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!

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

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

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)

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.


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


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


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


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!