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, 28 August 2015

20th Anniversary of that Great Sporting Moment

I rarely talk about it, really, but this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of one of the best days of my somewhat underachieving life and provides an excuse to bring out the old photos of it one more time.
The Western Time Trials Association 12 Hour was traditionally held on the Sunday of August Bank Holiday weekend. Those hardy long distance riders, including such heroes of mine as Janet Tebbutt, Gwen Shillaker and Andy Cook, would gather at Sutton Benger just in time for daylight to break at 6 a.m. and they resolutely set off, at one minute, or perhaps two minute, intervals, in the direction of Malmesbury with an endless road in front of them and 12 hours in which to cover as much of it as they could.
In 1994, I had exceeded all of my own modest expectations by doing 214.795 miles and so that was the target. There was no hiding behind soft ambitions like wanting to finish or do 200 miles in a day, either of which would have seemed perfectly satisfactory the year before.
I knew I could set off faster than in 94. Then, unsure of lasting the distance, I had been timed among the slowest after a mere 25 miles but 6th fastest of the 31 finishers on the finishing circuit and the big idea of time trialling is not to finish knowing that you didn't use up all your energy. So, I went off quicker, knowing I had done more miles so far that year and all the numbers added up. In fact, in 1995, I rode over 6200 miles on a bike, which compares with none at all in 2014 and 2015.
It was an odd diet of about 8 bananas, probably a ham sandwich for lunch a few months before becoming vegetarian (aha, I nearly wrote 'a few moths before becoming vegetarian'), flapjack, flapjack, one of those energy bars I'd never had before and was so sickly I spat it out over the road and any amount of energy drink bought from Boots rather than Lance Armstrong's doctor.
I stopped briefly probably three times- to take on more bananas in the morning, to relieve myself at Burford where I knew one could climb over a gate onto the corner of a golf course and express in one necessary function my opinion of golf as a sport and later on to dig out whatever remnants of food were left in my pockets as I completely ran out of fuel. I may be conflating episodes from my three 12 Hour rides there but I doubt if anybody knows better than me what happened.
There are few things quite as joyous as arriving back at Sutton Benger to see out one's 12 hours on the finishing circuit, going round and round the 15 miles of lanes until your time's up. You know you've done it, all bar the last bit and the last bit is easier, with some company and support, after a day in which, for long periods you might not have seen another rider, official or much evidence that you are doing any more than having a ride round the countryside on a Sunday afternoon.
The weather wasn't too bad, with the usual prevailing south westerly wind making some stretches easier than others but even if I compile enough statistics to say that, if everything had been in my favour, I might have done 225 miles, even with my dad as Chief Timekeeper (and the following year and subsequently, Event Organizer), we couldn't make my distance any better than what the numbers said, which was 217.888 miles. And I was absolutely bloody delighted with that, having taken part in the legendary event I'd seen as a young upstart, featuring boyhood heroes like Ted Tedaldi, and finished in the top half of the finishers, like 15th out of 31, and not just the top half of the starters. Because such an event always claims a number of casualties in those who don't stay the distance for one or other reason.
217.888 is not a remarkable score within the sport. I believe the record has now risen to 317 from the 300 or so it was then. On the Thursday evening before I had posted an equally unremarkable personal best of 26.31 for 10 miles on a small section of the same roads but they were the best things I've done, in only 30 time trials ever ridden, preferring to do things I enjoy for the sake of them rather than things I might have been better at but not enjoyed.
Journalism is what I'm thinking of, just in case nobody can think of anything I might have been good at.
And, 20 years on, it doesn't look as if I'm going to improve on those benchmarks, a few stone overweight and strangely fearful of the forlorn, old bike in the corner of the kitchen. But, thanks for the memories and, luckily, there's now a nephew and niece in place doing equally, probably better, things than I ever did in my few years of bike riding so I can leave it to them.

Chess Analysis

I recently found myself in this position on the chess board. It is a position I recognized from previous games and it does, in fact, occur, in several different openings.
Computer analysis shows that the position is basically drawn and that, with correct play on both sides, neither is likely to be able to force a win. However, since White has the initiative, it is worth proceeding and see what happens.
There is an apocryphal story of a grandmaster who studied this position for half an hour and then resigned. When asked why, he said he looked 30 moves ahead and saw the game was lost, but...
White has 20 possible moves but a number of those can be discounted as not gaining a significant advantage. From memory, I know that it is quite possible to lose from this position and so one must proceed with care. On the other hand, I also remember some wins gained from this situation and so one must think positively and play with some enterprise. The computer shows that e4 is the most commonly played move from here but since that line is the best known, I prefer to avoid it. I did used to try f4 on occasions, for its element of surprise, but if Black is not taken aback by it and plays solidly, the onus is on White to make sure they haven't weakened the king's side in pursuit of novelty.
I much prefer d4, which is a well-known move but one I feel is more robust, offers a chance to open up the c file by exchanging the QB pawn and provides readily made squares on which to develop the minor pieces before castling. It is a move likely to make the game last a bit longer and is preferable to  1. f3, 2. g4 which is vulnerable to Black's 1...e6, 2...Qh4 mate, which shows that, although White has the initiative, it also has the quickest way to self-destruction.
So, beware, and best of luck next time you are confronted with this fascinating situation.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Echo Chamber

As Radio 4's The Echo Chamber finishes another of its short runs of four programmes in the 4.30pm Sunday slot, it is an opportune time to congratulate both it and Paul Farley on an excellent series and wonder, not for the first time, if half an hour a week isn't too much to allocate to a proper contemporary poetry magazine on the BBC.
I doubt if such a tiny side issue would be part of the business plan of any newly reformed BBC under the new government's review of this insidiously leftist, arty, subversive, state sponsored bunch of militants. How outrageous it is that they waste so much time and money on the Proms, Radio 3, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, The Danny Baker Show, Only Connect and some fine things on BBC4 whenever they can find enough to pay an academic to write a series on the Renaissance in Britain or Vicky Coren to do Bohemians. Why not have more shows on cookery, interior decor or buying antiques in order to flog them again. I must admit that the episode of 60 Minute Makeover that I contributed to some years ago was screened on Pick TV the other day but, luckily, only two people I know saw it. It wasn't my fault and there was nothing I could do about it, and, yes, it gets more awful every time I think about it. But that is more reason why we need more Echo Chamber, so that very minor poets are not diverted into, literally, wallpaper programmes.
The latest Echo Chambers included an interview with Clive James, the admirable Helen Mort, someone called Andrew McMillan and ended with no less than Tony Harrison reading a new poem.
Helen Mort is fine and managed to not quite lapse into the quagmire of Creative Writing-speak and even if she flirted with it, the poems she writes compensate for it.
Clive James continues to sign off quite gloriously and we must all hope he can continue to do so for some time yet.
I had to have some doubts about McMillan who claims a great affinity with Thom Gunn who had died before he discovered his work. McMillan, born 1988, can't be expected to have known much about Gunn before 2004, when Gunn died. But just how much he can claim to be a natural inheritor is another matter. From what I heard, and what little I've read, it's possible that McMillan's appreciation of Gunn was as a free verse, homo-erotic poet and not much more. I don't know enough about McMillan yet to say, perhaps he includes the strict metrical verse, the existentialism, the breaking down of the protagonist/antagonist divide and much more about Gunn. Anybody taking Thom Gunn as an exemplar needs to have developed through the discipline of metrical verse, much acknowledged in his debt to Yvor Winters and J.V. Cunningham, rather than assume one can go straight to free verse without any such grounding.  The reason why Gunn's apparently looser free verse poems are any good is because he could have also done it the other way. It's not good enough to see him only alongside Gary Snyder and the like and it's a trap for the unwary to think one can be as free as one likes without knowing what it's like to be formal. It means not much otherwise and tends to look like less than a pale imitation.
Whereas Tony Harrison returns with a monumental poem, Polygons, which is not in the heroic couplets we have come to expect of him. I find it was first published in the LRB and you can find yourself a copy on their website.
As far as I'm aware, Harrison's last published poems were in Under the Clock (2005), which looked to me then as if they were too close for comfort to the doggerel that Harrison's poems generally rise so far above. But then I went to a conference in Oxford and heard the book given thoroughly respectful, serious academic treatment and so was glad to assume it was my mistake.
Polygons is something of a career retrospective, going back over his attachment to Ancient Greece, his NT versions of Aeschylus and Sophocles as well as time spent with contemporary makars, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. If you remember a George Harrison song called All Those Years Ago, it's a highbrow version of that. I was concerned that such a significant statement from such a grand, old man of poetry would give me a decision to make about what has been the best poem of 2015 because that decision has been done and dusted for quite some time.
Luckily, it doesn't. It's prolix and can be heavy-going in places while undoubtedly containing many memorable moments. At the age of 78, Tony is giving himself perhaps 10 years or more before asking that his ashes be scattered at Delphi, is it, which is good to hear. Whether or not we can look forward to anything more as good as Cypress and Cedar or A Kumquat for John Keats remains to be seen but he surely doesn't owe us any more.
So, top marks to Paul Farley and The Echo Chamber and a note to the BBC and anybody whose intentions are to make it into the new Channel 5- half an hour, once a week, something like this, that would do.

It's Trad, Dad

It seems to many of my generation (b. 1959), that pop music is not what it is. Like our parents before us, the music subsequent generations are served up with doesn't pass muster. They don't make them like they used to, etc.
My dad once came into the room when Top of the Pops was on and said, 'Good Heavens, what's that.'
'That's Hawkwind,' I said.
Yesterday, the announcement that One Direction were to have a temporary hiatus caused tears and distress among hordes of young teenagers, presumably mostly girls. But in a purely marketing project, after five years, the plan to see if individual solo careers can extend the cash throughput seems a sound one with the guarantee that the reunion concert is always there to fall back on when it's required. However, I'm sure the distress was genuine.
Although we can't prove it, though, we know that not much today stands up against whatever it was we liked. Let's say David Bowie, T. Rex and Roxy Music, for example. I'm told that young people today are just as devoted to their stuff as we were to ours. But, firstly, it doesn't seem to constitute the same lingua franca that pop music did for us and, secondly, it's not their fault it's not as good.
It's not Brahms' fault he wasn't as good as Beethoven, which is something he very much regretted, but he had to do his best in that shadow. It's nobody's fault now that they can't do what Bowie did. Suede have made a bold attempt and done well but you can't uninvent what went before and then re-do it as if you thought of it.
That old trick has been round the block a few times now. Perhaps for me the last time all the riffs and attitudes were re-cycled to genuinely exciting effect was in The Jesus & Mary Chain, which is not to say I haven't bought an album since.
So, it's gratifying to see this prejudice given a bit more support, if and when it does, which it did in a book review in The Observer yesterday. Neil Spencer, if it is the Neil Spencer I think it is, is older than me and so not a reliable witness and his status as ex-NME man doesn't give him that much more kudos in my book, but, he writes,
As pop music's grip on young lives has weakened, along with its creative pulse and commercial clout...

I'm not going to claim that is Quod Erat Demonstrandum and rest my case but it is a subordinate clause that succinctly expresses a view that we all secretly know has some truth in it. It is a long time now since anything like as revolution occurred in pop music along the lines of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Glam Rock, Punk Rock and then, I suppose, hip-hop, which I was happy to pick from, from Grandmaster Flash to The Fugees. But whereas pop would regenerate every five years, or ten, it doesn't seem to be doing it now and doesn't look likely to do it again soon.
In line with a number of set-piece arguments I've signed up to here in recent months, it is due to commodification, orthodoxy, marketing, capitalist realism and institutionalisation. I'm no more a fan of the cultural theorists who make play with such phrases as I am of the Simon Cowell's and suchlike who seem to have pasteurised pop music into mere product but their critique has a point.
Perhaps Brian Epstein did the same thing with The Monkees, or whichever band it was that he promoted, but at least they were any good.
It's a shame that the quote I have is from Neil Spencer. It would look better coming from Pete Waterman, or even Harry Styles, admitting, yes it's all over but we were still flogging the dead horse. The bored irony of The Pet Shop Boys captured it beautifully but that was 30 years ago. And it's still happening.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

I'm interested in this point of view.
Oh, Babe, what would you say.
A few of my regular readers here will know that in the 1990's, I did a bit of bike riding, specializing in quite long distances, like 217.888 miles in 12 Hours. That wasn't particularly good but I have never got more enjoyment out of any other thing I ever did that my talents might have suited me better for.
During those days and since, not only Lance Armstrong but almost the whole sport of cycling were brought into almost catastrophic disrepute on account of drug-taking although professional cycling never suffered as an industry. Lance eventually came up with the defence  that cheating is gaining an unfair advantage and, since everybody else in the Tour de France was taking drugs, it wasn't unfair that he did. You can take that argument or leave it but I suspect Lance paid his lawyer a lot of money to think of it rather than think it up himself.
None of my performances on a bicycle ever prompted anybody to suggest I was taking Performance Enhancing Drugs but there was always a sinister suspicion that somehow cycling was a cheating sport but I know because I was there that you couldn't wish to meet more honest, genuine and wonderful people than Janet Tebbutt, Andy Cook or Gwen Shillaker, to name but those three. They were massive heroes of mine that it was a privilege to ride in the same event as.
So, now it is paradoxically both sad and hilarious that it has suddenly occurred to the Athletics community that there might be lots of dodgy stuff going on in their sport, never mind Ben Johnson, the old East Germany or the debates about what actually constitutes a girl or a boy. That last one was never a problem for cycling when Beryl Burton was better than all the available blokes anyway.
I'm about as confident in Mo Farah as I am in Chris Froome, which is quite a high percentage of confidence while not being 100%.
So, let's hope that electing a devout Tory like Seb Coe is the answer to all their problems. It's probably needless to say that Steve Ovett was the one I liked. Complete class act, Ovett was, and not a prat like the other two.
But finally, this is the point. How much pop music would have to be disqualified if it was shown to have been enhanced, or at least done, under the influence of drugs.

Well, suddenly, once we've banned all of that, the picture becomes a bit clearer. So, really, the only legal pop music was Cliff, Cilla, Sugar, Sugar and, obviously, Pass the Dutchie from the left hand side by Musical Youth.
It really is great to be using the interweb again to offer my thoughts to the world.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

What a week it's been. Virtually written off as a week I'll never get back as a result of the spam e-mail being sent from my hi-jacked address. I'd be grateful if you'd consider accepting my apologies if you've been a recipient of any of them. They won't necessarily have been in my name but they will have originated from my address.
I'm grateful to those who understood about it, and I'm surprised at how many it has happened to before me; I can only apologize and continue to explain that it's not my fault to those who were troubled by it and I can only feel sorry for those who didn't even realize and replied to me, not understanding what it was about, but thinking they were replying to the name that appeared in their inbox.
I do feel degraded and sullied by the experience and it's not often I feel like that. I can only hope the perpetrators get some satisfaction out of their enterprise because it does no favours for me, those that have been in my address book over the years or those it has progressed onwards to, who are people at least two degrees of separation away from me.
I spent hours on the phone to India, talking to my new best friend, Madhur, who assures me that it will be sorted out after all the scans and wizardry that he did so remotely to solve the problems. Good grief, I thought I'll quite happily give up on the internet, all this vainglorious blogging and e-mail, I have a big pile of books, the wireless and an All Gas & Gaiters DVD, surely that's enough for anybody.
And, also, by the way, the programme for the forthcoming year of Portsmouth Poetry Society is now on the website (see nearby link) and so, if you're in the area, come and see if you enjoy a meeting. Your first visit costs nothing at all and we will be delighted to see you. I've been to a number of the groups in the past and looked at the websites of others and I can promise you there's not another I'd rather go to.
So, let's hope the nightmare is over and I can have my life back.
But more and more apologies in the meantime.
Like any box office attraction, I've looked at the ticket sales for the Poetry Lunch at the Havant Literary Festival. Sales seemed to going well earlier in the week when it said only three tickets were still available.
But now there are six.
I can only assume that three people realized that I was reading there and promptly asked for their money back. But I can assure everyone that it won't be that bad and it will only be a couple of poems from me and everybody else will be lovely and charming. So, roll up, roll up and make the event a sell out. I mean, I've bought a ticket, I'm doing by bit, I don't think Mick Jagger pays to get into Stones gigs.
Our walk this afternoon began in Earnley, it's name was Earnley and was near the slowest seashore in the West. It has a bird sanctuary and I was told by those that know that I saw an egret. I don't know how good that is. But it was slow going on the shingle and one can appreciate how Red Rum won three Grand Nationals by practicing on Southport beach. But it was fresh air and the hugest of fun.
For instance, having been the fourth best in the world at what he did, was Tim Henman a failure.
Well, when you are fourth best in the world at anything you do, please let me know.
And what of Jeremy Corbyn's prospects as Labour leader or Prime Minister. Probably precious little but he struggled to get enough nominations and now, the last time I looked, he was 2/9 favourite to be Labour leader. But at least he will be a Labour leader, if he becomes it, because there's no point winning a General Election to keep the Conservatives out if you only do what they would have done if they had got in.
Oh, it's a lively debating chamber on these walks sometimes. I can hardly believe I actually care enough but then I notice I'm jabbing my finger at the opposition, the opposition who are some of the few best mates I have. Luckily there was some scenery to look at as well.
Meanwhile, back on the camera and the latest in my series of photographs of David Green's books, herewith a picture of the George Eliot section of the library here, which is complete in as far as it now comprises the novels and a biography. There's no point being completist about these things because that's an obsession one can never get to the end of. I haven't even got everything I've done. But I think it's fair to say I love George Eliot. She is admirable, hugely intelligent, makes me laugh more than you might think and I'm very glad I realized in time to collect this little pile of cheap second hand copies.
I don't need pristine collector's item copies of books, it's the words inside that matter and as long as they're not too scruffy and don't fall apart, any such book is welcome here.
ERRATA. Stuart Paterson wrote to point out some errors in my review of his new book. He's not the least bit upset about what I think about the poems, they are fine. But he hasn't returned to Ayrshire, he has gone back to Scotland and lives in Galloway. Some of my other observations were astray. The poem, John's Christmas, was not included in this book because it doesn't fit with the rest of the book for perfectly good reasons. It was not left out due to any lapse in editorial judgement and will be in a longer, forthcoming volume in due course. I won't be the only one looking forward to that.
But I'll be leaving my review as it is. I like mistakes, like when Larkin saw a tomb in Chichester Cathedral and then went home and wrote An Arundel Tomb.
That'll do.   

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Stuart A. Paterson, Border Lines

Stuart A. Paterson, Border Lines (Indigo Pamphlets)

Stuart Paterson has adopted a radical approach to the 'difficult second album' syndrome. He's left a gap of 18 years between his first collection and the second and, to all those artists who ever made a disappointing second album, it works.
Stuart's been away, you see, down in that there England much of the time but, now back in his native Ayrshire, has provided the long, long awaited follow up to his excellent debut, Saving Graces. I had looked forward to the next book for so long that eventually even I had all but forgotten that there might be more to come.
Not much has changed. These are very recognizably poems by the same poet, so much so that one is actually a new, slightly altered  version of a poem that appeared in the first book. So, these are not all recent poems produced in a new, homecoming burst of creative energy. There are one or two others I recognize from the 1990's and so I have to express a slight regret that the tremendous John's Christmas, 1992 that I still have here in typescript is not among them. Perhaps it was considered too dark to be put alongside these poems or maybe it missed the cut. Stuart wouldn't be the first poet to have left out a piece that I particularly admired.
It is entirely a good thing that these poems haven't moved on much from the earlier book. That first set had all the accomplishment, understated panache, sanity and good humour that make this sort of poetry very much the way that some of us would like to see British poetry go. There is no need for overly-ambitious syntax, linguistsic pyrotechnics or arch cleverness, Mr. Paterson is well capable of doing all that is necessary within the compass of an honest, clear poetry that is casually formal but neither over-dressed or under-cooked.
The 24 poems are easily read at a sitting and that is probably the best way to do it at first. It might seem a slight book, and thus a 'pamphlet', compared to many one sees but, as one who generally produces a booklet of 14 poems or so no more than every four years, it isn't for me to say it is thin and I'd rather have 24 good poems than 24 good poems spread among 60. Ideally, there should be no need of a Selected Poems, the selection should have been done before the poems saw print. So, although the book reads well taken as a whole, and is something I rarely do with longer books, one returns to specific favourites or highlights on further reading. The first of those, for me, is Barnhourie, in which,
every darkness keeps a little light,
which shows Stuart's natural optimism, or positive demeanour, in these poems because many poets, whether now or in the past, are often keen to find the darkness in any light.
Skylines is a good idea beautifully expressed, tangentially suggesting the creative process and how he might leave the poem for others to write. Spate treats time, space and size in a disarmingly accessible way that Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Quantum Physics have never been able to. Passing Through ends memorably with,
past & futures caught
between that final, tiny sunburst
& the long beyond of doubt.   

But just in case this looks like an inside job and anybody thinks Stuart is my mate, that's not quite so. We once had a mutual acquaintance and only ever exchanged a few letters all those years ago. It would be quite possible for us to have taken part in the same pub quiz and neither of us would have realized. Although how many he has been to in Portsmouth, or how many I've done in Kilmarnock, is a moot point.
But, just to prove it, I'll express a reservation about ships 'hoving' into view, which looks like an unreconstructed cliche to me but might well look like completely appropriate use of the verb to anybody else. I might also express some envy at the way that Irish poets, and Scots like Stuart, can use place names that are poetry in themselves. Never mind Michael Longley's Carrigskeewaun or some of Stuart's place names here, if you live in the minor conurbation of Gosport, Fareham, Portsmouth and Havant then you don't have such ready-made, evocative words to play with. And, furthermore, we don't want a referendum of our own because we're glad to have you but, by all means, each to their own.
But there are a lot of books of new poetry that really don't get me interested enough to even read. I knew I wanted to read this one and I was not disappointed. The obvious thing to say is that I hope it's not 18 years until the next one and so I won't say that, but I'll enjoy returning to this.

Loyset Compere/Orlando Consort

Loyset Compere, Magnificat, Motets and Chansons (Hyperion)

Loyset Compere might not be considered the very greatest of Renaissance composers now but in his day he was worthy of being mentioned in literally the same breath as his finest contemporaries in Josquin's lament on the death of Ockeghem,
Accoutrez vouus d'habits de deuil:
Josquin, Brumel, Pierson, Compere,

(Clothe yourself in deepest mourning,
Josquin, Brumel, Pierre de la Rue, Compere)

His music is still heard nearly 600 years after his time, too, and that must be regarded as a success.
Having not enjoyed the Orlando Consort's last disc, The Dart of Love, chansons by Machaut, as much as I'd hoped, it might have been a bit of a risk to immediately get the next one but Compere does the things one had hoped of Machaut and, anyway, the continual ordering of discs like these seems to be a habit I can't break.
The opening Magnificat is a major and glorious thing conjured from the four parts, each part of equal value but, in our age at least, one can't help but follow the top line of the counter tenor, here Matthew Venner, as it travels the celestial sphere pictured on the rather taking cover.
After the motet we are led straight into the chansons, which are a further instalment of the endless poetry of destitute anguish suffered by the love-struck poets of the C15th. In those days there was either a never-ending supply of ravishingly beautiful women or a cult for this genre of heart-broken complaint at the fate of the distracted lover. I suspect there wasn't always an object of admiration but a fashion for this forlorn heartache that poets could cater for in well-practiced hyperbole.
Mes pensees ne me lessent une heure is nearly 12 minutes of intricacy that could happily wind on for as many hours as it takes such interminable grief to be assuaged. It convinces completely with its elaborate explication of such beautiful pain, the sheer length it goes to. Une plaisant fillette ung matin se leva is somewhat bawdier in content, not necessarily observing all the expectations of C21st gender politics but the economically told tale is still as pertinent today when a delightful girl happens upon a man at arms.
The notes provide some background to Loyset Compere, the most useful to me being that his first name has three syllables, thus Lo-y-set, but it comes too late for me as I will always call him Loy-set. The big news, though, and I'm surprised it wasn't headlines in all the newspapers, is that recent research now puts Josquin's date of birth at least 10 years later than 1440, which it had been set at. I'm glad I know that.
It's unlikely that anything will ever replace the Deploration sur la mort de Johannes Ockeghem, quoted above as my very favourite piece from this period but if the notes tell why Compere is not quite admired alongside Josquin for technical reasons, this disc is one that represents the period very well. My next project is to line up these composers on my shelves in chronological order so that I might appreciate who owed what to who else. It remains a glorious period, though, and I owe much to the concert by the Ensemble Clement Jannequin in Portsmouth Cathedral some 25 years ago or more and albums like The Castle of Fair Welcome by Gothic Voices. If not for them, I might still think of Monteverdi as Early Music, which is a bit like thinking Manchester is in the North.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Havant Literary Festival Poetry Day

If you click on this it will be easier to read.

Probably it's safer for me, at my age, to take part in the Poetry Lunch than appear with Spliff Richards and Merlynda the Monster Poet. But I wish them well in their endeavours.

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

About 20 years ago or more, it didn't cause much of a stir when I remarked to a few people that I didn't reckon much to Sgt. Pepper, which in those days used to be no.1 in many lists of Best Album of All Time.
My mate bought it to play in the car on the strength of that recommendation and I said something not quite as witty as,
This isn't the best album in the world. It isn't even the best album in the Beatles.

It has been considered newsworthy now that Keith Richards has said it is 'rubbish', however. That is going a bit far but he does augment this bare premise with the argument that it is a 'mish-mash', which it is although that doesn't necessarily mean it's no good.
Those lists of best albums are usually voted for by a panel of experts, like Charles Shaar Murray and Pete Waterman, who we are led to believe should know. They are the sort of people who think it's okay to say, 'the production on this album is amazing' and I did once hear someone say that before Gerald the gorilla said it on Not the Nine O'Clock News. Sgt. Pepper was a step forward in the use of the recording studio, then, but that led to much that was to be regretted as well as much to be grateful for.
But Keef's little jibe was only part of a bigger interview in Esquire rather than a direct insult to The Beatles. I personally agree with him, it's just a shame for me that his opinion catching up with mine after so long is regarded as interesting.
But we should all be careful of making any kind of derogatory remark for fear of upsetting anyone. Some consternation has been caused in poetry internet places (and thus not been noticed by most of the population) by Sean O'Brien's review of Jack Underwood's Happiness in The Guardian.
Among other things it says,
The cartoon detail, combined with a tone at once demonstrative and short of affect, mark a kind of indie house style that can be read (and perhaps more significantly, heard) almost anywhere at present. It’s not so much faux-naive as faux-urbane, emotion turning into attitude, defensive for all its apparent self-exposure.
(Does Sean mean 'effect' there, is it a Grauniad error or is it me presuming to anticipate the critic's intention.)
I don't know if it's true or not but I'm happy to take Sean's word for it until I can judge for myself. When I first saw Underwood's name I was afraid that C.J. Underwood, an odd little lad who used to turn up professing all kinds of inanity on the interweb, and so avoided it. Sean finds plenty of polite things to say about Underwood's debut book and so nobody should be getting too upset about what he is probably really expressing, which is a generation gap.
It's not that easy to be impressed by kids, the next generation or two below you or upstarts whose fashions and tastes have moved on from when your own were formed. I'm sure that much of the pop music being made in 2015 is fine for the audience it is meant for but it's not meant for me and I'm not all that interested in it.
This might well sound fogeyish, myopic and snooty but there is something in it. We, by which I can only be sure of meaning I, admire the things that were there when we first found poetry, music and anything else that is of importance in the world. That's not our fault but they were the things from which we took our cue. For me it became increasingly odd that John Peel held onto his godfather of indie status for so long because a man in late middle age still enthusing about records made by teenagers didn't quite seem right. Although, of course, as long as he was enjoying it, why shouldn't he.
The other thing that Sean's review reveals is the almost disabling knowingness about all aspects of poetry, and literature, now that every angle of it is discussed and deconstructed. It's not only in the reviewer but already in the poet and in the poems. There are so many things poetry needs to avoid doing, so many available lists of do's and don'ts. I mean, oh dear, it should be the last thing we need a rule book for. It makes it very hard to write a poem, harder to convince oneself you've done it properly and virtually impossible to send off to a magazine in case the editors and perhaps subsequently the readers fall about laughing at some inadvertent style faux pas. 
If only we could, we should just put on our red shoes and dance.
And so, this self-consciousness, this inertia is not leading to a wonderland of new and exciting literature, the vibrant, diverse renaissance in which we always dreamed we would be set free, it's locked into website point-scoring and holier than thou aesthetics, an esoteric correctness forever just beyond our grasp. Which might be why this year is beginning to look like one in which I won't read a new novel. There are still poets to admire, some of them a bit younger than me but not actually 'young', but no new novel has come to my notice that makes me feel anything like reading it. And that is why this week all the remaining George Eliot titles that I need are arriving by post but I won't read any of them until I've read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte's account of 'a charming young man's gradual degradation through drink and debauchery' based on the life of her brother, Branwell. What could be more suitable summer reading than that. I wish it would arrive soon.
Meanwhile, also impatiently awaited and to be reviewed here as soon as I possibly can, are new poems by Stuart A. Paterson and a disc of music by Loyset Compere.
You can't afford to stay away for long.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Anyone Who Had a Heart


It's turning into a whirlwind year of poetry readings for me. I don't know if I've ever appeared in public twice in the same year.
But I'll be at the Poetry Lunch on Sat Sept. 12th as part of the Havant Literary Festival and treat the gathering to a couple of items.