Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Still Pond on Sunday

The azaleas in the Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park, on Sunday 1st May 


Monday, April 25, 2022

ANZAC Day - The Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle

 It's ANZAC Day today. Here's a song by Eric Bogle written to commemorate the day. I've been playing and singing this song for about 50 years. 

It's about time I posted it to the blog.

What is ANZAC Day - from Wikipedia

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk).[7] What had been planned as a bold strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The Allied deaths totalled over 56,000, including 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand.[8][9] News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Though the Gallipoli campaign failed to achieve its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the actions of the Australian and New Zealand troops during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an "Anzac legend" became an important part of the national identity in both countries. This has shaped the way their citizens have viewed both their past and their understanding of the present. The heroism of the soldiers in the failed Gallipoli campaign made their sacrifices iconic in New Zealand memory, and is often credited with securing the psychological independence of the nation. 

Oumou Sangare

One problem about posting something to my blog - after a long break of not posting anything - to it, is suddenly finding a renewed interest in the blog and finding things to post. This current post is an example of this situation.
About two weeks ago I was talking to my mum about Oumou Sangare. I've been listening to her songs for a long time. Years ago I bought a CD from the World Music Network. It was called Desert Blues. It was a compilation CD introducing the music of West Africa to Europe and the West. It was a great CD. I played it a lot.
Eventually I realised there were two songs - artists that really appealed to me.  Their music touched me in ways I can't explain.
The first artist was Oumou Sangare. On the CD she sang Saa Magni. 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Rick Beato on John Dowland

 I haven't been watching many Rick Beato videos on YouTube recently. But scrolling through the suggested feeds today I came across this video posted in late February. 
My first thought - after reading the title - was he's gonna talk about John Dowland. And my second thought was he's gonna talk about Julian Bream's rendition of Dowland's lute music.
Click here for a link to the post I made about the album Dances of Dowland by Julian Bream. The album is one of my Desert Island Discs.

Here's Julian Bream playing the Galliard from the album Rick Beato and me love.


And here's the video Rick plays of Sting and Karamazov. I have this album on CD somewhere.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Sermon - The Quest for Spirituality - Hope Amid the Broken Signposts. Christ Church New Malden Sunday 1 August 2021


 Christ Church New Malden

So I was asked to give a sermon titled The Quest for Spirituality. It was one of a series of sermons inspired by the book Broken Signposts by Tom Wright. The sermon series is called, Hope Amid the Broken Signposts. Click here see the other sermons in the series. And click here to listen to the whole sermon series.  Anyway, of course I said yes, I'd do it. Whenever I get asked to do anything at Christ Church New Malden - our church - my response is always to say yes.

Somtimes that's been okay. Sometimes that means a lot of trouble. Click here to read what I mean. But that's another story that won't get posted here.

But the sermon was a struggle. It was at times tortuous to prepare. So I've been a bit reluctant to post it.

However I'm reassured by the thought that no one reads this blog. I'm just fulfiling the commitment I've made to myself to post reguarly to the blog, but also to get the sermons out there. They take hours and hours to prepare.

We've been uploading our services to YouTube since we've been back at church after lockdown. 

Here's the whole service.

To help you navigate the service you'll find my introduction to the sermon at 14.32 and lasts 10 minutes . The sermon itself starts at 31.40 and lasts 17 minutes.



Not my best sermon. The Holy Spirit eventually took control.

The Oscar Peterson Trio - Ronnie Scott's 1974

I came across this piano solo by the Oscar Peterson Trio. Oscar Peterson is playing piano, Niels Pedersen is on bass and Barney Kessel plays guitar. It was recorded at Ronnie Scott's in 1974.  Apparently it's one of the greatest jazz piano solos of all time. 
In it Peterson plays a number of different jazz genres.

And just watch the expressions on Pedersen and Kessel's faces as they watch.

I still don't really know anything about jazz. But when I knew even less I did buy an album of the Oscar Peterson Trio. I remember the trio included Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass and perhaps Joe Paz on guitar. 
I probably bought the album some time between 1975 and 1979.
I loved it but still remained on the outside looking in.
I still am.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

A sevice given on 6 June 2021 at 10.00 from Christ Church New Malden

Here's a link to our morning service at Christ Church New Malden given on the 6th June 2021. Katy is the service leader. 

The service lasts just under an hour.

Click here for a link to the service. Or copy and paste this url into your browser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0wphSxBq9Q

Or click on the video link just below


If you're at all impatient here are some timings to help you navigate your way through the service.

0.09 Introduction, confession and first song - 10.09 Katy
10.32 sermon taster David
16.50 readings Tim and Lynn
20.35 sermon - 40.41David
41.08 prayers - 48.25 Becky
48.26 final song and close of service - 55.04 Katy

Friday, April 23, 2021

Top Ten Critically and Commercially Acclaimed Songwriters by WatchMojo

 I've also been following WatchMojo lists for quite some time. So it seems appropriate to include this video. It's probably a more popular list. It has way more UK artists and includes or mentions another four of my list. 

It's still almost completely dominated by men. Most artists are from the 60s-70s and are all white.

I thought it was worth sharing.

And hope you enjoy it.


Top 20 Singer Song Writers of all Time by Rick Beato

 I've watched a few of Rick Beato's Top Twenty videos on YouTube. Most of the time I haven't felt at all qualified to make any guesses as to what he's going to include in his list. But I enjoy listening anyway. However, watching this list I jotted down five names I'd expect him to include. 

He mentions four of my five names. And really don't understand why he didn't include the fifth name. But I expect this is really about taste. I'm not gonna mention the names I had. If you've visited this blog at all over the last year or so you'll pretty much know the names I chose.

Most of the names mentioned in the video are from the United States. With only three names from the United Kingdom. Two of my names are Canadian. And one of those got the number one slot. Of course, the name he didn't mention on my list is also Canadian. Very disappointing. I was also surprised at how few women are here. There are at least two other women, on reflection, I would have expected to see here. 

Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing with you.

Hope you enjoy the video

Monday, March 29, 2021

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead - Life in a box episode

 A colleague mentioned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead the other day, and I was reminded of that fabulous exchange about life in a box.

Here's the extract from the film with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman.

It's not a favourite film of mine but it is Tim Roth and Gary Oldman.

However, there's always this performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as Rosencrantz

Saturday, January 30, 2021

One hundred words about David Bowie now


In 2012 a friend and I began listening to every Bowie album from Space Oddity to Scary Monsters. It was the first time I’d played a Bowie album since 2003. When The Next Day and Blackstar were released we listened to them immediately.

I wouldn’t describe myself now as a David Bowie fan. I think I stopped being a fan in 1974 soon after I’d heard Diamond Dogs.

Now five years after Bowie’s death I’ve been revisiting some of those records and re-living the memories from that fan life. It’s been quite interesting. Also nostalgic, sentimental and a little inspiring.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

T. S. Eliot Prize Winner 2020 How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil

Huge congratulations go to Bhanu Kapil who has won the 2020 T. S. Eliot poetry prize.

The collection contains a series of poems in which the narrator, separated from family members and home,  addresses her host who has taken the narrator into her home. The collection partly explores the relationship between host and guest. Quickly we realise as we read that we're not just reading about a personal relationship between landlord and tenant but about the relationship between a country of origin and host country. In Kapil's case, India and the United Kingdom. At times, Kapil portrays the host country as a mother figure, and at other times as a predator. She's generous and selfish. The guest/tenant is presented as grateful but also trapped and a victim. She tries to escape and become her own person.
Other poems inhabit the collection. They are poems about home and family. They are poems of loss and longing.

Bhanu Kapil

Here's a reading from How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil

Here's a video from YouTube showing a reading and introduction to Kapil's poetry from Churchill College Cambridge. I think it must have been recorded during the first lockdown between March and July 2020.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

One hundred words about buying Low and Heroes


But that wasn’t the end. Although I’d dropped Bowie. That fan life opened up a whole world of music and poetry for me.

However, my old vinal album collection includes Pinups and Young Americans. I bought Pinups soon after its release on the 3rd November 1973. I can’t remember when I bought Young Americans.

In 1981 I went to Hatfield Polytechnic. The student in the room next to me use to play Heroes and Low. She played them a lot and I really began to enjoy them. I bought them both. I wasn’t a fan. I just liked the music.

One hundred words about my David Bowie fan life

My fan life with David Bowie lasted 21 months. It was intense. I plastered my bedroom walls with Bowie posters and bought, the LP’s Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory, Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World.

At its height, I remember one afternoon, nervously propping the Aladdin Sane album cover up against the pillows on my bed and kissing his lips.

It all started on the 3rd July 1972, I’d just turned 13, the night Bowie performed Starman on Top of the Pops. And ended on the 24th May 1974, when Diamond Dogs was released. I didn’t like it.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

One Hundred Words About Why Bowie Matters by Will Brooker


Will Brooker is both fan of David Bowie and an academic specialising in Cultural Studies. The book contains both aspects of Brooker's life. In 2015 Brooker undertook a yearlong research project reliving one year of Bowie’s life during his stay in Berlin – 1976 -1979. The book draws together aspects of Brooker’s own trip to Berlin, recalls Bowie’s own visit, includes some critical theory analysis of songs and videos from Bowie’s last album Blackstar and assesses Bowie’s impact on contemporary culture. For example the book considers Bowie’s contribution and impact to the LGBT community. Actually I think that’s been quite huge.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

One Hundred Words About Being Pointed at by David Bowie

 I was in our sitting room watching Top of the Pops the night David Bowie pointed at me. That moment inspired artists like Mark Almond and Boy George and many others. It also inspired me. Bowie was mesmerising. He seemed out of this world. I wasn't sure if he was a man or a woman. He seemed to be neither and both.

In doing that he completely broke down the very narrow idea I had of what it meant to be a man. I was thirteen and a student, a sort of prisoner at a secondary modern boys school.

Introducing One Hundred Words About David Bowie


It’s been five years since David Bowie died. Television and radio have been full of documentaries and programmes about him. I’ve been listening and watching some of them. At Christmas, I got given a book. Why Bowie Matters by Will Brooker. Brooker is a Bowie fan and academic and has written a unique biography and personal memoir of Bowie. I loved it – despite its many failings. It has enabled me to review my own personal experience of being a Bowie fan and has inspired me to write a couple of poems. I’m going to share some of my thoughts here.

Friday, January 15, 2021

A 45,000 year old purplish pig


 Photo by Maxime Aubert 

This is a pre-historic picture of a purplish pig adorning the walls of a cave hidden in a highland valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. They now estimate that it was painted a staggering 45,500 years ago. If that date is correct, the find in Leang Tedongnge cave could represent the earliest known example of figurative art, which is created when painters illustrate objects from the real world rather than simply abstract patterns and designs.

Monday, November 23, 2020

100 words a day project with J

100 words a day project with J

Last week I challenged one of my students to write 100 words a day for a week. To encourage him I decided to set myself the same challenge. Here are the results of my own 100 words a day challenge. 

I think it makes an interesting snapshot of a lockdown week.

Day 1 Wednesday 18 November

Today I've challenged J, one of my students, to write 100 words each day for the week. Next Wednesday morning I'm expecting to see seven 100 word texts written by J. I'm also going to write 100 words each day to share with him over the week.

I’m going to have to be quite careful what I write to him because J is only 11 years old. But I’m really hoping that writing a hundred words every day will give me inspiration for writing lots of poetry and other stuff.

I waited ages to get connected to J this morning.

Day 2 Thursday 19 November

This evening I had my weekly online meeting with my friend David. We meet to play music to each other. We decide on a music project then aim to meet once a week to listen to the music. Sometimes we can’t meet but since lockdown, we’ve been meeting regularly. This has been going on for ten years. Since the first lockdown in March we’ve been meeting online.

So we meet at 8.30. At first, we talk about the week that’s just passed. Then David plays the first half of the music. We have a break and talk about the music.

Day 3 Friday 20 November

Today I’ve spent the morning reading and the afternoon writing poetry. I’ve set myself a big reading challenge since the end of October. The T. S. Eliot poetry prize is a competition to find the best poetry collection published every year. The winner is announced every January. They announce a shortlist of ten books in October. The winner will be one of the shortlisted collections. Most years I buy as many of the shortlisted poetry collections as I can and try and read them all before the announcement. This year I’ve bought seven collections. I’ve read five collections so far.

Day 4 Saturday 21 November

Since the latest lockdown, I’ve ordered all our food shopping online and get it delivered. It’s a new way of shopping for us. A few times a week I log on to our online shopping account and I add to our shopping basket. On Saturday my wife and I sit down at the kitchen table and discuss what we’re going to eat during the week. Then we check to see if we’ve got the ingredients. If we don’t have the ingredients we add it to the list. I’m writing this and waiting for delivery. It will be here soon.

Day 5 Sunday 22 November

We’ve watched the last episode of series one of The Bridge. Since the first lockdown in late March watching television has been an important part of our everyday routine. We usually settle down to watch television after 8.00 and before 9.00 every weekday evening. We hardly watch terrestrial television so we’re not limited by schedules. We watch BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Bridge was originally broadcast years ago but now it’s been put on iPlayer we can watch it when we like. There’re ten episodes in series one and we’ll watch the whole series in about two weeks.

Day 6 Monday 23 November

This morning I went for a cycle ride. It is the first time I’ve taken the bike out for a week. I’ve not been out much over the last month or so. My aim, since I bought the bike, is to exercise regularly, for at least three times a week. But I’ve not been able to establish a good routine. During the first lockdown, I did very well. My daughter came to stay for about two months. Every two or three days she jogged and I cycled along with her. We got into a good routine but she’s gone now.

Day 7 Tuesday 24 November

Every morning I get up at ten to seven. I go into the kitchen and I make a cup of coffee for my wife and a cup of tea for me. I take my wife’s mug of coffee to her in bed and leave the coffee on a bedside table. Then I take my cup of tea into the sitting room. I put the tea on a side table then open the blinds. I settle down in a big armchair and I recite three poems aloud to the empty room. I’ve learned these poems by heart. It’s fun.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Douglas Stuart wins Booker prize for debut Shuggie Bain by Alison Flood

Scottish-American wins £50,000 for an autobiographical novel about a boy growing up in 80s Glasgow, which is ‘destined to be a classic’

Douglas Stuart’s Booker win heralds the arrival of a fully formed voice

Douglas Stuart describes himself as ‘a working-class kid who had a different career and came to writing late’. Photograph: Martyn Pickersgill

by Alison Flood

The Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart has won the Booker prize for his first novel, Shuggie Bain, a story based on his own life that follows a boy growing up in poverty in 1980s Glasgow with a mother who is battling addiction.

Stuart, 44, has described himself as “a working-class kid who had a different career and came to writing late”. He is the second Scot to win the £50,000 award after James Kelman took the prize in 1994 with How Late It Was, How Late, a book Stuart said “changed his life” because it was the first time he saw “my people, my dialect, on the page”.

Shuggie Bain follows Shuggie as he attempts to care for his alcoholic mother, Agnes, whose descent into alcoholism coincides with her youngest son’s growing awareness of his sexuality. The novel is dedicated to Stuart’s mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16.

Upon learning he had won, Stuart tearfully described himself as “absolutely stunned” and thanked his mother, who is “on every page of this book – I’ve been clear without her I wouldn’t be here, my work wouldn’t be here”.

He also thanked “the people of Scotland, especially Glaswegians, whose empathy and humour and love and struggle are in every word of this book”.

Stuart, who has already written his second novel, titled Loch Awe, pointed to Kelman’s Booker winner behind him on his shelves. “When James won in the mid-90s, Scottish voices were seen as disruptive and outside the norm. And now to see Shuggie at the centre of it, I can’t express it,” he said. “Young boys like me growing up in 80s Glasgow, this wasn’t ever anything I would have dreamed of.”

He said he would now become a full-time writer, and joked that his winnings would be spent on settling his bet with his husband that he wouldn’t win. More seriously, he said he might use the money to return to Glasgow.

Margaret Busby, a publisher and the chair of this year’s Booker judges, said the work was “destined to be a classic”, describing it as “a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values”.

“It is such an amazingly emotive, nuanced book that is hard to forget. It’s intimate, it’s challenging, it’s compassionate,” she said, describing Shuggie as “an unforgettable character”.

“This is dealing with tough subject matter, with characters who are not having an easy time,” said Busby, who was joined on the judging panel by the writers Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Lemn Sissay and Emily Wilson. “It’s not a story where everybody lives happily ever after … but this is a hopeful read in a different sort of way … anybody who reads it will never feel the same.”

Shuggie Bain was rejected by 30 editors before it was picked up by publishers Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK. Stuart, who was born and raised in Glasgow, moved to New York at 24 to work in fashion design after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London.

He has said writing about Glasgow from the US “brought clarity, but it also allowed me to fall in love with the city again”, describing it as “a city of reluctant optimists by default”.

“How would we have survived otherwise?” he asked. “When you don’t have the comfort of money, then you are forced to deal with life on the frontlines, and sometimes love, humour, optimism is all you can bring to a bad situation.”

Shortlisted authors, (top L-R) Douglas Stuart, Diane Cook, Avni Doshi, (bottom L-R) Brandon Taylor, Maaza Mengiste and Tsitsi Dangarembga speak at the 2020 Booker prize ceremony on Thursday evening.

Shortlisted authors, (top L-R) Douglas Stuart, Diane Cook, Avni Doshi, (bottom L-R) Brandon Taylor, Maaza Mengiste and Tsitsi Dangarembga speak at the 2020 Booker prize ceremony on Thursday evening. Photograph: David Parry/PA

Stuart was one of four debuts among the six novelists to be shortlisted for this year’s Booker prize, whittled down from 162 novels. The final six contenders made up the most diverse lineup in the prize’s history, with Stuart beating the US writers Diane Cook, Avni Doshi and Brandon Taylor, the acclaimed Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga and the Ethiopian-American Maaza Mengiste.

After last year’s judges provoked controversy by flouting the rules to choose two winners, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, this year’s judges’ meeting was “unanimous and quick”, said the Booker’s literary director, Gaby Wood. She added that “guidelines” had been added to the prize so that if the judges were split again, the majority vote would be honoured.

“There were no tantrums, that’s for sure,” said Busby, revealing that the final meeting took around an hour. “But it’s not easy to make a decision when you start with 162 titles and you’ve got to end up with one. The shortlist is full of some wonderful writers but in the end we all came together behind Shuggie Bain. I thought of breaking the rules and saying let’s have six winners this year but …”

Normally announced at a formal dinner in London’s Guildhall, this year’s prize was announced in a BBC broadcast from the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, north London, with the shortlisted authors joining in from their homes around the world.

The ceremony was moved forward by two days, ostensibly to avoid a clash with former US president Barack Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land; last week, it was announced that Obama would be taking part in the Booker ceremony. In a pre-recorded message, Obama offered “my congratulations and admiration” to the nominated authors, citing Marilynne Robinson, Colson Whitehead and Bernardine Evaristo as past Booker-nominated authors who had offered him “a brief respite from the daily challenges of the presidency”.

The Booker has been criticised for having opened up entries to any author writing in English in 2014, with the British literary scene fearful the rule change would lead to dominance by Americans. This year, apart from Dangarembga, all the shortlisted writers were from the US or held joint US citizenship.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Little Late - Eavan Boland

From The Irish Times
Eavan Boland obituary: Outstanding Irish poet and academic
Boland broke the mould of Irish poetry by making women’s experiences central to her poems

Born: September 24th, 1944    Died, April 27th, 2020

Poet Eavan Boland in Dublin in 2018. ‘In my generation,’ she once said, ‘women went from being the objects of the Irish poem to being the authors of the Irish poem.’ Photograph: Barry Cronin

Eavan Boland, the outstanding Irish poet and academic, has died suddenly following a stroke.

Boland, who was professor of English and humanities and director of the creative writing programme at Stanford University, broke the mould of Irish poetry – and drew new audiences to the form – by making women’s experiences central to her poems.

She was the author of more than 10 poetry collections, an award-winning essay collection, prose writings and an anthology of German women poets (Princeton, 2004). Boland’s collections, In Her Own Image (1980), Nightfeed (1982), Outside History (1990) and Domestic Violence (2007) explore historical and contemporary female identity.

Her collection, In a Time of Violence (1994) which merged political and private realities, won the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize. Her collection, Against Love Poetry (2001), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and her heartbreaking poem about Ireland’s 1847 famine, Quarantine, was one of the 10 poems shortlisted for RTÉ’s selection of Ireland’s favourite poems of the last 100 years.

Irish secondary students know her poems well from their English curriculum and the public identify greatly with such poems as Child of Our Time – in memory of the youngest victims of the 1974 Dublin bombings and Nightfeed – an evocative celebration of feeding her infant daughter under the cover of darkness.

Boland won the Pen Award for creative nonfiction for A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet (2012). In 2014, many of Boland’s best-known poems alongside her own photographs of Dublin were published together in A Poet’s Dublin (Carcanet Press) to celebrate her 70th birthday. In 2016, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And in 2017, she received a lifetime achievement award at the Irish Book Awards.

Boland often said that she was a feminist but not a feminist poet. In her memoir, Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet of Our Times (1995), she wrote how Irish poetry had objectified women as passive metaphors, emblematic muses and decorative motifs. In Eavan Boland: Is It Still The Same, the 2018 RTÉ documentary, she spoke about the “dull floating debate about what is the legitimate subject matter” for poetry and how it is “easier to have a political murder in an Irish poem than a washing machine”. Yet, Boland was adamant about not editing out the everyday experiences of motherhood and family life but instead to weave them into bigger truths of human fragilities, strengths and volatilities, history and mythology.

She was also a teaching poet who generously mentored new writers, encouraging them to put in the hard work that creative writing required. She also threw light on lesser-known historical and contemporary poets. Throughout her long career, she taught at various universities in Ireland and the United States and was writer in residence at both Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin and at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin to mark its centenary in 1994.

In 1991, she took a strong public stand against the exclusion of women writers in the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991) even though her poems were included. At the time, she said, “the extraordinary levels of exclusion of women [in this anthology] disfigured the national literature”.

Since 1996, Boland was professor of humanities, professor of English and director of the creative writing programme at Stanford University in California. During the coronavirus pandemic, she had returned home to be close to her family and continued to teach students remotely from Dublin.

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, the youngest of five children of Frederick Boland, an Irish diplomat and Frances Kelly, an expressionist painter. The family lived in Leeson Park, Dublin 4. Her mother, who had left school early yet won a scholarship to study art in Paris – where she met her future husband – was a huge influence on and support to the young Eavan. When Frederick Boland was appointed the first Irish ambassador to the United Kingdom, the family moved to London and then later to New York when he was appointed permanent representative to the United Nations.

Boland wrote about the loneliness she felt like a five-year-old Irish girl in London in An Irish Childhood in England, 1951. She didn’t settle well in New York either and returned to Ireland to board at the Holy Child School in Killiney.

Following her secondary school education, she studied literature and classics at Trinity College Dublin. While there, she became involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement. She also began a lifelong friendship with Mary Robinson then Mary Bourke who quoted from Boland’s poem The Singers in her inaugural address as Ireland’s first female president in December 1990: “As a woman, I want the women who have felt themselves outside history to be written back into history, in the words of Eavan Boland, ‘finding a voice where they found a vision’.

Boland cherished married life in the new Dublin suburb with its view of the Dublin mountains and often included references to nature in her poetry

As a young woman, Boland was appalled by what she called “signal injustices in a society” which included the marriage bar [which prevented women from working in public service jobs after marriage] and the ban on women on juries. She never lost that radical impulse to fight for women’s voices to be heard. She published her first poems while still a student and graduated with a first-class honours degree in English literature and language in 1966.

Boland met novelist, Kevin Casey in the late 1960s. The couple married in Dublin in 1969 and bought a home in Dundrum where their two daughters, Sarah and Eavan, were born and grew up. Boland cherished married life in the new Dublin suburb with its view of the Dublin mountains and often included references to nature in her poetry.

In 2018, Boland was commissioned to write a poem commemorating women winning the right to vote and casting their first ballot on December 14th, 1918, by the Government of Ireland Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Royal Irish Academy. That poem is Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women.

She was editor of Poetry Ireland Review for the last three years and in her final editorial, she wrote “the life of the poet is always a summons to try to set down some truth that was once true and will go on being true. No poet should have to worry about public respect, to the lack of it, in which this art is held."

Her latest collection of poetry, The Historians, will be published by WW Norton in the US and by Carcanet for the UK and Irish market in autumn 2020.

Boland is survived by her husband her daughters, grandchildren, Ella, Jack, Julia and Cian, brother, Fergal and sister, Nessa. Her sisters, Jane and Mella pre-deceased her.

Click here to read the article in The Irish Times

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Forward Poetry Prizes 2020


Forward Prize for Best Collection (£10,000)
Caroline Bird The Air Year (Carcanet)

Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (£5,000)
Will Harris RENDANG (Granta Poetry)

Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (£1,000)
Malika Booker ‘The Little Miracles’ (Magma)

Click here to watch the Forward Prizes for poetry 2020 from the Brish Library

Friday, October 23, 2020

T. S. Eliot Shortlist 2020

 TS Eliot prize unveils 'unsettling, captivating' shortlist

Judges say the 10 poetry collections nominated for £25,000 award are ‘as urgent as they are artful’

by Alison Flood

Thu 15 Oct 2020

Judges for the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize: Mona Arshi, Andrew McMillan, Lavinia Greenlaw - (Chair)

The prestigious TS Eliot prize has revealed a shortlist that shows that poetry is “the most resilient, potent, capacious and universal art we have”.

Announcing the 10 titles in the running for the £25,000 award for the year’s best collection, the most valuable prize in British poetry, the poet and chair of judges, Lavinia Greenlaw, said the jury had been “unsettled, captivated and compelled” by the books they chose.

“When the pandemic hit, certain concerns of ours began to seem rather trivial,” said Greenlaw, who together with the poets Mona Arshi and Andrew McMillan read 153 collections to come up with the shortlist. “We had to be convinced by them as relevant in a profoundly changed world, which meant that we had to be able to connect with them at the level of essential human experience, which is where I believe poetry is really produced, and poetry is really received.”

JO Morgan was shortlisted for The Martian’s Regress, which explores what becomes of humans when they lose their humanity, as a colonist journeys back from Mars to abandoned Earth. “Waking from his nightmare / The pressing blackness of the air / Failed to hide the martian from himself. / The nightmare too had woken,” writes Morgan.

Will Harris was chosen for his first collection RENDANG, which draws on his Anglo-Indonesian heritage to explore issues including race, culture, memory and identity. Two other first collections also make the cut: Ella Frears’s intimate Shine, Darling, and Daisy Lafarge’s Life Without Air, which investigates suffocating relationships and toxic environments.

Natalie Diaz – already shortlisted for the Forward prize – was chosen for her look at desire, environmental destruction and Native American culture, Postcolonial Love Poem, while Sasha Dugdale was chosen for Deformations, which puts Homer’s Odyssey alongside the life and work of the controversial English artist Eric Gill.

Poetry has been “under pressure to adapt and respond to a rapidly changing world”, Greenlaw said, “but also to a world in which there is a great deal of silencing and under-representation. And now is a particularly exciting time because we have these voices emerging that are as urgent and new as they are artful.”

Greenlaw said there was an assumption of a “divide between poetry as literary, and poetry that is culturally or politically engaged”.

“It is hard to write good, powerful poetry that is explicitly politically engaged,” she said. “But these poets are all political. And they’re all artful.”

The shortlist for the prize, which is run by the TS Eliot Foundation, is completed with How the Hell Are You, the new collection from Glyn Maxwell, Shane McCrae’s Sometimes I Never Suffered, Bhanu Kapil’s How to Wash a Heart, in which Kapil explores the relationship between an immigrant guest and a citizen host, and Wayne Holloway-Smith’s Love Minus Love.

“People talk about the obscurity and difficulty of poetry, and yet when we are in extremis, we write and read poems, even if we’ve never written or read them before,” Greenlaw said. The collections had been written in the world before Covid-19, she added, but the “urgency and vitality of the 10 books on this shortlist commanded our attention nonetheless … Poetry is the most resilient, potent, capacious and universal art we have.”

Last year’s award was won by Roger Robinson’s A Portable Paradise, which judges praised for “finding in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of ‘sweet, sweet life’”. This year’s winner will be unveiled in January.

The shortlist in full:

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz (Faber & Faber)

Deformations by Sasha Dugdale (Carcanet Press)

Shine, Darling by Ella Frears (Offord Road Books)

RENDANG by Will Harris (Granta Poetry)

Love Minus Love by Wayne Holloway-Smith (Bloodaxe Books)

How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil (Pavilion Poetry)

Life Without Air by Daisy Lafarge (Granta Poetry)

How the Hell Are You by Glyn Maxwell (Picador Poetry)

Sometimes I Never Suffered by Shane McCrae (Corsair Poetry)

The Martian’s Regress by JO Morgan (Cape Poetry)

Click here to read this article at The Guardian website

Click here to read a review of  Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz in The Guardian

Click here to read a review of Shine, Darling by Ella Frears from her publisher

Click here to read a short review of RENDANG by Will Harris from The Guardian

Click here to read a review of Love Minus Love by Wayne Holloway-Smith from Bloodaxe

Click here to read a short review of The Martian’s Regress by JO Morgan in The Guardian

Booker Prize shortlist 2020

The judges for the Booker Prize 2020

Margaret Bushby (Chair), Lee Child, Lemn Sissay, Sameer Rahim, Emily Wilson

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (Oneworld Publications)

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Faber & Faber)

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House)

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (Canongate Books)

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Picador, Pan Macmillan)

Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Originals, Daunt Books Publishing)  

The Finalists

Diane Cook

                                                                    Douglas Stuart

Avni Doshi

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Maaza Mengiste

Brandon Taylor

Monday, October 12, 2020

Sleep by Max Richter

Sleep by Max Richter has been posted to YouTube. The performance is 8 hours and 24 minutes long. Rather distressingly I discovered it's broken up with advertisements. However, I've also just discovered the whole work is also on Spotify. 

I have an account. 

Max Richter

Click here for a link to hear the whole work on YouTube

Below are a few phrases that came to me in the opening minutes

Autumn falls

scattering yellow leaves.

Afternoon light

stretched thin over the day

I open the front door

and let the cold air in.

The shrivelled day.

The window blinds are closed in the house opposite. 

Empty scaffolding 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Louise Gluck wins the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature

The Swedish Academy has chosen the American poet, citing her ‘unmistakable poetic voice’

An 'unmistakable poetic voice'

by Alison Flood

Click here to read the article in The Guardian

The poet Louise Glück has become the first American woman to win the Nobel prize for literature in 27 years, cited for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

Glück is the 16th woman to win the Nobel, and the first American woman since Toni Morrison took the prize in 1993. The American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was a surprise winner in 2016.

One of America’s leading poets, the 77-year-old writer has won the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award, tackling themes including childhood and family life, often reworking Greek and Roman myths.

The chair of the Nobel prize committee, Anders Olsson hailed Glück’s “candid and uncompromising” voice, which is “full of humour and biting wit”. Her 12 collections of poetry, including her most recent Faithful and Virtuous Night, the Pulitzer-winning The Wild Iris, and the “masterly” Averno, are “characterised by a striving for clarity”, he added, comparing her to Emily Dickinson with her “severity and unwillingness to accept simple tenets of faith”.

“In her poems, the self listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self,” Olsson said. “But even if Glück would never deny the significance of the autobiographical background, she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet.”

In a short interview conducted in the early hours of Thursday morning, Glück told the Nobel prize: “My first thought was, I won’t have any friends because most of my friends are writers. But then I thought, that won’t happen. It is too new, you know? I don’t know what it means. It is a great honour. There are recipients I don’t admire. But I think of the ones I do.”

She said the winnings – 10m Swedish kronor (£870,000) – would help her buy a home in Vermont. “But mostly, I am concerned for the preservation of daily life, with people I love … it is disruptive. The phone is ringing now, squeaking into my ear.”

When asked where new readers should start, Gluck said, “I would suggest they don’t read my first book unless they want to feel contempt. But everything after that might be of interest. I like my recent work. Averno would be a place to start, or my last book Faithful and Virtuous Night.”

The news was welcomed by her fellow poets. Claudia Rankine told the Guardian that she was “so pleased”.

“Something good had to happen!” Rankine said. “She is a tremendous poet, a great mentor, and a wonderful friend. I couldn’t be happier. We are in a bleak moment in this country, and as we poets continue to imagine our way forward, Louise has spent a lifetime showing us how to make language both mean something and hold everything.”

Praising Glück’s poem The Wild Iris, Imtiaz Dharker said: “There is no easy comfort in it (or in any of her work, when I went to find more of it). What she offers instead is uncompromising clarity, especially about the slide of all living things towards death. Yet she often turns that awareness on a pin and tilts the poem to catch a different light.”

Kate Clanchy said it was “great to have a woman poet win the Nobel”.

“She is a very quotable poet – you can look her up on Instagram,” Clanchy said. “But it’s worth noting that her resonant aphorisms are always spoken by ironised voices – a wild iris, for example. Her poems are austere, difficult, very much alive. I’ve always admired her.”

Born in New York City in 1943, Glück grew up on Long Island and attended Columbia University. She has taught poetry in many universities, and is currently an adjunct professor of English at Yale. In an interview with Poets and Writers magazine, she spoke about the balance between her life and work, arguing “you have to live your life if you’re going to do original work”, because “your work will come out of an authentic life, and if you suppress all of your most passionate impulses in the service of an art that has not yet declared itself, you’re making a terrible mistake”.

“When I was young I led the life I thought writers were supposed to lead, in which you repudiate the world, ostentatiously consecrating all of your energies to the task of making art,” Glück said. “I just sat in Provincetown at a desk and it was ghastly – the more I sat there not writing the more I thought that I just hadn’t given up the world enough. After two years of that, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to be a writer. So I took a teaching job in Vermont, though I had spent my life till that point thinking that real poets don’t teach. But I took this job, and the minute I started teaching – the minute I had obligations in the world – I started to write again.”

President Barack Obama presents poet Louise Glück with the National Humanities Medal in 2016. 
Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The award will mark a change for a writer who has often avoided the spotlight. When Glück was appointed as US poet laureate in 2003, she said she had “no concern with widening audience”, and that she preferred her audience “small, intense, passionate”.

At Glück’s UK publisher Carcanet, which has published the poet for more than two decades, Michael Schmidt said staff were “completely surprised” at the news but also “astonished at the justice of the win”.

“What the Academy seems to have done is they’ve gone for a poet who is, in a sense, aesthetically, imaginatively, at odds with the age,” Schmidt said. “She’s not a cheerleader. She’s in no way a voice for any cause – she is a human being engaged in the language and in the world. And I think there’s this wonderful sense that she is not polemical, and maybe this is what’s being celebrated. She’s not a person trying to persuade us of anything, but helping us to explore to explore the world we’re living in. She’s a clarifying poet. There doesn’t seem to be much political engagement in her poems. They’re really about the individual human being alive in the world, and in the language.”

The prize is awarded by the 18-strong Swedish Academy to the writer they deem has fulfilled the condition laid out in the somewhat murky words of Alfred Nobel’s will: to “have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.

After enduring almost three years of scandal, observers had predicted the Swedish Academy would go for a safe choice this year, with Canadian poet Anne Carson, Antiguan-American writer Jamaica Kincaid, Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Japanese bestseller Haruki Murakami and perennial contender Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan novelist, poet and playwright, named as possible winners.

The august and secretive voting body was rocked by allegations of sexual abuse and financial misconduct in 2017, culminating in the conviction of Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of academy member Katarina Frostenson, for rape in 2018. Frostenson subsequently left the Academy after she was discovered to have leaked the names of previous winners, and a string of resignations from Academy members followed, with the 2018 award postponed.

Announcing the 2018 and 2019 winners last year, the Academy was hoping for an end to criticism, with Olsson promising that the prize was moving away from a Eurocentric, male-oriented focus. Instead, they chose two European writers, the widely-acclaimed Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, and the Austrian writer Peter Handke, a choice which was widely criticised over Handke’s denial of Serb atrocities during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Click here to read The Guardian article Louise Gluck: Where to start with an extraordinary Nobel winner by Fiona Sampson 

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Obituary from The Guardian: Derek Mahon, Belfast-born giant of Irish poetry, dies aged 78 by Sian Cain

Derek Mahon, Belfast-born giant of Irish poetry, dies aged 78

Poet famed for A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford and Everything Is Going to be All Right, read on national TV as the pandemic hit, has died after a short illness

by Sian Cain

Derek Mahon. ‘Pure artist’ … poet Derek Mahon. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

Derek Mahon, the Belfast-born poet who became an immense figure in Irish poetry with poems such as A Disused Shed in Co Wexford and Courtyards in Delft, has died at the age of 78 after a short illness.

Mahon, whose poetry career spanned a half-century, was most often compared to WH Auden, Louis MacNeice and Samuel Beckett, with the critic Brendan Kennelly calling him “a Belfast Keats with a Popean sting”. Several of his poems became staples of school curricula, and, as Ireland locked down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, RTÉ ended its evening news bulletin with Mahon reading his poem Everything Is Going to be All Right, which includes the lines: “There will be dying, there will be dying, / but there is no need to go into that.”

His final collection, Washing Up, is due to be published later this month.

Announcing his death on Friday, Mahon’s publisher Gallery Press called him a “master poet” and a “pure artist”.

Fellow Belfast-born poet Michael Longley said: “Derek Mahon was my oldest friend in poetry. We went to the same Belfast school, and we served our poetic apprenticeships together at Trinity College Dublin. Even then, I knew that he would be one of the great lyric poets of the past century. He was always entirely focused on writing poems, never distracted by the business of ‘the poetry world’. He was a supreme craftsman. There is much darkness in his poetry, but it is set against the beauty of the world, and the formal beauty of his work. I believe that Derek’s poetry will last as long as the English language lasts.”

Poet Paul Muldoon told the Guardian: “Derek Mahon was one of the great poets in English, one of the few whose technical brilliance was somehow adequate to the successive terrors of our age.”

Critic and poet David Wheatley, meanwhile, paid tribute to “his endlessly inventive, witty and humane poems.

“His work emerged just as Northern Ireland was collapsing into civil strife, and in his classic early books – Night-Crossing, Lives, The Snow Party – Mahon alternates thrillingly between dandyish detachment and a reckoning with visceral forces with the power to overwhelm all art. There are many Mahons – he is a latter-day metaphysical poet, a belated French symbolist, a poet-philosopher of the overlooked and undervalued carving a refuge from a hostile world in the green shade of his Kinsale home,” he said.

Born in 1941 and raised in the Protestant inner suburbs of Belfast, Mahon attended Royal Belfast Academical Institution. He then went to Trinity College Dublin, where he befriended Longley, who would later describe them inhaling with their “untipped Sweet Afton cigarettes MacNeice, Crane, Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Larkin, Lawrence, Graves, Ted Hughes, Stevens, Cummings, Richard Wilbur, Robert Lowell, as well as Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Brecht, Rilke”. While tales of “The Group” – young Irish poets including Seamus Heaney, Mahon and Longley who gathered at the Belfast home of Queen’s University lecturer Philip Hobsbaum – would be repeated in stories about their professional ascent, Mahon disputed the period’s significance: “The way that story is told, we were terrified provincial ignoramuses who needed someone from Cambridge to get us going.”

Mahon published the book Twelve Poems in 1965 and gained critical acclaim three years later for Night-Crossing, published while he was working as an English teacher in a Belfast high school. Mahon later described the collection as his “horrible, scatterbrained first book”, though it contained many of the themes he would touch on for the rest of his career: alienation, outcasts and the nature of art. He frequently revised his own work, with one critic quipping that Mahon showed “scant respect for the artist as a young Mahon”.

“Mahon was fond of Heraclitus’s dictum that we can never step twice into the same river, and thanks to his endless self-revisions it often feels like we can never step twice into the same Mahon poem either,” Wheatley said. “A deeper explanation for this, however, is the abiding joyous freshness and surprise of his classic poems, which will endure and inspire.”

He followed Night-Crossing with Lives (1972), The Snow Party (1975), Courtyards in Delft (1981) and Antarctica (1985). The Snow Party features his most celebrated poem, A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford, which examines a cluster of mushrooms locked in an abandoned country hotel shed.

Mahon also worked as a journalist – for the BBC, New Statesman and even briefly for Vogue magazine – a translator and a screenwriter for television, adapting novels by Elizabeth Bowen and Jennifer Johnston.

A burst of productivity in the 2000s saw him publish four award-winning collections in five years: Harbour Lights, Somewhere the Wave, Life on Earth and An Autumn Wind; a body of work the Guardian called “one of the most significant developments in poetry this century”.

After living in France, England and New York, he settled in Kinsale, County Cork, where he lived for decades. He remained carefully neutral on Irish and Northern Irish politics, telling the Guardian in 2015: “I never put a name to my own position and I still can’t, which suits me fine.”

“When growing up, my bunch of friends would have thought of ourselves as anti-unionist because we were anti-establishment. We would have been vaguely all-Ireland republican socialists. But then, when theory turned into practice, we had to decide where we stood and I never did resolve it for myself … from time to time you get a kick from some critic for not being sufficiently political, or for being a closet unionist or a closet republican. There was a time when people – much more English people than Irish – would ask, ‘Why don’t these Ulster poets come out more explicitly and say what they are for?’ But there is all this ambiguity. That is poetry. It is the other thing that is the other thing.”

Click here to read this obituary in The Guardian