Sunday, 21 November 2010

wringing the words out

The only excuse I have for not blogging right now is that I am currently finding the formation of sentences highly painful. This may be to do with the 3000 word essay I am working on?

Much like the way my tooth-ache has prevented me from eating hard chocolate, but simply led to copious mugs of hot chocolate as an alternative, the pain arising from writing proper sentences seems to have led to experimentation in the form of badly punctuated poetry.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


I rarely get political. Even when the elections come down, I only vaguely know where my principles lie, and although I get concerned about social issues, I don't feel knowledgeable enough to voice my opinions. I make an effort to be aware of the different policies, everything just seems like empty promises. I supported the Lib Dems at the last election, because I liked their policies best, but a few months later it is shockingly blatant how little a policy means. One the one hand, this reminded me of how much I hate politics.

But this is really pissing me off.

I didn't attend the march today, and I really, really, really wish I did. This is something that will not (for once, I am too old) affect me but I feel like it was a bullet that literally brushed past me, and I really care. Violence is not the way forward and everyone I know who went seemed to approach it like a fun party, and I feel guilty for being responsible and not going. And angry. So of course violence is not the way forward, but this photo still just captures my mood perfectly:

Sometimes everything seems so wrong yet impossibly insurmountable that the only thing you feel you can do is TELL the world that it is wrong, even if you know it won't achieve anything, that it's not the way forward.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


I have frequently charted my search for a functional bag. I considered a backpack, before remembering that I am nowhere near hipster enough to not look like a tourist in a backpack.

At the beginning of the academic year, I received this:

I convinced myself that I had not yet written about this big exciting purchase yet, the way I normally do straight away, because I hadn't had a chance to take a good illustrative photo. Whatever. I just took the photo you can see above, no repeats, and it is SOOC (straight out of camera), a low quality digital photo with absolutely no editing, cropping, anything.

The truth is that I have quite complex emotions towards this bag. Does that sound silly? Does it sound stupid that I can extrapolate huge emotions, relationships, shifts in style, and more, from the purchase of this one bag? Is it ridiculous to feel that I could write a whole thesis on one bag?

If I were to write the thesis, this post wouldn't be up on my blog before the bag had disintegrated into shreds. So I'll just present what the rough draft, the paragraph structure, of the thesis might have been.

1. Why spend £70 on a non-leather item?
My first desire for this bag arose from its function. The perfect size, shape and weight for a bag to lug around all my books, while maintaining style. But there are other bags that can do that. There are fakes that can do that. When I got this bag, it felt so special. I have very little experience in luxury brand names, but I have even felt their effect when carrying a Chanel shopping bag. When the bag is not simply a container but the item itself, it seems to be even more steeped in luxury, the gold-plated zips seems to take on an authentic golden sheen.

2. The process of the purchase
I didn't spend £70 on this bag. The short story is that my dad got his sister to get it at a discounted price from a large department store. The long story involves family conflict, divorce, and when someone asks me how much I paid, I can say nothing, because it was an unabashed guilt-trip gift - which I do feel bad about now.

The bag took a long time coming, and the first time I met my father to deliver it, his sister had forgotten to remove the security tag, so back it went and it was another week before she got round to sorting it out and I got it again. So it was a drawn-out process, especially if you factor in the years I'd been admiring its perfection from the corner of my eye.

3. The damage
The idealised perfection of this purchase made it seem somehow timeless. It seemed justified because it was the perfect university bag, so something that will carry me through the next three years. But within weeks, scratches and stains were appearing. At first, these stressed me out. Then I realised this is that kind of item you use, heavily, and that is why I originally wanted it. I wore it out in the rain. The scratches and the stains slowly merged and faded and vanished.

This is not a unique bag. But no-one else has my style, or my story. Like the scratches and the material, this bag seems to have somehow melded with me. I have extended to beyond the appearance and to what no-one else can see, but even the physical object has its own effects. The colour green is an important symbol of self-flattery and acceptance, to me. The strong aesthetic, slightly urban equestrian, combined with an item I wear every single day, represents the introduction of a constant in my otherwise schizo style. This bag is a book carrier, and I am a student. This bag is definitely mine.

I feel incredibly self-conscious writing this post. Trying to finish it off, I still feel a sense of ridiculousness in ascribing this much importance to just a bag. Has a new item ever led any of you into a thought-process like this? What conclusion did you come to?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

a sample

Back when I first started this blog, I quite frequently posted poems I'd written, or extracts from creative writing, either that I'd just written or more amusing pieces from my childhood.

I don't do this any more, not because the feedback I got was anything but wonderfully sweet and encouraging (because it was wonderfully sweet and encouraging) but because I rarely find myself writing creatively recently. It's either critical or autobiographical emotional outpourings, and I fear the first would bore you to death and the second would embarrass me to death.

The creative stuff I AM doing more of is reading poetry. I think reading poetry is a creative act, because unlike an episode of TV or a simple narrative, every reader brings a million elements to it which provides them with a personal experience of the poem. I'm not just talking about an emotional connection which can often come from a very short quote as well as a long poem, but the details you notice, the rhythm in your own ears, the different images and meanings which the same word can create in a mind made up of different life experiences, different pools of intellectual knowledge.

For that reason, I love reading poetry even if it's about old age, or murder, or a Tudor courtship, or any other experience totally alien to me. I don't think it would be very easy to enjoy much many pieces of poetry if you were searching for one of the great canonical masters of poetry, a dead white male, to put words in an order which feel like you should have written them.

But you still treasure the pieces that do. A sample:


Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I'm drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I'm nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how fucking good I look

- Kim Addonizio

My Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing
Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown,
But vainly flapt its Tinsel Wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And alwaies crowds it self betwixt.

For Fate with jealous Eye does see
Two perfect Loves, nor lets them close:
Their union would her ruin be,
And her Tyrannick pow'r depose.

And therefore her Decrees of Steel
Us as the distant Poles have plac'd,
(Though Loves whole World on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embrac'd.

Unless the giddy Heaven fall,
And Earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to joyn, the World should all
Be cramp'd into a Planisphere.

As Lines so Loves oblique may well
Themselves in every Angle greet:
But ours so truly paralel,
Though infinite can never meet.

Therefore the Love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debarrs,
Is the Conjunction of the Mind,
And Opposition of the Stars.

-Andrew Marvell
From LYCIDAS (the last two sections)

Weep no more, woful Shepherds weep no more,
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled Ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves;
Where other groves, and other streams along,
With Nectar pure his oozy Locks he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the Saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet Societies,
That sing, and singing in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Now Lycidas the shepherds weep no more;
Henceforth thou art the Genius of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wander in that perilous flood.
Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th' Okes and rills,
While the still morn went out with sandals gray,
He touch'd the tender stops of various Quills,
With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
And now the Sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the Western bay.
At last he rose, and twitch'd his Mantle blew:
To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

-John Milton

I would love it if you shared a sample of your favourite poems with me. And if you would like, I would love to carry on posting up little samples of poems I love.

Note: some of you may find it amusing/shamefully nerdy to know that while I copied and pasted the text of these poems from sites I found on google search, I then went through the latter two in my original punctuation/spelling Penguin Classics poetry book to revert all the modernisations. Wow, I'm cool.