Just how much interest in poetry is out there? I suppose I work with people who you would not expect to be word-monsters and most of them have only just heard of Hughes. I could be evangelical about this but that seems like dangerous obsession, a desire for the sheer, damn romanticism of the whole thing. I like to think I started reading Plath before I knew of the story of her and Hughes; I am sure I did and I always knew of Hughes because of the Iron Man and the Crow poems. Then again there is the single event which gives me my green light into the whole messy tragedy. None of this says anything about the programme does it? The presenter was Ian McMillan a man with a light fluffy exterior and a dark heart that Conrad could die for. He brought to life some of Hughes' poetry in a way that I missed when reading it. Poetry is so obviously meant to be read out loud and Hughes' stuff needs a Yorkshireman to do it. I am trying to find Fallgrief's Girlfriends online for you so you can try it but unlike Sylvia, all of Ted's important stuff seems to be missing. Have this one instead; it might not be as meaningful as that great seduction but it sums up a small incident with an economy that is breathtaking.

I have poems falling out of me at the moment. I have asked my wife whether they are just rubbish, a triumph of quantity rather than quality but she just replies that she does not fully understand them but that they read well. I feel confident enough to list this one. You need to look at the picture to get it fully and I hope you will determine how serious it is from the quote under the title.


"Romani ite domum"

The bright awarded background,
turns lighter with its subject.
Each sword, disarmed, takes starlight,
sends it back to heaven,
undiminished, withered by this child.
And here the censer, upright now,
the trademark, the gift, the wealth
of merchants and of kings.

And ground is broken, furrowed
by the weight of all that is to come
and in this ground, the animals
have become one with men.
And the light is painted evenly,
no heavy glass constructions,
no gold rays but blue and gentle,
natural, maternal light.

This fractured city,
crow-branch black,
is bowed with armies,
bent and hungry,
fed with air
and black bread.
The dissipation
makes all sound
a reckless shriek,
the battering of mind
and billeted revenge.

The march of sandals
on the bridges
roads and track,
the leather slap
and burn of vinegar
has shown your end.

This is not typical of the current output; indeed it was done as an exercise when I couldn't think of anything to write about. Well there you go.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Kahutia Te Rangi

We watched Whalerider this weekend - at last. Two great obsessions - er interesting diversions I am quite interested in - Whales and Lisa Gerrard. A great movie in the proper sense rather than my normal, overblown use of the word. I am so disappointed that Keisha Castle-Hughes did not get the best actress Oscar. On to the book.

It steered right down the middle of the two shores of over-long and over-gimmicky. A perfect track.