David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, or did. There might not be any more to come. We will have to see what happens but, having written The Perfect Book, there might not be anything else to do. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Oh, World Cup, What Would You Say

It's never straightforward when England win a world cup.
The Association Football in 1966 remains a murky business in some conspiratorial places. The 2003 Rugby Union was won by a perfectly legitimate last kick of the game, not that I'd noticed the game having any comprehensible rules. The cricket in 2019 was also perfectly legitimate although ostensibly unfair, the rules of cricket in such esoteric circumstances needing to be consulted carefully.  (Footnote- one might also note that the Wimbledon Men's Final happening at the same time was awarded to Djokovic, who won 23 games and 3 tie-breaks compared to Federer's 30 games. So there was no need for tie-breaks.)

It is the six runs awarded to England from the boundary resulting from overthrows that has raised doubts, notwithstanding the arbitrariness that in the event of a tied super over, the side who scored the most boundaries are deemed the winners. And neitherwithstanding that New Zealand lost 8 wickets whereas England were all out, which is surely better and was once how it was.
It has been suggested, by New Zealand, that only five runs should have been awarded because the batsmen hadn't crossed when the fielder released the ball for that ill-fated run out attempt. They must wish they'd never tried. But let's have a look at the law.

19.8 Overthrow or wilful act of fielder
If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be
          any runs for penalties awarded to either side
and     the allowance for the boundary
and     the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had
          already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.

Oh, I see. 'If the boundary results from an overthrow'. But it didn't result from the overthrow, which a top professional side like New Zealand had covered by a fielder 'backing up' on the opposite side of the stumps. It resulted from the subsequent, accidental impact with Stokes's bat that diverted it to an unprotected area of the boundary.
That was very hard luck on New Zealand. The super over, the wide, the six, the three yards short on the second run attempted on the last ball should all have been unnecessary but you need a bit of luck in running and England got all of theirs in one enormous lump when the match, and the world cup, had really eluded them.
But even that is not the point these days. We had the thrills, possibly the greatest game of cricket ever played with the most unlikely finish and everybody had a good time. It was a nice day, plenty of cash was spent and regarded as well spent. Who wins isn't really the point. As it says of the scorer in the poem, The Summer Game, 

                                  For his
is the drudgery of knowing
who, if anyone, won and why  

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Overwhelming














I can't say I'm impressed with the definition of 'overwhelming' in Google Dictionary but the synonyms are interesting-
 
overwhelming
/əʊvəˈwɛlmɪŋ/
adjective
very great in amount.

very large, profuse, enormous, immense, inordinate, massive, huge, formidable, stupendous, prodigious, fantastic, staggering, shattering, devastating, sweeping









The College Chump last night went unchallenged as he said the 52-48% referendum result had been overwhelming although that was the very margin cited by his Leaver croney, Mr. Farage, as meaning the argument wasn't over if he had, as he thought, lost by that amount. But why would one challenge him. Whenever questioned about the quicksand of blather he skates across, he only continues talking about what he wants to talk about, which is mainly harrumph, content-free phrases and hand gestures. For someone of such reputed classical scholarship, his grasp of his own language is partial. Please don't let him be Prime Minister. A Chump at Oxford. Oh, yes, I remember now. Laurel and Hardy.















Poetry Now

I found this, quoted by Tim Love at Litrefs Articles, from Stephen Burt, so it's likely to be right,

"Young poets now tend not to believe that the poetry they publish in books and journals can disclose organic preverbal truths, invigorate broad movements for social justice ... When these ethical spiritual, political, and historical ambitions fall away, what is left is entertainment and craft or, to put it in another way, technique and fun ... The sestina thus fits a poetics of diminished, regretful, comic, self-skepticism."

I'm also very interested in The Incredible Sestinas Anthology,  edited by Daniel Nester, 2013, which is likely to have got itself ordered before the evening is out.
The regularly trumpeted 'poetry booms' usually mean something fashionable like The Mersey Sound, performance poetry or a shouty, bad-tempered lady, not Amazon selling out of John Donne books. We are surely not living in a Golden Age, not even by C20th standards, which doesn't mean that the type of poetry described above, that I recognize as a point well made, is all there is, only that it is one thing that remains viable.
It can't be all there is because poetry can do whatever it likes. By all means do sincerity or something profound but if it's only similar to what went before ot's going to be little more than derivative.
All it has to be is any good.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Racetrack Wiseguy

Frankie got Falcon Eight up on the line in the marathon at Sandown yesterday to pay the expenses, everything else being provided by Corals without me having to bet them for it.
He then helicoptered off to Deauville to ride Too Darn Hot today about which I'm glad to have availed myself of 6/4 last night.
The passing of John McCririck mainly served to highlight the safe, formulaic nature of the coverage of racing on ITV now without him, John Francome or those of olden days who gave it some attitude. One can't imagine such a lively exchange as this being shown these days,

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Poetry Readings

The excitement of coming home to a postal delivery doesn't always provide the best outcome.
A CD-sized package this evening certainly wasn't the re-scheduled delivery of Simon Bostridge's personal account of Schubert's Winterreise, so it could be that rare serendip of an order forgotten. But, sadly, it was no Candi Staton rarity, the Cliff album with Some People on it or that Racing Cars track from a Peel Session that I simply can't find anywhere. It was two refills for my Parker pen, the one that Helen Mort liked when she signed a book for me at Cheltenham after hosting the Gunn discussion. (Never miss an opportunity to drop a few classy names). But at least now I can do crosswords lying on my back again because that is one pen that's quite good at writing upwards. I  might be able to freeload another handful of Corals biros at Sandown on Saturday but those I picked up at Ascot last November underperform in that department.
--
I regret not being able to provide a review of the Poetry and Jazz gig at posh, old Edes House in Chichester last Tuesday but one can't review an event one left at half-time. The jazz was played by two virtuosi, the Dream Duo, Julian Stringle and Dominic Ashworth, but if jazz is not usually my area, their type, and a very appropriate rendering of bloody Summertime, of brilliantly done easy listening definitely isn't. I'd prefer an endless loop of that music Vision On used to play while they showed the pictures that viewers had sent in.
Some local eminences read a poem each and Sean was Sean, which is never a bad thing but I swelter readily and once my companion of choice for the evening had suggested we could go back to the pub I was helpless to his siren call.
And it was, after all, a poetry reading. I've long thought that the best poetry readings are short and the best bits are the talk in between the poems, which Simon Armitage is very good at. One reason, out of several, for not voting for Todd Swift for the Oxford Professor job, would be that at Marylebone High Street Oxfam bookshop he wanted Brian Turner, the Hurt Locker man, to read 'more poems'. No, let's have less (fewer) poems. Talk more, tell us about them, don't just bloody read them.
Of all the poet-curmudgeons, in a competitive field, Geoffrey Hill is a short-priced favourite to be the greatest. Having rattled on stage with his walking-stick, he gazed at his audience over his glasses from behind a desk and said,

Poetry readings? Why do you want to come to a poetry reading?

I would say that one does want to see and hear one's favourites. I was lucky to see Seamus Heaney when I did because he was usually sold out before I knew about his readings in London. Paul Durcan was electrifyingly tense but knew exactly what he was doing. And even if they're awful, it's worth knowing. And some are drunk.
But, yes, let's get it over with. I'm often surprised at the audience reaction, even when I've deigned to appear (or had the chance), that proves they are listening closely. Once I was impressed by someone who had picked up on my discreet rhyme scheme. But I either know the poem, might occasionally have the text in front of me, or I'm not really concentrating.
It's sometimes the case that the audience like the idea of being at a 'poetry reading'. It can also be the case at 'classical' music events, overhearing those at Wigmore Hall or Chichester Cathedral.
Oh, Buxtehude. I've never heard of him.

It can become preciousness for preciousness's sake.
I understand that Derek Mahon doesn't do readings anymore which is a shame because he is one name I would still have wanted to see. I don't either, which is a fact less lamented. Mahon will have his own reasons. My main reason is that I don't see why these people should devote five minutes of their lives to listening to me read my poems. And certainly they shouldn't have to pay for the privilege. 
Paul Muldoon was inevitably the 'top of the bill' star turn at Cheltenham a few years ago. The session seemed to be running late but he came on last and did one of his cryptic, long pieces in about 10 minutes and I saw him afterwards and he said he didn't want to do too much.
That's right. Top man. You've now seen and heard Paul Muldoon in the flesh, he's signed your book for you. What more do you want.

The last time I left anything at half-time was Murder in the Cathedral in Portsmouth Cathedral by some local amdrams. I should have stayed at home and read it. I can't remember leaving anything else at half-time. I turned up a day late for the Jesus & Mary Chain circa 1984 but that was my fault.
While my early departure did pass implicit comment on the play, it didn't last week disrespect the jazzmen, the local poets or Prof. O'Brien. I simply would rather be elsewhere.
There's a lot of poems that seem to say a similar thing.
 
 

After all that we've been through

Now that everybody else's old CD's are up for grabs for not much + p&p, it's hard to say how much of one's old vinyl will be belatedly upgraded.
A fair amount, it seems. Certainly this, which is likely to be me favourite ever record for at least a couple of weeks until I'm reminded of some other masterpiece.



Monday, 1 July 2019

The Alvarez Generation

William Wootten, The Alvarez Generation (Liverpool University)



Published in 2015, this is not a new book to be reviewing. It's been on a list all that time but I wasn't convinced I'd like it. But I've been wrong before and here we go again.
It concerns the generation of English language poets born between 1929 and 1932 and concentrates on 1962. Such detailed scrutiny is carried forward into discussion of poems not always highlighted by commentators and, as such, with this period not quite the height of fashion nowadays, it is a specialist book and something to be grateful for.
William Wootten takes Thom Gunn, Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Peter Porter as representative of those poets who came after the 1950's 'Movement' and followed the encouragement to risk taking offered by Al Alvarez in his introduction to The New Poetry. My doubts came from my perception that Gunn was adventurous and 'risk-taking' in his life but his poems belonged more with Donald Davie's, and Larkin's, than those he is put with here.
If the litmus test of suicide as a way of validating poetry had always sounded a bit odd, I had tended simply to side with the Larkin poem about horses and not the Hughes one advocated by Alvarez but it took Sean O'Brien, in The Deregulated Muse nearly 40 years later, to point out that such pronouncements had become 'barely comprehensible'. That is where Wootten starts and so one would imagine him to be in sympathy with O'Brien but it takes some time for that to become apparent. He is giving them a fair hearing before common sense is allowed to increasingly prevail.
The use of a Jackson Pollock for the front cover highlights a parallel with 'extremist art'. Having arrived at a time of such 'extremism', poems like Daddy and Crow seem disarmingly normal to someone who was used to Bob Cobbing, concrete and the self-congratulation of any amount of avant garde. One of the first LP's I bought was The Faust Tapes so I've been making my way towards something like decorum ever since. One needed to have read Larkin first, in the tradition of Hardy, to realize what they were reacting against. It didn't take me long to catch up but some of the intended effect of extremism is lost on you if one regards it as the established school and thus takes up with sanity and the much-maligned 'mainstream' as an act of rebellion.
Not much satisfies as much as finding support for one's own prejudices. Wootten includes an impressive amount of circumstantial evidence, at an early stage quoting Gunn's reading of some Larkin poems in 1954 as 'an extraordinary revelation'. It has elsewhere been noted how inappropriate the coupling of Gunn and Hughes was in the joint Selected if it implied a shared celebration of violence. It was Hughes that described Gunn as a poet of 'gentleness'.
There are interesting implications in linking On the Move with The Thought Fox; how the figures in An Arundel Tomb are 'lying' in both senses of the word (which almost makes one wish for 'no types of ambiguity' to be possible occasionally); how Donne's 'off-hand manner' congratulates itself on writing badly and, eventually, how Sylvia's Ariel poem combines the virtues of the two poems that Alvarez had set in opposition.
I have made more notes than I can use, which is indicative of a book full of interest, but the central concern is 'seriousness', and sincerity to experience, that Gunn is later to question in subsequent poets in Expression and Peter Porter in The Cost of Seriousness. The attempt by Alvarez to merge art and life, as if poetry and life were equivalents, can't be made to work, as recently O'Brien has written that 'art is all there is and might not be enough'.
Crow, which I've long blamed for de-railing a good start to Hughes' career, is 'rivalrous' with Sylvia's poems but
The writing is now sometimes so extreme it is often impossible to tell if what is being written is parody or merely pushing a tendency to its furthest point.
The pity was, of course, that it was such a successful book that, like a pop group who have a number one hit, he thinks it's a winning formula.
Even if Alvarez took a step back from the 'rash chatter' of those heady times, he remains unabsolved.
but Wootten doesn't think that it directly caused the rising body count as the narrative of this damned generation progresses. If Gunn is differentiated from those he is bracketed with here by his lasting relationship with Mike Kitay, rather than the failure of so many marriages, his relationship allowed for extra-curricular casual encounters and Gunn's death, it seems, was due to his own more chemical risk-taking.
Not listed on the cover but given some significance is Veronica Forrest-Thompson, who died in 1975 at the age of 27, whose short career might be compared with that of Rosemary Tonks for its brevity if not for the sort of poems she wrote, being in one of them,
at the outset and on the surface all game playing and silly intertextual artifice for the Cambridge minded.
Peter Porter finds life in conflict with 'poetic vanity' with Wootten, whether intentionally or not, showing poetry's main theme becoming itself or other poetry. And Geoffrey Hill, who was knighted for being a highbrow curmudgeon, is all about 'disgust'. The book gathers itself to a grim, perceptive conclusion, via Gunn's implication,
less that confessionalism is too sincere than it is not sincere enough.
It is 'in fact an exhibitionist being-for-others'.
In mitigation of Birthday Letters, we are told that 'readability is not a fault' even if these low-voltage poems weren't very good, with the exception of You Hated Spain, despite the media frenzy, by poetry's standards, they caused. By now William Wootten is playing like Jocky Wilson when he can't stop hitting 180's.
He ends with a very recognizable survey of poetry, in Britain (maybe America, too), as it is now. Endless success in all kinds of prizes for almost everyone (including a couple of little ones for me) but not much of obvious greatness. That isn't traced back to Alvarez, it just happened. But where, indeed, are the Audens of yesteryear.
Sales figures for poetry are usually terrible, which is to be expected, but no single volume by a contemporary poet gets in the Top 20 poetry books. It almost seems to be over, despite the same old piece being trundled out in The Observer on quiet weekends every few years about the latest 'poetry boom'.  That only means some shouty virago having a go as if it's closing time already and she's cross.

The Alvarez Generation couldn't have been a commercial proposition - even I hardly know anybody for who it would have been of interest- but was well worth the effort. It is essential for anybody with an interest in the poetry of 1962 and, since I also very much enjoyed a book about the pop music of 1971, that includes me.