Sunday, 27 February 2011

This Be The Verse: Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

Philip Larkin seemed to live his life by the theme of this poem. A very insular, shy and awkward man who never married and never had any children. Sometimes thought to be homosexual because he never married but in fact he was quite a ladies' man and throughout his life had at least 3 long term relationships with members of the opposite sex: often these relationships overlapped. The exact nature of these relationships is not certain, and is thought that his relationship with his secretary, Betty Mackareth, was nothing more than a professional one. But whatever relationships with the females in his life, it is fact that he never sired any children: this poem and his often dour work would seem he blames a lot of his [own] perceived inadequacies on his parents. Having said all that, this is one of my favourite poems, so if you haven't read it before I hope you enjoy it.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
 They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
 And add some extras, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
 By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
 And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
 It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
 And don't have any kids yourself.

A few funny quotes

When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did, in his sleep -- not screaming,
like the passengers in his car. ~ Anonymous

Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. ~ Douglas Adams

Girls are like phones. We love to be held, talked to but if you press the wrong button you'll
be disconnected! ~ Anonymous

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway. ~ Anonymous

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like,
and do what you'd rather not. ~ Mark Twain

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot
cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity. ~ Albert Einstein

The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on. ~ Robert Bloch

Friday, 25 February 2011

"Killer Mouse"

I was working in a shop the other day and to get to where I needed to work I had to move a piece of furniture out of the way. Nothing special in that I hear you say, until one of the guys that worked there asked me if I was avoiding the "Killer Mouse"? A look of bemusement must have come across my face because he looked past me and pointed towards the floor. I looked and looked, and then I saw it, this little "Jerry" had decided to have dinner in the plug socket. Wires do sometimes go bang as this little fella knows too well, well he would have done if he'd have survived his venture into 17th Edition [the UK's electrical installers industry standard competency] or as we say "qualified sparks".

I guess if "Jerry" had had his rubber soled boots and his insulated screwdriver when he went to work that morning, he might still have been munching Cathedral extra mature today.

Funny thing was though, I asked the guy how long that mouse had been there; because it occurred to me that when I moved that piece of furniture, it hadn't been moved for a long time. "Oh ages" he said nonchalantly, so the sadistic bastards had left it there for any unsuspecting person to come along and find it. I did think to myself I should move it but hey, the guys that worked in the shop liked their little "mouse in trap" art exhibition and who was I to take that from them ?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Published: Adrift in a Mind: Stephen Murphy

Adrift in a Mind is my first collection of poetry which is published at Lulu, I'm working out how to get it onto Amazon but I just thought I would share this bit of good news with anyone that might be interested.

I've been writing poetry on and off for about 15 years: where those poems are that I wrote 15 years ago, I have no idea, probably collecting dust in the loft somewhere. This collection includes poems I've written over the last couple of years - ever since starting to write again I've wanted to put them into print, so this is a kind of a dream come true for me.

Some of the poems in the book are here on the blog and I won't remove them, this is purely a venture that's been ticking away in my head for a long time so I'm just chuffed to have finally achieved it - by the way Venture is the title of one of the poems in the book, where I talk about turmoils of life. My blog friend Norman Ross aka the Red Baron pointed me towards Lulu where you self-publish your own books at no cost. Lulu get their money when people buy the books, I set the price which then gives me a bit of cash.

The process is simple; you upload a source file [a .doc or .pdf file], create a cover for your book using Lulu's easy to use cover wizard, insert copyright and ISBN details [ISBN number I obtained from the ISBN Agency], once you've received a proof copy, amendments are made and away you go: publish, publish, publish.

It'd be great if anyone were to buy the book and even leave a comment either here or on the Lulu page. I'm going to buy a few copies myself and see if a local bookshop will put them on their shelves for a month or 2 just to see if they sell.

Who knows ?!


Friday, 18 February 2011

Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep: Mary Frye (1905-2004)

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

The Soldier: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

Rupert Brooke died at the age of 27 after he developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite en route to fight at Gallipoli in the First World War. He was buried on the Greek Island, Skyros where his grave remains today. This is a poem I have read many times;

If I should die, think only this of me: 
That there's some corner of a foreign field 
That is for ever England. There shall be 
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; 
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, 
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, 
A body of England's, breathing English air, 
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. 

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less 
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; 
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; 
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, 
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

August 1968: WH Auden (1907-1973)

The poem's title refers to the Communist invasion of Czechoslovakia, the year I was born.

The Ogre does what ogres can, 
Deeds quite impossible for Man, 
But one prize is beyond his reach, 
The Ogre cannot master Speech: 
About a subjugated plain, 
Among its desperate and slain, 
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips, 
While drivel gushes from his lips.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

What I'm reading

I noticed all the books on the window sill in the conservatory and realised I'd put them there as books "I was currently reading". It wasn't until I tidied them up this morning that I realised there were more there than I was actually reading right now. I thought it would make a cool header image for my blog so up it went.

Books on the sill I've read this year so far; David Copperfield (Dickens); Moy, Sand and Gravel, Horse Latitudes and Maggot (all Paul Muldoon); Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad). Next to be read, at the same time as the Selected Poems of Robert Frost which I can't put down at the minute, is Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. Having read Conrad's Heart of Darkness last weekend I've moved on to the second recommendation which I hope to get stuck into this weekend.

Amazon has been a great resource for books recently, I don't think I've paid more than £3 for any book in quite a while. Most of what I buy are either classics or poetry books; I used to be very choosy about the version of a book I'd buy but when you buy from the internet you can't be sure of the exact copy you are going to get. And at £3, you can't really go wrong: I either buy books who's price is £3 or less and quite often the seller offers free delivery and on quite a few occasions I've bought books for 1p, yes, one pence, one penny, £0.01. However you want to put it it's a penny, on these occasions the seller normally charges £2.80 for postage; keeping my £3 budget in tact, and when you're buying the amount of books I've been buying recently it all adds up. The Robert Frost collection is a prime example, I had no idea what poems were in the book, I just went ahead and paid the £2.94 secondhand price (with free delivery), within 48 hours the book had dropped on the doormat and I haven't put it down since. Amazon is saving me loads of money and I'm getting what I want quickly; it's not helping the high street book shops which does concern me a little bit but if they can't compete with the big boys then I guess they'll just have to find other ways to sell their books.

Leave a comment below if there's anything you see you've read, liked, hated or is on your list of "to reads".

Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Neptune's Wrath: SJ Murphy

You'll die a nasty death (spitting, gargling)
Of the sea, be thrown o'erboard and taken down.
The crashing, breaking, churning, sea of salt;
No aide, no rescue, no Neptune's crown,

Will save you from the danger of the sea,
If you don't heed the warning,
Batten down the hatches, stow away.
First and last, middle and morning,

Use the lanyards, buckles, stow for sea,
As swells increase, heave-to against,
The peaks and troughs, the breaking waves,
They don't recede once commenced.

Thousands of miles the swell does build,
Heave-to, full steam, whatever you must,
Like the fiercest tiger hot on heals,
Runaway, avoid the beast, at all cost.

Eternal ebb and flow: SJ Murphy

In and out, back and for,
Ebbing, flowing of the shore,
In and out, back and for,
Eternal, 'head and afore.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Quotes; some of my favourites

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Lady Astor to Winston Churchill - Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink.
Winston Churchill to Lady Astor - Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

I can't understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It's like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife.

I wouldn't mind seeing China if I could come back the same day.

Above all, though, children are linked to adults by the simple fact that they are in process of turning into them. For this they may be forgiven much. Children are bound to be inferior to adults, or there is no incentive to grow up.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Two Look at Two: Robert Frost (1874-1963)

I went to my first poetry group last night at Stockwood Park Golf Club in Luton. I'm not sure what I was expecting but after my fascination at Shakespeare's Sonnets at the British Library last week I was up for an interesting evening. It was not the same; and hey, it was never going to be, but I do see it being somewhere that I will be able to get some "live" feedback for any poems I think are good enough to share with my new friends in the future!

Last night's theme was Love; St Valentine's Day being next week of course. Rather than a melee of poems crossing the full spectrum of love coming up randomly, last night's host, William Greig, arranged them into clusters of themes, within a theme; beginnings of love; lust; pain of love; love endings; and finally finishing the evening on the joys of love. A lady, I think her name was Sue, read a poem by Robert Frost; I've never read any Frost: he's american and I haven't ventured across the pond yet: so much poetry over here, I'm not brave enough to open a huge expanse of new poetry just yet. "Two Look at Two" isn't conventionally a love poem but celebrates the love of nature, where that fits into the "themes within a theme" I spoke of earlier I'm not 100% sure but I liked it anyway so thought I would post it here. Hope you enjoy it;

Love and forgetting might have carried them
A little further up the mountain side
With night so near, but not much further up.
They must have halted soon in any case
With thoughts of a path back, how rough it was
With rock and washout, and unsafe in darkness;
When they were halted by a tumbled wall
With barbed-wire binding. They stood facing this,
Spending what onward impulse they still had
In One last look the way they must not go,
On up the failing path, where, if a stone
Or earthslide moved at night, it moved itself;
No footstep moved it. 'This is all,' they sighed,
Good-night to woods.' But not so; there was more.
A doe from round a spruce stood looking at them
Across the wall, as near the wall as they.
She saw them in their field, they her in hers.
The difficulty of seeing what stood still,
Like some up-ended boulder split in two,
Was in her clouded eyes; they saw no fear there.
She seemed to think that two thus they were safe.
Then, as if they were something that, though strange,
She could not trouble her mind with too long,
She sighed and passed unscared along the wall.
'This, then, is all. What more is there to ask?'
But no, not yet. A snort to bid them wait.
A buck from round the spruce stood looking at them
Across the wall as near the wall as they.
This was an antlered buck of lusty nostril,
Not the same doe come back into her place.
He viewed them quizzically with jerks of head,
As if to ask, 'Why don't you make some motion?
Or give some sign of life? Because you can't.
I doubt if you're as living as you look."
Thus till he had them almost feeling dared
To stretch a proffering hand -- and a spell-breaking.
Then he too passed unscared along the wall.
Two had seen two, whichever side you spoke from.
'This must be all.' It was all. Still they stood,
A great wave from it going over them,
As if the earth in one unlooked-for favour
Had made them certain earth returned their love.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Heart of Darkness: Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

There's only one word I can use to describe Heart of Darkness; Powerful.

This book, hyped for it's association with Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now, is a mere skeleton to which Coppola moulded a dangerous and ill-fated expedition by Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) into the Vietnamese Jungle to assassinate the crazed Special Forces Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).  Heart of Darkness, for me, is a fantastic book. Conrad, with English as his third language not learnt until in his twenties, portrays a dark side of the ivory trade in West Africa during the 19th Century with vigor gripping the reader through the short 110 pages of the text.  Conrad's descriptive writing from the outset gripped me like a vice and it was a definite not put down until finished book for me, thank god it was only 110 pages long.

Short summary of the plot:

Marlow's aunt secures him a job to bring ivory out of the West Africa Jungle. Before starting on his mission he hears of a very successful but unorthodox trader already in the jungle, Kurtz. Marlow is tasked with not only bringing ivory out of the jungle but also Kurtz himself. The story unfolds with Marlow transfixed with the enigma, Kurtz; his travels from the Central Station into the jungle with his trusted, but hungry escorts, the cannibals; to his eventual meeting with Kurtz.

Taken from the book;

Talking of the coastline slipping past his vessel he writes on page 19;

There it is before you - smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, Come and find out.

And again on page 29: talking of the changes the heat, humidity and inhabitants of the jungle can have on the human psyche, he says;

I remembered the old doctor, - "It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot." I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting.

Conrad has written a masterpiece in my opinion, possibly having watched Apocalypse Now a few times I was able to transpose the depth of Coppola's eery narrative and moody scenes onto the book. It was interesting to hear Ruth at Words and Things was not impressed with the book at all.  Whether we just like different reading genre or if it might have helped her to have seen Apocalypse Now first, we'll never know, but for me if anyone has seen Apocalypse Now and liked it, I also think they would enjoy (enjoy?) Heart of Darkness. I question the word "enjoy" because I wouldn't say I enjoyed the book, I was more - consumed - by the book; as I have been consumed by the film every time I have watched it.


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Wind, crashing: SJ Murphy

I don't normally bother placing words in particular shapes on a page but on this occasion I think the poem requires a bit of formation;

                       Windows smashing,
Wind, smashing, bins bashing,
Wind, bashing, pigeons thrashing,
Wind, thrashing, cars crashing,
Wind, crashing.

Voices: SJ Murphy

They're in my head, the noises,
There in my head, the voices,
Screeching, screaming, noises, voices.

An Arundel Tomb: Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

This was one of the first Larkin poems I ever read and the no nonsense way in which he wrote was accessible to me, making it readable and understandable all at once. I find poetry that makes you think "What the hell was all that about" once you've read it almost a waste of words. Scholarly people may disagree and work and discuss for hours, weeks and years to understand those words; good luck to them. I like poetry to be enjoyable, if I don't understand it, it's not worth reading is my theory.

Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would no guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-littered ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigures them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love. 

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Listeners: Walter de la Mare (1873-1956): 2nd Appreciation

I just found a couple of youtube readings of what is quickly becoming my favourite poem. The first is de la Mare reading himself; the second is the poem read and set to Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending. I hope you enjoy!

The Listeners read by Walter de la Mare

The Listeners put to Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending

And you can see a full copy of the poem on one of my previous posts here.


Black bag blow-out argh !

It's not often I get stuck into cleaning the house but I had a go this morning. What a mistake ! I thought I'd do the cleaning up before doing some breakfast, quick do of the dishes, quick empty of the bins, quick hoover around etc etc.

All was going well, dishes were done then time for emptying the kitchen bin before hoovering and if the mood took me mop the floor. Until ! And what an until ! The bin bag decided to burst on entry into the atmosphere, like a star bursting after a few million millennia of build-up. I even tried to cut my losses by letting go of the top of the bag to stop the outburst from mid blow-out. No ! That didn't help, all contents, now from the top end, decided to spill all over the floor aswell. What a nightmare !!

So, mucky hands now clean, mucky floor now clean and 3 new bin bags later, all done. I'm not a chauvinist, hence my gusto at getting stuck in, but for now, my Domestic God days are over.

Steve (now very clean)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Shakespeare's Sonnets: British Library 2nd February 2011

Words, at least my words, cannot explain how I feel about the discussion I've just been to at the British Library on the subject of Shakespeare's Sonnets. I never got to read the sonnets through before I went this evening but in the end that wasn't important. What was important was having a little bit of background to the sonnets, knowing that they existed at all and that in some way or other they were related to love.

Ben Crystal, all I know of him is he is an actor, with a love of Shakespeare: he never said as much but from his oration, introductions and performances of some of the panels chosen sonnets, was quite obvious. Ben performed and brought the sonnets to life (in a way I have never seen, and I have never seen because I have never been to anything like I've been to tonight). In answering a question on how can an English Teacher persuade 15 year olds to engage with Shakespeare. His response, after promising to go along to the school and read some sonnets for the class, was for the teacher to choose a few sonnets and get the students to "perform" them. Anybody knows that might be lost on the majority of the students but on a lucky few there might be a spark that encourages some further thought and/or enthusiasm.

For me, Ben Crystal made the evening come alive, hairs on the back of my neck rose and I think a tear was in my eye, or was I just tired from the busy day ? The romantic in me is hanging on to the former theory.

Words and phrases like I loved it, I enjoyed it, I need to go to more evenings like this and I need to stand alone in a room and air the sonnets aloud cannot do it justice, all true, but not strong enough phrases, I'm lost for words, I loved it.


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Apocalypse Now was based on Heart of Darkness, I never knew that!

I've just found out, and over the moon, that Apocalypse Now (1979 - Francis Ford Coppola) was based on Heart of Darkness (1902 - Joseph Conrad). Apocalypse Now has been my favourite film for as long as I can remember: I got a Collector's Edition of it for Christmas 2009 which I've watched a few times. This box set has over 2 hours of bonus material, including Marlon Brando reciting "The Hollow Men" by TS Eliot in full and a complete REDUX version of the film with an extra 40 minutes worth of film not shown in the original 1979 version.

I've never read any Joseph Conrad although I've got a copy of Secret Agent on the shelf which has been looking at me menacingly for some time. I've just ordered a copy of Heart of Darkness from Amazon which should be here in a couple of days; just in time for a weekend of Conrad reading and Coppola watching I think. As I've already seen the film, I don't think the book will be a disappointment as is often the case if you do things the other way around. The film version of Harry's Game was a great disappointment for me and I think it was because I saw it only days after I read the book. I don't think a film can explain what is going on in the perpetrators mind, how scared they are or how in love they are nearly as well as a book can.

Thanks to Ruth for an incite into my favourite film. There are some very interesting essays on all things literary and lots of her sample poems and sonnets on her website at Words and Things.


Not Explained: SJ Murphy

Words spoken, rolling off tongue to waiting ears,
Words written, quill nib to parchment paper,
Words typed, fingertips dancing on keyboard keys.

Homer not the first orator, performer,
Vibrant voice to expectant assembly,
Tales foretold again, again and again.

Generation upon next, generation,
Continued to tell and (possibly) expand,
The original tales foretold.

Every possible medium, we now have,
To record, reread and preserve,
The meaning we offer to be taken.

Meanings not explained or so we're told,
Meanings taken as written, as read,
Meanings their own to each reader.

I see this, this way, not that,
But you see that, that way, not this,
The difference the beauty of writing, of reading, of knowledge.

Beauty of writing, not explained,
Beauty of reading, not explained,
Beauty of knowledge, not explained.

The beauty ! The Beauty !
Of words, not explained.