Saturday, 29 September 2007

chidiock tichbourne revisited

I didn't do justice to him on Tuesday: it seems he was one of 6 conspirators in the "Babington Plot", which freed Elizabeth I's hand to execute Mary Queen of Scots.

His poem was one of 3 he wrote home to his wife from prison. Wikipedia makes great play on his Renaissance use of Antithesis and Paradox -- so, perhaps not much scope for jihadist feeling.

He and the other 5 were disembowelled live in St Giles Fields, which caused such a stir that the next 'traitors' were hung and drawn first. They were all convicted of colluding with Philip of Spain

Louis MacNiece, writing 70 years ago

The Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden

Louis MacNeice 1937

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Room was Suddenly Rich : September Skelfies

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes --
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands --
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis MacNiece 1935

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The Scotsman's Prayer

Our fala, who art in hosh

Alloa be thy name.

Thy kingussie comrie,

Thy weem be dunnet,

In errogie, as it is in hosh.

Gillesbie this day our dairsie brae,

And forres our treshnish

As we forres the treshnish argyll us.

And lealt us not into tarbet ness,

But dalmeny us from easedale

For thine is kinglassie,

Pitlochry and glenisla.

Fochabers and kerrera.


Sunday, 23 September 2007

Another assignment to mull over....Iain Crichton Smith

Here's something weightier to play with - a beautiful poem by Iain Crichton Smith, followed by an interpretation of the poem written by Colette Bryce ( I am not keen on Colette's version - but it's useful to see what she has done I suppose).

You Are at the Bottom of My Mind
(from the Gaelic)

Without my knowing it you are at the bottom of my mind
like a visitor to the bottom of the sea
with his helmet and his two large eyes,
and I do not rightly know your appearance or your manner
after five years of showers
of time pouring between me and you:

nameless mountains of water pouring
between me hauling you on board
and your appearance and manner in my weak hands.
You went astray
among the mysterious plants of the sea-bed
in the green half-light without love,

and you will never rise to the surface
though my hands are hauling ceaselessly,
and I do not know your way at all,
you in the half-light of your sleep
haunting the bed of the sea without ceasing
and I hauling and hauling on the surface.

Iain Crichton Smith

Song for a Stone
(after Iain Crichton Smith)

You are at the bottom of my mind
like a stone dropped once by chance in a pool
to the black belied
by a surface ruled
by a total reflection of sky.

I do not have the know of your want or why,
I do not have the know of your way.
I have only the flow
of the come what may
in the light to the front of my liquid eye.

But you have put a sadness in the blue-
green waters of my mind
for as long as we both may live.

For your time is not of the colour of mine
and the name that is on you cannot be written
over these lips in love.

Colette Bryce.

Friday, 21 September 2007

My favourite Plath Poem

I have a hazy idea from our last skelf - I think I said I would post my favourite poem by Sylvia it is. I cannot remember a time when I have been moved by something beautiful and not thought of this poem - I have just realised that it is now so woven into me that when it creeps into my mind it is my way of recognising that I am falling in love with something, or someone.

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain-
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall
Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Leap incandescent
Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then--
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical,
Yet politic; ignorant
Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant
A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel
For that rare, random descent.

Sylvia Plath

Sunday, 16 September 2007

On birthday presents and setting a good example to your son (happy birthday Charlie)

I nagged my parents for a torch:
- I'd love a torch, oh go on, one of those ones with
the black rubber round them, go on, go on...
It was no good. I wasn't getting anywhere. Then came
my birthday. On the table was a big box. In the box, a
torch. My dad took it out of the box:
- You see that torch, he says, it's waterproof. That is a
waterproof torch.
So that night I got into the bath and went underwater
swimming with it: breathe in, under the water, switch on,
search for shipwrecks and treasure. Up, breathe, under
again, exploring the ocean floor. Then the torch went out.
I shook it and banged it but it wouldn't go. I couldn't
get it to go again. My birthday torch. So I got out the
bath, dried myself off, put on my pyjamas and went
into the kitchen.
- The - er - torch won't work. 'S broken.
- And my dad says, What fo you mean, 'It's broken'? It
couldn't have just broken. How did it break?
- I dunno it just went off.
- I don't believe it. You ask him a simple question and
you never get a simple answer. You must have been
doing something with it.
- No, no, no, it just went off.
- Just try telling the truth, will you? How did it break?
- I was underwater swimming with it.
- Are you mad? When I said this torch is waterproof, I
meant it keeps the rain off. I didn't mean you could go
bloody deep-sea diving with it. Ruined. Completely
ruined. For weeks and weeks he nags us stupid that he
wants one of these waterproof torches and the first thing
he does is wreck it. How long did it last? Two minutes?
Three minutes? These things cost money, you know.
At the weekend, he says,
- We're going into Harrow to take the torch back.
We walk into the shop, my dad goes up to the man at the
counter and says,
- You see this torch. I bought it from you a couple of weeks
ago. It's broken.
So the man picks it up.
- It couldn't have just broken, says the man, how did
it break?
- And my dad says, I dunno, it just went off.
- Come on, says the man, these torches don't just
break down. You must have been doing something with it.
- So I said, Well actually, I was in the -
And I got a kick in the ankle from my dad.
- I was in the - er - oh yeah - the kitchen and it went off.
So the man said he would take it out the back to show
Len. He came back in a few minutes and said that Len
couldn't get it to work either.
- You'll have to have a new one, he says.
- I should think so too, says my dad. Thank YOU!
Outside the shop, my dad says to me,
- What's the matter with you? You were going to tell him
all about your underwater swimming fandango, weren't you?
Are you crazy?

- Michael Rosen

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Larkin Assignment

It fucks things up, a hedge that’s wide

You may not think so, but it does.

Blades don’t reach the other side;

Ruche green turns to privet fuzz.

Man hands kneeling mat to man,

The click of bowls behind,

The gardener shins up sun-baked walls

Decimation on her mind.

Hedges stride like tenements

Across our common earth,

And we conspire at gardens’ end

To give them slimmer berth.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

1st attempt: Larkin-ising politics

This be the curse

They fuck you up, do politicians
They seek election wins from you
They will not stop their talk and listen
Their claims are often quite untrue.

But they were fucked up by their party
Enslaved by promises of votes
A state with much uncertainty-
For voters often opt to float.

Man hands responsibility to man
Elect the choice of "someone else"
Though hordes may march to make a stand
The public does not rule itself.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

New Assignment


Continuing the fun we had with our Scottish bashes at interpreting the Lord's Prayer, I have another challenge in a simliar vein. Why don't we try something on the theme of profession?......

The idea is based on the following homage to Larkin's "This Be The Verse", which I suggest we use as our template for this kooky exercise.


They fuck you up, do publishers.
Against them there is no defence.
No letter, postcard, phone-call stirs
The puddle of their insolence.

Each author's fucked up in his turn.
Each contract is a poison pellet.
And specially must poets learn
That verse don't sell, and they don't sell it.

Man hands on manuscript to man,
Who leaves the thing in St Tropez.
Get out as quickly as you can
And write a television play.

John Whitworth

(And Larkin's poem for reference:)

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin