Short break

September 11, 2016

knowing-what-to-pack

Peedeel is off and away for a few days, and as always is unsure what to pack. Fear not boys and girls, he will return. Do watch this space…!

Late Night Ode

September 11, 2016

treeandriver

It’s over, love. Look at me pushing fifty now,
Hair like grave-grass growing in both ears,
The piles and boggy prostate, the crooked penis,
The sour taste of each day’s first lie,

And that recurrent dream of years ago pulling
A swaying bead-chain of moonlight,
Of slipping between the cool sheets of dark
Along a body like my own, but blameless.

What good’s my cut-glass conversation now,
Now I’m so effortlessly vulgar and sad?
You get from life what you can shake from it?
For me, it’s g and t’s all day and CNN.

Try the blond boychick lawyer, entry level
At eighty grand, who pouts about the overtime,
Keeps Evian and a beeper in his locker at the gym,
And hash in tinfoil under the office fern.

There’s your hound from heaven, with buccaneer
Curls and perfumed war-paint on his nipples.
His answering machine always has room for one more
Slurred, embarrassed call from you-know-who.

Some nights I’ve laughed so hard the tears
Won’t stop. Look at me now. Why now?
I long ago gave up pretending to believe
Anyone’s memory will give as good as it gets.

So why these stubborn tears? And why do I dream
Almost every night of holding you again,
Or at least of diving after you, my long-gone,
Through the bruised unbalanced waves?

J. D. McClatchy

The Disquieting Muses

September 11, 2016

nnightmares

Mother, mother, what ill-bred aunt
Or what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you so unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she
Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and nod at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?

Mother, who made to order stories
Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear,
Mother, whose witches always, always
Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder
Whether you saw them, whether you said
Words to rid me of those three ladies
Nodding by night around my bed,
Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head.

In the hurricane, when father’s twelve
Study windows bellied in
Like bubbles about to break, you fed
My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine
And helped the two of us to choir:
‘Thor is angry; boom boom boom!
Thor is angry: we don’t care!’
But those ladies broke the panes.

When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced,
Blinking flashlights like fireflies
And singing the glowworm song, I could
Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress
But, heavy-footed, stood aside
In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed
Godmothers, and you cried and cried:
And the shadow stretched, the lights went out.

Mother, you sent me to piano lessons
And praised my arabesques and trills
Although each teacher found my touch
Oddly wooden in spite of scales
And the hours of practicing, my ear
Tone-deaf and yes, unteachable.

I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere,
From muses unhired by you, dear mother.

I woke one day to see you, mother,
Floating above me in bluest air
On a green balloon bright with a million
Flowers and bluebirds that never were
Never, never, found anywhere.

But the little planet bobbed away
Like a soap-bubble as you called: Come here!
And I faced my travelling companions.

Day now, night now, at head, side, feet,
They stand their vigil in gowns of stone,
Faces blank as the day I was born.

Their shadows long in the setting sun
That never brightens or goes down.

And this is the kingdom you bore me to,
Mother, mother.
But no frown of mine
Will betray the company I keep.

Sylvia Plath

Tolkien’s “infantilism”

September 11, 2016

lor

The critical rubbishing of Tolkien began with Edmund Wilson’s extended sneer about “juvenile trash” in 1956. Younger readers today may need reminding that Wilson was a pathologically ambitious critic who championed modernism in literature (and Stalinism in politics). In his pompous obsession, as a contemporary put it, “with being the Adult in the room” – and maybe, oddly enough, his priapism too – Wilson is a good exemplar of what Ursula Le Guin called “a deep puritanical distrust of fantasy” on the part of those who “confuse fantasy, which in the psychological sense is a universal and essential faculty of the human mind, with infantilism and pathological regression.”

Le Guin is undoubtedly right about Wilson and others of his ilk, but in a demonstration of the durability and ubiquity of this accusation, Tolkien’s “infantilism” (along with “nostalgia”, to which we shall return later) was recently revived by Michael Moorcock . Perhaps, therefore, it is no coincidence that Moorcock has now mostly abandoned his science fiction/fantasy – part of whose real appeal was precisely their rather adolescent charm (my, what a long sword you have!) – to write supposedly Adult novels. In any case, many science fiction writers are indeed committed modernists; and not a few are poorly placed to finger infantilism – witness in both respects, for example, the toys-for-boys technological fetishism of J.G. Ballard.

As Tolkien noted, the connection between children and fairy-stories is an accident of history, not something essential; “If a fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults.” But being Grown-Up is a recurring theme in modernism, with its teleological fantasy of collectively progressing towards the truth, and its mythoclasm as a necessary destructiveness in order to get there. The Lord of the Rings and its readers are thus doubly stigmatized, both individually/psychologically and collectively/socially. Tolkien’s enormous popularity then requires such risible explanations as Robert Giddings’s “PR men”, at whose behest the reading public apparently took him up solely because it was told to do so.

It is true, however, that modernist hostility to Tolkien need not be of the left. Private Eye sneered that Tolkien appeals only to those “with the mental age of a child – computer programmers, hippies and most Americans” (see Craig 1992). And despite his trumpeted sensitivity to elite literary contempt for the reading public, the populist Oxford professor John Carey (1977) repeated the charge of childishness, and attacked Tolkien for his lack of interest in “the writers who were moulding English literature in his own day – Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence” – as if English literature, to quote Brian Rosebury (1992:133), were “a single substance, appropriated for a definite period, like the only blob of Plasticene in the classroom, by an exclusive group (however gifted)…”

Patrick Curry
Tolkien and his critics

evening

Incantation: A formulaic use of words to create magical effects. Incantation derives from a Latin word meaning “to consecrate with charms or spells,” and, indeed, charms, spells, chants, and conjurations all employ the apparatus of sympathetic magic. Incantations, whether spoken or chanted, are characteristic of archaic poetries everywhere, which have always employed the rudimentary power of repetition to create enchantment. Oracular and prophetic poets rely on what Roman Jakobson calls “the magic, incantatory function” of language to raise words beyond speech, to create dream states and invoke apocalyptic forces, dangerous transcendent powers. The Orphic poets and Hebrew prophets, as well as those outsize vatic figures who identify with them (Christopher Smart, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Robert Desnos), deliver incantations formally, not haphazardly, and harness the rhythmic power of repetition through parallel structures and catalogs. Here is a statement from “The Song of Amergin,” which was said, as Robert Graves has pointed out, to have been chanted by the chief bard of the Milesian invaders as he set his foot on the soil of Ireland, in the year of the world 2736 (1268 BCE).
Invoke, People of the Sea, invoke the poet, that he maycompose a spell for you.

For I, the Druid, who set out letters in Ogham, I, who part
combatants,
I will approach the rath of the Sidhe to seek a cunning poet
that together we may concoct incantations.
I am a wind of the sea.

Edward Hirsch
A Poet’s Glossary

Harsh is the night…

September 11, 2016

trebarwith2-022

Diary 11th September

Just a fistful of fast, challenging, hot-wired mind-bites!

‘She can’t say no if she’s gagged.’ S smiles at us. She is tall, and so thin you don’t believe she can possibly cast a shadow. There is a scent of jasmine about her: sickly sweet, heady – as if her body were a garden…a torture garden, perhaps?

She uses the crop with consummate skill…

#

Her tongue seems huge in my mouth. She has a strong tongue and slender fingers. Their touch is like the flickering lick of a candle flame on my skin. I take a nipple into my mouth now, as her fingers gently caress and set me alight…

#

Today is Dee’s birthday and we are going to the coast. We will eat, drink and make merry, inbetween watching the waves break over ragged rocks, while the gulls circle slowly overhead…We will return in a couple of days.