Some thoughts on haikus . . .

I’m quite new to writing haikus, and here is what started me:

Cyphers is a literary magazine produced here in Dublin. It’s been on the go for around fifty years and has a great reputation. In 2015 I bought this edition, and there I found two wonderful haikus by Lorraine Whelan, which I will include here:

The crimson apple

with bitter chromium leaves

glowed in her pale palm.

and:

The avenue of

neon trees remembers no

specific season.

These haikus stayed in my head for weeks and I re-read them to this day. I began to write them myself then, and took photographs along the river to go with most of them. But I’m not in the same class as Lorraine, or D. W. Peach who posted several beauties last week, together with photographs; I’ll include two of them hereand her picture of her lovely muse!

hidden glades of light

sift through mottled canopies

a glimpse of magic

and:

fiddleheads unfurl

green curlicues and whimsy

crowning last year’s fronds

Aren’t these all wonderful? I’ll just have to keep trying!

A little Shakespeare for a warm, sunny morning.

On my daily walk along the river, there is a particularly warm spot, whatever way the river turns, or the shelter the trees provide, or the corner of the path – whichever. I always stop there for a moment, and today, this sonnet came into my mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor loose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I learned this off by heart at school, and still remember it.

An Excerpt from DANCER by Colum McCann – a gripping story based on the life of Rudolph Nureyev.

The date I have written in this book is February ’19, and I haven’t read it since. I loved it; the writing was terrific, and flesh was put on a distant star. I picked it up the other day, and I’m ready to re-read.

It was a hot summer in Ufa, the city enveloped in smoke from the factories and ash blown in from the forest fires, off the Belaya river. A thin film of soot lay on the benches in Lenin Park. I was finding it difficult to sit and breathe, so I finally plucked up the courage to spend the last of my money on the extravagance of the cinema.

Having not been there since Anna passed on, I though I might be able to revisit her, twine a lock of her grey hair around my finger.

The Motherland cinema was located down Lenin Street, gone slightly to ruin, the beginnings of cracks in the magnificent facade, posters yellowing in their glass cases. Inside, fans on the ceiling were at full force in the heat. I hobbled in on my cane and, having forgotten my eyeglasses, sat close to the front.

Word had gone around that Rudi was featured in the newsreel and there was a noise in the air, his name being whispered by what were presumably were old classmates, young men and ladies, some old schoolteachers. Yulia had written to say that in Petersburg young women had begun to wait outside the stage door to get a glimpse of him. She mentioned that he was even due to dance for Khrushchev. The thought was chilling and wonderful – the barefoot Ufa boy performing in Moscow. I chuckled, remembering the names Rudi had been called at school: Pigeon, Girlie, Frogface. All of that had been forgotten now that he was a solo Kirov artist – the arrogance that had been taken from the air and put in the victory soup.

After the anthem the newsreel came on. He was featured dancing the Spaniard in Laurencia. The sight of him was an acute but pleasing thorn. His hair was dyed black for the role and his make-up was garish. I found myself holding Anna’s hand and mid-way through she leaned across to me. Rudi was being savage and exotic, she said. He was bringing a flagrant ruthlessness to his idea of dance. She whispered urgently that he was altogether too flamboyant, that his feet weren’t pointed well, his line was slightly wrong, that he needed to cut his hair.

I thought: How wonderful – even as a ghost Anna didn’t hold back.

That wonderful narrative drive that keeps you turning pages; one of life’s best experiences.

From Minus One | A haiku for Venice

Last night I watched a documentary about the writer Colm Tóibín and a lot of it was set in Venice. His latest book “The Magician” is about the wonderful Thomas Mann who wrote the short story Death in Venice, which I loved. And I loved the movie – Dirk Bogarde leaning against a wall with black hair dye running down his face! And of course the music – from Mahler’s Fifth.

Narrow, stone-walled streets,

palace, church and square resound

with strains of Mahler.

Best hangover description, ever!

From Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. i enjoyed this book so much, and I think it’s time for me to read it again. I always remembered that the hangover description here couldn’t be improved on. The pain of it was staggering. So here’s a taste of it:

The telephone blasted Peter Fallow awake inside an egg with the shell peeled away and only the membranous sac holding it intact. Ah! The membranous sac was his head, and the right side of his head was on the pillow, and the yolk was as heavy as mercury, and it was pressing down on his right temple and his right eye and his right ear. If he tried to get up to answer the telephone, the yolk, the mercury, the poisoned mass, would shift and roll and rupture the sac, and his brains would fall out . . .

The telephone was on the floor, in the corner, near the window, on the brown carpet. The carpet was disgusting. Synthetic; the Americans manufactured filthy carpet; Metalon, Streptolon, deep, shaggy, with a feel that made his flesh crawl. Another explosion; he was looking straight at it, a white telephone and a slimy white cord lying there in a filthy shaggy brown nest of Streptolon. Behind the Venetian blinds the sun was so bright it hurt his eyes . . .

These days he often woke up like this, poisonously hung over, afraid to move an inch and filled with an abstract feeling of despair and shame. Whatever he had done was submerged like a monster at the bottom of a cold dark lake. His memory had drowned in the night, and he could only feel the icy despair. He had to look for the monster deductively, fathom by fathom. Sometimes he knew that whatever it had been, he couldn’t face it . . .

The telephone exploded again. He opened his eyes and squinted at the sun-drenched modern squalor, and with his eyes open it was even worse . . .

He rolled out of the bed and put his feet on the floor, and the horrible yolk shifted. He was thrown into a violent headache. He wanted to vomit, but he knew it would hurt his head too much for him to possibly allow it to happen. He started towards the telephone. He sank to his knees and then to all fours. He crawled to the telephone, picked up the receiver, and then lay down on the carpet, hoping the yolk would settle again.

“Hello,” he said.

So, there you are. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed typing it out, chuckling as I worked.

Northanger Abbey | A Short Review.

I thought I had read all of Jane Austen’s novels but realised recently that I had missed Northanger Abbey and promptly downloaded it to my kindle. I wish I hadn’t; I can’t think of one good thing to say about this book. Can it possibly have been written by the same hand that gave us Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility etc?

This book was completed in 1803, the first of Austin’s novels to be completed but it wasn’t published until after she died. You might think from this that I dislike classics; nothing could be more wrong. I love the classics, especially the ones I studied at school – contrary to the experience of many people.

So, I began to read with anticipation only to be terribly disappointed. The writing is extremely wordy, vague, intricate and boring.. It’s like reading in a fog:

Compliments on good looks now passed; and, after observing how time had slipped away since they were last together, how little they had thought of meeting in Bath, and what a pleasure it was to see an old friend, they proceeded to make enquiries and give intelligence as to their families, sisters, and cousins, talking both together, far more ready to give than to receive information, and each hearing very little of what the other said. Mrs. Thorpe, however, had one great advantage as a talker, over Mrs. Allen, in a family of children . . . “

A lot of words saying nothing at all, even allowing for the utterly different style of writing in the 19th century.

Northanger Abbey itself doesn’t appear in the book until 66% has been read already (according to kindle), and is a peculiar sort of Abbey. I could get no idea of its shape and size. At this point some gothic nonsense is inserted and lasts for a couple of chapters. Some parts of the house would appear to be out of bounds, and peculiar furniture appears in Catherine’s bedroom with secret doors and drawers which give her an uneasy feeling. However this is all soon forgotten – with no explanation for the strange furniture – and returns to the main love story which is so uninteresting that the reader could not care less whether there was a happy ending or not.

The heroine is young, an idealist, and, sometimes, innocent to the point of imbecility. The hero does nothing heroic; he is just there for Catherine to fall in love with. There are a couple of female characters who could have been developed into interesting people to read about but it never happened. They remained as puppets. As this was Austen’s first book, perhaps she was simply trying out various ideas and never meant for it to be published. It reads like a very long first draft, with a little of this and that. The only thing the book does is give us an idea of society, the mores, the morals, the intricacies of class distinction, the manners and the dress code. An essay would have done that job very well.

Has anyone else read this book recently? I would be very interested to hear someone else’s view.

Another excerpt from “Walking With Ghosts” by Gabriel Byrne | A Memoir

What his mother told him about meeting his father, and about his birth.

“It was our fate to meet like that because of the rain and the matches and the Metropole and the doorway, and if it hadn’t happened like that you might not be here now. Isn’t that a strange thing to think? The way we all come into the world.

You gave the fight not to come, but out you landed in the end. And you didn’t like it one bit. The red puss on you, and the baldy head, not a lick of hair; upside down and a slap on the arse to set you roaring. O the bawls of you! The whole country kept wide awake. Three o’clock in the morning in the Rotunda Hospital there beside the Gate Theatre. Lying on my shoulder, eyes shut tight, sleeping like a kitten. O, but a cranky lump if you didn’t get a sup of the breast.”

Isn’t that marvelous? The red puss on you, and the baldy head. Love it!

First lines Friday – with a nod to A Couple of B’s!

FIRST LINES:

“To the red country and part of the grey country of Oklahoma the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The ploughs crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks. The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads so that the grey country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover.”

Can you guess that novel?

A hint: It’s a famous novel and a famous movie by a famous American writer.

You will all have guessed I’m sure!

The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck.

Link to A Couple of B’s – A Couple of B’s ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

A short review of “A Keeper” by Graham Norton.

I didn’t originally intend to write a review of this book but having finished it I am compelled to make a few comments. To begin with, I enjoyed it very much. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I couldn’t leave it out of my hand. I just had to find out what happened next.

It is told from two separate points of view in different times; a mother (Patricia) and a daughter (Elizabeth) which I really liked. The prose is grand – no repetition or padding that I could see. But the plot is the thing. It is so creative, so ingenious, so shocking. The two main characters were very similar, I thought, but that ‘s my only criticism; the others were more distinctive – the farmer, Edward/Teddy and his mother, Mrs Foley. Oh, she was a quare one – I wish I had written her myself!

” . . . when the old lady slapped the dead bird on the rough bench in front of her and with one swipe took its head off with a large knife. The violence of it made Patricia gasp. Mrs Foley turned and held the headless corpse upside down. The red juice steamed as it trickled noisily into a waiting bucket.

“As if to reassure her Mrs Foley raised her free hand and absent-mindedly licked the blood that was dripping from it. Something shifted in Patricia’s stomach.”

“‘That’s Sunday lunch sorted.'”

I enjoyed that character so much. And indeed the whole book. I raced through it to find out the whole story and the secrets of long ago. Definitely recommend it to anyone. And I’m looking forward to reading some more of Graham Norton’s books.

From the collected poems by Patrick Kavanagh – on God and the Devil

I met God the Father in the street

And the adjectives by which I would describe him are these:

Amusing

Experimental

Irresponsible –

About frivolous things.

He was not a man who would be appointed to a Board

Nor impress a bishop

Or gathering of art lovers.

He was not splendid, fearsome or terrible

And yet not insignificant.

This was my God who made the grass

And the sun,

And stones in streams in April;

This was the God I met in Dublin

As I wandered the unconscious streets.

This was the God who brooded over the harrowed field –

Rooneys – beside the main Carrick road

The day my first verses were printed –

I knew him and was never afraid

Of death or damnation;

And I knew that the fear of God was the beginning of folly.

I’ll post The Devil tomorrow. I hope you enjoy this and find it interesting. Patrick Kavanagh (1905 -67) was, and still is, one of Irelands most loved poets. A native of Co Monaghan in Ulster, he spent most of his adult life in Dublin, where he was recognised and saluted on the streets.