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Preview: Michael Peverett

Michael Peverett

"Not even not wrong" Email to:

Updated: 2018-03-16T15:37:58.760+00:00


Nicholas Whyte's blog


No time for blogging today.

I've just had one of those delightful moments when you happen across a new blog and immediately know that you're going to enjoy the company of the writer very much indeed, and that there's a huge archive to wander through.

This is the blog of Nicholas Whyte.  His job is something impressive like an international affairs expert, and he also maintains the Northern Ireland election results website. Like me and Andrew Duncan he's a lapsed medievalist. He's majorly into science fiction, which I'm afraid doesn't mean a great deal to me, but he also reads and blogs about a lot of other not-too-predictable books (I was actually googling on Marlowe's play The Massacre at Paris , but ended reading about Ayn Rand, Terry Eagleton and Tolstoy). He doesn't write from an academic or literary perspective but just freshly, enthusiastically and thoughtfully.  I'll be back.

there are no foreigners


My latest book purchase arrived yesterday: Women: Poetry: Migration [An Anthology] ed. Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (theenk Books, 2017).  It's an anthology of contemporary (mostly experimental) poetry by women who live in a country different from the country of their birth. That might sound a complicated and even pointless criterion but (on the basis of barely an hour's reading)  the result is a book that is very easy to like, its swirlingly various poetic contents feeling a little more approachable because of the framework of converging preoccupations. (The miniature "essays" from each of the contributors are helpful too.)  Here's a few words from the early pages. *From Jane Joritz-Nakagawa's Introduction: ... in Strangers to Ourselves (1991), Julia Kristeva wrote of "Our [human] disturbing otherness" but stated: "by recognizing our uncanny strangeness we shall neither suffer from it nor enjoy it from the outside. The foreigner is within me, hence we are all foreigners. If I am a foreigner, there are no foreigners" (p. 192). As a poet attempting to write an introduction to a poetry anthology of migrant women's work, I am also thinking of language itself as foreign. Japanese poet Kora Rumiko said in an interview that she "... felt even as a child that language was not mine, that I existed outside the language that surrounded me, like a foreigner.... " Here she is discussing her first language, Japanese, not a second or third one. *From Adeena Karasick's Salomé: Woman of ValorAnd what shadowed abyssof taut turns is riddled by the flux          of campy anonAnd what breathy mamboof moaning nomadsis frothing in the foolscape ofyour wet roulette?What sluiced verityWhat twangy biasesWhat cooing lurks in the sashay of racy traces* From Amanda Ngoho Reavey's MarilynIn the jungle there is a foreboding that surrounds a sentence. It lactates. It drowns.They say that by the time a child is one year old her brain has been wired to know and understand only the phonemes of the language that surrounds her. I spent eight years in speech therapy learning how English letters and words should be formed in my mouth...*From Andrea Brady's The Blue Split CompartmentsThis is the kill box, frozen into sculptureat a value of some $10m.And who hover over it are tempted to wonderwhere the 'art' went or where the 'work' wentlooking for their circus face in the bottom,or the secret of its underside, where it makes contactwith the gallery floor,but it says nothing other than 'construction'. It really islike swatting flies; we can do it forevereasily and you feel nothing. *[JJ-N: born in USA, lives in Japan. AK: born in Canada, of Russian-Jewish heritage; lives in USA. ANR: born in Philippines, lives in USA. AB: born in USA, lives in UK.]  The jacket artwork is by Steven Seidenberg, photographer painter and poet.[...]

Tuft hunting


Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Swindon, March 14th 2018Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Only two British grass species form large tufts or tussocks. This is one of them. The other is Tufted Hair-grass (see below).Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Swindon, March 14th 2018Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis). Swindon, March 14th 2018Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis) is the baby brother of Tall Fescue. It is a medium-height grass and only loosely tufted. Above, a single tuft. Below, a group of tufts.Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis). Swindon, March 14th 2018Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), with fox poo. Swindon, March 13th 2018.Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa). Compared to Tall Fescue, the blades are a darker green and quite narrow.Typical behaviour of a fox during the mating season. The poo is dropped on a natural plinth, in this case a tuft of grass, in order to maximize the spread of its strong smell, which is used for marking territory. [...]

A Brief History of Western Culture


Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins[Image source:]Since there's no time to write anything new (the TEFL course is reaching its long-delayed climax), I'm fobbing off my readers with four more paltry notes that I wrote back in 2002-ish. All of them were inspired by the same relativistic and universalist idea: that any and every artefact (no matter how humble, ephemeral or trashy) contained the whole of human history,  had limitless horizons and could sustain a lifetime of study and interest. In principle. You may feel I've demonstrated the opposite! The Orbis Pocket Encyclopedia of the World (London, 1981) This has rather a complex history of compilation. The cartography apparently comes from Prague (many of Britain’s cheap factual books from this era originated in Eastern Europe). Someone unnamed, nevertheless, must be responsible for all the English translation, anglicised names on the map (e.g. “Black Sea”) and additional material. The quantity of aggregated labour in the pages of this book is astonishing, as much so as in those Victorian factual books with their impeccable proofreading, exhaustive indexes and thousands of engraved illustrations. The hybrid origin of the book is subtly betrayed in a map such as the one of Europe. I was at first puzzled by the prominent naming of places I’d never heard of, such as Duncansby Head (we always say “John o’ Groats”). I now see that these are vaguely intended to demarcate the physical limits of Europe. Both “Nordkapp” and “Nordkinn” are shown - the latter name (I think describing the most northerly point in Europe, which is not the North Cape) is not even shown on my large motorist’s map of Norway. The White Sea appears as “Beloje More”.  On the Spanish coast there is no Torremolinos or Benidorm or Lloret de Mar.  Production looms large in the accounts of nations - somehow, archaically so. The UK produced 124 billion cigarettes p.a, Sweden 11.3 billion (USA 627 billion, USSR 378 billion). China is the leading producer of a tobacco crop - more than a million tons a year.  I really bought the book to understand the moon and skies, but the explanations are, to me, incomprehensible - perhaps they are just not complete enough.    Alex Through the Looking Glass: The Autobiography of Alex Higgins (Alex Higgins with Tony Francis, 1986)  If the only worthwhile communication in art is not what is said but what is betrayed, this should appeal. The book is narrated in the first, i.e. Alex’s, person (except for an introduction in which Francis speaks for himself). As we read we believe in the persona, and Francis is quite unobtrusive. That it is more or less an understood intention to betray is clear from the often discordant intrusions of Alex’s wife and relatives. Did Alex himself intend to speak frankly, or intend to reveal himself frankly (a different thing)? “That night the lid blew off. It was the culmination of four years of pressure. The whole episode was so preposterous you’d hardly believe it. One thing I will not stand for is being accused of something when I’m fairly and squarely not guilty. I lost control. That’s why the television set went out of the window. I had to vent my fury somehow. It was better than hitting Lynn. What is a fellow to do when his wife is behaving like this?” Seeing Alex play snooker was electrifying, but not friendly. He was not really an intentional entertainer. His belief is in who he is - a phenomenon, a person whose every act in some way typifies his unique style. He takes curiously little pleasure in his two world championships. His apparently intense love for his children is unconvincing - it convinced me, iconically, when he wept and beckoned for Lauren on TV. The autobiography assumes that Alex will settle down calmly into middle ag[...]

Tony Conran: Theatre of Flowers (1998)


Spring Quillwort (Isoetes echinospora) [Imge source: ] I'm writing this very fast. This collection contains various groups of poems, but I’m only going to talk about nature . Most of the “Theatre of Flowers” group is too fanciful for my needs – I don’t want to say (and this is at its best) of borage The sepals curl through itFurry and brown,Like claws of an animal or of cranberries They’re like eyes redWith affliction though I do see the point. This is better:  Spry grass. Grey tombs. (from “September”). OK, so “spry” is a metaphor, but the comparison is hardly visualized and you might say that “spry” is thoroughly re-appropriated to the vegetable world and means “spry in the way of dry breezy grass in the latter end of summer”. That’s more how I think you can use words about grass and even venture a little way into the non-human form of life, but (paradoxically) by evoking how the grass affects the human mind; you draw on a feeling that we already have for other things in our world, a feeling that’s sub-verbal.  Or this, from “Isoetes (Quillwort)”: On the down-windShore-line of the lake,Broken quillwort leavesLap the gravel. Even whole cormsHave been torn by the icyFathom-rakeOf the wind *I'm abashed, almost, to be republishing (from 18 years ago) such a paltry note. It certainly does scant justice to Tony Conran, who was a major presence in Welsh literature. (He died in 2013.) But in defence I wanted to preserve those quotations where I could find them, even the ones I originally criticized. When I copy out poetry, it seems to stick in my memory; and then, as often as not, it starts to become more important to me. can buy some of Tony Conran's books on paper, they are still read and written about and indeed performed (by the Conran Poetry Chorus), but all this activity seems to leave remarkably few traceson the Internet. All I could find was three poems and two translations. "Jasper", quoted and discussed by Carol Rumens: includes the poem "Pebble", which was read at his funeral. quotes "Beyond This Divide". contains Conran's translation of Taliesyn's "The Battle of Gwen Strad". quotes The Shirt of a Lad: Anonymous Welsh Poem translated by Tony Conran                       As I did the washing one dayUnder the bridge at Aberteifi,and a golden stick to drub it,And my sweetheart's shirt beneath it –A knight came by on a charger,Proud and swift and broad of shoulder,And he asked if I would sellThe shirt of the lad that I loved so well.No, I said, I will not trade –Not if a hundred pounds were paid;not if two hillsides I could keepFull with wethers and white sheep;Not if two fields of oxenUnder yoke were in the bargain;Not if the herbs of all Llandewi,Trodden and pressed were offered to me –Not for the like of that I'd sellThe shirt of the lad that I love well.[...]

The Strong Room


This is the name of Andrea Brady's 2016 collection, which I am reading.


I dreamed that all the places we had walked were continuous
and we walked them again with the undulating cloth
sometimes sinking or rising as the suns
stitched to the cloth and a bowl of green bending
upwards from the spells of our elimination.
But really night comes as grief:

another day split from thousands, etching
a hairline crack in the rock of what is achievable.
All around Buddhas collapse to powder.
Your hand is beside me, limp, relaxed,
a prop to be taken and made to talk,
your clothes are rags in a hundred years
cast by the brown water    ....

(Opening lines of "Animation", from The Strong Room)

The interview below is helpful:

Andrea Brady's Warton Lecture "The Determination of Love". Text:


It being International Women's Day, I was listening to the women composers on Radio 3 and it suddenly occurred to me that though I'm interested in Nordic classical music I couldn't think of a single Nordic woman classical composer. Well, I can now! .. these are all Swedish.

(Though I might have named Alice Tegnér with a bit of prompting. She wrote many children's songs that have entered Swedish popular culture.)

Elfrida Andrée, born in Visby (1849 - 1929)

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Alice Tegnér, born in Karlshamn (1864 - 1943)

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Helena Munktell, born in Grycksbo (1852 - 1919)

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Cecilia Franke (1955 -)

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history is not true


Pentti Saarikoski[Image source:]Pentti Saarikoski's chaotic personal life and alcohol dependency was nothing to emulate, so why is it that when I read his poems -- I mean, especially, the poems in his trilogy of late collections -- I feel at once that I'm listening to someone enormously wise, someone who tells me things? Anselm Hollo speaks of Saarikoski's "idiosyncratic sanity". That's right, isn't it?                    XI sit on the liars' benchthe cow in heat smelled of pinetoday the sheep came to the meadowto eat the grassthat is their work, their taskSo many flowers summer so soonappletrees in bloom, and the cherrythe blackthorn too is in bloomPower over fellow humansis costlyhistory is not trueonly propaganda is I repeatthis, praisehim whose face already is stonehis eyes are suchone doesn't listen to himThe price is lonelinesspayable in cashPull your boat up on the rock, turn it oversit out the afternoonon the steps of the boathouse, how the islandsmove at right angles, howallmovesI praise himwho had himself tied to the mastplugged up the ears of his oarsmen with waxa man of many turnswho came home, killed the suitorsburied buriedHis face already stonethe sheep are bounding abouton the first dayHe saved his countrybut from whatand for whatdo means sanctify the end?I must go see him, ask himhe has killed the suitors, he's lonelyI repeat and praisehis face already stoneBirds appear in the airthis fine eveningPentti Saarikoski, from The Dance Floor on the Mountain  (1977), translation by Anselm Hollo from Pentti Saarikoski: Trilogy (1988).By the end of the poem we can put it together: the man with power over people isn't, as we might have expected, Lenin, but Odysseus, admired for his lies. One of Saarikoski's constant conversations is with power. Outside the establishment by dint of wild bohemianism, yet somehow a neighbour to power by dint of his herculean grasp of literatures and cultures, he's unremittingly occupied with the big questions. He accepts nearly everything without complaint, but not those. Pentti, sitting on his liars' bench, falls to musing how history isn't true and propaganda is true. Propaganda and praise are the same thing in this poem. Praise has given us the Odysseus we read about, the one that matters. Useless to ask if Odysseus was really a good guy, or whether he brought healing or harm. History isn't true because (in the decade of John Berger's Ways of Seeing) there can never be a single history. But praise eventually becomes a fact. Odysseus is a presence in our civilisation; a stone one, but a presence all the same. This dubious but deep meditation is only a part of the poem.  The gleam of water from the steps of the boathouse; looking up at the end of the thought and seeing birds in the sky...  these are just as important to it. And the face already stone isn't just Lenin and Odysseus. The whole trilogy is haunted -- perhaps we might say, fuelled -- by awareness of the author's own approaching death. It's a fine evening, and the poet isn't lonely, not like those dead men of power and blood.  Not yet. *The translator elsewhere tells us that in the lineshim whose face already is stonehis eyes are suchone doesn't listen to hima more literal translation would be "his way of looking is such ...  ". *My earlier (and much longer) post on Pentti Saarikoski: Age graveyard at Pilane on the island of Tjörn[Image source:[...]

meeting the animals


Spicules of snow. Swindon, 1st March 2018.The 1st of March. An arctic day in Swindon. It snowed all day, not big snowflakes but tiny needle-shaped spicules of snow that powdered the ground and were blown about in plumes. Slowly the snow-level rose. Human and other tracks were obliterated within a short time, so the snowscape remained perpetually virginal.Swindon, 1st March 2018 You could begin to see a usually hidden fact about the landscape: the places where snow would naturally pile up (my front door being one of them, it seemed) and, in contrast, the places where wind would prevent the snow from ever settling. In miniature you can see that pattern of contrast beginning to emerge in the office car-park. On the Swedish fells the spots where snow never settles are called vindblottor (wind-blots). They have a specialized flora, rather poor in species.  Winter is much harsher in these vindblottor than under a comfortable blanket of snow. Untrodden woodland. Swindon, 2nd March 2018The next day was warmer and calmer, and I went for a lunchtime walk in the wood. The snow had gone stickier. The roads were a corrugated churn of snow that would neither melt nor blow away. In parts of the world where the snow lies long and regular, I think people must feel much closer to the wild animals who share their land, because the signs of their wanderings become suddenly evident. Walking through the snowy woodland, with a Subway take-away tea in hand, I met a chap coming in the other direction who grinned and said he'd been chasing the hares. Hare tracks. Swindon, 2nd March 2018It was soon obvious what he meant. The hare-tracks ran alongside our own, the hares had recognized the virtues of our woodland path as a through-route. And five minutes later I caught sight of a big fat brown hare galloping away from me . I don't suppose he was really fat, it was just the fluffed out fur. Hare track. Swindon, 2nd March 2018Here's the classic track of the European Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus).  The leaping hare touches the ground with its forefeet, one behind the other, then overtakes those prints to land ahead of them with its back feet side by side. Then off it springs again. Track of fox trotting in snow. Swindon, 2nd March 2018.In another part of the wood, I found this almost linear track. This is a foxtrot in snow. At all other times a fox trots in an odd sidling way so its forepaws are to one side of the line of direction and its backpaws to the other. But in snow it changes its gait to walk in a very straight line. The back paws drop precisely into the holes made by the front paws, so the track ends up looking as if the animal has only two legs. Paw-prints and poo of fox. Swindon, 3rd March 2018. But here's my prize exhibit, a fox squat I noticed this morning (rather pointedly, just outside the entrance to our offices). Fox paw-print. Swindon, 3rd March 2018Close-up of the fox's paw-print. It differs from a dog's in having longer claw-prints at the front, and a big gap in the middle of the five toes. (In a dog's or wolf's print, this area is mainly filled by the rear toe.) Most of this info comes from Dyrespor, a marvellous book by Preben Bang with drawings by Preben Dahlström, translated into Swedish by Håkan Hallander as Spårboken (1974). [...]

first leaves


First hazel leaves, Swindon, February 28th 2018 Walking in the wood again, yesterday (28th Feb 2018). An agreeable sprinkling of snow, and crispness in the air, but it's always warmer among the trees. (Today, however, it has turned arctic.)First hawthorn leaves, Swindon 28th February 2018Leafing Elder sapling, Swindon, 28th February 2018Grey Poplar (Populus x canescens)Some of the wood's most important activity can't be seen down here at ground level. Far above my head, the Grey Poplar (Populus x canescens) is swelling with new catkins.I scratched about for ages hoping to find a budding twig that had been blown down. Then I remembered that the woodcutters had been here in January. Sure enough I found where they had cut down a poplar and left some heaps of brushwood. Woodcutting pilesThe twigs were bursting with catkins so I snapped off a twig and took it indoors and plonked it in a vase of water, intending to watch the catkins emerge, which they very quickly do once inside. (In Sweden, people do this with birch sprigs; it gives them a glimpse of greenery long before they see any outside.)Opening catkins of Grey PoplarToday the catkins are already beginning to lengthen and reveal the red anthers. These are the male flowers. The species is dioecious. I'll see if I can find a female tree but they're said to be less frequent. More information and better images here: noisiest tree in the woodI also tracked down the source of the creaking in this part of the wood. It's a Grey Poplar with a big split down the middle. Both halves are alive and their branches ascend high into the canopy. Even the slightest breeze pulls at those giant levers and makes the tree talk. [...]

surprises of Trowbridge


The Albany Palace, now a Wetherspoons pub in TrowbridgeI've lived near to Trowbridge (Wiltshire) for 27 years, and I've visited the town hundreds of times, but it was only yesterday, while having dinner at a Spoons pub in the town centre,  that I learnt that the poet George Crabbe was rector of Trowbridge from 1814 until his death in 1832.  I had thought of Crabbe only as a Suffolk poet.  He was 60 when he took up the position in Trowbridge. His great collection Tales had been published two years earlier, but he was still active as a poet for the next few years. (The story is that he wrote beneath a mulberry in the rectory garden -- I think the mulberry may still be there.)  From 1820 onwards, however, he was afflicted by severe neuralgias that weren't conducive to writing poetry. In May 1816 he wrote Flirtation -- A Dialogue, whih was published only after his death. In 1819 he published his last major collection Tales from the Hall. He was a popular poet and remained involved with the literary world. He was friends with Scott, Rogers, Wordsworth, Baillie, Bowles and Campbell among others. Indeed everyone (Austen, Byron...) seemed to admire Crabbe. Perhaps his admirable poetry seemed too old-fashioned to be viewed in the light of competition. I was disappointed to find that Crabbe's poems aren't yet available online in text format. They are in Google Books (e.g. the 8-volume edition of 1835) but there's no easy cutting and pasting available to me. In Flirtation Celia, anticipating the return after five years of her naval lover, discusses with her friend Delia how she intends to explain away, should Charles have heard about them, a number of colourful flirtations with other gentlemen. One of the gentlemen in question is Delia's own brother.(Delia.) ... But for my Brother -- night and morn were youTogether found, th'inseparable two,Far from the haunts of vulgar prying men --In the old abbey -- in the lonely glen --In the beech wood -- within the quarry madeBy hands long dead -- within the silent glade,Where the moon gleams upon the spring that flowsBy the grey willows as they stand in rows --Shall I proceed? there's not a quiet spotIn all the parish where the pair were not,Oft watch'd, oft seen.  You must not so despiseThis weighty charge -- Now, what will you devise?Celia. -- "Her brother! What, Sir? Jealous of a child!"A friend's relation! Why, the man is wild --"A boy not yet at college! Come, this proves"Some truth in you! This is a freak of Love's:"I must forgive it, though I know not how"A thing so very simple to allow."Pray, if I meet my cousin's little boy,"And take a kiss, would that your peace annoy?"But I remember Delia -- yet to give"A thought to this is folly, as I live --"But I remember Delia made her prayer"That I would try and give the Boy an air;"Yet awkward he, for all the pains we took --"A bookish boy, his pleasure is his book;"And since the lad is grown to man's estate,"We never speak -- Your bookish Youth I hate."Delia. -- Right! and he cannot tell, with all his art,Our father's will compell'd you both to part.Celia. -- Nay, this is needless --A local history display in the Albany Palace, TrowbridgeTales from the Hall is virtually a full-blown novel in verse. Here's a well-known passage that I didn't have to copy out myself. Young Henry, though engaged to be married, has been fooling about with the servant girl Fanny. It turns out, however, that this has been observed by the steward of the house, who stands to Fanny in loco parentis. There follows an excruciating interview in which Henry discovers how entangled he has become. The  best-known lines, however, describe his distressed view of the landscape the following morning. [...]

where is a city


Prologue: Without History..But because of the shared dynamic of the history we lack, the history of existence and non-existence which affects us equally, heats us and bequeaths to us the sense of physicality that is so palpable and quick, because of these and other reasons to do with interiority and exteriority, significance and non-significance, we feel at home here. And yet we feel a sense of exile. ...This is the next Ken Edwards book I've got round to reading, following eight + six and a book with no name . Down With Beauty was published in 2013, in the "Narrative Series" of Reality Street's latter years, which, unless it's only my perception, has been much neglected. To confuse matters, the 2013 publication contains not only the new text Down with Beauty but the slightly older text Nostalgia for Unknown Cities, which was originally published separately (Reality Street, 2007). Review by Andy Brown in Stride Magazine: by Richard Parker in Shearsman Magazine: for Unknown CitiesThis text was reviewed in various places when it first came out.  Brother Paul / Paul A. Green's review in Culture Court is outstanding:*One of the fun things to do with Nostalgia for Unknown Cities, though in a way it feels really wrong, is to try and identify the six unnamed cities that its six sections are about.  Five of them are reasonably straightforward (though I was pleased when I found the grain elevators) but the unpunctuated "City Break" has defeated me, and may be a sort of melange of cities rather than one city in particular. The text mentions "a fountain again a statue of a lady being pulled along by lions". That sounds like the very impressive Cybele fountain in Madrid. But my general feeling while I was reading "City Break" was more central-European. nobody showed up so you had to get out of here there's nowhere to go you consulted the map so conveniently provided by the tourist board in association with the chamber of commerce here's Konrad Adenauer street there's Winston Churchill boulevard and General Charles de Gaulle place which is not called that any more but in any case none of this was marked on the map... According to Google Maps there's no Calle Konrad Adenauer in  Madrid, though there is a Plazuela Konrad Adenauer in Salamanca.  What about Tübingen? It has a Konrad Adenauer Straße. So do Frankfurt and Köln. But Winston Churchill studied for three years at Tübingen, so maybe...?. However Gibraltar's main arterial route is called Winston Churchill Avenue. Oh dear, are we picking up cross-chapter interference now? Cybele fountain, Madrid[Image source:][...]

Hazel (Corylus avellana)


Hazel understorey at Hagbourne Copse, SwindonCorylus avellana (En: Hazel, Sw/No/Dn: Hassel, Fi: Pähkinäpensas, Ge: Haselnuß, Du: Hazelnoot, Fr: Noisetier / Coudrier , Sp: Avellano, Po: Aveleira, It: Nocciola,  Pl: Leszczyna, Cz: Líska, We: Collen, Ir: Coll)Hazel (Corylus avellana), female flower above, male belowHazels can't self-pollenate, apparently, but I can't imagine that's much of an issue. When do you ever see a lone hazel? I feel I want to say "hazel tree", but few hazels measure up to the normal definition of a tree as having a single bole that's at least a meter or two in height. But William Wordsworth, in "The Green Linnet" (composed in the orchard at Town-End, Grasmere, in 1803) felt no such reserve.Amid yon tuft of hazel trees, That twinkle to the gusty breeze, Behold him perched in ecstasies, Yet seeming still to hover; This is in May, when broad-leaved trees twinkle as the lighter undersides of the leaves are exposed.  But because of the winter catkins, Jan-Feb is the time of year when you're most likely to notice just how much hazel there is. You'd think we'd be knee-deep in cob-nuts come autumn, yet that isn't what happens. Many hazel individuals produce few or no nuts, as far as I can see. Hence the child William's exhilaration was about his newly discovered hazel grove being both fruitful and unplundered --- until now.  Then up I rose,And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crashAnd merciless ravage: and the shady nookOf hazels, and the green and mossy bower,Deformed and sullied, patiently gave upTheir quiet being: (William Wordsworth, "Nutting" ) Some hazel individuals, I've noticed, seem to produce no male catkins. Nevertheless hazel is predominantly monoecious (male and female flowers on same individual), as my useless photos show. Hazel sheen on regenerating coppiceIf outside and in need of magickal protection quickly draw a circle around yourself with a hazel branch. The loveliest thing about hazel, I think, is the grey-brown bark with its subtle silvery gleam. Seeing it, you can believe in the distant relationship of hazels (Corylus) with birches (Betula). It's one of those things you need to experience, you can't really capture it on a photograph. At any rate, I can't. It's a good few years from when a child first learns to count to when they learn about their first irrational number - Pi, most likely. But a few years later the same child, if they carry on being interested in maths, learns that there are actually a whole lot more irrational numbers than there are rational numbers. (Infinitely more, in fact.) I think it might be the same with the things you can't capture on a photograph: they're actually most of what there is. If you have a wood-burning stove, hazel is a good but fast-burning wood. The wood can be used for small diameter carving and turning, but is best if it's been grown in a sheltered spot. Wind can cause splits and twisted grain. Here's an attempt at a tiny anthology of hazel (contributions welcome!). Hazel shares our European world as a partner -- in particular the same broad lowland bits that the bulk of humans inhabit, though the extracts from Scott's Lady of the Lake show that hazel is also an important presence in upland Britain. Hazel's culture and ours are quite intertwined. It's predominantly a working relationship. HarryA ship these hands have built, in ev'ry partCarv'd, rigg'd, and painted, with the nicest art;The ridgy sides are black with[...]

Peter Philpott, continued....


Pine needles and drinks can on a stepThere's some typically searching thoughts about Peter Philpott's Wound Scar Memories by Peter Riley in the course of a long essay in the Fortnightly Review from last July.[This is rather a challenge to my attempt to move away from using anaphoric surnames. In this case I'll use PR for the reviewer, reserving Peter for the author.]The essay as a whole is, I think, PR's most persuasive and elaborate attempt to articulate his longstanding rejection of the alternative/mainstream binary, and is full of detail and insight. But where I found myself most in demurral was on the topic of Wound Scar Memories, in which he finds a diehard Cantabrigian rejection of society, language and subject, which isn't the way I read it at all.  His review makes the book sound impenetrable, which it isn't; and he's oddly impervious to the drift of the argument, apparently ignoring such straightforward help as appears e.g. on the back cover of the book.  All poetry is difficult, no doubt; but here the difficulty lies far more in realizing the implications of what's being said than in the rebarbativeness of the saying. I was, as you can see, already thinking about this poem:13. what & who are we asking questions about here?can we imagine this as spring now?slow bubbling up of green &the birds definitely pairing for their futureswhat will it be like when we live differentcan we be other than what we are-- except we aren't, we're doing & changing                           brisk, not yet decaywho'd believe we might win out against the rich                       their armed thugs & their lawyers                       tame poets, politicians, publicists                       their planners & all their aspirants                       -- not to is what is unbelievable & crushes                       condemns to fantasy & bestial rage                       not to believe in our future condemns                                                                   unmakes us                                                                   unravels the texts   [...]

Four Swedish songs


For the past couple of years I've had it in mind to make an album of Swedish-language songs for the Swedish-speakers in my family, and while I was getting over flu I recorded four songs. The links contain more information, including English translations.

allow="autoplay" frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%">Sol vind och vatten   (Sun wind and water)

A song by Ted and Kenneth Gärdestad, from the 1970s.  Ted was a teenybop star;  he wrote the music  and his elder brother wrote the words.

allow="autoplay" frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%">Dansen på Sunnanö (The dance at Sunnanö)

A song by the troubadour Evert Taube from the 1950s.

allow="autoplay" frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%">Visa (Song)

A poem by Dan Andersson from the early 20th century. I've reverse-engineered it into a real song, adding my own music.

allow="autoplay" frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%">För kärlekens skull (For love's sake)

Another song by T and K Gärdestad, from the 1990s.

passionate in the 1590s


The passionate shepherd Silvius (Russ Stimmel) woos Phoebe (Raymonde Moyon)[Image source: . A still from the Mountain Play Association's 1920 production of As You Like It . Since 1913 they've produced one play a year at the outdoor amphitheatre on Mt Tamalpais (Marin County, California).] These days, it's become an advertising cliché: such a cliché, indeed, that the big boys (why are they boys?) have long since relinquished it to smaller commercial outfits:We are passionate about great coffee / customer service / inexpensive home insurance / our luxury doughnuts / gambler satisfaction / ....In short, a pathetic attempt to present a corporate as a bunch of happy mates who only live to serve you; and besides are afflicted by deep moral integrity and impersonal desire to create a world in which their marvellous product is available to all, instead of inferior brands. [Generally this would come under OED passionate adj. and n. 3a, "ardently enthusiastic"]*Passion is one of the "big words" in English, a word with a complicated and culturally important history. What I'm curious about is some things about it in the 1590s-1600s. I'll list some materials first, then try to pull a few thoughts together at the end. *'Poor forlorn Proteus, passionate Proteus, To the sweet Julia:'  (Two Gentlemen of Verona I.2) (1591 ish)Titus Andronicus III.2 (1593 ish) (Titus.) Marcus, unknit that sorrow-wreathen knot: Thy niece and I, poor creatures, want our hands, And cannot passionate our tenfold grief With folded arms."The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" (poem by Marlowe, written before 1593, published 1599 with this title, but an incomplete text, in The Passionate Pilgrim (see below) ; a better text was published in England's Helicon (1600)).Sonnet 20 (1592?)A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;(nb, the only occurrence of the word in Shakespeare's  Sonnets)Marie Magdalen's Love: a Solemne Passion of the Sovles Love, by Nicholas Breton (1595) Two works published together; perhaps only the second (a devotional poem) is Breton's, the first being a Catholic work while all evidence is that Breton was a strong Anglican. Francis Meres, in Palladis Tamia  (1598), names Breton as one of those "most passionate among us to bewail and bemoan the perplexities of love..."As You Like It II.4 (1599)Rosalind. Jove, Jove! this shepherd's passion Is much upon my fashion. Henry V (1599) II.2Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger, The Passionate Pilgrim (unauthorized anthology published by Jaggard in 1599 and ascribed to "W. Shakespeare", though only five of the twenty poems are his)Hamlet  (1600) II.2 (Hamlet). We'll have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality. Come, a passionate speech.   (Hamlet). ...What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,That he should weep for her? What would he do,Had he the motive and the cue for passionThat I have?III.2  (S.D.) The Queen returns, finds the King dead, and makes passionate action.III.2. (Player King). What to ourselves in passion we propose, The passion ending, doth the purpose lose. The violence of either grief or joy Their own enactures with themselves destroy."A Doleful Passion", "A Testament Upon the Passion", "An Extreme Passion", titles of poems in Nicholas Breton's Melancholike Humours (1600) "A Solemn Fancy", from the same collection, ends:And Death shall only tellMy froward fortune's fashion,That nearest unto hellWas found the Lover's p[...]

Alex La Guma broadcast


Alex and Blanche La Guma on their wedding day in 1954[Image source:]Alex La Guma was born in 2 Rogers Street, District Six.Lindsay Johns' tribute to Alex La Guma (1925 - 1985), was broadcast yesterday on Radio 3. It's available to listen to for the next however many days. Lots on Walk In the Night, and some decent thoughts on The Stone Country and In the Fog of the Season's End. (Time of the Butcherbird doesn't get a mention.) to the politically conservative Lindsay Johns for his out-and-out admiration for La Guma, even though La Guma was a communist. It leads to quite an interesting dialogue with Alex's widow Blanche about how the La Gumas squared their own fight for basic freedoms in South Africa with support for regimes elsewhere who eroded individual liberty. And I like the way he includes an interview with another early associate of La Guma's who bluntly dismisses Johns' own notion of La Guma's balancing of aesthetic and political values.I'm not that crazy about the "black Dickens" tag (surely La Guma is a big enough writer to just be himself?) and it's perhaps an unfortunate necessity of popular broadcasting that the presentation is structured around La Guma's present-day reputation (i.e. Why on earth isn't he better known?) rather than his life and his novels. (Worldwide I'd say La Guma is pretty well-known. The broadcast does contain some interesting speculations on why La Guma isn't as well known in S. Africa as he might be. One of them being contemporary disparagement of realism. Another that his books were banned in South Africa until the end of apartheid, by which time he was dead.)If you miss out on the broadcast, you can read my La Guma posts instead  :) , but don't imagine they're any substitute...A Walk in the Night of the Butcherbird La Guma's autobiography In the Dark with my Dress on Fire (2010, with Martin Klammer) looks well worth a read. ...[...]

Inside the Micaelas' with Fortunata


Being used to rising at nine or ten in the morning, it was excruciating for the sinner to get up at the crack of dawn every day in the convent. At five o'clock, Sor Antonia was already ringing her way into the dormitories with a bell that shattered the poor sleepers' eardrums. Rising early was one of the best disciplinary and educational methods the nuns used, and staying up late was a bad habit they fought vigorously, as if it were as noxious to the soul as it was to the body. Because of this, the night watch-nun patrolled the dormitories at different hours of the night, and if she caught any whispering, she dealt out extremely severe punishments.The work varied in nature, and was sometimes rough. The religious teachers took special care to subdue vice-ridden types or fiery tempers by exhausting them, thus mortifying the flesh and ennobling the spirit. Delicate tasks, such as sewing and embroidery (for which there was a special workroom), were the least appealing to Fortunata, who was hardly fond of needlework and whose fingers were very clumsy. She was happier when she was ordered to wash, polish the tile floors, clean the windowpanes, or do other jobs suited to scrub maids. She was bored to death when they had her sit and sew nametags on clothes. Another duty she liked was being kitchenmaid for the nun who was cook; it was amazing to see how she scrubbed and polished all the copper and crockery — better and faster than two or three of the most diligent inmates.Considerable vigor and vigilance characterized the nuns' handling of the inmates' relationships, regardless of whether they were Filomenas or Josefinas. The nuns were sharp sentries when it came to supervising budding friendships and couples that formed as a result of mutual fondness. The veteran inmates whose submissiveness was known were instructed to accompany those new inmates who were considered suspect. There were some who were not allowed to speak to their companions except in the main group during recess.In spite of the severity exercised in preventing intimate couples or groups, there were always sly violations of the rule. It was impossible in a group of forty or fifty women to prevent two or three of them from getting together to talk when they were able to meet during their duties. One Saturday morning Sor Natividad, who was the mother superior (alias the withered-looking one), ordered Fortunata to polish the tile floor of the visiting room. Sor Natividad was from a northern province and was extremely zealous about the care of the convent; she always kept it as clean as a whistle, and if she saw a speck of dust or any other kind of dirt, she became frenetic and shrieked for all she was worth, as if a great calamity had befallen the world or original sin had been committed anew. Whoever obeyed her fanatical doctrine of cleanliness she pampered and favored, whereas she hurled awful curses at whoever prevaricated, even venially, in that closed morality of hers.(from Benito Pérez Galdós, Fortunata y Jacinta (1886 - 1887) trans. Agnes Moncy Gullón.)*The point about Sor Natividad coming from a northern province is that, in Spain as elsewhere in Europe, the north is associated with high standards and work ethic, contrasting with a poorer and dirtier, but often happier, south.Fortunata has agreed to enter the convent as one of the "Filomenas". These are fallen women seeking to reform their lives. The "Josefinas", on the other hand, are well-born girls sent for finishing education -- often by their step-parents as a pretext for getting them out of the home. Naturally the two groups aren't allowed to m[...]

In the January wood again


fallen branch with lichen and orange fungiI've spent too much time alone in the woods. I'm not really a naturalist, I don't recognize the birdsong, I don't notice the signs of animal life, I don't know the lichens or fungi or insects. I've made only glancing contacts with naturalist communities so I've never learnt anything. Now and then I've researched something myself, normally a flower or a grass or a tree, but this is an inefficient way to proceed, when I could have found it all out just by chatting to people. Nevertheless, I've usually gone alone. Some kind of need has grown up in me, to walk into the woods.  I don't know what I'm looking for, or why. And do I keep coming back because I found what I was looking for, or because I didn't? Helleborus foetidusA single plant of Stinking Hellebore. A popular garden plant, and I'm assuming this one is naturalized rather than native; the plant certainly is native to the UK but I've found no advice online about how you might spot a native hellebore, or where you would go to see one. Does it matter? For most purposes, not really. Still, I'd like to know. Helleborus foetidusMaybe what I come here for is some sort of grounding, as well as the healing properties of fresh air. Sometimes I don't even think about nature, I'm just stretching my legs. Even so, a communication is taking place. And sometimes, on days like this, I can't go twenty paces without noticing something that fills me with questioning wonder. Decaying branchThere's field maple and oak growing here, too. Just a couple of hundred yards away, across a busy dual carriageway, there's a fragment of ancient woodland, oak and bluebells. It looks completely different to the secondary woodland on this side of the road. Prunus laurocerasus - Inflorescence buds in JanuaryCherry laurel. The leaves are evergreen. These inflorescence buds will rapidly elongate over the next six weeks.  Flowering starts around the spring equinox. An introduced species, of course. Its native region extends from Albania to Iran. Anthriscus sylvestrisCow-parsley, just starting out. woodscapeLots of box growing as understorey, along with hazel. The trees are mostly ash, poplar and sycamore. Iris foetidissima -- fruits in JanuaryAnother stinker. This one is Stinking Iris, a plant whose mention always prompts one of Laura's favourite jokes. Viburnum tinusHaving left the wood, but not yet back at the office, I passed by this Viburnum tinus, a popular shrub in the UK for its winter flowers; native to the Mediterranean region. [...]

Cathy Park Hong


Ruins of Shangdu (=Xanadu), Inner Mongolia, China[Image source: .]My Yellow Steppe of Xanadu, the summer residence of ancient Khans. My cool and pleasant Kaiping Xanadu   (from the lament of Toghon Temur Khan)I recently got involved in a debate on the British Poets forum about populist poetry (in various senses of that term) and I found myself mentioning the Gurlesque and institutional anxiety to exclude the "Plague Ground"*, and anyway I somehow ended up surfing the web on the US side and I started to read some of Cathy Park Hong's poetry. [*Joyelle McSweeney's term. ]She's the kind of poet who has never meant a rush on this side of the Atlantic (at least not in the poetry communities I know about... but see below). Anyway here are some of her poems. Whenever I'm able to work out which of her three books they appear in, I've specified that.Ga       The fishy consonant,Na     The monkey vowel.Da     The immigrant’s tongue          as shrill or guttural.Overture of my voice like the flash of bats.The hyena babble and apish libretto.Piscine skin, unblinking eyes.Sideshow invites foreigner with the animal hide.    (The opening lines of "Zoo")from Translating Mo'um (2002)"Zoo""Body Builder""All the Aphrodisiacs""Hottentot Venus" Dance Revolution (2007)From descriptions this sounds like CPH's most adventurous book, mostly in an invented polyglot lingua franca."Language Guide":"Roles""St Petersburg Hotel Series: 1. Services""St Petersburg Hotel Series: 2. Preparation for Winter in the St. Petersburg Arboretum""St Petersburg Hotel Series: 3. The Fountain Outside the Arboretum""St Petersburg Hotel Series: 4. Atop the St Petersburg Dome"'s a podcast about the book, including readings of several poems: Engine Empire (2012)There's a lot of on-line reviews of this book, most being eager to summarize its intriguing narrative frames. The three sequences are "The Ballad of Our Jim", "Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown!" and "The World Cloud". The review I liked best was by J Zenoni -- richly interpretive but also off-message, the way a good review should be -- for instance when it refers to Wendy Cope's poem "My Lover", a poem I haven't read for a very long time. That seems to spin the populism wheel again, in a weird sort of way. "Our Jim""Ballad in A""Ballad of Infanticide""A Wreath of Hummingbirds"[...]

the nurseling inn


Water dripped from an overhang in a leaf-strewn brook. It was not altogether dark,
once you got used to it.

The brown shadow of a bird flitted among the boulders,

the brook in its eye.

Nothing was heard but the thin sweet song.

It was an inn of dreams; flock roosting in bevelled cruck,  chalk castigation.
The far light of its windows (rose and amber)
widened along the box-alleys.
A wagon pointed its forks at the sky;
a dog slouched into the yard.
Otherwise the inn floated like unwelcoming silence,
serene in its woods. Of some flowers of China.
Daimlers lined up on the gravel. And what lies beneath the inn
and its network of underground tunnels in dry yellow clay,
but hard and darkening rock? Miles of descent, in which
there were sometimes a distant spate of tremors,
a ticking, a sigh from that restless jelly of heat, the core?

There came a long sigh of boughs, passing like a hand reaching
across the wold, and then another, so to the lonely traveller's fancy
grew the idea that the trees
were shifting ground, and that the trees were crowding in. 

I shook my ears of their sleep and gathered my knapsack,
which was bleached to a jade colour; there were ginger nuts within!
I more slid than walked on the leaf-fall, descending to the sea-cliff.
Above my head a constellation -- I knew its name then, though I don't now ---
bobbed among the the branches, who seemed to be grasping for it.

I was at the notch and stood over the beach in grey moonlight.
The gulls were quieting, and waves barely lifted the pebbles.
The stilling of the dark planet's nowness to this inn-struck moon.
I delighted in my death.

There was someone else moving around in the wood; there came
the stealthy sound of someone moving forward in the silence, alarmed by
their own noise,  and often pausing, but determined.
Was that nothing to do with me?
Was that something to do with me?
The feeling that they knew me, I knew them, were known to me, was known to them,
as if it was a gear-change
sung to the different colours in the harmony leaves
sung to the velveteen marker in the lemony room
snug of the snakeskin waters black with the eyes of lapis
came before me with , no, not a panic,
but a shallower breathing, an anxiety of listening to the dry leaf's ripple under my own boot.
Boldly marched they in Bratislava...

Who measured all their pouring blood?

lovely is walking in the woods and groves


Drew Milne scratchpad


Chrysothrix candelaris, a leprose lichen[Image source:]Regular readers will know I usually write about poetry in homoeopathic doses, partly influenced by the capsule essays in Edmund Hardy's Complex Crosses, and partly because this reflects conditions of my own time-sliced life in which encounters with poetry tend to be fleeting. During my recent flu layoff, however, I've had comparatively limitless time to spend reading, and I've tried to put it to some good use. The only snag was, I no longer seemed able to take pleasure in what I was reading, so it all felt like rather a slog.Everyone knows, sadly,  how illness and other chemical changes in the body make dramatic alterations to our seemingly stable identities: our personalities, emotions and opinions. Increased irritability is one of the most observable and common outcomes, and I certainly experienced some of that, I haven't used so much colourful language since my days of working for a quarry company. But with my beloved books there was not very much irritability, just not much love. I saw, not felt, how beautiful they are. Anyway, after sucking all sustenance from the Arden Much Ado I went on to Emilia Pardo Bazán's The House of Ulloa and I've got about a third of the way through the massive Fortunata and Jacinta by her sometime lover Benito Pérez Galdós. (I love Galdós and my insensibility to this, his masterpiece, was particularly dismaying.) I continued to grind through Paul Keegan's doorstop anthology of British verse and, to get down to business, I've also read (or at least skimmed) the whole of In Darkest Capital, the recently published collected poems by Drew Milne. The rest of this post is nothing but an ongoing scratchpad of reading notes.*Milne's Lichens for Marxists consists of 35 poems. The one I wrote about before ("Reindeer Lichen") is, in a relatively straightforward way, about a particular lichen, and about human pollution of the arctic. Likewise "Silicon glitch" has some information to impart about edible lichens. Most of the other poems, though they all contain the word "lichen" somewhere, are more tangential. Language and grammar show up quite a lot ("Song of the unknown grapheme", "Preposition stranding", "The adjectival lichen" and others). So does political subject matter ("Lichens for levellers", "Vote lichen", "The ballad of liberal moonshine"). So does Scottish local matters ("Sang of the unkent lichen","Alloa lichens", "Letters from Edinburgh"). Jokes, both high and lowbrow, are never refused ("No taxonomy without representation"). Stanzas develop phonemically:a some such so slow woundin snow toes strung amongproofs to the presence ofthe hung gruel done flame  ...   ("Value comb")or as variants on proverbs, literary tags and other linguistic readymades. Fragments of 17th century language abound in "Lichens for Levellers".There's quite a lot of plasticity in Milne's praxis, and the text in these poems has sometimes, perhaps often, aggregated out of smaller fragments ("lichen emblems") published on social media and elsewhere as digital postcards backed with lichen images. See too the extremely different early version of "The adjectival lichen" in the list below. The fixity of the In Darkest Capital texts may be an illusion, they may still be evolving. At any rate Milne isn't done with [...]

translations from Swedish


Midnatt (Midnight), painting by Anders Zorn (1891)[Image source: The painting is in the Zorn Museum in Mora.] Krus Erik Ersson, the parish cobbler, and his apprentice, Konstantin Karlsson, had sat the whole week and made shoes in the rectory, and now at nine o'clock on Saturday evening were on the way to their home, which was a long way off, on the edge of the parish. It was autumn, and the sun had gone down long before, but that did not mean they walked in darkness, but through clear air and moonlight. It was as lovely as could be. The lake below the rectory lay mirror-bright, with a track of silver down the middle, and in the fields you could see dewdrops on every grass-stem, like white pearls in the moonlight. It was only when they had to pass through one of the groves of trees that it darkened around them. It wasn't particularly late in autumn, so the branches still had their leaves, and the tree-crowns spread out like a vault of the deepest black over their heads.(Selma Lagerlöf, Tjänsteanden / The Spirit of Service, first published 1911)Beredan väg för Herran!Berg, sjunken, djup stån opp!Han kommer, han som fjärranVar sedd av fädrens hopp.Rättfärdighetens förste,Av Davids hus den störste.Välsignad vare han,Som kom i Herrens namn.Prepare the way of the Lord!Sink, ye mountains! And ye deeps, rise up!He comes, who long since wasthe foreseen hope of the fathers.Foremost in righteousness,of David's house the greatest.Blessed be he whocomes in the name of the Lord.(Frans Michael Franzén (1772 - 1847). First verse of a carol sung at the Sankta Lucia service in St Paul's Cathedral last December.)Dance in Gopsmor, painting by Anders Zorn (1906)[Image source:][...]

Unforgivable Claudio / Benedick and the lads


Claire McEachern's Arden 3rd Series Revised Edition (2015)I was given this for Christmas, and it has been my joy through a fortnight of flu. Sutchinda Rangsi Thompson's jacket design shows a Venetian mask (with reference to the masked ball in II.1) backed by a bit of sheet music.  In fact it's the first page of the Second Symphony by "Jan Sibellius", which I confess I'd really prefer not to see deployed as mere lorem ipsum , but maybe that's the flu speaking. However Claire McEachern's edition, originally from 2006, is a marvellous edition of a marvellous play.There was only one moment, I think, when I found myself in protesting dialogue with the editor. The moment was in Act III Scene 2, when Don John stops Claudio and Don Pedro in their tracks.[Don John] .... Go but with me, tonight you shall see her chamber window entered, even the night before her wedding day. If you love her then, tomorrow wed her. But it would better fit your honour to change your mind.Claudio: May this be so?Don Pedro: I will not think it.Don John: If you dare not trust that you see, confess not that you know. If you will follow me I will show you enough, and when you have seen more and heard more, proceed accordingly.Claudio: If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her, tomorrow in the congregation where I should wed, there will I shame her. .... (III.2.101-113)McEachern's note on the highlighted sentence says: "a difficult line, to the effect of 'if you won't believe your eyes, then you must refuse the knowledge they present' ". (And she adds that the two instances of "that" should both be taken as meaning "what".)But is that really saying anything, other than a rather wire-drawn bit of epistemology? I feel that Don John ought to be saying something far more pertinent, logical, and manipulative: "If you dare not trust exposing your eyes to what they may see this evening, then don't profess that you know (that Hero is innocent)."I'm not scholar enough to know if Shakespeare's words could support that interpretation (and surely, I can't be the first to propose it). The sentence would certainly be extremely elliptical. But it wouldn't be unprecedented for Shakespeare to dash off words that don't quite manage to nail his meaning, especially in his foul papers, which are agreed to be the source for Q. There is, however, much in favour of my proposed meaning. Don Pedro and Claudio have not, at this stage, stated that they will go with Don John. It's still in the balance. Don John's next sentence begins "If you will follow me..." It makes sense that the previous sentence should concern itself with the alternative scenario, i.e. If you decline to follow me...Again, the sentence in question ought to flow from what has just been said by Don Pedro: I will not think it. McEachern's proposed meaning does that, but I consider my proposed meaning is more relevant to the situation. If someone announces in advance what they will or will not think, it sounds like they're about to refuse to look at the evidence. Don John needs to "head that off at the pass", as we say in the office. So he responds: Yes, you can refuse to look, you can will yourself to believe something, but you can't kid yourself that you know.*Well, enough of this speculation. What it does bring into focus is how Claudio's deeds and thoughts are strongly modified by the influence of these high-ups. He's young and Don Pedro's marks of distinction towards him are new, so Clau[...]

a meeting


I thought ..... it was the hat!You're smiling!I might have replied that Kalle was smiling too.It's been so long. So very long!Long enough, my friend.Where had we met? I couldn't bring it to mind. I wanted to refer to something from our past and to see the sly understanding on Kalle's face. But was it that this seemed unnecessary, given the roundness of our grins.... or was it, that I feared some disappointment?Come and sit here, by me. I don't hear so good these days.Nor me!And I must ask you.... but settle yourself first.Now I looked at him for the first time. The face with its untidy beard, its generosity, its anger. A little wintry. Thinner than in my memory. Perhaps my feelings showed.I have not been very well. We won't go into that. But I have not been been well.... for rather a long time. My friend. (He smiled at me again.) Are you well?I dismissed myself with a wave.As it happens, I am a bit better today.In illustration of this point Kalle suddenly raised the tips of his elbows like wings, rose from the café table and, ignoring other customers, sang out the words Vi ska ställa till en roliger dans, accompanying himself with dance movements.His energies exhausted, he sat down abruptly. I applauded, much relieved that the performance had lasted only a single line. Years spent knocking around with Kalle had made me familiar with the song. The chorus crescendo of Hej hopp! would have caused dismay, I thought.Do you know how it feels, that first morning when you rise and something at last feels right within your breast, and you know you are truly on the mend? Perhaps it will only last a week, or a month... at our age we don't know. But life has returned, something in all its gentle fullness. I felt the gratitiude and the humility -- of Beethoven. You know? For example, I took a shower this morning. In my shower there hangs a fern. ... a potted plant.  And I thought to myself, Ah, how I do love ferns!  Yes! I thought it in all sincerity. Yet the truth is,  in all my life I've never spent two minutes thinking about ferns. I don't even know their names. Even this one in the bathroom, I had nothing to do with it.   I like ferns too, but yes, I know... it's only with the back of my mind that I notice them. I know some of the names. Not many.You had better tell me the names of the ferns.Oh! Well.... maybe when I've mugged up a little, we could --No. I shall not be interested then. Only now, is the time for naming the ferns.And indeed, Kalle betrayed no great enthusiasm. As for me, my beetroot flush of pleasure at the incredibly rare experience of actually being invited to talk about something I was interested in, was immediately followed by a complete mental blankness, in which I couldn't remember any names at all, nor even what we were talking about. The sensation was becoming familiar.  It didn't bode well for my idea of taking up teaching.Ok... well, for example, there is the Hart's-tongue Fern, which has a simple leaf like a pointed tongue, and grows in the wet woods of the south-west. And then, well there's Bracken of course, that's easy to recognize because of the tough smooth stems which elevate the leaves above the ground. Actually they're not really leaves, or stems come to that, but never mind. Erm...  those little ones that grow on walls.... Oh well, how about Polypody? That's a nice fern. Quite small, with simplistic wavy fingers.[...]

verse in the shires


During the last and most unhinged phase of Xmas shopping I found myself in W.H. Smith buying Lego sets. Standing in the queue to check myself out, I glanced at the books on display, and noticed this doorstop, brusquely revalued, which for some reason I found funny. And then I thought, I really can't pass it up at that price,  I'll get it as a present for .... um... um... well, I'll decide later...  Waking up the next morning, it no longer seemed a bright idea to fob it off on a loved one;  I realized that I'd simply have to keep it for myself. Paul Keegan's 1100-page anthology, first published in 2000, is notable for organizing the poems not by author but by publication date. (Publication in a collection, not in a magazine.) It doesn't really make a lot of sense in earlier centuries, and even in the 20th century it's surely only the very cream of the mainstream whose book publications, well-signalled to national media, can be envisioned as causing a public stir. (Those are, indeed, just the type of poets that populate the final part of Keegan's anthology.) The sequencing may be tough to justify rationally but it has a nice effect. Passing between Wyatt and Surrey and Wyatt and Surrey, is a reading experience that illuminates both, perhaps especially the less extrovert Surrey. Pieces by Sir Walter Raleigh come to us widely separated, under the years 1590, then 1592, then 1600, then 1618. I think Keegan is right to claim that this freshens our response to each poem; we're no longer so intent on placing it within the context of an oeuvre. Keegan ended the millennium by trying, for perhaps the final time, to encapsulate the whole canon of poetry into a single paper-printed book. The sacrifices were necessarily drastic. The sequencing cunningly disguises the gaps:  poets who, we eventually realize, aren't going to show up at all: Lydgate, Hawes, Lindesay, Gascoigne....  On the other hand, he includes verse translations, which is great. So in this early period we can enjoy bits of Douglas's Virgil, Surrey's Virgil, and Harrington's Ariosto (personally, I have never succeeded in enjoying Golding's Ovid*). The anthology is limited to poets from the British Isles, and to poets born before 1950 -- its final years, therefore, seem particularly thin, with no young voices and no sense of how poetry in English has been transformed in our times into a world poetry, and how modern poetic communities traverse continents.Keegan seems to think that his pragmatic geographical restriction might "maintain the pressure on a chronology defined in local rather than global ways. In the twentieth century there have been terminal pressures upon the idea of the local, only the echo of which can be heard in these pages." But reading through the anthology I keep reflecting how poets in English have always pushed beyond localism.Nevertheless, let's end with a few local onions that I pulled up on my way past, finishing up in my home county of Wiltshire.*Come and daunce with me    In Irlande.                             (Anon)*Ac Gloton was a greet cherl and greved in the luftyngeAnd cowed up a caudel in Clementis lappe;Ys none so hungry hounde in HertfordshyreDurste lap[...]