Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"I know the alphabet. Maybe I could become a writer".



Strange how things coincide ...

"Just look at the sky. Selby's twentieth century, don't explain, places bets (words) here and here and here ...". (A Sentimental Journey, Kit Robinson)

which sends me on to Hubert Selby (just a name to me up until now) who - I discover - wrote a short story 'The Queen is Dead' the title of which Morrisey took for The Smiths well-known album.

Just ordered Last Exit to Brooklyn which is presumably one of those books I really should have read.

Monday, March 30, 2009

All twenty-six mp3 files have been listened to, the forms are filled, the predicted grades predicted ... and there's the sound of lawnmowers outside on the playing fields. This marks the turn of the year for me - a tangible sense of things opening up: buds on the trees, my timetable, spaces between ideas. The air seems fresher, more invigorating. Spring and all ...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two reasons to celebrate today ...

... the younger Wafflette's 7th birthday ...




... and the first move into the new space ...




... the old hi-fi comes out of hibernation. And what better way to christen the new room than Zappa's 'Watermelon In Easter Hay'. That'll send the mice scurrying!

Monday, March 23, 2009



I came across this in a back issue of Liberation in the hotel we were staying at over the weekend. Eventually I tracked it down via Google France as part of a Vivienne Westwood ad campaign. The old punkster! It's a compelling image in ways I can't quite explain - and presumably a knowing reworking of the Marilyn Ulysses photo?

" ... something which resembles "what is" without being it ... "

(Plato, 'Theory of Art', The Republic)

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Deep in the mind there is an ocean
I would fall within it, and find my sources in it."
(Jack Spicer)


I'm beginning to see how far the early poems are full of oceanic imagery.
The poem : ocean, surely.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

(Here's a text I was asked to write for an in-house school publication. I'm posting it for the one or two people who might be reading the Blog who knew me back then and will recognise something of what I'm talking about.

File under: 70s Nostalgia.)


***

I went to a strange old boarding school in London right among England’s centres of power and privilege. We ate our breakfast off tables whose timbers had come from the Spanish Armada. For morning assemblies we sat in the pews of Westminster Abbey. Walking to and from classes you would see government heads in limousines gliding by in the streets.

It was a school with its own peculiar traditions and slang. A new boy was a “fag”. Informal wear after four o’clock was called “shag”. The First Eleven football team took to the pitch wearing bright pink shirts. (We usually lost).

Not surprisingly, the Master’s Common Room boasted similar eccentricities. There was a Physics teacher (later murdered) who broke into his phrases to observe passing aircraft or emergency vehicles: “Yes, an an-(pause)-an-(pause)-(pause)-ometer, boy”. The Classics master reputedly placed sticky tape over mains sockets to prevent electricity from leaking out. One of my English teachers would on occasions read a poem, sigh, and – overcome - walk abruptly out of the room. Stranger still, we all thought that this was perfectly normal behaviour.

However, it would be a little too obvious for me to single out one of my English teachers. My debt to them goes without saying. Instead, I will write about my German teacher – Mr. Stokes.

Herr Stokes (“Schtock-us” we would say in heavily parodic German accents) looked like a disheveled Vitus Gerulaitis. He wore the same blue-grey corduroy jacket every day. His unironed shirt was usually missing buttons, its cuffs protruding. School rules prescribed a tie which he wore with evident disdain, yanked into a tiny knot and flying at half mast. His hair seemed never to have been brushed other than by his hands which went through the unruly curls as though looking for an idea. Yet it was his voice which captured you – soft and cultivated and charming. I remember the care with which he shaped his vowels – that umlaut “u” sound.

As a matter of principle, Herr Stokes was never on time. He would burst into the cramped language lab a good ten minutes late, papers cascading from his arms, a snatch of Schubert lieder on his lips. Then there would be a blizzard of words on the board, a little warm-up to get things going. One word led to ten then twenty linked by some etymological association evident to him but lost on most of us.

I don’t think Herr Stokes had ever heard of a syllabus. And if he had it wasn’t going to strait-jacket his teaching. The assumption was that if his students were passionate about their subject then the exam would take care of itself.

Thus our classes ranged widely. I can remember listening to President Kennedy’s famous gaffe anouncing that he was “ein Berliner”, Marlene Dietrich complaining that all the “bluhmen” had gone, Fischer-Dieskau singing ‘Der Erlkonig’. It didn’t seem to occur to him that sixteen year-olds might not appreciate such a rarefied diet – as far as he was concerned these were things you simply ought to know. Why wouldn’t you like them? In the days before VHS let alone DVD, he sent his classes to obscure art cinemas across London to see films by key German directors (original versions, of course). I recall sitting through Herzog’s ‘Woyzeck’ and not understanding a word. For him that didn’t matter. The point was to expand your horizons. And he was right.

Sadly, I didn’t get it at the time. I wasn’t ‘good’ at German – and this in a school where ‘good’ was merely average. My ‘preps’ were grammatical catastrophes. For me, every word in German was in the accusative. I couldn’t even grasp the basics.

So it was inevitable that, one wintry morning, I rang the doorbell of Herr Stokes’ flat. In his study an aria was playing on the gramophone – a Strauss Last Song? Sheepishly, I explained that I wanted to give up German. “Warum?” I made some half-baked excuse. The truth was – which I hadn’t the courage to tell him – that I had discovered my favourite English teachers’ classes were timetabled against German. I remember Herr Stokes’ pained expression. I had expected him to be pleased – rid, finally, of this hopeless student. Instead, he seemed genuinely upset. He spoke eloquently of how I would regret the decision, of Goethe, and Heine, and Kafka and Celan. All that their words promised and that I would be renouncing.

*

There was a red sun low over the Thames as I walked back to my room. In retrospect it was probably for the best. I gather Herr Stokes has continued teaching. He has established himself as a distinguished translator of Alfred Brendel’s essays. And I suspect that he was a decisive influence upon the English tenor Ian Bostridge’s career.

So why do I choose to write about Herr Stokes? Not so much for what he taught me as how he taught me; not the grammar of a language but an expression of living. In a word: enthusiasm which derives from the Greek meaning ‘to be possessed by a god’.

It is a lesson that has stayed with me.

(March 2009)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Autobiography Project

Phase One

Hand in developed, revised & typed up copies of:

• I Remember
• My Name Acrostic
• My Name Mesostic
• If I Wasn’t Called … I’d Like To Be Called …

Here are some tips –

• I Remember

Try to be specific. Think of how one memory might trigger another. How memories might startle or amuse by being placed next to each other.

Aim for twenty (or more)

• My Name Acrostic

Try to produce one which has its own life – and yet also says something about you. I’d recommend writing several and taking the best.

You can use your first or all your names!

One text is enough.

• My Name Mesostic

The best ones surprise you – how could someone else’s words says something about me? How do words acquire a voice and life of their own? Do I really speak like that? Notice how your name works like your DNA. Notice how chance works hand in hand with a rule.

Write several – perhaps varying the source text. Don’t be too worried about common sense meaning or logical connections. Allow the phrases to lead your ideas.

Aim for a text that fills one side of A4.

• If I Wasn’t Called … I’d Like To Be Called …

The advice here is to open up names to all sorts of language use. A name might be a verb, an adjective, a saying, a place, a type of food … . Do not feel you have to find orthodox boy/girl names!

Think tribal naming. Think emergency service codes (Charlie Bravo Tango). Think crazy names from children’s fiction (Nimpy Windowmash). Think Rapper names (Ice T, Snoop Dogg)). Think restaurant food (Croquettes aux crevettes). Think baby-names, valentine message pet names, absurdly formal honorary titles (Snuggles, Lover Boy, The Minister For Giggles) … & there’s plenty more possibilities!

Aim for a list poem of at least 30 alternative names.

Above all – let your imagination go for a swim in the ocean of language. Don’t be strait-jacketed by thinking it must make strict (auto) biographical sense.



Monday

this arrived



Tuesday

read 'Entropica' (a suite for Eric Dolphy) & went swimming

Wednesday

went to a small gallery showing a selection of Cage's scores and other interesting stuff.



half an hour into the evening it transpires that someone has walked off with two books.

Thursday

watched an interesting BBC4 documentary on Rough Trade.

Friday



watched a DVD in which the album is taken to bits and Ron Geesin explains how he worked with the master tapes. Absolutely fascinating - and confirms how little I was aware of what was going on in the music.

And what if Geesin had continued with the Floyd? Perhaps an even more tantalizing question than the much-trundled-out Barrett one?

Saturday



discovered this voice

The week ahead

continuing of the crazy period through until the beginning of April - oral exams, mock exams, other stuff. Blogging is likely to be adversely affected.

yesterday the staircase went up (at last!) & so the move into the new belgianwaffle HQ by Easter seems feasible ... 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear update - we LOVE in really big capital letters this book. Three chapters a night and the Wafflettes baying for more.

It suddenly dawned on me that Andy Stanton has managed to write a Goon Show for kids. (Yes, it's that good.)

"Mr Gum stood on the oily deck of the Dirty Oyster, scowling at everything in sight. Not that there was much to scowl at - just a load of water, a bit of sky and a line between called the 'horizon' which God had put there to keep the sky from getting wet."

Replace Mr Gum with Neddy Seagoon, hear the sentence read in Roy Greenslade's announcer voice plus BBC library sound effect waves and you're in similar territory.

Essential reading.

__

... and I'm wondering whether Polly is some weird amalgam of P.J. Harvey and George Herriman's Offisah Pup ("I been a boy all me life an' I always wee standin' up 'cos I'm not a girl or nothin'").




sounds good to me!

A bastard child of Zappa it seems - and Norwegian to boot. One to explore further ...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009



Jeux de Mots, Jeux d'Images
13 mars - 19 avril 2009
du mardi au dimanche de 14 à 18h. 
Musée Ianchelevici
Place communale, 21
7100 La Louvière

Thanks to Luc Fierens for pointing this one out.

Sunday, March 08, 2009




ostensibly for the Wafflettes - but I'm going to enjoy this one, too. Highly recommended!


... and this one's a 'readymade' ...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

THING LANGUAGE


This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Nothing.
It
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

(Jack Spicer)

*

Just read Language right through. 

Smitten.
Fact



had rained 

hard the river had

heard


the ducks thought


worst weather

ever


(5/3/09)

. rrh'isOIV  ... a wasp just buzzed in through the Velux & went scrabbling across the desk & keyboard ... now up & ...