Thursday, 24 July 2014

Poems by Me

Pleased to have five poems published by Boston Poetry Magazine, here:  With thanks to Kate Garrett.


Tonight I became a grandfather!  My son Thomas and his partner Nora have had a girl, Johanna Nike, and it's an absolutely marvellous thing.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

JUDGEMENT by Dawn Wood

after ‘Birches’ - Robert Frost
To Jeremy and Christine Auld

You must have seen him when he was a fixture
and no one asked what pin he swivelled on
and just accepted he was swinging, rooted

on the spire, but earth’s a better place
for love, so slicing through the annex roof

he bent to join the nave of the cathedral

and what a lovely copper stippled smile

he is with scalloped feathers, viewed up close.
The inner dome of heaven hadn’t fallen
and I would say the universe conspired

with the same pains you’d use to fill a cup

up to the brim and even above the brim

to see no one was killed or cut or wept

the smallest tear, unless the Truth breaks in –
co-incidence, my dear. And it is good

the insurance will cover the cost of scaffolding
to put him back where seagulls come and go
and play in batches, learning all there is

to learn about not launching out too soon.

Reproduced. with the permission of the author. from her new collection Ingathering, published by the ever-splendid Templar Poetry (ISBN 9781906285685).  I'll be reviewing the collection for Iota later in the year. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


I cannot bring myself to part with all my back copies of Encounter, the magazine published from the mid 1950s by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a group of left-leaning anti-Stalinists.  In the mid-Sixties publication of the journal was revealed to be partly funded by British and American secret services.  However, this had not prevented it publishing W.H. Auden, Aldous Huxley, Mary McCarthy, Arthur Koestler, Kenneth Tynan, Daniel Bell, Claud Cockburn, A.J. Ayer, Alberto Moravia, James Baldwin, Nirad Chauduri, Albert Camus, John Braine, Bertrand Russell....(all picked from the first 25 issues). Imagine a journal as rich and diverse as this today, then imagine it being backed by the CIA and MI5.  However, should anyone reading this want a bunch of old Encounters (very far from complete), I am more than willing to pass them on gratis.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

SUMMER WIND by William Cullen Bryant

It is a sultry day; the sun has drunk
The dew that lay upon the morning grass;
There is no rustling in the lofty elm
That canopies my dwelling, and its shade
Scarce cools me. All is silent, save the faint
And interrupted murmur of the bee,
Settling on the sick flowers, and then again
Instantly on the wing. The plants around
Feel the too potent fervors: the tall maize
Rolls up its long green leaves; the clover droops
Its tender foliage, and declines its blooms.
But far in the fierce sunshine tower the hills,
With all their growth of woods, silent and stern,
As if the scorching heat and dazzling light
Were but an element they loved. Bright clouds,
Motionless pillars of the brazen heaven–
Their bases on the mountains–their white tops
Shining in the far ether–fire the air
With a reflected radiance, and make turn
The gazer’s eye away. For me, I lie
Languidly in the shade, where the thick turf,
Yet virgin from the kisses of the sun,
Retains some freshness, and I woo the wind
That still delays his coming. Why so slow,
Gentle and voluble spirit of the air?
Oh, come and breathe upon the fainting earth
Coolness and life! Is it that in his caves
He hears me? See, on yonder woody ridge,
The pine is bending his proud top, and now
Among the nearer groves, chestnut and oak
Are tossing their green boughs about. He comes;
Lo, where the grassy meadow runs in waves!
The deep distressful silence of the scene
Breaks up with mingling of unnumbered sounds
And universal motion. He is come,
Shaking a shower of blossoms from the shrubs,
And bearing on their fragrance; and he brings
Music of birds, and rustling of young boughs,
And sound of swaying branches, and the voice
Of distant waterfalls. All the green herbs
Are stirring in his breath; a thousand flowers,
By the road-side and the borders of the brook,
Nod gayly to each other; glossy leaves
Are twinkling in the sun, as if the dew
Were on them yet, and silver waters break
Into small waves and sparkle as he comes.

Monday, 14 July 2014

FOR ANDREW WOOD by James Fenton

This was brought to my attention by my friend Mr Adam Kean, and I am most grateful.

England v India, 2nd Test

"The grass is matted, raggy, struggling to stay alive amidst the dirt and rubble. Flowing through the maidan are little canals, the surface is pock-marked with ditches, even what looks like small ravines and the whole area is filled with people from every walk of life. It is amidst such confusion and noise that Indians learn to play their cricket." 
Mihir Bose, from A Maidan View (1986)

They had no grandstand or marquee,
   Down by the Quarry Farm:
There was a wealth of leafy tree
   Behind the bowler's arm.

There were no scorecards to be had,
   Cushions for folk to hire;
Only we saw the butcher's lad
   Bowl out the village Squire.

Lord's and the Oval truly mean
   Zenith of hard-won fame,
But it was just a village green
   Mothered and made the game.

G.D. Martineau
'The Village Pitch'

Looking forward to next Saturday and my seat at Lord's - thunderstorms keep away!

Friday, 11 July 2014

On the Beach at Fontana by James Joyce

Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.

From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.

Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love! 

For those who think Joyce is difficult, this might come as a shock.  A lovely simple poem expressing a father's love for his child.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Michael Oakeshott on Conversation

It may be supposed that the diverse idioms of utterance which make up current human intercourse have some meeting-place and compose a manifold of some sort. And, as I understand it, the image of this meeting-place is not an inquiry or an argument, but a conversation.

In a conversation the participants are not engaged in an inquiry or a debate; there is no 'truth' to be discovered, no proposition to be proved, no conclusion sought. They are not concerned to inform, to persuade, or to refute one another, and therefore the cogency of their utterances does not depend upon their all speaking in the same idiom; they may differ without disagreeing. Of course, a conversation may have passages of argument and a speaker is not forbidden to be demonstrative; but reasoning is neither sovereign nor alone, and the conversation itself does not compose an argument. . . . In conversation, 'facts' appear only to be resolved once more into the possibilities from which they were made; 'certainties' are shown to be combustible, not by being brought in contact with other 'certainties' or with doubts, but by being kindled by the presence of ideas of another order; approximations are revealed between notions normally remote from one another. Thoughts of different species take wing and play round one another, responding to each other's movements and provoking one another to fresh exertions. Nobody asks where they have come from or on what authority they are present; nobody cares what will become of them when they have played their part. There is no symposiarch or arbiter, not even a doorkeeper to examine credentials. Every entrant is taken at its face-value and everything is permitted which can get itself accepted into the flow of speculation. And voices which speak in conversation do not compose a hierarchy. Conversation is not an enterprise designed to yield an extrinsic profit, a contest where a winner gets a prize, not is it an activity of exegesis; it is an unrehearsed intellectual adventure. It is with conversation as with gambling, its significance lies neither in winning nor in losing, but in wagering. Properly speaking, it is impossible in the absence of a diversity of voices: in it different universes of discourse meet, acknowledge each other and enjoy an oblique relationship which neither requires nor forecasts their being assimilated to one another.

This, I believe, is the appropriate image of human intercourse, appropriate because it recognizes the qualities, the diversities, and the proper relationships of human utterances. As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves. Of course there is argument and inquiry and information, but wherever these are profitable they are to be recognized as passages in this conversation, and perhaps they are not the most captivating of the passages. It is the ability to participate in this conversation, and not the ability to reason cogently, to make discoveries about the world, or to contrive a better world, which distinguishes the human being from the animal and the civilized man from the barbarian. Indeed, it seems not improbable that it was the engagement in this conversation (where talk is without a conclusion) that gave us our present appearance, man being descended from a race of apes who sat in talk so long and so late that they wore out their tails. Education, properly speaking, is an initiation into the skill and partnership of this conversation in which we learn to recognize the voices, to distinguish the proper occasions of utterance, and in which we acquire the intellectual and moral habits appropriate to conversation. And it is this conversation which h, in the end, gives place and character to every human activity and utterance. 

 from 'The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind', Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, (Methuen 1962) pp 197-247 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Hollyhock Hate

Some prize lame-o tore down our lovely local not-quite-fully-bloomed hollyhock last night, leaving a sad broken stem  Is it wrong to assume this was the work of a youthful person with issues, such as a hatred of beauty or the eccentric (or both)?