At the end of last year I posted a piece called “After the Flood” that was inspired by one of the seven mosaics Carl-Henning Pedersen constructed in Ribe Cathedral. I’ve reworked it since, and it has now appeared in the 200th issue of Snakeskin.
A great picture of a magnificent rare wild beast. And it’s nice to see the deer in there too.
Here’s where this photo comes from:
I heard Kevin Gore several times in Edinburgh in August, and I’m keeping in touch. I was “with him” at Hampden to see Hibs go down to Celtic in the Cup Final. And last night Kevin saw Niel Young perform in Glasgow. Here’s rare footage of Niel Young as a youngster busking at the Gordon Street entrance to Glasgow Central Station. Tight bastards, those Scots.
Immersing oneself in folk songs is a grand way to learn about cultures, to become linguistically and musically adept, as well as politically aware, and ultimately a source through which one can carve out one’s own identity and develop one’s own talent. I am stirred especially by the folk songs of Scotland and Ireland, but also by those of other cultures, and these are thriving traditions with many interesting cross-fertilisations in recent times. One always hears about folk revivals, but the truth is folk never died. Here, for example, is a recent “short video documentary about two Scottish folk musicians, what they think and feel about their genre. A heart-warming and genuine discussion about the value of folk music as seen through the eyes of those who perform it.”
I’ve recently discovered Heidi Talbot’s music through an acquaintance with the music of John McCusker, who is now her partner. Her 2008 breakthrough album, In Love + Light, is wonderful. Here she’s talking about her latest album, Angels without Wings:
A few years ago Don Share, who has recently been appointed the new editor of Poetry, meditated on Auden’s contention, “Poetry makes nothing happen”: Poetry makes nothing happen… or does it? As he points out, contrary to popular misunderstanding, Auden is hardly saying that poetry does not change anything. The converse is more true, viz. that nothing changes poetry. Political poetry is often folk poetry or folk song and has a relevance far beyond the era that produced it. I’ll leave The Proclaimers with the final WORD:
My e-book, From Moonrise till Dawn: A Cycle of Poetry and Songs is to be published by NordOsten Books on 7th June, which is my dad’s 90th birthday.
This is half a year earlier than the planned date. The original idea was to make new recordings of all the poetry and songs before publishing the book. But now the book’s ready, so we’re going ahead with publishing it.
I have posted a few old recordings on the relevant pages at my new blog and will update as I make new recordings. I intend to post recordings of all 128 pieces. About ten of these will be performed by Christian Meonia George.
I still think the ”till” is too close to the figure riding the fish, but perhaps we’ll stop here for now as Julia wants a picture taken of her water colour when it’s not behind glass.
One photo later and one day later this is how it looks:
Unaware of this, I was up most of last night. I’d asked Patricia Wallace Jones the day before about whether I could use the two illustrations she did for two of my sonnets in The Chimaera and The Shit Creek Review for my forthcoming book. She’d said that would be fine, and she was sure Paul wouldn’t mind. I’d told her I was interested in having more of her illustrations in my book, and last night we discussed this at some length.
Paul was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, but lived in Australia for most of his life. He was a teacher, a poet, and a free spirit.
I’ve written a four-liner for him that will introduce the penultimate section in my forthcoming collection:
It’s no surprise, yet still a shock
that you, my friend, have passed away.
You taught me how to turn the clock
around: each night it’s someone’s day.
To think of all the people Paul has introduced to each other!
“Poem for a Birthday” was published 1½ years ago in a small collection called Invisible Ink, and it featured in The Guardian shortly afterwards.
Here Dunn is no doubt giving a nod to Larkin’s, “Born Yesterday“, not only thematically, but specifically in L3: “It wasn’t yesterday.”
L3 also shows us that Dunn is composing this poem on his son’s birthday eleven years after the birthday celebration that he is describing. “Almost to the hour” (L4) is a discreet message to the poetic impulse that has occasioned this piece. Dunn is in nostalgic mood. Dunn’s only son, Robbie, was born in January 1987 (when Dunn was 44). Dunn separated from Robbie’s mother when Robbie was ten, the two children remaining with their mother. Dunn has often chastised himself for being a failure as a father. First remote, and later on absent.
The title may well be a reference to Sylvia Plath’s seven-part poem of the same title, which in turn echoes Theodore Roethke’s Lost Son sequence.
My guess is that Dunn wrote this 16-line poem on his son’s 16th birthday. His coming of age. This would mean that the magician was hired for his son’s fifth birthday, which also seems like a likely age for this kind of entertainment.
In the poem there is the idea that Dunn is now the (absent) entertainer at his son’s birthday, and that he is no better than “that lousy conjuror” (L1). Note that the preceding words, “I can’t get over”, have the extra meaning of “I can do no better than”.
Some of Dunn’s phrasings have a special sonorousness and I read some special significance there too:
L4-5: “That slipshod sorcerer,/ Butter-fingered wizard …”
Perhaps this ellipsis in L5 that precedes “Remember, when” is a way of conjuring up the fifth year of Robbie’s life.
L10: “When the white rabbit shat on his shaking hand,”
This is brilliant – the bathos of “shat” right in the middle of the line. And I can’t help but connect this tenth line to the traumatic tenth year of Robbie’s life. L11 begins “And made a break for it?” Where “break” has an obvious connotation.
L11-12: “Don’t shillyshally,/ Bunny-boy.”
Just as Dunn equates himself with the conjuror, here the rabbit is equated with Robbie. The magical switch from rabbit to Robbie occurs in “Bunny-boy”, which can be transformed to “Dunny-boy” (as in “Danny-boy” with a twist), and of course “Dunny-boy” is Dunn’s son, Robbie. The “B” in “Bunny-boy” also brings in the initial of the boy’s mother’s maiden name (Bathgate), while the next word in L12, “Run”, is a reduction of “Robbie Dunn”.
Note: ‘finale” in S3, L1 is a true rhyme with ‘shillyshally” in Dunn’s Scottish accent.
I enjoy reading ”Poem of the Week” at The Guardian, hosted by the excellent Carol Rumens. As an illustration of the feature’s high quality, today’s poem and appreciation are as good as any.
The comments section can be fun. Reading it today, I note that there was initially a typo in the poem, with “precious” in the phrase “as precious as gold” being rendered as “previous”. One of the people commenting insists that this was Edward Thomas’s choice and praises him for the innovativeness of the phrase: “An arresting idea… much more so than the stale/redundent (sic) adjective ‘precious’.”
Note to self: avoid cliché, or you’ll be ridiculed by people who can’t spell right one hundred years hence.
Many moons ago my sister Barbie asked me to write a piece for her. Last month, after I’d sent her a sonnet about a sad incident in my childhood, she wrote to me: “I challenge you to write a happy sonnet about your childhood!” Well, it’s not a sonnet, but it’s a sunny piece, and it’s one for her. It’s also a greeting on her birthday, which is today – so that’s three out of four boxes ticked. The happy sonnet about my childhood will have to come later.
The Belle of Perth
Best wishes on your Birthday,
Barbie (never Barbara Anne!),
who, once the belle of Perth, may
win the Golden Palm at Cannes
so there can be another
lass besides Jane Campion.
According to your brother,
you’ve been more than champion.