Monday, 22 February 2010

everything's amazing and nobody's happy.

Today I am sick in bed, though I did drag myself off to my 11am lecture on the suffragette movements, so in many ways the epic amount of sleeping/telly that I filled the rest of my time with was...totally justified? Anyway, I'm beginning to feel better, so that's good.

I have to go read Twelfth Night in a minute, but I'm just going to chuck some prose poetry about birds up here first. I like prose poetry. I remember reading "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" a few years ago and being really struck by the realisation that the two things didn't have to be poles apart - that a novel with characters and a plot could read like poetry. I didn't read much poetry at this time, so it was kind of a turning point for you. Also, the first Richard Siken I ever read was a piece of prose poetry called You Are Jeff. I love Siken (the title of this blog comes from a poem of his) and have such a clear memory of reading his writing for the first time and just finding it unspeakably moving. I read You Are Jeff - a bit long to put up here, but I urge you to google it - at about 3am when I was doing my A-levels and a bit overwrought, and I just absolutely bawled my eyes out. Stunning.

Anyway, so here is a short-and-sweet piece of prose poetry, because it doesn't get enough love as a form.

Please Take Back the Sparrows
Suzanne Buffam

Please take back the sparrows. They are bothersome and cute. They are brown and daily all year long. They make a plaything of the wind and the spruce. They come too close. They look right at me with their tiny black eyes. They dart through spaces. They pick up the pieces and the pace. From rooftop to eavetrough to wire to branch — they spring spring spring spring spring spring spring. They are not sorry. They are not singing. Many they are one they are never not somewhere. They are not not singing. They are not slack. They fear the bluejay and the airedale. They drink from the pond! They scatter thinking. They are not asking or telling they are scattering thinking they are shivering. They are awake or they are shivering. Please, take back the sparrows. They bathe in dust.

EDIT: You Are Jeff, in case anyone reading this has a bit of time on their hands & wants to see what I was on about.

Monday, 15 February 2010

admit that the waters around you have grown.

Well, I hope everybody had a good Valentine's weekend? Slash chinese new year, slash any other holiday I've forgotten, etc. Mine was generally lots of fun, but distinctly odd.

For the first part of it, I went to stay with my best friend, who lives in London, and we had a lovely couple of days of milling about in the capital, which we filled mainly with drinking, comedy and excellent Japanese food. Joy! The always-excellent Karaoke Circus was a particular highlight; I'm never normally a fan of karaoke, but I love every inch of this charming and rambunctious bi-monthly evening, and cannot recommend it enough. Love Will Tear Us Apart (as performed by Robin Ince, with some Smiths lyrics thrown in for good measure partway through, because, as Judge Dan pointed out, Joy Division clearly aren't depressing enough alone) and Two Princes (from Thom Tuck, one third of the Penny Dreadfuls) were perhaps my favourites of the night. Absolutely class.

Got back up to Liverpool in time to be thoroughly puzzled by the state of our kitchen, which took up a lot of my time/energy yesterday. Two of the ten people in our flat are international students from China, and one of them had a gigantic party for new years, which is all very well and good, and we ate dinner at the pub round the corner so we wouldn't have to get in their way trying to cook (the kitchen's our only communal space), which is a whole other story in itself, probably. Still: less cool the next day when nobody cleared anything up, including the vomit on the other corrior's bathroom floor. HMM. A party's a party, but my god, this was something else! There was food everywhere, there were stains over all the worksurfaces, cigarette butts and seeds all over the floor, which itself had been stained black somehow (??), a fish head in a bowl on the windowsill and some very odd smells coming from the bin. So me & two flatmates spent an interesting half-hour or so mopping/sponging/spraying etc, because otherwise we wouldn't have been able to eat in there. An unusual way to spend the afternoon of Valentine's Day, but we're all single anyway so none of us particularly minded, and in the evening I made a jolly good bean & vegetable stew to celebrate.

Valentine's Day's causes a lot of discomfort to a lot of single people, but I'm quite lucky in having several close friends up here who are also, as I said, also single, and we plumped for a terribly wholesome night, not of getting drunk & weepy, but rather of popcorn and Casablanca. It was lovely. Valentine's Day is, if nothing else, a perfect excuse to watch good films with good people.

So that's my incredibly shallow thoughts on the day of love, and now on to this week's piece of writing! I realised today that I have literally never posted anything up here by a female writer - and frankly, what the hell is that about? It just won't do. So have a poem I'm rather in love with by an excellent American writer.

Intensive Care
by Heather McHugh

As if intensity were a virtue we say
good and. Good and drunk. Good and dead.
What plural means is as everything
that multiplying greatens, as if two
were more like ninetynine than one,
or one were more like zero than
like anything. As if
you loved me, you will leave me.

You (are the man who) made
roadmaps to the ovaries
upon his dinner napkin.
I(‘m the woman who) always forgot
where she was— in a state,
in a sentence. Absently stirring
my alphabet soup, I remember
childhood’s clean white calendar
and blueprint of the heart.

As if friends were to be saved
we are friends. We talk to ourselves,
go home at the same time.
As if beds were to be made
not born in, as if love
were just heredity
we know the worst, we fear
the unknown. Today we were bad
and together; tonight
we’ll be good and alone.

The last stanza, and the closing lines in particular, give me chills everytime.

Monday, 8 February 2010

he walked into the echo.

Far too little time today - have to go to the library in a minute & print tomorrow's lecture notes before the drama social tonight, AUGH - but I didn't want to miss a week. So here, long-promised, is a bit of Larkin. For a while, I thought this was my favourite poem; these days I'm dreadful at picking a favourite anything, and don't have one, but if I bothered to make lists it would definitely still be up there.

Love Songs in Age
by Philip Larkin

She kept her songs, they kept so little space, 
  The covers pleased her: 
One bleached from lying in a sunny place, 
One marked in circles by a vase of water, 
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her, 
  And coloured, by her daughter - 
So they had waited, till, in widowhood 
She found them, looking for something else, and stood 

Relearning how each frank submissive chord 
  Had ushered in 
Word after sprawling hyphenated word, 
And the unfailing sense of being young 
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein 
  That hidden freshness sung, 
That certainty of time laid up in store 
As when she played them first. But, even more, 

The glare of that much-mentionned brilliance, love, 
  Broke out, to show 
Its bright incipience sailing above, 
Still promising to solve, and satisfy, 
And set unchangeably in order. So 
  To pile them back, to cry, 
Was hard, without lamely admitting how 
It had not done so then, and could not now. 

Monday, 1 February 2010

in the first taxi he was alone tra-la.

The great housing debate seems to have wound itself mercifully down and, though the whole process has been (and continues to be) fraught with bizarre difficulties, we should, SHOULD, be going to sign the contracts in about an hour. I am excited/terrified/convinced that something will go wrong. What an unpleasant thing house-hunting is! The whole fuss was combined with a rotten fortnight of exams and basically I'm pretty freaking excited that January's in the past, not least because February is looking pretty good.

Tonight is the drama society's first meeting of the semester - I can't wait to go and see everybody again - and then this weekend I've a friend coming to stay. The future's bright/orange, is what I'm saying. She arrives on  Friday and then the two of us are going, with one of my flatmates, to see Ghost Stories at the Liverpool Playhouse. HMMM. It's supposed to be the Scariest Play Ever to Scare, and we're all gigantic cowards, so I'm sure it will be an interesting experience. Also, gigantic coward I may be, but I love horror (good horror, I mean. I'd take From Beyond the Grave over Hostel any day of the week), and I adore both of the writer-directors' work. Jeremy Dyson's books of short stories are brilliantly creepy and funny by turns, and I do believe he's also adapting my favourite Jonathan Coe novel for telly at the moment, as well as being one quarter of The League of Gentlemen - so, an all-round-excellent chap, then. And Andy Nyman, perhaps best known for his collaborations with Derren Brown, is... Yeah.

So, I've been thinking a lot about scary things, this week, and unnerving things, and (as ever) trying to pick this week's piece of writing. I might've chosen an extract from one of Dyson's short stories - there's a particular one about the London Underground in Never Trust a Rabbit that just ended me when I was fifteen - if I'd not stupidly left my copies at home. In the end, I decided on a piece by Louis MacNeice.

Couldn't find it online anywhere, so I had to type it up, which has slightly cut down the amount of time I have to talk about it, but basically: MacNeice was a successful poet of the 1930s whose work faltered after the war, as happened to many of his contemporaries, and recovered in an interesting and rather melancholic way. He wrote a body of poems belonging to a genre he termed "the thumbnail nightmare": brief, unnerving little pieces, and sparse in explanation. Perhaps my favourite of his thumbnail nightmares is this, written in 1961:

After the Crash
When he came to he knew
Time must have passed because
The asphalt was high with hemlock
Through which he crawled to his crash
Helmet and found it no more
Than his wrinkled hand what it was.

Yet life seemed still going on:
He could hear the signals bounce
Back from the moon and the hens
Fire themselves black in the batteries
And the silence of small blind cats
Debating whether to pounce.

Then he looked up and marked
The gigantic scales in the sky,
The pan on the left dead empty
And the pan on the right dead empty,
And knew in the dead, dead calm
It was too late to die.

Perhaps a little less subtle than Macneice's more well-known "The Taxis", but I still think it's beautifully done and something about it gives me the shivers.

Have to run now, unfortunately, but before I do: people who've been reading for a while (if there are any, etc etc) may remember my friend Celia, who I mentioned I used to talk to a lot about a lot of things, but we'd both gotten terribly busy lately and it was all a dreadful shame. WELL. It turns out, she actually came across this blog, and meant to call me for ages, and yesterday evening we had a lovely catch-up; after we got off the phone, I booked some train tickets to go and visit her in March. Which is rather a nice postscript, I think, for anyone who likes that sort of thing.