october - september 2010
Four years ago the company 57 Productions filmed me at home reading my poem “The Fair Cop” and the poem sequence “Unrelated Incidents”. The company has a website where people pay to download films of poets reading their own work.
Now they have put the “Unrelated Incidents” film on YouTube, though they have disabled the function that would allow it to be embedded in a website like this. I do have a copy of the film they gave me, but I would be breaking their copyright to upload it directly here. You can see this film of me reading “Unrelated Incidents” on YouTube here
Some news from a monthly email that usually cheers me up. I get the monthly report from Shay Cullen of Preda, the Columbine organisation in the Phillipines that fights against child sexual abuse and sex tourism there, using lawyers and campaigns to stop young boys being flung in jail where they were sexually abused by prisoners and police; and young girls put into brothels supplying at one time the American base there, now largely thanks to Preda supplanted by a fair trade manufactory that gives independence to the rescued. This from the latest email.
Preda FairTrade dried mangos is a marketing success wherever they are introduced. When they went into the supermarkets in Ireland and the UK through our partner Forestfeast http://www.forestfeast.com/, they became a runaway favorite as more and more people tasted them, they took to them instantly. They also learned about the social development work of Preda Foundation and became devoted supporters and many joined the campaign to defend children at risk that Preda Fair Trade supports.
Today, customers are seeking out the Preda dried mangos in every supermarket in Ireland and the UK and calling the managers to ask if they have replenished their stocks. ...it is SO2 preservative free and also fat free and great for daily healthy eating especially for children. Parents buy the dried mangos to get their children to taste the naturally sweet healthy food and soon they overcome their craving for unhealthy junk snacks. There are no artificial ingredients like food coloring.
Preda is a Philippine human rights social development organization working for 36 years providing social services, community education, human rights advocacy & alleviates poverty and economic oppression through fair-trade. The immediate action projects work to save children from abusive situations and rescues minors from jails and giving them shelter, support and recovery in a dignified Preda home. Girls are rescued from brothels and pimps, and given a new start in life in a Preda therapeutic community. .. They are empowered & they take legal action to seek justice for themselves to heal & hope for a better life.
Shay Cullen has twice been nominated unsuccessfully for the Nobel Prize. He’d have had more chance if he’d had a bombing campaign behind him like Kissinger, or if he was a dissident in a country the West didn’t approve of.
You can read about Preda here.
This is the opening of Scene One of my translation of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children. Part of this was used as publicity material to get interest from theatres in taking the production I understand. That succeeded, though as things stand whether the difficulties I have had with the theatre company get sorted out and the production of my translation ever does go ahead with them, is at the moment doubtful.
Despite the hassle with the company it has been a labour of love actually translating the Brecht, which translation I have no doubt will be produced by some company some day. Plans for the publication of the book as already mentioned here are going ahead, dependant on its being cleared by the Brecht estate who have under Stefan Brecht (who died last year) been jealous in guarding copyright translation and publication rights.
I will put up some more of the translation soon comparing passages with the John Willett translation. Willett was for some time the main translator of Brecht and, a teacher tells me, Willett's is the only translation of the play allowed to be used for Scottish school exams in drama.
The smallpress publisher Smokestack Books has confirmed that they wish to publish my new translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children about this time next year. Their website can be seen here
I will set to writing an introductory essay when I have time.
Thought I would make twelve posters from this web journal of this past 15 months into a slideshow. Might show it at a reading sometime if there is a projector. Here it is as uploaded to YouTube.
Each poster is up for about twelve seconds, a couple with a deal of text on them have a few seconds more. Click square bottom right to get fullscreen image.
Somebody said to me today I see you are reading at the CCA in Glasgow on October 21st. I had to point out that that event is a promo event for Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey Robinson's Poems for the Millenium Vol 3 (19th century) which the editors asked myself, Gerrie Fellows and Peter Manson to choose poems from to read there when they speak about it that Wednesday night. So it's a promo for the anthology which we were asked to as it were endorse by turning up and reading from it; it's not a reading by poets of their own work. I've asked the CCA to make their online ad a bit clearer.
At the end of the month on Sunday October 31st I will be again in the CCA reading my own stuff this time at an evening event something to do with Doc 8 a human rights documentary gig; I don't know much about it to be honest but I think it's Amnesty International or something so I will mosey along and do my quarter hour or whatever they want. Starts 8pm.
I like this David Mach's public artwork in Kingston, Surrey. Here in Kingston a few days with son Stephen and wife Lucy.
I said a couple of days ago I would put up an excerpt from my 2002 version of Chekhov.
London. Staying in a son’s house while he and his spouse are away for a week. On the wall, a poster from the Theatre Babel production of my version of Uncle Vanya in Manchester on tour eight years ago.
Will put up an excerpt in a day or so. Had a really enjoyable hard-work time writing the Chekhov and working with Babel.
Barack Obama has offered a range of inducements to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in return for a two-month extension to the partial freeze on settlement construction, it was reported today.
Obama wrote a letter to Netanyahu in an attempt to break the deadlock in talks which has occurred since the expiry of the freeze at the weekend. In it he sets out a list of commitments and guarantees the US was willing to offer in exchange.
The letter was disclosed by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and reported by all major Israeli news organisations.
A White House spokesman said no letter had been sent to Netanyahu, adding: "We are not going to comment on sensitive diplomatic matters." Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, said: "We're not getting into the content of discussions."
According to the reports, the letter requests a 60-day renewal of the freeze. In return, Obama guarantees to demand no further extensions, to ensure that the future of Jewish settlements would become part of "final status" negotiations, and to veto any United Nations security council resolution relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the next year, while talks continue.
He pledges to support a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The letter also acknowledges Israel's security needs and the need to upgrade its defence capabilities, and promises to consult Israel and the Arab states on US policy on Iran.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu had not replied to the letter and was inclined to reject its offer. Guardian
On my 55th birthday Sonya and I went a day out to the island of Arran, and in a local jeweller’s shop in Brodick Sonya bought a silver ring for me from the man who ran the shop who had made the ring himself.
It had a design of oblique slashes across it and I liked it a lot. It was very slightly loose on me and I took to squeezing bits of bluetack in at the side of it to keep it firmly on my finger. I meant to get it sized properly but never did. Once it came off when I was swimming in the local pool and I had to ask somebody to fish it out from the bottom. It came off a couple of other times in the house over the years but I was there to put it back on again. Then one day I noticed at the end of the day that it had disappeared. And that was that. The house was turned upside down but no sign of it. I thought maybe some day it will turn up down the side of a cushion or something but it never did. It was gone.
This year as August came round it was my 66th birthday heaving into view, so on a notion over we went to Arran again. The shop on the front at Brodick was still there but the contents were different, it was more a kind of general gift shop with a few jewellery items. The young woman who ran the shop said the jeweller had retired, he still owned the premises but he rented it out to her. No men’s rings.
I’d looked up the Yellow Pages online for Arran before we went and there was only one jeweller’s advertised, in Lamlash. So we got the bus out from Brodick, but it turned out that it shut on Monday—and this was Monday. Anyway looking in the window it didn’t look too promising.
Back in Glasgow Sonya said she would get me a ring down the town. One day she asked me if I could remember what the design was like on the old ring. I quickly scored out a few slashes in the randomish way that I remembered the ring had had, on a bit of paper. That’s fine, Sonya said and took it away. Turned out she was getting a ring made special.
It took a few weeks past my birthday before it was ready, but came the day and Sonya came back from the town with it. It’s good, slightly wider than the old ring but the design is more or less the same and this time it fits perfect. Back on the righthand finger again.
A day like this, still thinking about those numpties incapable of showing the most basic respect for the best of me in my work that I’ve given them. Looking at this ring thinking, me and Sonya, and up the lot of them.
Still waiting on assent from the theatre company for whom I wrote a translation of Mother Courage and her Children, that they have accepted the first draft and are agreeing to proceed, thereby agreeing to pay me for my summers’ work. All I get is a lot of administration-nuspeak “touchbase & up-to-speed” bluster and a smokescreen of activity that studiously avoids the answer to my now oft-repeated question. As they have failed to give me this answer after thirty days of possession of the full script (and two months possession of two-thirds of it), the script technically now has reverted to being my property.
This is the short Scene Seven. Touch base!
(A road. The chaplain, Mother Courage and Kattrin pulling the cart which is
hung with new goods. Mother courage wearing a necklace of silver coins.)
Mother Courage Naibdy’s goany spoil my war. Wipes out your weaklings does it,
well peace does that as well. Least war feeds folk.
For all the talk of war and glory
great vict’ries won, don’t kid yoursells
war’s nothin but a bit of business
though no in cheese it’s guns an shells.
An trying to stay in one place willny help you. They’re the folk aye cop it first.
Some folk’ll look for quiet quarters
a place tae settle doon they crave
they want tae dig some hoose foundations
instead they dig an early grave.
Some rush aboot like bees oot jamjars
a peaceful spot they’re searchin oot
but wance they’re deid I aye jist wunnir
what aw their rush was aw aboot.
(The wagon goes on its way.)
The site was down for a few days replaced by a message from a hacker who had apparently hacked hundreds of websites.
Thanks to my son Stephen who looks after the technical basis of this site, who got the hack removed.
The editorship at the Edinburgh Review is changing and for the new editor Alan Gillis whose first issue will be out in January, I am going to review Tom Raworth’s newest collection of poems. As I work on this it may by agreement expand into a fuller article.
There is an evening called Throat Cuts not Bonus Cuts at Roxy Arthouse Roxburgh Place Edinburgh on October 7th . There’ll be poets Nick E Melville and Rodney Relax, and as Nicky Melville put it in an email inviting me to take part “it's a quasi-political themed anti-recession anti-bankers anti-all in this together type thing, with directly or indirectly politically conscious performers... there'll be Wounded Knee (you'd love him), Zorras, Kevin Williamson, a film artist friend of mine called Sacha Kahir and maybe even some art from one of the angry brigade.. will be dissecting the main political party manifestos and such like.”
I can’t make it on the 7th, am in London. But I’ve sent Nicky a selection of my posters from my web journal of this past year which he’ll show. Looking through my hard disk I happened also to come on this spoof poster I made in the mid-nineties about Tony Blair.
Central to the Labour Party’s once supposed inclination to socialism was its espousal of “Clause Four” which described the need for “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. When he became leader of the Labour Party in 1993 Blair set out at once to remove this clause from the party’s constitution, and he was at the centre of much other structural procedural changes eliminating leftwing influence in such as the tradeunion-Labour Party liason committees. Firstly his path was to destroy the “menace” of a leftwing Labour Party, then the “menace” of public services without any private ownership, then the Middle East “menace” of forces opposed to British-American-Israeli control of land and resources. This last “menace” he now defines as “radical Islam”.
He succeeded in having Clause Four removed from the Labour Party’s constitution in 1995.
Sunday, September 12th
So George Gideon Oliver Osborne, heir apparent to the baronetcy of Ballintaylor and son of Felicity Alexandra Loxton-Peacock and Sir Peter George Osborne 17th Baronet of Ballintaylor as duly constituted in His Majesty’s Kingdom of Ireland in the Year of Our Lord 1629—George Gideon Oliver has decided that another 4 billion pounds must be taken out of welfare payments to the sick and unemployed. “We” cannot afford it!!
This might be a tricky one to sell, what with all those lilylivered humanitarians, softie religious types, do-gooders and the like out there, not to mention what’s left of the Lefties (ha! ha!) and even the sick and unemployed themselves. Whom to turn to for help? Who but our pride-of-the-world British Broadcasting Corporation News Service? Who else would you think!
Enter “Nick” Robinson, head of BBC political news staff, former head of the Oxford University Conservative Association. A photo-opportunity with the heir to the baronetcy is set up, trailed with shots of Robinson driving what he calls “the length of the A1”, where, according to him, the cry from all he interviews is, as the opening words on the film have it, “Cut Welfare!” Two people are shown saying “Cut benefits” in answer to Robinson’s prompt as to What Should the Chancellor Cut.
And he has little cards, spoof voting cards, which in a specially made perspex box he is seen carrying as he enters the door to the Chancellor’s apartments at 11 Downing Street. Then the “interview” follows. Said spoof ballot cards laid on the table, representing “the nation”. How much are you going to cut Welfare, asks Robinson, speaking for us all. Four billion. But we’ve heard this kind of talk before! How can we believe you this time?
And so on, the two beaming at each other in this latest “newsroom” stunt of opinion-control. And what about old people? Aren’t their bus passes “benefits” too, says Robinson, having first confronted one of his elderly interviewees with this. Shouldn’t these be cut? Why, says Robinson archly, Why should chancellor Kenneth Clarke in the cabinet be entitled to a bus pass just because he’s over sixty? Ho ho ho. Point taken, beams the heir to the baronetcy.
Clarke, a wealthy multi-director of such as global tobacco corporations, has no doubt never used public transport once in his life and never will. No matter. The BBC has done its job. A perky little film costructed for the top of its main news bulletins. By evening the main news had sharpened to lead with how Osborne was upset at people in Britain getting up and going to work at seven am passing the drawn curtains of the committed workshy.
I remember in the seventies, at a time when the news media were getting very uptight about “the power of the unions” and the climax came, and went, with the almost-election of Tony Benn to the deputy leadership of the Labour Party; at that time an article in the Radio Times appeared by the then deputy head of BBC news, Popplethwaite or something like that his name was. I used to have the article as a cutting, and mentioned it in the Edinburgh Review in something I wrote then. It was time for a radical change, the BBC man wrote. At one time society had been a pyramid, you could take bricks away from the bottom and it would stay standing. Now society resembled a chimney stack. if you took bricks away from the bottom, there was danger of it toppling. The onus now was on BBC News, in the present situation, not simply to report, but to inform and educate.
Its news bulletins have been “informing” and “educating” ever since. Long live the chimney stack! Long live the Baronetcy of Ballintaylor!
Nadia Boulanger, in her croaky 80 year old French voice, And I would ask them: Would you die for music? Pause. If not—what for?
Berlioz rolling in the grass over Estelle’s pink boots.
Galli-Curci, told she would not get a role at La Scala. Making her name elsewhere then La Scala saying if she would sing for them now, she would be lead singer and she could write her price on the cheque. So they send her a blank cheque, and she returns the envelope unopened—torn in two.
Passion. I would get that passion listening to Sorley MacLean. The only person I know who reads with it is the exiled Palestinian poet Ghazi Hussein.
It’s not splurge, it’s not something removed from intellect. But it’s not intellect without emotion, or “brilliance”, or the writer who is praised for being “unruffled”, god forbid, or“zen calvinism” or such pish you can hear spoken of in Scotland. It’s not “ecology” or trout-and-beans-under-the-moon as I have called it elsewhere; it’s not “diversity” or opportunistic identity-politics cashing in on the troughs for such presently available as long as the right boxes will be ticked for funders: politics-without-politics, as a good friend has called it; it’s not about status, it’s not about obsessively working out “who is the greatest poet in scotland”, who will be next fucking “makar” to lick the parliamentarians’ arses—or at least be guaranteed not to disturb them at stool— and Go Down Well In the Schools; it is not about about this horrible, relentlessly upbeat “being cool” stuff.
It’s not even about “being passionate” as such. Just being committed, I suppose, totally. I get it from a young poet like Alex Singerman, just published his first book, well, self-published it. Language part of being in the world. Not for fucks sake “the arts world”, let alone “the poetry world”. Innate musicality, the semiotics of space and puncutation as part of the the instrument being played. Which, to go by all the boxes to be ticked, means “it can’t be any good”. The Professor of Poetry up the road would no doubt boom something pompous about what he obviously hasn’t read. I’ve met a number of young writers while I was working there teaching this past few years: so great just coming on that spark, sitting with people at a tangent to that thing-being-constructed, just trying to serve it. Not in a time-slot, not thinking of “outcomes”, not thinking of “income generation.” Heresy, which is to say, serving Art. Which is heresy. Nowadays writing from a local lower class background, I am told, is treated there with contempt. Students must learn why they are ignorant, to be “taught” what it is they ought to digest before they are fit to attempt to put something on the table themselves. They have no such thing as innate potentiality. My god. What a revolutionary idea, indeed.
Politics, politics. Yesterday, after coming on another fairgoing shock of it, I can only regroup in music. Put on the Ravel piano trio, instantly, thank god, at home again. At home in art, and passion. Away from the shock of people who quite simply are not up to the fucking job. And who will concern themselves with art. Worse, with what money there is to be got from it. Which isn’t much—if you’re a poet. But you need the fucking stuff, like anybody else.
Dear Haydn. Dear, dear Haydn. All the hyperarticulate spludge laid on, accreted and encrusted over literature now in the institutions. And Haydn, any one, indeed any one movement of his 104 symphonies has more talent and invention and art than virtually all of what’s pontificated about regarding contemporary literature in the broadsheets and classrooms: Haydn, having worked himself like a slave all his long musical life, replies to a letter written to him by somebody just before the performance of what was to be his last major work before he died, the Harmoniemesse:
“Often when struggling against the obstacles of every sort which oppose my labours; often when the powers of mind and body have weakened, and it was difficult for me to continue in the course I had entered on; - a secret voice whispered to me: ‘There are so few happy and contented peoples here below; grief and sorrow are always their lot; perhaps your labours will once be a source from which the care-worn, or the man burdened with affairs, can derive a few moments’ rest and refreshment.’ This was indeed a powerful motive to press onwards, and this is why I now look back with cheerful satisfaction on the labours expended on this art, to which I have devoted so many long years of uninterrupted effort and exertion.”
Thank god for music. Thank god for Haydn.
The structuring of the unnameable.
…and this for his “legal” acts of war—plus the new ones he’s advocating.
....... And man will hearken to his glozing lies — Paradise Lost ........
In 1965 I went camping with Pascal’s Pensées and Kierkegaard’s Either/Or for company. 13 years later in 1978 I recorded a sound adaptation of a paragraph from the Kierkegaard. The YouTube video embedded here presents that recording along with the text.
The Kierkegaard was recorded separately on two concurrent tracks. The whole lasts five and a half minutes.
Click square in bottom righthand corner to enlarge the screen.