Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A new routine














"The way to your husband's heart" said the man in the tea shop, apparently. Then again, he would say that, wouldn't he?

Anyway, this is the latest green tea in the collection & jolly nice it is too. However, it comes with strict instructions not to be imbibed late in the day due its particular energising powers. Thus, I had a cup this morning & found it was indeed peculiarly invigorating. (No, I'd never have believed five years ago that I would be drinking something that resembles a mouth of freshly cut grass at 6:15 a.m. either ... but, so be it).

Recommended to all like-minded early risers.

Sunday, November 25, 2012







"You must be drunk always. That is everything: the only question. Not to feel the horrible burden of Time that crushes your shoulders and bends you earthward, you must be drunk without respite.

But drunk on what? On wine, on poetry, on virtue - take your pick. But be drunk ..."

(xxxiii, 'Be Drunk', Paris Spleen, Charles Baudelaire, trans. Keith Waldrop)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


"And so I did walk around it, and I looked at all the things that it was, how it looked, and how its shoulders were, and how its legs were and tried to see what kind of animal this was, and eventually I feel I did understand it, its meaning, the how of its meaning." (Ted Berrigan, 'The Business of Writing Poetry' in 'On The Level Everyday')

I used this as part of yesterday's talk & a colleague attempted to translate it into pedagogy-speak (cognitive strategies etc.) missing the point entirely. Not just that Berrigan would be utterly resistant to such theoretical language, but that the statement as it stands is so much better. The way, for instance, he plays with his reader: what kind of beast is being described? The development of each clause that enacts a stage of feeling discovery. And then the deliberate ungrammaticality of 'how' turned substantive. Simultaneously defining as enacting the astonishment of poetic meaning.

To say it in other words is to diminish the language. And this, sadly, is what is happening within education. A feeble, abstracted, dead & deadly discourse is poisoning creative thinking and teaching. Managerialism that thinks, perceives and evaluates only what it understands - a law of ever-diminishing returns. And in such stark contrast to the vitality of Berrigan's prose, through whose syntax the life-blood of human feeling and imagination flows.

In these dark days, never did poetry seem so vital.

Sunday, November 11, 2012










... another Saturday visit to the Artist Books section of the local library. The librarian lugs a large cardboard box containing new arrivals & so I get first dibs on what's just come in. Plenty of finds including this catalogue including work by usual suspects such as Joanna Drucker but also several artists (all women) new to me ...

... checking the stats & I see that the previous bread shop post is getting hundreds of hits (maybe I should take out shares) ...

... general relief over here at Wednesday's result (OK, OK Obama isn't perfect but given the alternative ... ) ...

... assuming the US continues safe in terms of political climate & hurricanes, we're beginning to plan a visit scheduled for next Easter (land in Washington to stay a few days & then on to The Big Apple). If anyone has any advice in terms of hotels, areas to stay, must-see exhibitions etc. please keep me posted as we go into the New Year.

I vividly remember our last visit (my only) some fifteen years ago - the dream-like experience of entering Borders - still disoriented by the flight - & seeing title after title on the Poetry shelves by all the names I worshipped. Indeed, the Land of Plenty. ...

... something of a celebration in our road as the Commune blocks plans for the house next door to be converted into three apartments. At the hearing, there's the rather bizarre situation of the developers speaking only Flemish and the Planning Committee only French. (It explains how poor decision-making goes on in this country.) Thankfully, K. speaks both languages & so acts as an impromptu translator - much to the chagrin of the developers who must have hoped they could smuggle all sorts of contraventions in. So - as we say in English - yah boo sucks to them. ...

... tomorrow, my presentation on teaching poetry as part of an In-Service Day. Quite a few colleagues seem to have signed up for what has been mistakenly entitled Poetry - A Trick Genre. God knows who came up with that - certainly not me. I've pulled together extracts from the likes of Gizzi, Duncan, Creeley etc. - by way of insisting on poetry's fundamental resistance to orthodoxy and importance way beyond the confines of syllabuses and examinations. I'll let you know what transpires. ...


Monday, November 05, 2012






















... a wonderful bread shop in Louvain ... each bread a sculpture ...

Friday, November 02, 2012






I was quite a fan of the Logitech Squeezebox Internet radio until about 24 hours ago. Since then, all attempts to reconnect have failed (our wi-fi signal is fine, the radio itself is functioning, & I've restored factory settings & re-entered the password & all that jazz).

Anyone else out there in Europe with similar gripes?

A new month, a new notebook. The temptation is to buy yet another when there are stacks piled up boxes. So ... why not eschew the ready-made & set to work on the covers themselves?





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(Japanese newspaper used to wrap teapot, 'art' papers, PVA, sepia & black inks, scratchings) 

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Perspiration on transparent skin. Hopes trickle. Stirrings abroad & grey swathe. Thyme & bay. Onion soup weather & pumpkin lobotomies.

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Back after three days in Blighty. You know you've arrived in Pound Land within minutes of entering the service station: Because You've Earned It sloganed above a cup of coffee. Buy a newspaper and the immediate demand whether you want a chocolate bar with that? No. Why? & several other questions. I wince to think of the training sessions in which employees are drilled through their responses.

I realise the way to counter such tactics is to say - while placing the objects to be bought on the counter - "Just these two" in a firm I've made up my mind voice.

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Having packed the Duncan H.D. Book & Lisa's Duncan biog. in the hope of settling down to some Real Work, I should have known that something else would come up: a rather good Sean Scully monograph in the local library. I read it through in an afternoon & then spend another day plundering it. (Watch this space).

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Another visit to The Dump. Piles of dead electronics, collapsed cardboard, vacant chairs. All too evident where this is leading ...

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Catch up on the last Thick of It via BBC iPlayer, cursing like Malcolm Tucker the way the BBC block this service to ex-pat viewing. In a way, the very people who'd most appreciate it.

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Images of the US hurricane. Thoughts go out to all (any?) Blog readers over there on the East Coast (Geof ... Lisa J ... Michael L ... ).

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Last night we take advantage of the girls being out Hallowe'ening & go to Le Fils de Jules in search of cassoulet. The waitress explains it's too early in the month - tant pis, it was delicious. Instead we settle for confit canard & a bottle of Spanish red. As if this wasn't good enough, there just happens to be a tea shop a few doors down selling the very glass teapot I have been in search of and a new (to me) green tea - Houjicha (grilled Sencha). I make a pot when we get home and it's an extraordinary taste - if I were to say something similar to a mouthful of scallops in garlic and parsley infused with burnt hay? That probably sounds ghastly but it's not, strangely.



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The Reading Oxfam bookshop delivers again, this time an old book on board games (ideal for demolition & collaging) plus the de Botton volume on Proust. I'm always in two (or more) minds about de B - a mixture of irritation and admiration and jealousy I suppose. I refused to read this when it first came out but now prejudices have softened. Interestingly, the previous reader has pencilled the following on the fly leaf: finished 5 Aug - good Don't suggest re-read but dip in again pg 141 pg 156 pg 195. How odd.

The book is good, I have to admit. As much for what it says about Proust (I assume mostly derived from de B's reading of the letters, biographies & other studies) as its structure. The decision to work the material as a series of How To chapters and the fragmentary paragraphs is sweet. A volume to read in tandem with Keith Waldrop's Jacob Delafon text.

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The onion soup is cooked.

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The belgianwaffle election prediction ... ... looking into my rather grubby crystal ball here are some possibilities .... Trump's b...