Month: June 2014

Open City

We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float. Nigeria was like that for me: mostly forgotten, except for those few things that I remembered with an outsize intensity. from Open City by Teju Cole It seems to me now, that to hear anything about this book before reading it would be to profoundly change your experience of it. Perhaps this is true of all books, but I think it is especially so here. So, don’t think of this as a review, don’t even think of it as my thoughts on the book; just think of someone pressing it into your hands, someone pointing you in its direction. What more can I say, without saying anything, to help you know that it’s the book for you? You might know that you have to read Teju Cole, as I did, …

Freshening the world

Poems that change our perceptions are everywhere you look, and one of the definitions of poetry might be that a poem freshens the world.   By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say “We loved the earth but could not stay.” The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Ted Kooser From my morning reading, a little re-visit to Ted Kooser’s slim and wise book. I love Kooser’s practicality and warmth; his wonderfully simple definition of what a poem can be, of what we might aim for when we’re writing. But oh, that ‘could not stay’…really, can I really not stay? It will never be enough. We found this blackbird’s egg on the pavement as we walked to school one day last week. The Moose took it to pre-school and now it’s disappeared into T’s classroom. I wish I could let you hold it in your hands, feel how paper-thin that beautiful blue shell is, how it seems it would shatter at the lightest touch. Then there was …

Midsummer’s Eve

…the creation of a character is like listening to something faint and distant. It’s like trying to remember someone one knew slightly, in passing, a very long time ago, but to remember them so that one knows them better than one knows oneself. It’s like trying to know a family member who died before one was born, from looking at photographs and objects belonging to them; also from hearing the things, often contradictory, that people say about them, the anecdotes told. from Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deidre Madden This morning, driving to pre-school, the cow parsley on the verges was a head-high veil of flickering white, the fields and roadsides were dotted red with poppies. Sitting here, in our loft room, I can hear the children at T’s school playing outside. The breeze is warm and gentle on my bare arms. The air smells of cut grass and privet. It’s the kind of day that you feel you are swimming out into, floating along in its warmth and fragrance. Days like this always remind me …

Oxford

Painting from nature is not a matter of copying the subject, but of expressing one’s feelings. Paul Cézanne On Saturday I had an adventure all of my own. A day with no responsibilities, no requirements, no restrictions. I took myself on the train to Oxford, to the Ashmolean to see Cézanne and the Modern. The whole day was magically mine in a way that no other day has been for far, far too long. The exhibition, and the whole Ashmolean, were a revelation: small enough to enjoy, but vast in scope and perspective. In the exhibition a Van Gogh lit up an entire room, an electric shock of colour. But my favourites, the paintings that I chose to stand or sit in front of and just breath in, were quieter. Cézanne’s still life watercolour of three pears, so exquisitely simple and lucid. A small oil study of a male bather. And another nude from behind, this time a woman by Degas. I seemed to be particularly attracted to these figures seen only from behind – there’s …

No Country For Old Men

The stories gets passed on and the truth gets passed over. As the sayin goes. Which I reckon some would take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I dont believe that. I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that’s what it is. It’s the thing you’re talkin about. I’ve heard it compared to the rock – maybe in the bible – and I wouldnt disagree with that. But it’ll be here even when the rock is gone. It isn’t often that I read a book because I saw the movie. But this is how it was with my first Cormac McCarthy novel. I read No Country For Old Men because I watched the film. And I only watched the film because I love the Coen brothers. (Yes, slightly late. The film …

Wildeve

The tight buds on my Wildeve rose opened while I was away over the weekend. You can just make out the black spot too, though it’s described as a very robust and healthy rose. It reminds me of a painting by Francisco de Zurbarán which I sometimes used to visit on my way home from work. Those were the years when I walked across Trafalgar Square twice a day. Later, when I no longer made that exact journey, I wrote a poem about the painting. I loved it for its simplicity and mystery. Light and dark. Delicacy and practicality: the rose and the cup. Zurbarán’s rose, if you picked it up, would lose its petals, and in today’s drizzle the petals have dropped from my rose onto the brilliant green of the rain-wet grass. A Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate how the streaming light is frozen gracing the blown petals of the dusky rose and illuminating the rim of the plate and the dark so deep, the water pure as …