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.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Bernard O'Donoghue - The Seasons of Cullen Church

Bernard O'Donoghue, The Seasons of Cullen Church (Faber)

This would not be a book for students to go searching in for 'poetry' as is meant by rhyme schemes, assonance, alliteration, mystification, playfulness or any of the other devices that they are encouraged to identify. It flies by those nets and reflects in calm, restrained lines on place, characters and events from the past. It is measured, unsentimental, honest, humane and thus admirable. It is closer to Michael Longley's similar meditations, without being quite so dependent on his sense of 'home', than Seamus Heaney's altogether more ambitious and magnificent achievement. But there's nothing that anybody has to apologize for in not being Heaney.
Bernard O'Donoghue's poems here achieve their lasting effects through low-key, prosaic lines (some might say) but they leave more behind than ever seemed to be happening as they unfolded.
The Dark Room compares those attending a 'Poetic Seminary' (and our hearts must go out to them) with bees creating honey,
intent in their darkness

and that is as concentrated as the language ever gets.

The poems achieve their rare beauty almost unnoticed, self-effacingly, and might need to be returned to before one sees quite how much was meant by such low-voltage sentences,

so, packed in ice, we can retain whatever
it was we once must have meant by love
and the kind frost that stopped it going off.

That might remind us of Prince Charles' remark about 'love, whatever that is', which I have some sympathy with, but it is not O'Donoghue's point. He knows what it is, he's just quietly celebrating its remarkable survival.
There are a number of translations from classical or Early texts here, each pertinent in their themes of mortality when in memoriam or close to the book's sense of itself and within its own civilized decorum. Having once met the poet briefly in the street in Oxford, him on his bike, that is entirely in keeping with the considered, deep intelligence that two or three minutes of chat with him and one of his ex-students that one would expect. And would expect no less than.
It is not a book that is going to thrill and excite on first reading but I strongly suspect that by avoiding quite such ready gratification, it will offer more and more as one appreciates all the things it doesn't do in favour of those things it leaves us with.
   
         

Carole King

The Sky Arts TV channel leaves some things to be desired but can also provide some great things when it tries.
On Saturday night I thought I could watch two programmes at once, switching between BBC2's Artsnight shows on Lear and the Booker Prize Winner, Marlon James, and Sky for Carole King's performance of Tapestry recorded in the summer in Hyde Park. However, once I'd shifted from Anthony Sher, Timothy West et al discussing their various Lears, I stayed with Carole almost uninterrupted.
Not all of these retro shows are a good idea and for many they look suspiciously like one last big pay day, and it also could be said that Hyde Park in front of 65000 paying guests is not the optimum setting for the intimate songs of Tapestry. But I was convinced, impressed and even a bit moved by Carole King in such good form.
It is an album of classics and few others could have a song like So Far Away so far away from being a stand-out track. I dread to think what the audience, of a certain age, paid for the privilege of standing in nearly the same postcode as Carole and I wouldn't have wanted to be one of them but it was a sublime performance to the readily-pleased who had only gone to worship and adore but apparently knew all the words. And you'll find that you do, too, if you try.
You Tube doesn't have the proper footage yet but there's a few bootleg recordings, some marred more by nearby people singing along than others. I spent Sunday morning with the album again, in place of the usual choice of concertos, choral music or something baroque.
I know we all tend to regard our own period as better than any other but, 1971, come on. Just the singer-songwriters- Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and I think Bob Dylan was around then, too.   

Friday, 28 October 2016

Fissiparous

adj. inclined to cause or undergo division into separate parts or groups.

I am indebted to Alison Shell, Prof of Early Modern Studies at UCL, who caused me to look up this word which is entirely new to me. I'm having difficulty deciding if I like it or not but I'm tending towars a mild hostility. I'm delighted that the word exists and I'm glad that not everybody yet is aiming their language at an audience with a reading age in single figures, as I believe it has been demonstrated that Donald Trump does, although that may not be his fault. He might be doing his best.
But I think it distils the experience of six months reading the TLS into one word. That it is trying a bit too hard, that it unnecessarily seems to congratulate itself on its much-vaunted erudition and is self-conscious in its learned, slightly stilted way. I've found plenty of interest in it, much that makes me glad that there are people caring and writing about esoteric subjects that I didn't even know were there, but not often enough have I been excited by it.
This week's edition seems to be a special that carries several pages of adverts for 'Learned Journals' but is it for them to say how learned they are or is it gently ironic like the courtroom courtesy of addressing professionals as 'm'learned friend'. I must admit I'm tempted by the James Joyce Quarterly but not quite so much by The Journal of the London Institute of Pataphysics. And, yes, I will have to look up 'pataphysics'
Somewhere among the summer book reviews was a book in defence of pretentiousness, and why not, it's not always a bad thing to be accused of and the charge is often brought by someone who doesn't get it. And so I am not going to distance myself too far from Prof. Shell's lexicon. Her vocabulary is wider than mine and I don't feel too intimidated by that. But if I had 'fissiparous' available to me and it seemed like the right word, I'm still not sure I'd use it.
But I tried to TLS crossword for the first time last night and came within a respectable distance of finishing it and so am gratified to think that I might be part of its target audience although if it's possible to be fissiparous on my own, I might eventually divide into a separate group and get the LRB instead.

The Saturday Nap

I hope nobody is actually putting money on these losers. Good heavens, crikey and lordjesussave us, I can't even buy a winner. Clondaw Cracker goes off at 8/11 and the form book now reads,
tracked leaders, pushed along after 6th, lost place after 4 out, weakened and pulled up before next

I shall retain most of my guiltily held equity tomorrow because quite honestly there is not much I fancy very strongly for my own money never mind recommending anything in print to anybody else.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Saturday Nap

Anybody who believed in that theory that it is impossible to create perpetual motion ought to consider the constant flow of the same money between Paddy Power and I that sees it pour towards me on weekdays and flood back again on Saturdays. It is as regular, predictable and ineluctable as the tides.
Thus, Clondaw Cracker (Wetherby, 2.10) tomorrow is nominated as the closest thing to a copper-bottomed certainty to break the pattern of this woebegon project.
With the stable in such form and the odds against gone before I could line up other horses to multiply it by, it must go in even if we have to take 4/5. And then maybe we'll have another go on Saturday.  

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Prizes

Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, the title of course echoing Raymond Carver, is a companionable memoir, mainly about his marathon exploits. In an age when some take more of an interest in the writer than the writing, it is gentle, open and accessible compared to some of his more opaque and mystifying novels. But apart from his obsessional nature as writer, extreme athlete and record collector (all of which are laudible enterprises), he comes across as a very sensible bloke.
And sensible, too, in the view that he doesn't want a Nobel Prize although the link sent by my Japanese correspondent is in Japanese so I'm going to take her word for what it says. Neither would I, although I am a bit further down the list of likely recipients, although the cheque that comes with it is admittedly generous. But apparently, you can't turn it down, you can just not turn up.
Bob Dylan, at the time of writing, doesn't seem all that excited about it either. Why would you be. It's nice to be listed alongside James Joyce, Sartre, Camus, Heaney and suchlike but I'd prefer to have just written The Changing of the Guards, the Street Legal album, in among everything else, and enjoy having done so than get a prize for it. No amount of celebrity, gongs and acclamation can be as good as having such a thing. It's the words. There isn't anything else.
So I simply don't have a view on whether Dylan worked in a genre that qualified him for the Nobel Prize. It doesn't make his word sound any better. And questions such as 'what is literature?' can be left to the likes of Terry Eagleton to publish books on which will no doubt be diverting but risk leaving you none the wiser. Or, perhaps wiser but still not sure of the answer.
But perhaps this derision of prize-giving is a bit rich coming from me. Not because I've been happy enough to accept some very minor ones but because this week I did look at the shortlist for the T.S. Eliot Prize to widen the coverage of my own Best Collection and Best Poem of the Year meditations.
It's getting late and my list of poems only has three on it and while Judy Brown and Ian Duhig's collections are admirable, it is not the most competitive shortlist I've ever had.
I haven't read much new poetry this year. I've read a few reviews but not been tempted by many of them and perhaps, as one gets older, the activities of those a few decades younger don't seem quite so relevant. Some of the elderly are either fearful or uncomprehending of their successors.
And so I've ordered Bernard O'Donoghue's new book, picked from the Eliot Prize list, and hope for great things. I met him in the street in Oxford once. I was with an-ex student of his and he was on his bike, and I'd say you'd hardly wish to meet a more congenial man.
But if prizes just provide reading lists, we could just call them reading lists. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Oh Babe, What Would You Say

Apparently, Paddy Power have already paid out on Hillary Clinton winning the election. I'm glad they're sure. The reason why bookmakers do such an odd thing is, I understand, because they believe (or must know from their research) that winning investors will re-invest their winnings and they like to encourage them to do so if a conclusion is quite so foregone. But we mustn't be blasé about such things. It must have happened that bookies have been rash and had to pay out on the other, eventual winner as well.
There is a review of an exhibition on Vulgarity in this week's TLS and I was grateful enough for the word in the poem below before it is also the one I want to describe Donald Trump. 
We should, of course, be grateful for democracy, however imperfect and open to abuse it is, because we can read about what countries are like that haven't got it and how keen to vote they are in countries where it is introduced. But, has it come to this.
A few weeks ago I began to wonder if he had gone so far that I might start to admire something about the incorrectness, his irrepressible nature, his insistence on being awful but it was never going to be possible. Alex Larman's account of Byron made it clear that there was not much to like about the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' poet but at least he had something about him even if he was a disaster area.
The Republican Party must be in a mess, the American answer to UKIP, who also can't find anybody respectable enough to represent them, if they seriously thought it should have been him.
But, maybe it's my mistake. I'm increasingly concerned that I believed, during the impressionable years of the late 60's and throughout the 70's, that the world was improving and everything could be for the best in this best of all possible worlds.  
That might have been something that everybody thinks when they are young, in whatever period they live, and only see through it later. Or was the post-hippie age of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Roxy Music and a sort of social democracy of liberal education (including grammar schools), landing on the moon and supersonic flight just a glimpse of something possible that was then snatched away.
Or perhaps we have it now, as well as the internet, music so freely available that we don't care about it any more, Man About the House and The Good Old Days still on the telly if you have the right channels and most people, but still not me, carrying with them their own walkie-talkie. Imagine that. Science Fiction has all come true and we still want more. There is no longer any need of liberalism because it has provided all we could have wanted. So now it's time to get serious and make sure it's us that gets even more of what we don't need before anybody else gets it ahead of us.
I am making inroads into the symptomatic over-buying of books I did a few weeks ago and so might one day arrive at Ben Pimlott's enormous Harold Wilson. Remembered now for his chicanery, manoeuvring and political 'nous', I wonder if all he did was use the honours list to gratuitously reward some mates, as David Cameron is said to have done, or if he was quite as obsessed with politics as a game he could play for personal gratification, like Blair, like Boris and, most monstrously, like Trump. 
For all that we are told that the centre ground is where elections are won, there is no sign of a Roy Jenkins making any progress in Britain at the moment. A vacuum has been left in exactly the area that not very long ago was said to be where everybody wanted to be. But perhaps that is my mistake, too, that only the few of us of what might be called the Beatles and Bowie generations ever thought that and really all that has happened is a recovery from that aberration and a return to what it was always like, except with internet and more technology.
I might see if I can join the Whig Party.

Campus Marxists

There is already a poem, sometime ago, on here called Campus Marxists but it is now in the B section of the folder of Uncollected Poems and thus unlikely to make to next booklet because nothing ever recovers from such a relegation.
But thirty-five years after my release from that safe haven of ersatz academia, there is still something needing to be set down about the smug righteousness of those cosy renegades from their nice houses whose parents still looked after them, who were as bad as any religious group with their doctrines, litanies and mantras.
It is not Marxism itself I have an issue with, it was the demeanour of some of its devout followers, specifically circa 1979.

It's not as if I write many explicitly political poems so I thought I'd treat myself to a second attempt. If this doesn't look good enough in weeks to come, I might have yet another go.



Campus Marxists

They knew it backwards, their critique,
the Levi jeans, air of mystique,
the scriptures that they would explain
in pious essays, John Coltrane
- you didn’t know the half of it
if you were a mere Menshevik,
not so committed to the cause
to take part in their class wars.
One must never be sceptical
when things are dialectical
because the sociologist
is as unable to resist
the vulgar lure of certainty,
the soporific poetry,
the faith that’s a comfort to keep
while they recite themselves to sleep.
 

The Saturday Nap

It's been a tidy week, here in Lake Wobegon. You wouldn't think it from the returns so far from The Saturday Nap but it's mostly going to plan and finding winners, at least in the week, has been as easy as picking foxes from a tree.
Anyboby downhearted by being £20 down to a level £10 stake after two weeks should remember that last year we opened with two losers but eventually finished in front and in 2014, the record shows that I managed to nominate six consecutive losers from the start but then retrieved the situation with a treble, by which time admittedly most would have lost faith.
I had been waiting for Shantou Village, that runs in the novice chase, but no tipster gets any credit for an odds on winner and so confidence is high about Adrien du Pont (Cheltenham, 3.00) with Paul Nicholls having begun the season proper firing in winners with lucrative regularity.
 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Greatest Show on Earth

...is an interesting question.  The reading for South 54 tonight in the Square Tower, OId Portsmouth, was a great success with everybody giving an impressive account of themselves. My own act, lovingly featured here because I haven't really got permission from other readers to use photographs of them, does still include a few poems but prefers to shamelessly lift bits from Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper and Leonard Sachs, any of who I would probably have preferred to be.

It isn't really right to review an event for which one chose the poets and was a part of oneself so it's best to say that it went tremendously well so thanks very much to the South Management Committee, Mr. Richard Williams, the entire company but, chiefly, yourself.




Monday, 17 October 2016

How to Write like Tolstoy

Richard Cohen, How to Write like Tolstoy (OneWorld)

Not everything does what it says on the tin. Thankfully, this book doesn't because even if one could be shown, not everybody might want to be. The desirability of creative writing manuals, when writers should really find out and decide how to do it for themselves, is not the issue.
Richard Cohen has had a long career as an editor of many big names in contemporary fiction as well as having apprently read the whole canon of English and American literature and much more besides in translation. What he provides is a survey of the options available to the novelist under various headings from beginnings to endings and that which comes in between. It makes its points in the brief intervals in the torrent of anecdotes and examples from the lives and practice of some notable names.
If at times Cohen might prefer some strategies in fiction writing over others, he does well not to let his preferences dominate and quotes from his wide stock of examples which might be general observations like,
If it sounds like writing. I rewrite it. (Elmore Leonard)

or the more detailed debate about the ending of Great Expectations. 

Writers most often used in evidence are Henry James, Hemingway, George Eliot, Proust, Joyce, Jane Austen and it is almost a worrying indicator for anybody who thought they were a major novelist if they can't find themselves somewhere in this text. Martin Amis crops up a few times but mostly for what he said about writing than his actual writing.
Like any schoolboy's dictionary, the pages likely to be most grubbily marked in time will be those of chapter 9, on writing about sex, but the advice there is more didactic than anywhere else in the book and it says that it is a very difficult area and more likely to make you a laughing stock than admired, which I'm sure is what happens to many of us in life as well as writing fiction.
Cohen's points might make us think many things, most obviously what an artifice the novel is. But, of course it is. The art of art is to make it seem natural, if you don't want it to look deliberately artificial, and the amount of work that goes into seeming natural is why it is hard to do. Thus, one can not even try, and thus be self-consciously artificial, or be consigned to that level of hypocrisy in which Jack Kerouac works very hard at revising to make his writing look spontaneous, unrevised and carefree when that was the last thing it was. Since the other writer I heard that said about was Allen Ginsberg, my more mature, revised opinion of the Beat Generation is confirmed - that they were a bunch of frauds. But I've only read Ginsberg. I doubt if I'll ever bother with Kerouac.
One is also a bit overwhelmed by the teeming variations set out before us. Since Modernism, Finnegans Wake, Beckett and suchlike, we now live in a post-modern world where that is all behind us and now the 'unreliable narrator' is even past its high point. But there are more novels being published than one could ever dream of knowing about. And publishers' in-trays are full of manuscripts that stand no chance whatsoever of being wrapped in hard covers and so, as ever, there is much more effort going into writing than reading and yet those that arrive as best-sellers or literary critical successes arrive by an arduous route against almost impossible odds.
What will survive of us, I hope and suspect, is irony. From it, so much more becomes possible. And it is possibly our last defence.
It is a terrifying prospect that every word in a novel has to be considered as carefully as one in a short poem but they do. I don't understand how anybody can find the time, stamina and determination to re-write as many times as some novelists quite clearly do, and there are several examples here of those who revised endlessly. Or how they can worry over one word out of so many. It is an abnegation of life itself to have to sit and do it and yet the writer needs to be living, or have lived, some sort of life before they have any raw material to draw upon.
I remember once, aged about 18 or 19, introducing myself to a meeting of poets by saying that I was a poet because I couldn't write novels. That has remained so and reading this impressive account of the main principles involved belatedly provides me with much of the supporting evidence why not. It's not just the words you need, it is the alarming levels of dedication and the poet can only look at the novelist with the kind of admiration that the short-distance runner must look at the iron triathlete.
It was a tremendous book to receive for my birthday, which is today, and I thank its kindly sender for their thoughtful and much appreciated choice.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Today's Times Crossword Solution

Let's say it is anyway.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Get Out More

I am sometiimes told I should get out more. I don't usually welcome the advice as I do enjoy reading books lying on the settee. I did take more heed when I played cricket.
But, it can be quite good. My opinion of Portsmouth, having lived here for most of the last 34 years, went up considerably after finally going up the Spinnaker Tower and finding that, on such a clear day as yesterday was, it is well worth doing and not frightening at all.
And today's trip to Wincanton was very enjoyable, 
too. A great place to be on a fine October day. I do owe anybody who followed the Saturday Nap there an apology. There was no way Prettylittlething could get beaten until you saw her drift in the betting in reaction to money apparently lumping on Kapgarde King for which there was no justification in the form book at all. So I was able to take out insurance, regarding the money markets as a more reliable indicator of forthcoming performance than past performance often is.
So, here she is, coming out of the pre-parade ring. It wasn't until a couple of minutes before the off that I decided I needed insurance. She was unlucky to be ambushed by an unforeseen plan but did all that she could have been expected to do.
But Wincanton, at least on a day like today, is a very welcoming and scenic place to spend an afternnon with the kind Public Relations lady showing us the weighing room, the fences and regaling a small group with her inside stories, not all of which I agreed with. Like, racing is the only sport followed by an ambulance and a fleet of cars.


Well, the Tour de France is.
Yes, but not at 30 mph.
It is sometimes.

After Jeremy Paxman telling us that Sirius is in the Great Bear on University Challenge, it's been a bad week for being told stuff.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Roman Rudnytsky

Roman Rudnytsky, Lunchtime Live, Portsmouth Cathedral, October 13th

A highlight of the current season of Portsmouth cathedral's lunchtime recitals was today's performance by American pianist, Roman Rudnysky.
The early indications of his Haydn sonata, the finale marked Presto ma non troppo, was that he didn't care for the non troppo. He provided some historical background to the pieces by Haydn, Grieg, Debussy and Liszt before moving over to the keyboard to begin immediately, left the shortest gap between movements (discouraging intermediate applause in the process) and played with gusto.
While his Debussy was comparatively subdued, it was a surprise to hear that Debussy had always been a big favourite of his because the gentleness and shimmering qualities of that music was a brief interlude in between a powerful In the Hall of the Mountain King and Liszt's Grand Galop Chromatique which would have been difficult to follow.
He was rewarded by an enthusiastic ovation from a larger than usual audience for lunchtime in Portsmouth and was a fine ambassador for the concerts, the series and music itself. At the age of 74, he retains tremendous enthusiasm and energy. Unfortunately it might be too late to catch him in the UK on this latest visit because he sails back to the USA shortly, entertaining on a cruise as he goes.

The Saturday Nap

Having done all my homework ahead of a trip to Wincanton tomorrow, it would be a shame not to make further use of it.
The fields have cut up badly with the unseasonable firm ground which gives the meeting an appearance of easy pickings. It is dangerous to assume such things, however, and it would be quite possible to draw a blank.
It is, though, impossible not to see Prettylittlething ((3.35) as a good thing and Paddy is still offering the even money that would make up for our opening week's setback.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

New Portsmouth Poetry Society website

I am not only indebted to my friend, Alan, for retrieving my temporarily misplaced wallet on Sunday and the introduction to his daughter who, as well as being a top swimmer, is a singer and we might have songwriting opportunities to share, but also for offering his valued services in creating a much better website for Portsmouth Poetry Society. It's up there on the Recommended links.

Some people say they don't know who their friends are. I do.

And, one last reminder. The South poetry magazine reading is at the Square Tower, Old Portsmouth, 7pm for 7.30 next Tuesday, the 18th.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

One thing I'd like to know, and I've covered similar ground before when lamentiung how little I've read compared to how much one is supposed to have read (by the time of nearly one's 57th birthday), is when is one supposed to do all this reading.
I don't lead a particularly busy life by anybody's standards. It is now twenty years since I devoted much of the available 'leisure time' to clocking up miles on the bicycle in pursuit of personal bests in the 12 Hour discipline. But as I enter a terrifying week or two of 'some activity', I wonder when I'll get back to reading the accumulation of books I've recently bought, and been very kindly sent, never mind finding an hour to add another thousand words to the 11000 extant of the appalling novel, Time After Time.
Even of the most meticulously-planned weekend, there is the paper to read, the crosswords to look at, the horse racing to judiciously invest in (sorry about the first of the 2016 Saturday naps) and watch, the TLS to wonder at in all its self-regarding highbrow decadence. That's betting without ever writing a poem of my own, even giving a thought to household maintenance, going out to a concert or, heaven forbid, a social event.
Many of the great and good, including David Baddiel and Philip Larkin, served as judges on the Booker Prize panel. My only strategy in such a position would have to be to find an issue to resign over as soon as possible, before anybody else did. Books are welcome to replace life but not quite to that extent.
Those scholars that devote their lives to Hamlet or Ulysses. Do they ever read anything else, not even Lear or Dubliners. Not even Marlowe or Virginia Woolf.
I am grateful to my friend who has directed to me not only the classic 'O' level text of Ovid on Himself for my birthday but also Richard Cohen's How to Write like Tolstoy. At school, we used to compare rates of reading which meant pages per hour. Too much of my mis-spent youth, that could have been mis-spent playing pool, was mis-spent reading Solzhenitsyn and Cancer Ward, Lenin in Zurich or three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago could drag me down to 20 pages an hour but I was determined and stamina, it was to prove, was something I had.
Thus I understand Murakami's memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, because his dual role of marathon runner and novelist is the much harder enterprise he undertook compared to when I was long-distance cyclist and poet.
But Cohen has apprently read everything. I'm not offended that my friend has sent me a book on how to write like Tolstoy as I set off once again in the vague hope of finishing a 50000 word novel that nobody will ever read, and it is not the manual that its title suggests. He writes towards the end of a professional career as editor to many big name novelists and thus didn't need to attend 9 to 5 at an office doing something entirely unrelated. Perhaps he never covered 217 miles on a bike in 12 hours, carve out a niche career as a poet of little renown or turn out for a local cricket team as mercurial, profligate batsman and increasingly accurate and frugal bowler, but then, somewhat overwhelmingly, his biographical note says he did sword fighting at four Olympic Games. So, I don't know.
Michael Schmidt's various histories of poetry that demonstrate, without necssarily meaning to, that he has read them all and has something to say about each of them.
I understand that Bertrand Russell said, when asked what he would say to God if it turned out that God existed, you didn't give me enough evidence.
If asked why I didn't read enough, I will have to say I didn't have enough time.

But those books remained no further read while I poured out this hopeless lament and lined up a double at Huntingdon tomorrow. Theligny (3.00) was hugely impressive when backed last time out and I've decided I'm not frightened of the Henderson horse in opposition. And I think we can oppose the favourite in the first with The Way You Dance (2.00)
  

Friday, 7 October 2016

South 54

It would be inappropriate for me to review South 54 having been one of the two from the literary hothouse that is Copnor, Portsmouth, but it looks to me a good issue and it would surely be inexcusable if it didn't.
We always expect and get a superb photograph on the cover and here is the slipway on the Hard looking across to the glories of Gosport.
The fact that the magazine always seems so cramped for space, with its 300 word reviews and succinct prose is due to its generous allocation of  pages to the featured poet and in this instance a particularly memorable, and personal, introduction to them, and also the understandable priority given to including as many poems as is possible.
I'm glad to see that the Selectors' comments, which we are invited to provide, look okay and not, as one worries that they might, not quite as good once seen in print. They may or may not provoke some discussion, having said that we weren't prepared to say what is 'good poetry' and what wasn't. Richard Williams and I arrived at a selection without very much disagreement but that is not to say that there weren't any number of other poems that could just as easily have been picked ahead of some that got in. It's not like a running race or a time trial in which a stopwatch can objectively confirm who was fastest, it's not like that at all. We know that Usain Bolt has been the fastest runner on the planet for several years now but it's less easy to establish who is the best poet. Different selectors would inevitably have chosen a different set of poems from those available, and so might we have done on another day.
Two poems go forward to be considered for the Forward Anthology of Best Poems of the year and we wish them well in that more competitive company.
Being a selector is a relatively easy job. You only have to do what you think is for the best. Editing and producing such a magazine is much more technical and difficult and, having had some insight into the process of how South goes about its business, I am the more impressed by what they do.   
,
 

The Saturday Nap

With apologies to anybody arriving here in expectatiion of a poetry and books website. Yes, it is that but in the Autumn, especially, it can also be about horse racing.
The last two Saturdays have been costly while the more modest racing on weekdays has done its best to compensate but today I was too circumspect to put the aptly-named Poet's Vanity (won 13/2), tipped up to me by a colleague who had done his homework, with Rhododendron, 5/2, and the jumping best bet, Virgilio, 11/10, into some fiendish combination that would have set us up very nicely.
But let us not fret over what might have been.
The Cesarewitch is not the sort of race to get involved in unless you know something and I don't know anything. Picking through the less ambitious options, at Chepstow and Hexham, I have a shortlist that I'll make into a yankee with one at a price at York.
The market isn't as yet recommending Black Ivory in the first at Hexham but it's early days yet. Colin's Sister is probably not one we can take all the way to Cheltenham in March but might be good enough for Chepstow tomorrow and we can throw in Perfect Angel (York 3.10) for a small change yankee but, young enough but in receipt of lots of bags of sugar and apparently ready for big fences already, Clan des Obeaux (Chepstow 3.15) is one I want to have at 2/1 and get us in front from the off on our trek to Boxing Day.
We finished a bit in front last year and better in 2014, more so if you had got on at the early prices, but, yes, 2013 went wrong.
Hold on to your hats.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Comeback Trail

One important principle in gambling is not to chase one's losses. Another is to play with what you've got, the leeway between where you stand and where a further loss would put you in the red.
It contributed in no small way to my calamitous weekend that I went against the first of those and the road to recovery is in modest amounts working with what little was left in the account by Sunday night. But even though the last two days could have been much more profitable had I allowed myself more to play with, it is also satisfying to produce a battling reargaurd action and repair the damage without too much risk.
Yesterday's winner at Tipperary, was it, Shattered Love might be something having been backed from the 11/8 that I benefitted from down to 4/6. I hope to notice when that runs next. But today's winner, which puts me safer from harm, was more satisfying. Whether it is one to follow, having won by 3/4 of a length and so due to carry a penalty in subsequent novice hurdles, is open to question but a mug bet I sometimes do is horses with pop song names, especially good pop songs (There was a handicap chaser called Get It On in recent seasons that won a few times).
The professional reasons for backing Fool to Cry at Ludlow today were the trainer's recent good form, the booking of Richard Johnson to ride and the fact that the form of the other two at the head of the market, from the same race at Plumpton, might not have amounted to much.
Luckily, it is possible at work to be taking part in a telephone conference but open the At the Races website in another window on the computer to check results and then dance round to a colleague's desk with LUDLOW 2.10 1ST FOOL TO CRY 3/1 written on a piece a paper while they listen to the ongoing dreary phone call.
As ever, the money doesn't matter as much as the satisfaction, as it were.

Maybe we will embark upon a new season of The Saturday Nap this week although it has to be said that weekdays are generally profitable and Saturdays can vary between not so good and dereliction and so The Saturday Nap might not always run on Saturday.

Monday, 3 October 2016

From 'The Nether World'

My mate in London (he knows who he is) always seems to have a pile of new books waiting to be read and I used to envy that. I generally have the one I'm reading, plus maybe a poetry book or magazine and perhaps some lightweight book about racing or something like that. But I'm not used to having four sturdy volumes looking down at me from the shelves, waiting to be read, before I'm very far into George Gissing, with Murakami's memoir about running to gently drift through and Marie Howe's poems which I'm finding difficult to ascertain how much I like.
I'm sure they'd like to be put in the same bracket as Elizabeth Bishop's but I don't think they're quite that. They appear to be anecdotal and thus 'confessional' in a way, with a theme of victimhood and abuse never very far away. And at times they do achieve some almost ironic detachment, but the fascination is more in trying to decide how much I can empathize with their meaning and how much I can admire the art in them. They are American, though, there's no doubt about that.
The advice I decided to follow, from another website, whose list of 'Go-To' poets looked otherwise so immaculate, has been partially successful in that it is at least still interesting to keep reading and see if the penny drops and Marie Howe is inaugurated into the great tradition of American Women poets, like Marianne Moore, Sylvia, Laura Riding, perhaps Adrienne Rich, up to Karen Solie- and I'm sure there are plenty more, if I've missed the point or, as is my best excuse in such circumatances, I simply wasn't part of the demographic target audience for which such poetry was written.

But, with all anxiety aforethought, since yesterday, I have had a stye on my right eye. It's not particularly painful but one has to do something about such things. Boots very nearly sold me some ointment until the girl said, 'you can dab it with a warm, damp flannel or it will probably just go away'. That's what I like to hear.
Okay, then. Thanks. I'll come back and have some of that later if it doesn't.
But it only takes one minor problem with my 110 year old house to make me think that it will soon crumble to a pile of dust and, in the same way, one tiny spot on the underside of one eye makes me extrapolate into the blindness of Milton or Handel - the similarity being in the loss of sight, not the creative genius, and I wonder what would become of me. I couldn't learn braille. I doubt if the books I want to read are available in that format and I can rarely listen to the whole of Poetry Please or A Book at Bedtime without falling asleep and waking up ten minutes into the next, less soporific, programme. So I do realize how thankful we should all be to be able to read, which we take for granted, and I am prompted to think that I ought to seek out poems to write, pro-actively, rather than wait months for them to suggest themselves to me, and produce The Perfect Book sooner rather than later. I adore many of the poems in it so far, which might benefit from some fine editing, but I wouldn't want to have gone blind and not seen it.
And, more importantly, I'd never again be able to find lines like these, from The Nether World, or share them with you. I can't imagine what it would be like to live like that.
The advantage of Mrs. Green's ale was that the very first half-pint gave conscience its bemuddling sop; for a penny you forgot all the cares of existence; for threepence you became a yelling maniac.

And that is why George Gissing is a better writer than Tolkein.        

Saturday, 1 October 2016

What a Day for a Dave Green

I can see why long ago, and some people still now, might have thought it was all decided by the stars. That sometimes they are all lined up nicely for you but other days it would have been better to not bother.
It began yesterday, really, with a postcard from the postman saying my latest book delivery was at the sorting office waiting to be collected despite me having several neighbours who have happily taken them in in the past.
Perhaps a bibliophile is a nuisance in the community and they've finally drawn the line at it. But, never mind. I rose early so that I could buy the paper, look at it while Danny Baker whipped through the usual routine from 9 to 11,
Good Morning, Everybody,
It's the Danny Baker Show,
Radiating out across the airwaves.
In the sunshine or the rain 
Come aboard the Danny train,
Kick off yoyr slippers,
Throw your cares away.
What better thing to do
Than have have a jolly jape or two,
Don't touch that dial,
there's nowhere else to go.
Something about a session,
something else about recession.
Dum di dum di dum di dee da dee.

And Uncle Griff was the guest so that was fine.
Since I was going to a play in the evening, I realized that great parsimoniousnes would be rewarded by going down town on a day ticket on the number 21 bus. Which took me right where I needed to be, except the queue outside the post office was ten outside the door. More than twenty minutes I waited, the girl in front of me giving up once we had got inside.
The Elder Pliny didn't like to waste a moment of his day and so would have a slave read to him while he was in the bath, it is said. Neither do I, so I took The Times crossword with me but I haven't finished it.
Remembering to pick up my prescription before coming home, it looked as if things were turning out okay. The racing began in earnest for me with a 4/1 winner but that was not the main event. The vibes were all against Road to Riches at Gowran Park and the market moves proved right. Chasing that money was a bad idea and I knew I shouldn't have done it and all the week's good work was undone on Saturday, as often can happen.
I read a bit of Murakami's running memoir in the bath and then a chapter of George Gissing before going back to the bus stop to go to see Murder in the Cathedral in the cathedral. It's a long time since I've been to see any play and even this time, I only saw half of one. The Southsea Shakespeare Actors have always been a worthy troupe and have put on some memorable productions. However, plays about ideas, I've heard, are not in fashion and Murder in the Cathedral, judged only on its first half, is dull fare, as I expect  Joyce's Exiles or Sartre's In Camera would be if anybody put them on.
Being not only congenitally disposed to being early rather than late for any appointment, especially if dependent on public transport, I was among the first dozen in the queue before the doors opened only to find that the best seats were reserved for quite a few local dignataries. But, with all due credit to the work put into the production, it was one of those that 'made use of the whole theatre space' and so more actors spoke from behind the audience or up and down the aisle than is strictly necessary, just so that the director was shown to be aware of that facility.
There is a stage. That is where the actors go. There is an auditorium and that is where the audience sit. It was a long tradition and it worked. I couldn't bear to move into the other part of the cathedral for the beginning of the second half and then be herded back to where we had been sitting and so left at half-time, thinking that I could catch the update on Auden's Night Mail by some contemporary poets as it went out.
Home by 9.10, I was soon on a train with Michael Symmons Roberts. Liz Berry, Andrew McMillan, Imtiaz Dharkar et al came on and I assumed Sean O'Brien was the big name who would provide the ending. But he wasn't. I'd missed him. He'd provided a few lines to set it all off and they were read by an actress.
When Kate Tempest's Live performance on 'prime time BBC2 on Saturday night' began, I wished I'd stayed at the play. Of course it is poetry. She says it is, and so it is. An artwork is an artwork if so designated by the artist. And that doesn't preclude this shouty, facile performance from being as much and providing the very latest of all the things that get poetry a bad name. It wouldn't be quite so bad if she wasn't quite so pleased about it. I could still hear it maundering on from the front room while I retired back here to the computer to take some pointless revenge on some unsuspecting chess players who were unlucky enough to offer me a game.
But if all of that is all I have to complain about, then it's not too bad, is it. If every day was a glorious sequence of untold pleasures, it would be dull. Perhaps not as dull as a life spent listening to Kate Tempest but it would lack nuance in very much the same way. And now tomorrow is almost here, with Postponed looking all over the winner of the Arc. Let's hope the stars align themselves better on a new day because that one result will make everything look so much better, not for the money- that doesn't matter much- just for the feeling that we are back on track, our explorations of discords and minor keys are over and we can return to equanimity.
There is a lot to look forward to, including presenting an hour of Latin for Beginners, which is in preparation and will be as much fun as The Sooty Show or The Wacky Races if I can get a quorum of an audience.  Portsmouth bookshops would sell out of Ovid, Catullus and Horace within hours if they stocked any of their books.