Sunday, December 30, 2007

senryu - frost

make-up glitters
like frost on her face -
nightclub Ice Queen.


for a different perspective on the theme, read my tanka on Crafty Green Poet.

frost for One Deep Breath.

The Accidental by Ali Smith

This is the book that proves that Best of Lists should not be written before 31st December! The story follows the Smart family in their holiday in Norfolk, where they are shaken up by a stranger, Amber who wanders into their lives. I love the way that Ali Smith really gets into the characters' heads - 12 year old Astrid's questioning imagination, teenager Michael's guilt laden math ridden brain, stepfather academic Michael's poetic musings. The book is inventively written and emotionally insightful, not two things that always go together! It is disturbing and sometimes laugh out loud funny. It's a book to keep and re-read.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Snoring, Poetry and Synchronicity

to torment me -
every night you invent
new ways of snoring.


I wrote this haiku last night at around 2am! Then this morning I was reading through my review copy of Poetry Speaks Expanded (a thoroughly recommended book, I'll be posting the review as soon as I can!) and was struck by these lines at the beginning of Ogden Nash's entertaining poem The Trouble with Women is Men:

A husband is a man who two minutes after his head tounches the pillow is snoring like an overloaded omnibus,
Particularly on those occasions when between the humidity and the mosquitoes your own bed is no longer a bed but an insomnibus.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Youth Without Youth

This is the latest film from Francis Ford Coppola. It follows the strange story of a Rumanian professor struck by lightening just as he was intending to commit suicide who then finds himself waking up as a much younger man. The story is strange, sometimes irritating but incredibly thought provoking on issues of identity and time. I enjoyed the way that the sometimes unconventional editing and directorial styles complemented the narrative, rather than being gratuitous as can sometimes be the case.

Grumpy note to cinema goers - it is not polite, when there are plenty of free seats in the cinema, to come in late, sit directly in front of someone else and then proceed to jump up and down gesticulating wildly.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best of the Year

I thought I'd share some of my favourite books and films from the last year. I buy all my books second hand so its the best of what I read this year, rather than what was published this year!

Poetry
The Spoken Word Revolution Redux edited by Mark Eleherd
Dead Redhead by Tracey Herd
I'm still reading it, but Poetry Speaks Expanded is also worth mentioning here

Novels
The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugresic
Maps by Nurrudin Farah
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
A Gift from Nessus - William McIllvaney
The Baron in the Trees - Italo Calvino

Non-fiction
Desert Flower by Waris Dirie
Spoken Here by Mark Abley

Foreign Language
Pazze per le Borse (Crazy for Handbags) Paola Jacobbi (Italian)
Die Männer und der Seejungfrau (The Men and the Mermaid) by Wolfgang Ott (German)
Comme un Roman (Like a Novel*) by Daniel Pennac (French)
* except the English translation of the book comes under a different title I think
La Moustache (The Moustache) by Emmanuel Carrere (French)

Films
Two Days in Paris - Julie Delpy
I'm a Cyborg but That's Okay - Pan Chan-wook (Edinburgh International Film Festival)
Das Leben des Anderen (Lives of Others)
Inland Empire - David Lynch

I've posted a review of the environmentally related best of the year here on Crafty Green Poet.

Best of the Year for Booking through Thursday - with added films

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Poetic Collaboration

Read Write Poem this week asked us to collaborate on a piece of work. I didn't do that, but I thought I would share some thoughts about poetic collaboration. One of my favourite pieces of poetic collaboration is the book Paso Doble where the poets Anamaria Crowe Serrano and Annamaria Ferramosca worked together on a series of poems in Italian and English. Each poet wrote a line in her native language and then all the poems were translated. The poems all, whether in the original form or in the translations, move beautifully from one language to another, in the way that a conversation sometimes does between people who share a number of languages. You can read my full review of this book here.

I also enjoy renga or renku poetry, a Japanese form, related to haiku, that is currently popular in Scotland, with people working together to produce linked verses.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Refugee - a poem for Read Write Poem

This week's prompt from Read Write Poem:

Choose a book that calls to you.
Go to the end of several chapters, and find the final noun or verb.
Make a list of 10 or so words, and then write a 10- to 20-line poem using those words.
Maybe the feeling or tone of your poem will come from your emotional connection to the book you choose. Maybe not.


I thought it was a clever idea for an exercise but it didn't speak to me particularly. But anyway, I was choosing which novel to read next and thinking about this exercise drew my eye to Anne Michael's wonderful novel Fugitive Pieces (not that I'm going to re-read it just now but it spoke to me for the exercise). I cheated slightly with the words, there are two nouns from one chapter and the second to last verb from another chapter. So, this is the poem I came up with, the words from the novel are listed after the poem.


Refugee

a radio crackles below deck
outside nothing but sea ............ waves
of nausea alternate with hunger
thirst to return to the world
that now only curls a memory
in my heartbeat the history
of my given name ............... there are too many
of us who need too much


waves, refugee, thirst, return, world, name, heartbeat, hunger, crackle, need

oh and for the record, it does work for me, and I may very well use this idea again! I may even find myself doing this exercise after every novel I enjoy reading!
A novel idea for Read Write Poem

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seasonal haiku

in the darkness -
we all try to light
candles.

*******************

strangely menacing -
four cartoon penguins march
on a Christmas card.


I've posted another seasonal haiku on Crafty Green Poet.
The Season for Writers Island

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dance!

I love dancing! When I was young I learnt tap dancing and ballet, not that I was any good at either of them! When I was a student I went to a ceilidh (Scottish country dance) every week. Ceilidhs are great fun, very sociable and the dances are fun too, though some can be downright dangerous (such as the Cumberland Courtship Dance for example, where two guys and two girls dance in a circle, culminating in the guys lifting the girls into the air and swinging them round in the circle until everyone collapses into a heap - I only ever did this dance once). While I lived in Malawi, I occasionally went to the discos in the school where I was teaching, girls only discos were a new concept to me, but the music was a wonderful mixture of African and Western including some of my own favourites from when I was growing up (eg Human League). When I returned to the UK, I didn't dance for a while, but my current partner introduced me to goth and alternative clubs and those have proven to be my favourite places to dance. Goth clubs have a great atmosphere, goths are the nicest, politest clubbers around and everyone really dresses up. There's a great age range too, from students in their late teens to people in their 40s. The music is great too, trad goth, 80s (including the ubiquitous Human League), new goth and industrial. My favourite club, though not strictly goth is Gigantor. Sadly recently oneof our favourite goth clubs has moved venue and we can't get there very often, and our other favourite goth club has been discontinued, so we're left to only dance at the occasional gig.

I wrote a poem about dancing a while back, you can read it here.


Dance for Sunday Scribblings

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Domestic haiku

the bed
is old and creaky -
like our bones.




new towels absorb -
old towels scratch and dry
through friction



Sunday, December 02, 2007

Rolling

Booking through Thursday this week asks us: Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on? I don’t so much mean something like reading a series from beginning to end, but, say, a string of books that all take place in Paris. Or that have anthropologists as the main character. Or were written in the same year. Something like that… Something that strings them together in your head, and yet, otherwise could be different genres, different authors…

Although I don't like to get into a rut and am more likely to avoid reading back to back several books set in Spain say, I will often read books because there is a small connection between them, I'm too lazy to do research on this at the minute and name books but I once read two books back to back because they both had the same quote from Dante in the introduction, though they had nothing else in common. Over the past year I've read several books that have been partly set at sea, as is the current book I'm reading 'Do White Whales Sing at the End of the World' by Paul Wilson. This novel has nothing in common with the previous book I read which was the wonderful short novel set in a dying village in the Spanish Pyrenees - The Yellow Rain by Julio Llamazares. Yet on page 4 in Do White Whales Sing we find this passage:

From the village, the colony rises abruptly from its shoulder of land. At night it has the look of a castle - it is all dark stone and narrow lights and seems set to repel invaders. In daylight it seems more like a small medieval village, the kind you might stumble across unexpectedly in the Pyrenees of Spain.

These are the connections I most love to find between books, the unexpected serendipitious links that prove that everything is connected!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Screaming Banshee Aircrew and Rome Burns in Concert

We've seen Screaming Banshee Aircrew live twice before. They've been described as electro punk but there's a lot of goth rock in there too. I never sit down at home and listen to their music, but their gigs are amongst the best I've been to. Last night was no exception really, though the set was let down by dodgy sound equipment and perhaps a few too many drinks before taking to the stage? It all descended into chaos, but entertaining, good natured chaos and a good time was certainly had by all.

Rome Burns were the support band. Support band? You must be joking, they were way too good to be a support band, especially in a laid back venue known for shows starting late (they were on stage quite promptly and lots of people didn't get there before they'd finished their set). They sound great (goth rock), look great and gave a very professional performance.

Na asked in the comments on my recent post about how I didn't mis-spend my youth, what were my favourite bands to see live. So for Na, and anyone else who wants to know, here's the link that will tell you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mis-spent Youth

Oh I so didn't 'mis-spend' my youth! I was the swot of the class, I always did my homework, hardly ever misbehaved and never fell in with a bad crowd. I was in the school choir, acted in school plays and did well in exams. I wasn't allowed to mis-spend my youth - my parents didn't let me go out very often, not even to the cinema (I've been overcompensating on that one ever since!) and in fact didn't even let me listen to much pop music or wear fashionable clothes. With all the fuss these days about parents being paranoid about their children's safety I now realise my own parents were ahead of their time. I do wish that I had had more freedom as a child, though I've always been serious by nature and always enjoyed school and even homework and so was never really a candidate for 'mis-spending' my youth.

Things changed at University though I didn't mis-spend my time there I certainly had a good time. I joined lots of University societies, ones that were socially useful but also had a good social life (Student Community Action Group for example had me volunteering with dementia patients but also going to some brilliant parties, while Friends of the Earth were as famous for their pub nights as for their conservation work). I also worked hard but not too hard and passed the exams that mattered. I think I had the best possible time at University.

I only discovered live rock music in my 20s and clubbing in my 30s (thankfully a lot of people in the goth and alternative scene are older than the stereotypical clubber) though apart from the late nights and the sometimes controversial music, its not time mis-spent really, goths (in Edinburgh at least) are the nicest, most polite clubbers you can find and I can't drink alcohol when I'm dancing.

I'm glad I didn't 'mis-spend' my youth, though I do wish I had seen more films and listened to more music when I was a teenager, I feel I miss out on too many cultural references.

La Strada di Levi (Primo Levi's Journey)

Dopo la sua liberazione di Auschwitz, Primo Levi avevo dovuto viaggiare con altre prigionieri liberati nella Europa - Ucraina, Biellarussia, Romania, Ungheria, Germania e finalmente ha ritornato alla sua città natia, Torino. Questo film ha fatto lo stesso viaggio. E interessante vedere la nuovo Europa, che ha cambiato, che no ha cambiato e come non imperiamo della storia. Scene di una comune in Biellarussia sono lo stesso come scene di un film vecchio di una comune sovietico; neo Nazi radunano in Germania..... Questo film e ispirato di 'La Tregua' di Levi.

After his liberation from Auschwitz, Primo Levi was forced to travel, with other liberated camp inmates, through Europe - Ukraine, Belorus, Romania, Hungary, Germany before finally returning to his hometown of Turin. This film makes the same journey. It's interesting to see the new Europe, what has changed, what hasn't changed and to see the extent to which we don't learn from history. Scenes from a collective farm in Belorus are intercut with scenes from an old Soviet film about collective agriculture; neo Nazis gather in Germany.... The narrative for the film is inspired by Levi's book The Truce.

I saw the original Italian version of this film at the Italian Film Festival. Apparently there is another version with a twangy southern USA English language narrative.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers - Xiaolu Guo

This is an interesting book to read at around the same time as seeing the film The Missing Star (an Italian film set in China). The book is narrated by a young Chinese woman who has moved to the UK to study and it outlines her perceptions of British culture from the viewpoint of someone coming from a very different cultural background. She makes some very interesting observations about what the English language say about Western lifestyles and attitudes to time and relationships. Her evident confusion in the face of the peculiarities of the English language make the reader both laugh and think more deeply about language.

The book is entertaining too though sometimes seems a bit contrived and the deliberately bad English can sometimes become irritating.

Xiaolu Guo is also a film director, her film How is Your Fish Today was one of the highlights for me of the 2006 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

La Stelle che non c'e (The Missing Star)

Vicenzo e un ingegnere che lavora in una acciaieria vicina da Napoli. Un broker Cinese compra macchinario e ritornano a Cina. Ma Vicenzo trova difetti nel macchinario e va a Cina per explicare. Ma, non parla cinese, non sa dov'e l'acciaieria in Cine. E un po impreperato per il viaggio! Fortunamente, incontra una traduttore che possa aiudarli, ma e molte malintese culturale e problemi.

Normalemente quando ho visto film di Cina, ho visto film di Cina storico o rurale. Ma la Cina industriale in questo film è molto deprimente. Anche il film, benché e interessante e qualche volta divertente.

Vicenzo is an engineer working in a steel mill near Naples. A Chinese broker buys machinery from the factory and returns to China. Vicenzo discovers defects in the machinery and goes to China to sort things out. However he doesn't speak Chinese and doesn't know where the steel mill is that has bought the machinery. He is poorly prepared for his journey! Luckily he meets a translator who can help him, though there are lots of cultural misunderstandings and problems.

Most Chinese films I've seen have been set in rural or historical China. The industrial China in this film is very depressing. As is the film, though it is also interesting and sometimes entertaining!

The Italian Film Festival is on at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh (and selected other venues in the UK) until 2 December.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Languages I Speak (and some I Don't)

totally made my day recently by telling me I write Italian very well and asking if I had studied it at University! I was very flattered, but no, I only studied it for two years at evening classes at the Institute for Applied Language Studies, in Edinburgh. I have worked hard extra to that in learning grammar at home and reading a lot in Italian. It helps that I enjoy a lot of Italian writers, especially Italo Calvino and Alessandro Barrico. I also read the Italian magazine Focus, which is a wonderfully bizarre magazine, full of articles about weird things. I watch a fair number of Italian films too (the Italian Film Festival starts this weekend!!!). I've found Italian much easier to learn than either German or French, both of which I studied at school. I learnt French for five years at school and have done little with it since, though I did a year of evening classes and sometimes read in French as well as watching a fair number of French films. My real problem with French is that I can't hear it very well! German I studied for three years in school but have always used it since, I've visited Germany more often than any other country and have several German friends, some of whom I even speak German with! German is hard work though, all those long words and endless sentences with the verbs at the end.... I use both German and Italian for work sometimes. I can understand Spanish quite well because its very similar to Italian, but I can't speak it, mostly for exactly the same reason.... I can speak a few phrases of Polish, as I was on an archeology dig over there once. I keep meaning to learn a bit more as there are so many Polish people over here now, but its a very difficult language and I don't expect to get beyond the very basics. Gaelic is a language so strange and incomprehensible (to make the present tense you use the future tense - how weird is that!) that I don't think I'll ever get past Hello, a fact not helped that whenever we visit 'Gaelic speaking' areas of Scotland, we never find anyone who speaks the language! I learnt some Chichewa when I was in Malawi and still occasionally come out with the odd 'pepani' (sorry) or zikomo (excuse me, thankyou).



So what languages do you speak and how do you use them?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Sentences Are Not American

Read Write Poem this week challenged us all to write American sentences. These are single sentences of 17 syllables - a sort of Americanised haiku. I thought I would experiment:

The fundraiser's sentence:

We are grateful for your previous donation, now please give us more!

The Scots sentence:

You won't be wanting to do that again in a rush, ken, will you then?

The stereotypical cosy Scots sentence:

Hey, Jimmy, what you doin' ower there wi' that bonnie wee lassie?

There's a wee chappie playing the bagpipes ower there in the heather.

The stereotypical urban Scots sentence:

Ye wannae go down the chippy for Irn Bru and deep fried Mars Bars?
Aye and then we can go down the pub for the match and a wee bevvie

Glossary:

ken - you know

ower - over

bonnie - pretty, lovely

wee - small, short

chappie - man

ye - you

wannae - want to

chippy - chip shop

Irn Bru - soft drink, brewed in Scotland

deep fried Mars Bar - yes there is such a thing

the match - the football match on big screen tv

wee bevvie - a few drinks


on Crafty Green Poet, read American (Holiday) Sentences

American Sentences for Read Write Poem

Monday, November 12, 2007

haiku - belonging

at the gig -
everyone knows the words
to all the songs


I also belong here

Belonging for One Deep Breath

(If you like writing haiku, you may be interested in the Haiku Broken Telephone Game)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Haiku Broken Telephone Game

Inspired by a Lithuanian game called ‘broken telephone’, Ricardas at Haiku Poetry Blog is setting up a haiku game. In Broken Telephone, a sentence is passed through a chain of people by whispering it to the next person, then he/she whispers further on and so till the last person who announces loudly what he/she have heard. Normally, it is different from what initially was said and more people participate funnier it ends up. To see how the haiku version works and to participate, see this post.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How Much Do You Read?

The question on Booking through Thursday today is:

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less?Why?

I read loads more than I used to when I was younger. I think the more I read the more I want to read. I also realise that if I want to be a good writer I need to read a lot so I can understand what works and what doesn't in the literature I enjoy. Also I like to read in foreign languages as a perfect way to improve my language skills, while reading about subjects I'm interested in (eg science, linguistics) is a great way to learn more about the world. I also know that the amount I read has increased greatly since I joined Bookcrossing - an international community of booklovers who like to share their books, either with other bookcrossers or by leaving them in public places for unsuspecting passers by to find. Like many other bookcrossers I had originally thought that this would be a good way of reducing the number of books on my shelves, but no it has had the opposite effect. Plus the fact that a few years ago charities in the UK introduced second hand shops that sell books and nothing but books. These shops have probably been my downfall! But I can't complain because the more good books I read the more I love reading and its been a really good year for books this year. (I may post more about that later in the year!).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pazze per le Borse! (Crazy for Handbags) by Paola Jacobbi

Perché alle donne non bastano le tasche!


Me piace molto questo libro! E facile a leggere, divertimento e interresante! Paola Jacobbi esplora la significata sociale delle borse, i tipi delle borse, anche le borse famose; quale borsa per quale evento? come donne differente usano le borse ecc. Anche e un libro bello con illustrazione amusante. Se questo libro sia in inglesa, non li avrei letto, perché avrei pensato sia troppo 'da ragazza' e frivolo. Ma è piu.


Because, for a woman, pockets are never enough!


I really enjoyed this book! It's easy to read, entertaining and interesting! Paola Jacobbi explores the social significance of handbags, types of handbags (including famous handbags), vital questions such as 'which handbag for which occasion?' and how different women use handbags. It's also a beautiful hardback book full of amusing illustrations. If this book had been in English, I wouldn't have read it, I would have thought that it would be too girly and frivolous. But its a lot more than that. (Unfortunately I don't know whether it has been translated into English).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Workplace Blues 2

As a new graduate, doing unpaid work, I built
footpaths; gave advice to people in debt;
made art with disabled children.
One day I overheard my father say
how disappointed he was I was
wasting my time this way.

Years later, I sit in an office, shuffling
papers for an organisation that's lost
its way. One day I'll escape but for now
I'm stuck; work my biggest
disappointment; my only
waste of time.


Last week I posted Workplace Blues 1

Work for Totally Optional Prompts

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Read with Abandon

For Booking Through Thursday this week, we're asked to share our abandoned books. 'The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing'

My great unread book is Ulysees by James Joyce, I got to page 5 i think the first time I read it but i loved The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man so will try again with Ulysees and may even get to page 10 next time!

I also have to admit to not finishing Kafka's The Castle. I read it in German and though I felt it was a worthwhile read and I loved a lot about it, it is just so long and I just couldn't face spending any more time stuck in Kafka's imagination in German, which is such hard work to read....

I remember when I left Primary School I felt sad that I hadn't been able to finish the Intriductory book to Greek Mythology that I had been reading.

There are others too, but those are the ones I most remember just now. As I get older I'm more likely to give up on a book, I don't see the point of continuing to read a book when I'm not enjoying it or getting anything out of it. Having said that I finish most books I read.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Workplace Blues

I used to think that when I left this job
I would take with me a branded mug
for pride of place on the kitchen shelf
a pen for using at my writing desk
a t-shirt to wear to the beach sometimes
and a badge to have on my lapel

Now I sit at work and wait
for the day when I will
never need to look

at any of these things again

Monday, October 22, 2007

Olympics - International Goodwill and Local Abuse of Human Rights

The Olympic Games are usually praised as being a beacon of international goodwill. However is this actually achieved at the expense of local people's human rights? The link below leads to stories of gypsy familes being evicted to make way for developments in London for the 2012 Games:
http://society.guardian.co.uk/socialexclusion/comment/0,,2194782,00.html

There are many other similar stories from past Olympics across the world. I'm getting so tired of reading these while other people are praising the games that I'll put a longer article together and post it sometime in the next month or so.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Young Woman in Black

Her hair is dark
she paints her face
dresses in black velvet and lace
is a mystery to herself.

At weekends
she hands out poetry books
to skater boys
in the park.

‘Let me be your Muse’
she says.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Return

You travelled alone
posting pieces of time
in sea-views and lines -
rewording your life.

My only map
a patchwork of postcards
with scribbled notes.

Home.

Salt on my tongue,
I taste the tidemark
of your travels,
explore you back from absence.

Abandon distance.

First published in Envoi magazine.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Pink for October

Alter Ego and Bolts of Silk have gone Pink for October!

Web sites are Going Pink during the month of October to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, get people talking about breast cancer, and raise money for research.
But to be clear, raising money isn’t the primary purpose of this web event.
The hope is that you turn your site pink (in whatever way works for your site), go out to that World Wide Web thing (in fact you’re on it right now! :) ) and educate yourself about the multiple issues related to Breast Cancer, then take that newfound knowledge and tell someone else what you’ve learned.


For obvious reasons, Crafty Green Poet will remain green during October, but I'm experimenting with a delightful green and pink combination at the moment and will hopefully post something about the environmental factors in breast cancer.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Names


We're re-watching all seven series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer through from the beginning to the end. It was a brilliant show and well worth seeing again. Anya, the former demon, is scared of rabbits and this is carried through all the series from her early appearance dressed as a bunny for a Hallowe'en party. When we rescued our rabbit (seen above posing in front of our Buffy collection) from the SSPCA animal welfare centre, we had already decided to call her Anya in honour of Anya from Buffy. When she was naughty (which wasn't often, she was an adorable lovable bunny), we called her Anyanka, which was Anya's demonic name in Buffy.
If we had had a male bunny we thought of calling it Bishop Brennan after the character in Father Ted, who was scared of rabbits. Well it seemed to us as good a way as any of choosing a name for a pet. I'm glad we got a girl rabbit though.
(Anya sadly died earlier this year)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Subjunctive

Doubt, possibility, uncertainty
if things were different
conjugating the possible
dreams, fears, hopes

and if it were so
what then?

Monday, September 17, 2007

haiku recipe

cheese and onion
baked in a pastry case -
serve with potatoes.


haiku recipe for One Deep Breath

Giveaway Update

Just to let you know that I put the names in the hat for the Esther Morgan book and the winner was Odessa! Just email me with your address and I'll send you the book!

Thanks everyone for your interest and there will be more Giveaways in the future!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writing about Ordinary Life

Anne Tyler - Breathing Lessons vs William McIlvanney - A Gift from Nessus

I read both these books while we were in Orkney. Both of them feature ordinary people living ordinary lives and in both novels, the main characters find themselves in effect in the same place as they were at the beginning.

Breathing Lessons won the Pullitzer Prize and Anne Tyler has been described as 'the greatest living writer in the English language" yet I found this book disappointing. Yes, she is a good writer with the ability to create believable characters and dialogue and she highlights the funny little details in people's personalities that make them unique and therefore not as ordinary as they may appear on the surface. However, I feel she doesn't really delve very deeply, I want more insight. I came to the end of the book and felt that none of the characters had learned anything or changed in any way and that they would remain forever in the same unsatisfying situations. Am I missing something here?

A Gift from Nessus is different, I loved it. The characters are again ordinary people, but they are truly three dimensional characters that felt much more self aware than Tyler's characters. I felt the writing was full of insight. The prose is beautiful and not afraid of metaphor and allusion though I didn't feel it was ever pretentious (apart possibly from the title). On the surface, again nothing has changed by the end of the book, however I felt that the characters had learnt a lot about themselves, enough to change their unsatisfactory lives round to become more fulfilling.

Back from orkney!

We're back from Orkney. You can find photos and more on Crafty Green Poet !

Update on the Giveaway - I'll be putting names in a hat for the Esther Morgan book this evening and will post the winner tonight or tomorrow.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Celebrate Literacy with Your Favourite Words

8th September is International Literacy Day and Education Action , a charity that works with wartorn communities to rebuild lives through education, are celebrating the occasion by asking people to share their favourite words. Here are some of my favourite words today:

adorable, ingenious, weird
German - there are lots of wonderful words in German that don't have an exact or good translation in English, my favourite today is Zeitgeist
French and Italian - well everything sounds so much nicer in those languages, it would be difficult to choose my favourite words!

What are your favourite words? Remember to share them at Education Action!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Two Days in Paris

I really enjoyed this, the directorial debut from French actress Julie Delpy. Is She not only starred in and directed this film, she edited it, co-produced it, wrote the soundtrack and sang on some of the tracks! It's a funny, insightful look at a relationship between an American guy (Adam Goldberg - Delpy's real life ex) and a French woman as they visit her parents (Delpy's real life parents) in Paris, offering loads of opportunities to highlight the cultural differences and to touch on the differing views on the world, as well as offering many a reminder to tourists about why they should learn the language before they travel abroad, especially if they're visiting their partner's friends and family! There's not much in the way of plot, but the characters are engaging and the dialogue comes across as real conversation. Oh and there's a totally adorable cat (possibly Delpy's cat in real life!) that steals several of the scenes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Silence Living in Houses - Esther Morgan (Giveaway)

The Silence Living in Houses is the second collection from UK poet Esther Morgan. Her poems focus on domestic life haunted by unexplained ghosts. She is an accomplished poet with a real feel for the way that words sound together, this is the first stanza of Domestic:

Under the chestnut tree its already night
as I turn back towards the house
where lights are coming on
though some of the windows
are still dark as mouths.

Sometimes I felt there were too many ghosts and wanted more of her poems to have the substance and presence of those that deal with more concrete things, like Her Given Names:

At the word cat
she's down on all fours
performing her hunger,
warping and wefting through his legs,
arching her spine at his creamy voice.

I've registered this book with Bookcrossing and am happy to pass it on to someone who wants to read it. If you'd like it, just let me know in the comments. I'll put the names into a hat in a couple of weeks.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Daratt (Dry Season)

Even when there isn't a film festival, Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema still shows excellent films from around the world. This evening I saw Daratt, a film from Chad, that follows Atim, a young man as, sent by his grandfather, he travels to the city to kill the man who murdered Atim's father before Atim was even born. It's a slow, meditative film, with much of the narrative being revealed through visual clues.

A Festival of African films, Africa in Motion comes to the Filmhouse from 25 October to 4 November.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Rocking Girl Blogger Award

I'm delighted that Na of Shadows and Clouds has nominated me for the Rocking Girl Blogger Award! I now get to nominate up to five Rocking Girl Bloggers. It's difficult to choose as there are so many great women bloggers out there, but I decided to keep it to just two who really do rock:

Abby, aka Abzdragon, from Geek Tragedy is a young rocking poet already getting published and performing her work - without stage fright she tells me! I wish I'd started out in poetry with so much confidence!

Michelle at GPP Street Team sets rocking Crusades - art journalling challenges on topics such as 'My Rockstar Moment', 'Tattoos' and 'Playlists'. Why not check them out!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Through an Open Window

For my mother, open windows invite
thieves, even small windows
upstairs. In summer
suburbia, we slept
with first floor bedroom windows closed
though any housebreaker would know
how to pick the lock
on the back kitchen door.


Open Window for Poetry Thursday

Another interpretation on the theme can be found at Crafty Green Poet

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - I'm a Cyborg but that's OK

I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK is the new feature film from renowned Korean director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy; Lady Vengeance). The heroine is Young-goon, a cyborg who tries to connect herself to the mains and is then taken into a mental hospital where she makes a connection with Il-sun, who has a tendency to steal people's belongings and their souls. Its a wonderful exploration of identity, mental balance and human connectedness, full of humour and insight, as well as the occasional scene of fantastical violence symbolising Young-goon's inner turmoil.

I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK will be showing as part of the Best of the Film Festival on Sunday 26 August. The film will almost certainly get a good release in cinemas across the UK and elsewhere and all I can say is go and see it when you can!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - The Last Dining Table

The Last Dining Table is a South Korean film made up of short episodes from various characters lives, including a grandmother who wants to divorce her dead husband, a mother trying to contact the spirit of her recently dead son and a young woman starting out as a telephone sex operator. Dialogue is minimalist and the viewer is left to infer a lot from the action and visual clues, which is probably easier for those familiar with Korean culture. The Film Festival brochure claimed that all the characters were united in a shocking conclusion, but in fact they all met in a railway station, nothing happened and then the credits rolled. Hmm.

Monday, August 20, 2007

haiku - daybreak

my alarm clock
shatters quiet sleep -
day breaks.


For a quieter daybreak, please visit Crafty Green Poet.


Daybreak for One Deep Breath


PS - Haiku Scotland recently accepted five of my haiku to appear in their September and December 2007 issues.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - The Legacy

In The Legacy, A group of French tourists and their interpreter are travelling through the former Soviet republic of Georgia. While they are on a bus, a young man and his grandfather get on carrying a coffin. The coffin that will be for the grandfather when his enemies have killed him. The tourists are fascinated by the story of two feuding villages and follow the two men. What follows is a journey not only into the traditions of blood feuds in the mountains of Georgia but also a critique of tourist attitudes to foreign cultures, and the dilemmas facing an interpreter who doesn't approve of tourists but relies on them for his income. The film is beautifully shot in stunning mountain scenery and understated in its treatment of its themes. I found it particularly interesting given that I had recently read Ismail Kadare's novel Broken April, which is set amongst blood feuds in Albania.

The Legacy will show again at 16.45, Monday 20 August at the Filmhouse.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - The Old Garden

The Old Garden is a South Korean political drama, centering on the character of Oh Hyun-woo, a poet and political activist in the 1980 anti-government riots. He hides away in the beautiful mountainous countryside with Yoon-hee, an artist who becomes his lover. Then he inexplicably decides to return to Seoul where he faces certain long term imprisonment. While Oh Hyun-woo is in prison, Yoon-hee gives birth to and raises their daughter and dies of cancer.

It's a beautiful film, full of sadness and regret and offering interesting insight into the politics and labour relations of South Korea in 1980.

The Old Garden will show again 22.00, Sunday 19 August at Cineworld

Friday, August 17, 2007

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Aria

For cinema lovers this is the best fortnight in Edinburgh as the Film Festival comes to town. This is the last year that the Film Festival will happen in August, in future years it will take place in June. I saw my first film today, Aria a Japanese road movie. The film is beautifully minimalist and sometimes surreal. The story involves a piano tuner who is searching for the right beach on which to scatter his wife's ashes, a Kabuki puppet master who leaves his puppet to the piano tuner and a mysterious woman who claims to be the Kabuki master's daughter, who is searching for a particular piano. The film is made up of snapshots and fragments which fit together like pieces of a jigsaw.

Aria shows again tomorrow, Saturday, 18 August in Cineworld.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Monogamy? (Booking Through Thursday)

From Booking through Thursday - One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar?
(We’re talking recreational reading, here—books for work or school don’t really count since they’re not optional.)


I'm very monogamous as far as novels go, I can only read one novel at a time. However at the same time I always have a book of poetry next to my armchair, and a book of short stories or essays too. Usually I only read short stories/essays between novels, though I dip into the poetry book regularly. I also have a book in my handbag, usually a slim volume of poetry, sometimes the novel I'm reading if its a small book (I don't like heavy books in my handbag!). I read a fair amount of non-fiction, sometimes I'll have a non-fiction book by my armchair to dip into as I read my novel, sometimes I'll read a non-fiction book as if it were a novel. I also read quite a lot in foreign languages. If I'm reading a novel in a foreign language, I'll probably read a light non fiction book in English at the same time, I get tired easily reading in foreign languages, especially German.

Current reading:

Novel: Dictionary of the Khazars - Milorad Pavic
Non-fiction - Linguistics for Students of Literature (yes this is recreational reading!)
Poetry - Staying Alive - edited Neil Astley
Foreign Language - In meinen Traumen lautet es Sturm - Mascha Kaleko (poetry)
In my handbag - Aboriginal Legends - Animal Tales - collected by A W Reed

How about you? Are you monogamous?

Booking through Thursday

Monday, August 13, 2007

Le voyage de Slaboulgoum - Pierre-Robert Leclercq

J'ai reçu cet livre petit d'un autre Bookcrosser. C'est un histoire d'un vieux griot africain, qui raconte toujours les mêmes histoires embellies. Pour moi, le choses plus interessants sonts les questions de la role d'un conteur. J'ai trouvé deux citations:

'Le doute n'a pas place dans les legendes. Pour un conteur, la vérité est un support, elle ne doit pas être un fardeau.'

'On ne demande pas a un poète d'être historien.'

Cette citation deuxieme peut-être est un idee pour un poême!

Si tu veux lire cette livre, seulement dites moi!

*************************************************************************

I received this little book from another bookcrosser. It's the story of an old African griot who keeps telling the same stories, but embellishing them. For me the most interesting aspects of the book were the questions it asked about the role of the storyteller. I have taken two quotes:

'Doubt has no place in legends. For the storyteller, truth is a support, it does not need to be a burden'

'We do not demand our poets to be historians'.

This second quote could be a great starting point for a poem!

If you would like to read this book, please let me know!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Alpine

I self-consciously pocketed
the image of cowbells
as a text-book ‘poetic moment’
to add authentic colour.

Now, looking back
I dwell on the disintegration
of our friendship
that began that day.

And the endless melancholy of cowbells.

Monday, August 06, 2007

This Evening

This evening I went to my first show in the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe - Flesh.

slave traders
steal a boy from his village -
darkness falls.

Through song, dance and drama, Flesh explores the personal stories of David an African slave in eighteenth century London, the people he meets and their opinions about slavery. The stories are powerfully moving, but ultimately hopeful. Parallels with current issues are clearly, but subtly drawn. It's a very energetic production with excellent performances, dancing, singing and drumming from the young cast and muscians, though the acoustics and straining spoken performances mean that some of the narrative is lost.

Flesh is on at St John's Church, Lothian Road, 7.30pm, 7-11 August. £7/£5.


Evening for One Deep Breath.
I've posted another evening haiku on Crafty Green Poet.

Monday, July 30, 2007

haiku - compare and contrast

the trombonist
plays her first solo -
dogs howl outside.


Compare and Contrast for One Deep Breath.
I've posted another compare and contrast haiku on Crafty Green Poet here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blogathon

As many of you will know today is the day for Blogathon, the marathon blogging effort for charity. It all starts at 0600 Pacific Time today! Its not too late to choose to sponsor one of the participants!

Abby of A G33k Tragedy is interviewing me sometime during her Blogathon. You can read my interview and any of her other interesting posts (one post every 24 hours and we're promised poetry and art as well as a variety of other blog posts!) on her Blogathon blog.

Her interview with me can be read here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blogging for Positive Global Change Award

Marcia of Tumbled Words and MeeAugraphie has nominated me for the Blogging for Positive Global Change Award. You can read her post about the award here. I am very honoured and I was touched by what she said about me. Congratulations also to Marcia for being nominated herself.

You can find out more on Crafty Green Poet.

Lempriere's Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk

This is big, thick, ambitious novel about ships and conspiracies, two things I'm not generally too interested in. However, I'm all for expanding my boundaries! The book follows John Lempriere as he leaves Jersey to travel to London in connnection with the reading of his father's will, after his father was ripped apart by hunting dogs, an episode watched by the young John. Along the way he gets caught up in conspiracies and underhand dealings relating to the East India Company and is asked to write a dictionary on Greek mythology, as he is already obsessed with the subject.

There are many things I loved about this book, the descriptions of Jersey (a place I love, evocatively re-recreated in the early part of this book) the occasional hilarious scenes, such as the Pork Club party and the huge tortoises stuck on the Opera House roof, even though they're not visible to anyone, the sense of adventure and the overall quality of the writing. The characters are vivid and well drawn and atmosphere is expertly conveyed, whether in underground passages or in the foggy streets of London.

However I found it tedious that so many scenes were presented from a variety of viewpoints without this adding anything substantial to the reader's understanding of the scene. I also got lost in some of the more convoluted detailings of the conspiracies. That's my fault rather than the books. My mind just doesn't work like that!

Overall, definitely a book I'm glad to have read, but I wouldn't read it again.

Submitted for the Hidden Treasure's Review Competition. It's open until 15 August, why not enter a review yourself?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fictional Villains

When I first thought about fictional villains, my reaction was that I don't really read books with villains. But then I thought of two very villainous characters who have featured in novels I've read recently:

Grenouille is the villain in Patrick Suskind's novel Perfume. He has no personal odour and a very well refined sense of smell. He naturally becomes a perfumier and then ventures into bottling the scents of beautiful women, murdering the women on the way. I really enjoyed the book in a creepy sort of way, I felt that Grenouille is a very well realised villain, the details make him a very distinctive character and the evil aspects of his nature are built up very effectively.

The central character in John Burnside's novel The Dumb House, is rarely referred to by name, but I think he may be called Luke? He is a nasty piece of work and his story is told in a chillingly rational style that I found so disturbing that I could barely read the book. This is effectiveness writ large but to detrimental effect for those of us of a sensitive disposition. Burnside is one of my favourite poets, he is a brilliant writer but this novel just gave me insights into a sick and twisted soul that i don't think I wanted to see.

Villains for Booking Through Thursday.

Monday, July 23, 2007

haiku - comfort

bad news
in an airmail letter -
a loving hug.

******************************

flood waters
outside the village hall -
mugs of coffee.


Comfort for One Deep Breath

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter

Questions from Booking through Thursday
Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it? NO. NEVER
Are you attending any of the midnight parties? NO.
If you’re not going to read it, why not?

It isn't my thing. Plus the more popular a book or film becomes the less likely I am to read /watch it, unless it is totally my thing anyway. I don't follow the crowd.
And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? I think he won't, otherwise there's too much pressure for JK to write more books in the series.
What are you most looking forward to? The end of the hype!

I will just add that I admire JK Rowling for the way she approached the Harry Potter series, her own story is truly inspiring.

Edited also to add: I think Harry Potter has been great for getting children and young people interested in reading again and can bring families together over books that appeal to all family members.

Lost Wor(l)ds

Ghosts speak dead languages –
the air shimmers with their lost wor(l)ds
full of unlearnt wisdom
that we waft away like smoke.

While we struggle to understanding
speaking in our second language -
untranslatable fears
haunting the table.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Haiku - Bodies of Water

mostly water -
I still ebb and flow
with the tides.


Bodies of Water for One Deep Breath

More Bodies of Water on Crafty Green Poet here and here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Celluloid

Questions this week from Booking through Thursday:

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?

Shawshank Redemption and La Moustache.

2. The worst?

I usually think that the film is inferior to the book. If I love the book, I'll probably not go to see the film adaptation. There are some disappointing films that I've seen, that I know were made from films, but if I've not read the book I can't say whether it was a bad adaptation or just plain bad.

3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference?


I generally don't go to see films made from books I've already read. If I'm going to experience both, I'd rather see the film first. I always feel that the film paints the story with broader brushstrokes and then the book allows me to delve deeper. With both Shawshank Redemption and La Moustache, I saw the film before reading the book. Having seen La Moustache before reading it helped me a lot with getting through the book (I read it in French).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Discovery of Chocolate - James Runcie

This is a wonderful book! The tale of Diego de Godoy, who sets sail with Cortes and his conquistadors, discovers chocolate and then drinks an elixir that gives him (and his dog, who licked the dregs!) life for 500 years. Five hundred years of following the chocolate trade across the world, meeting famous people from Fry, the Quaker chocolate baron to the Marquis of Sade and searching for lost love and the meaning of life. The pages are stuffed full of descriptions of wonderful chocolate dishes (though sadly no actual recipes!).

For fullest enjoyment, read while drinking Green and Black's fairtrade, organic Maya Gold hot chocolate.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is my favourite poet and for me her novels never reach the heights that her poetry achieves. The Handmaid's Tale is a disturbing glimpse into a possible future America where women have become purely breeding machines to re-populate a world devastated by the effects of nuclear fall-out and too many 'unnatural' women having decided to not have children. A world where women are banned from reading and where Scrabble is the equivalent of an illicit drug. The novel explores life under an oppressive regime and throws up a lot of interesting questions about how much the oppressed collude in their own oppression. However, I found myself constantly distracted by what seemed to me an unlikely timeline, I think if she'd taken out references to the actual 1970s and 1980s the reader may have been able to suspend more disbelief and work out timelines to their own satisfaction. My partner says this problem just proves I don't read enough Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I pointed out that although this book is described as Science Fiction and is actually Futuristic Fantasy it's marketed as Fiction and most readers will be coming with a background in Atwood's previous books rather than in genre SF/Fantasy novels.

It's an interesting novel to read, but in future I'll stick to her poetry!

Giveaway - update

I have put the names in the hat and the winner is Bookcrossing member Kobie03. Congratulations, once I've got your address, I will put Jay Black's book In Love's Shadow into the post for you, along with a copy of my own very small haiku collection. To see who won the first ever Crafty Green Poet giveaway, see here!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Struggling with Italian

I'm currently trying to read Silvia Ballestra's la giovinezza della signorina N.N in the original Italian and really struggling with it. I don't know why. Admittedly if I read novels by Italo Calvino or Alessandro Baricco in Italian I've read them first in English, but I read Andrea Pinketts Il Vizio del'Agnello pretty quickly and didn't feel lost at all, well not more than anyone would feel lost in such a wonderfully bizarre book! Plus I read Italian magazines quite a lot. So what's with this book? I'm enjoying the bits I do understand so I don't want to give up, plus I'm now treating it as language learning rather than reading for pure enjoyment and am reading other books at the same time. If anyone reading this blog has read this book (long shot I know!!) maybe you can let me know if you found it difficult too or give me advice about what's difficult about it? Thanks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wordless

By instinct
I understand
your untranslatable soul

and your heart
that you wear
in your eyes.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

India - a book and a film

I'm currently reading The Age of Kali - William Dalrymple's collection of essays about India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It is full of information about issues that are often unknown to those of us who have never visited these countries, covering topics including political corruption, the Portuguese in Goa and the clashes between tradition and globalisation. The book is engaging and the reader can immediately tell that Dalrymple has researched his topics very carefully and in fact he has spent many years living in and travelling around India. However it is still an outsider's view, which some people may object to, after all only an Indian can understand India? I find though that often outsiders can see things with a clear sight that is denied to people who have been born and brought up in a country.

Deepa Mehta is Indian born, though now lives in Canada. Her beautifully made and heartbreakingly sad film Water focuses on one of the issues touched on in Dalrymple's book. That is the status of widows in India. The film is set in 1938, just around the time when it became legal for widows to remarry, though it was still considered culturally unacceptable.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Giveaway

In Love's Shadow is a short bilingual collection by Canadian poet Jay Black with translation into French by Sandra Chiancone. As the title suggests the poetry here is dark love poetry, as in this extract from WILDWOOD DARK:

Thus with insatiate thirst we supped
from one another's gaping cuts,
then kissed with lips that dripped
our bittersweet commingled blood.

Many of the poems set love firmly within the natural environment as in GENEVIEVE:

You are fallen yellow leaves
carried on quiet streams of tears

You are an evening breeze
whispering disconsolate dreams.

You are the ebbing ocean
washing over a naked beach

Continue reading my review here. If you would like this book, please leave a comment below. Names will be drawn out of a hat in about two weeks and the winner will receive this book along with a copy of my own miniscule haiku collection. The book is quite thin and I'm happy to post it anywhere! It's also registered with Bookcrossing and it would be great if whoever wins the giveaway could leave their thoughts about it on the Bookcrossing site (this is not compulsory though!).

Sunris - Grace Nichols

Grace Nichols was born and educated in Guyana and has lived in the UK since 1977. Her poetry collection Sunris was published in 1996. It's a vibrant collection of poetry about identity and belonging, womanhood and spirituality. She is a poet who loves language and shows a real understanding of rhythm and rhyme. Her poems are clear and passionate and drenched in colour, as in this extract from The Dance:

Even the white packed sands
darkened by the shadows
of their dance
is rinsed in blue.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Art House

Visionary works edged in a haze
I can all too readily relate to.

I think of the near collisions
of your life with mine

the labyrinthine possibilities
never explored, the fact that

put us in any two squares of a chessboard
and we would recognise each other

instantly.

But the world outside is so big and bad
it is selfish to obsess on the very small

so let the Technicolor wide-screen of dreams
collapse in on itself to a mobile phone

that one day I can carelessly lose.


previously published in Iota

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sex and the Poet

Over on Poefrika, Rethabile has been talking about poetry and sex and asks us all to join in the discussion. So here are three of my favourite poets on sex.

Sharon Olds for me is famous for her straightforward approach to sex: 'after we had made love for the third day' for example.

Rebecca Elson explored sex through mathematics: 'the body aches/.... (to) Express in its own algebra' (from Carnal Knowledge) and astronomy: 'dancers/practising their slow seductions on the manifolds of space' (from Constellations) always searching for the ultimate black hole experience.

Ruth Padel is all passion, tight reined most of the time, but you get the feeling that it would be all fireworks when it happens, if only the two would be lovers could allow their magnetism to draw them to each other. This is the ending of her long poem Casablanca and the Children of Storm from her collection Voodoo Shop:

But somewhere in another galaxy,
Some parallel universe,

We'll still be what we were,
St Peter's birds,

Doing the impossible, walking on sea,
The outriders of storm.

Off course maybe, blown,
fragile but together. Drawn

To their one and only mate
by magnetism, a cry

You recognise in the dark above all others,
And by faith.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Spoken Word Revolution Redux - ed Mark Eleveld

In true Poetry Slam style, this CD and book set starts out by putting Poet Laureate head to head with Slam Champion. Ted Kooser (former USA Poet Laureate) vs Anis Mojgani (twice National Poetry Slam Individual Champion); Andrew Motion (current UK Poet Laureate) vs Sonya Renee (former National Poetry Slam Individual Champion). I'm not a fan of Motion's poetry, but even if I were, his polite reading of Anne Frank Huis (one of his best poems) would still be totally blown out of the water by Renee's electrifying, music backed performance of Thick. The comparison is of course, unfair, Motion writes for the page, Renee is a performer. However any literary poet who is presenting their poetry in front of an audience could learn lessons from performance poets. Lessons about how to bring poetry alive and to engage an audience.

Questions, asked by Ted Kooser in his introduction to the book, about whether performance poetry will endure as literature, are in my mind irrelevant. Each performance is unique and will live on in the mind of the audience who may well memorise the words (as proven by the audience participation in the recording of David Lerner's Mein Kampf!). Dare I ask the question: is literary poetry in fact the sign of a failure in poetics? That it needs to be written down because no one can remember it otherwise? The first poets performed their work, they didn't write it down. Performance poetry today continues this tradition, Kevin Coval in his article Towards a hip hop poetica describes hip hop poets as 'modern griots, indigenous keepers and tellers of his/her/stories.' Hip Hop poetry revels in rhyme and rhythm, as demonstrated here by Invincible, in this excerpt from Detroit Winter:

The city streets are bitter sweet
I pound pavement
While I'm kicking litter at my feet
Under the snow, the ground's blanket
These heavy hitter beats.

Dana Gioia in his article The New Oral Poetry notes that "(t)he nearly universal critical bias against rhyme and meter as recently as ten years ago, especially in University writing programmes, indicates how distant the poets in a print culture have become from the orality of verse''.

Many literary poets also seem to be afraid of emotion and humour and often appear to be engaging with a select gathering of fellow literary poets, rather than reaching out to a wider audience. Performance poets however are not afraid of emotion, whether raw anger in Mayda del Valle's poem about Puerto Rican Spanish speakers Tongue Tactics or more controlled as in Patricia Smith's rambling poem of love for her father When the Burning Begins:

....... I'm telling you it's the first thing
I ever cooked, that my daddy was laughing
and breathing and no bullet in his head.

Nor are performance poets afraid to connect with the audience's points of reference, as in this line from Lebron James, by Nate Marshall one of the many young poets featured in this book:

I'll be the first spoken word brotha with a shoe
deal.

Performance poetry also is unafraid to engage with politics, which can seem confrontational, but it is hard not to at least see where Nikki Giovanni is coming from in his angry poem All Eyez on U:

if those who lived by the sword died by the sword there would be no
white men on earth.

There are some performance poets who I find too confrontational as much as there are some literary poets who bore me; at the same time there are literary poets who stun me with their distillations of powerful emotion and there are performance poets who move me with their subtlety. Both sides can learn from each other. This book is a perfect starting point for literary minded poets (or anyone else) to start learning from performance poets.

Spoken Word Revolution Redux can be ordered from Source Books.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Pigeon continued

As some readers of this blog may know, I recently read The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind and planned to leave it at the pigeon statues in Leith Walk in Edinburgh. I finally got round to doing this yesterday and caused a stir, with this result:

City's bronze pigeons are novel attraction

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lost in Translation

(on hearing poetry in Finnish)

Language takes me to
a land of lakes

trees

space


cold beauty

soundscape it’s own meaning
translation can only betray.