I trampled ants on the quay at Dieppe, dawdling by the desk where theywouldn'ttake yes for an answer; yes, it was our name and spellThe French For Death
I trampled ants on the quay at Dieppe, dawdling by the desk where they wouldn't take yes for an answer; yes, it was our name and spelled just so – Dad repeated it in Oldham’s finest guttural, we shook our heads at Moor and Maud andMorden.
Rope swung from the captain’s fist And lashed the water. I saw him shudder, Troubled by a vision of our crossing: Glower of thunder, the lurch and buckle Of the ferry. I looked him in the eye
and popped my bubblegum. Child from the underworld in red sandals and a Disney T-shirt, not yet ashamed by that curt syllable, not yet the girl who takes the worst route home, pauses
at the mouth of alleyways, or kisses strangers on the nameless pier; eyes open staring out to sea, as if in the distance there’s the spindle of a shipwreck, prow angled to a far country.
Carol Ann Duffy has described Helen Mort as “amongst the brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of young British Poets” and, going on her Curriculum Vitae, so far you’d have to be brave or just plain stupid to dispute this statement. A quick check on-line and it turns out that she is a five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, has received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors (2007), won the Manchester Poetry Prize - Young Writer Prize - in (2008), and in 2010, became the youngest ever poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. She was also the Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2013-2015). Add to this that the poems featured in this post all come from her first full collection of poetry, which was shortlisted for both the T.S Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize (2013) and won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize in 2014, she was also named as one of the Next Generation poets by the Poetry Book Society.
Blurb from back cover
“From the clash between striking miners and police to the delicate conflicts in personal relationships, Helen Mort’s stunning début is marked by distance and division. Named for a street in Sheffield, this is a collection that cherishes specificity: the particularity of names; the reflections the world throws back at us; the precise moment of a realisation. Distinctive and assured, these poems show us how, at the site of conflict, a moment of reconciliation can be born.”
Helen Mort, seems to have been raised within a similar landscape to Liz Berry, a poet I have previously posted on, Helen was born in Sheffield (South Yorkshire,) and raised Derbyshire which is in theMidlands, although east as opposed to Liz’s west. I mention this because Helen Mort has stated that “landscape is an important presence in her work”, in fact she composes many of her poems whilst walking or running on theCumbrian Fells and whereas I felt that the poetry in Liz Berry’s collection Black Country, used language and specifically dialect to place this region, it’s landscape and people on the map and in some way hark back to a specific time through the language used, I believe Helen Mort seems to me more precise, she picks out places, names and uses them as almost as though they were Cairns, boundary stones, pinpointing to what she is trying to communicate. I also felt that although Division Street harkens back to the past as did Black Country, it’s imagery was more overtly political, what I mean by this is that - in my opinion - Liz Berry may use the dialect as a political tool, as a way of highlighting the decline of industry and the effect that has on her region, Helen seems to use specific points in time, specific events such as the Miners Strike for her imagery, now for a lot of people, myself included, this was time of severe division & conflict, my stepfather was a sparkie (electrician) at one of the pits in Kent & for almost two years I worked at the same pit, before escaping to what for me was a hell-hole. I got out before the government at that time decided to curtail the power of the unions and do this by using the miners unions as an example and destroy them, this ended up ripping whole communities apart & leaving towns and villages with no purpose as they were set up to provide manpower for the mines.
Scab III (part of a 5 sectioned poem)
This is a reconstruction. Nobody will get hurt. There are miners playing coppers, ex-coppers shouting Maggie out. There are battle specialists, The Vikings and The Sealed Knot. There will be opportunities to leave, a handshake at the end. Please note the language used for authenticity: example – scab, example – cunt.
This is a re-enactment. When I blow the whistle, charge But not before. On my instruction, Throw your missiles in the air. On my instruction, tackle him, Then kick him when he’s down, Kick him in the bollocks, boot him like a man in flames.Now harder, kick him till he doesn't know his name.
This is a reconstruction. It is important to film everything. Pickets chased on horseback into Asda, Running shirtless through the aisles of tins.
A lad who sprints through ginnels,* Gardens, up somebody’s stairs, into a room where two more miners hide beneath the bed, or else are lost – or left for dead.
*a narrow passage between buildings; an alley
Meaning that this collection of poetry has a lot of resonance for me, in fact I picked it up because of the front cover of this book, which shows an image from the Orgreave Miners strike. Although to make the claim that this is all the collection relates to would be doing it an injustice, even the part of the poem Scab, I placed here is part of a larger poem, that is more an exploration of betrayal in its many forms, the leaving of the home to go to university (Cambridge), with all the feelings raised relating to the family being left behind both physically & socially. In fact this collection explores relationships both on a personal level and a wider scale, on the individual as well as the community,meaning it deals with ideas of both loyalty and betrayal, it also hones in on all those grey areas, those points of conflict that can never be defined by the simple definition of black or white. So what started out for me as a collection raising some ghosts from a long forgotten past, raised more ghosts than I was expecting and in areas I wasn't.
An auditorium where nobody is clapping
you enter naked, breasts like two grey stones. You have to leave your things outside.
They will be counted, weighed, put back exactly as they weren't.
“We spent our lives down in the blackness……those bird brought us up to the light” – Jim Showell, Tumbling pigeons & the Black CouBirmingham Roller.
“We spent our lives down in the blackness……those bird brought us up to the light” – Jim Showell, Tumbling pigeons & the Black Country
Wench, yowm the colour of ower town: concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.
Ower streets am in yer wings, ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,
yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust in their tranklement cabinets.
Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men whose onds grew soft as feathers
just to touch you, cradle you from egg through each jeth-defying tumble.
Little acrobats of the terraces, We’m winged when we gaze at you
Jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through the white-breathed prayer of january
and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo caught by the open donny of the clouds.
(Tranklement/ ornaments (bits & Bobs): wench/affectionate name for a female: yowm/ you are: cut/ canal: onds/hands: jimmucking/ shaking: babby/ little child: donny/hand (child). )
Black Country is an area of the West Midlands metropolitan county in England, north and west of Birmingham. It includes parts of the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution. The region gained its name in the mid nineteenth century due to the smoke from the many thousands of ironworking foundries and forges plus also the working of the shallow and 30ft thick coal seams. Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham in 1862, described the area 'Black by day and red by night'.
It mizzled the night you died but you’d already gone back to your owd mon’s garden with your yellow frock on. In the beds, goosegogs furred, peas climbed cane wigwams, your brothers shirt danced on the line. And you, thirteen again, sensing light above, raised your hand to shade your eyes from the sun.
(Mizzled/ rained: owd mon/ dad)
Liz Berry was born in this region & still lives there now (Birmingham), so it makes perfect sense for her debut collection of poetry to be set there as well, but what makes this collection stand out is the language used. Liz Berry has drawn on the dialect of the Black Country and by combining this with its history & her own has created an extraordinary collection of poetry rooted into the landscape and yet at that same instant somersaulting, turning as though a bird in flight. The words come off the page almost as if they were incantations as though by reciting the “owd words” you are not merely harking back to the past but raising it fully formed into the present, with the dialect forming a vital part of the poems not just as some form of tranklement, (love that word) but a way of placing this region its landscape and people on the map. This is not just a wonderful personal debut collection of poetry it’s a paean to a world that is changing, to a landscape that was carved out for a specific purpose, that now no longer exists. Liz Berry’s Black country, is like the region - there’s a darkness born out of the landscape, but there is also a humour, a tenderness that reflects it’s people and is there as a defence against all that the darkness represents
Sándor Weöres (1913 – 1989) was a Hungarian poet and author. Although he was born on 22 June 1913 in Szombathely, he was raised in the nearby villageSándor Weöres (1913 – 1989) was a Hungarian poet and author. Although he was born on 22 June 1913 in Szombathely, he was raised in the nearby village of Csönge, he was considered a very bright and keen individual wanting to read and learn from anything that he came in contact with, including books from diverse nations and cultures - this at a time when the established learning was focused inwards and Eurocentric. As a poet influences such as Taoism, Indian philosophy, in fact both Eastern and European mysticism, would resurface in his writings and become major factors in his work, he would even go on to translate the Tao Te Ching (his version still the most widely read in Hungary). At the age of nineteen, his poetry was being published in the influential journal Nyugat ("West") through the acceptance of its editor, the poet Mihály Babits. He attended the University of Pécs, originally to study law, before switching to geography and history and ultimately receiving a doctorate in philosophy and aesthetics. His doctoral dissertation The Birth of the Poem was published in 1939.
In 1937 he made his first journey outside of Hungary, going first to Manila for a Eucharistic Congress before visiting Vietnam and India. During World War II he was drafted for compulsory labour, but was not sent to the front. After the end of the war, he returned to Csönge, living for a short time as a farmer.
The Lunatic Cyclist (1930)
Sometimes one whose soul is pure sees himself as if he might be some cycling lunatic as he pedals through the night
he the lunatic evokes who can neither see nor hear while the pebbles his wheels flick are flung twanging through his spokes
wheels that cut into the earth around him weave a dusty veil the stars above a lazy herd sleep in their narrow sky-tall
while the wind soaks up his sweat and shakes out his bushy hair the lunatic continues yet to pedal through the moonlit air
sometimes one whose soul is pure sees himself as if he might be that lunatic cycling there with mounting fury through the night
as clear to him as bread and wine mirrored by the light of day the moon that sprinkles round about on every side its netted ray cold the light and cold the wind that blows the lunatic’s hair back while dust humiliates his wheels and unvirginal is his track
infinite is the cyclist’s track and the soul that’s pure and bright watches while the lunatic pedals weeping through the night.
Trans: William Jay Smith
In 1948 Weöres left the country again residing in Italy until 1949. In 1951 he returned to Hungary, settling in Budapest where he would remain for the rest of his life. The imposition of Stalinism in Hungary after 1948 silenced Weöres and until 1964, with very little able to be published, one of the exceptions was “A hallgatás tornya” (The Tower of Silence), published during a brief period of relative freedom prior to the revolution of 1956.
On Death (1937)
Don't mind if you die. It's just your body's shape, intelligence, separate beings which are passing. The rest, the final and the all-embracing structure receives, and will absorb and keep.
All incidents we live through, forms we see, particles, mountain-tops, are broken down, they all are mortal, this condition shows, but as to substance: timeless majesty.
The soul is that way too: condition dies away from it—feeling, intelligence, which help to fish the pieces from the drift
and make it sicken—but, what underlies, all elements that wait in permanence, reach the dear house they never really left.
Trans: Allan Dixon
In 1964 he published “Tűzkút” (The Well of Fire) in Paris and his poetry became officially tolerated in Hungary. Weöres also translated writers into Hungarian, including the works of Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko, the Georgian poet Rustaveli, the Slovenian poets Oton Župančič and Josip Murn Aleksandrov. He also translated Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and Henry VIII, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, the nonsense poems by Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, and the complete poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé. In 1970 he received the Kossuth Prize, the nation’s highest award. English-language translations of his poetry include If All the World Were a Blackbird (1985) and Eternal Moment (1988).
Sandor Weöres, confounded the critics of his homeland throughout his career, from the very start he was interested in experimenting with form, he would try his hand at everything from automatic writing to creating nonsensical poems without regard to any semantic meaning, before translating them using diverse methods. He was searching for methods to express his thoughts in a way that could only be done via a language he saw as specific to poetry & could not be expressed in a standard literal form. This he pursued through a period of history when poets and writers where expected to follow the socialist ideal and write realist poems that praised the state, that provided propaganda to the regimes ideology. Although recognised by his peers he was seen by the state apparatus as a propagator of nihilist ideas, and thus his poetry was not published until the political climate changed. He continued regardless constantly expanding his ideas, taking everything from nursery rhymes to long mythical poetry. In 1972 he published Psyche, an anthology of poetry and prose by a female poet called Erzsébet Mária Psyché Lónyay, whose work had lain forgotten since the early 19th century, and who Weöres rediscovers: this was later turned into a film called Narcissus & Psyche by Gábor Bódy (1980). He also edited an influential collection of Hungarian poetry Három veréb hat szemmel in 1977 (Three sparrows with six eyes).
Renaissance (1980) It was the era of masks And the bird saluting the well.
Eyes opening to the knowledge Cobbled the dark alleys
Solid ruins stepped from the past And mixed with present dilapidation.
Wombshaped, pluckable instruments contended with huge baggy keyboards.
Born in pain sincerity was promptly dying.
Anyone who thought to speak was already overheard.
The city was full of expectation; the country with countless flowers, and unsuspected silky tunes flew, like a mist of cuckoos, far off.
Trans: Hugh Maxton
I found out about Sandor Weöres, through my local charity bookshop, where I came across a copy of Eternal Moment (Selected poems), this anthology of poetry covers Sandor’s poetry from 1928 – 1980, giving the reader an overview of this Hungarian writers oeuvre, it was edited by Miklós Vajda, who also wrote the introduction, it has an after word by Edwin Morgan and some drawings by Sandor Weöres. This collection was published in 1988 by Anvil press Poetry.
This is a wonderful & interesting collection of poetry that shows this writer finding his own voice, but not just that it also demonstrates that, despite the whole apparatus of governmental opinion against him, he was proved right in the end becoming a much respected, loved and emulated poet, whose work has been set to music, made into film & is a fixture in Hungarian life whether through the nursery rhymes heard as a child or through verse, film & music whilst growing up.
“Locked away in a dimly lit cellar in a provincial Polish town, the writer Bruno Schulz is composing a letter to Thomas Mann, warning him of a siniste“Locked away in a dimly lit cellar in a provincial Polish town, the writer Bruno Schulz is composing a letter to Thomas Mann, warning him of a sinister impostor who has deceived the gullible inhabitants of Drohobycz. In return, he's hoping that the great writer might help him to escape - from his apocalyptic visions, his bird-brained students, the imminent Nazi invasion, and a sadistic sports mistress called Helena.”
This is a strange book to write about - within its 90 odd pages (pun intended) there is the main story & two short tales (Birds & Cinnamon shops) by the owner of the aforementioned head. This novella manages to blend slight biography with a surreal melange of myth and fiction. It takes elements from the real life of Bruno Schulz & adds elements drawn from his own take on fiction, almost as if he was channelling the spirit of Schultz. We have children that are birds pecking at his basement window, a sadistic teacher that appears to have undying believe in his writing & a willingness to punish Schulz for his own lack of belief and a Thomas Mann imposter that appears to have all the citizens of Schulz’s hometown (Drohobycz) enthralled and at his beck and call, like some circus ringmaster. This small book has a strangeness that strays far from whimsy, in fact this is in the territory of Hieronymus Bosch, with our ringmaster/Thomas Mann imposter inviting the town’s people of Drohobycz to his residence, which is a bathroom but is the size of a large school hall. This room has no fixtures but showers & everyone is naked as the false Mann wanders round whipping all and sundry whilst smoke pours out of the shower heads.
It also turns out that the imposter is an agent of the secret police & has been placed in the town by the Nazis as a propagator of mischief, fear & confusion, to lay the path for an invasion.
Pushkin published this alongside two short stories by Schulz himself, 'Birds' and 'Cinnamon Shops', whether this was to give the reader an idea of Schulz’s own writing, to give one the background to Maxim Biller’s tale, or to bulk out what would have been a really small book, I don’t know. What I do know is that as a taster it makes me want to find out more about this strange writers headspace.
As to the lead story, that was a short surreal trip to the dark side of the mind, that leaves you with little more than an impression, but I like that, not all stories need to lead you down the path holding your hand & providing you with all the answers, some tales merely provide an ambience and I'm fine with that, this tale leaves you with a foreboding and yet despite that there is a humour here, a dark scabrous, twisted & erotic humour – but still a humour..
YESTERDAY in order to explain myself I locked myself away with an old alphabet, with the hand-me-down phrases for which I had nJohnny learns the language
YESTERDAY in order to explain myself I locked myself away with an old alphabet, with the hand-me-down phrases for which I had no use but to which I was already addicted.
Yesterday, while considering how absurd it was that everything has a name I discovered that the mayfly was weighed down by a single vowel. Under the threat of not being understood I began to understand how words were the nets in which what I was floundered.
Mother, you come with your bowl of words, fat words, puffed up with kindness. And father you come with your silences in which words sneak about like thieves.
I am learning your language. “Loss” “Defeat” “Regret” --- Without understanding You would have these be the blueprints for my future. (Grinning Jack)
This poem beautifully and poignantly encapsulates the idea that what we are is defined by our language & how we, in trying to escape it’s net, slowly realise that the threads wind round our very DNA, that the language we imbibe as babes in arms forms the chemistry of our adult self and escape is not an option, at most all we do is redefine.
Brian Patten is a poet that has long been a…… No I won’t say long been a favourite, but has long formed part of how I define myself as a lover of poetry.
He is one of those poets that for a reason I cannot answer, just makes me shiver and shiver at some elemental level. I was a latecomer to his poetry, not really discovering him until sometime in the early 1990s, through the anthology Collected Love Poems (first pub’ 1981) this book went all over Germany with me, became a talisman that I carried from job to job, became a way for me to define a stage of my life and a key to break free from it and move on to what would prove to be my future.
And heart is daft
WITHOUT understanding any pain but that which inside her anyway is made, this creature singled out creates havoc with intelligence. And heart is daft, is some crazy bird let loose and blind that slaps against the night and has never anywhere to go. And when a tongue’s about to speak some nonsense like “Love is weak, or blind, or both” then comes this crazy bird, pecks at it like a worm. (Collected love Poems)
This book was also one of the very first books of poetry featured on this blog, way back in 2010 and I stated that “This is a book full of beautiful images, of wide eyed wonder with the sheer beauty, terror of the collections subject matter.” .......
Grinning Jack (first pub’1990), is made up of poetry spanning three decades of Brian Patten’s writing. The poems are drawn from and replace a number of earlier collections - creating a companion volume to Love Poems. The poetry in Grinning Jack takes us on a journey from those childhood moments in some playground, through the wonder and angst of adolescence and ends with an adult lamenting the loss of close friends. This is a tale of growing up, growing old and growing disillusioned, but it is also much more than that, as Charles Causley once said of Patten he;
"Reveals a sensibility profoundly aware of the ever-present possibility of the magical and the miraculous, as well as of the granite-hard realities. These are undiluted poems, beautifully calculated, informed - even in their darkest moments - with courage and hope."
It is this juxtaposition of the fantastic with the mundane reality of existence that runs through his poetry, where one moment magic is revealed to be the prevalent force inhabiting our world, and in the next for death to raise his macabre hand reminding us that for all that is of wonder, the flipside is blood and guts, the entrails that make up the stark reality, the apparent meaningless that life sometimes demonstrates.
The necessary slaughter
THERE WAS a bird come recently. When I went into my room I saw it balanced on the open window. It was a thin bird, I dreamt worms for it And in the morning it was fatter And the next night for the worms I dreamt rich soil, and then other creatures, those that could not fly but now had ground on which to walk all came and waited round my bed. I dreamt for them what they needed, The bird the worm, the fox, the hen, etc., etc. Right up to the two-legged creature. Sadly the more they came the more I had to dream for them each other’s murder Till my dreams became a planet and that planet called The necessary slaughter
Brian Patten, wrote a prose poem entitled “Prose poem towards a definition of itself”,
“When in public poetry should take off its clothes and wave to the nearest person in sight; it should be seen in the company of thieves and lovers rather than that of journalists and publishers. On sighting mathematicians it should unhook the algebra from their minds and replace it with poetry; on sighting poets it should unhook poetry from their minds and replace it with algebra; it should fall in love with children and woo them with fairy tales; it should wait on the landing for two years for its mates to come home then go outside and find them all dead.
When the electricity fails it should wear dark glasses and pretend to be blind. It should guide all those who are safe into the middle of busy roads and leave them there. It should shout EVIL! EVIL! From the roof of all stock exchanges. It should not pretend to be a clerk or librarian. It is the eventual sameness of all contradictions. It should never weep until it is alone and only then after it has covered all the mirrors and sealed all the cracks.
Poetry should seek out couples and wander with them into stables, neglected bedrooms and engineless cars for a final Good Time. It should enter burning factories too late to save anyone. It should pay no attention to its real name.
Poetry should be seen lying by the side of road accidents, be heard hissing from unlit gas rings. It should write the teacher’s secret on a blackboard, offer her a worm saying, inside this is a tiny apple.
Poetry should play hopscotch in the 6 pm streets and look for jinks in other people’s dustbins. At dawn it should leave the bedroom and catch the first bus home. It should be seen standing on the ledge of a skyscraper, on a bridge with a brick tied around its heart. It is the monster hiding in a child’s dark room, it is the scar on a beautiful man’s face. It is the last blade of grass being picked from the city park.”
I believe he achieved this and more through his words. He is a poet that has meant a lot to me, has become one of a small selection of poets that define how I see poetry, has become, I guess, a signifier pointing a way for me to define my relationship with the world/word, and as stated above – we may not escape the language imbibed whilst young, but we can find means of redefining our relationship to it, and to me personally this writer, was one of my means.
In Japanese mythology, Izanaki (The Male Who Invites) and Izanami (The Female Who Invites) were amongst the original gods who were the creators of JapIn Japanese mythology, Izanaki (The Male Who Invites) and Izanami (The Female Who Invites) were amongst the original gods who were the creators of Japan and its gods. For many centuries myths like these would have been transmitted orally in Japan, until around 712 A. D. when a written version - the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), was compiled for the Japanese imperial court. The tales in the Kojiki tell of the creation of the world, the origin of the gods, and the ancestry of the Japanese emperors, who claimed their authority through direct descent from the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Another early source of the mythology would have been the Nihongi, or Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), completed around 720 A.D.
According to the legends, after their birth Izanaki and Izanami stood on the floating bridge of heaven, stirring the primeval ocean with a jewelled spear, on lifting the spear droplets fell from it into the water forming an island called Onogoro. Izanaki and Izanami descended to the island and became husband & wife. Not long after, Izanami gave birth to their first child who was deformed - the other gods blamed Izanami, because she spoke before her husband at their marriage ceremony. The couple decided to perform another wedding ceremony (perceived correct this time) and Izanami soon gave birth to eight lovely children - these became the islands of Japan.
Izanaki and Izanami then went on to create many more gods and goddesses, representing the mountains, valleys, waterfalls, streams, winds and the many other natural features of Japan. Life seemed good until during the birth of Kagutsuchi (the fire god), Izanami was badly burned, although as she lay dying, she continued creating gods and goddesses, whilst other deities emerged from the tear ducts of the heartbroken Izanaki. When Izanami died, she descended to Yomi (underworld) and her husband decided to go there and bring her back from this land of darkness and death. Izanami greeted Izanaki from the shadows as he approached the entrance to the underworld, warning him not to look upon her - full of desire for his wife, Izanaki lit a torch and looked into Yomi. Horrified by the sight of his wife, now a rotting corpse, Izanaki fled. Izanami, livid that her husband had failed to respect her wishes, sent hideous female spirits, eight thunder gods and an army of fierce warriors after him. Izanaki managed to escape by blocking the entrance between Yomi and the land of the living with a massive boulder. They subsequently broke off their marriage with Izanami now trapped behind this immovable boulder screaming out to Izanaki that if he left her she would kill a thousand of the living every day. He furiously replied he would give life to 1000 in return. Although Izanami has the last bitter laugh by choosing to kill the women her estranged husband impregnates. (Thanks to the Myths Encyclopaedia)
We learn about this from Namima, who with her sister has her life mapped out from birth. Her sister will become their island’s oracle and she will become the island’s priestess of death. This path is so rigidly marked out that there is no chance of her living any form of life she would choose for herself, in fact she is deemed impure – the Yin to her sisters Yang and upon her sister’s death she would be expected to commit suicide to maintain the balance. Yearning to break free from this straightjacket she is coerced to break one taboo & then another, becoming pregnant, leaving her with no choice but to flee with the man who claimed to love her, but will ultimately betray her by killing her and taking her new born daughter for purposes of his own. She wakes to find herself now trapped in Yomi, with a goddess who has had untold centuries to hone her vengeance. Namima, cannot come to terms with her new existence, and learns the tale of the goddess - seeing how it correlates with her and her own life was. She is also burning up with the desire to address the wrongs done to her, and needs to understand what has happened to her daughter.
The Goddess Chronicle is a retelling of the myth of Izanaki and Izanami by Natsuo Kirino and like her other books, this is more than just a simple tale of love gone foul. Anyone having read Out, Grotesque & Real world, will recognise the familiar themes of the deification of women, combined with their subjugation and estrangement from all that is worthwhile within Japanese society. Of women reaching beyond some role/image forced upon them, attempting to seek meaning, control over their existence, whilst they struggle against rigid societal conventions - leaving them with no option but to break the taboos, family ties and conventions laid down by a world that doesn't recognise them as individuals, and to ultimately pay the price. Because as with her other books there is always a tab to be paid. The Goddess Chronicle, is also like her other books in that it is a book that appears to turn its own pages, that sets a pace and just rolls along building up steam or in this case anger, because as John Lydon said “Anger is an energy” and in this book it burns off the page and through the retina - searing its cautionary tale into your neurons.
“Hold Your Own” is a multi-voiced collection of poetry by Kate Tempest, based around the Greek myth of Tiresias a blind prophet of Apollo in Thebe. On“Hold Your Own” is a multi-voiced collection of poetry by Kate Tempest, based around the Greek myth of Tiresias a blind prophet of Apollo in Thebe. On Mount Cyllene Tiresias came upon a pair of copulating snakes, shocked by this he picked up a branch and proceeded to hit them, the goddess Hera was angry by this and transformed Tiresias into a woman as punishment. Tiresias spent seven years as a women, became a priestess to the goddess, married and had children. After this period Tiresias once again came upon two entwined snakes &, depending on which version of the myth you read, she either trampled them, or left them well alone, and Tiresias was released from the enchantment and once more became a man.
But before I go any further into this collection of verse, I’d like to back up a bit. I first became aware of Kate tempest, via 6Musics festival and a song she did with Eliza Carthy, which I thought was beautiful, I particularly loved the words that Kate Tempest half sang/half spoke. I had to find out more so started to search out who this individual was (I already was aware of Eliza), and in doing so found out about this wonderful new poet and that the words she sung was a poem from this collection.
For My Niece.
I hold you in my arms your age is told in months.
There’s things I hope you’ll learn. Things I'm sure that I learned once.
But there’s nothing I can teach you. You’ll find all that you need.
No flower bends its head to offer teaching to a seed
The seed will grow and blossom once the flower’s ground to dust.
But even so, if nothing else, one thing I’ll entrust:
Doing what you please is not the same
as doing what you must.
What I also learned is that apart from being a fantastic performance poet, who commands a huge and dedicated following on the performance and rap circuit, she is also a playwright, whose spoken word piece Brand New Ancients was performed in 2012 to critical acclaim at the Battersea Arts Centre, winning her the 2013 Off West End Award ("The Offies") - It also won the Ted Hughes Award (youngest ever winner) for New Work in Poetry and a Herald Angel Award at Edinburgh Festival. On top of all this her album Everybody Down, was nominated for a Mercury Prize (2014) and given the inaugural "Soundcheck Award" for the best album of 2014 by Radioeins and Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin. She was also selected as one of the 2014 Next Generation Poets by the Poetry Society.
Kate Tempest sited her influences as Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, W B Yeats, William Blake, W H Auden and Wu-Tang Clan.
Back to the book: “Hold Your Own” is divided into four sections, Childhood, Womanhood, Manhood and Blind Profit. Although it starts with a poem entitled “Tiresias”, which over its twenty-four pages resets the myth in present day London
Picture the scene: A boy of fifteen. With the usual dream And the usual routine.
Heading to school with a dullness inside Borne of desires left unsatisfied.
Going on to describe this fifteen year old lad, awkward of gait, soft of skin, not yet able to grow bum fluff on his chin, head down, headphones on – Wu Tang Clan blaring out. We then follow from the chance meeting with the snakes, through the gender change & the new birth as a woman. Tiresias now a women has to learn the ways of this new flesh, has to learn, live and love from this new perspective, before with the way of myths there’s another meeting with the snakes and he becomes a man. But as is also the way of myths, the gods glance his way and involve him in their petty squabbles: Zeus and Hera have been arguing about who has greater pleasure from sex and Tiresias having been both male and female, could answer their question – the answer he gives dissatisfies Hera, who strikes him blind, Zeus could do nothing to stop her or reverse her curse, but in recompense he gave Tiresias the gift of foresight and a lifespan of seven lives.
As stated above, this is merely the introduction to this collection, as through the next four parts we follow this tale through the transformations of child, man, woman and onto the blind prophet, unseen un-listened to in this world where worth is judged on what you've got now.
See him, the old man, blind as our greed, Alone in the caff with his meat and his gravy. Witness to every great nation that rose up in hope And fell prey to itself. This is slavery. Is that what he says to himself? Was it maybe A mumble that meant something else? Was it baby I miss you? He gets up slow from the table. Gripping his cane so he’s able.
Shuffling, lonesome, sipping black lager, Park-drunk. Spouting maniacal laughter. Hard up. Head down. Scarf, gloves, parka. Every other bastard with a half-arsed grasp on the last judgement is sitting In his bathtub clasping his palms. Each night got his guard up so far that he can’t dance till he’s half-cut. No damn charm, all they want is to be martyrs. He spits brown phlegm at the oncoming darkness.
He ridicules grandeur He understands squalor. Cake for breakfast. He can do what he likes. If these are the last days They’re no more fast-paced Than all of the other Last days and nights.
Buzzwords everywhere. Progress. Freedom. He picks his teeth with a dirty needle And kicks his feet to the latest jingles. Ain't got no time to be dating singles. Far too busy trying to make things simple. This old tribe ain't nothing special All my life I've watched men wrestle, Stealing land to fly their flags. He keeps his eyes in a plastic bag.
He keeps his eyes in a plastic bag.
I started out trying to learn more about a performer I had heard on my favourite radio station and ended up learning about someone who is in her own way setting the world alight, someone who has the ability to transcend labels and genres. I thought I had discovered a new favourite musician, but I found a chameleon, someone capable of moving between whatever fields she so chooses and moving with a confidence and style that is beguiling, for example she is currently working on a new collection of poems, a novel and a new record with music producer Dan Carey and I will definitely follow with interest.
We live our lives The instant between life and death. To touch death always. That is the sun.
The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight and illustrated by Terre We live our lives The instant between life and death. To touch death always. That is the sun.
The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight and illustrated by Terrence Tasker, are a collection of poems interspersed by some really eerily haunting artwork. They are based on the Sophocles play Antigone, or to be more accurate use Antigone as a mouthpiece to represent womankind – sometimes on a really direct personal level, sometimes as a collective noun with the idea of representing a state of all women. For those not familiar with the Greek tale, Antigone, is the third part of a trilogy of plays by Sophocles collectively known as the Theban plays, the play begins with two brothers killing each other on the battlefield after leading opposing sides in Thebes' civil war, Creon who takes over as ruler of Thebes, declares that Eteocles will be honoured and that his brother and traitor Polyneices will be publicly shamed - his body left unsanctified and unburied on the battlefield.
Fought order, limits, time. Time of surrender or death. To go where no one has been, The past destroyed by heat.
Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, is faced with the choice of allowing her brother Polyneices' body to remain unburied, beyond the city walls, for him to become mere carrion or to disobey Creon, bury him and face her own death. Antigone decides to bury his body and face the consequences of her actions. Creon incarcerates her and sentences her to death. Although he does change his mind, his decision comes too late as Antigone commits suicide, this triggers the suicide of two others close to the King: his son, Haemon, who was to wed Antigone, and his wife, Eurydice, who commits suicide after losing her only surviving son.
As stated above, although a knowledge of the tale, allows another level of understanding to these poems, I don't believe that it is entirely necessary - anyone reading them couldn't help but be affected by the imagery these poems conjure up, add to that the charcoal illustrations disquietingly capture the dark foreboding nature of the words and the combination has an elegiac and yet at the same time a beautiful and oppressive quality that uses the idea of lamentation as a force of rage and pain, as though standing up a witness to all the wrongs suffered, knowing that you'll be knocked down, but will stand anyway - because you could not do otherwise, and in this sense the poems transcend any idea of a specific gender role, vociferating against the collective wrongdoing, from wherever it or to whomever it occurs.
This voice Is afraid to speak.
Afraid Of the brutal metal Of its words
Words that scrape Words that scar Words that have no peace
If I utter this voice This great Aching scream
Its horror will echo forever.
The Antigone Poems are a beautiful haunting lamentation that through the medium of words and illustration manage to portray the loneliness, despair and pain that can shadow humanity, but also can portray that indomitable spirit that stands and says no, this is wrong I shall not be part of it. It is also an elegant work of art, from the paper it is printed on to the way the words and images are placed on the pages.
In the introduction to "Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts" the translators* state that "Wisława Szymborska is that rarest of phenomena: a serious poet who coIn the introduction to "Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts" the translators* state that "Wisława Szymborska is that rarest of phenomena: a serious poet who commands a large audience in her native land", they also go on to say that as well as this she has the additional ability to get critics who otherwise would delight in disagreement to be consistently enthusiastic about her work. Although she was well-known in her homeland of Poland, it wasn't until she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 that she received recognition on the international stage, and by god did she receive recognition – her first post award collection "View with a Grain of sand" was published in an edition of 120,000 in the U.S.A, this in a country where a popular collection of poetry would be lucky to sell 20,000. The German edition set new sales records (60,000) and this appears to be repeated in most places that editions of her work were published.
Wisława Szymborska was born on 2 July 1923 in Prowent, Poland (now part of Kórnik, Poland), the daughter of Wincenty and Anna (née Rottermund) Szymborski. Her father was at that time the steward of Count Władysław Zamoyski, a Polish patriot and charitable patron. After the death of Count Zamoyski in 1924, her family moved to Toruń, and in 1931 to Kraków, where she lived and worked until her death in early 2012.
When World War II broke out in 1939, she continued her education in underground classes. From 1943 she worked as a rail road employee and managed to avoid being deported to Germany as a forced labourer. It was during this time that her career as an artist began with illustrations for an English-language textbook. She also began writing stories and occasional poems. Beginning in 1945, she began studying Polish literature before switching to sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. It was here that she became involved in the local writing scene, and met and was influenced by Czesław Miłosz. In March 1945, she published her first poem "Szukam słowa" ("Looking for words") in the daily newspaper, Dziennik Polski.
Comic Love Poem
I wear beads around my neck Every day's a day of joy Sustained by the touch Of unforeseen events.
I only know the rhythm To a melody so soft That if you ever heard it, You'd have to hum along.
I exist not in myself, I'm an element's function. A symbol in the air. Or a circle on the water.
Each time your eyes open, I only take what's mine. I leave faithfully behind Your earth, your fire. (From unpublished collection 1944 – 48)
My introduction to Wisława as a writer was not long after starting this blog, her name surfaced as a suggestion in the comments on a post I'd written about another Nobel Prize winner. This led me to find out more and within a short period of I'd purchased both of the books mentioned above, and soon became enamoured by the poetry I came across, poetry such as:
In Praise Of Feeling Bad About Yourself
The buzzard never says it is to blame. The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean. When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame. If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean
A jackal doesn't understand remorse. Lions and lice don't waver in their course. Why should they, when they know they're right?
Though hearts of Killer whales may weigh a ton, In every other way they're light.
On this third planet of the sun Among the signs of bestiality a clear conscience is Number One (From A Large Number 1976)
I had always meant to write a post highlighting some of her poetry, but as is the way things work out, something else caught my attention, some other new writer's pyrotechnics, new idea came to the fore, putting this intention on the back burner until that moment passed and something else ensnared my mind's focus – and yet the two books mentioned above, still remained with me, became almost a benchmark on how poetry should comport itself, the manner in how it could describe the most horrid of situations, and without clamouring would describe that horror.
There is also a quietness within her work, that does not speak meekly or with pathos, but that finds amazement in all, making her poetry a questing poetry, one searching for answers but doing so in a fashion that realises the likelihood of an answer, is more likely to be in the form of more questions, as stated in her Nobel Prize speech:
"Poets, if they're genuine, must also keep repeating "I don't know." Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift that's absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their "oeuvre". (Nobel Speech)
Her poetry seems to resonate with people because she has this ability to take serious ideas and within a few words encapsulate them, sometimes merely as a way of explaining them to herself/ourselves and sometimes to deflate them, using humour to show the error in these philosophies, sometimes the horror. Another reason is that at first glance the poems appear simple, it is in the process afterwards that you start to realise that there is a depth that warrants continual exploration that it takes more than splashing in the shallows to understand all that she has to say. Wisława combines the everyday minutiae, the dust and clatter of daily life, then holds it up to the grand and august mirror of history and both images hold true.
The reason I have now got around to writing about her work, is because a new collected volume MAP: Collected and Last Poems has just been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This collection contains work spanning her whole life, almost seven decades of her vision. From the early 1944 – 48 (unpublished) period through her first collection "Why We Live" in 1952 right up to her last poetry written just before her death in 2012, and translated for the first time within this collection. Making this the impetus I needed to highlight the poetry of this wonderful writer and also making this the ideal place to learn more, whether this is an introduction, or you're already familiar with her poetry.
Life is the only way to get covered in leaves, catch your breath on the sand, rise on wings;
to be a dog or stroke its warm fur
to tell pain from everything it's not
to squeeze inside events, dawdle in views, to seek the least of all possible mistakes.
An extraordinary chance to remember for a moment a conversation held with the lamp switched off;
and if only once to stumble on a stone, end up drenched in one downpour or another,
mislay your keys in the grass; and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
Warrior Lore is a collection of Scandinavian folk ballads, translated by Ian Cumpstey. They would have formed part of the oral tradition of storytelliWarrior Lore is a collection of Scandinavian folk ballads, translated by Ian Cumpstey. They would have formed part of the oral tradition of storytelling that has probably been part of human nature from the very early days of speech, with our ancestors huddled around open fires gaining an understanding of the world around them, expressing their fears, their beliefs, and their ideals of heroism through the recasting of their experiences in this narrative form. These narrative songs would have been sung for centuries before ballads of this nature were formalised on paper sometime around the sixteenth century and as such would have been known throughout Northern Europe.
There are ten Ballads in this collection:
Widrick Waylandson's fight with Long-Ben Reyser. Twelve strong fighters. Hilla-Lill. Sir Hjalmar. The Hammer Hunt. The Stablemates. Sven Swan-White. The Cloister Raid. Heming and the Mountain Troll. Heming and King Harald.
Each ballad starts with an introduction by Ian Cumpstey, explaining what the ballad refers to - setting the scene and also some of the history of the narrative, alternate versions etc. There is also a preface to the collection giving some background detail to the works featured and a notes section providing information on which versions of the tales he based his translations on. Most of the collection is based on the Swedish tradition, with one exception Heming and King Harald, which derives from the Norwegian. The form of the verse is predominantly in a four-line format in which the second and fourth line rhyme (ABCB), which may or may not be followed by a chorus line or lines.
King Diderick he sat in Bern, And he gazed out so wide: "I never knew a fighter, "Who'd challenge me to fight". There stands a castle at Bern And there lives King Diderick.
Answered Bernard Wifaring, He'd travelled far and wide: "There is a fighter in Bortingsburgh, "Who you'd not dare fight".
King Diderick took him by the throat, And then took out his knife: "You'll show me who that fighter is, "Or it'll cost you your life".
(Extract from Widrick Waylandson's fight with Long-Ben Reyser.)
Confession time, my knowledge of these warriors, Gods and heroes is quite limited - beyond the obvious ones such as Thor, Freya & Loki my understanding falls drastically short. Which is quite pitiful especially as I consider myself to have a reasonable knowledge of Greek & Roman mythology & yet as a Northern European, I seem to have missed out on what is part of my own heritage, add to this the fact that Hollywood seems, through Marvell comics, to be co-opting certain Gods & heroes for its own mythology - making this book a welcome addition to my library. By giving me an understanding of this world and its heroes with all their characteristics, all their love & hate, all their foibles, their bawdy or violent nature intact and before they have been face-lifted or photo shopped beyond recognition. This is also a great book for dipping in and out of, erudite enough to make one want to learn more and yet still light enough that you can just dip in when the urge takes you....more
The fact that "Salad Anniversary" sold over two point five million copies in Japan on its initial publication in 1987, would raise the eyebrow of anyThe fact that "Salad Anniversary" sold over two point five million copies in Japan on its initial publication in 1987, would raise the eyebrow of any lover of poetry, add to this that it also created a phenomenon comparable to writers such as Banana Yoshimoto or Haruki Murakami, in the process turning a shy & retiring school teacher into a celebrity, hosting shows both on TV & Radio that promoted poetry. Now write into this tale that it was written in a format (Tanka) that can trace it's roots to the eighth century (Waka) and that it also received critical acclaim, winning 32nd Kadokawa Tanka Prize and the 32nd Modern Japanese Poets Association Award, Got your attention! – Good.
Tanka* (短歌 "short poem") is a genre of classical Japanese poetry, originally, in the time of the Man'yōshū (latter half of the eighth century AD), the term Tanka was used to distinguish "short poems" from the longer chōka, or long poems (長歌). In the ninth and tenth centuries the short poem became the dominant form of poetry in Japan, and the originally general word Waka became the standard name for this form. Japanese poet and critic Masaoka Shiki** revived the term Tanka in the early twentieth century for his statement that "waka should be renewed and modernized" with the Man'yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) as the reference point. After the 2nd world war it fell out of favour again, considered out of date, although this changed during the late 1980s after it was explored and revived by contemporary poets such as Machi Tawara
The guitarist's mouth, Half open as he plays – Jazz, a downpour of sound and rhythm.
The drum beats on, never knowing of the Staves pounding rhythmically into my flesh
Standing on the amplifier Where horizontal and Vertical sound waves converge –
a can of beer By the end of the musicians second number I am drenched in notes.
The above is part of a poem with the title Jazz Concert, and that is my dilemma in writing about this book, for example the opening section "August Morning" is a fifty poem sequence and it was this that got her the original attention and that received the 32nd Kadokawa Tanka Prize, also these poems would originally have been written as a single vertical line, three to a page. This means that what appears here on my post, is what I've chosen to place, arbitrarily ending the sequence at a place I've deemed fitting. All I can state is that these poems work as a whole and read like a diary and, like a diary they are full of emotion, the writing comes off the page with an exuberance, a sparkle and an honesty that draws you in, lines like:
Like getting up to leave a hamburger place – that's how I'll leave that man
resonate and show how by combining a classical, almost derided format, with modern language and imagery, Machi Tawara woke up a nation to its own poetic history and in the process reinvigorated it. What is also amazing, is the response she received back from her readers. Inspired by her words, by her poetry - they sent her thousands of letters and in these letters were well over 200,000 tanka composed by her fans in acknowledgement to how she had affected them. She went on to choose 1,500, which were published in book form - the oldest contributor was a 91 year old man and the youngest an 11 year old girl.
The Day I left for Tokyo Mother looked older by all the years of separation ahead...more
The Famine of 1866–1868 was the last famine in Finland and northern Sweden, it was also the last major naturally caused famine in Europe. In Finland tThe Famine of 1866–1868 was the last famine in Finland and northern Sweden, it was also the last major naturally caused famine in Europe. In Finland the famine became known as "the great hunger years" (suuret nälkävuodet) and it is estimated that about 15% of the entire population died, with this figure rising to 20% in the hardest-hit areas. One of the reasons that this famine hit particularly hard, was that various parts of the country had suffered previous poor harvests, with 1862 being an exceptionally bad year, that combined with the summer of 1866 suffering severe downpours - causing the staple crops (root vegetables, potatoes etc.) to rot in the fields and creating poor conditions for the autumn grain sowing.
In addition to this the government was ill-equipped to handle it & was also slow to recognise the magnitude of the crisis. With no money to import food and a Finance minister, Johan Vilhelm Snellman, not wishing to borrow in case it weakened Finland's recently introduced currency (the Finnish markka), due to the very high interest rates that the Rothschild bank of Frankfurt were asking. When the stored food ran out, thousands took to the roads to beg, in a winter that was harsh and the following season was no better, as May was the coldest on record, and in many places lakes and rivers were still frozen in June. By the autumn of 1867, people were dying by the thousands.*
This is the background for a bleak yet beautifully written book by Aki Ollikainen and translated by that remarkable family team of Emily & Fleur Jeremiah. In this story we follow the decimation of a family, Juhani, Marja & their two kids Mataleena and Juho, the book starts in summer, although this could by no stretch of the imagination be described as a time of plenitude it will be as good as it gets. By October Juhani will be dying of starvation, having foregone food to make sure his family ate & his wife will be left with the horrifying decision to abandon him, so as to save herself and the children. She, as will thousands of others, takes to the road in search of sustenance, in search of that one chance that could save her and her family.
She sets off with the idea of making her way to St. Petersburg*, a distance of around 400km, or in other words a distance unfeasible by foot in what has been described the harshest winter then known, by someone with two children and who are all starving. In fact after a couple of days travelling she is lost, in a landscape that admits no other colour but a crystalline white. Marja, will meet the rawest elements of humanity as she struggles, lurching from place to place, a harsh reminder to those that had, and unwanted competition for food for those in the same position as herself & her family. Although there are moments of kindness they are few and far between and often come with a price.
This is only half the tale because Marja's struggles are counterpoised by the lives of two brothers, one a doctor and the other a government official. Although they are touched by the relentless poverty & humiliation stretching like an ocean around them, they sit safe, secure & warm floating above it. Their views & conversations are also our point of reference to the political machination of the day that will have such dire consequences and yet will set Finland on a path to eventual nationhood.
As stated above this is a bleak tale, it is unrelenting in it's depiction of the plight of Marja & her family, and yet there is a beauty here, even in the harshest of descriptions a poetic quality shines through the writing with phrases like "hunger is a kitten in a sack, scratching away with its claws" or the description of a snake with "eyes the colour of frozen berries, its twin teeth like icicles" all pointing to a writer with a mastery of words and yet this is a début novel....more