David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

1978 and all that


It must be only the most vain of us that look ourselves up on the internet, a habit for the C21st Malvolio.
I do, yes, but not all that often because there's rarely anything to find that I don't know about. But today I found that the Poetry Library has added more magazines from its archives to its website, including The Chair, no. 7, from 1978 and from it not only And I Still Forget, a poem by the 18 year old me but also Afterwards by Detroit Jackson. That was me as well but we won't dwell on that.

And I Still Forget

I'm not going to make any claims for it. It has a lot to be modest about. In mitigation, I'm going to stress the 18 year old-ness of the author at the time.
The two stanzas attempt to imitate the form of My Sad Captains by Thom Gunn, which I was always likely to do then and for some time after. The ABCABC rhyme form and seven syllable line is what he did and thus so did I. Looking again, 40 years on, I realize that Gunn took his syllabics more seriously by rhyming on words like in, and, a and to, which are less obtrusive than my silence/violence pairing.
It is vaguely post-apocalyptic, attempting to be downbeat but turning out to be portentous. But I dare say I was glad to be in print there as well as other sixth-form efforts appearing in Sepia and Sandwiches, magazines that might have regarded themselves as 'underground' but were run by enthusiastic amateurs at a time when the counter-culture was considering and sometimes uneasily shifting its position, from 1960's Beat to Punk, 'for reasons/that no longer matter'.
It took no time at all to find my copy of this issue, which is a tribute to my diligent librarianship. It's interesting to see the other names in it. Among them are Ian Caws alongside Blackie Fortuna, who was uniquitous in such magazines at the time; David Ward, whose Smoke is still with us, and regulars like George A. Moore, Graham Sykes and others. They remind me, distant now.
But, out of the poems that might have been added to the Poetry Library's website archive, I might have nominated something else had I been given the opportunity.
Still, there we are.        

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Nemanja Radulovic - Tchaikovksy

Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto, Rococo Variations, Nemanja Radulovic/Borussan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Sasha Goetzel (Detusche Grammophon)

This shouldn't take long. I must admit I had forgotten I'd ordered it so it was a nice surprise to come home to but it's a review one imagines one could write without playing the disc.
Nemanja Radulovic is classical music's answer to Prince, not only how he looks but how he plays. It might look as if it's just flash but it isn't, he can play.
Once seen, never forgotten and I'm glad we did and we haven't.
The Tchaikovsky concerto is an obvious thing for him to do early, being rapturous, dramatic, emotional and with a trace of gypsy in it. So, of course, one expects fireworks except the concerto doesn't begin like that. But he is equally gorgeous and lyrical in the opening bars and, like anybody famous for one thing, it is compelling to realize that actually they are just as good at the other. The cadenza in the first movement and particularly the bars coming out of it are tremendous and it is an account as involving to listen to without the added distraction of his insouciant expression and dashing demeanour in person.
I'm no expert on recordings but some sound better than others. It sounds to me as if Nemanja is given some priority in the mix over the Istanbul Phil. I'm sure they are fine but I've not heard them mentioned in the same sentence as the Berliner or Vienna. Neither am I sure that Deutsche Grammophon are held in quite the same esteem as a record label as they were in the 1970's. But I'm not interested in that. I need a little bit of encouraging to get interested in Tchaikovsky these days but Nemanja was enough and it is paying big dividends. The Rococo Variations are a casual delight after the thrills of the concerto and, having lent out my old, cheap non-descript disc of it, I'm not bothered whether I get it back. It's almost as if Nemanja does himself a disfavour by looking so spectacular. He could dress like David Oistrakh and impress just as much. There will be several recent purchases that get filed on the shelves before this disc is demoted from current playlist to the reference section.
    

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Bernard MacLaverty - Midwinter Break

Bernard MacLaverty, Midwinter Break (Vintage)

 Gerry and Stella are retired, still affectionate enough for their relationship to have brought forward much that retains at least the habits of love from their younger days but it has come under pressure. They take a midwinter break from Glasgow to Amsterdam. Gerry's surreptitious whisky drinking is not as under control as he likes to think while Stella has plans to visit a religious community that she might leave him in favour of.
Bernard MacLaverty's writing is acutely observed as these tensions emerge, but decorated with the cultural opportunities that Amsterdam offers, the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt and Vermeer, Anne Frank and the architecture, which had been Gerry's profession. It would seem that Gerry is more devoted to Stella than she to him but his devotion to drinking is in competition with his commitment to anything else, not that he is a falling about alcoholic but it is his main priority.
MacLaverty has long been a class act and I'm surprised to realize how long it is since I last read him, the books of his I have upstairs being titles from decades rather than years ago. And this new novel, one that could only be written in later life, you'd think, is as convincing if not more so than his earlier work. Coming so soon after Julian Barnes (below) for me, some comparison is unavoidable. Not least because they have similarities in their examination of an aftermath of love, although in different circumstances, but Barnes' term, 'played out' is applicable to MacLaverty's characters.
And yet, it might not turn out as we expect. A traumatic incident in Stella's past, when she was caught in the crossfire of a shooting incident in the Belfast troubles, surfaces in the text as much as her consciousness. She has formed the idea that she could remove herself from such the happenings of the real world by joining the religious order but finds that it ceased to be anything like that some years ago and now has a waiting list for when vacancies arise. Gerry, of course, has no such spiritual inclinations. We are led to believe that we are witnessing a 'break' in their relationship, as we are encouraged to do by the title, but with Gerry's implausible intentions to do without Guinness and whisky and Stella's plan not realizable, maybe not.
It may not be satisfactory but MacLaverty ends with an epiphany of Gerry's gratitude, the 'privilege' he feels, which many in enduring relationships might and what had appeared to be the gradual dismantling of a marriage might have ended in its redemption.
There's no need to score it between Barnes and MacLaverty, or anybody else, because we should be glad of both, this finely-judged, unflashy writing that is evidence enough that the novel as an art form still isn't played out, as it is regularly claimed to be by some wiseacre. It is in good health and if every weekend could be furnished with a book quite so admirable I'd probably have to start taking Mondays off.   

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Peter Broderick - All Together Again

Peter Broderick, All Together Again (Erased Tapes)

 I had never heard of Peter Broderick until a couple of weeks ago when Our Future in Wedlock, track 5 on this album, was played on the wireless, on the third programme early on Sunday morning. I was lured in by its minimal-ish serenity and I'm not averse to the occasional adventure. On the other hand, one has to accept the risk of some collateral damage on such speculative buys.
Track 1, If I Were a Runway Model, is promising and pleasant enough until moving into dreamier areas at 5'30. There is an element of folk to its otherwise ambient, Brian Eno style and if one imagines his Another Green World, the theme music from Arena on the telly, you won't be far away.
But track 1 shifts into something much more suspiciously New Age, not that New Age is 'new' anymore, being almost as old as 1970's avant-garde.
Track 2, though, Robbie's Song, errs just on the right side of muzak, building in sustained fashion to something quite stirring. But from track 3 onwards, it begins to struggle. Are we hearing suggested whale songs, are we being asked to get in touch with our mystical side. We have been led into dodgy territory and perhaps that somnolent condition early on Sunday mornings was a time to be caught unawares, when Albinoni could be trusted but one's sharper critical faculties are open to invasion from less rigorous music. Peter Broderick doesn't so much compose music as compile it from his synthesized box of tricks.
Perhaps in 1972, not having got beyond Tangerine Dream, I'd have believed in this atmospheric doodling but I'm not such a soft touch now, I'd like to think. If William Byrd or Palestrina can evoke eternity but their pieces finish all too soon, track 3 does a similar thing only you wish it would. It is music for old rope.
I can see why I fell for track 5. Not entirely my fault. It made me think of Piano Circus, who I'm glad to look up and see are still at it and not all by now pursuing careers in accountancy. I must catch up with what they've been doing. And you still haven't entirely given up the ghost with track 6, somehow redolent of traditional Gaelic music.
Maybe all is not lost. But once we get to Unsung Heroes, the finale,

And now, as I sit by the Hawthorn tree
Listening to the Universal
Language

oh, for heaven's sake, he's blown it. It's as if he almost got away with it under strict interrogation and then broke down and had to admit he was guilty.
The first time I played it, I eventually couldn't wait for it to finish and now the same thing is happening for a third time.
I'm ever so sorry because I like to try to find the worthwhile in things if it's there and, until he recently became more desperate, even did so with Jacob Rees-Mogg. But whereas he is cartoon ludicrous Tory, Peter Broderick hasn't edited out anywhere near enough to disguise himself as another Brian Eno and this is ultimately New Age and gets drearier the less excuses you make for it.

I must be more careful.        

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Julian Barnes - The Only Story

Julian Barnes, The Only Story (Jonathan Cape)

A potential highlight of the year came early and didn't disappoint. It arrived Friday, was begun Saturday tea-time and was finished by early Sunday afternoon. There is almost no higher recommendation. The books that were laid aside to make way for it hardly noticed that they had been.
Julian Barnes is a 'literary' novelist but, in this book at least, stays on the right side of taking it too far. It is vividly credible, and works like Larkin's device for re-creating emotions in the reader, it regularly achieves powerful moments of recognition and is written in prose of such clarity there is never a need to check back on a sentence which, in some writers, I sometimes need to do.
Barnes not only has a profound grasp of the human condition but, as is documented elsewhere, believes in love. Paul, his student protagonist who has a long relationship with an older woman he meets at the tennis club, has a notebook in which he collects quotes about love (Tennyson's 'better to have loved', for example) but then crosses them out when he finds they don't apply. Barnes compiles a similar list of his own truisms during the meditative passages that become longer and more regular as the book proceeds. A novel is never just a story for him. They are good until one begins to wonder if almost any pronouncement on the subject sounds meaningful to anyone sufficiently wrapped up in the idea.
A number of references, perhaps unconsciously, bring to mind other literature, and prompt comparison. Paul's girlfriend, Susan's, ears are beautiful which might remind Murakami readers of the girl who had ears that could stop traffic but whereas that is all Murakami tells us, Barnes dwells longer on the detail. And when Paul finds solace in work when things become less rapturous, there is Larkin's Toads Revisited, which has a similar 'played-out' acceptance to it as Barnes' downbeat but magnificent and beautifully proven ending. 'Played-out' is a recurring idea, for a generation, for a stage in later life, throughout The Only Story - the title being the idea that although we all might have many stories, we really have only one.
It is rare for Barnes' prose to draw attention to itself and I'm sure that he means it to be unobtrusive and words like 'helices', in the description of the ears, or the 'floatingness' of music seem natural to him and only stand out as particularly erudite to those of us who are less so.
At the end of part one of the three, I was short-listing this as one of the very best novels of recent years alongside such things as Mothering Sunday, The Paying Guests, Sweet Tooth and The Sense of an Ending, all of which are just as English because Barnes here is a bit less French than he sometimes is, French film though The Only Story could certainly be. As part 2 becomes darker that is no reason to regard it as any less but it might stray more than it needs to into the composite fiction-essay that much of Barnes' writing is. As it becomes more of a case study of what happens to Susan, unconditional love eventually finds its limits which is what we are left with all the more powerfully because part 1 had not allowed us to foresee it becoming so.
There is little else to question about an obvious masterpiece. Perhaps it could have been twenty pages shorter, I don't know, but it is hardly prolix. I don't think the earlier Barnes is quite as good, or it's good in different ways but I ordered three more that I haven't read to put on the pile because by now I'm sure he is foremost among the many fine novelists writing in English.
Whether it's possible to be quite so sure about poetry is hard to say. Would that it were, would that it were.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Gramophone

It's a dangerous thing, this month's edition of Gramophone, which arrived yesterday. I have been a model of restraint over these first several months of subscribing to it, knowing full well that there's only so much time one can spend listening to records, I have plenty already and some Bach cantatas are enough, one doesn't need them all. Well, we'll see about that last one. But this month's reviews throw up a number of almost irresistible choices. I must proceed warily.
I enjoy being a Gramophone subscriber while not planning to be one forever. One likes to see the vast range of choices, wonder at how many people buy some of the more esoteric titles and I'm regularly impressed by how the reviewers can call up comparisons with all other recordings of pieces by Scriabin, Pergolesi or the Eton Choirbook. I'm not necessarily musician enough to appreciate the finer points and suggest that knowing I enjoy being a reader makes me less pretentious than someone who believes themselves to be a genuine, appreciative reader but isn't. Reading, or writing, about music is inevitably unsatisfactory as is demonstrated beyond debatability whenever I post some notes on a record here.
But whereas so far, so good, the magazine has sated my appetite and acquisitions have been kept at a sensible level, it is time for some due consideraation. Laast month I decided I could buy any old recording of the Paganini Caprices (one of which is the South Bank Show theme tune) rather than the full-price new release. It is remarkable how many musicians these days are cute women from east of here, whether Eastern Europe or the Far East. Gone, apparently, are the days of imperious men of a certain age like Otto Klemperer, the Oistrakh brothers, William Walton and Karl Bohm. The new Paganini was by Sueye Park. In the new Gramophone, it is Patricia Kopatchinskaja on the cover, featured in an impressive interview and her new disc, Deux, reviewed very favourably and it seems like such a hard sell that I'll try to resist it.
I have, however, lent out my old, cheap disc of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and can't be certain when I'll get it baack, or whether, but that won't matter because I did allow myself a first selection in Nemanja Radulovic's new recording. That is likely to be something to not miss on any account and so is not much short of essential. That is fair enough.
But the Kopatchinskaja disc includes a Poulenc sonata, which I'd like very much and gradually thoughts turn to Poulenc, who I thought didn't get his fair share of credit in The Rest is Noise, so I took a lateral step and ordered his Dialogues des Carmelites opera, long on the list of things to get one day and now promoted to next purchase as a kind of ideal compromise and vote of support. I do that sometimes. I bought Mitsuko Uchida's Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos after Richard Morrison pedantically picked out wrong notes in her Prom a few years ago. And I bought two copies of Cliff Richard's Soulicious album, the duets with soul legends- the great Cliff album we knew he must still have in him- one for my sister and one for me, as an act of solidarity when he was targetted but anybody with any sense knew we could take on the BBC and Yorkshire Police and win.
So, Nemanja's Tchaikovsky it is. Once seen, never forgotten but, seriously, never mind the flash, he is the business.
Which still leaves us with Tasmin Little, whose new disc is a concerto by Robin de Raaff, born 1968. Now, is this the concerto she commissioned after saying a few years ago she hadn't yet decided on which composer to approach. If it is, I want to hear it but the review isn't quite selling it to me. It might have to wait.
And that is before you start thinking about Fanny Mendelssohn, Bach, Bach, some other Bachs and Bach, Obrecht, some second former whose hobby might be sharpening his pencils but is a baritone and has a disc of German lieder, Eileen Joyce (10 discs !!!) and there is no end to it.
Before anything else arrives, I should have Peter Broderick's All Together Again, sold to me by one track on the wireless last weekend. And Julian Barnes' The Only Story arrived today so I can at least read while listening and do two jobs at once.
It will be time for the current pile by the CD player to be given a place on the shelves. That is a great pity for Grazyna Bacewicz's String Quartets, which I have got nowhere near the bottom of yet and they will have to be brought back later.
But, with shelves in mind, there is a capacity problem ahead. Very little gets archived, put elsewhere or, heaven forbid, disposed of. I want more, not a winnowing down, even if what I have already would last me more than the rest of my unsilent days. One simply can't have everything. It's a good job I have no plans to begin a Wagner fetish. Let's hope I don't.
    

Monday, 29 January 2018

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

I declined the Guardsman's Gambit against Szezecyn over the weekend. Having analyzed his win ratio with white when attempting this high stakes but potentially lethal opening, I transposed into the Trieste Variation much favoured by Muller and Wobensteiner remembering the success that the latter had in the 1938 Tournament. A draw was agreed after 68 moves, the bishop and knight ending proving redundant.
And such would columnists have to write for their weekly offerings if their life was as routine as mine. Yes, I have my finest booklet of poems almost but not quite in the presses, but that's routine and would have happened anyway, the highlight of any week, the joy of it, is the Times crossword on Saturday which this week was finessed with 'tondi' - I had to make sure it was a word but it had to be and so that's fine. But unless I had something really scintillating to write about, like I'd got myself a whiteboard or, like Giles Coren, I'd been at the President's Club for their bachannalian orgy, I'd have to make up chess matches I'd not taken part in. It makes for better reading than saying although you'd produced an encouraging upward surge in the turf account the previous weekend, you got worried out of all that promising good start by one or two very upsetting reverses.
I'm nothing to do with gentlemen's parties or questions of who is exploiting who when alpha males are showing off with paid young ladies in attendance but Giles made a brave stand by admitting he was there and, inevitably, condemning it. It was a good effort but, obviously, nobody in their right mind would mix with such riff-raff in the first place, the carefully worded, appalled distancing of oneself from such parties is as formulaic as 'our thoughts are with' bereaved families after any newsworthy carnage and if that particular binge had not made the headline news, nobody would have been any the wiser and Giles could have written about his children, Julian Barnes or fat people like he usually does.
Lurid scandals are becoming, or have always been, commonplace but they are like supernovas that have already happened thousands of light years away. It's only that we don't know about them yet. There are plenty to come. It never happens that, okay, we've all learned from that, it won't happen again.
On Only Connect a few weeks ago, Vicky, also Coren, the smarter one, said she liked crosswords because while one is involved in one, a sense of order prevails (not her words exactly but that's what she meant) and the chaotic world is held at bay. Anybody would surely prefer to be doing the Times crossword than go to a President's Club do, wouldn't they.
But I saw a whiteboard in One Stop on Saturday morning, they had lots of them and they were only a pound. No, I have no use for a whiteboard. But it was strangely attractive with its two little magnets and pen that velcros itself to the surface. For one pound, I deserved such a treat even if it left me with the problem of what I could write on it.

Well, top left are my chess ratings at Chess24, where I am BorderIncident, named after a 1970's star horse that got injured and didn't win the Gold Cup he might have. I'm not playing classical 15 minute games anymore because I don't want to ruin my rating of 1903, which is sensational, for me. So I play 10 minute games and am sad to say this evening lost my grip on 1800, but I'll get it back in due course. And thus it is an index of well-being. It does make a difference to how I feel about myself in a tangible and meaningful way. I enjoy talking about it in support groups.
The number in the bottom left might be the finishing positions of the last five horses I backed, but isn't. That would have some 1's in it. Then there's a reminder of the next poetry club meeting I must make a point of attending, on Muriel Rukeyser, and there's a train I need to be on. But there's plenty of space left.
At a time when the Yesterday channel have been showing Ripping Yarns, with its cast of morbid obsessives, on Sunday nights, I clearly need to record such things as local precipitation, motor vehicle performance or football scores and need to find them interesting enough to know what they are. But it's a work in progress. I'll get there. I'm sure it is the first step to genuine fulfilment.
Poetry is such a fleeting thing. Numbers is what you need.