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.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Christmas Nap

It's gradually becoming clearer what will run where in the big races, with Ireland especially having mid-season prizes for all the big guns to play for.
We can expect Min and Nichols Canyon to win at odds on. I'll probably suggest Vroum Vroum Mag might be worth a go against Yanworth over Kempton's two miles but much of the programme will be best watched rather than fall victim to all the temptations to plunge in.
If the King George comes down to a jumping contest, one might not want to rely on Thistlecrack outjumping Cue Card. I don't want to choose between Valseur Lido and Djakadam in the Lexus. Many will be of the opinion that Bapaume can improve past Landofhopeandglory and there's Vicente lurking in the Welsh National betting at 16/1 asking to be backed each way.
It's wise to sit tight while it's all still ante-post and wait until we can have non-runner, no bet. But I will suggest that Frodon (Kempton, Boxing Day, 2.05) is one of the best novice jumpers, qua jumping, for a long time and currently quoted at 3/1, I'll have that all day to beat his stablemate Present Man who surely hasn't been in with quite the same level of opposition. That's the nap.

If The Professor comes through with his value recommendation, I'll let you know but I must point out that it isn't me that's responsible for it.
 --
And that was him, coming down the line as clear as a bell just now. He goes Vroum Vroum on Boxing Day, too, and when we agree we are unstoppable. 

 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Best CD and Best Event 2016

There is unfinished business held over from last week on these important matters.

There is still one disc on its way but it's hard luck on Venezia 1700 by Thibault Noally because I have a hard enough job on my hands already.
How to go about deciding is the first step. We need to weed a few out. I can console the Couperin disc with the thought that it probably would have won did I not have a recording of it already but, as a disc, it is very unforgiving to mark it down for interrupting the choral glories with less spectacular instrumental interludes. The Mozart is very fine indeed but similar strictures can be applied in that more soloists and less choir would have made it better. The Abrahamsen is the most 'extreme', which is no mark against it, but might not be the choice if one could only keep one disc and had to lose the rest. Which leaves the marvellous account of Telemann that I can't really find any such ultra-critical fault with except that it is not a wonderful cello concerto by a composer of my generation, later augmented with a spectral vision of Purcell rising out of a Berlin-period David Bowie piece.
There are pieces in the middle of Errolyn Wallen's Photography that didn't do as much for me. There would have been ways of arguing the case for any of these five discs but Errolyn's is the last to be thrown over the side of my balloon.
--
I have already dismissed Prof Sir Stanley Wells and those from the world of Shakespeare Studies for their cursory denigration of the Curtis-Green letter in the TLS. We remain interested in hearing from any of them if and when they come up with a reason why Hamnet Sadler could not have been father of Shakespeare's twins.
Meanwhile, how does one compare a great day at the races with a Monteverdi opera.
Namanja Radulovic put in an impressive late bid with his Khachaturian Violin Concerto.
It has to be a completely arbitrary decision.
The one that made me feel best, and helped a great deal towards another record profit for me vs. the bookmakers, notwithstanding that Cheltenham racecourse on a fine day is some way ahead of what Wordsworth said about being on Westminster Bridge, it's Cheltenham's April Meeting, and thanks to Nigel for taking us there and Richard Johnson for riding Fox Norton to the win that tied so many bets together in the novice chase..
--
So, a new record profit, a profit for the Saturday Nap feature and, I'm surprised to find, more posts here than in any other year (which wasn't supposed to happen), as well as plenty of evidence in the award winnersto suggest it was a good year. Strange to reflect, then, what a godawful large affair and very bad year 2016 was for the 'liberal intelligentsia' that I'm allegedly one of. Bowie and Prince were shocking news items before the Referendum and Trump but what can you do.
As well as the Venezia disc, there are Delmore Schwartz, poems by Charlotte Newman, commentary by Stephen Burt on contemporary American poems and my introduction to the Avant Garde for Portsmouth Poetry Society to look forward to in the New Year. And then later, the third volume of Danny Baker's memoirs as well as the very long-awaited Selected Poems of Thom Gunn in which I hope Clive Wilmer will have done some annotating to make the wait worthwhile.
If that wasn't enough to look forward to, the novel Time After Time should be finished in its one-off draft by the Spring, to be read by only the very select few who both want to read it and I decide are allowed to, as well as, I hope, some pop songs I've had a hand in writing.
There should be no need to revert to the stand-by of the My Life in Sport series, which still has running, chess, pool and darts and possibly even my brief career in gaelic football  to recount but that sporting memoir is always waiting to be completed.
Thus, it only remains for the Christmas Nap to be posted later this week and that will have been that for another year.
Best Wishes to Everyone.
Keep the Faith.
It'll Never Be Over For Me.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Today's Times Crossword Solution

Probably the hardest crossword I've ever finished and I would never have done it without the Wordfinder.

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Saturday Nap

Following the successful  two-pronged attack last weekend, the project is now £20 in front to a level £10 stake at the early/guaranteed prices I took and so, with two weeks to go, can't lose. Whatever wins from now on is the profit. At starting prices, however, it is £8.66 down which just goes to show that SP is daylight robbery.
So, whereas we could go for a big punt, it would be nice to win at SP, too, and so the nap is Top Notch (Ascot 1.15).
Those in adventurous mood can join me in a yankee and take on some favourites with Ptit Zig (Ascot 2.25), Le Mercurey (3.00) and Tearsofclewbay (Haydock 2.05). Although I have done Colin's Sister, favourite in the Haydock race, in a double with Top Notch, too.

I will be back to add the considered opinion of much-vaunted local tipster, The Professor, who has done well this week, once he's sobered up from his Christmas outing last night.
--

And here he is on the wire right now,

Indian Brave 12.05 Newcastle . 

He likes second favourites, does The Professor.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Best Poem and Best Collection 2016

I'm very happy to announce what were the Best Poem and Best Collection I saw this year. Those decisions turned out to be very easy to make in the end when at first they had seemed impossible.
It's those subsidiary categories that are giving me so much trouble.
It takes no time at all to announce Graham Swift as the best novel of the year for Mothering Sunday, even in a year in which Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan were supposedly in contention. They never really were, not even them.
I would love to make the reaction to the Curtis-Green letter to the TLS on the subject of Shakespeare's twins the Best Event of the Year for its steadfast refusal to provide any reason why this 10 year old but newly published theory could be inadmissable. But the stalwarts of the Birthplace Trust, along with a Professor from Oxford University, were only able to disparage the idea via Twitter rather than apologize in writing for their inability to dismiss it any more convincingly. That doesn't deserve an award, it is only worthy of  approbation and despair at the current state of Shakespeare Studies. The ball remains in their court whenever Mr. Curtis and I decide to play again. So, I can't in all conscience give it to Wells, Edmondson and Smith.
Neither can I decide between at least 5 sensational discs or even set a method by which I could decide. If I make it that I must say which I would keep if I had to throw the others away, I might have to discard the Couperin in order to keep Errolyn Wallen's Cello Concerto, but it is hardly their fault that I have several other versions of the Lecons de Tenebres.
It is, however, a problem with that disc that the Couperin is interrupted with extraneous sonatas. It is as fussy as that when Errolyn's disc ends with her wondrous reinvention of Purcell in the style of  David Bowie in his Berlin period. And that's betting without the Telemann or Mozart. I just need to give the decisions more time to emerge.
But they did emerge very clearly in some furthrer reading of the poetry shortlists.
Pastoral by Helen Farish was definitely the best new poem I saw this year.
And if the rest of her collection that it came from had all been as perfect as that, it would have been beyond belief. There is no such poet that would write poems like that all the time.
It took a long time to decide between Helen's book, for including a couple of sensational poems; Ian Duhig, who has to do no more than be Ian Duhig to make any such shortlist, and Bernard O'Donoghue, whose collection one wouldn't ever want to put down except that it might just be too relaxing, not quite jumping up and arresting the reader poem and poem. Which is exactly what Judy Brown does in Crowd Sensations. 
I don't know now why there was ever any question about it, it is a thrillingly good book, deep and rich time and again. Only her second book, when the first was very good, too, I no longer think we should be looking to the likes of Paul Muldoon for invention and wizardry- that might have had its day- Judy Brown is attaching words to experience, densely and with charm. She wins my vote all day long.
   

New Acquisition - Walter Sickert

It all went right on Saturday morning when the heroic postman delivered three packages that, had they arrived on any other day, at least one would have had to have been re-arranged. It is now time to stop placing orders for books, discs and even artwork for the year. I don't mind the cost, it's the house room, it's the worrying about delivery and its having the time to do them justice and appreciate them fully.
A picture gets more attention than a book or music in the long run because it will be there long after the others have been filed away. Walter Sickert's Brighton Pierrots looks great in its new frame in the front room while Vermeer's Street in Delft has made way for it by moving over into a corner opposite. I wanted Brighton Pierrots as soon as I saw it in the Ashmolean a few years ago but however many novice hurdles they run at Wincanton and Plumpton, I thought I'd never be able to afford it, nor could I find a print of it available anywhere on the whole of the internet.
But one never stops trying. After all these years, I am still in search of a track called Breaking the Rules by Racing Cars, broadcast in a Peel Session. I will find it one day. Last week I found Brighton Pierrots.
On opening it, I was dismayed by the quality of the poster. At close quarters, the colours looked wrong, the print looked vague and I thought I'd blown it on some cheapjack operation. But I think it's fine. Seen from six feet or six yards away it is better than from six inches and such, I suppose, is Sickert's brush work.
The composition is in two halves, the pillar supporting the stage roof divides the canvas into a close up left side of the stage and the long perspectives onto Brighton seafront on the right. The point of view is from the side of the stage, skewed as Sickert often does decide to see things from non-obvious angles, and we see the sunset, the empty deck chairs in front of this colourful vaudeville act whose fading glamour looks a bit desperate. What a sensational painting. It owes a debt to Impressionism, of course, but we don't let France have it all their own way if we can help it.
So Vermeer is now not relegated by given a rest between Lips & Bananas and Dave Brimage's Rainy Night, both of which are the original. Below Rainy Night are two small black and white photographs of Prague and below that my so-far thriving cyclamen, which is the most gorgeous colour of any of them.
But, to complete this tour of my front room art collection, we must not leave out Gwen John who has occupied that quiet corner demurely but much loved for so many years. All I really want now is a bit of outrageous passion or unrestrained flamboyance from Maggi Hambling to fill a remaining space, to the right of Lips & Bananas and it simply won't need anything else.


--
But the bingeing on these tremendous luxuries must be curtailed. The more one has, the less one appreciates each item. With thirty discs of Buxtehude to listen to, the purchase of Dvorak's Complete Symphoies is put on hold. One last book order was placed over the weekend to augment Delmore Schwartz over Christmas and one more disc of solo baroque violin music is on its way. And then there must be a moritorium. It's not as if I need to go looking out for new things to buy but it's difficult to read reviews wityhout feeling a compulsive need to have them. I don't know what it would have been like if I could have afforded everything I wanted in 1971 and didn't just go into HMV to gaze at Electric Warrior whereas now I don't even have the time to decide which version of it to listen to because there's a steady stream of differently crucial material coming through the front door.
It will take until April to finish the books I have lined up, finish writing my own makeshift novel, hear everything of Buxtehude that has come down to us and exercise some restraint. Making a New Year's Resolution is not the sort of thing I'd do but let's see how it goes.

Mozart Mass

Mozart, Great Mass in C minor, Carolyn Sampson, Bach Collegium Japan/Suzuki (Bis)

Record companies would do well not to get their new releases reviewed too far ahead of their release date. This wasn't listed in the usual place when I first wanted to order it and it was only a few weeks later, looking for something to make up an order to post free status, that I remembered it. I'm glad that I did.
This mass, K.427, is dated 1782-3 when Mozart was in his mid twenties and thus an old hand at such profundity. But it is thus nearly ten years ahead of the Requiem. It emerges from shadows to clarity and, especially in Carolyn Sampson's performance is operatic in its tone and energy. It lies somewhere between Bach's B minor mass and The Marriage of Figaro. 
It is some time since I bought a disc of Mozart but there's always a place for one's first love and here is all of that potent mix of the playful jester and poignant romantic. If it is still put about that Romanticism begins when Beethoven moves on from his first two symphonies, which were somehow akin to late Mozart - and such an idea has been put about by me- I might want to point to melancholy paassages here which reach beyond the 'classical'. Genius is usually not just off its time and for all time but ahead of its time, too.
The busy hosannas of the Sanctus are a rousing finale of glorious proportions after the lively Laudamus te and the portentous meditation on 'taking away all our sins'.
Masaaki Suzuki brings his characteristic 'crispness' from Bach and with the lustrous Carolyn, at the top of her brilliant best, makes something of such clarity and compelling grace that the Best Disc of the Year shortlist is extended further before it is possible to come to any decision.
 
 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Saturday Nap on Sunday

I just want to put in an extra one here to set us right before the Christmas finale where we will hope to finesse this little game, probably with Valseur Lido in the Lexus Chase although we will mind our bets there for the time being with Coneygree lurking in the ante post list.
Djakadam (Punchestown 2.00) is not my idea of a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and so this sort of consolation prize, that he won last year, is very much the sort of target he wants to win and Ruby chooses to go to Punchestown to ride him rather than the greater star potential of Douvan at Cork.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Saturday Nap

Today was never going to be a day to get overly involved at Cheltenham. I have now spent this year's profit from betting and so am not inclined to take too many risks and jeopardize the position.
Tomorrow, though, is too good to miss. Defi du Seuil and Domperignon du Lys are both horses I want on my side so I won't be picking between them in the first. I'm never quite sure about My Tent or Yours, or The New One these days, so the International Hurdle will be another to sit out. But Different Gravy (12.50) is one not to miss and the better price of Wholestone (2.25) makes him a confident nap.
Midnight Tour in the last is one to either play up some profit or attempt to make amends with.

BSO/Nemanja Radulovic

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Karabits, Nemanja Radulovic, Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky, Karayev, Portsmouth Guildhall, Dec 8th.

One can become suspicious of the photogenic artist in case they think they can distract us from any shortfall in talent by their striking appearance. Nemanja Radulovic at first bore comparison with Prince but it was soon apparent that the parallel could be carried forward to a similar level of virtuosity and not remain a merely visual reference.
The title of last night's concert, Fireworks from Armenia, gave us expectations of excitement and bravura, knowing Khachaturian from the extravagant orchestration of Spartacus and the hell-bent explosions of Sabre Dance. The Violin Concerto did nothing to dispel any of that except that it was the andante second movement that impressed beyond the pyrotechnics with its sostenuto reaching lyrical, emotional places that no amount of rapid technique can conjure.
Radulovic communicated openly and happily with the orchestra and conductor in a compelling performance of an excellent, perhaps insufficiently known, piece of the repertoire which would be ordered on disc already were it not for the welter burden of Buxtehude already on its way here. One simply can't keep buying more music when there are only so many hours to listen to it.
I wasn't quite at my best on a day when I'd had a setback in the morning but the concerto and its rapturous reception did much to restore me.
Tchaikovsky's Suite no.3 is very 'orchestral', sharing the theme through out the sections, including an attractive passage for woodwind. Leader, Amyn Merchant, had a prominent part with an extended solo part and the rousing finale, which built once before subsiding only to return even more grandly, gave the percussionists opportunity to bash and bang in a piece that delivered considerably more than might have been expected.
Russian, and Armenian, folk tunes echoed throughout the programme with traces of something like the Volga Boat Song to be heard in the themes from the all-too-short Seven Beauties Waltz by Kara Karayev onwards.
As usual, the Bournemouth put on an impressive show and in Nemanja Radulovic there is another sublime musician to look out for. You can't miss him.
 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Let Joy be Unconfined

I don't have big ambitions but that doesn't mean there aren't minor things to try to achieve.

On Sunday the novel, Time After Time, reached halfway, as chapter 5 was finished in the unrevised first draft that it is only ever going to exist in, which is 25000 words towards the 50000 and, as it happened, it reached a point comparable to Hamlet's decision to act if I may make any such a parallel between one of the greatest works in Eng Lit and one of the worst. So that project is on course and likely to be completed in the Spring.

Another aspiration was to win enough from my turf investments to pay for Ton Koopman's Complete Works of Buxtehude. Its 29 CD'S and DVD are a luxury purchase and one I wanted to earn rather than just pay for.
Today's win by One Sixty, in a handicap hurdle at Leicester, by a head, was as routine as it gets, at 3/1. But it led me to review the current state of my advantage over the bookmakers for 2016 and compare it to the lowest price that the Buxtehude was available for. And, because the gods were on my side, there was one offer much lower than the general going rate so I made all haste to snap it up.

There are two more discs already on their way with every chance of being added to the superlative shortlist for this year's Best CD but this release was from 2014 so it won't be a candidate for that. It might be some time before anything appears on here about it either but it comes with a great sense of achievement, having bought a painting from the profits in September when it seemed this monumental purchase was too much to hope for.
There is another picture in the way, too, in what seems an orgy of winter spending that has even extended to £1.75 for a cyclamen plant that, for reasons I can't say quite why, needed to be bought on Saturday morning.
But it's a big Hallelujah and thanks to all the horses that ran fast enough to persuade Paddy Power to so generously stump up for a Christmas present that is just what I always wanted.
   

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Every Trick in the Book


Every Trick in the Book


It might start out one misty morning
with a highwayman on horseback
emerging on a lonely road.
His dark eyes flash beneath his hat
and, for good measure, if you will,
he wears a mask as expected.
What a liberty, the scoundrel
never gets his true comeuppance
but leaves his crestfallen victims
by the roadside tied up with their
own apparel.
                    His mistresses
in York and London do not know
he doesn’t love them but he is
heir to a fortune not in need
of all the bounty that he loots
from passing traffic, he’s only
in it for the devil in him
treats it as cheap entertainment.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Post Serious

I was quite pleased recently to be told that I am 'a bit outside the norm of poetry commentary in this country'. I hope my correspondent doesn't mind being quoted. I'm sure we all like to think we are not the usual run-of-the-mill, poets perhaps more than most, and it becomes more difficult to say what constitutes the normal as soon as one identifies everyone as individual. But I was glad not to be it and immediately developed the idea of the 'post-serious'.
In the year that the Oxford dictionaries cited 'post-truth' as their word of the year, I'd like to be among the first of the expected spate of new 'post-' usages. I don't think Donald Trump is by any means the first to be 'post-truth' in his particular skewed presentation of the world but he seems to be the one to have given it a name.

Post-Serious would regard self-regard as a bad thing but not let that, as here, prevent us from being guilty of it ourselves. It is certainly not a manifesto and would regard them as one of the many things we want to avoid, swerve, fly by or, if we must, rise above. In terms of poetry commentary, it is a matter of avoiding being too precious, or too serious. By all means poetry, to many of us, is a precious thing and it can be taken seriously but it is a shame to see how earnestly some reviewers strive to say the most profound, insightful and often almost meaningless things about it. I'd prefer to say less rather than try too hard. As has been said in various ways before, if the thing could be described properly there would be no point in writing it. The poem is the thing, as soon as you start trying to say something in appreciation of it, you reduce it.
The Post-Serious is about enjoyment rather than study, about pleasure rather than righteousness, about thrills rather than virtue. It doesn't aspire to anything. It is amoral without being immoral, it has no ambition, it doesn't even want to improve anything.
In pop music, the Post-Serious likes nothing better than records like Sugar,Sugar, Wig Wam Bam, Barbados and the complete works of Abba and is suspicious of Dire Straits, The Doors, anything that attracts devoted audiences who want to discuss it and it knows that Queen are awful.
In classical music, it accepts the light touch of Boccherini or Donizetti, the glorious Water Music or Eine Kleine Nachtmusik  and generally only gives Wagner and Bruckner as much attention as they need.
But it doesn't want to prove anything. Like the Monkees, it's just trying to be friendly and doesn't really want to put anybody down. There is no centre, just the idea of such a thing, and so there is no reason to try to distance oneself from it. The Post-Serious is very happy to be 'mainstream' in order to distance itself from those who distance themselves from it.
As it once said at the top of this website, I didn't want to be a blogger but with a face that suited me for radio and a voice that suited me for the internet, that is what I inevitably became. As an amateur poet, I prefer a good review to book sales because it is art for art's sake. The same thing applies to this ongoing enterprise. That is a seriously Post-Serious attitude.

The Saturday Nap

Last season, at an earlier stage than where we are now, Graham Cunningham said on Channel 4 that it's every Saturday from now until Christmas. Tomorrow is one of those Saturdays, in the thick of it, with four jump meetings full of possibilities and pitfalls. Readily, and quite possibly unwisely, I'll give it a go because when I think of all the books I could have read, or even written, while the horse racing was on, I'll take the post-serious (see above) view that I'm glad I didn't.
One look through Sandown's card made me think it won't be there that we re-invest this week's profit so far. I don't want to be jumping out of a high window if Altior unthinkable gets beaten; I'll happily oppose Un de Sceaux in the Tingle Creek but having had Sire de Grucy's unforeseen return to form rob me blind the other week, I'd rather sit it out. I hope Fingal Bay gets back to the winner's enclosure somewhere but I'm not sure it will be this time. Nicky Henderson has won the novice hurdle on this card for the last seven years which makes it difficult to back Cruiseaway without worrying all day about what Bardd might do. But then the last makes me wonder if I dare put this project almost to bed by tipping a 4/1 winner. One's eyes light up at the thought of what various balance sheets might look like.
Sandown tomorrow is one of the landmark meetings in the calendar which makes one wonder why Barry Geraghty and Richard Johnson are elsewhere. Big races usually feature the top jockeys.
Is Dickie Johnson going to Chepstow to ride Lamb or Cod because they are aiming him at the Welsh National. I hope so. I hope he's not going for Rebecca Curtis' benefit to ride Geordie des Champs because I'll probably include Touch Kick (1.40) in the multiple bet(s).
Geraghty's at Aintree for reasons that will become apparent. I don't know if he'd ever been to Catterick before this week but it was unlikely he would go for the sake of it and so his only ride was worth backing and helped towards the treble that made me glad enough to be alive. It might not be Minotaur (1.00) that he's primarily there for but then again it just might and that looks a confident shout and, on any other day, a sound nap selection.
At Wetherby, Apterix (2.50) is another that won't be a 'working man's price' but some shrewd working men put two or three such things together to be multiplied up and find they are much likelier to win by doing that than trying to find a 10/1 winner.
But, it's sport, isn't it. One's heart bleeds for the poor bookmakers in a market so competitive that the thoughtful backer has it all ways with guaranteed best price, the exchanges and SP announced on ticker tape at the bottom of the screen during the race to show that the favourite has gone off at 2/1 and won't be returned at 7/4 if it wins and 9/4 if it gets beaten.
So Minotaur or Apterix would both be sensible be sensible naps in the style of Peter O'Sullivan in the Daily Express, the only thing that dreadful paper was worth buying for apart from The Gambols, whose best bet was regarded by me in the 1970's and early 80's as something approaching scripture.
But, let's put our betting boots on and go for Doing Fine (Sandown 3.30) because we like Neil Mulholland very much and his winning run hasn't stopped and we like Noel Fehily a lot as well and we like 4/1 as much as we like either of them.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Live from the Chess in New York

via the internet, and the comfort of my old computer seat, of course.

It looks like Chess24 has crashed under the weight of its own fineness but I'm on Susan Polgar's site where you can still see it.

I thought Magnus had the first game there but, as ever, what it looks like to me is not what is and apparently all the computer programmes said it was dead level.

I'll be explaining the new idea of 'post-serious' here soon enough, my own amalgam of attitudes that follows on from 'post-truth' much more enjoyably and less sinister than that Trump tenet.

But here's an example of it. 5 winners from 5 horses, as usual, in the early part of the week. World Chess on the internet, a few tins of lager and the rest of the wine I couldn't find room for the other night, play Happy from Exile on Main Street and know that you've got the Best Collection of poems finally decided.

There is no need to go anywhere.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Poet, Job Title and Description

One might have thought that the weblog would turn out to be a recepticle for the unconsidered utterances of those not worthy of publication elsewhere. The ramblings of mad men, the cliches and non-sequiturs of any old misfit. I'm sure it is in places but I only find what I generally find using Clarissa Aykroyd's index of sites on her list at The Stone and the Star and she iis a good judge in the main.
Today, though, I was particularly impressed by some well-chosen words by Andy Humphrey at The Poet's Soapbox on Five Words that Poets Hate, which climaxes with 'poetry'.
This is by no means the first time I've raised the subject here but I'm encouraged to reprise the theme because however much it seems a major point to me - and what a luxury it is to have such an esooteric consideration as a pressing issue- things are ne'er so well expressed as when somebody else puts it better for you. There's a lot to like about Andy's attitudes elsewhere among his posts but whoever it was that replied to his survey, they have quite independently from me arrived at the same devoutly held belief.
The Poet's Soapbox, Five Words that Poets Hate

They do not begin, as I do, from the idea that 'poet' is not a proper job but was often in the past and is preferably still, an occasional and amateur enterprise undertaken by people who have other things to do, whether that be dramatist, Collector of Duties of Wool at London Port, Dean of St. Paul's or librarian. Novelist is also a 'proper job' because it takes all day to do it properly. It doesn't take all day every day for several years to produce a 60 page book of poems.
Ben Lerner's recent book, The Hatred of Poetry, came not from dislike of poems themselves but the feeling that poems can never achieve the sublime aims that generate them and that they can only fail. A less specific but wider discontent is how the job description of 'poet' brings with it pre-conceptions, some of it from Romanticism and daffodils if we need to cite an example, that many who write 'poetry' want to have very little to do with.
It's the words and how they are put together into the 'verbal construct' and a poem is no more than a piece of writing in which the author and not the typesetter decides where the lines end.
To come to poetry with any assumption that it is going to be profound, deeply felt, caring, sensitive, intelligent, moral, beautiful, uplifting or worthy is both to invite disappointment and undervalue many pieces of work that are not the slightest bit bothered about any of those pious sentiments. Certainly, many great poems can benefit from one or more of that list of aesthetic qualities but we didn't ought to think that they needed to.
It would be equally pertinent to say that 'poetry' is not by definition a good thing any more than football or dancing are always a guaranteed pleasure but everything has its moments. Thus many bad poems, and there are plenty of those to be found, suffer from the misconception that they are worthwhile because they aspired to, and possibly thought they achieved, one or some of those qualities. But that wouldn't be good enough if that was all the poem had done and had otherwise failed to 'be any good'.
And there's John Foggin, who was down here at Havant last year as a prizewinner at the festival, adding that 'poet is a word he runs from' although he definitely is one. However, there is no point imagining that the job or nomenclature are going to be revised. A poet is still going to be called a poet, like dustbinmen will be dustbinmen and prefer that to being refuse operatives. Poets- some of them idiosyncratic and the last people to want to sign up to any sort of identifiable image- will just have to say, 'yes, but not that sort of poet' and otherwise just sit and suffer. The greatest pity is when it is other poets that don't understand.
It's not easy but, not having remained a pop music fan until the Arctic Monkeys, I am still aware they had an album called Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. Perhaps one should take comfort in that.  

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Today's Times Crossword Solution

With a liitle help from Wordfinder

Friday, 25 November 2016

Chess, etc.

Some might say chess is not a good spectator sport but that will depend on how interested you are.
If you don't read the chess columns in the newspapers it is unlikely you'd know thaat the world championship is on at the moment and has, not quite literally, caught fire as it reaches its climax.
Sergei Karjakin, the pretender, had gone one up after surviving a few maulings from Magnus Carlsen but Carlsen couldn't quite put him away. But, from a position in which Carlsen harried and pursued a small but perceptible advantage, the match was levelled at 5-5, which means one win each really, with two games to go.
My Recommended site is moving from Spark Chess, where I'd reached the 2000 rating after which you need to register to go higher, to the very excellent Chess24, on which you can try out your own moves in the current position and see by how much you can ruin the position for one player or the other in one daft guess. It makes it much more interesting than thinking you can see what to do without realizing quite how far ahead of you they are.
Also, on this site, one can enter tournaments and so I've played six games in an hour or less with time limits of three or five minutes or four minutes with two seconds added per move. My results have been flattering when I've been gifted a couple of games but 4 out of 7, 15th out of 45, LWWLWLW, over 4+2 last night and 4/6, WWLWLW, over 5 the night before were good enough to make me realize already that I ought not to let it become habit forming.
--
The verdicts in the Year's Best categories have become clearer with due consideration but it would be most unfair on Nemanja Radulović to announce any results before his performance of the Khachaturian violin concerto with the BSO because the likely fireworks could be a contender for the Best Event award. He looks a bit like Prince. I'm not expecting him to be inhibited.
--
Meanwhile, the art of writing a good novel is clearly always going to be beyond me but, at 42% of the way towards 50 000 words, I think I will have achieved the ambition of completing one, however abominable it is, sometime in 2017. All that stuff about getting to know your characters, it is true. Whether anybody reading it would do is entirely another matter. 
I knew all along that novelist was a proper job and poet was not.


The Saturday Nap

Blaklion (Newbury 3.10) is tomorrow's nap in good, old-fashioned newspaper tipster style, going for the big race in the hope of a big price that makes it look as if you knew something. We ought to have a foray into a big handicap at least once in this game and they don't come much bigger than the Hennessey.
The scientific reasons for it are that he is a resolute slogger and this race is a slog. He will have been aimed at this prize, as have many of the others, but we can be happy enough with his runs since winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and only hope that that race didn't leave a permanent mark on him. This is something of a date with destiny. I'd rather have him on my side than against me.
There will be a few little yankees to do tomorrow morning but it's not an easy day tomorrow and it's not been a good week trying to look after the 'sitting pretty' position I'd achieved for the year so it'll be time to let the rigours of it all ebb away while Val Doonican entertains us gently on The Good Old Days.

Monday, 21 November 2016

William Trevor

I was saddened to see on the BBC website the news of the death of William Trevor, aged 88.

Having not published anything for a few years, to my knowledge, he had dropped off my radar and would have been in that category of people who might have died without me finding out that they had. I am glad that he was still held in high enough regard to warrant such a mention because he was a big favourite of mine and I read virtually all of his books in the 1980's and some that appeared since.

His short stories were his greatest achievement, along with the novellas like Reading Turgenev, and The Wedding in the Garden, Angels at the Ritz and Mulvihill's Memorial are pieces that come readily to mind for the lives of their downbeat characters, realized with irony that seemed gentle and reserved but could equally be savage in its implications. If it ever looked commonplace, there was something at least seedy, sinister or guilt-ridden not too far below the drab surface. The past, whether in small details or with larger, tragic implications, often hung over the present quite ominously.
Quite deliberately, he inherited something from Dubliners and thus belongs in a lineage that goes back through Joyce, acknowledged in his story, Two More Gallants, to George Moore, Turgenev and Chekhov.

In those days, when Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis were grabbing the attention of a good proportion of readers of the 'literary novel', they weren't grabbing mine. I was reading William Trevor and tracing back to find much to admire in George Moore, too. It was his example that led me to try writing short stories myself but only one ever apeared in print. It wasn't as easy as he made it look.
 

Saxo Grammaticus

I hadn't expected quite such a thrilling read from Saxo, the Danish cleric, born c.1150, whose History of the Danes, as much of it as there was for him to report, contains the Revenge of Amleth, which is recognizably the story masde more famous by Shakespeare.
Saxo wasn't called Grammaticus until the C15th when an editor added the honourable epithet to his name to acknowledge his fine erudition. He wrote a better standard of Latin than the Middle Ages had been accustomed to. And, if it wasn't for having been told that in the introduction, I would find it hard to believe that the translation by Soren Filipski, in The Norse Hamlet from a series called Sources of Shakespeare (Hythloday Press, 2013, 'Printed in Great Britain by Amazon'. Blimey. All credit to them for that).

Amleth feigns madness in his maneouvrings to outwit his wicked Uncle Feng who has murdered his father and married his mother, Gerutha. He is lucky to be able to find his enemies asleep whenever he needs to swap their sword, amend a letter or make any other progress with his plan.
In a more lively episode of the trip to England, he is able to erase the names on the letter that the precursors of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are taking to the King of England and change the message to ask the king to kill the messengers and not their companion, Amleth.
Amleth also persuades his girlfriend to go with him to a 'distant marsh in order to have his desire more safely'. No, I'm giving him too much credit for chivalry, which might not haver been invented by then, it says he 'dragged her off' there.
An unlikely sign that he should do that is a fly with a straw stuck to it, a detail that Shakespeare in his wisdom decided not to use. But there are the ur-Polonius, the ur-sterile prontory and the ur-tribute to Amleth after he is counter-revenged upon in which it says what a fine, noble man he would have made. In fact he would have 'rivalled the Gods in glory'. And I much prefer Saxo's forward look in which 'Wiglek had a long and peaceful rule' to the prospect of Fortinbras in all his right-wing, orderly machismo.
What we don't know is what was added to the story by the Ur-Hamlet, rather disconcertingly not attributed to Shakespeare in the introduction because it appears in about 1564. I wouldn't have thought so, either, until one realizes that is a typo and should say 1594. But we can forgive that in what is otherwise a tremendous book to have.   

Telemann Fantasias

Fabio Biondi, Telemann Fantasias (Glossa)

It's the sound of this disc that imprssed from the first sonorous notes. Whether that is the tone of the violin (by Ferdinando Gagliano, Naples, 1767), the acoustic of the Italian church in which it is recorded or some engineering technique, I don't know. I am not one to get involved in CD v. vinyl debates unless it is to say that the sound of reggae on the Trojan label is somewhow more authentic in its original format which is a small part of its charm. But I'd offer this recording, possibly above any others I've heard, as a case in CD's favour.
12 Fantasias for solo violin are very much to put put alongside those of Veracini, reviewed here not too long ago, and bear comparison with the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Whether they quite have the architecture of Bach I don't know, but they are written in the same spirit of exploration and discovery whether in the impressive slow movements or, more predominantly, marked allegro, presto or vivace. But in whatever tempo, Fabio Biondi is clear and disntinctive in his performance. It is a pity we can't see his fingers moving or the virtuoso technique that is demanded in Bach, too, in which an accompaniment of a lower string is played at the same time as the theme on higher parts of the stave.
In the middle tempi these are dances but there is time for some showmanship in faster pieces and, from time to time, occasion to relax and reflect in brief passages of in a more langorous mood. I can't hear colour in music, I'm not convinced it's there and suspect it might be a figment of the synesthiastic imagination, but I appreciate atmosphere and this recording has plenty of that. It becomes a late addition to the shortlist for Best CD of the Year although it is going to have to impress further to outdo the Errolyn Wallen, Hans Abrahamsen and new Couperin records already in contention. It does, however, justify a place alongside them.
A new departure on one or two discs I've bought recently has been the booklet being glued into the folding cardboard case. I wasn't immediately enamoured of this idea but it is preferable to the unsatisfactory arrangement on another recent purchase on which it was all but impossible to get the booklet back into the standard issue plastic case.
Telemann's prolific output doesn't diminish the admirable invention of music such as this. These fantasias rate highly among that small sample of his work that I have, which began with a sublime Trumpet Concerto over thirty years ago. It is not as easy to characterise, or define a personality in, his work than it is with Handel, Bach or Vivaldi but here is an account of him that elbows its way back in among them flamboyantly.
       

Friday, 18 November 2016

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

The shops near where I work now are lacklustre but what can one expect beyond charity shops, convenience stores, Tesco and bookmakers. I'd not usually go into W.H.Smith, which was once a bookshop and stationers but is now not much of a shop at all but at least it has the BBC Music magazine with its 'free' disc. When it's Bach on the front, one ought to buy it, because it does also list lots of new releases and re-issues that one won't find out about on the radio or the weekend newspapers.
So, some solo violin music by Telemann is on its way to go with all the other solo violin music of the period that is, for one or other reason, not Bach's sonatas or partitas. Telemann doesn't need my pity but it seemed I'd been neglecting him recently and he is always welcome and then I remembered I did get his Wassermusic earlier this year.
But the free disc is a chamber orchestra version of The Art of Fugue and I am going to have to admit that, for all its technical greatness, Bach did not write only masterpieces and this academic exercise is eventually dull. I don't particularly mind that it doesn't mean anything but music needs to be more than just mathematics you can listen to.

A non-literary excursion in books has been Barney Curley's Giving a Little Back, which I very much doubt if he wrote himself. The redoubtable gambler, trainer and moralist is a compelling figure and not one to cross. He is contrite more often than you might think but self-possessed even more than that. The book, as far as it takes us, is part confession and part chronicle of a life fearlessly spent in pursuit of backing winners and riling the racing and bettiing industries with all the wrongs he perceives in it, like the fact that layers were reluctant to lay fancy prices about the horses that he, by his own admission a very successful gambler, wanted to back. It's hard to see why he is surprised by that.

It will thus soon be time to pick the next book from my waiting pile but Oliver Sack's On the Move, mainly bought to see what he says about Thom Gunn, and I've looked those bits up; Brenda Maddox's biography of Yeats and the hefty Pimlott Harold Wilson can all wait a bit longer. My house was surely not complete, as it won't be until I've won enough to buy the Buxtehude Opera Omnia, without Saxo Grammaticus. He wrote the history of Denmark early on but, more importantly to some of us, the Revenge of Amleth, a source for one of the most enthralling works in all of English literature. I think the next priority, while still brooding over which out of the four short-listed books of poems I like best, will be to see what Saxo gave Shakespeare to work with.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth Poetry Society made a wonderful job of reading Tomas Transtromer this week. I thought it was going to be difficult but it was superb, thanks not only to Transtromer and his several translators but the excellent work that the admirable PPS members put into it. I am never disappointed by the open and honest way they approach such subjects and always come away feeling more enthused and the wiser for it. Get there if you can.
   

The Saturday Nap

It bears repeating, and is repeated here every year without fail, that early prices, especially when also guaranteed best prices, should always be taken. It is worth tuning in at teatime the night before races and take whatever price the bookies chalk up as their first show. If the horse is going to win, it is likely to be backed and, blimey, haven't they been.
Thomas Campbell might have loked a bit tapped for toe going to the last at Ascot today but he responded well to pressure and won convincingly in the end. At 4/5 whereas last night I had 11/10, which is a big percentage difference.
Last week Rolling Dylan's starting price was 10/11 whereas you could have 5/2 the night before and Valseur Lido was 9/4 for me compared to 2/1 at starting price.
Thus my level stake profit from this little escapade is £18.50 to a £10 stake but at SP the hat-trick of winners hasn't even recouped the losses from the first four losers.

I'll go in again tomorrow with Vaniteux (Ascot 3.15), now that Nicky Henderson has found some form. Since I have as well, one ought to keep going while it's coming in our direction and only stop when it ceases to do so. So 9/4 it is.
I'd like to do Yanworth in the hurdle who I hope is on his way to somewhere near the very top. I don't back Zarkandar but he is clearly no back number yet after his seasonal reappearance and so I'll swerve that race.
I don't quite believe in Seeyouatmidnight in the Betfair Chase (Haydock 3.00) because it's hard to accept that all three of Coneygree, Cue Card and Silvianaco Conti have gone for good. Coneygree hasn't even got beaten since he began his meteoric rise to the top yet and so it's too early to start doubting him but, at 5/1, Seeyouatmidnight goes into a yankee that attempts to exchange insignificant amounts of change for significant lumps of cash.
Robinesse in the first at Huntingdon is the careful, hopefully bombproof banker to hold the bet together and I've put in Tales of the Tweed (Ascot 3.50), despite the fact one shouldn't bet in bumpers, because it has opened much shorter than the betting forecast price.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Saturday Nap

I'm happy with the 11/10 about Thomas Campbell (Ascot 2.10, tomorrow, Friday).

If Capitaine has won the first of Haydock, with which the nap will also be doubled up, that will make 8 winners out of 8 for this week. Defeat is out of the question at present.

There might be something else to do on Saturday.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

England's Cathedrals

Simon Jenkins, England's Cathedrals (Little, Brown)

It is with some disquiet that one orders this book from Amazon for £8.99 when its cover price is £30. I know nobody pays the cover price for a book these days but, really, it's worth £8.99 for the photographs alone. As you read through it or just idly gaze at the sumptuous architecture, it takes some effort not to worry about the Amazon employees and the over-stretched delivery drivers they use, the abuse of who makes such a bargain possible. 
Ever suspicious of how I'm being manipulated, I realize I have bought a book released just in time to catch the Christmas market but, what can you do, that is what the world is like. One can hardly not buy it.
Simon Jenkins is much admired for his previous volmes on 1000 churches and 1000 houses. His cathedrals are a bit more rationalized to not include some that he doesn't allow to qualify for the book without quite denying that they are cathedrals.
Rather than pile praise upon praise, then, which would be easy enough to do, especially for a succinct introduction outlining the whole history of the English cathedral, it is tempting to let one's discomfort find fault if and where it can. The book will be a best seller, be celebrated for its accessible, useful summaries and points of view and no amount of my trying to undermine any of that will do it any damage.
Jenkins admits to reservations about his five star rating system but that doesn't prevent him from persisting with it. It might not be entirely appropriate to measure the sublime as if he were writing for Which magazine or assessing mobile phones. If Chichester isn't quite Ely, Wells or Durham, I'm not convinced that makes it a four. And Gloucester's cloisters are featured on the cover but not considered good enough to raise it to a five either.
There is something partisan happening in the sub-text that I'm nowhere near ecclesiastical enough to precisely identify. Perhaps if A.N. Wilson reviews the book, he might say what it is. The history of the English church, Henry VIII, the relationship with Rome, the diverse fragments of both the Catholic orders and the degrees of Protestant distance from orthodoxy are a vexing array of interpretations that shaped these buildings and not being well-versed in them has its advantages. It's about God, isn't it, but perhaps more significantly for many of us, it is about ingenuity, imagination, design and, of course, wonder - but wonder at the architecture and all of those things that are, for those of us who struggle on in the bleak realms of doubt or disbelief, human qualities and inventions, like some say God is, too.
The book immediately has the effect of making one want to go to many of these places but some are further than a day trip away. However, having been several times to those within striking distance from here, the reports on them seem to miss things that I would have mentioned.
Salisbury was built on soft ground donated for the purpose and its design is too heavy and so it sank a bit and it can be seen that the main pillars at its centre have sunk by different amounts but for Jenkins Salisbury's main problems are compositional. Even though this is the cathedral that was completed as it is now in relatively short order, in the same style, which means almost in one lifetime, rather than the mix of periods found in most cathedrals that grew over centuries rather than decades. And Salisbury only gets four stars, too. It is a rigorous marking system.
Portsmouth has two cathedrals and, no, they would never pretend to be at the glamorous end of the league table and so one star for St. Thomas's, the 'oddest of cathedrals' (where 'ordinary' would do), might not be an issue and St. John's, the Catholic seat, is not included and so presumably gets no stars at all. It might not even want to argue with that itself. But if you live in Durham and regret that Portsmouth is too far for you to come, I can tell you at first hand that it is not true that, of St. Thomas,
The jolliest feature is the tower lantern, long a landmark for sailors on the Solent.
 
I don't think that is quite as jolly as the face of the cheeky monkey to be seen in the organ pipes (the picture is not from the book but the book illustrates it just as clearly). That might not be Jenkins's fault because I've pointed it out to a cathedral guide and an organist and they seemed non-plussed but, for all that we are implored to look, some cognoscenti seem so intent on telling us about perpendicular or Gothic or modern atrocities that they can't see.

It's a tremendous book to have. You must order one if your conscience can be assuaged. But, as increasingly is the case on the BBC, in The Times or any other place that was once esteemed for its authority, you can't rely on anything these days and perhaps we never should have thought we could. I doubt if this will become the reference book that serious students of cathedral architecture will first go to but it is plenty good enough for me.