Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Blog resumes.

I placed an embargo upon posts for more or less a month.

Over the next week or so I'll work on the residue that's accumulated in the notebooks & see what I can do with it.

Working title: (Ana)thema - a nod to David Jones.*


(The Welsh one - not the guy in The Monkees).

Prejudice is a terrible thing. And I'm guilty of it more times than I'd like to admit.

In this instance, Zappa's widespread contempt for 'minimalism' has led me to dismiss several composers without even bothering to listen to them. And John Adams was one of these.

However, due to Alan (& Robert's) recent recommendations, I've started to explore Adams' oeuvre - and it's well worth it.

So far: Shaker Loops, Grand Pianola Music, Chamber Symphony. Soon to come: Naive and Sentimental Music and the Violin Concerto.

It's generous music - not at all the cloying unimaginative repetitions of you-know-who and the other one.* I go for the jamming together of textures, the 'ill-breeding' Adams has been - it seems - accused of by the Music Establishment. These compositions strike me as painterly. As they unfold in time spaces are created, gestures (those ascending & descending lines), motifs (stabs of brass or shrill woodwind), pulses (tapped percussion suddenly breaking into jazz rhythms). Plus some genuinely weird sounds which appear and disappear - in the Concerto something that sounds like factory pipe being hit - certainly not some Feldman asiatic gong).

In fact - strange as it is to say - I'm reminded of Zappa. The lumpy gravy-ness. The sprawl. The Americanness, I suppose.

And the joke's on me - back in the early 90s I had the chance to have dinner with John Adams when his opera was opening in Brussels. I had "a prior engagement". Silly me.


* Glass & Nyman - in case you were wondering.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Watercolour, letter stamps, ink pad and tape collaboration between Lara & Belgianwaffle

My goddaughter's first birthday.

Happy Birthday, Tsilla!

Monday, September 21, 2009

This weekend's reading ...

i) The Anathemata, David Jones
ii) The Works, Thomas Malory (dipped in & out)
iii) The Holy Grail, Jack Spicer
iv) The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
v) Some Other Kind of Mission, Lisa Jarnot

there's some kind of a thread through it all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Just renewed my subs to the LRB and The Wire - two of my lifelines to the world of Kulchur.

After a jolly chat with Wire Subscriptions via Skype I mention that this Blog makes occasional references to the magazine. "In that case I'll add on a couple of issues".

What a decent bloke.

Now, I wonder, is product placement the way forward for Belgianwaffle?

Only yesterday I was enjoying a refreshing sip of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc while perusing my volumes of poetry from Flood Editions, New Directions and Wesleyan Press pausing for a moment to consider buying the new iPod Touch...

I await deliveries ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

News broke yesterday of the death of Keith Floyd. Despite current policy on Book vs. Blog it seems only right to mark the passing of a favourite chef.

Here are belgianwaffle's 8 plus reasons for admiring Keith Floyd:

1. For being politically incorrect before the term was even conceived
2. For upsetting an entire casserole while wearing rugby boots
3. For trying to cook on a yacht while rounding Cape Horn
4. For baking a fish in salt only to discover the entire thing had disintegrated and then - note - keeping the cameras running and doing something even better instead
5. For giving Rick Stein his break on television
6. For using The Stranglers' 'Peaches' as his signature tune
7. For cooking an ostrich egg in the bush while surrounded by - yes - ostriches
8. For opening a restaurant in France (an Englishman?)

What's the word - brio ... gusto ... elan ... nonchalance ... insouciance - probably all five (and others I can't think of right now). Basically, Floyd was a good egg (an expression he's probably approve of) and no doubt a nightmare to live with, work with, etc.

Belgianwaffle celebrates all such mavericks - the Jack Trevor Story effect: watching a car go over a cliff in slow motion.

I take my toque off to him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Third Week


You must have your notebook!

The purpose of our visit …

To take writing out of the classroom. More specifically, to see how your writing might respond to the visual work of Magritte and the exhibitions at the African Museum. There is no specific goal – rather the challenge is in allowing yourself to respond.

During the day …

We will follow the guides with the Art class students. However, there will – I hope – be occasions where you will be free to wander around the exhibitions. It is during these periods I would like you to be writing, assembling material from which to work on our next project.

Some suggestions …

As always, I do not want to be too prescriptive. However, as this is your ‘first go’ at this kind of exercise, here are a few writing suggestions:

• Questions. Select a work and write down as many questions you can think of relating to the picture/object. It might be to do with subject matter, how it came to be, things you are puzzled by.

• Description. Select a work and write as exhaustively as possible about the picture/object. In a way, let the pen be your eye.

• Narrative. Select a work and daydream about it. Allow a story to take suggest itself. This might be easier with a figurative work – but not necessarily.

• Spontaneous writing. Stand in a room. Then going from work to work jot down your immediate impressions. These might relate to the works or be phrases you overhear. (Remember our class exercises).

• Listening exercise. Find a secluded spot. Then, using your pen like a microphone, try to pick up the voices, sounds, atmospheres around you. Alternatively, work more visually – your pen like a camera. Note down what and who passes around you.

• Collaborative. Pass your notebook around. Ask friends to write their own impressions in your book. You can specify a topic.

• Creative thinking. While looking at the works go beyond subject matter. Ask yourself about ways you might adapt the painter’s way of working to writing. What would a Magritte poem be? A Magritte story? Think how he constructs his paintings. How could this be translated to verbal expression?

Try to write as much as possible – don’t worry about perfectly shaped sentences or acurate spelling. This is raw material. Obviously, you can buy postcards to work from later. However, see what you can do on the day, in the hour, in the minute.
Second Week Exercise

An Abstract Sonnet


The American poet Ted Berrigan decided that a sonnet did not have to follow all the rules that school teachers like to insist on.

Berrigan had been reading lots of Shakespeare’s sonnets and suddenly had an idea. He went home and cut up some of his old poems and arranged them into fourteen-line poems. These were the beginnings of his ‘sonnet’ series.

The Shakespearean sonnet tends to contain the following:

• fourteen lines
• an interlaced rhyme scheme
• a rhyming couplet
• a speaker ‘I’ addressing a ‘you’ (a handsome youth or unattainable lady)
• an argument concerning love and the passing of time

An Abstract Sonnet need not observe all these rules.


Take your piece of writing and cut it up into one-line sections.
Look at your lines. Read then attentively and with fresh eyes and ears – what do they suggest not only in terms of ‘meaning’ but also in terms of sounds, textures of words, registers of language, phrase structure?

Start arranging your lines with a view to composing a fourteen-line poem.
Do not think that it has to have a ‘normal’ meaning or ‘deep’ symbolism.
Work intuitively – go on instinct, what grabs you, what amuses you.

Allow sound patterns to lead your composition. Rhyme does not only exist at the end of a line. You can exploit internal rhymes which will allow your lines to ‘sound’ right. Don’t be limited by end rhymes.

Play with different arrangements – write them down as they emerge. If some lines just don’t seem to fit or sound right, put them to one side. They might be useful for another composition. Or you might find you have a set of variations!

Keep in mind that you are collaging – in a way this is using language more like a painter uses colour. You are ‘painting-writing’. Your final poem might lack ‘normal’ meaning but be full of sense(s).
First Week Exercise

Creative Writing Class

Text (i) with names & nouns deleted

what shall i_____ begin with? what shall i______ begin with? is t_____ a good ________? the t________ passing in the s________. a d________ clicks shut down the c____________. near the l___________. I__________ wonder how L______ & E_______ are doing? did the v_______ finish too early? will E_________ be worried? in 15 m__________ K___________ should come to pick t__________ up. the p________ of l__________ on the c___________ f_________. y_______don’t want to know what’s on the f_________: n________, p______, g_________, all sorts of t_________ left behind the y_________. w_________ too. those s_________ who want to walk b___________. and under the t___________, too. when y_______ turn d___________ over to take to the e___________, the stale dry g___________. yuck! should e________ t__________ write w_____________ like “yuck”? why not? it – i_____________ losing momentum – two m___________ to go. w________ is in the c__________ now? a w__________. sounds like a w_________’s s______________. the eternal q__________: what is a s____________ and what is a f_________ f__________? w_______ knows? do y_________? do I_________ care? f__________ f________ get between your t__________. not up your n__________. the b_____________ pinned to the n_____________.

Original text with nouns replaced

what shall ibis begin with? what shall ichthyosaurus begin with? is theft a good idiom? the train passing in the streptococcus. a dope clicks shut down the corset. near the lychee. idiot wonder how labials & ears are doing? did the viewpoint finish too early? will earth be worried? in 15 mirrors Kafka should come to pick Theodosius up. the patent of liking on the clavicle floribunda. youth don’t want to know what’s on the flounce: names, pique, gunge, all sorts of thirsts left behind the yonks. worms too. those stumblers who want to walk baritone. and under the taboo, too. when yuck turns despondent over to take to the excuse, the stale dry guillemot. yuck! should enigmatic tears write worms like “yuck”? why not? it – if losing momentum – two mirrors to go. whorl is in the cortex now? a wick. sounds like a wig. sanguine. the eternal quiche: what is a saprophyte and what is a flocculence? wryneck knows? do Yucatan? do I care? future gets between your toilet. not up your nostalgia. the bow wow pinned to the noun.
For anyone out there that's interested, this is the pilot Creative Writing Class I'm running this year. I'll post as and when ...

First Week


Aims of the class

To enable students to develop their creative writing in the widest sense possible. It is not intended to be an ‘academic’ literary critical class. Instead, the emphasis will be placed much more upon the craft of writing.

The class has to be flexible although – at the same time – structured enough to give a sense of purpose.

While the class will receive credit, the hope is to create a more informal atmosphere than the main English classes to allow students to experiment and take risks with their work without the fear of poor grades.

How the class will be structured:

Each class will meet four times per two-week cycle. The plan is to divide the time accordingly:

• a stimulus class – examples of writing for discussion and analysis
• an exercise class – students to do guided short writing experiments
• a free writing class – students write and develop projects
• a discussion class – students show and talk about their work


Each class will put together an anthology of work produced during the semester. Weeks 11 & 12 will be finalizing and collecting work. Week 13 will be for printing.

In addition, students will be expected to:

• read and prepare stimulus materials
• comply with the exercises and to develop their work
• attend all classes and use the ‘free writing’ class
• show and share their work and display consideration for other people’s efforts
• produce FOUR pieces of work (or equivalent) by the end of week 11 to be able to select for the anthology
• obtain and maintain a ‘Writer’s Notebook’ which should be brought to all classes.

The notebook will be a key resource and tool for the class. It will be handed in at the end of week 12 and assessed as part of the overall semester grade for the class.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

... and then came the day when the Carpenter realised he'd known the Walrus all along.

Now bring on the oysters.

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...