Saturday, 19 December 2009

Because you’re worth it

I just want you to know,
deep down in your bones,
that you are worth so much more than a cosmetic product.

I want you to feel the disgust I feel,
every time I hear them say that corny line.

I want you to feel my revulsion at their arrogance
to compare the worth of your extraordinary life and being
to anything so trivial as their skin cream.

How small does their regard for human beings have to be,
that they would make that repugnant comparison of worth?

I want to give you the freedom
to just say “no”.

To just say:
“I am worth so much more than a cosmetic product,
and so are all my friends and family.
I reject this disgusting marketing,
and I am going to take a stand against it by
never buying their product however good it may be.”

If we all stand together
we can wipe this scourge of vile marketing from
the face of the earth,
and the true worth of ourselves
and each other,
can once again,
shine in the clear light of day.

Why should we bother to stand up against the tyranny of degrading advertising?

Because you’re worth it.

Addenda



The facebook group to go with this poem is here:
Because you're worth it facebook group

Mr Kipling

Mr Kipling's cake
was on this particular occasion
slightly disappointing
in the face of the relatively high expectations
the marketing had raised within me.

There was too little jam,
too much icing,
and for a cake that claimed to be bakewell in nature
there was exceedingly little bakewell about it.

I suppose even Mr Kipling makes a mistake or two
now and then.

But it isn't surprising when you think about it.
I have been up and down the length of the UK
and in just about every shop
on every street corner
in every town
up and down the land
there are several boxes of cakes
all made by Mister Kipling.

How does he do it?
He must get up exceedingly early.
I'm surprised that most of his cakes don't taste
completely disgusting
with so many cakes to bake each day.

How does he manage never to burn the fruit
pies?
If I was Mr Kippling, I would inevitably
forget about the cakes I had in the oven
while I was applying icing to the
the bakewell slices.

So if anybody's asking me,
and I realised that they're not,
Mr Kipling is an exceedingly hard worker.
And should be forgiven,
for coming up with cakes,
which, quite frankly,
taste like they have been mass-produced.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

To do list

End chronic persistent hunger
Provide sufficient opportunity globally for all people to have more than enough
Provide sufficient educational opportunities and support for violence to only occur between consenting adults
Develop our appreciation of diversity and difference
End dependence on fossil fuel and establish infrastructure for supply of renewable energy sources that exceed human needs
Stabilize global population
Stabilize global climate destabilization
Create terra-formation technologies and space technologies sufficient to comfortably house the entire population
Develop cell repair technology to extend life-spans to average 200 or more years of youthful healthy life
Provide sufficient educational opportunities and support for a self-designated and self-determined relationship
with the eternal to be readily available to all people
Have a big party

Sunday, 29 November 2009

How I do hate the poetry of others

How I do hate the poetry of others:
it sticks in my throat
like an attempt to swallow something large and unpleasant,
like an elephant tranquilizer pill or perhaps a smallish whale;
I feel it wriggling as it forces its way down into my brain.

Having to pretend I like this and that [I don't],
notice about that [I notice nothing - it is all incomprehensible],
appreciate this or something about this [wish they'd just shut up],
know the feeling [I don't know the feeling - I just feel numb],
am transformed by a new understanding
[I'm not - I'm stuck forever at the bottom of a deep dark hole].

Hate it all.
Hate it all.
Wish it would stop.
Wish it would all just stop.
Wish it would all just go away.

Until

against every fibre of will in my being
some slight and innocent-looking words on page
refuse to be treated with my usual contempt
and I am destroyed.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Pacifist Suicide Bomber

Today a
pacifist suicide bomber
blew himself up in a crowded market square.

51 civilians were killed and eye-witnesses
reported that hundreds more were injured.

There are currently 37 people in hospital in a critical condition,
a defence ministry spokesman said.

See how the poem is mightier than the bomb?

See how I achieved as much as you did
without actually having to kill anyone?

(we both achieved nothing)

Wikipedia: Suicide bombings in Iraq since 2003

Friday, 27 November 2009

A future that's worth not fighting for

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the civilians who had bombs dropped on them
I remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and napalm
I remember the children who lost their parents
and the parents who lost their children
I remember the justifications and lies told by politicians:
old lies, new lies,
from “dulce et decorum est” right up to “weapons of mass destruction”,
all flavours of lie,
new lies for a new generation,
lies for every occasion, whatever lie takes your fancy.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the courage of those who have refused to take up arms;
the courage to face up to the stigma of cowardice.
I remember the conscripts who were shot for refusing to kill or refusing to walk into a blood bath
I remember the stupidity of generals
the ulterior motives
the attempt to control of the world’s resources
the complicity of religious leaders,
I remember the profiteering of arms manufacturers
I remember the evil perpetrated by people who were
"only following orders".

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the pomp and circumstance that makes it all seem so glamorous.
I remember the foolishness of young men,
who bought the latest marketing for state sponsored killing and world domination,
who got sucked in by slogans like, “U.N. peace-keepers”,
“global policemen”, “preventing genocide and preventing ethnic cleansing”,
“standing up for the weak against the powerful” (failing to notice that it is us who are the powerful, and them who are the weak)
I remember the naivety of teenagers
who always wanted to drive a tank or a jet fighter and didn't think about what they might have to use it for,
who watched Top Gun too many times when they were kids,
who came from a military family and no one ever taught them any better,
who couldn't think of anything better to do with their lives than join up and suffered from an education system that failed to help them find anything,
who instinctively knew that uniform equals pussy.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the future we could have
if we all simply refused to kill
if we all simply refused to take part in the killing
if we only ever played violent games with people who had consented to play them with us
if we gave up the option of using our superior military strength to dominate the world's flow of wealth and resources
if we refused to rise to the terrorists’ bait
and refused to fall to terrorists’ level
if we refused to waste our lives getting sucked into petty fights over who has the best ideology
or the best brand of mythic god,
or the most right to a particular plot of land,
if we stopped trying to make up for our laziness and boneheaded inability to innovate,
by stealing other countries oil and other natural resources,
which if we only would put out minds to it we could quite happily live without.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember the courage it takes to oppose the status quo
The unquestioned social agreement that dying in horribly painful ways while obeying orders merits honour and respect and gratitude,
When actually it only merits sympathy or at most compassion,
The unquestioned assertion that I and my community benefit from “freedoms” that exist by virtue of the sacrifices the ones who have died made,
The courage it takes to refuse to honour or respect soldiering or terrorism of any kind and certainly not when it is voluntary,
I remember how that marks me out to be ostracised and derided,
How our society is oriented around the blind acceptance that war may be a dirty job, but someone has to do it, and they should be respected for that.

On Remembrance Day,
I remember what we could do with our lives if we lived in a world where violence only occurred between consenting adults,
I remember what could be possible if we used our creativity to make the world a better place,

I remember a future that is worth not fighting for.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Wild Swans at Coole, W.B. Yeats

THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

W.B. Yeats 1919 (1865–1939)

Jerusalem, William Blake



And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

William Blake 1757–1827

Monday, 16 November 2009

The heart of my self

There is a tree that has grown up
In the heart of my self
That has weathered a thousand storms,
And looks set to weather another thousand
Before it falls.

Maybe it will not fall;
Maybe when the life has left it
The dead trunk will still stand there
Defying elements, refusing to rot,
Refusing to bend back down into the earth.

It has deep roots this tree of mine:
Sunk deep in the compost of extraordinary love
That a father and mother and sister and brother gave it,
And the storms that tried to humble it foolishly brought with them rain.

Rain nurtures, thunder calls forth exaltation,
Lightning makes a dazzling silhouette,
Wind gives exercise to its supple strength,
And after the storms die back
Sunshine warms the heart of its trunk.

No doubt it will be gone, after a while.

Note to self: an essay on meaning

Note to self: an essay on meaning
(or why words don't only mean what we want them to mean)

The reason lots of people
In particular myself
Tend to think that my poetry is not very good
Is because they (and I mean us) think that what I mean
By "poetry"
Ought to correspond to what they mean
By "poetry".

When I (and I mean you) talk about "poetry"
I am not talking about something
which I have construed as needing to in any way correspond,
or be compared to or put along side what other people (and I mean us)
may or may not call "poetry".

If you (and I mean me) want to know
what I (and I mean you) mean
By "poetry", read my poems;
My poems provide definitive and exact examples of
What I mean by "poetry".

Please do not ever under any circumstance
Expect my "poetry"
To match up to some standard you have of what
You think poetry ought to be.

My poems just aren't ever going to do that.
My poems just aren't ever going to do that.
My poems just aren't ever going to do that.

You'll only be disappointed (and I mean me)
And so will I (and I mean you).

Why will I be disappointed too?
Because you (and I mean me) came to me expecting
That when I say I write "poetry" I ought to be writing something like
what you would call "poetry"
And I don't:
I only ever write something like what I call "poetry".

But I never promised to write what you call "poetry"
And then call it what I call "poetry" in the first place.
So you accuse me of doing something
Which I never promised I wouldn't do
and now you're blaming me for breaking an agreement I never made
based on an assumption that I never agreed to.

I promise I'll sleep with you
if you promise to stop jumping to the wrong conclusion
and then blaming me for it
(and I mean you)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Old Lie - WILFRED OWEN

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

WILFRED OWEN (1893 – 1918)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where not lark or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Hate of few: fought by many

Hate of few: fought by many,
Man destroying man,
Manipulating horror causing death,
An army of flesh reduced,

Now leaves rank upon rank of white crosses.

A red more precious than rubies,
though wasted for lesser prizes,
is encrusted on the remnants of
kindred killed by kindred.

Living under torturous hardships
devised by ministers,
figureheads, heroes of the people;
murderers of soldiers.

Armies dead, killed fighting for the comfort of their killers.

[It is remembrance Sunday (today) and following the theme of remembering,
the poem above is one I remember from a school magazine - written by one of our classmates, although I don't think he was in my year.
I have written it out here from memory, so may have got bits wrong.
Unfortunately I do not remember the author's name, and my attempts to find it on the web got nowhere.
The author may not have thought it worth keeping around into their adulthood,
but I have always loved it.
If anyone knows the author name maybe you could leave a comment?
Thank you.]

Saturday, 31 October 2009

I too married a Troll

I too married a Troll
Lost two or three Camelots to its filthy greed
And like Luther when my subjects pointed out the
Stench of its breath, the warts,
The tusks coming from the side of its mouth,
How it liked to roll around in shit,
And make enemies out of friends,
How it poisoned everything it touched
And croaked like a hoarse old hag,
When they tried to tell me
I flew into a rage
And cut off their heads.

Too bad in my version the Troll won the day
Arthur never woke from the cunning potion plan
That was meant to free my eyes with tears
He died on the floor where he’d swallowed
I had no words of wisdom from a secret dragon hidden under my castle
No Merlin’s spell to wake him
No Arthur to save me with a blow and a blade
No Genevieve to release the last final stench of its foul intestine
The troll’s sorcery was too powerful
For my limited magic.

Instead I fled my kingdom
A subject of mockery throughout all lands
Unable to divorce my beloved Troll
No princesses came calling after that.

But maybe one day,
Maybe one day I shall rise,
I shall rise as the Troll I became when I married one
And I shall have my revenge.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

For some miraculous or un-miraculous reason or absence of reason

For some miraculous or un-miraculous reason or absence of reason
The universe exists today
And when I consider the alternative
My heart bursts with joy

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen - Versions exploration

Most versions seem to begin with this verse

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do ya?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth,
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

This verse is a reference to the Book of Samuel with David who is, as well as a nifty fighter, a mean harpist. His "secret chord" that "pleased the Lord" is enough to release an evil spirit from Saul, the man he is shortly to succeed as king. See: Whose Hallelujah is it anyway
Most versions also seem to follow along with this next verse:

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

The story of David continues for the first half of this second verse (above). Having saved Saul from the evil spirit, David spies the beautiful Bathsheba "bathing on the roof" and gets her pregnant. However, in the article linked above, Alan Connor, goes on to point out how half way through this verse, the story being related changes completely to that of Sampson and Delilah from the Book of Judges... Ok on to verse 3 .... Well verse 3 in some versions. Cohen actually recorded one version that starts from here. (Maybe he got bored of all the bible references?)

Baby (some versions say "Maybe") I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew ya.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It's a cold and very lonely Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Enough said, I think.

There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do ya?
Remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Yep, ok.

It's at this point that versions diverge.
In one version it all ends up rather depressing (although not of course because it's Cohen) ...


Maybe there's a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya;
It's not a cry you hear at night
It's not someone who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

However there's another version with a much more optimistic conclusion...

You say I took your name in vain
But I don't even know the name
And if I did, well really, what's it to ya?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool ya;
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
etc.


Cohen is variously reported to have written anything up to 80 verses.
If anyone has access to any more of them, I would be ever so pleased if you would post them in the comments or email me.
Be great to hear what else this song gets up to!




The link below is a recent live performance by Cohen in London which the recording industry (who pay for their yachts and private jets out of your iTune dollars) won't let me embed. Leonard Cohen performs Hallelujah live in London 2009

Thursday, 10 September 2009

instructions for a body - Marty McConnell

Marty McConnell's web site is here

Snippet from instructions for a body
by Marty "Do not let this universe regret you" McConnell 2005.
I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing in case someone minds me doing that.
Although would love it if Marty would call me and give me permission. 8-)
Hopefully she will forgive me just these few lines.

I found a full text version of the poem here but not sure how much longer it is going to be up there for.

Below the text in any case you can hear her say the whole thing on YouTube (twice).

instructions for a body
praise the miracle body: the odd
and undeniable mechanics of hand,
hundred-boned foot, perfect stretch
of tendon

tell me there are no gods then,
no master plans for this anatomy
with its mobile and evident spark

someone says “children of light”
and another, “goddessfragment” and
another, “chosen” / a dozen makers,
myriad paths, one goal:

some scalpel, some chisel, some crazed
sentimental engineer giving rib, giving
eyelash, giving gut and thumb --

all mattering. all set down
in a going world, vulnerable
and divine

in the beginning was the word.

[...]



Or this is an alternative version:




Addendum
Thank you so much Marty (see the comments for this post) for graciously giving me permission to reproduce the whole of this poem.
I've been reciting this to loads of people, and it keeps moving me deeply each time.
I especially like the lines I have emboldened below.

instructions for a body

praise the miracle body: the odd
and undeniable mechanics of hand,
hundred-boned foot, perfect stretch
of tendon

tell me there are no gods then,
no master plans for this anatomy
with its mobile and evident spark

someone says “children of light”
and another, “goddessfragment” and
another, “chosen” / a dozen makers,
myriad paths, one goal:

some scalpel, some chisel, some crazed
sentimental engineer giving rib, giving
eyelash, giving gut and thumb --

all mattering. all set down
in a going world, vulnerable
and divine

in the beginning was the word.

or before time there was a void
until a voice said “I” and was

or there was star and dust,
explosion and animal, mineral, us::

praise the veins that river these wrists
praise the prolapsed valve in a heart
praise the scars marking a gall bladder absent
praise the rasp and rattle of functioning lungs
praise the pre-arthritic ache of elbows
and ankles
praise the lifeline sectioning a palm
praise the photographic pads of fingertips
praise the vulnerable dip at the base of a throat
praise the muscles surfacing on an abdomen
praise these arms that carry babies
and anthologies
praise the leg hairs that sprout
and are shaved
praise the ass that refuses to shrink
or be hidden
praise the cunt that bleeds
and accepts, bleeds
and accepts
praise the prominent ridge
of nose
praise the strange convexity of ribcage
praise the single hair that insists on growing
from a right areola
praise the dent where the mole was clipped from the back
of a neck
praise these inner thighs brushing
praise these eyelashes that sometimes turn inward
praise these hips preparing to spread
into a grandmother’s skirt
praise the beauty of the freckle
on the first knuckle of a left little finger

we're gone / in a blizzard of seconds
love the body human
while we're here, a gift of minutes
on an evolving planet, a country
in flux / give thanks

what we take for granted, bone and dirt
and the million things that will kill us
someday, motion and the pursuit
of happiness / no guarantees / give thanks

for chaos theory, ecology, common sense that says
we are web. a planet in balance or out, the butterfly
in tokyo setting off thunderstorms in iowa,
tell me you don't matter to a universe that conspired
to give you such a tongue, such rhythm
or rhythmless hips, such opposable thumbs –
give thanks or go home a waste of spark

speak or let the maker take back your throat
march or let the creator rescind your feet
dream or let your god destroy your good and fertile mind


this is your warning / this
your birthright / do not let
this universe regret you.


© Marty McConnell, 2005
Thank you to Marty for permission to reproduce this!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

There's something lost but something gained in living every day

Both Sides Now
~Joni Mitchell~

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere,
I've looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
When every fairy tale comes real,
I've looked at love that way
But now it's just another show,
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care don't let them know,
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say, "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,
I've looked at life that way
But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
There's something lost but something gained
In living every day


I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all









































Please tell me in the comments if there are any YouTube covers of this I have missed that you particularly like. 8-) (or other media sites not YouTube)

Friday, 21 August 2009

How to love this cat?

My girlfriend's cat comes into my lounge
and sharpens her claws
against the silence of my grandma's old rocking
chair.

How to love this cat?
That is the question.



(With apologies to Mary Oliver)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Blessed

Four days ago
a butterfly
a red admiral
flew in through my open window and got himself stuck behind glass trying to get out

I cupped him in my hands and threw him back out into the free air
and off he flew

For the last three days
a butterfly
a red admiral
has flown back in through my open window
and flutterred happily around my room before
flying out again

It seems such a coincidence
I wonder
is it the same butterfly each day?
coming to thank me?

In any case
when he comes by
I look up from my work
and feel blessed by him

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Mary Oliver - How to love this world, that is the question



Spring

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.

I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Embarrassment

Each time I read
Each cringing line of
Each of my so-called poems
It makes me want to take them down off the internet and hide my embarrassment

So why don’t I?

I think it is because
A long time a go
I promised god
I would never let being a bad poet stop me from being a public poet

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Down by the salley gardens, William Butler Yeats

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

William Butler Yeats

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Three choices I don't have

The admission price to the game of life is facing death

I have no interest in whether I am clinically depressed
No interest in artificially altering my mood to be more socially acceptable even if I am
I have no cries for help in me – I have felt this way for 30 years
So many things could get me anyway, I refuse to make Death’s job any easier

I just want to consider the choice I don’t want
Whether to carry on or kill myself
In contrast with the much fairer choice that nobody has
Whether I would rather have this life or have never existed

Unexpectedly the choice I don’t have is strangely comforting
There is a third choice also not available
Whether I would prefer someone else’s life
But not much comfort in that

As the passenger flight from Rio to Paris falls out of the sky
Or I stand on the 105th floor of the burning world trade centre considering
Whether to choke on fumes and burn to death or fall 105 storeys
I consider the choice between this life and non-existence

And my surprising conclusion
even in the face of death
is life

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Michelle Ryan talking about Rudyard Kipling



Below is the text of the two poems she refers to:

The Female of the Species

WHEN the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale—
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)



If

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A poem lovely as a tree (I think that I shall never see)

I think that I shall never see<br />A poem lovely as a tree

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks to God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

From "Trees" by Alfred Joyce Kilmer

Friday, 24 April 2009

The river has no interest

The river has no interest in my description of it or my attempt to describe it
does not care if it is seeming poetic how the sunlight catches the slight ripples on its mostly flat surface as it hurries round the corner of Hangman's cottage
has no regard for my mood or point of view
how I am entertained by the small boys who,
calculating that an inverted umbrella may serve as a small boat
deliberately drop an old red umbrella with broken handle at the bend
then hurry down to the bridge with expectations
the umbrella ("ella-ella")
will come down the river to where they will, reaching over, recover it
and repeat

The river has no regard for their game either
the umbrella drifts slowly around the pool of twinkling sunlight
and moving gradually away from the fastest route of water towards the bank on the far side
it stops in reeds next to the garden that belongs to the cottage

The boys return back behind me and one tries to dislodge the umbrella by throwing small pebbles haplessly in its vague direction.
I wonder about the windows of the cottage just beyond but do not feel inclined to say "stop";
possibly a broken window might improve my poem.

The old man from the cottage comes out to his garden and considers:
the boys standing slightly sheepish discussing whether they should wade across the river to retrieve their toy
(they have stopped pebble throwing),
me sitting on the bank in the sunshine hands in my lap,
the old lady who passes by mumbling warnings and pleasantries, afternoons and how are yous,
a young girl pulled along by an ugly dog,
a couple holding hands.

The old man pauses an unnecessary moment:
perhaps he is wondering what description he will use for the river in his poem.
Then he offers to put on welly boots and retrieve the umbrella.

Looking down into the water,
I see the river has many layers downwards, as well as across.
The different layers move at different speeds.
The river seems almost as though it is a living thing,
but that's wrong obviously.
We all know it is only water, and water is made of molecules.
Hydrogen and oxygen.
I learnt that at school.

A mother duck, and seven tiny just hatched ducklings come up the river towards me,
but pause under the bridge where the boys had stood waiting for their umbrella.
Why do they stop there, I wonder.
Are they waiting for something?
Like an umbrella that they dropped once,
way up stream,
in the hope that they might later be able to retrieve it.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Filipa Azul translated by Stewart J. Scott

Here are some wonderful poems sent to me today by my friend and a very special poet, artist and photographer, Filipa Azul. Filipa very kindly gave me permission to post them here.

You will see as you read them that they are quite delightful. At one and the same time ridiculously funny, tragic, poignant, urgent and compelling.

She asked me to post them both in the original Portuguese and the English tanslation by Stewart J. Scott. They are just the tip of the iceberg with Filipa's poetry. She is also a photographer and artist. I will post links to some of this when I find it, but for now you can at least enjoy these:

Filipa Azul Tradução do original português, para o inglês, de Stewart J. Scott

I
today there is nothing special that I really want...
bring me only a golden narwhale
Mr and Mrs green-pawed unicorn
half a dozen gnomes
... but from the oaks of the white forest!
a red-headed, mute mermaid
an honest politician
some ambrosia biscuits
and a small cup filled with the elixir of youth.
oh ... and the newspaper!
any will do ...
they are all full of good news.


hoje não me apetece nada de especial...
tragam-me só um narval dourado
um casal de unicórnios de patas verdes
meia-dúzia de gnomos
... mas dos carvalhos do bosque branco!
uma sereia ruiva e muda
um político íntegro
umas bolachinhas de ambrósia
e uma tacinha pequena com elixir da juventude.
ah... e o jornal!
um qualquer serve...
estão todos cheios de notícias boas.




II
Diary
on the 31st September,
without fail,
I will change my attitude


agenda
dia 31 de Setembro
sem falta
vou mudar de atitude



III
it's vital that technology evolves
it's vital to discover quickly
a way for the newspapers
the radio
the television
the internet
to give out a smell
...
I really want to see who can bear
the front page
the news bulletin
the TV news
the live coverage of the war
without vomiting
...
smell is crucial
for the education of the nausea


é urgente que a tecnologia evolua
é urgente que se descubra rapidamente
uma forma de os jornais
a rádio
a televisão
a internet
terem cheiro
...
sempre quero ver quem é que aguenta
as primeiras páginas
os noticiários
os telejornais
os directos da guerra
sem vomitar
...
é urgente o cheiro
para educar a náusea

Filipa Azul Tradução do original português, para o inglês, de Stewart J. Scott

Here is a link to some of Filipa's photographs:
Filipa Azul, photographer artist poet

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Start by taking two protons

Start by taking two protons (nuclei of hydrogen)
Heat them up so that they are hot - really hot.
Hot enough that they are moving fast enough that just occasionally they get close enough
that the strong nuclear short-range force can lock them together.

When this happens one of those protons can turn into a neutron
and two particles called a positron and a neutrino come flying out
and the remaining proton and neutron join to make an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium
(about 1/7000th of the Hydrogen in water is actually deuterium).

Getting the two protons together takes a long time - so be patient.
But once the deuterium has been made everything else is easy.

Add another proton and it will join up with the deuterium
turning it into a helium3 nucleus and a photon comes flying out.

Mix 2 of these Helium3s together and they can stick to make a Helium4 nucleus
(otherwise known as an alpha particle - as in alpha, beta and gamma radiation - if you studied school physics)
and a couple of protons come flying out.

This whole process produces energy - a lot of energy.
Some of the energy can be put back into the whole business of getting
two protons together in the first place (which we started with).

Some of it can be used to make star-light.

And some of it, when we get up in the morning,
and feel it on our faces
we will get to call sun-shine.

(With thanks for provision of technical consultancy from Professor Brian Cox)

Friday, 30 January 2009

Call for end to Poet Laureate job

Link to article on BBC web site.

Wendy Cope, a favourite to succeed Andrew Motion as Poet Laureate, has called for the post to be abolished.



Last year, Motion said the job of writing verse for the Royal Family was "thankless" and gave him a case of writer's block.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Who we are for each other

She is my goddess
I am a source of amusement

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Inaugural Poem recited by Elizabeth Alexander





Inaugural Poem

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each
others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All
about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on
our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an
oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils.
Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or
declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then
others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's
something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot
yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead
who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked
the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every
hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national.
Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt
grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any
sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in
that light.

Elizabeth Alexander

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Lives of great men all remind us

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us father than today.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts though stout and brave,
Still like muffled drums are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no future however pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead!
Act! Act in the living present!
Heart within, God overhead.

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And in passing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints that perhaps another
Sailing over life's solemn main
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow