shoredays, yoredays: seven haiku on a beach

DSC02124

now, then, soon – shoredays,

wave-lapped hours, wind-spun and warm

like summer kisses

*

blown in midwinter

distillated on our lips

blissed out, oh! timeless

*

yoredays – flown, but here

with you forever, come spring

and the buds and birds -

*

skies drunk on light, blue

till blacked-out, then flopping blank

on a spinning globe

*

summerled like myth,

tripping out on dewy toes -

yoredays, yours, mine, theirs,

*

the only sure thing

left is love in all our lives,

strewn along the dunes

*

days of sun, shoredays -

all transilluminated,

hewn in memory

DSC02120

who am i (lana wachowski)

for lana wachowski

001Lana-Wachowski

… who am i, and when

wachowski to wachowska

metamorphosized

was there a moment

before i became me? – no,

and yet i wonder…

♥♥

what turns us queerly

recast in a different film

to act against type?

♥♥♥

(type?) (without a face?)

life’s not some single screenplay…

(type?) (without a cast?)

♥♥♥♥

we ask ourselves this

not knowing if an answer

ever was, will be:

♥♥♥♥♥

never yet someone,

neither a nonentity

nor quite nobody

♥♥♥♥

mostly we don’t ask

for fear of wondering, lost

in rapt selflessness

♥♥♥

one eye on the road

which tears our lives inside out

one hand on the wheel

♥♥

and we become one

body, not anybody,

don’t ask who am i…

♥♥

22nd January 2014

note:

i admire lana wachowski’s work a lot and also her general attitude to stuff (as far as one can make out from her few public statements) – she combines humour with intelligence and experimentation – artistic bravery, openminded energy, a sense of inspirational anarchy…

i wrote this poem in one go last night just after i’d been thinking about her life so far.

(it is likely to get edited, tweeted and played with, being in the nature of an experiment, one of my haiku chains…)

endings & beginnings

my new year’s message this year is this quaint little ditty. i was writing out the fair copy this morning when i was interrupted not by a man from porlock but a mother-in-law from neuss bearing presents. so i had to finish it on a fresh sheet of paper which i then stuck together so you can see that the interruption came at a pertinent point:

endings & beginnings31122013_00000

for those who cannot decipher my writing:

 

                                                                  endings & beginnings

                                                                  (in a winter’s garden)

BEGIN with the word that comes first, like light

from a twilit winter’s garden, when soft rainfalls

drop on dewy, leaf-pocked grass, showering bright

like a sudden flow of MOMENTS through the calls

of a goosequilled V tooting past, this starry night…

*

I sometimes try to freeze TIME, so it stops

and in an INSTANT feel and think all blend

and merge within MOMENTS—consciousness drops

like heaven’s rainfall in a winter garden—

inconsummate, unbegun, word without END,

*

but now SOMETIMES I forget such somethings,

and in your love I’ve found SEASONS to care

about the here, NOW, not some perfected place where

there are no more ENDINGS and BEGINNINGS.

                                                                                              freddie o

                                                                        viersen, 29-31 december 2013

 

love became a lonely land: autumnal haiku chain

leaves on loam

leaves like love let go

spiral down to snoozing earth,

dark, russet-brown loam.

*

when fall took those leaves

love became a lonely land—

warmth withdrawn, wan sun’s

*

waning light bled slow

blind trails of mud and sodden

footsteps veined with ice

*

wan sun's waning light bled slow blind trails

where ghosts shadowed past,

skulked all through that leafless land

to haunt our autumns…

*

stark, unfelled, strange-boughed—

love’s remains in lonely land:

bare old beeches, clumped,

*

storm-ridden and gaunt,

sheltering our homeless hearts,

winterblown—like us,

*

love’s a vagabond

wandering to a nameless place

of endless leaving—

*

on tracks untravelled

from fall to spring, we will see

leaves, let go, return.

leaves, let go, return

leaves, let go, return

___________________________________________________________________________________

 - I originally wrote this haiku chain on Twitter — a bad habit of mine — poetry on Twitter being so hit and miss, nobody’s looking for it — but I find it a good place maybe for knocking out a first draft.

- When I’d written it I thought Love is a lonely land was a new phrase but then I checked and I saw I had actually lifted it (subconsciously…) from an old, sweet song.

-  This was Billie Holiday’s beautiful, mournful Deep Song (by Cory and Cross), which includes the line:

Love lives in a lonely land

and ends:

Love is a barren land, a lonely land/A lonely land.

-  That’s a song I must have listened to more than a couple dozen times since childhood (my parents also loved Billie Holiday).

- At any rate, my haiku chain has ended up as a sort of retort — a positive echo if you like — to the somewhat bleak sentiments of Deep Song

- So thanks to Billie, Cory and Cross!

- And here’s their song in all its glory:

Billie Holiday: Deep Song

earthgrazing haiku

moon and bay

moon and bay

In Dorset last month one evening after tea – and till well after midnight – there were some excellent meteor showers.

Spread out on our backs, on a tumulus on the clifftops above Higher Eype, we watched them.

I wrote this haiku chain about it:

earthgrazers
(meteor showers over the dorset coast)

peckish at tea-time:
pot warmed, kettle on the boil
as the light draws in

around the cottage -
fog furling up from the sea
all this moist evening

our minds soaked, softened
in warm cups of reflection,
dunked choccy biscuits -

scones with clotted cream
and jam, gentleman’s relish
on hot buttered toast.

we climb up the hill
to the clifftop tumulus,
sheep and cows around -

the sky inking in
those unscrolled constellations
crawling with time’s myths,

scanning heaven for
asteroids and meteorites,
bright trails clustered in

radiating lights,
mirrored waves, blank deep waters
where night takes a breath,

and then we look out
- wide-eyed, longing no longer -
appetites replete,

scattered meteor showers
sketch the intermittent sky
with points of parting:

radiant perseids,
earthgrazers, cosmic debris -
while we watch, starstruck,

and only the dog
is still on the hunt for more,
chasing her own tail…

dorset, august 2013

coco looking for her own tail

coco looking for her own tail

(“earthgrazers”, by the way, are meteors which fly close to the horizon, slowly, in the early evening… i like the way it could just as well describe us humans – and animals, too – grazers all upon this earth)

 

 

Van Gogh’s First Literary Appearance Discovered

starry night, by van gogh, 1889

starry night, vincent van gogh, 1889

Van Gogh is often seen as the epitome of the tortured artist – misunderstood, rejected in his lifetime, and only slowly building up a posthumous reputation after his early, self-inflicted death.

This supposed obscurity has been shown to be a myth before. But that legendary image still clings to Van Gogh, helping to make him one of the world’s most popular, iconic artists.

vincent van gogh

vincent van gogh

Now Dutch journalist Sander Brink has unearthed the first mention of Van Gogh in a piece of fiction. It throws up some fascinating insights and surprises.

Because Van Gogh’s first appearance is startlingly early – 1903, in a novel called De Winkeljuffrouw uit Oiseau d’Or – Chapeaux pour dames et enfants. (translation: “The Shopgirl in Oiseau d’Or – hats for ladies and children”)

The novelist, Cornélie Noordwal, far from being some kind of avant-garde writer at the cutting edge of modern art, was a hugely popular writer of mainstream (arguably middlebrow) bestsellers, romances and childrens’ books.

Van Gogh’s fleeting mention in De Winkeljuffrouw will thus have formed the first exposure thousands of readers ever had to the artist…

cornélie noordwal, turn of the century blockbuster writer

cornélie noordwal, dutch blockbuster writer in the 1890s and 1900s

What interests me first is the relative standings of Van Gogh and Noordwal.

In 1903, Noordwal was a famous, rich, successful writer (albeit one many critics despised), whereas Van Gogh, thirteen years dead, was only just beginning his phoenix-like rise from obscurity.

In the 110 years since, of course, their positions have radically reversed. Like most middlebrow blockbusters of bygone ages, Noordwal, for all her merits, has lapsed into relative obscurity, while Van Gogh has become the elemental incarnation of genius, whose works sell for hundreds of millions.

The second thing which interests me is the nature of Van Gogh’s fictional début. Because he is sketched in terms remarkably close to his alienated, self-dramatising self-image (as expressed in his own letters), which has driven another core aspect of the Van Gogh myth.

In the novel, Jan, a poet, is writing to Nora, his beloved, and he mentions Van Gogh as being similar to her:

Of course you won’t know who that was. He was a man who was nothing but soul, like you, and his life was violently troubled by it; he painted and drew things, considered laughable and insane by laymen, and yet showed himself more of an artist than a mass of famous painters who create impeccable landscapes and  pictures.

(translation, by Freddie Oomkens, from the Dutch quoted in Sander Bink’s piece of 3rd July 2013)

The third interesting thing is that this figure of Van Gogh already seems fairly close to being a stock character, a Romantic literary archetype of a sort popular in the period. Think of the Les poètes maudites (1884), or D.H. Lawrence, or Leonard Bast in Howards End (1910), or a host of others.

It may sound fanciful, but it is almost as if literature, by means of this dainty little novel, were co-opting Van Gogh to join this gallery of characters whose noble sensitivity ejects them from society…

The final interesting thing, one which also intrigues Sander Bink, is the part played by letter-writing in this story.

Van Gogh’s letters had been published well before 1903 – indeed Albert Aurier’s famously influential article about him (Les Isolés, published in 1890) was heavily influenced by Van Gogh’s letters.  Noordwal, who lived in Paris (she died there in 1928), may well have read the article, which appeared in Mercure de France, a magazine popular among lovers of modern art, as well as extracts of the letters which appeared in Holland and France throughout the 1890s.

All in all, a fascinating insight into how consistently, and from its earliest days, Van Gogh’s iconic international image was shaped by literature, as shown in his very first (so far!) fictional entrance.

 

Jackals and Arabs

This little parable, like a fairy story, is utterly unlike most people’s idea of Kafka, reading like an enigmatic tale for children:

Jackals and Arabs

a place where jackals and arabs might meet

a place where jackals and arabs might meet

Reading this story to his daughters – and seeing their delighted reaction – inspired Matthue Roth to create My First Kafka: Runaways, Rodents, and Giant Bugs, which is published this week.

The idea is long overdue – for almost a century, Kafka has been imprisoned in a Kafkaesque prison not of his own making.

It’s high time someone set him free.

translating keyserling

eduard von keyserling’s masterpiece of literary impressionism, waves (wellen), has never been translated into english before.

it is now being attempted over on oomkenscom

the bay of puck on the baltic sea, setting of keyserling's "waves".

the bay of puck on the baltic sea, setting of keyserling’s “waves”.

 

 

The Great Gatsby (the novel) Flayed

Great Gatsby movie poster

Hilarious debunking, by Kathryn Schulz, of The Great Gatsby.

If I don’t agree wholly, it’s because I think the novel’s iconic stature is deserved. In persuading us of its greatness, its shortness helps, too – allowing readers to supply a lot of the thematic power Fitzgerald merely sketches in.

Having said that, Schulz does land some telling punches – “third person sanctimonious” is good as the narrative voice Fitzgerald gave Nick in Gatsby – and this was something which someone just had to say roundabout now, with the umpteenth (well, fifth) Hollywood treatment  hitting the screens.

Schulz: Why I Despise The Great Gatsby — Vulture.

4 years’ prison for stabbing sister in Swedish ‘honour killing’ case

swedish honour killing victim

Her brother was only 16 when he stabbed her more than 100 times, in April 2012.

She’d returned to Sweden a year before, fleeing an arranged marriage in Iraq.

Knowing the possible consequences of her brother’s concern for the family “honour”, she always slept with a knife under her pillow.

Local authorities, terrified of upsetting sensitivities, ignored repeated warnings from the anti-honour-killing group Tank.

The boy duly killed his sister. Originally sentenced to eight years, that sentence has been halved in light of his age at the time of his crime.

 

Court slashes sentence in ‘honour killing’ case – The Local.