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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

That's the way to do it...

Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges show us how to see in the New Year...


Resolution? -- by Zephirine


So now
chilly and damp
afflicted with colds
starved of sunlight
hungover and bloated
exasperated by relatives
weak from loss of money
regretting our generosity
now we’re supposed to make a new start?

No chance
we’re in no condition
to keep any resolutions
or to do anything much except sleep
it’s like having to start a new job
at four o’clock
on a Sunday morning

Forget about it
be a New Year refusenik
January the First is just a date
New Year parties are terrible anyway
hibernate now
as Nature intended
restructure your year
pick your own new beginning
choose a time when you will feel
bright new and brave
the First of May is my preference

You could choose your birthday
(though that might make you feel
too old and tired to start again)
or find a time when no family or friends
have anything else to celebrate
or ask your astrologer
to select a propitious day
or stick a pin in the calendar
at a random summer page

Of course if you live
in the Southern Hemisphere
some of the above does not apply
but in my view you should choose anyway
and start anew when you damn well please


Monday, 29 December 2008

Fidelity -- by Beyond the Pale


Fidelity, after long practice, to
The things that have crossed one's path in life,
Moves one to find "history" in a morning,
A moonlit night, a transitory patch
Of sun upon grass, the turning of a cat's
Sleek head over its shoulder to look back
Into one's eyes, a lifelong lover's touch,
The memory of the shy sweet sidelong
Smile of a friend one may not see again
In "this life"--these things define home
To one now that one lives largely in one's mind--
As though there had ever been any other
Place--once born, once having existed--
In which to somehow locate a world

Because brief hours before fadeout life becomes
A late awakening, much as one assumes
Is the experience of "lost" generations
Whose youth is turned back toward childhood by
Dreams; just so one's own dim youth now at last
Appears a kind of slumber from which the slow
Process of waking took a half century
Or so, as time now opens up its eyes,
Yawns, stretches, struggles in dark to discover
Where it is among whirling things, places, years.
But of course one will never fully emerge
From this fog, nor in one's heart wish to do so,
For mere excursions don't suffice on visits
To dead cities--excavation too's required,
Cries out the hungry unborn poem
Within us, demanding to exist as
If alive


Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Christmas! Part Two

The one and only:

and a Merry Christmas to all our readers and to all poets and potes everywhere.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Happy Christmas! Part One

Feeling excited yet?

(watch out for the penguins)

Monday, 15 December 2008

All Saints (Shattuck Avenue, Early New Depression) -- by Beyond the Pale


6.432 How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.
6.4321 The facts all contribute only to setting the problem, not to its solution.
6.44 It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.
6.45 To view the world sub specie aeterni is to view it as a whole--a limited whole. Feeling the world as a whole--it is this that is mystical.
-- Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus


a'bject. A man without hope; a man whose miseries are irretrievable.
"But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together; yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not. They did tear me, and ceased not." Psalms XXX, 15.
- -Johnson's Dictionary


I've found all saints lost at midnight in the rain
Seek shop doorways fit to lay their bodies down
And dwell upon the sins that have expelled them:
Those sins, O Friend, which they perceive as wounds

Inflicted they know neither why nor by whom,
Nor in defiance of what remorseless laws.
The wind that rakes the street is unforgiving,
Warmth but a memory, winter coming on,

The concrete cold, the cardboard pallet sodden,
God far away, but unfortunately not Man,
Who motors past to get to bars or home,
Completely unaware they're bedding there,

Splashing sheets of grey water out of puddles
That wash over them in chill waves they may
If they so choose trust to wash their sins away,
Dimly aware at last they're given something.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Random Memories of Trains -- by Zephirine


The large cheerful blind man
with a huge beige labrador
which not being needed to do any guiding
lay in a warm heavy heap on my feet
all the way to Exeter

Fields of blue flax
startlingly pretty
always unexpected
and sometimes recently
fields of red poppies too

The man who sat next to me
and softly and precisely whistled
Making Whoopee
over and over again
and over and over again

A demure and solidly built
tweed-clad transvestite
who made self-conscious conversation
and thanked me for talking to her
as he got off at Totnes

Once and only once
the true Christmas card landscape
every tree outlined in white
hard frost and a bright sky
a joy to travel through

The Frenchwoman who told me
all about how her husband left
with his blonde secretary:
what did he see in her?
“Moi je la trouve lymphatique"

Four young London guys
lager-drinking geezers
as excited as kids
about a fishing trip
all the way out to Sussex

Sunday evening
weekending sons and daughters
heading back to the city
bye-bye elderly parents
will they be there next time?


Monday, 8 December 2008

Book Recommendations -- MouthoftheMersey

I'd like to offer four book recommendations to the discerning readership here.

1. The Borribles Trilogy - I've read these once to myself and once to my elder boy and no praise is too high. After a slightly laboured first fifty pages, the trilogy expands into the best evocation of urban life I can recall reading. It is everything The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books aren't, with the wikipedia article providing an excellent introduction.

2. The Damned United - believe the hype. A dizzying re-animation of the Brian Cloughs now enshrined in English folklore. But it's the writing that really makes this book stand out from the pack - a worrying, disorienting voice that gets into your head and stays there long after you turn the last page. In some respects it is like Gordon Burn's Happy Like Murderers, the sordid subject matter of which does not detract from the literary achievement.

3. The Indian Mutiny by Saul David. - I loved this wonderfully evocative history of what Indians call the First War of Independence. Its politics is worn lightly, playing second fiddle to unwrapping the ties that bound the British to the Indians and why they snapped where and when they did. I came to it through my favourite Flashman novel - Flashman in the Great Game. Now if you're prepared to leave a little of your political correctness to one side and embrace humanity in all its faults, the Flashman novels are a delight - but they won't be to all tastes.

4. Peanuts - Hard to believe that something so simple and so popular can be so rewarding. I've read this collection aloud to both my kids and had them read back in return and we pick up stuff in libraries from time to time. There's real anguish and poignancy in the strips and, in Snoopy, an extraordinary character on whom Charles Schulz projected so many hopes and fears.

All will be available for er... peanuts second-hand from Amazon, or you could support your local book shop.

Book Recommendations -- Zephirine

For fashionistas, readers of celeb magazines, or any woman who tries on more than three different outfits before going out: The Meaning of Sunglasses by Hadley Freeman. A light read for Boxing Day afternoon, offering some common-sense (and even reassurance) under a mask of chirpy cynicism. Particularly good on the pervasive influence of Kate Moss and how the fashion-magazine agenda is driven by advertisers and not by what anybody might actually want to wear.

For fans of The Wire and other gritty US TV dramas about mean streets, drugs and badass good-looking black guys: Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon. Describing a year Simon (a former journalist) spent with the Baltimore murder squad in the 1980s, this riveting non-fiction book began it all, forming the basis for the ground-breaking TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets and later The Wire. Simon isn’t a simple whodunit man – his declared theme is the death of the American city, and what happens in Baltimore has relevance for the wider world.

For literary types, historical novel readers, and some people you wouldn’t expect: Patrick O’Brian’s series of books about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, respectively a naval officer and a ship’s doctor during the Napoleonic wars. O’Brian researched these books obsessively and you will either love the total-immersion-in-the-period style or it will leave you cold. The film Master and Commander was based on two of the books, and was a pretty good adaptation but didn’t quite convey O’Brian’s brilliant characterisations. I think the best one to start with is The Reverse of the Medal, which is actually half-way through the series; there are 20 books in the series, so get someone hooked on these and your Christmas present problems are solved for a while.

For European travellers who worry about their carbon footprint: The Man in Seat 61 by former station manager and lifelong railway fan Mark Smith. At last, a book version of the hugely popular website which tells you how to get everywhere by rail. For the Trans-Siberian railway or how to get from London to Australia without flying, you’ll still need to use the website, but for trips within Europe that make the journey part of the holiday, this is a hugely useful book.

For people who dream of getting away from it all: Extra Virgin and its sequels by Annie Hawes, about her impulsive purchase of a shack in Liguria and learning to live there. Unlike the tedious Peter Mayle, Hawes didn’t have money and doesn’t patronise the locals. She’s down-to-earth, normal and very funny and these books are great easy reads for holiday times, perhaps better in winter while you long for the sun! There’s a new one about North Africa, but I haven’t read it yet.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Double-bills Should Return to the Cinema: Discuss -- by MouthoftheMersey


Cinemas have never been more comfortable – big seats that wouldn’t shame the first class section of a jumbo jet, air conditioning and even a holder for your packet of popcorn. So why are we only allowed to sit in such opulence for two hours or so, meaning that a night out needs a lengthy prelude or long post-cinema spell in a restaurant or pub?

Money, of course, since the reason cinemas are able to supply such comfort is the throughput of punters from mid-morning to very late, each handing over £7 or so.

But the cinema is in competition with DVDs and movies on-demand, so must always provide a premium product - there is no room for apathy.

When I first went to the cinema, it really was a night out with a second feature at 7.20pm, Pearl and Dean and Kia Ora at 9.00pm and the main feature at 9.15pm, giving just enough time for a quick drink before last orders.

And what second features they were. A Roger Moore era Bond might be supported by a Connery outing, hollowed-out volcano and all. A standard Hollywood buddy comedy starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte might be supported by a film of Eddie or Richard doing stand-up – what a shock to the system that was! Or a Hollywood horror might be supported by a low budget Italian zombie fest with a visual and spoken language all of its own.

I miss those long afternoons and evenings in the dark watching two movies in the collective concentration a cinema audience provides – one so absent from the living room “Love Film” DVD evening in, before switching to Desperate Housewives. It was an education and a pleasure now gone forever.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Two Watery Poems -- by Beyond the Pale



Summer night

klang of stars

inner acoustic

water diamonds
the oars

In Water World

The sea repeats itself in dreams, a green-grey world of water
Calm boats frozen in shade
Pale blank clouds, pines, rocks and kelp shrouds
Like woolly fish in mist pink distance floating
The beach stretches as far as the sand bar
Clean detached waves wash over dry stone, tears of rain drift
The water is perfectly still, restructuring everything