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.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

Friday afternoon comes round so regularly that one can feel locked into it. Another week over but, no, not deeper in debt.
I carry home a reasonable number of cans of Becks, still trying to recreate that Amstel moment at the end of the walk at Winchester, through end of July sunlight, some generic Urban r'n'b coming from an upstairs window. One of the first poems I ever had published was called Different Worlds, in Sandwiches magazine circa 1977.

is like a july day
shining in november

another friday night
wandering through my dreams

both live in different worlds
more than a touch apart

Rhyming on the first word of a stanza. I doubt if I've been more avant garde since.

A colleague who left our office this week would pass on tips from a contact he had who was part of a syndicate. Over the last year or two I've backed three or four of them to no avail. But on his last day he mentioned Continental Lady in the first at Leicester on Weds evening. Maiden Fillies race first time out, entered in the Lowther Stakes at York. It looked perfectly legitimate but I didn't steam in mindlessly in view of the previous record of these recommendations. However, 7/2 and a 2 length win later, now that's the way to sign off and go to another office well thought of.
Peter O'Sullevan would have been proud of us. His status as the voice of racing has been mentioned in tributes all week but for me there were other things, not least the contrast between his urbane authority and the spiv, Julian Wilson, whose autobiography confirms that his involvement in racing was only an adjunct to a louche lifestyle of society parties, champagne and the Cresta Run.
O'Sullevan was interested in horse racing and the consummate professional. If there was nothing else worth reading in the Daily Express, and apart from The Gambols there very rarely was, his three tips- usually a nap, another selection and an each way, were the most reliable I ever came across. The nap was the horse that came out furthest ahead in his own private handicap and so would often be a short-priced favourite but that's fine when they win and he did well in the tipsters table.
Most famously, his commentary didn't falter as little Attivo, owned by Peter O'Sullevan, won the Triumph Hurdle but I'm never one for the whitewash obituary that makes out people were faultless. Late in his career as a commentator, mistakes did creep in. Things like, 'Greasepaint leads Hallo Sandy, two lengths back is Corbiere'.
No, Peter, that's Hallo Dandy. But one came to love him the more for these occasional slips of the tongue. (The example isn't a real one. I just made it up. But there were a few somesuch.)
And last year, finding an old newspaper at my parents', I went to look at the racing page. The Dewhurst Stakes, late in the flat season at Newmarket, 1974, won by Grundy but Peter had tipped something else. Oh, he of little faith.
But, really, comparisons with John Motson were a bit underwhelming. How ironic.
This week saw one of those stories of genuine outrage, rather than orchestrated publicity, on the shooting of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe. Of course, none of us had heard of Cecil before he was shot but he stands for wildlife in general in all the hunting, shooting and fishing debate.
I heard a few spokesmen for Hunting Groups interviewed on the wireless, all of them American as it happened, and all prevaricating on the rights and wrongs of the issue. Oh, well, it might not have been technically illegal.
Never mind that. It's about machismo, isn't it. Just how inadequate does a man need to feel to even think that shooting a lion is going to make him feel better.
So, poetry. Where does one go from here, checking the South website to see if I'm in the Autumn issue. I can't quite remember what I sent them but I know the other poem called Never was one of them. Having used that title for a painting and now two poems, it might be about time I thought of another. But it's a long time since I sent poems to any other magazine.
Although there are still plenty of them and they are vastly better produced, of course, than those of the late 70's, there just aren't many one wants to appear in. Nearly every title I contributed to in the 70's, 80's and even 90's has surely folded by now. Maybe not all of them because they were reduced to using my work, the life expectancy of a poetry magazine has never been long. But, in the late 70's many of the titles were edited by enthusiasts who did it for its own sake as well as, I dare say, the vainglorious status of being 'the editor' and it was a time of transition between old hippy values and new punk stylings. Production values mattered less than some sort of attitude.
However, I will excuse you the inevitable diatribe about where it all went wrong due to an amalgam of new orthodoxies, Creative Writing degrees and technology now being readily available so that even the most inane poems can appear in a booklet that looks expensively well-produced.
I never, in the last two decades or more, thought I'd want to see a return to the Allen Ginsberg generation but, having seen myself hatless reflected in a window yesterday I did wonder whether in later life he might be added to my list of lookalikes- Stanley Kubrick, Salman Rushdie, Mark Everett of eels and whoever else was unlucky enough to be compared. They were all other people's suggestions, not mine.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

Here's an American racing result from yesterday,

Del Mar 12.40
The Bing Crosby Stakes

1. Wild Dude 113/10
2. Masochistic 2/5 Fav
3. Kobe's Back 41/10

So, Masochistic got beaten.

Lord Sewel enters the running for Greatest Living Englishperson as he emerges from obscurity to national notoriety. If you're going to do such things in your spare time, you might as well be in charge of a committee that sits in moral judgement of them.
I recall, sometime in a bygone age, being given the impression that 'establishment' figures were worthy and highly respected. The House of Lords, the Commons, priests, vicars, the Police (including Stewart Copeland), the Royal Family, sportspeople like Hanse Kronje and cyclists, the BBC, teachers, the banks and successful business people. But increasingly if it's not one sort of corruption they are up to, it's one of the others. If you took them out of the News, there'd be not much news left.
Of course, they are only human. If only they were poets, their perceived misdemeanours would be a part of their job description and a routine part of any biography.
It might be time for a break from George Eliot as I reach the end of Silas Marner. I know where copies of those books I still have to read can be obtained, thanks to my small but well-chosen network of literati. One day, not too far off, I can attend to those and then put together a thousand or two words on the subject to find out what I've taken from this project apart from the immense enjoyment.
But, as one looks for the next reading option to put a space between the Eliot books, one becomes aware of the gaps still yawning wide open in the 40 years supposedly spent reading literature, including a desultory three years dedicated to it doing Eng Lit. What a privilege that was, to be given three years to read books at the taxpayer's expense. More gratitude should have been demonstrated at the time rather than scrape a 2:1 while playing pool and darts and going to pop concerts.
Some of these gaps are C18th Literature, any novel before Vanity Fair, Tolstoy, many C20th classic titles, Cervantes, Edmund Spenser and Jeffrey Archer. I might have officially 'done' Homer, Virgil, Dickens, Proust and many other essential authors but much has been forgotten, having been looked at in cursory fashion or they were abandoned. I know, in the case of Dryden, Pope and Milton, that I've tried but don't like the look of them but surely one must try harder. It was a summer project a couple of years ago to read C18th poetry 'if nothing better turned up' but inevitably something better did.
I had stopped worrying about any self-improving programme of reading the things one ought to have read and decided to read anything that came to my attention that looked worthwhile but those major works from the canon are presumably regarded as such for a reason and so one reverts to worrying about finding out why. After all, it would have been a great shame to pass off George Eliot with a comment like, yes, I read Middlemarch at university like I did a couple of years ago. I am very glad I went back to have another look.
I see The Times on Saturday reviewed Nigel Williams' R.I.P  with the same sort of unconditional endorsement that led me to Richard Yates several years ago and I've ever since liked to think that I was in the vanguard of the revival of interest in his novels and stories. Maybe that's a possibiilty.
On Sunday, The Observer reviewed Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History by Francis O'Gorman. At 192 pages, this might be an insubstantial thread to satisfy an academic's need to publish something but the review draws attention to some telling passages, beginning,
Brooding in their cells, medieval monks identified a malaise they called accidie - not acid indigestion of the soul, but an apathetic and self-disgusted inertia.
A monastic worrier in the fourth century, Evagrius the Solitary, said that accidie's symptoms included 'a hatred of manual labour'.
So at least now I know that I am part of a long tradition every Saturday when I know I ought to be involved in some DIY, bashing in nails or applying paint in some forlorn attempt to maintain the house rather than seeing if I can get a start in the Times crossword or augmenting the day's investments with a little yankee on some of the handicaps at Redcar or Fakenham.
But, the review of that book will suffice. If you read too much, you don't write much. My inertia spreads, tautologically, like wildfire and The Singing Typewriter, below, is the first poem I've written that I like for ages. It's a shame that such things have to be artificially induced. As with The Lepidopterist's Wife, that I liked so much it got into the last booklet, I just thought of a title and then wrote the poem.
While writing it, I could feel it starting to imitate Sean O'Brien's The Beautiful Librarians. It can happen that you finish a poem, consider it a fine thing and later realize that you were re-writing something else that you really like. I hope I saved it from that but I'm not sure.
Meanwhile, back to the horse racing. I saw another 'One Cool' horse, after One Cool Cookie, One Cool Shabra, etc, ran third in Ireland a few days ago. Maybe it will come on for the run and win next time out. I'll keep an eye out for One Cool Poet. The least I can do is have a pound on it.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Biber/Ars Antiqua Austria

Biber: Sonatae Tam Aris Quam Aulis Servientes, Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor  (Northstar)

Caveat emptor, anyone buying recordings of Heinrich Biber's music. The Mystery Sonatas, Rosary Sonatas, Copper-Engraving Sonatas and quite possibly some recordings just called Sonatas are all the same thing. I didn't fall into the trap of buying several versions of the same music but since it is set for the unwary, it's a miracle I didn't.
These are not they but there's a further lesson for anyone who thought a sonata was a piece for a solo instrument, or accompanied by piano. These are for 5,6 or 8 musicians, namely violin, viola, trumpet and continuo harpsichord or theorbo. In places, where the trumpet takes the main line, they might be Handel's sketches for the Water Music. They are grand, more often grandiose than lachrymose. There are reflective passages, and one is grateful for the more sombre violin line in the third sonata after some glorious but bravado brass in the first two. Biber's output was large and so it can't all be the transcendent grief and solace of the solo Passacaglia and the trumpets here are heard in an acoustic that can presumably only hint at how they might sound in the right cathedral. One is reminded of Charpentier's most famous few bars that are used as the fanfare for Eurovision. The notes say that the title suggests the pieces could be used for sacred or secular purposes, a trustworthy translation is proving beyond me, but it encourages me in the notion that this is all-purpose baroque embroidery, exploring and exchanging ideas but not in pursuit of anything too profound. It moves through rejoicing, glorification, dance rhythms and slower interludes seemingly as the mood takes it which makes it a lighter cocktail than devotional music might be required to be. Like the Water Music or any suite of social, background music, I'd imagine it more as an accompaniment to a courtly occasion than a focus for any searching of the soul.
So, by all means, powder your wigs and pour out some fine wine, admire the trumpet's golden tone and the fingerwork of the silky, nimble strings but, without further distractions, one might be a bit bored by it all before the end. It's hard to care about this whereas care is all one ever does during the more famous sonatas.
It's 9/10 for the recording and, I'm sure, at least 8 for the performance but, in the context of all the vast wonder of the baroque period, it's no more than 6 for the music. Where to go next within Biber is a question to think about.    

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Singing Typewriter

The Singing Typewriter

From nine to five an orchestra
of obbligato percussion
rattled beneath the chat of girls
concerned with nail varnish and boys
that frequented coffee bars. Safe,
undemanding squares, dishes
or dodgy types that one could not
conceivably take home to meet
one’s mother. Yours of the 10th inst
or ult, We regret but remain,
faithfully as dull as business,
signed, Bold Flourish, the company.
By night, though, as the darkness crept
around them and the office air
was as still as the atmosphere
the moon was said to have, a lone
typewriter, Miss Bentley’s or Miss
Braithwaite’s that were Smith-Coronas,
would sing old songs, hymn tunes sometimes,
to itself while the others slept
with no sub-conscious of their own,
at most lines from invoices or
reminders they couldn’t forget.  

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Hooray, hooray, it's Romain Bardet

On June 21st here, I advised a small investment on Romain Bardet at 25/1 for the King of the Mountains category in the Tour de France.
Today he rode away with the uphill stage, collected a hatful of points and is joint leader of the King of the Mountains with three days to go, now quote at 3/1 with Uncle Paddy.
I'd love to have tipped a 25/1 winner here and hope I have but, just in case, one could now take out insurance on Froome, Fugslang and Rodriguez for small amounts and then it's either a nice little earner or everything's covered.
If not, keep the faith with Bardet and remember you heard it here first.

Meanwhile, since I'm dispensing red hot tips like confetti, next time you are in Sainsbury's, look out for this bargain 3-CD set, Greatest Ever Reggae. The title possibly oversells it a bit but for a fiver you can't go wrong. You would look considerably more savvy if you had The Pioneers, The Liquidator and My Boy Lollipop on authentic, old 7 inch singles on the Trojan label and suchlike but you might find they won't play on a CD player.

Martyn Crucefix on blogging about poetry

Much of what Martyn Crucefix says here about writing (his own) poetry blog sounds familiar.


However, the approach here has drifted somewhat from these fine intentions. It's not often you find much to read about poetry at DG Books these days. It's a bit like when Danny Baker was given radio phone-ins to talk about football but soon found that there were much more interesting things to fill the time with.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

I wonder how many of us can say we have never made that Nazi gesture that new evidence shows The Queen making, aged about 7, in 1933. Whether in response to a parent, a boss or a friend or colleague who may or may not be seeming to make an unreasonable demand, it was a joke, wasn't it, and did not signify any allegiance to the Nazi party.
Making the gesture in such circumstances never made light of the evils of fascism. Hitler has long been a cartoon joke figure, as in the words sung to the tune of Colonel Bogey, at least in part because that is one way of dealing with such an aberration. The problem is more with those who felt the need to publish the picture, the reaction to the publication of the picture, the fact that the palace felt any need to respond, the calls for further investigations into past royal and aristocratic links to the Third Reich and the minor surge of pious political correctness generated by the expressed horror that anybody could ever do such a thing.
It was in 1933, well before Hitler's regime reached its full, unthinkable height. I am reminded of 1979 at Lancaster University when, in our college, we had a very likeable student from Zimbabwe who was a big supporter of Robert Mugabe and, for all I know, he still might be. But the prevailing correctness of the blase, know-all campus Marxists, whose doctrines were as complete, with as much chapter and verse to be quoted verbatim as any religion, were very much in favour of proletarian regime change in other countries at the time. I don't know if, with hindsight, any of them would now admit that they might have been wrong.
But, oh dear. Continuing my recent theme on our new age of orthodoxy, it seems more difficult than ever to avoid threats from one kind of orthodoxy or another. If one can't be accused of being a Nazi, one needs to be devoted to finding Nazism where there is none.
Which, very circuitously, leads to the debate on the BBC.
I was surprised that the very first thing I heard that David Cameron had done in his new post of Conservative Prime Minister, as opposed to Coalition Prime Minister, was announce the appointment of a known anti-BBC chairman to the review of the BBC.
With so many of the great and good appearing in the media in defence of the BBC, it isn't necessary for me to defend it here. It does an awful lot of bad things in pursuit of ratings to justify its existence to philistines like the businessmen of the Conservative think-tank but Top Gear, for example, is very good business and, allegedly 'innovative' and 'cutting edge', the sort of thing that commercial media would be too lazy or unimaginative to produce. But that, of course, is betting with David Attenborough and the like.
In Not the Nine O'Clock News, thirty-odd years ago, the old feedback show Points of View was satirized with a host of increasingly fawning letters to the BBC along the lines of,
WELL DONE,  the BBC. I'd willing sell my house to pay the licence fee. Keep up the good work.

And, yes, it is worth twice as much, I don't know how much more, just as it is except that the current debate rarely mentions Radio 3 and its sponsorship of the Proms as the most important of all the reasons.
As I understand it, the licence fee for over 75's won't be re-instated but it will be paid by the BBC out of subscriptions from under 75's.
So. let's see if that works for the government's wages. Tell you what, lads, we could make a saving by us not paying you but you can pay for yourselves. It doesn't work, does it.
It's always been a dubious claim that the BBC has a left-wing bias but one can see how Michael Gove or George Osborne think so because, like the old campus Marxists above, they naturally regard anybody who is not with them as being against them. I have the same doubts about The Independent actually being 'independent'. Is there such a thing as independence in such circumstances. One person's objectivity is surely only what others see as their subjectivity. It takes much more post-structuralism than there is space for here to go beyond the prison cell of subjectivity.
But, during the last General Election campaign, Jeremy Paxman, employed by the BBC for many years, interviewed Ed Miliband and was conceited enough to think he'd given the Labour leader a hard time and, microphones still on, asked a little bit too solicitously, Are you alright, Ed.
It was gauche, slanted and very naughty television by a Conservative doyen of the BBC who was touted as a possible candidate of theirs for London Mayor.
Because the BBC still broadcasts an invaluable and impressive range of Proms on television, all of them on radio and a tremendous variety of programmes across all their stations and hasn't yet completely filled its schedules with The Dragon's Den, programmes about making money out of antiques or property, doesn't mean it is left-wing.
I don't know what left-wing means any more anyway. Perhaps it is just anything that doesn't fulfil the remit of mercantile orthodoxy.
But the great attraction of horse racing is not the all-powerful market forces of the betting market. By all means, it's a fine thing if an interest can pay its way rather than cost money but, as has been noted by John Francome inter alia, the only way to make a small fortune out of horse racing is to start with a big one.
I like a horse to believe in, not necessarily to follow blindly, but a career to watch to see where it gets to.
The New One, At Fisher's Cross and Silviniaco Conti have been big heroes in recent seasons but may have gone beyond their peaks by now so I'll be interested to see where Penglai Pavilion can get to.
Attention was drawn to him here just before he made his hurdle debut at Hexham a month ago. It stretched credibility that he could be allowed to go off at 2/1 but he won by quite some way with the also-rans apparently spread across Northumberland like an archipelago.
Yesterday at Newton Abbot, giving away the penalty for that win, he left another group of novices at various intervals behind him throughout Devon. Novice hurdles at Hexham and Newton Abbot in the summer are certainly not the prizes that make a horse into a legend but it will be of interest to see if this potential star can progress from flat track bully into classier races when the proper jump racing starts.
What I like about horse racing is when I've lumped on the one that's gone well clear and I've covered it with a bit each way at 10/1 with the one following him home at a respectful distance. But it really isn't about the money.
What it's really about is the admirable caring and, we could call it 'customer service', demonstrated by a man called Nigel, from the Sue Ryder charity shop I bought my bookcases from recently.
It was a shame that when I put the shelves in, it turned out that one small peg was missing and I used a screw to put in under one corner of one shelf. Not the end of the world and I had forgotten all about it.
But then on Saturday I found an envelope through my door that contained a postcard with the missing peg sellotaped to it, signed by Nigel, who had gone to the trouble of looking up who had bought the bookcases and delivering that tiny part. The white behind it on the picture is the width of a postcard.
He could have picked it up off the floor, thought it wasn't worth bothering with and seen how far he could flick it with his old Subbuteo finger but he didn't. He made a diversion next time he was in the area and put it through the door.
Thanks, Nigel, whoever you are. Top man. Should be in charge of reviewing the BBC.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Still in Search of Rosemary Tonks

Today was my third trip to Warblington in search of the grave of Rosemary Tonks. Each time I set out with new optimism but each time I return without finding it. She is proving to be as elusive in death as she was in life.
In his introduction to Bedouin of the London Evening, Neil Astley writes,
She died on 15 April 2014 and was buried two weeks later in her mother's grave at the Church of St. Thomas a Becket, Warblington, Hampshire, without a funeral or any ceremony, in line with her wishes: the body was only a vessel for her spirit. She left instructions that her headstone should read: 'Rosemary Desmond Boswell Lightband'.
The churchyard contains almost exclusively very old graves. One or two more recent are not inscribed with her mother's name, Gwendoline. There is the much bigger Havant Council Cemetery adjacent to it, which I have investigated with some thoroughness but that is not really what Neil Astley has said.
Reading his sentence more and more closely, he doesn't actually say there is a headstone with Rosemary's married name on it, only that she left such instructions. So I am at a loss and think three such fruitless visits are enough until I can find further information.
It's a pleasant enough day out, a remote, country church and peaceful, photogenic graveyard but I've been there enough now without finding what I'm looking for.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


I've always had a lot of time for Pluto, very much the small outsider with its eccentric orbit beyond those vast, cruel planets with all their ever increasing numbers of satellites and yet Pluto was never found to have any and then it was demoted to minor planet status.
While they were all given majestic names from ancient gods, Pluto was apparently an afterthought that we couldn't even see until 1930. Pluto didn't have a chance of having music written for it by Gustav Holst.
So I'm glad it's now had its picture taken better than ever before. It might be nice there, the sun only a bright star in its sky, beyond even the reach of SKY, the Top Gear franchise and the Eurozone. Properties there must fetch a small fortune.

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

It is customary for me to check the charity shops in Cosham for second hand books before embarking on a train. I'm usually 20 minutes ahead of time because one needs to factor the unreliability of buses into one's arrival time at the station. I am involved in a search for copies of Felix Holt and Romola without having to trouble the post service.
Of course, one can find plenty of Middlemarch's, Mill on the Floss's or Daniel Deronda's but the others are less easily found. However, for two pounds, there was Volume 1 of the Shorter OED. I went on my way wondering where Volume 2 might be, later checked how much a complete such 2007 edition would be second hand and found them at something over 100 pounds. So, on my way back home this afternoon, returned to the shop to enquire if Volume 2 was somewhere in a storeroom in the back of the shop. No, it wasn't.
Now, there is a sad story. Vols 1 and 2 of this mighty work forever separated, like twins in a Shakespeare play. One can hardly have Vol. 1 standing forlornly on one's shelf and spend the rest of one's days fretting about any word from N onwards.
But a trip to Cheltenham College for Glos v. Kent on Sunday provided exactly what one is promised in a 20 over match. Lots of action compacted into three hours, some enormous hitting, spectacular fielding and a generally better experience of T20 cricket than I was expecting. Yes, one is close to the rest of the spectators and one could manage without the public address system but that is the product one buys and it provided as much value as any professional sport is likely to these days and now I've been to one twenty over match, having played in perhaps nearly 100 of them before the format was adopted by the professional game, I probably won't have to go to another.
And, as Monday night is restored to TV quiz night, congratulations to the great Vicky Coren. I couldn't think why else she would have given up drinking for seven months, which was the cryptic way she announced her expectancy, in keeping with the programme's format.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Forgotten how to lose

Mr. Singh went in at Newmarket to make it 7 out of 7 and so one feels compelled to keep going until we drop.
Lucida (Newmarket 3.15) is worth a go tomorrow because I've finally given up on Integral and the French horse might not be what she was last year.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Imposter Syndrome

At last, there is a name for it. In amongst all the preposterous bluster of wordage we are given to read at work, at least they have finally identified a syndrome I can be a part of.
Unfortunately, and inevitably, the acceptance and 'outing' of Imposter Syndrome was only by way of the author's acceptance of the prognosis from which he could 'go forwards', overcome it and, presumably, learn to love Big Brother.
Well, let's not go that far. Let us, if we want to, hang on to our precious imposter status and not let them use it as a way of subverting the maverick impulse and persuading us that we are all one of them. We are not and we never wanted to be.
I was an imposter when I played sport because really I should have been reading books. I am an imposter in literary circles because really I'd prefer to be playing pool with a few mates.
I rode 217.888 miles in 12 hours on a bike but I was an imposter as a cyclist.
I've won a few very minor prizes for poetry but I'm an imposter as a poet.
But, mostly, in every day life, even after 28 years in the civil service, I'm an imposter there. And I'm sure that the majority of people there think they are, too. It's not for them, the management plan and the developmental objective, they are all the odd one out and such things are only for those who have career ideas afoot.
But I am at least grateful to have my syndrome identified. Like Groucho Marx, I'd never want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. It is a condition to be relished, though, not a problem that requires solving.
I never wanted to be a beatnik. I never wanted to be a student. I never wanted to be a 'poet', well, I did but then I changed my mind. I was never a 'company man'.
So, if I'm not a poet, not a sportsman, not an intellectual and not a professional 'going forwards', it comes as some surprise to find how often I find myself so 'comfortable in my own skin'. It can happen reading George Eliot, listening to Danny Baker, Vicky Coren or Stephen Fry or, as now, on a run of six consecutive winners on the horse racing.
Will I ever back another loser. Well, yes. And probably very soon. But, after this run over the last three evenings,
Ennistown 9/4, rule 4 applied
Pyjama Party 2/5
Ahoy There 9/4
Ulis de Vassy 5/6
Welcometothejungle 13/8
Queen of Sicily 5/4, rule 4 applied,

then I surely ought to share with you a tip for tomorrow.
Sadly, there is no jump racing tomorrow, so I'm not on solid ground but I have to tell you I've backed Mr. Singh (in the first at Newmarket) and also that, regretfully, I am also an imposter at horse racing.

I'm afraid once you have imposter syndrome and decide you like it, there is no cure.

Larkin Society Website

I see that the Philip Larkin Society website has been redesigned, and very smartly, too.


Under 'Resources' and then 'Poem Reviews', the old Poem of the Month pieces are back and so my modest contribution is available again, and re-installed here at 'Also appearing at'.

It's quite an auspicious list of contributors to be listed among but only the latest of my experiences of 'imposter syndrome'.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

In her review of the new Jackson Pollock exhibition in yesterday's Observer, Laura Cumming points out that Pollock's early work is now,
closer to Victorian times than our own.
If that comes as some surprise, we might think of some of Turner's more abstract canvasses or the use of light in Monet and think that not all Victorians were so conservative but we might also calculate the midway point between Victorian times, which ostensibly ended in 1901, and now and establish that it is 1958. Thus Elvis Presley, Albert Camus and James Dean are all closer to Victorian times than our own.
It is a regular source of amazement to me and some of my contemporaries that in the early 70's, Bill Haley seemed pre-historic but was only 15 years ago. That now makes him all but contemporary with David Bowie and that gap is significantly less than that between the first Oasis album and now. Time continues to play this fascinating trick on our perception of what we've lived through. In 1972, Larkin and Ted Hughes were major living poets, Seamus Heaney still young and Paul Muldoon just making a precocious debut.
It presumably doesn't seem to a younger generation that not much has happened since but now Larkin and Hughes are as distant from us as Auden and Eliot were then.
I honestly don't take all my reference points from The Observer, it's only that The Sunday Times is still home to A.A. Gill and Jeremy Clarkson, as far as I know, and The Independent  never has anything to read in it. However, I found reference somewhere over the weekend to Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism, a critique which, among other things, identifies barriers to expression that have led to a kind of soul-less, meaningless art, presumably due to the rapid commodification of anything vaguely threatening to make it marketable. (And that is my loose paraphrase. I haven't read Fisher's book and am not likely to). But that, or something like it, might account for the apparent fore-shortening of our perspective on the time between now and 1901. There is a bit of a vacuum in the last 20 or 30 years in pop music, literature and perhaps much else in which much great work might have been done but not much seems to have happened. Perhaps it was ever thus for those middle-aged observers who grew up with a lively interest in everything they found but became less enamoured with each 'new' wave. But certainly, even if an Ezra Pound, Marcel Duchamp or Stravinsky were to arrive today, what would they do. The avant gardistes of the C21st look like quaint nostalgia merchants, revivalists who are like Showaddywaddy compared to Eddie Cochran or merely still devoted to re-working a well-ploughed furrow.
But even Fisher complains in vain. He is a 'cultural theorist', and I'm sure is glad to rejoice in the name, but it sounds to me only like a new nomenclature for an old opposition between radical and revisionist when compared with the opposite of 'cultural theorist' which I take to be 'management consultant'.
Every age must have had people who thought they had reached the end and there was nowhere to go from where they found themselves. Fukuyama announced 'the end of history' somewhat prematurely, Baudrillard debated whether we should be counting down or up to the millennium but nothing really happened either way, did it.
Perhaps Jackson Pollock, and all those we thought of as 'modern art', the Modernists and all the innovations of the brilliant, horrific adventure of the C20th will gradually look nearer to each other, and much more similar to Victorian than we can yet appreciate. There might not, one day, seem to be so much difference between Matthew Arnold and T.S. Eliot. Those of us who readily identify fundamental differences between T. Rex records made in 1971 and those from 1974 had to be there to know. But, mainly, not for the first time, if we have, as it would appear, moved into a new age of ultra-conservatism and corporate 'product' run by expert consultants on hourly rates, let those of us lucky enough to have been born between roughly 1945 and 1965, be grateful that we benefitted from the mood of the beatnik, the democratic spread of liberal education, the enjoyment of art for art's sake. Poets now qualify on Creative Writing degree courses where all such things will have been explained to them. It takes many years to recover from an education. We are all going to be Showaddywaddy from  now on.
Octagenarian Poet Publishes First Website

So, I'm delighted to be able to draw your attention to Cliff Blake's new website,


The poems are as traditional as anyone could want. I have read that Cliff believes that poetry should rhyme but now is not the time or place to debate that old horse chestnut. It depends how far you want to go back, and into which culture, but we might find that our ideas about rhyming poetry are not entirely traditional and possibly arrived in Britain from Italy in the middle ages but I will happily stand corrected on that.
But it is good to see Cliff still at it and embracing all this new-fangled interweb stuff.

My progress through George Eliot continues steadily.
I had thought that The Mill on the Floss was somehow less than Adam Bede but it is building purposefully, if episodically, with the admirable Maggie Tulliver apparently some version of a self-portrait by Mary Ann.
As uncle Pullet tries to be jocular with young Tom Tulliver,
A boy's sheepishness is by no means a sign of overmastering reverence: and while you are making encouraging advances to him under the idea that he is over-whelmed by a sense of your age and wisdom, ten to one he is thinking you extremely queer.

'Ten to one' here is meant to mean 'very likely' in a much misunderstood usage by those unfamiliar with betting parlance. Properly, it should say 'ten to one on', that is 1/10, not 10/1, but such is language that the reader needs to take the obvious intended meaning rather than the literal sense.
I would not be reading George Eliot's novels quite so systematically if she wasn't being installed as my favourite novelist. And I wouldn't be reading her if I was aware of anything better that I should be reading instead.