Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer Exhibition 2016


At the Summer Exhibition yesterday I found these four objects lying around - awe inspiring, terrifying and deeply disturbing


Big Black by David Nash
Bose Blumen by Anselm Kiefer


Self-portrait on Charcoal and Paper by Zatorski & Zatorski


Stormy Sea by Frederick Cuming


Monday, August 01, 2016

Man Booker Prize Long List 2016


The Man Booker Prize 2016 long list has just been published.

Click here for an article about them.

Which one shall I start with?

BBC Prom 2016 David Bowie Tribute



Click here for an extraordinary tribute to David Bowie at the BBC Prom 2016 given by the Stargaze Ensemble. It's available for about 27 days.

It was a fascinating performance to watch with some interesting re-imagining of Bowie's songs. It sometimes - I think at its best - felt experimental and bold. Sometimes it was conservative and restrained. Sometimes it felt like a karaoke and sometimes like a sing a long. The high points for me were Warszawa, The Man Who Sold the World - sung by Conor O'Brien and arranged by Michael van de Aa. This was a constrained and conservative re-interpretation but beautifully performed. Lady Grinning Soul - sung by Anna Calvi and arranged by Jherek Bischoff was genuinely bold and playful. Always Crashing in the Same Car- sung by Philippe Jaroussky arranged by David Lang. I loved Jaroussky's performance. His formal counter tenor voice contrasted with Bowie's lyrics and the spare accompaniment with a delta harp was beautiful. Black Star - sung by Anna Calvi and Amanda Palmer was chilling and dynamic. John Cale's arrangements and performances of Valentine's Day, Sorrow with Anna Calvi's searing guitar and vocal and then in Space Oddity Cale adds a gospel choir - not an anthem but it really did hit the spot.

Click here for a link to the Stargaze Ensemble

And click here for a link to a review of the performance from the Daily Telegraph.

BBC David Bowie Prom

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Changes



I've left Richmond upon Thames College and therefore left a 29 year old career in teaching in FE. It has been a traumatic and emotional time since I've made the decision to go. I've been dominated by grief and fear about the future. But sometimes I catch myself tingling with excitement and expectation. Here we go!!!

I have accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy.

I still have three years to go before I reach my normal pension age.

I do not intend to be employed in a full time capacity again.

I will live my life in a healthier, happier and sustainable way.

Here we go!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe

Click here for a link to the Georgia O'Keeffe Tate Modern Exhibition.



We absolutely must go!!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beyond the Border 2016





Beyond the Border Wales International Storytelling 
Festival

is on this weekend
Friday 1st July to Sunday 3rd July

Come and be rescued, awe struck and amazed by this incredible experience.

Click here for a link to the festival website  


Maybe see you there!!


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Reading at the Troubadour



I'm one of about 50 poets reading at the Troubadour in Earls Court tomorrow evening.

I'm really looking forward to it. Come and join us if you can.

Click here for a link to the listing. 




Monday, June 06, 2016

A Shake of the Dice by David Kynaston

I've just finished reading A Shake of the Dice - the second book that completes the third volume of Modernity Britain by David Kynaston. It's the third volume in his project - writing a popular social history of Britain from 1945 - 1979 titled Tales of the New Jerusalem. It marks the half way point in this compelling history.

All the familiar themes are here, although in this second book there is not the same intense focus on key themes like education or the sustained debate on the rise in youth culture.

This is a more rounded book that explored industrial relations in Britain between 1959 - 1962. It considered the negotiations between government, unions and industry of one specific industrial dispute.

It also touched on the acceleration of slum clearances and the development of sky scrappers in the north of England and Glasgow. Kynaston does consider the destruction of working class communities and the alienation experienced in the new sky towers. Again we looked at the impact on Salford in particular.

Another highlight for me was the section on Tony Hancock. It covers the end of 'Hancock's Half Hour, the split in the relationship with Sid James and the beginning of Hancock's solo work.

The diarists are also present. There seemed to me a more systematic approach to them. They seemed to be used on mass to comment on key events. Male diarists were also introduced including Kenneth Williams.

Click the book cover below to buy the book.



It was an enjoyable read.

And I'm looking forward to the next installment - opportunity Britain.  

Eddie Mair interviews David Nott on Radio 4's PM on 23 December 2014

Click here for an interview with David Nott broadcast on the 23 December 2014. We were driving to Anglesey for Christmas and then this interview happened while we were listening to PM on Radio 4 with Eddie Mair.

Be warned. This interview does contain some graphic and very disturbing commentary from the surgeon.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

David Nott on Desert Island Discs













Click here for a link to an extraordinary episode of Desert Island Discs in which the surgeon David Nott talks about his work in Syria and elsewhere.

Click here for a link to the David Nott Foundation a charity set up by David Nott - developing teams and supporting communities in war and disaster zones, providing training for local medical and nursing teams in these areas and focusing on conflict and natural disaster surgery.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Poetry Reading at the CornerHOUSE Community Arts Centre, Surbiton



I'm one of the poet's reading at the Corner House Arts and Community Centre in Surbiton on Friday 10 June at 7.30 pm.

The evening will be divided into themes that include relationships, stormy weather and food.

Admission is £4.00. 

There is a bar. 

And there will probably be more than one interval. Plus cheese and biscuits! 

Click here for a link to the event listing at the Corner House in Surbiton.

Do come along it would be great to see you.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

PRIDE

We watched a really good British film a month ago and I wanted to recommend it.

It's set during the miner's strike in 1984/5 and presents the true story of the alliance between a London based LGBT group and a south Wales mining village.

I tell you it was good film. Obviously events were conflated, edited out, adapted and fictionalised. But watching in church as part of our film club was a liberating and incredibly refreshing experience. 

I feel that we had been sleepwalking in an older 19th century theology for so long. But over the past 7 or 8 years we have been waking up. Screening this film is another step in our struggle for true consciousness appropriate to the 21st century here in London. NOW!

If you haven't seen it yet than watch it. It's a great film!






Click here for a link to the film's entry on IMDB

Click here for a link to a review of the film in the Guardian

Click here for one of my favourite clips from the film

Click here for a link to a featurette  about the film. Brilliant!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Forest, Field and Sky - a BBC 4 documentary

I watched a really interesting documentary on creating art out of the natural landscape. James Fox considers the work of 6 artists including David Nash's Ash Dome in Snowdonia, in Cumbria he visit's Andy Goldsworthy and his fragile work Tree Wall then to the Outer Hebrides to see a work by Julie Brook.  On Exmoor Fox travels Richard Long's straight line. Then a garden designed andcreated by Charles Jencks and finally a work by James Turrell. 

Click here for a link to Forest, Field and Sky

Monday, May 09, 2016

Intimate Cartography by Jon Clay

Here is a visual poem my friend and colleague Jon Clay. What follows are his words, photographs and videos.



Click here for a link to the poem

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Joe Boyd's A-Z

A friend recommended a weekly podcast. It's called Joe Boyd's A - Z. 

Joe Boyd is one of the most influential and significant record producer's in the UK since the 1960's. He's produced music by Eric Clapton, Fairport Convention and Pink Floyd. He's also been collecting records since the 1950's and has begun sharing his vast collection in weekly 10 minute podcasts. It is a real treasure trove and I just had to share it with you.

Each week Boyd chooses one song - in alphabetical order - from his collection for his podcast. He uses that one song to explore the song, the artist, musician's, the genre and historical context of the song.  It's really informed, entertaining and I'm really enjoying Joe Boyd's wide musical tastes. 

Click here for a link to the podcast.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

FOLK BRITANNIA - FOLK ROOTS & NEW ROUTES




I stumbled across this documentary - is it just one, perhaps it's two - on youtube - originally broadcast on BBC 4 - while I was looking for something else. But whatever this is it is completely brilliant. It's just incredible for so many reasons. It contains some fantastic historic film footage of England from the early 20th century. It tells the story of English politics and culture.It tells the story of Ewan MacColl. It tells the story of the American blues It has clips of some of my favorite folk heroes like Andy Irving and Davy Graham.

Anyway I really recommend it. Enjoy!



Joy of Living: A Tribute to Ewan MacColl

Have I mentioned Joy of Living to you at all?





















I think it's a truly remarkable CD. It's a tribute to Ewan MacColl the English folk singer song writer who was born in 1915. The double CD includes 21 covers of Ewan MacColl's songs - some iconic and others lesser known - at least to me. But they cover a wide range of his song writing skills. Some songs are political, some social observations, some songs celebrate working people, some autobiographical and others love songs. 

However not only do we have some of the most dynamic and exciting songs written in these islands of the 1960's and 70's, but Calumn and Neil - Ewan MacColl's oldest and youngest sons have brought together an amazing list of contemporary English folk singers - both young and old - to sing. Many of these recordings were made especially for the CD itself. It feels like a labour of love for the family,who also accompany and do the arrangements on some of the songs.

I was just trying to write a list of some of the highlights from the CD but I found myself jotting down from memory almost all of the songs. Each one of these recordings is filled with a spirit of respect for the writer and a genuine love for the music he created. Each singer owns the  song for themselves - it is both their's but still also Ewan MacColl's. 

I am still completely stunned by the music every time I put it on. I continue to be blown away by Seth Lakeman's The Shoals of Herring, Karine Polwart's The Terror Time, Martin Carthy and Martin Simpson, The Unthanks, Dick Gaughan, Eliza Carthy, Billy Bragg, Rufus and Martha Wainwright and Christy Moore. But then there is Chaim Tannenbaun's My Old Man, Steve Earle's Dirty Old Town and Paul Buchanan's brave rendition of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

I think what made the present particularly special was that it was given to me at Christmas as I was recovering from a serious medical condition

Monday, February 29, 2016

Some books I've enjoyed recently


I've been reading quite a lot since August. So I thought I'd share one or two of the books I've particularly enjoyed. I've just finished reading 1606. It follows the year in Shakespeare's life in which King Lear, Macbeth and Anthony and Cleopatra were written and performed.



Shapiro links these three plays to there historical context by identifying them as Jacobean dramas that could only have been written during King James 1st reign rather than Elizabeth's. For example in King Lear, Shakespeare tackles a central issue of James's early reign as king, that of an act of union between England and Scotland. One of the main themes of the play is the problems of dividing a kingdom. This important policy that James was passionately advocating incurred huge opposition in parliament. Macbeth on the other hand draws directly from the attempt - only a few months earlier in November 1605 - by a radical faction of Roman Catholic noblemen who attempted to assassinate King James and destroy the houses of parliament and the democratic structures of England in an attempt to create a new type of government and to reinstate a Roman Catholic monarchy. I'm being incredibly simplistic in this summary. The book draws on a wide social and cultural range full of interesting historical and literary details. As well as Shakespeare's personal and public life is woven throughout the book. Also Shapiro is aware of the contemporary threats being made to our own institutions by Islamic extremists.



I don't feel I can really move on without a brief mention of Shapiro's fabulous earlier literary biography of another year in Shakespeare's life, that of 1599. this history tended to focus much more on the day to day details of Shakespeare's professional life. It is set after all at an earlier stage in his career during a period of extraordinary creative output. The later book in contrast focuses on his first Jacobean dramas much closer to the end of his career where Shakespeare found the transition of writing from the Elizabethan court to the new and establishing Jacobean court quite difficult. His creative output at this stage in his life had slowed down somewhat.






I've been reading this social history of Britain since the first volume - Austerity Britain was published in 2010. Part 1 of the third volume is as lively and exhilarating a read as that first volume. However it's a lighter less intense reading experience than the first two volumes. There isn't, for example, the intense and challenging chapters on town planning or government economic strategy that we find in Austerity Britain or Family Britain. And perhaps there seems more emphasis on the developing youth culture, the growing significance of television and the birth of a popular celebrity culture. Despite this absence though it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I don't know when I'll get round to the final part of volume three that will mark the midway point in this epic popular social history. But part one has left me eager for more. And that is another fabulous front cover photograph. Don't you think?















One of the features of this collection of Sappho's poetry that I've enjoyed is the commentary on each poem or fragment and the way this is laid out in the book.

I feel so removed and detached from her work that the commentary has become indispensable reading. It doesn't cover every aspect of the poem or fragment but rather concentrates on specific points of cultural and literary difficulty.

I started reading the collection when Iona told me she was studying Sappho for her degree and I wondered if I could help out at all. So I tried reading the poetry alongside her.
However I recall Iona talking about the poetry over lunch one day where she left me rather stumped with her insights and knowledge of the poetry and history of the time. 




I've also spent some time reading the T. S. Eliot prize 2015 short listed poetry collections. It was not particularly easy reading collection after collection in what was for me a rather too short period of time - about 3 weeks over Christmas. But I particularly enjoyed Don Paterson's 40 Sonnets and the winner's - Sarah Howe's Loop of Jade. I did read Citizen An American Lyric by Claudia Rankin practically in one sitting. It was a dazzling and powerful experience. But hoped the prize would go to someone less established.

I also read Clive James's translation of Dante's Inferno. I was going through quite a difficult time as I was reading it.  The children had returned to Nottingham after the new year, David Bowie had died and there were difficult personal circumstances we were having to deal with at the time. 

At times it felt like I was walking through my own hell. It's not an easy read at all. especially as so much of what Dante writes is bound up with 14th century Florentine politics and public life. Again what helped was Penguin's own edition of the poem that contains a commentary on each book. I used both books to help me. It did take a long time to read.



Each of the images I've posted here is a link to amazon. So if you felt like clicking through you can order copies of these books from this blog.



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dinorwic quarry sunset






















I grew cold 
and weary in the embers of 
this sunset

Haiku by David Loffman
Photograph Sunset at Dinorwic Quarry by Katy Loffman used with kind permission

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sunset line





















sunset clouds like a golden fleece

iambic hexameter by David Loffman
Photograph Golden Clouds by Psyche Delia
reprinted under flicker's Creative Commons licence

T.S. Eliot Prize Reading 2015





This was an extraordinary evening. I sat - for three hours - for the most part transfixed by the most amazing group of current poets reading from their short listed collections of poetry.

I felt - sort of - privileged and honoured to be present at this occasion. At times it was as if what Ian McMillan said in his introduction, that despite an audience of over 2000, the readings were intimate and direct. The poetry filled the auditorium and ignited our imaginations.

I've been reading the poems on the short list for the last couple of weeks. It's been a rather frantic experience dipping in and out of collections. Sometimes the experience has been frustrating, always humbling and often a sheer delight.

I don't really have any clear idea of a winner - and already in a way - all the short listed poets are already winners. But I've particularly enjoyed Sarah Howe's Loop of Jade and Don Paterson's 40 Sonnets.

But we'll all know in about three hours time.

David Bowie


I wanted to find words - a song of his - to mark David Bowie's death today, but found myself reflecting on this piece of music. It seems to convey something of that lonely passage we will all encounter. There is something terrifying and comforting in it.

If I'd ever met him I'd want to thank him for the gift of words he passed on to me. And thank him for his life, growing up in a south London suburb. He was a just a lad growing up among the debris of war and yet touched our lives.

'Ziggy played guitar.'

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

New Year Iambic hexameter



















first light prizes open the year

Iambic hexameter by David Loffman
Photograph Richmond Park Sunshine by Steve Calcott
reprinted under flicker's creative commons licence

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Three Advent and Christmas haiku















outside
the trees dressed in hard
galactic light

Haiku by David Loffman
Photo milky way silhouette by Indigo Skies Photography reprinted under flickr's creative commons licence 












we fend off
the vast darkness with
candle light

Haiku by David Loffman
Untitled photograph by Ryan Martinl reprinted under flickr's creative commons licence 











the stable boy
stirs in straw and rags through his
first long night


Haiku by David Loffman
Untitled photograph by orientallizing reprinted under flickr's creative commons licence 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Wexford Carol

Click here for a beautiful Christmas carol.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November Haiku and Photograph
























suddenly 
the cold - dry and clean, sharp
like a blade

Haiku by David Loffman
Photograph The Frost is all Over by London Looks
published under flickr's Creative Commons licence

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November lines from Richmond Park

ghosts appear sculptured out of dense grey fog

























   

   
Iambic pentameter by David Loffman
Photograph Through the Mist by antgirl 
published under flickr's Creative Commons licence



great stag stands antlers rooted to the sky
   
   














   
   
Iambic pentameter by David Loffman
Photograph IMGP3935 by Laurence Arnold
published under flickr's Creative Commons licence

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Two autumn lines and photographs



sunlight shattered into pieces of gold




Iambic pentameter by David Loffman 
Photograph Autumn colors by peaceful-jp-scenery
Published here under flickr's creative commons copyright


behind
quivering leaves, shafts of sunlight
find me





Haiku by David Loffman
Photograph Autumn by Harry Lipson
Published here under flickr's creative commons copyright

Friday, October 23, 2015

Joni Mitchell In Concert BBC 1970 - DVD quality plus





I came across this BBC Joni Mitchell concert from 1970. Just stunning!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

File on 4 Colleges in Crisis

Here is a link to File on 4 broadcast on Tuesday night. It presents a rather disturbing portrait of the Further Education sector in which I have worked for almost 30 years.

Click here for the link


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ted Hughes - Stronger Than Death

We've just watched an outstanding documentary about the life of the poet Ted Hughes. We were completely spellbound by it.

Click here for a link

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06j7pkl/ted-hughes-stronger-than-death


Sunday, August 23, 2015

A concert at the BBC PROM

On Friday evening I watched this fantastic concert at the BBC Prom. The Beethoven triple concerto just blew me away. Daniel Barenboim is incredible. Click here for a link to it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Being Dead by Jim Crace

My ambition has been to read every Jim Crace book he has ever written. But I've been quite slow. Here are a few observations about the second one I've read. 




Being Dead by Jim Crace.

Two middle aged doctors return to the sand dunes at Baritone Bay after 30 years where they first met and made love. It marks the start of their 30 year marriage. But this second visit is different. They are naked and dead. They have been murdered.

The novel weaves different narrative strands. Firstly the novel details  the slow decomposition and decay of the bodies until the corpses are discovered six days later. We read about the changing weather, the different creatures, the chemical reactions, the body fluids. Crace writes with a detached detailed and sensitive prose that becomes poetic at times. We are confronted by the physicality of death. Its materialness. There's nothing spiritual or emotional about it. It just is.

A second narrative thread describes the first meeting 30 years ago as post graduate students staying at a cabin near the bay along with four other students. Crace describes attitudes, attractions and ambitions of the six students - with special focus on Joseph and Celice's meeting and relationship. The prose here is delicate, sensitive, observant. He picks up details of character that draws us in. A third narrative is that of the couples final day. Crace takes us on a journey from the moment they were bludgeoned to death by a random stranger to the start of their day. I found this thread the least interesting with lots of domestic details and descriptions of the relationship established over a long period of time. The final narrative thread - the most novelistic - follows Syl's discovery of her parent's  murder. Although not a close family - she seems quite antagonistic to start with - soon becomes love, hard won, battered out through the years. It is touching, beautiful at times.

I enjoyed the novel. Read it in three readings. I liked the individual, unattractive couple and their daughter. I liked the random act of murder that is left completely unexplored except for the inevitable mopping up by the police. I loved the forensic descriptions of purification and decomposition of the two bodies. I thought the Syl narrative - introduced about half way through the novel - helped keep the text engaging. Crace is a craftsman. He's completely in control of his material. And brings it all gently and pleasingly to it's end.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

FE and Sixth Form Colleges funding - The Today programme

Click here for a link to an article on the Today program about Further Education and Sixth Form college funding. I'm sure I've become a victim of the funding cuts that have taken place from 2011. And still set to continue.

You'll find the article 2 hours and 41 minutes into the program. The article lasts just about 5 minute. It ends at 2 hours 46 minutes and 14 seconds.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Little Gidding

I first found out about Little Gidding in 1980 /81, 34 years ago. It was the title of one of the poems I studied for my English A level. One of the sections of the poem really stood out for me because it tells the story of a journey to a little chapel or church in Cambridgeshire where the narrator - the poet T. S. Eliot - came to pray and describes a mystical encounter with God. As I came to know the poem over a period of months I realised that the poem was telling my own story of a discovery of a church close to where I lived in Harrow, where I felt that I had had a mystical encounter with God.

I've read that poem again and again over the years. I've performed it in public and I've preached about it twice in my own church in New Malden. But it never really occurred to me that I could actually visit the little church at Little Gidding.

But this weekend we did visit the church and stayed the night in Ferrar House - named after Nicholas Ferrar the 17th century son of a merchant, who restored the church and built several houses close by to create a Christian community. The church of St John the Evangelist is situated in the grounds - or garden of Ferrar House. The house is a Christian retreat centre and is open to individuals and small groups to stay.

It was an incredible visit. Both my wife and me can barely believe that we actually spent a couple of hours in the church on Friday and then spent the night next door in Ferrar House where we were looked after very well. And then the following day we spent a few hours in the library of the house and then a final visit to the church before heading off.

Click here for a link to an article about Little Gidding.

Click here for a link to the Ferrar House website

Click here for a link to a printed extract of the poem

Here is Eliot reading the whole of Little Gidding. He first visited it in 1936. The poem was published in 1942





And here is my reading of the first section of Little Gidding