Sunday, 1 October 2017

a poet and didn’t know it

Our sincere gratitude to Nag on the Lake for introducing us to the rather remarkable troubadour known as Poetweet that will cull one’s Twitter feed for lyrical snippets and combine them into one of three poetic forms. We were really impressed with the eye-rhyme that it found amongst our twiterpation, pairing fascist with Zeitgeist or “a send away service for souvenirs” with “and their houses in dire need of repairs,” but I think we write about too many non-sequitir things to get an authentic couplet—and that gave us an idea. Granted Dear Leader is a sub-literate sophist and a general menace to language in any capacity, Poetweet was nonetheless also willing to take the dotard’s handle and make him sound a bit like a bard. Give it a try yourself at the links above.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

mancunians united

Though the poem was commissioned a few years ago to celebrate the unique character of the city in a wholly different context, poet Tony Walsh’s recitation of his This is the Place hit some very resonate notes that helped those attending this vigil find some solace in not losing the strength of what connects them.

This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace; it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands.

And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh—take the mick summat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yea we’ve a wealth

Thursday, 23 March 2017


Reporting on the Getty Centre’s latest acquisitions Hyperallergic introduces us the visual verses of Scottish poet and playwright Ian Hamilton Finlay known as concrete or pattern poetry, typified by meaning being conveyed by the typographical effects as much as the choice of the words themselves. Though the works are ultra-modern this reminds me of this recent study of ancient calligrams. Visit the link up top to see a whole gallery of Finlay’s poems plus those of fellow pioneer and correspondent Brazilian Augusto de Campos.

Monday, 26 September 2016

to autumn

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer have o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinรฉd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

What are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy Music too—
While barrรฉd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

~ John Keats, 1819

Friday, 8 April 2016

…but satisfaction brought her back

Originator of the gothic genre with his novel The Castel of Otranto, Horace Walpole, was also an avid cat-fancier. His favourite companion was a tabby named Selima who was sadly discovered one day in 1747 to have drowned in a goldfish bowl, presumably while trying to extract her prey. To console his loss, the earl commissioned a poet friend to eulogise the cat’s death with an ode, which is really quite amazing and includes a warning clause for the morbidly curious:
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize—
Nor all that glisters, gold.

That tribute, however, was the last for beloved Selima. Painters captured her imagined final moments, mesmerised by the tantalising fish, including artist William Blake, who illustrated a publication of the ode. Private loss had quickly become public and wakes for felines became quite common afterwards.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

bardolatry or oh no-etry

Coinciding with US National Poetry Month, there’s a clever sonnet-generating algorithm that creates convincing, natural sounding Shakespearian stanzas that adhere to the rules of grammar and scansion, informs Boing Boing. Here is an example, Sonnet № 3959816917:

When I perhaps compounded am with clay
I tell the day, to please him, thou art bright
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night
I grant I never saw a goddess go
In so profound abysm I throw all care
Receiving naught by elements so slow
And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair
If my dear love were but the child of state
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you
Such civil war is in my love and hate
Robbing no old to dress his beauty new
Her audit, though delay’d, answer’d must be
If ten of thine ten times refigur’d thee

There is some repetition with certain conceits and stock-phrases reappearing but that’s able to dull the machine whirring in the background and allow the rhythm, rhyme and even meaning come through. I wonder if true scholars could pick out what’s computer-generated sentiment from Shakespeare’s own collection of 154.

Friday, 27 March 2015

poรจte maudit

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


In recognition of the upcoming anniversary of the birth (extrapolated, guessed, from his documented baptism) and death some fifty-one years later of William Shakespeare, I would like to point readers to the excellent series of postings, recently concluded, from the Big Think, that not only keep the debate of authorship alive, as well as other aspects of the cult of personality, but go further to explore how prodigy and poetry challenge and strengthen one's own mental capacities and how the timing of the playwright came as the English language was still malleable and under development. These two grammars, Elizabethan and complex, grew together and the body of work culturally crystallized English literary tradition more so than king, country and might. No one wants to entertain that those plays and sonnets germinated as some unsourced leavings and improvisation of the age and the focus on the historical identity of William Shakespeare has never taken away from the genius and richness of his drama, no matter if revised and polished over the years--idealized like the author--or were gifted complete like some religious acheiropoieta, but it strikes me as perfect that Shakespeare identity is really only knowable through his works, just like his characters, who no matter how real or contrived, are fleshed out with just a few lines and stage-directions but each one is much more than some playful but scant vocabulary.