hollymath: (Default)
Went to see Tas this afternoon -- she was suitably sympathetic about the national anthem and "Jerusalem" on Wednesday, and supportive of me asking them not to say "wheelchair bound" any more. We chatted a lot, started with tea but ended up on fruit cider for her and proper beer (Adnams' Ghost Ship, a favorite!) for me. And we got talking about poems, she said when she gets very drunk she recites "When I am old I shall wear purple..." but then did it anyway only halfway into her first pint. She looked it up and read it out with a few lines she missed, but couldn't have improved on her enthusiasm of the first time.

Then she read "Television" by Roald Dahl, and asked me "you did Robert Frost at school, no?" and I had so I read her the poem that stuck with me most strongly from then: "Birches", which, gods, how could I have even liked it then, when I knew nothing about how "life is too much like a pathless wood" or "I'd like to get away from earth awhile / And then come back to it and begin over." I thought it was a poem about children's play leaving a mark on the world that others could recognize. And it's that too, and how vivid are the images of trees in an ice storm now that I'm so much farther from the ones I remember.

And I read more, "Woman Work" by Maya Angelou and Shel Silverstein because the Roald Dahl poem reminded me of him (though he's not po-faced of course) and Tas asked me to read "If" which set up her reading of the spectacular "A Far Cry from Africa" which clearly resonates with her as another product of Commonwealth colonialism whose first language is English.

At some point her husband came home from work and was his quiet self, gently chuckling at his wife's familiar exuberance, perhaps aided by the alcohol but always present without it, too. He agreed he was not as good an audience for poetry; Tas was delighted to realize that I wasn't just humoring her but really enjoyed it myself too.

We ate dinner and managed to talk about other things during it but upon finding out that I hadn't read much of John Donne, she could hardly spare time for a mouthful of cake between explaining to me about his life and love poetry and religious poetry and one of the last poems of the night for us was "The Sun Rising": "All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy."

It was a great night.

Girl Hours

Dec. 30th, 2016 08:59 am
hollymath: (Default)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] meepalicious who, upon seeing Adrienne Rich's "Planetarium" linked to in my post about Vera Rubin, told me about another poem about another space-science woman which I absolutely adore: "Girl Hours".
Oh bright rain, brave clouds, oh stars,
oh stars.

Two thousand four hundred fires
and uncharted, unstudied,
the hours, the hours, the hours.
hollymath: (Default)
Sunny train window, the Train Picnic triumvirate of sandwich, snack and drink, new podcast. I am happy.

I think the joy of the triumvirate goes back to school field trips, the pleasing deliberation of the lunch packed as neatly as possible and taken with you, somehow making you want to eat it on the way there just because you know what it'll be and how nice it'll be.

The podcast is The Matter of the North, bittersweet now because listening to this first episode reminds me of having caught it on first broadcast, a week or two ago, when Katie and I were still planning to go to exactly this part of the world for a much-needed little holiday in October: Lindisfarne and Durham seemed perfect for a history nerd like her and an Old English lover like me, the perfect confluence of these things at a near enough ‎location to be cheap. Or so we thought, but it ended up being prohibitively expensive so we've had to abandon this plan, though I'm sure we'll work something out at some point.

It's especially disappointing because listening to this gives me an unbearably strong desire to visit these places: Hadrian's Wall, old ruins, cathedrals and coastlines, everything. I'm confused by the geography that's being narrated to me and I want to understand it better.

Somehow stories about the rest of England don't give me the same wanderlust. They're interesting, but I'm happy to leave them be. Somehow these northern ones -- and the Celtic bits of Britain --‎ are different. Evocative, and oddly familiar considering I'm from so far away and don't know anything about them really. 

To be topical at the beginning of this episode, good ol' Melvyn mentioned that this "referendum year" is a good time to do this (as if he isn't obsessed with being from Cumbria all the time...) and I think he's more right than he's willing to say. Because the campaign and especially the result has been yet more fodder for the arguments many of my Scottish friends and acquaintances are making that pit them against us which I have some sympathy with, but the Tory England they describe seems as foreign to me as it does to them. It seems terribly important to me that Manchester and Leeds and other northern cities were heavily Remain; we'll be dragged out of the EU just as unwillingly as Scotland.‎

Of course, the next episode of this podcast‎ I listened to is about Vikings, and of course the huge influence they had on this part of the country. The continuing vocabulary, attitudes and so on might explain why such an unfamiliar landscape can feel so familiar to me. I worry that's a bit of a reach, though: my grandmother's mother forbid her and the other children from learning Norwegian, even as her father sang hymns and lullabies in Norwegian (as well as English; I heard a recording of him at his wife's funeral, many years after he was gone himself), read his Bible in Norwegian, and gave the children Norwegian nicknames. My grandma doesn't remember what they were, though, and doesn't know a word of Norwegian. (Unless "uff da" counts!)

Still, [livejournal.com profile] rosamicula told me when she met me that I sounded like her friend Kjersti from Norway‎, and indeed I grew up knowing Kjerstis, and Bjorns, and every class in my school was full of Andersons and Carlsons and Knutsons‎.‎ Our jokes and our explanations and our vocabulary are different, even from the nearby states or parts of our own (apparently only Minnesotans play "duck duck gray duck" instead of "duck duck goose"?)

I liked that one of the academics talking about the Viking places and times in England started out by saying there must have been Viking women as well as men, for the language to persist as long as it must have done to be such a big influence in names and places. (There's a wonderful meditation on this in an excerpt from a Norman Nicholson poem, which googling led me to here after it was mentioned in the program.) So often it is the women, in charge of small children, feeding us lullabies and nursery rhymes that influence our language and our thinking on a level nothing in later life seems to reach.
hollymath: (Default)
Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you're tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They'll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren't alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren't alone. Go to sleep.

Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
and
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.


"The Sciences Sing a Lullabye," by Albert Goldbarth (thanks [personal profile] liv for calling this to my attention!)
hollymath: (Default)
I bought the big Norton anthology collection of poetry from my college bookstore. I didn't exactly need it, but it looked plausible enough for an English major that it was covered by the grant from State Services for the Blind that paid for my books.

Having no use for it, I read it for fun. I searched out favorite authors, I tried to learn to like ones whose names I recognized and thought I should know better. And sometimes I'd just open the book at a random page, and that's how I found this, "In Paris With You," by James Fenton.

I was single at the time, and Paris seemed as likely a place for me to visit as the Moon, so it was never really associated with a particular person or circumstance for me. I just like it, its playfulness and unwillingness to be bogged down in the past, the gravitational pull of tourist traps, or the conventions of poetic structure.

And I thought since I was whining the other day about wanting a break I can't have, something like this provides a little vacation in the mind. It still works for me, anyway, and maybe one or two of you will enjoy it as well.
Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful
And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two.
I'm one of your talking wounded.
I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded.
But I'm in Paris with you.

Yes I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I've been through.
I admit I'm on the rebound
And I don't care where are we bound.
I'm in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysees
And remain here in this sleazy

Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There's that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I'm in Paris with you.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris.
I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I'm in Paris with... all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I'm in Paris with you.

Satyrday

May. 5th, 2012 10:12 am
hollymath: (Default)
Oh give him the best wine
And bring on the nymphs
He'll grin all the time
And say "is that all there is?"
They want it now; they want it all
'Cause the satyr can never be sated at all!

From haunches to hooves
Their dancing is crazed
Pipes play, not to soothe,
The savage beast to raise
You can't knock them down, it's you who will fall
'Cause the satyrs can never be sated at all!

When wine and dreams are plentiful
Wjen you're always chasing girls with your friends
When ecstasy is holy and beautiful
And the party never ends
Look down for your hooves and horse-tail and all
You're the satyr who can never be sated at all!
hollymath: (life)
Friends invited me along to Saltaire the other day, a place I'd been assured I'd like but had never been. The predictions were correct; I liked it a lot. I delight that my friends are so good at knowing what I like.

Saltaire is a model village, a philanthropic endeavor by a nineteenth-century industrialist, Titus Salt, to get his workers out of the horrors of the living conditions in the slums of Bradford. Salts Mill now contains books and cafes and art supplies, the work of localish artist David Hockey and prints of art from further afield. And little touches of its original purpose, not just in the architecture but in bits of machinery and furniture that had been left, untouchable, dotted around the ground-floor tables of colorful art and books.

I looked at the art on the walls, and in the books, but I always struggle at least a little with visual art. My easy explanation is that, as a visually-impaired person, I find it difficult to appreciate visual art, and I think most people are content with this, but I'm not really. I think despite all my efforts at "art appreciation" I find it really difficult to see most paintings or drawings in anything other than the way Leonard Cohen talks about looking at the Moon, here in my favorite poem of his.



I am a poor lover of art. Presented with a friend's favorite painting, I am as likely to think "Wow, those hands look good, and hands are really hard to draw!" as about the inherent metaphors or the brushwork. I can do it with prose, sometimes poetry, usually music... but not paintings or photographs. I enjoy representational over abstract, but not because I think there is no value in abstract art, just that I like to look at things. Like trees. David Hockney's 25 Trees Between Bridlington School and Morrison’s Supermarket along Bessingby Road in the Semi-Egyptian Style is brilliant, because it's a very skilful rendering of what trees look like at different times of the year: dipped in sugar during winter, a perfect green during summer. But then I'm thinking about how much I like trees, not how much I like art or pictures of trees that aren't really there.

Similarly, the one book I fell in love with in the shop was a book of railway posters. From The Night Scotsman to the Orient Express, Interlaken to Canada, I was enchanted. But I knew I couldn't buy the book, not just because it was expensive and impractical but because I didn't want to look at the posters if I couldn't ride those trains. I wanted to go everywhere in that book, on those trains, and I can't. Divorced from their context, those posters' beauty is too bittersweet.

I loved that art because it is using its artistry for something, as surely as the gears and chains on the engines I was admiring are for something. It has a function, even though that function is advertising and I am normally philosophically opposed to advertising. But I like trains, almost as much as I like trees.

Still I lingered over the decorative engines more happily than I did over the other art.

Peotry

Dec. 7th, 2011 09:07 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Further to my last post, Andrew said first of course that he liked my "sad poem," continuing his habits of being tediously positive about every single thing I do, say and am, so that praise from him is a devalued currency. Luckily things soon got more interesting as he said "I think peotry* is more for writing than for reading, isn't it?"

I had to agree. Though I'd just got a friend excited earlier this afternoon about Billy Collins and looking for poets we like on YouTube, I am also a person who does occasionally write poems (or peoms) so I'm in the writing as well as reading category and do nothing to bump up the latter's stats, proportional to the former.

"You go up to someone on the street," Andrew expounded, "and ask them your favorite peom -- and you'll have to ask about twenty before you find one -- they will say Ozymandias..."

Here I started giggling. I actually find this the most palatable of Percy's poems, but it isn't what I'd have thought the favorite poem of your average person on the street.

"That 'if you can tolerate all these things you'll be a man' one..."

This was much more expected, both because this is exactly the kind of thing people who don't like poetry quote in graduation speeches or cards but also because a comedian Andrew loves has done a massive bit hammering unfortunate listeners over the head with the inconsistencies and nonsense of this poem.

"Charge of the Light Brigade... or The Owl and the Pussycat!"

Though he did say that these are not the favorites of people who studied English; he reckoned they'd pick "that one about wearing purple when you're old" -- though I thought that a much more populist suggestion than Ozymandias! -- and "that 'not waving but drowning' one," which at least we could both agree was for English students.

But those basic four...I commented it was an interesting bunch. He said it might be different in America and I agreed; while I'd read all four of these, three had only been in my English-major lit classes in college (I still remember one of my professors booming out "half a league, half a league...!"; he was even better at "Invictus") and I don't think I heard "The Owl and the Pussycat" until I came to England. "In America it'd be all The Waste Land and 'I took the road less travelled'." I'm not sure about The Waste Land -- does anyone like it? -- but Robert Frost is plausible. Or, a guess because the next thing Andrew told me was that he didn't know anything but "those two lines, 'two paths diverged and I took the one less traveled." I fixed his misquote and told him "Birches" is good.

But I wouldn't call Frost my favorite, and indeed I'm not sure I've got a favorite peom at all.

Do you? What is it? Any of these four? (Or six if you count the suggestions for Americans.) What would you say is the likely favorite of the person on the street?


* Not a typo, but how he matter-of-factly pronounces it throughout this conversation: pee-oh-tree. Very cheerful sounding. Try it. Also pee-ohms.

Peotry

Dec. 7th, 2011 08:56 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Further to my last post, Andrew said first of course that he liked my "sad poem," continuing his habits of being tediously positive about every single thing I do, say and am, so that praise from him is a devalued currency. Luckily things soon got more interesting as he said "I think peotry* is more for writing than for reading, isn't it?"

I had to agree. Though I'd just got a friend excited earlier this afternoon about Billy Collins and looking for poets we like on YouTube, I am also a person who does occasionally write poems (or peoms) so I'm in the writing as well as reading category and do nothing to bump up the latter's stats, proportional to the former.

"You go up to someone on the street," Andrew expounded, "and ask them your favorite peom -- and you'll have to ask about twenty before you find one -- they will say Ozymandias..."

Here I started giggling. I actually find this the most palatable of Percy's poems, but it isn't what I'd have thought the favorite poem of your average person on the street.

"That 'if you can tolerate all these things you'll be a man' one..."

This was much more expected, both because this is exactly the kind of thing people who don't like poetry quote in graduation speeches or cards but also because a comedian Andrew loves has done a massive bit hammering unfortunate listeners over the head with the inconsistencies and nonsense of this poem.

"Charge of the Light Brigade... or The Owl and the Pussycat!"

Though he did say that these are not the favorites of people who studied English; he reckoned they'd pick "that one about wearing purple when you're old" -- though I thought that a much more populist suggestion than Ozymandias! -- and "that 'not waving but drowning' one," which at least we could both agree was for English students.

But those basic four...I commented it was an interesting bunch. He said it might be different in America and I agreed; while I'd read all four of these, three had only been in my English-major lit classes in college (I still remember one of my professors booming out "half a league, half a league...!"; he was even better at "Invictus") and I don't think I heard "The Owl and the Pussycat" until I came to England. "In America it'd be all The Waste Land and 'I took the road less travelled'." I'm not sure about The Waste Land -- does anyone like it? -- but Robert Frost is plausible. Or, a guess because the next thing Andrew told me was that he didn't know anything but "those two lines, 'two paths diverged and I took the one less traveled." I fixed his misquote and told him "Birches" is good.

But I wouldn't call Frost my favorite, and indeed I'm not sure I've got a favorite peom at all.

Do you? What is it? Any of these four? (Or six if you count the suggestions for Americans.) What would you say is the likely favorite of the person on the street?


* Not a typo, but how he matter-of-factly pronounces it throughout this conversation: pee-oh-tree. Very cheerful sounding. Try it. Also pee-ohms.

nothing

Dec. 7th, 2011 05:44 pm
hollymath: (Default)
(an LJ Idol entry)

The magician has
nothing
up his sleeves. The politican, regretfully, has
no scope for increase
in social welfare spending. There's
no food in this house,
whines the teenager, bored with
an array of modern convenience and process-
ed foods.
I loved you for years and I
didn't even get this lousy t-shirt.

Science tells me nothing
is woven into the fabric
of our inescapable universe. Before the big bang,
and after the last black hole evaporates, there is
a lack so complete and thorough
we have never needed a word for it.

But science is no excuse for heartless
politicians, ungrateful
teenagers, magicians
who wouldn't know magic if it bit them in the eye
or you.
hollymath: (i love)
He likes to work at night and snore all morning
Great ideas strike him without any warning
He works hard to keep what he has and get what he wants
He's not just improved but saved my life more than once

He plays the banjo but stops if you ask
Very seldom is he not up to a task
He's thoughtful and sweet
He doesn't like veg, only meat

He likes to stay in and not go out
Who could it be that I'm talking about?

Not a monkey or a horse
Not a cat or a duck; it's Andrew, of course!

Andrew is clever and Andrew is strong
And he'll be the first to tell you he's hardly ever wrong
Once you know him he's not easily forgotten
He won't touch fabric other than cotton

All these quirks are his, like he is mine.
He won't like this ending cos it doesn't quite rhyme
hollymath: (life)
The tick of the clock is horrible
Each one takes me further from you.

When you loved me I had stars
in my pocket, jewels for bones,
sunlight in my hair.

When you didn't I threw
my stars into the sky, covered
my hair, tried to forget
the jewels that shaped me.

But when I look up at the stars,
they haven't forgotten. They
whisper to me. I close the curtains.

And am left in the dark
with that haunting ticking clock.

Pome

May. 6th, 2010 01:57 pm
hollymath: (i love)
Here’s a poem I texted to [livejournal.com profile] miss_s_b this morning.

I’d also like to dedicate it to [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours, people I’ve campaigned for at work: John Leech, Gordon Birtwistle, Mark Hunter, John Pugh, Tim Farron, people the Daily Mail think are loonies: the porn director Anna Arrowsmith, the guy who does the puppet show, Qassim Azfal, who I’d actually be voting for, and all the other Liberal Democrats standing for election today.

Hard Labour is red
Tory scum’s blue
Kick out the bastards!
I’d vote for you

xx
hollymath: (window)
I was just reminded of this; one of my favorite poems.


Brotherhood
.....Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
The stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

by Octavio Paz



In Spanish. Like Neruda, I think it's worth a look in the original even if you don't understand the language; good enough that some of the meaning still seeps through, and the layered meanings and sounds make the poem richer. )
hollymath: (comma sutra)
Write a love poem in fifteen words or less (via [livejournal.com profile] drjon)

In your arms,
finally I know how it feels
to belong somewhere
hollymath: (postmark)
One should see one’s own home from far off.
One should cross the seven oceans
to see one’s home,
in the helplessness of the unbridgeable distance,
fully hoping to return some day.
One should turn around, while journeying,
to see one’s own country from another.
One’s Earth, from space.
Then the memory of
what the children are doing at home
will be the memory of what children are doing on Earth.
Concern about food and drink at home
will be concern about food and drink on Earth.
Anyone hungry on Earth
will be like someone hungry at home.
And returning to Earth
will be like returning home.

Things back home are in such a mess
that after walking a few steps from home,
I return homewards as if it were Earth.

by Vinod Kumar Shulka
hollymath: (i love)
Today I helped a friend at work write a poem to text his girlfriend.

He did the first half, I did the second.

He sent her one version that, he reported, she complained didn't rhyme. So I helped him fix it.

It goes like this:
Mushrooms are grey
Tulips are yellow
You should like me
'Cos I'm a good fellow
hollymath: (i love)
Two Andrews -- mine and Rilstone -- have conspired this morning to introduce me to Benjamin Zephaniah, because he is apparently being considered for the poet laureate.

Five minutes ago I didn't know his name; now I'm hoping he gets it (unlikely as it seems, given his politics... but that's one of the reasons I want him!). Look at this, thematically appropriate and everything now that we find ourselves already in the clutches of December.

Talking Turkeys

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos' turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don't eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I'm on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
'I cannot wait for de chop',
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called...Turkey
He said "Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?",
I said "I am not too sure turkey
But it's nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash'.

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey'll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends 'FOR LIFE'.

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