Monday, 25 January 2010

detachment of the self from the familiar and the comfortable represented a path to an otherwise unattainable perfection, even to salvation itself.

It's Monday now, even though it's only 1am, but since I'm still up & reading about compulsary pilgrimage, I may as well sullenly update this blog. Sorry for the slew of shitty, exam-season-y updates; I'll try and get back to better habits next week, after this whole sorry ordeal is over. As well as some more considered Monday Words and the second part of that diary rambling, I.O.U. guys one genuine, actual, university-themed post (remember when this blog had a "theme", also known as a "point"? Ah, happy days), about how I appear to have managed to change my degree. Hooray!

Moving swiftly on, so that I can read a few more pages and then SLEEP, this week's thing is a Frank O'Hara poem. It's not terribly cheery, but you know what? It is, as I have said, 1am, and "not terribly cheery" rather appeals to my mindset. Also it is SHORT.

As Planned

After the first glass of vodka
you can accept just about anything
of life even your own mysteriousness
you think it is nice that a box
of matches is purple and brown and is called
La Petite and comes from Sweden
for they are words that you know and that
is all you know words not their feelings
or what they mean and you write because
you know them not because you understand them
because you don't you are stupid and lazy
and will never be great but you do
what you know because what else is there?

okay cool cheers for that frank

Monday, 18 January 2010

et in arcadia ego.

I have minus time right now: back in Liverpool, should be revising, insanely hungry with no food in the house and I must must MUST go out & get some. All of that means that today's Monday words business will be a bit sub-standard, but I hope I get points for doing it anyway.

When I was enjoying the comparatively mild weather this morning (no snow, anyway; haven't the last few weeks been insane?) I found myself wishing it was the summer, for the weather and the freedom and all the excitements we're beginning, already, to plan. Wishing it would be summer always makes me think of my favourite fictional summer, so I knew what I had to pick for this week's text. An extract from a novel at last, instead of a poem! I suppose I'll just leave this here:

'It was about eleven when Sebastian, without warning, turned the car into a cart track and stopped. It was hot enough now to make us seek the shade. On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine - as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together - and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian's eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, to the blue-green shadows of foliage, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger's breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.
"Just the place to bury a crock of gold," said Sebsatian. "I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember."'
- from Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

Saturday, 16 January 2010

diaries, blogs, more diaries, commonplace. part one.

When I was eleven, the most exciting gift that I receieved for christmas (indeed, the only one I can now recall) was a little electronic box called the 'Password Journal'. The big sell of the Password Journal was essentially that it contained voice recognition equipment, so one's secrets could be kept SAFE FROM BOYS, as the hilariously gender-based marketing - it was made by a company called GirlTech and available only in, you know, purples/pinks - so desperately informed us, via a spoken password system. I wrote in it a bit over the christmas period. I had toyed with the concept of diaries before; I remember having a small 'lockable' book, with those generic little keys that opened everything in the nineties (you remember them) at the age of about eight or nine, although I can't for the life of me recall what I put in it. I think mainly I was pretty worried about having nits.

Anyway, from time to time throughout my eleventh year, I would pick up the Password Journal and update it on my terribly insipid life - but something about the habit really resonated with me. A short while before I turned twelve, I began to write something every night before falling asleep, and the pad, clearly designed only for the odd secret about the BOYS you were so busy keeping it SAFE FROM, was soon finished. I got another, of a similar size and shape, and I kept them both inside the Password Journal together. Eventually, I had finished this one too and my talking box was running out of room, so I abandoned it in favour of my bedside cabinet's top draw, which soon began to fill up with these meticulously written little notebooks, all dated and signed like a confession.

I kept a diary pretty much every day between the ages of about twelve and fifteen-almost-sixteen-ish. TWELVE AND FIFTEEN. That's years! A huge commitment of time and effort, and I am now privvy to the most intimate thoughts of my young self, thoughts which - I discovered, looking through the earliest this morning - I had for the most part forgotten, or which pertain to people I have not seen for years. How fascinating!

Except that it isn't. The diary I kept between the ages of TWELVE and, yes, people, FIFTEEN, is - like almost all teenage efforts at self-reflection - pure drivel. Although I entertained thoughts at this age of becoming a writer and even went through a spate, at about thirteen years old, of writing huge amounts of poetry (on the encouragement of my then-English teacher; one of them was published, so I still have it somewhere, and the rest I kept typed up neatly in a green folder, some even with first, second drafts covered with scribbles tucked into the back. I got rid of the whole thing when I was seventeen, to the dismay of my mother), I think that it was mainly the HABIT of diary-writing that appealed to me. I was a poor sleeper even then and routine was important to me; the careful notation of that day's events became a part of my bedtime routine, in defiance of my writing's lack of artistic merit.

Many people have the benefit of being able to look back on their younger self and imagine that they were preternaturally wise; that they were forward-thinking, interesting; that they were, perhaps, unlike their peers. I have no such luxury.

4th January 2002: "School re-opens on Tuesday - I wonder who my new English teacher will be? I hope I'll still be sitting next to <3[boy I liked]<3?"
14th January 2002: "I don't think [boy I liked] likes me as much as I like him..."
31st March 2002: "I run my own website with [then-best friend] which is about Harry Potter. [ha ha ha, I think it was a geocities page.] Me and [then-best friend] have fallen out and I hate him but on the plus side with friends I am now good friends with..."


The heartbreaking thing is that I don't think I thought like this naturally. Well, no, I KNOW I didn't: I was - while not particuarly unusual or mature - at the very least something of an odd fish in those days. Looking back, I can see the way in which I modelled my writing style, if not my actal concerns, on the kind of dreary YA books that were being forced on me by my relatives. Worse still, on rereading my diaries this morning I could see my young self namecheck the odd event that I CAN remember from this period; ones which have had more of a lasting effect on me and which clearly affected me hugely at the time. But I would never go into detail about them. I didn't really own these diaries in any way that mattered, I didn't use them in any way which benefitted me and I continued to write them because, like Magnus Magnusson, I had started, so I would finish.

Perhaps, too, there was a part of me that felt I would one day find it interesting to look back on such musings; I've always been keenly aware of the passage of time and the kind of person who tries to record oh just EVERYTHING for "posterity" (the diarist's disposition) and knew myself well enough even then to imagine that one day I would be older and want to know how I felt when I was young. Well, my younger self was wrong, the things I thought then were better left mysterious and unknown, and there is some capricious and reactive part of me that wants to dispose of them now in the same way I disposed of my youthful poems. They still occupy the entire top drawer of my bedside cabinet and I - I could really do it. What's stopping me?

Nothing, I suppose, but that niggling reluctance to kick through any window to the past. Perhaps the twelve-year-old inside of me still believes that one day they will be useful; that one day, in my thirties perhaps, I will rediscover these diaries and see the wit and assurance that I now, at the tender age of nineteen, am still incapable of finding. But I don't think that's it. If I want to know what I had for lunch in August 2003, well, these diaries stand as an excellent memorial to that lunch - but they aren't good for very much else. Perhaps I am keeping them just so that one day, in my thirties perhaps, I will be able to look through them and go, "Oh. I was right. Nothing to see here."

(post one of two. second part coming soon.)

Monday, 11 January 2010

and instructions for dancing.

It's Monday again! Further to last week's post, I wanted to put up some Larkin today; it seemed fitting, because Patten was influenced by him, and also this is my own damn blog and I'll talk about my favourite poets if I want to. Part of me was reluctant to immediately go for it with More Poetry, to be honest, and felt that I should look out something else, but I only really got into it as a form within the last few years and I suppose it's something that I feel I can - as me, now, the way I have become - really...hum. I've tried several times to phrase what I mean and can't seem to manage it. What I'm trying to say is that I think more subjective inferences can come from poetry than most other forms, that I think you put a little of yourself into them just by reading them, and that-- That doesn't really explain it either. I don't know.

Anyway, it's all a moot point because I've left my copy of The Whitsun Weddings in Liverpool: I only own Whitsun and High Windows, and prefer the former (so if anyone has any books of his they want to donate to the cause of Me, do get in touch). Anyway, I didn't want to locate a poem through a combination of my own memory (poor) and The Internets (giant), & thought it better left until I'm back at uni.

I got my predilection for Larkin - and, in fact, the book itself; an eighteenth birthday present - from an ex of mine. We used to talk about literature a lot, although he was far more widely-read and a lot better educated on the subject than I was; I'm embarrassed to think how boring & stupid I must've sounded, looking back. But thinking about him and those conversations, and what I was going to blog about today, made me consider the other very literature-y relationship I have had in my life - although this one isn't a Relationship-with-a-capital-'R', but a friendship.

My friend Celia is one of the cleverest and most interesting people I have ever been priveleged enough to somehow, inexplicably, be liked by and friends with. We've known each other for a little over a year now but only really got close around May 2009, and would send each other these long, rambling messages and emails (to complement our long, rambling, every-Sunday-like-clockwork telephone conversations), full of poems, quotes, bits and pieces of ephemera we thought the other might take a fancy to. Life's gotten in the way a bit of those every-Sunday-like-clockwork telephone calls, though we miss them and still make an effort to stay in touch, but the good thing about emails and messages and letters is that you can kind of - hang on to them.

So! I thought today I would find & post a poem that was sent to me by my good friend Celia. I could have picked any of several, but this one struck a chord with me today; she didn't know the title, so I don't either, but let's imagine it's something pithy. It's by Charles Simic:

"Incurable romantic marrying eternal grumblers.
Life haunted by its more beautiful sister life--
Always, always... We had nothing
But words. Someone rising to eloquence

After a funeral, or in the naked arms of a woman
Who has her head averted because she's crying,
And doesn't know why. A hairline fracture of the soul
Because of the way the light falls on these bare trees and bushes.

Sea-blackened rocks inscrutable as chess players...
One spoke to them of words failing...
Of great works and little faith, of blues in each bite of bread.
Above the clouds the firm No went on pacing.

The woman had a tiny smile and an open umbrella,
Since now it had started to rain in a whisper,
The kind of rain that must've whispered in some other life
Of which we know nothing anymore except

That someone kept watching it come down softly"


after several attempts and a bunch of failing, I just managed to locate the poem somewhere other than in an email from my friend. And would you look at it! It has a title (Promises of Leniency and Forgiveness) and stands a whole stanza and three quarters longer than it is replicated here. I thought for a long while about whether or not to edit in the additional parts, but in the end I decided to leave it as it is, as I first read it and have always read it. You see, as so much of this post is about subjectivity and ownership and defining my relationships to people by writing that isn't mine, it would seem oddly, I don't know...hypocritical, or something, to sacrifice the truth of my interaction with the poem for the truth of the poem itself. That's right, Charles Simic, I went there. Suck it.

(no don't)

Anyway, but I've linked it here as a concession, and I must say that I adore the last few lines. "Serious children at play" - that's Nietzsche, I suppose? A reference to Nietzsche, I mean. "A person's maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play," and all that sort of business. What a nice idea.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

i have recently been attempting to construct a bishop.

I started this blog to be a record of my time at university, but am so absolutely dreadful at keeping it up-to-date that, whenever I think about this little patch of the internets I like to call my own, I feel a profound sense of shame. I've thought for a while that what I might be in need of is a little bit of structure, and now I know what it should be.

Firstly, I am an English student (single honours, although looking into becoming joint with history; irrelevent, but sort of worth noting) and secondly, I half-heartedly keep a commonplace book. I say 'half-hearted' because I'm absolutely as rotten at that as I am at blogging, but I have a lot of love for the whole concept of commonplace books and you will be hearing more from me on this subject at some point.

ANYWAY. For this reason, writing that is Not My Own is a very big influence on my life and my brain, so I've decided that every Monday I am going to post something here, like a poem or an extract from something, but not necessarily either of these things, that I enjoyed. I might talk about why I like it or it moved me, or I might not, but it seems seems like a nice e-rendering of my headspace. A sort of cyberspace version of the beautiful commonplace book I left in Liverpool (and miss), a present from my flatmates.

I know that it's techincally Tuesday now, being 2am and all, but I care not! This week's piece of writing is These Boys Have Never Really Grown into Men by Brian Patten:

These boys have never really grown into men,
despite their disguises, despite their adult ways,
their sophistication, the camouflage of their kindly smiles.
They are still up to their old tricks,
still at the wing-plucking stage. Only now
their prey answers to women's names.
And the girls, likewise, despite their disguises,
despite their adult ways, their camouflage of need,
still twist love till its failure seems not of their making.
Something grotesque migrates hourly
between our different needs,
and is in us all like a poison.
How strange I've not understood so clearly before
how liars and misers, the cruel and the arrogant
lie down and make love like all the others,
how nothing is ever as expected, nothing is ever as stated.
Behind doors and windows nothing is ever as wanted.
The good have no monopoly on love.
All drink from it. All wear its absence like a shroud.

I decided to start with this one because the poet comes from Liverpool - he went to school on the Smithdown Road, apparently - and is, in fact, part of a movement called the Liverpool Poets. That's right. He used to pal about with people like Roger McGough, but I hadn't heard of him until I read this, AND he apparently received some kind of encouragement from Philip Larkin - one of my favourite writers.

The reason I like it, I suppose, is complex, and I don't want to deconstruct it on here (not tonight, anyway), because I don't think that would be dreadfully interesting. But it can be summed up with a quote from an Alan Bennett play:
"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."

Two for the price of one, this week. And now to bed.

Monday, 4 January 2010

i don't really remember, but i think it is called 'auld lang deslang.'

Note(s) to self:
- stop being awake at super unsociable hours. Half three, sober, finishing an essay? What are you doing with your life? Remember how to write in the day like normal folk do instead of only being able to crack on with anything once it's past midnight.
- finish a damn book. You like reading, remember - that's just about the only reason you picked that degree.
- oh, yeah, and er look into changing that degree while you're on it. whoops

Tomorrow I am going to get up and learn how to function like a real human person again! The festive bit of the year is over and now we have a shiny new one, and it's more than a day old, it's all properly broken in and undeniable and really here, just like such greats as, oh, 2009, 2008, 2007-- you get the picture. Anyway, the long and short of it is that I am no longer allowed to stay up until all hours talking to friends about nothing or listen to Radiohead at 5am and go mental, or any of that sort of nonsense At All. It's business time.

And then, in a couple of days, I get to go see some theatre! I am seeing this and this and this, all for free, because of this. amazing. Part of me's looking forward to going back to Liverpool and part of me is already sad about being so far away from London again, because look, look at all the lovely free plays. ;_;

One of the first things I did in 2010 (after going to bed at 5am and waking up at 10, completely unable to sleep) was some tidying and a bit of light washing up - so I'm taking it as a sign that it's going to be a year for conquering shit. Although I did go back to the mass of duvets once all my friends had woken up, and then I barely moved for the rest of the day, so it's swings and roundabouts I suppose?

(At the start of 2008, I was woken up by my friend's super-excited flatmate bouncing on the bed, then climbing in between us with his chilly limbs. 2009, I was dragged from sleep by a different friend continually getting up to vomit, coming back to bed and then getting up to vomit again. so, ah. Low-key, this year, for one thing.)