Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tom Duddy, again

So, Irish poets... I have a few favourites. One of them, Peadar O'Donoghue, our Poetry Bus driver and editor, has a book out this year called "Jewel" (available from Salmon Poetry - here). You can read an interview with Peadar about the book here (courtesy of new New Zealander Rachel Fenton) and I am reading it too just now and may well write about it here at some point.

But today I have some sadder news about a different Irish poet... because Tom Duddy has recently died (that's his 2011 Arlen House poetry collection "The Hiding Place" pictured above). I knew Tom had been ill from his very minimal contact with facebook (he wasn't exactly Mr Self-Promotion as a writer) but from what I have read it was still a sudden, somewhat unexpected death when it came (Helena Nelson wrote something about it here). You can read about Duddy's career on his own website or in his obituary in the Irish Times and from them you can see that, although he wasn't one of poetry's most celebrated sons, at 62 years of age he was getting there (just because the poems were so good) and he had plenty of other achievements anyway (a career in philosophy and academia, a family, a good character).

I wrote about Duddy's 2006 HappenStance pamphlet "The Small Hours" on my old blog back in 2009 (here - that pamphlet is now sold out by the way). The poet himself called in at the comments to say hello back then and we exchanged a couple of messages and he seemed a thoroughly nice man. This doesn't necessarily make it sadder that he's died of course (we all will...) and yet I am a little sad (and I'm sure those who knew him well are thoroughly heartbroken). As a tiny tribute I asked permission to reproduce one of my favourites of his poems on here... partly because I too love Robert Frost's poems (they were some of my first contact with poetry) but partly because I like how Duddy is so sensible about writing as a career in this poem. There's no need to get worked up about it (I feel he is saying), just get on with it and you never know what will happen. As one who's been on the "page of doubt" regularly I find this poem very full, very astute. I like too that it's about someone else (and not just his own work). I'm sure Tom Duddy must have been a great teacher... probably a great Dad too. Anyway, here's the poem:

The  Life of Robert Frost
by Tom Duddy

The place at which I keep the marker
in my condensed edition of the life
is the last page of the early years
in which the forty-year-old poet,

not long before the voyage back
to New England, grows dejected
and wonders if he’s lost the gift,
if gift indeed he ever had.

He can’t foresee a summer’s night
in Vermont, seven years on
in 1922, when he’ll work
through the small hours till dawn,

stop for awhile to marvel at
himself and the first light, return
to the table and begin to write
the first words of a perfect poem.

As I switch from the page of doubt
to the page of triumph, back and forth,
like some child with a holographic toy,
I seem compelled to hold the poet

in England, full of doubt, and tilt him
forward to that summer’s night
just long enough for me to glimpse
the way a future shimmers there.

From Tom Duddy's "The Hiding Place" (Arlen House 2011) and "The Small Hours" (HappenStance 2006). The poem is ever so slightly different in the two publications so I have chosen the most recent version.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The end of part two?

 I post this for any readers who don't do facebook... don't want you to miss out on the best bits (someone posted the joke above earlier this week on FB and I shared it, as you do, and it's been making me smile for the last couple of days). Opinion seems divided online as to who drew it.. some say S.Harris but the signature doesn't match for me. Someone else says it's T Russell Harris and I think they're right. The signature looks more like it and you can see more of his work here.

The subject matter is relevant here too, in a way, because this week my wee girl leaves primary school... for good!  Hard to believe for some - partly because she is still very wee - but still... on she goes (and p.s. lovely Canadian song about small things here). The induction days last week gave us a bit of a taste of what's to come (longer days, some getting lost, lots of new exciting things, a bit of terror...) and now we have the summer holidays to lie low and get prepared (and walk round and round the town until she can find her way round in her sleep!). And of course what I'd really like is this (click on it to enlarge):

Little h doesn't mind the rain (she sees it as an excuse to watch movies!) but I, for one, have had enough of the wet stuff by now. The photo above was taken in Ontario last summer (west of Thunder Bay) but according to Juliet Wilson (also on FB) the sun has actually been hiding in North West Scotland recently. Come east, old friend, come east!

Anyone got any exciting plans for the summer?

Monday, 18 June 2012

A ramble... for old time's sake

Dog days? Dog's life? Sleeping dog (last December).

Remember on my old blog I used to ramble on for ages about all sorts..? Lately I've tried to be more succinct and to-the-point but this week I'm more in a rambling mood it seems. Maybe that's because it is nearly-end-of-term here... plus it's small-one-visiting-high-school week (they do a kind of taster week the term before they start - good idea I think)... plus it's also lots-of-rehearsals-for-musical-show week (for same small one) so really it's just a week of moving her around, waiting for her, making sure she eats in between activities... and there's no time for proper concentration on anything for me...

So what can I tell you? What is worth passing on? Well... I'd say this radio programme/interview with Doreen Lawrence (broadcast last week on BBC) is well worth a listen. Most British readers will know her name - her son Stephen was murdered in London in 1993 by white racist thugs. On the programme Doreen Lawrence chooses some of her favourite records and one is the song Beverley Knight wrote for her son called "Fallen Soldier". I've always been a bit of a BK fan (read an old interview with her, by someone else, here) - she's an amazing singer and the track in question is over here.

 Also I've been watching (in amongst the football matches... there's a tournament on in Europe you know...) a show about class and taste on C4 presented by artist Grayson Perry (episode 1 on "working class" taste is here, episode 2 on "middle class" taste is here and the last episode is on this week). You could pick the show to pieces of course (class is so complicated these days for a start... plus it's all in England so far...) but at the same time it is (a) pretty interesting, (b) trying its best to be honest and open about matters of difference and (c) freaking hilarious in places. I'm a person who doesn't lose much sleep about the way I look, what I wear or what I have lying about the house (mostly it's the dog - see above) but I am aware that not everyone feels that way (I have ex-art school friends... lots of them... luckily some of them even give me their cast-offs and thoughtful/tasteful presents to keep me on track...). And then there's the class issue... while we were away last year Canadians, in particular, seemed surprised by how much British folk still refer to class (even jokily) as it is something they don't see as an issue (although we still see it in their society, of course, just under other names...). Well, maybe this show would help them see our divisions... though I doubt it... it would probably just confuse them more! As my Dad was a doctor my Mum always told me (with relish!) that I would always be middle class, whatever I did or didn't do. Except these days more or less everyone calls themselves some kind of middle class so it means almost nothing (and yet almost everything at the same time!). Can't wait for this week's upper class show...

Also catch if you can - this radio programme about Maurice Sendak who died recently (on the player for a couple more days). There's a lot of lovely detail about how the Wild Things ended up as they did...

What else..? Oh yes, we went to the cinema yesterday... and we learned that border terriers (example above) are taking over the silver screen (if not the world). Mark and a friend saw "Prometheus" (I'm not linking to that - it hardly needs my help!) and what did they see at some point on the screen..? Yes, a border terrier. Meanwhile the daughter and I saw the new Brit-flick "Fast Girls" (lured largely by "Being Human" star Lenora Crichlow... who is good in this nearly Olympian tale of relay racing... even if several scenes are a little stolen by Lashana Lynch as one of the other runners... full cast see here). But what else did we see... several times... on screen... if not a border terrier! In "Fast Girls" it belongs to the main character's trainer/coach and is called Linford (can't find a photo of it online - sorry, dog fans). I know some of you readers share your homes and lives with border terriers too so I thought you might like to know of their current omnipresence. I'm not sure what this says about taste (or indeed class) but I have been jokily calling our example the "Ford Escort" of dogs recently (though that's really out-of-date no doubt... I am so disinterested in car fashion I cannot begin to tell you!). Probably by now she's the Nissan Qashqai of dogs or something. Oh, I really have no idea.

Bet you're glad I've stopped rambling now, aren't you?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Local action

Shock, horror! Something happening in our village!

OK so I'm not exactly Sporty Spice or your usual Events of National Importance cheerleader or anything but the Olympic Torch business was literally passing by the bottom of our street this morning so I volunteered to go and "help" at my daughter's school re getting the kids down to the road to watch and cheer. It was all over pretty quickly but here are some pics for those of you who might be interested. If you look closely you can see said daughter in the crowd (most likely wishing she was somewhere else - celebrating something less connected with sport...). 

First came the police. Police! We don't usually get them here much...

Then the beginning of the cavalcade...

Then came some slogans...

Here's your first chance to spot wee girlie...

And a sponsorship vehicle... don't worry if you miss this one... there are others...

Oh dear - have I cut off the logo from this sponsorship vehicle?

It's like a transport display... spot the daughter anyone?

The torch is coming eventually...

Yes, that's definitely the winning slogan...

And at last - here comes the torch!

Passing over the flame (local torch bearer info here): 

And then the other end of the police escort... and back to school for some...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Johnny English

John Cooper Clark - borrowed from his website.

So, never mind all the royal fuss down south... the exciting event for many of us recently was a TV documentary about poet John Cooper Clarke (it's here - available for a few more days). Maybe it's because I'm an (English) Northerner but I do love JCC (and I've written bits about him before - here and here). For a start I love his accent (never mind the eternal "punk poet" - how about "alternative king of the north"?) but I also love his total devotion to just being himself and not what other people want him to be, his use of language and his dedication to rhyme. I like that he's such a music fan too (wisely he's hung around with  musicians far more than with poets...), that he's so naturally funny and entertaining but at the same time deathly serious, in his way. I love that he lost some years to drugs (happens to the best people, you know) and that he has come back from the beyond, in some ways, stronger than ever before. What a guy... even if he is, technically, from the wrong side of the Pennines (as they say). You can't win 'em all.

The new documentary has more talking heads than a poetry festival has extremely opinionated individuals and some of them you will enjoy more than others, depending on your taste. I enjoyed Billy Bragg's contributions (because I love him possibly even more than JCC... no definitely I do... Billy sings this) and nods from comedian Bill Bailey and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner but there are lots of others to spot (Steve Coogan, Stewart Lee, Mark Radcliffe, Plan B, Craig Charles... it's a long list). You did feel they struggled to get some women onto the list of heads (total 3 - journalist Miranda Sawyer, singer/songwriter Kate Nash and "GCSE Syllabus Selector" Gill Murray... for they learn JCC at school now, apparently) but some is better than none... 

Still, the heads are really secondary and it is, as it should be, JCC who is the star of this show. I've selected my favourite quotes from the show and pasted them for your delectation below:

I'm grateful I never had any encouragement actually. You look at the poets that got encouraged by their parents and they're all shit.

If you see me going into a vegetative state, right, I've been there before and it's not that bad. Don't go making assumptions - "oh, he's dribbling out of the corner of his mouth, we'd better kill him he was a very proud man."

Poetry like all art is utterly useless, it is, fucking useless - that's the beauty of it, it's a luxury.

Because I rhyme things my preoccupation is with technique, the craft of it, how best to put this so that it, you know, supplies this rhyme. In between those two rhyming words is your imagination then coming into play.

People who make a distinction between written poetry and recited poetry make a mistake, I think, because all poetry should be read aloud.

And to end - a video of the poem of JCC's that most on the programme seemed to pick as their favourite: