Monday, March 24, 2008

'You are Here' by Simon Turner

Simon Turner is a young (under 30) poet and this, his first collecton, arrived here last week. And very welcome it was too. It's various, unprogrammatic and shows a nice development from early work with Buntingesque phrasing and 'nature' as its subject, to work influenced by the likes of John Cage. It's also nice to see a homage, in the section Brumagem, to Roy Fisher, another poet of the English Midlands. I hope to get this book reviewed properly for Litter, but in the meantime it's good to have it, and good to see a poet starting out with an opportunity to be showcased in a substantial collection like this (over 100 pages) - nice job by Heaventree Press.

From Swifts

...Lacking patience for the sentence,
its measured pace, its clarity,
they score doodled garbles
on the skied white, body their whipped brisks
through poplarish highs & pining dwarfs
to leaf their shivered greens
with a flown and flying go

'You are Here', Simon Turner. pub. Heaventree Press, £7.99. ISBN: 978-1-906038-05-2

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spent a couple of days in Bristol during which time I popped into Borders bookshop, which, I notice, has no poetry section! It simply doesn't appear on the store directory. Does this mean the High Street is going to get out of the poetry market altogether? Will this be a good thing for poetry? Will it mean you can only buy poetry on the Web (good news for P-O-D publishers?)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

There's a review of my Bonnefoy translation at Galatea Resurrects #9. Thanks to reviewer Christopher Mulrooney and editor Eileen Tabios.
Jacques Rogge, the bureaucrat heading the International Olympic Committe is 'glad that no country has boycotted' the Chinese games. He thinks that 'the athletes would be hurt by such an action.' Of course, the runners and jumpers wouldn't be hurt in the same way that Tibetan monks and civilians are being hurt. If Rogge were being tortured, beaten and imprisoned for his beliefs, he might be glad that some principled athletes, or even a national government was prepared to take practical action to help him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Reading during my travels: Edward Gibbon and Octavio Paz. 'The Decline and Fall...' was recommended to me by John Bloomberg-Rissman, so I picked up the Penguin 'Great Ideas' series; Gibbon on Christianity. Pretty radical stuff. His description of the Messianic nature of early Christianity is strikingly reminiscent of certain areas of the USA today where congregations are waiting eagerly for the end of the world. John told me not to skip the footnotes, and he was right. Discussing how the early Christians regarded it their duty to oppose the idolatry of paganism (whose gods they believed were fallen angels in disguise), Gibbon adds a footnote:

"Even the reverses of Greek and Roman coins were of an idolatrous nature. Here indeed the scruples of the Christian were suspended by a stronger passion."

'The Labyrinth of Solitude' has been on my to-do list for a long time. I knew very little about Mexican history when I started it, and I couldn't have had a better introduction. It's about, for want of a better description, the nation's psyche, and consists of nine essays. In some sections there are acute insights on almost every page. In the first essay he discusses the Pachucos, the Mexican teenage gangs that emerged in southern California, and his observations could be applied to similar phenomena in the UK today; this from a book published in 1959 - well before youth culture was regarded as worthy of serious study. Here's a taste of the book - Paz discussing the relationship of art to history:

"I am not attempting to justify colonial society. In the strictest sense, no society can be justified while one or another form of oppression subsists within it. I want to understand it as a living, and therefore contradictory, whole. In the same way, I refuse to see the human sacrifices of the Aztecs as an isolated expression of cruelty without relation to the rest of that civilization. Their tearing out of hearts and their monumental pyramids, their sculpture and their ritual cannibalism, their poetry and their 'war of flowers', their theocracy and their great myths, are all an indissolube one. To deny this would be as infantile as to deny Provencal poetry in the name of the medieval serfs, or Aeschylus because there were slaves in Athens. History has the cruel reality of a nightmare, and the grandeur of man consists in making beautiful and lasting works out of the real substance of that nightmare. Or, to put it another way, it consists of transforming the nightmare into vision; in freeing ourselves from the shapeless horror of reality - if only for an instant - by means of creation."

(tr. Lysander Kemp).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I've just returned from business trips to Copenhagen and Vienna, two destinations that compensate for the travails of travel and being away from home. Both cities have enviable public transport systems; cheap, clean and not too crowded. I arrived back at Birmingham airport from whence to take a train home to find the train absolutely packed, all the seats taken, the isles full of people standing, a group of beer-drinking youngsters making a racket at the end of the carriage and various people engaged in politely English disputes resulting from the chaotic seat reservation system. But the atmosphere is cheerful. Clinical efficiency - who needs it?