Poetry: Reading

February 20, 2012

Oh, and I’ve been picking through the third volume of Peter Reading’s Collected Poems (1997-2003). It’s fantastic in all sorts of ways, and it vexes me considerably that I only found out about him after he died.

Only wanted to say for the moment, this poem really nails it:

At the Reading

The sham-coy simper,

the complacency

the frisson titters,

the sycophancy.

Walter de la Mare – Another Ramble

February 14, 2012

A problem with London in winter is that the low sun leaves many streets unlit for much of the day. You get strange lozenged corridors of light, passing through the interstices of  buildings, or sudden golden and blinding boulevards appearing for half an hour, then as suddenly losing their magic. Some London squares net quantities of the sun for longer, and the current Crossrail work, with its impromptu demolished areas of brick dust and rubble, has opened up some unusual angles of visibility and light in novel places. Nevertheless, on a day such as today, with the sky a glorious, ringing blue, and the sun’s clear light transmitted without impediment of warmth through the cold and crystal air, the only thing to be done is to get out of London and into the countryside.

I’ve always liked England’s winter landscape: black, green, damp and stark, even in its darkness strangely lucent. I thought I’d take some poetry with me and first of all grabbed Hardy, but he wouldn’t fit in my inner pocket, so I subb’d in Walter de la Mare, some of whose short stories I’d read at the beginning of last year and liked a lot. I’d flicked through his Collected Poems before and enjoyed what I’d read, but as I had a train journey ahead of me I thought I’d go from the beginning and work my way through.

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Oh, a day in the city square, there is no such pleasure in life!

April 25, 2011


Had I but plenty of money, money enough and to spare,

The house for me, no doubt, were a house in the city square;

Ah, such a life, such a life, as one leads at the window there!


Something to see, by Bacchus, something to hear, at least!

There, the whole day long, one’s life is a perfect feast;

While up at the villa one lives, I maintain it, no more than a beast.

Up at the Villa – Down in the City (As distinguished by an Italian person of quality) – Browning

Of course instead of admiring Browning’s deft and accurate way with a persona all I really wanted to know is how this dual text ed. I’ve got translates the line ‘Bang-whang-whang goes the drum, tootle-te-tootle the fife’.

Here goes…

‘Tan-tan tan-tan tan-tan fa il tamburo, perepé perepé perepé la trombetta’

So the translator used ‘trumpet’ because they needed something to rhyme with the next line, which ends ‘è questo il piacere piú grande della vita!’ And I guess as in the original the tan-tan, tan-tan, and perepé perepé nicely match the contrast between the Italian’s excitability about the city square, and pompous gloom about the country villa. But when the Italian word for fife is ‘il piffero’ surely another way could’ve been found. Il piffero!

Rome btw, funny place. Nice asparagus.

Il piffero, il piffero. Can’t stop saying it.

Il piffero. Tootle-te-tootle.

Poetry, eh. Rum business.

Next week, Second Leg – Jocelyn Brooke reviews MY juvenile poetic output…

January 26, 2008

Jocelyn Brooke’s poetry…

Stop right there, a stray person accidentally reading this might say, why start with his poetry? Why start at the obscure end of an already slightly obscure figure?

Circumstance, I’m afraid. I’ve got his two volumes of poetry, December Spring (1946) and The Elements of Death (1952) next to me, and they’ve got to go back to the library soon.

As I’ve already said elsewhere, I’m not really very good at poetry, having a bit of a tin ear and tending to like stuff that people have shown me how to like, rather than having that natural feel for The Singing Line that enables the best critics to pick a single jewel out of a load of dross.

Still, we can only use the tools we’ve got…

(Rather long again, I’m afraid; my only excuse being that there’s very little on his poetry anywhere as far as I can tell, and while I’m hardly qualified to produce anything definitive, this may at least provide some grist to put to the mill of any future thoughts or discussions.)

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The Idiot and the Dog

January 19, 2008

I was going to write a long introductory statement of belief about literature, but realised this was completely pointless, any such statement requiring so much unwarranted assertion and counter-assertion that it sinks under the weight of accumulated sub-clauses and impedimenta.

However, I think it’s worth pointing out that I was stung into action by this article and a general preponderance towards this sort of thing on the web.

 “…the tyranny of turning the pages”? 

If you feel like that, read a dictionary; I recommend the 1973 edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles: the zebra did it, as the old joke goes.

The Idiot and the Dog is also intended as an account of the return to wider reading that I started last year. For various reasons I felt that I had become narrow in my tastes, only picking up what I already knew I wanted to read. So I decided to start exploring again – a tyro wanderer, stick in hand (to swipe away nettles and aid in the negotiation of arduous routes), with my critical dog beside me, leashed but not muzzled.

The idiot and dog combination has another advantage, it being the case that a man out for a solitary walk in the country may idly speculate aloud to his dog about all manner of things, despite the lack of an audience, without his peremptory judgements and casual observations attracting undue attention or censure from passers by.

The idiot part? Well, let’s just say that my ignorance precedes me; I’ve a tendency to make hasty and ill-informed judgements, which I later realise are, even in an age of critical relativism, totally wrong; I frequently mistake trite sentiment for profound emotion and am inclined to find the profound pretentious and dull; also, and most regrettably in my opinion, I’ve got a tin ear when it comes to poetry, so that any judgements of quality in that sphere are often a matter of educated guesswork.