Site Meter

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Accouche, fimbria, planchette, pearmain

Melanie Challenger, Galatea (Salt).

In 1901, an experiment was conducted by Raymond Dodge and Thomas Cline to plot the motion of a person’s gaze by attaching the flake of a mirror to the cornea: the ‘corpse of light’ conversing from its multi-faceted graveyard.

For the word-hoard: accouche, fimbria, planchette, pearmain.

Sermons in stones: ‘gestures hibernating in schist’.

L’imperfection, c’est le cime: ‘the miraculous distance of incompleteness’.

Corneal flickers of misprision. ‘Jeroboam’: not a small rodent, not a bottle of champagne, but an Ephraimite king, his name meaning ‘the people contend’, or ‘he pleads the people’s cause.’

And, finally, pollination:

Perhaps the many seeds of light
Shall germinate and turban down
The body of abandoned intrigues, spiring
The ages like Rapunzel’s hair.

Over-ripeness is all. One or two of the seeds, perhaps, having blown in from Geoffrey Hill’s garden: ‘Aureate, /Annihilating death.’

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I said do the goddamn washing up

The Puthwuth Omni-Gatherum Car Crash Asian Curry Recipe

Measurements may be approxmiate

One-third fill a strainer with red lentils, wash, add water and bring to boil

Lightly heat one large chopped onion in frying pan/wok

In a separate pot very lightly heat one tsp of cumin, one tsp of ginger powder, one tsp of turmeric, one tsp of garlic powder, a healthy dollop of tomato pur
ée, and two tsps of Thai green curry paste

Add the preceding and, after approx. five minutes of simmering, the lentils too to the onion

Add a sprinkling of peas and asparagus stalks, a packet of quorn pieces and three-quarters of a can of coconut milk

One third-fill the strainer again with fragrant Thai rice, bring to boil, add the rest of the coconut milk and allow to simmer before adding to the rest of this monstrous clamjamfrey

Add small amounts of water if in danger of dehydrating

The food, that is

Give another ten minutes

Tuck in


This image found here.

Thomas Kinsella’s Selected Poems, just out. Among the losses in the transition from his Peppercanister pamphlets to volumes like this are his notes. Consider Albert Speer on polyphony, as quoted in the notes to Out of Ireland:

April 19, 1958. Today we heard a record of Gregorian chants. Although primarily an expression of the piety of the early Middle Ages, they are at the same time, in their slightly monotonous quality, evidence of the unspoiled capacity for emotion that people had in those times. Stronger stimuli were not needed. In the painting of the age, also, small gestures sufficed to express drama. And recently I read that people fainted when they first heard early polyphony. Thus progress can also be understood as impoverishment.

Here is Giradlus Cambrensis, otherwise Gerald of Wales, Anglo-Norman black propagandist supreme (and observer of bestial practices in Co. Wicklow; he encounters a cow-man hybrid in Glendalough, with snout and hooves, which the locals stone in their shame and horror). Sorry: here is Gerald of Wales, from the same set of notes, finding something good to say about the Irish:

It is only in the case of musical instruments that I find any commendable diligence in this people. They seem to me to be incomparably more skilled in these than any other people that I have seen. The movement is… quick and lively, while at the same time the melody is sweet and pleasant. It is remarkable how in spite of the great speed of the fingers, the musical proportion is maintained.

One of Kinsella’s tutelary spirits, commemorated in Out of Ireland, is Seán Ó Riada, who also puts in a surprising appearance in Geoffrey Hill’s Speech! Speech! Kinsella has written of the striking contemporaneity of Jonathan Swift and Aodhagán Ó Rathaille – contemporaries but each ignorant of the other’s existence. Do Hill and Kinsella read each other’s work? Kinsella and Hill critics tend not to look over the garden fence into the other’s patch either. That urban myth (is it?) of Larkin being recommended by Donald Davie to try Dolmen Press with The Less Deceived only to get turned down. The deep mutual ignorance in so many ways of British and Irish poetry even today, Faber-published Northerners excepted. The almost invisible coverage in the British papers of the Irish elections, even.

Regrettable absence of St Catherine’s Clock from Selected Poems. Robert Emmet, hanged outside St Catherine’s, 1803. Interesting essay I read once about his speech from the dock, its multiple versions. One version circulated by the Castle extravagantly blaming the French, the better to sow dissent. Ben Dollard’s fruity saloon bar patriotism, Mr Bloom’s gorgonzola and burgundy-fuelled trouser salute in response. Pprrpffrrppffff.

I have done. Last word to Kinsella:


About the third hour.

Ahead, at the other end
of the darkened market place
a figure crossed over

out of Francis Street
reading the ground, all dressed up
in black, like a madwoman.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Miltown Malbay

Is the Co. Clare town of Miltown Malbay twinned with the Lincolnshire town of Melton Mowbray? If not, why not?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stevie Agonistes

Milan 2-Liverpool 1

What boots it at one gate to make defence,
And at another to let in the foe?
Just are the ways of God,
And justifiable to men;
Unless there be who think not God at all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Some insults I've just coined:

abortion donor
The scumbumbulous Dr Wanktastic

The Bread Queue Joke, Communist-Vintage

The baker has announced that bread is going on sale, so a queue forms round the block. After a long wait the baker comes out and says there’s less than he thought, and he won’t be selling it to any Jews, so the Jews go home. After another long wait he comes out again and says he’s re-checked it and found there’s less than he thought, again, so any Chechens will have to go home too, and off they go. Then it happens a third time, and this time he says he won’t be selling to any non-Russians at all, so another group slinks home. Then it’s no bread for non-members of the Communist party, and then, with just a few stragglers left, he says it’s war veterans only. This leaves two old men, the first one-legged, the second blind. Finally the baker comes out and says there’s been a big mistake and in fact there’s no bread at all. ‘Same old story’, says the one-legged man, ‘the Jews always get the best deal.’

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Jean Cocteau Joke

A teenage admirer rings Jean Cocteau's doorbell.
C’est pour le maître?, inquires Cocteau’s butler. ‘Non, he snaps back, c’est pour le voir.’

Friday, May 18, 2007


What with the GAME next Wednesday, the BIG GAME, which you're all welcome to watch with me down the pub, I thought I'd amuse myself with an Irish Liverpool XI:

------------- Scott ----------------
Finnan Lawrenson Babb Staunton
Houghton Whelan McAteer Heighway
-------- Robinson Aldridge ----------

I was going to say 'all-time' XI, except for my embarrassing inability to think of a central defender to go with Mark Lawrenson apart from the awful and 'B'-prone Mr Babb, last seen standing on back passes and falling over for Mick McCarthy's Sunderland. Had his first name been Bob Babb and not Phil, netting a tally of five Bs out of a possible seven, I could have respected him. But as it is not. Other suggestions welcome.

Scott is Elisha Scott, by the way. That's him above.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Load of Manure

An old actor has fallen on hard times and has taken to travelling from town to town on passing canal barges. After a particularly thrilling stint at the Skegness or Burnley Rep, he finds himself on a barge carrying a load of manure. As it passes through a lock one day, the keeper asks the bargeman what he's carrying. 'Oh just a load of manure and an old actor', he replies. 'Billing, my boy!' the actor interrupts: 'An old ACTOR and a load of manure.'

In Praise of the Lost Object

‘I collect lost objects.’
‘Don’t you mean found objects?’
‘No, lost ones. I don’t have any.’

Monday, May 14, 2007

Heart, Gall Bladder, Spleen, Pancreas

Mixed feelings as I read Transgressions, the new Bloodaxe selected Jack Gilbert. Look him up on amazon and you’ll find encomia aplenty from readers who see him as a steely incorruptible, foraging for scraps in the career waste land outside the world of MFAs and creative writing programmes. And there is something heroic about his decades-long insistence on writing the same poem over and over again. But if he does have to write it over and over, it may be because of its failure, on some level, to get him anywhere. Not that he’d complain about that either, I sense. There’s something heroic too in his devotion to the guillotine-like finality of his endstopped lines, and that’s what his poems tend to be: endstops that want to go on but know the best they can do is cradle their dead ends a little longer before handing them over to the poetry mortician:

Grief makes the heart
apparent as much as sudden happiness can. (‘Harm and Boon in the Meetings’)

The heart in its plenty hammered
by rain and need, by the weight of what momentarily is. (‘Steel Guitars’)

All of it a blessing. The being there. Being alive then.
Like a giant bell ringing long after you can’t hear it. (‘Burma’)

… down where a woman’s heart is holding its breath,
where something very far away in that body
is becoming something we don’t have a name for.
(‘Happening Apart from What’s Happening Around It’)

Song answering song. Gone and gone.
Gone somewhere. Gone nowhere. (‘Trying to Write Poetry’)

‘When it is a case of human intercourse’, Beckett wrote in his book on Proust, ‘we are faced by the problem of an object whose mobility is not merely a function of the subject’s, but independent and personal: two separate and immanent dynamisms related by no system of synchronisation’. Even lost to him though, Gilbert’s female objects are synchronized to a fault with his elegiac occasions. This could be the basis for a feminist rap-sheet, but for me it had the effect of deflating (detumescing) a lot of the poems’ erotic potential. The female figures aren’t allowed sufficient mobility and elusiveness, not enough seductive anamorphosis and evanescence. In the wrong hands, there is no muse figure as hopelessly, leadenly there all the time as one the poet has lost.

There are, by my count, three principal women who hang around his poems, which offers Gilbert readers the chance to play muse bingo when, as occasionally happens, he names all three in the same poem. It reminds me of my Gallimard French edition of Montale, which helpfully sources each poem in the notes to whichever girlfriend/muse/floozy had been its occasion.

On a separate note, I think ‘heart’ is my least favourite word in contemporary poetry. Anyone who uses it should be made do a round-trip of all major bodily organs, not missing the gall bladder, spleen and pancreas, before being allowed use it again.

And yet many of Gilbert’s poems move me very much indeed, even the ones that annoy me. ‘I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, /just coming to the end of his triumph’, he writes in ‘Failing and Flying’. We all have our own failing to do, human and aesthetic, and no one can do it for us. As he writes in ‘In Dispraise of Poetry’ about the Siamese courtiers cursed with by the emperor’s gift of a white elephant which would then ruin them, ‘It appears the gift could not be refused.’

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Chameleons, Relativism, Wittgenstein

Two chameleons on a branch in the pet shop, one brown, the other green. Are chameleons relativists?
'This branch is brown, not green.'
'This branch is green.'
'What do you mean by green?'
'I mean what you mean.'

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ridicuous! Absurd! Disgusting!

On the back of his Ridiculous! Absurd! Disgusting! Frank Kuppner gives an aleatory twist to O’Hara’s telephonic suggestions in ‘Personism’: ‘The important thing is to develop the ability to write literature, and then to write something else. This is the best chance of producing worthwhile literature – that is, something worth speaking over the phone to someone rung up more or less at random.’

James Sheard, over on his blog, has posted an audio file of a voicemail message left in error (or I very much hope so) on his phone late one night: 'Where are ya… where are ya… dickhead… I’m sat here in the Chinese… bet your wife’s listening to this int she? … dickhead' (and more besides).

Becca, I'm sorry. You've got my number. Call me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Devolution Returns to the North

Decades-long campaign of bigoted sectarian opposition to participatory democracy culminates in abandonment of decades-long campaign of bigoted sectarian opposition to participatory democracy, total victory, Ian Paisley finding something funny.

Devolution Returns to the North

Cynical old war criminal exploits democratic process again.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Forces of Darkness

The Forces of Darkness' triumph in the Premiership

– and closing of the gap on Liverpool's title record prompts the following thought: for all those years when Liverpool, unaccountably, fail to win the title, perhaps a third, spoiler team might come in handy? Some bunch of underperforming Londoners who, with a random £500 million quid or so, an evil Russian oligarch and a snarling Portuguese enforcer at the helm, might help keep the other forces of darkness in check?

No, I can't think of anyone either.

This Blog Supports the Voluntary Extinction of the Human Race

Responding to an environmentalist's plea that we have no more than two children, Mark Steyn writes: 'And when the self-loathing westerners are gone how many Yemeni imams will want to man the late shift at the local Greenpeace office?'

The beauty of this argument is that a) Mark Steyn doesn't believe Greenpeace is worth supporting and that most of their hot button issues like global warming are a fraud anyway, but b) hey! it'll be your fault the polar bears are dying when there aren't any white folk left and the crazy ragheads are too busy stoning people to death to care, except a) the polar bears obviously aren't dying, or have been personally paid off to die by Hillary Clinton or Sheryl Crow and b) hey! it'll be your fault when they really do start dying and there aren't white folk left and {snip}

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Outrage and Disaster

It takes a certain kind of regretful savagery and savage regret to write a review that makes you not only not want to buy the book in question but to go and buy or reread several others instead. Michael Hofmann on a disastrous attempt at a Collected Zbigniew Herbert's is one such review.


The people over at Counago and Spaves pick up on a Fox News story about a truck tipping over and spilling its load of dirt: 'The truck rolled onto more dirt. It was hard to tell the dirt apart.'

Questions of Geography

1) Which non-European country gets a box to itself on the Euro note?

2) Which is the only Buddhist republic in Europe? (This is not a trick question.)

3) Name one of the world’s two double-landlocked countries?

4) Which country’s official language is Catalan?

5) Toilets flush one way in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern because of the what effect?

6) Why, when anyone still cared about this kind of thing, did Irish couples unable to get married during Lent set sail for the Blasket Islands?

7) Why did a Soviet ambassador sign a peace treaty with Berwick on Tweed in 1966?

8) What is the largest place in the world with an annual rainfall of zero?

9) Why is the Irish county of Monaghan like a pregnant cow?

10) An old farmer on the Poland-USSR border is visited by the boundary commission and asked which of the two countries he’d rather live in. He thinks a bit and says Poland. Because?

Answers in comments stream.

Mm, Bagels

Ordering a bagel this morning I found myself asking for it on 'Sesame Street bread'.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Of Banjos and Baps

Among the greasy spoon cafés round where I live are Jayne’s Baps, The Bacon Banjo and Scoffalot. There used to be one called Bun in the Oven, but not any more. No Burger Me as yet though.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Fat Cat Still A Size Zero

Saw the above headline on the Huffingtonpost today. Their cat wasn't fat enough though, so here's a fatter one.

What a Tourist I Must Have Been

Beckett fact no. 87.

‘What a tourist I must have been’, muses Molloy, remembering his trip to see the Tiepolo ceiling in Würzburg (above).

The young Beckett began his peregrinations with a bicycle trip around the Loire valley in 1928, as opaquely rendered in the juvenilium ‘Return to the Vestry’, and with it being about time these facts took a holiday I thought I’d do a European grand tour of Beckett associations. In batches of ten, beginning with the entirely obvious

1) Ukraine. Alain Bosquet, whose ‘Achetez mes soupirs’ Beckett translated as ‘Fresh sighs for sale’, was born there.
2) Hungary. Georg Tabori, a native Magyar, produced a liberty-taking Godot in Munich in 1984, staging the play as a rehearsal which mysteriously mutates into the play itself. As Jonathan Kalb notes in his ever-useful Beckett in Performance, it was the ‘only altered setting I know of that Beckett expressly tolerated’. Possible inspiration for Louis Malle and Andre Gregory’s Vanya on 42nd Street?
3) Romania. There’s Emil Cioran, yes, but also Marcel Mihalovici, who wrote an opera based on Krapp’s Last Tape and collaborated with Beckett on Cascando, an experience that may have pushed Beckett in the more overtly musical direction of his later work. And not forgetting the presumably pox-ridden Verolesco of Eleutheria. Unless he’s Moldovan. If not, Moldova can go hang, I’m afraid.
4) Speaking of countries that didn’t exist during Beckett’s lifetime except, no, wait, it did, I like the joke about a Hapsburg being told that ‘Austria-Hungary’ was on in the world cup, to which he replied, Who are we playing? Everyone’s favourite escsaped Beckett character Wittgenstein will have to do duty for Austria. Richard Wall has written a book about Wittgenstein in Ireland, but what I want to know is the timeline for the two men’s residential overlap. What are the chances they could have met in Dublin in the 1930s? Just long enough for Wittgenstein to tell Beckett the ladder joke that turns up in Watt, and which he claimed to John Fletcher was Welsh, not Wittgensteinian? He writes to Barbara Bray about reading the Austrian philosopher, but that’s many years later.
5) Spain. ‘Pues el mayor delito del hombre es haber nacido’, Calderón de la Barca declares in La Vida es Sueño, as quoted by Beckett in Proust. Beckett’s Spanish lecturer at Trinity College, Dublin was Walter Starkie, who chronicled his wanderings in Spain in Raggle-Taggle Gypsy. Brother of Enid Starkie and keen fascist.
Portugal. Favourite Beckettian holiday resort. Beckett picked up enough Portuguese to read thrillers in the language. For Cascais say KaSHAeesh.
Germany. This is a bit obvious, but I wanted to mention Theodor Fontane’s novel Effi Briest, much beloved of the Rooneys and Krapp, who imagines her ‘up there on the Baltic’. This gives me the opportunity to mention the Baltic states only to ignore them all the more forcefully. Somewhere I can extract an association from though is nearby Kaliningrad, which is in its pre-Soviet incarnation (as Königsberg) was the lifelong home of Immanuel Kant, who can also be found ‘froidement penché’ ‘sur Lisbonne fumante’ in a French poem, so there’s Portugal for you again.
Holland. The Van Veldes. Honthorst. Rembrandt. Ruysdael. Huysum. That enough Dutch genius for you? Happy now?
Sweden. Queen Christina of. Criminally early riser and consequent killer of Descartes thereby. Cf. Whoroscope.
10) Greenland. The spectator in Eleutheria accuses Beckett of being un juif Groenlandais mâtiné d’Auvergnat. A baseless charge.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Lovable bitey smelly little bastard

My favourite fellow Bray-man (yes I am from Bray) Dara O Briain has described the tedium of being at a dinner party full of doctors wittering on about angioplasty and hypoglycaemia or whatever it is doctors spend their days talking about, and deciding to floor them all with the question 'So what exactly are hiccups?'

With the election being upon us (or you lot anyway, who still live in that godforsaken country) I think politicians need to be flushed out of their comfort zone. They need to be backed into a corner with the kind of question that'll make them lose their cool and come out with what's really on their minds. If not about hiccups (they'll have had a chance to look that one up by now) then ferrets, for instance. Ferrets have become quite an issue in the Republican leadership contest in the States after Rudy Giuliani came out with the following comments on radio to someone who rang in to complain about his ban on keeping ferrets as pets in New York:

There is something deranged about you.... The excessive concern you have for ferrets is something you should examine with a therapist.... There is something really, really very sad about you.... This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness.... You should go consult a psychologist.... Your compulsion about — your excessive concern with it is a sign that there is something wrong in your personality.... You have a sickness, and I know it's hard for you to accept that.... You need help.

{Quotation ends}

Ferrets. The next time some Progressive Democrat hired thug lands on your doorstep, jab your finger in his chest and say the word. Ferrets. Where do you stand on ferrets?


A poster on twentymajor's comments stream mentions that a caller to Joe Duffy or some other anencephaly-inducing Irish talk radio show remembers being in 'the same position' as the teenager currently being prevented from travelling to Britain to abort her anencephalic foetus. The child was born anyway and recently 'did quite well' in its Junior Cert.

It's a no-brainer, don't you think.

Anencephalics or outright acephalics have a bad reputation, it has to be said. Poundian favourite Bertrand de Born was one. He turns up in the Inferno carrying his head as a lantern, as his punishment for being a sower of discord. Though to be strictly accurate his head was still attached when he was going around making a nuisance of himself.

Still, anencephalics and acephalics: don't trust them. Hard to make eye contact with too, which doesn't exactly help when it comes to building up a rapport. There is a scene in a Will Self novel where someone decapitates a trump and has sex with the neck-stump (safe or unsafe sex? I forget.) That's not what you want to see on the train home from work, consenting or not.

I make an exception for Mike the headless chicken from Fruita, Colorado, who always struck me as friendly, harmless chap. None of this monkeying around with the constitution and distressing
teenage girls for him. Would have walked the Junior Cert too, if only he'd got the chance.


According to Peter Riley, the way to read poetry is 'with very bad eyesight':

So that you would only go to this trouble
with a telegram of some concern.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Seeking Sanctuary

Mote and Beam

This kind of thing makes me feel like someone on Harry's Place fisking John Pilger or George Galloway's latest pronouncement, but following a link from Silliman to Manchester poet Tony Trehy's site I came upon this post on a conference in Plymouth recently on Poetry & Public Language. It's always amusing to encounter critics who think that reading a Seamus Heaney poem is helping them save the planet, but those as impregnably wedded to post-avant Maoism as Trehy inhabit a different ecosystem altogether. Trehy takes exception to Richard Kerridge discussing a poem by ‘mainstream’ writer Kathleen Jamie and the eco-smarm it triggers:

Anyway, the most damnable phrase of the paper comes at the end: “poetry could not have any subject matter more important than this {climate change}”. I don’t think I have actually come across this thing called ecocriticism – though maybe I have since nowadays sticking ‘eco’ on the front of anything makes it the thing of the moment. The paper was illustrated with a poem by Kathleen Jamie (Frogs), a range of excerpts form J R [sic] Prynne and from a forthcoming work by Tony Lopez. It is instructive that the only ‘transparent’, mainstream poem mentioned in the whole conference came here. It was flagged up as an early Green poem. Prynne was analysed primarily as an ‘eco-difficulty – “insistently rejecting apocalyptic discourses” and I couldn’t tell how the Lopez fit into the original thesis. I have had a number of conversations in the past about how the mainstream conservativism of British poetry renews itself – since the 1970’s it has been through the appropriation of dialects and regionalism and communities of identity (Black poetry, Gay & Lesbian poetry, etc), and here we have its next potentiality: environmental poetry. If they aren't doing it already, I expect eco-poems from Armitage, Duffy and Motion are coming to Waterstone's soon. Subject matter – the very idea is fundamental to pre-modernism – which no-one can disagree with, a poetry fit for the curriculum, a poetry a government department could probably even draft access performance targets for. At one point, Kerridge declared that all the natural sanctuaries have been violated. Though this is one of those apocalyptic declarations that are supposed to sadden us and rally us to save the planet (without any ideology that could actually achieve change): I find sanctuary in the City so the notion that natural ‘sanctuary’ has been violated, its viscous threat punctured, is a source of some relief.

{Quotation ends}

In other words, ‘Your discourse on nature is commodified and impotent and your concept of “sanctuary” deeply embarrassing, but knowing better than you I am allowed to use the word to deprive you of it and parade the fact that not having heard of something grants me ethical immunity to its polluting effect (though your particular ecosystem can choke on a slick of plastic bags anyway).’

Still, his phrasing suggests a handy definition: a poem is a punctured sanctuary.

Government Access Performance White Papers Choke Natural Habitat of the Lesser-Spotted 'JR Prynnite'

Nora the John Cage-Playing Cat

This is my first pasted-in Youtube clip, so if anyone can tell me how to make that black strip down the right-hand side go away I'd be grateful. Otherwise, dig those Cagean noodlings.