Thursday, July 27, 2006

drafts of three poems

    The stars

    Now it's all over. Now I wake.
    It's calm and easy to disappear -
    when nothing remains to hang on for;
    and nothing remains to suffer here.

    Red-gold last night, a dry leaf now,
    tomorrow - nothing in this place.
    But stars burn silent as before,
    at night, in the surrounds of space.

    Now I want to give myself
    so not a single scrap remains.
    Will you, stars, accept a soul
    with no possessions in her train?

    With you is freedom, perfect in
    the peace of far eternities.
    Heaven is not blank to one
    who trades her dream and her unease.

    (tr. from Karin Boye)

    The old dad

    The old dad, I have seen him in the dusk of a summer night,
    in the clover-scented night, working on his own.
    By the spring that belongs to the farm
    he stood, a bent figure,
    sharpening the haymakers' scythes;
    he was barely a shadow - so grey,
    and quite as old as the farm,
    yet he seemed to live on with as sturdy a life as it.
    His fragile song, this I shall not forget:

    Oh you, the lord and master of the farm,
    to the old dad you are only a boy.
    I was the first one who broke your soil.
    When the ploughshare jams in the furrow
    do you think of me then?
    In ancient days
    I began with all the thrown-aside stones
    to raise the stone-pile that marks the edge of the farm.

    For a thousand years
    I have built it now and built beside all who built;
    I have held the ploughshaft with all who ploughed.
    I have a part in your work,
    have a right to claim.
    You know it well:
    that the holy seed may grow
    always, always,
    here in the fields
    where I first sowed it.

    (tr. from K Boye)

    The root composes and the moss composes
    mica gravy, in autumn the horse-boats.
    Horse dumplings, I blacked out in the liquorice channel
    was lowered parasol eyes, the wheat flicker
    current and swollen
    (hip over black splashed rock

    dusty agency who bought it! Yes it was


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

snippets of Linnaeus

It was not originally the custom for Swedes to have family names, instead they used a system of patronymics which changed every generation. Families (prompted by various new motives including the notion of leaving behind a cultural heritage) began to invent their own surnames around 1700; thus the name Linnaeus was taken from a prominent lime tree on the family farm, this tree having already inspired the new surnames of various cousins, e.g. Tiliander.

Linnaeus brought these words into use: "stamen", "pistil", "petal", "sepal". The human experience of flowers before that time involved no understanding or distinction of the parts of a flower. In those days the ground was strewn with roses, flowers, blossoms, but not with rose petals; though these agreeable thingies could be wordlessly seen and their shapes and scents enjoyed, yet in a certain sense a petal could not be conceived. Thus the barmaid who calls you Petal and Pound writing a haiku on the Paris metro are both swimming in a Linnaean sea.

In this biography the non-Linnaean taxonomy proposed as PhyloCode in 1998 is coldly described as "post-modernist".

The binomial names that we now think of as Linnaeus' prinicipal claim to fame were a by-product, called by him the "trivial name". His original idea for a specific name was in fact a uniquely diagnostic name e.g. Convolvulus foliis subrotundis, caule repente, but as he learnt of more species these diagnostic names had to be enhanced and could sometimes end up being a dozen words long and totally impractical as a NAME. Linnaeus invented the accompanying "trivial name" for everyday use, and thus the sign reasserted its independence from the signified.

The diagnostic name, however, remains culturally important as it determined the typical form of plant descriptions that you will see in all subsequent Floras, field guides, and horticultural manuals: an enumeration of the plant's features that usually contains no verbs. The plant therefore ceased to be conceived merely as an instrument in our service but not by conceiving its own agency; instead, it became an object of contemplation.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

3 short novels

I'm passing through Stockholm next Monday and also on my way south the following Monday. Moderna Museet? Closed on Mondays!

"Everyone I've spoken to has said it's quite something..." The voice melted away as I went on down the corridor. I had no idea what Bob was talking about. And yet, somehow, I felt I did; at least, I felt that I knew confidently that I needn't bother to find out. It was going to be one of those kind of things.

When I first met Billie I fell in love with her straight away, and I was never tired of asking about everything she was (which I photographed, sultry or open-mouthed) and all about her past and everything she'd done and cared about up to that moment. Then I explored those corridors of her past in such detail that I almost became her, I even tracked down the records she played at school, which I was too young to know, and I even learnt the lyrics. Years went by and we were happy. Eventually, however, Billie no longer quite enjoyed being photographed and she no longer wanted to be reminded of the records she had played in her youth. In fact she never made much reference to the Billie I had fallen in love with and even the early history of our own relationship, it was as if it had never had a beginning but was just going on. Now I loved two women who had become enemies, the one that as I knew in that moment so long ago I would love all my life, and the one who I loved every day like the rising and setting sun. Sometimes I didn't know how not be a traitor, as I ran (ever more unsteadily) up and down the corridors of the past trying to keep alight all the votive flames in those grubby recesses that I had sworn never to let go of and that streaked the present with hazy spots. We sat together in the shade and once again I was caught out, I had simply stopped listening to her. Billie said, yes, that's ingenious, but I expect the truth is you were still thinking about the cricket.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I must. Because of their paddock. I’ve got everything I need. And today’s all right.

He meant that although it was dry there was a waft of air, but not too much. Inside the shed it smelt shadowy; along his legs the tube coiled, stiff metal. Because of the slope you’d have to walk it with a pack on your back.

I’m meant to have a certificate.

They went on talking about it. The plants were rising tall out of the crumbling bank, green spreading yellow.

- But Mum might.

He burst out laughing. Likely!

I mean she's allowed. Born before 1964, see? She’s exempt.

But I’ll do it all the same.

Ask her!

No. I’d best get on with it.

Hold the nizzle downwind.

He made an unhappy chuckle. I know how to piss in the wind.

Aileen was like a truck. Her voice was so centred he curled up and slept in front of it, his brain did.


She panted up to a shoulder; there on the far-off clouds it was still gold over Winscombe. It had been fine when he was here before tea; now it was sombre and puffs of wind rose. That was his lookout. Aileen was her daughter, but. If anyone should happen to ask, perhaps you might tell them... He just thought... Her face twisted. Though she was alone on the bank, it twisted with his whining and her distaste. Well, you know what thought did, she said to him now. She stabbed at the trigger, and blitzed.

How had it got to this? Were they not supposed to be greenies, for Christ’s own sake —. Even he said so, but if Aileen weren’t about he’d no doubt change his ways.

So now, the ragworts were taking a double dose.

She saw their silhouettes, most of them still the right shape. Where many a bee may sip, she thought sadly. And why after all was she bothering, having him stare out anxiously from the kitchen into the dark? (Oh, he could keep a lookout for her, he had X-ray vision these days.) It was so easy to brew in a guilty man. What a mess their lives were, nothing really clean or in its place. However, that was Mr Tompsett foxed; she really had done it like she'd tell him.

But the task dragged on and she was getting careless. The pack was a monster, the bank was cow-poached and riddled with warrens too. Blah – the spray wafted up to her eyes. She started to sit down and was not stopping, blacking out and coming back up for grey. That was a close one. It wouldn’t do to snap a bone... Almost a grandmother after all. How he held her arm so gingerly after the check-up. Aileen at least didn’t know; that was a mercy. When she went inside, she would say something kind to him. In fact she'd say this: you missed a few, it’s as well I did go over it.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

kyli's new camera!

Monday, July 03, 2006


We need to talk about contentment, there's so much of it now.

Contentment means, essentially, "I want to be where - well how about that? - just exactly where I am." You want to be who you are. If you are a pundit, you say it's right to do the kind of things that you do yourself.

In our world you're meant to be positive, (this is called accepting yourself) so it's rare for people to credit a proposition that would imply they were discontented. Discontentment is really unacceptable.

This is a polite example about guitarists, because I think an example helps. (I'm not really interested in guitarists, though.)

If a guitarist announces that guitarists should pay great attention to scale exercises, then you can bet that this is someone who has done exactly that. "All that hard work pays off in the end," - You don't say that if you never bothered with it. But if you've done the hard work yourself, you're almost compelled to say it. Otherwise it might be that you'd wasted your time, and this would also mean being discontented, not wanting to be exactly who you are.

It's not exactly irrational. Belief and act grow together. You have a kind of aptitude for nimble, methodical fingering, for the patient perfecting of awkward transitions. You want to do this kind of work because you believe it's worthwhile, and believing it makes the work easier, in fact you want to believe it because it helps you do it, and afterwards you want to believe it even more because then you're glad you've done it.

If you are a guitarist who never bothered to learn the lute, you probably wouldn't be at all impressed by some lutenist saying that the lute repertoire was fundamental to being able to play the guitar repertoire. Or suppose you never learned any flamenco moves, or you didn't spend ten years on the road, or study with a master, or make your own instrument, or teach classes ... after all, chances are, you didn't learn the lute or the flamenco flourish because you weren't interested enough. And guess what, therefore you think it's no big deal to be interested. Or more politely, that you have reservations about whether it's essential in every case. There's more than one way to skin a cat, you shrug.

We face discontentment when we're younger. There's things we're not allowed to do, there's people who won't have sex with us or who are always putting us down, and we cry out like pop songs in total anguish, we key parked cars and we slam phones against walls; they make films about people like us. Discontentment sells when it's presented in a frame. In life it is disadvantageous. We mostly survive by becoming content about more and more things, because otherwise we can't think straight, and discontent loses its novelty and its heroism, it just stops us doing things properly, we can't work, we can't relax, we can't sleep. But being for the most part content we express our ideas and our opinions, we assert and defend them rationally and not by breaking things, but where do these opinions come from? They are the solidified residue of emotion, they are what we found it necessary to think in order to arrive at our state of contentment and to discover in tranquillity the arguments that would support them.


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