Sunday, 28 October 2012

Postscript on John Leyden

I know a lot of Leyden of late...leydenmania.

But it is just about played out now.



Only remains to say that his grave - he died after rushing into a pestilential library basement of oriental manuscripts unable to resist them and wait for the room to be aired - is in Java and  "remains home to a colony of fireflies".

Book of wonders

Monk Lewis the eighteenth century English gothic novelist also put together this book of fantastical ballads with help from his friends including Walter Scott, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (translated by Scott and Lewis)Robert Southey and yes, John Leyden in 1801.


Leyden's own contribution is The elfin king - an atmospheric more robust predecessor of Keat's La belle dame sans merci (1819).

lines from The elfin king


How swift they flew! no eye could view
Their track on heath or hill;
Yet swift across both moor and moss
St. Clair did follow still.

And soon was seen a circle green,  
Where a shadowy wassel crew
Amid the ring did dance and sing,
In weeds of watchet blue.

And the windlestrae, so limber and gray,
Did shiver beneath the tread  
Of the coursers’ feet, as they rushed to meet
The morrice of the dead.

Come here, come here, with thy green feere,
Before the bread be stale;
To roundel dance with speed advance,  
And taste our wassel ale.


You can find the full text of the poem here http://literaryballadarchive.com/PDF/Leyden_2_Elfin-King_f.pdf


Friday, 26 October 2012

The wildflowers of a Berwickshire bard

John Leyden also features in this fine book by naturalist Michael Braithwaite and published by The Berwickshire Naturalists' Club. However the poet/bard in question is George Henderson 1800-1864: the founder member of the club. He writes in his poetry of the land clearance of the time and its effect on the natural environment.


Our bonny burn-sides they hae drained and dug,
The crook o’ the burn they altered too,
The green ferny knowes where the hare lay snug,
They hae cleared o’ ilka buss, and riven wi’ the pleugh.


As such it is an amazingly prescient work when compared to present habitat destruction to grow today's farming fads such as palm oil.





Available direct from Michael Braithwaite, Clarilaw Farmhouse, Hawick, Roxburghshire Scotland TD9 8PT at £7 (cheque to Berwickshire Naturalists' Club) including postage if you are in the UK. I recommend you correspond with Michael if you are outside UK and want a copy of this interesting book. Or use your judgement re: postage and add it to a sterling cheque, any extra could go to the next BNC publication.

You can find more here http://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/lifestyle/comment/the-rise-of-the-fall-is-something-to-behold-1-2596146

Ballads and politics

Political ballads or just ballads?

Last Tuesday I attended a talk on John Leyden (1775 - 1811) the Scottish Borders poet and had to prepare the vote of thanks. Apart from training as a minister, Leyden was an expert in oriental languages providing early translations of Sikh and Panjabi texts, a surgeon, a judge, a naturalist, an environmentalist and lover of traditional ballads.

But I never knew him as a nationalist until I discovered that he had also translated the Complaynt of Scotland a 16th century text outlining Scotland's difference from England. A new side to the many-faceted forgotten Scot? Well yes, but worth noting that this book is made of collected anecdotes, stories and poems and is the first place to record the ballads Tam Lin, Froggy would a-wooing go and The Ballad of Chevy Chase.


You may also be interested that it contains the earliest recorded instance of words including axis, barbarian, buffoon, cabinet, crackling, decadence, excrement, heroic, humid, imbecile, moo, parallel, robust, suffocation, superb, timid and water-lily.

More on the Complaynt here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Complaynt_of_Scotland and Leyden's Panjabi translations here http://www.drleyden.co.uk/

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Indigenous ecopoetics

Ecopoetics has been a field of creative and academic interest in Australia for many years (millenia?). Here is a great looking course at the University of Sydney that builds on that...

The representation of nature has been central to human expression for thousands of years. Contemporary transnational ecopoetics situates nature and culture amidst present-day ecological catastrophes and political environmentalisms. This unit examines a uniquely Australian contribution to this field -Country - which for Australian Indigenous peoples denotes special cosmological, filial and custodial relations to land...

Kakadu Escarpment

More information available here http://sydney.edu.au/courses/uos/KOCR3605/writing-country-indigenous-ecopoetics and more on that heritage here http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-September-2006/eco_index.html.


And thank you to Tourism NT for the use of this image.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Catalyst Poetry Open Mic 6th November 2012 Christchurch NZ

Catalyst's legendary poetry night with your chance to read plus special guest feature New Zealand/Fiji poet David Eggleton.


Pegasus Arms from 8pm.

Find out more information here http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pegasus-Arms/120112278070322?rf=192812587415128 and here http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/eggleton.html

Friday, 19 October 2012

poetandgeek.com Issue 5 is on its way

Something dark and slightly frankenstein-y is happening in the p&g cellars as we concoct, stitch together and plan to electrify our readers with the soon-to-be revealed contents of Issue 5. An opiate distort-full mix that is quite possibly mad, bad and dangerous know...


Due out early November...we can't wait. In the meantime you can check out Issue 4 here http://www.poetandgeek.com/issue4/issue04.html.


Thank you to Sue Bell for the use of this image.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Rural cultural economies 7th November 2012 Newcastle UK


The wild place breeds a special kind of art. But urbanites don't always get us.

This event at Newcastle University focuses on how that might change  The programme includes talks from a Development officer from Jura (an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland) and also a representative from the organisation Littoral (a non-profit arts trust which promotes new creative partnerships, critical art practices and cultural strategies in response to issues about social, environmental and economic change).



The first part of the day explores strategic cultural policy and rural development research, the second part of the day focusses on a detailed view of rural cultural livelihoods and specific challenges of supporting and promoting rural creative micro-business.

More information here http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cre/events/item/nrn-event-7th-november

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Cramped space and poetry

Ted Hughes said he did his best writing while working  in a kind of cupboard rigged up as an office. He had left the desk looking out of the window for his wife Sylvia Plath to write at. They were still getting on at this time.

Sometimes poems can come in the most unusual circumstances.


Some research has been done on workstations and whether sitting at a a desk at all is helpful to doing work. One tip is to only go to your computer when you have something to do on it. Just staring at the blank screen (like a blank piece of paper) doesn't help anyone get creative.

So here is an odd idea for a Sunday...go and fix up some thinking room in a place you never go in your home, garden or anywhere really.

I was orienteering yesterday and ended up on my back pinioned between the twisting branches of a fallen tree I had just fallen over engulfed by deep bracken. I was competing but lay there a little while thinking how good the sky looked. And that I never see it that way normally.


Thanks to Kenraiz for the use of this photo. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Finding Ada

Celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.


There is a rather nice website here http://findingada.com/about/ if you want to contribute your thoughts to Ada's memory for the day itself (16th October).

Ada was in my book a poet and geek and if you look into her story you may notice that she had some sort of poetic relatives too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace


Ada Lovelace Day

Women geeks.

This whole concept annoys me!

Why do people need to put the word women in front of geek as if geek was an inherently male concept?

This movement is to do what? Attract more women into technology/IT/ and maybe even science? (Though scientists are not in my opinion geeks...they are something else entirely.) It is not attracting me.

Frontispiece to Frankenstein 1831.jpg

I have worked in and at nerdy workplaces for almost 20 years from the British government, Microsoft, Oxford University, to the BBC and BT (where not that long ago there was 2 female toilets in a multiple storey building "for the secretaries"). And I have always had women on my team. Because women are geeks. And can outdo geekiness in anyone else.

Why? Because the women I have worked with were creative problem solvers who loved their jobs; they were dead cool; wore the wrong clothes but tried hard (like most geeks) and were excellent colleagues who have gone on to attain great things. Many obsessive programmers just didn't have these skills - they could program well and tirelessly - but that imaginative element was missing. And yes, they weren't necessarily male either so don't make that assumption.

What this argument boils down to is geeks versus engineers? The industry needs more geeks and they can and should be of either sex.

See more here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19884720

And btw Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer. Male or Female.



N.B the image shows Frankenstein's monster written by the geeky Mary Shelley.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Poet domain

I have been doing a little bit of research into domain names with the word poetry in.

While in the UK, poetry.co.uk is a fashion store. Poetry.com is a full-on poetry site. A bit of a lottery in fact. (Still in beta)



It describes itself thusly:

Poetry.com welcomes all amateur poets and wants to encourage your participation in the world's largest and most vibrant poetry community. We have established a system of points and badges which you'll earn for every different type of action you take. For example, you will receive points for each poem you write, each poem you review, etc.

I would be interested to know if you have tried it out. This kind of community works well for fiction writers but for the prickly beast that is the poet?

Have a go and let me know what you think...you may win a free pin.

More information here http://www.poetry.com/

Oh and btw it is under new management!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The old ways

Robert MacFarlane's latest book covers much of the same ground that his readers will be familiar with. But then its subject is The old ways.



Excellent explorations of the ephemeral routes of tidal paths and seaways and contested and prohibited land. And a fascinating knitting together of Nan Shepherd, Eric Ravilious and the ever-present Edward Thomas who touchingly is caught watching in a sentry post chalkpit shortly before his death in 1917. "The sallow catkins are soft dark white..."

Although poet walks aren't much the focus of the book, walking as an act of creation is - the section on the memory walking of artist Miguel Angel Blanco is a revelation.

MacFarlance spends some time himself collecting words for walking.

  • sarha - original Arabic for letting cattle out early to wander and graze pasture freely
  • stravaig - Scots for a walk without set goals or destination
  • saunter - from French sans terre which MacFarlance defines as a contraction of to the sacred place
  • navigatio - a voyage away from familiar territory to challenge and confirm our sense of self

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Dumb messages

The dumb messengers is the new book of poems from Giles Goodland. A poet who oddly does not even have a wiki page yet - although you can discover that he is a lexicographer at the OED and was in the Eric Gregory Award class of 1994 - which also included  Julia Copus, Alice Oswald, Steven Blyth, and Kate Clanchy.

(poetandgeek can also confirm that he tried to swim over a reservoir but failed, has been chased by a bulldozer when demonstrating against the Newbury by-pass, and has lost his glasses in a tidal pool at least once; the last recovered by p&g in spite of some loss of skin.)

The Dumb Messengers (Salt Modern Poets)

The fine-looking book collects shorter and lyrical poems Goodland has written over the last ten years alongside his language-driven output of books including Capital (Salt) and the impressive What the things sang (Shearsman). Poems themselves can be considered dumb messengers but Goodland's take on children and language adds a twist to this interpretation.

You can find out more at the Salt Publishing page here http://www.saltpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=9781844715046. Or read one of the poems that featured in poetandgeek.com magazine here http://www.poetandgeek.com/issue3/03goodland.html.