Tuesday, August 04, 2015

That Sardonic Eye


Humbert Summer
A.K. Blakemore



Humbert Summer, winner of the 2014 Melita Hume Poetry Prize, is a memorable début from a promising young poet. Already feted by The Times as 'one to watch' and an Oxford English graduate at 23, this book perhaps shows what A.K. Blakemore was up to between train and secondary school. Some of these poems were composed whilst many were cramming for their GCSE’s though Blakemore's interplay of words, convent girl crushes, Japanese fetishes and inevitable and depressive ‘sinking on the stairs’ are relayed with quiet emotion. At their best the poems show an older voice with a bite of killing honesty; Blakemore may be a female counterpoint to the that old ‘male spider in a trenchcoat’, that ultimate 1960's era hipster, Leonard Cohen whose, poem in Energy of Slaves:

"I didn't know until you walked away you had a perfect ass.
 Forgive me for not falling in love with your face or your conversation."

echoes Blakemore’s sardonic eye:

This is one for the
Girl who has lain a short way
Off

While his body recoils
Like a cinder
And felt part of nothing

You might be forgiven for thinking of the goth girl smoking the cigarette with the cutting remarks, catching you trying to look cool, too. At first, you worry that the sarcasm might be too strong, the façade too easy to hide behind. This is echoed in the very funny HATE

‘She believes the earth laughs through flowers and other asinine things…’

‘Ross and Rachel’ get the poet’s lens trained on them as well.

In ROSS AND RACHEL AS INVERTEBRATES, the annoyingly ‘in love’ couple are watched by two twenty-something singletons, perhaps on a train in from the south downs?

However we feel a sense that the skin is not as thick as it might pretend to be, that Rachel has bits of that comfort and perhaps experience about her that the others may also long for? And this hidden ongoing tension is also what makes you wonder what Blakemore will come up with next?

There are memorable moments here. 

In YOU ENVIED THE STARS THEIR HEIGHT

‘The day folded like a cabbage
while closing its wings on a windowsill.’

As a poet, more than capable of talking head lice (in Lower school?), Ganymede, Greek Temples and calling time on weak, selfish men, you might recall those college and/or school days and perhaps ‘envy’ the girl her time.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I believe in a thing called a Guitar Riff: The Darkness - Barbarian (Official Video)

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Excerpts from 'The Move' or at least There is now a Hotel where the Church Charity once sat.

The Finance Director sat, retiring at the end of a long, barren and exposed room. It was cool in the room and populated almost entirely of women sitting round a huge oval table. When I walked in I said, “It is like Star Wars – The Jedi Council,” and this was met with a hurried, slightly pained laugh. The Finance Director, seeing a need to take charge, started to talk about The Move. A chart appeared, papers were ruffled and so on. Then after the charting was complete, The Finance Director turned to face the table and he remarked sobrely that people on the second floor were not like people on the first floor: at a recent staff outing (on a house boat) the second floor staff went up to the second floor of the house boat while the people from the first floor of the office remained on the first floor of the boat and stood awkwardly at the bar.

"Awkwardly?"

Many of the women at the table exchanged puzzled, but wearied looks. One reached down, grabbed the table and then scooped her finger forwards as if to say: "And..?"

"Only this – simply that" The Finance Director shot back with a fierce piercing glare.

The Finance Director, who was suffering from a bad cough, started writing on a board. He fielded the 'pros' and 'cons' of The Move to the second floor. The Finance Director said many important facts about the 'Years Service' and how many faces had changed and that 'The Society' had been at the last property for 100 years but the archivist corrected him and said 80 years, actually.

“Oh yes. Qute right.” Said the Finance Director with a little gasp of impatience.

Afterwards whilst recovering in his cubicle there was a sudden remark by the Finance Director, a remark filled with sighing and a diminishing bluster: "HP Sauce is going to be made in Holland, a disaster!"

At this, The Finance Director paused and his secretary remarked – through a tiny space in the cubicle – “I tried it years ago when I was first trying out things as a young child.”
“Oh?”
The Finance Director, alarmed at the speed and keenness of the remark and perhaps trying the keep the spinster at bay, remarked casually: "David P… is... Oooh Dear Me!"

"David, who?" The spinster remarked casually but the Finance Director was away.

All looks turned and peered through the room.
Back in the office and after the meeting about the move there was a feeling in the air as if the Christmas party, which has been held at lunch was over now and a man from the consultancy had reminded us all that work needs to be done at desks till end of day.

At this a quiet but brooding lump of a girl, seated directly behind the Secretary to the Director said in a slowly building, but controlled little girl's voice: "Oh God! Who forgot to pick up my printout? Who else is using my printer? I`m sure that two of my printouts have disappeared…!" The old lady, the quiet, cat-faced one, who had been sorting through the needlepoint and sifting through trunks of discarded finery from the Church vestibule shuffled up, and mumbled: “Oh God! I walked right past you. Can you help me please? With the suitcases for the Volunteers. I`ve made more progress than I expected to.”

At this point a large African woman came in. A remark was made about the numbers of discared milk cartons in the fridge.

"Are there still more than ten? Cheese forms in warmer temperatures. I`m going to have to put my name on the carton."

“Is it just me or is the intranet down?”
“It is working...”

Shortly thereafter things got into a state again, it was as if some kind of aliens had come down from the sky and sucked out all the energy of the room. People didn`t know what to do with themselves.

"What about the boxes?" Someone said and this was met with another wave of disdain, bordering on fear.
"Hasn`t this been covered before?"
The archivist pointed out that it had not.
“The boxes of valuable stuff went to Oxford. There was a storage facility and then there was what...?"

The little man in the silver hair, really beaming with fierce self-containment and expectation said to himself - and to the others – “Are there any questions?”
A remark was made, “What about the boxes that we have to move?” and then the Finance Director faced the little archivist, a natural enemy in the wild, perhaps, and he said: "Our archivist can answer that, can`t she?"

And the archivist went white as a ghost. "Who me?"

Then finally, after a month of mulling and contemplation the group sat in its glum, moribund arrangement and watched the clock.

The general news was that the man from the consultancy had aquired an O870 number for the new digs.There wasn’t far to go either. Thankfully the new place was miles smaller, and still, mercifully, south of the river.

Monday, June 29, 2015

From 'You can't bury them all' by Patrick Woodcock coming to you in 2016 (ECW Press, Toronto, CANADA)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

By George, another Pickwick?

Death and Mr. Pickwick: A NovelDeath and Mr. Pickwick: A Novel by Stephen Jarvis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I liked this remarkable, long book (800 plus pages, Guv) especially the insights into the Pickwick characters and nineteenth century Holborn landmarks, the side stories and all round Pickwickmania of 1836, London. The sad tale of Charles Whitehead, afforded an early chance to pen Pickwick, who dies penniless in Melbourne Australia, is very compelling and the tale of Dickens' favourite clown Grimaldi and even sadder death of Grimaldi's drunken son is a key theme in the book.
Drink, wasted talent, poverty, petty squabbles, opportunism and death haunt the book and while I admire the story greatly and how the tale is woven through so many characters, the book at times lacks the whimsical esprit and comic potency of Dickens' writing and also does not quite have you side with cast off artist Robert Seymour, in the way that you might perhaps side with Little Nell, Oliver Twist and certainly Samuel Pickwick himself. Whom may have come up with the original idea for Pickwick is the over riding theme and the book goes to great lengths to prove that cartoonist Robert Seymour came up with the character for Pickwick, the sports theme and comic episodes such as 'the sagacious dog'. This may well be the case but as has been proven by so many memorable characters written in intervening years, characters such as the 'young un', Smike, Sikes, Fagin, Pegotty, Ralph Nickleby, Mrs Faversham, Pip, Madame Lefarge, Uriah Heep, Dickens had it in him to write for his time and to write characters that walked off the page and into our very mind's eye.
This is a special book in a different way. What Death and Mr Pickwick does is show in very telling detail how authors and writers come up with ideas and mold them into a format which will be appealing to the general public. In the same way that Sketches by Boz attracted considerable interest, Death and Mr Pickwick is a very promising piece of historical fiction. It is no Pickwick Papers but does a fine job of bringing attention to the genious of the parties involved in the creation of the work and also bring to light several fantastic stories about the period. The story of the George and Vulture is one that Dickens would have kicked himself for not thinking to write. What will Mr Jarvis come up with next? As a Dickens fan, later in life, I thank Mr Jarvis for this and eagerly await his next book. ***1/2



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Friday, April 17, 2015

Winter on Ice

Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest PassageBoundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage by Kathleen Winter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I found this book in a library in London for my mother, an Oxfordshire farmer's granddaughter, who moved to Canada at the age of three. I selected it on the basis that that there was an underlying theme - and fading thread - of old world Englishness and a tenuous link to the subject matter in that my mother went to Newfoundland in the 1980's with her aging parents. Boats and ice floes and Canada's sovereignty in the North Of Canada underline a quiet quest for identity, in Winter's book, where New World technology subsumes Old World human tragedy and Victorian ships slip precariously through ice mountains following native migration routes. Keeping the modern ship entertained is Nathan Rogers, son of Stan who composed the iconic standard Northwest Passage, before being killed in plane fire, himself, while Winter tells the story of her own 'writers' life to date, and the passing of her first husband and the influence of her intrepid English father in the Winter family in Newfoundland. My Mum took the book away on a trip with her and when she came back to London, I asked, "How is the book?" "Enthralled!" Came the reply. So when she was finished I had to read it too. I think this book is on par with the early Margaret Atwood, especially the attention to Canadian nature; it is rich in incident and observation, science plays an important part; geologists on the ship (eventually shipwrecked) have their work cut out explaining rock formations in Northern Canada and Greenland to an intrepid group of odd bods, musicians, Japanese journalists, photographers and parliamentary delegates who sweep in for photoshoots on ice flows. Meanwhile Winter reveals her own past and family dynamic in rich detail. Very good book.



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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Poet fell down? Second poem from Patrick Woodock

from: You can't bury them all (ECW Press, 2016)

I fell down in front of an Assyrian relief while climbing a mountain
by Patrick Woodcock

One shattered arm, enmossed and lean,
ends at the earth and bleeds on stones.
A darkened spider raised for shade,
his other holds.

Some drink below on crates and cars
and watch his chest expand, unfold.
As he coughs salt-shakered songs
his throat implodes.

He cannot turn and leave them now,
his audience of Kurds and Kings.
He falls in farce and cigarettes
to sit within the sunset’s gleam.

© Patrick Woodcock

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

New Poem from Patrick Woodcock

from a forthcoming book: You can't bury them all (ECW Press, 2016)

The Forgotten of Binavy Tour…
By Patrick Woodcock

Underwater, if violence is water,
within the zephyr if the ceiling has fallen,
there is no colour or coloured deception
just beige in our blood and beige in the air.

The old school has one wall, falling and gabled.
The house of my father sits somewhere near here.
Most doors are sun-ravaged, of odd bonded metal;
the irrigation pond is where men cool their beer.

The cemetery’s headstones are scattered,
misshapen - some are as small as the palm
of my hand. Smaller than infants, some
battered, some hidden, as if none ever mattered
or walked on this land.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

LIVE READING OF TAKING THE STAIRS


CLICK HERE

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Man on a white horse?

Consider the LiliesConsider the Lilies by Iain Crichton Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The title almost put me off but was hooked soon enough. And who are you to ask anyways you stunning excuse for a man? (Anyhow that is the tone of the old dear and I just loved it.) Aside from the feisty old lady who rules her old farm house, it is about the Scottish clearances - and the exodus to NS and other parts of Canada. The old lady is notified by a fat man 'on a white horse' that she is about to be kicked out of her farmhouse where she has lived all of her life, and is suitably indignant. It is very poetic with rural images that last and has elements of Brian Moore's "Lonely passion of Judith Hearne" and Margaret Laurence's "The Stone Angel".



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