Wednesday, September 30, 2009

specimens of the literature of Sweden...cont'd

     Autumn concert

     Silent and grey
     like a cathedral of the Middle Ages
     Tramsberget rears up
     out of Lossen's autumnal crescendo
     while Anåfjällen's gleaming furioso
     grazes the skies

     Over Galtjärn's black mirror
     blazing leaves dancing
     like butterflies
     awakened once more
     by the autumn organ's mighty fugue

     In the wildwoods
     the glow of lingon cresting
     like love-chords
     ripe and ready to fall
     into grateful hands
     when the wind turns over
     the first dazzling page
     of winter's score

(from Bo Lundmark, Den Sjunde Dagen - dikter från glesbygden, 1992. The author lives in Härjedalen.)


     The surge

     The wave's surge against
     reflects the fire
     within me


     Take out your feelings
     Hunt them
     Overtake them
     Catch them
     Hold them still!
     A long time!

(from Nära Och Kära, Dikter av Gunhild Larsson, booklet from c.1998. The author lives in Ångermanland.)

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

more specimens of the literature of Sweden


This grass, which was formerly named "renrepe", is fairly low, around 1/3 of a meter in height, with an erect stem and the flowerhead, which is a compact spike, is confusingly similar to couch grass (no. 110). But there is a crucial difference between them: the spikelet of Agropyron, Elytrigia, Roegneria etc. has its flat side, of Lolium on the other hand one of its edges, adjacent to the common spike-axis. Because of this arrangement the Lolium spikelet is missing the glume that would otherwise be closest to the spike-axis.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Leevi Lehto review

... is finally delivered on Intercapillary Space.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

life without work

I'm making green tomato chutney and doing last minute revision for a Citrix exam tomorrow. Back to regular running. On the Brief Hist I've written about A.S. Byatt's Possession. I've Nearly finished my next piece for IS... next 2-3 days. Still holding off on the heating.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

you may be entitled to a free will

About 80% of the plums I picked in August looked like this. When you cut the fruit open you can see that the stone is rather neatly broken close to its top, and there's a horizontal scar passing across the inside of the plum, but not reaching the edges. I didn't see any creatures, but I suppose the damage is done by some larva a bit like the plum-fruit sawfly, whose eggs are laid in the plum ovary at a very early stage. Unlike the plum-fruit sawfly, however: 1. this one appears to feed only on the kernel and is not interested in the flesh, 2. the fruit do not fall prematurely but remain on the tree and mature normally, 3. There is no visible exit channel. All rather puzzling. Anyway, it didn't stop me using the fruit, so I guess that's a good pest to have. Plum pie, anyone?

That was a month ago, but I never got round to photographing it, so today I went to see if there were any left, and as you see I did get one, but it wasn't easy. The area is shortly to be made into homes, so has been fenced off, but that wasn't my main problem. (I regret the many small ecosystems I have watched on this waste land over the last eight years, - most will now disappear.) The plums were nearly all gone and rotted, but eventually I found a few that were still just about OK, very high up. Eventually I managed to beat this one down with a stick - you can see the bruise where it hit the ground.

Since I can't be bothered to start a new entry, I'm also posting a couple of photos of rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), one from July and one from November.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is the name of my new website - or rather, the old old website, migrated. This is the site that contains the Brief History and other writings as shown on the right.

The new site is functional now, but it probably contains some broken links. If this happens, you see a nice photo of poppies instead of what you were expecting. Please tell me!

Some existing links (e.g. within older posts on this blog) will probably never be updated and probably won't work, (though according to Yahoo! these links were meant to be automatically redirected). If you have ever linked to one of my pages, then the link should be changed from, e.g.


I took the easy way out and went with Yahoo's small business service ("poetry is ultimate small business" - Charles Bernstein). I checked out the free hosting sites but they really seemed to be outlaw country these days - a pity, and I feel like I've given way to a loss of principle as well as money. The good side of finally paying a subscription is that the site will be a lot faster, won't hit download limits, carries no ads, and I can load lots of images and sound files if I want. However, I've decided against a total makeover. I've often dreamt of a Brief History that was searchable, had proper frames, and all that stuff, but as always I'd rather put the time into writing a bit more of it. Therefore it will continue to have the retro text-based appearance that it had in 1999. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

blackberries on Brean Down

Some photos we took at the same time as the last lot from Brean, back in August. Like most average citizens I am content to know that there are 276 microspecies of Rubus fruticosus agg. in the UK, without being able to distinguish a single one. But sometimes I'm in a different place and the blackberries look a bit different from usual, and then I think, this lot have got to be one of the microspecies I don't usually see. And I feel obscurely pleased, as by the first stirrings of a sense I didn't know I possessed and will almost certainly never develop.

Development might begin, for instance, by analyzing WHY they struck me as a bit different. But I never got as far as that. The only answer I could give would be: well, I noticed them. Blackberries, as a rule, are not something I notice. Pink flowers though, not white ones. Neat-looking fruit borne on the top of the thicket, many segments, many stamens.... Naturally, the windswept coastal conditions would also affect the overall look of the plant and this might not imply any microspecific significance.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

lit ephem

What I didn't warn you about, is that apart from the lack of hyperlinks and italics, some of my facts might be pretty dodgy, too. I said that Mina Loy or whatever it's called, that youthful story by Charlotte Bronte, was written as an unserious game with her sisters. Gross untruth, it was Branwell with whom she wrote the Angria booklets, and anyway this was a comparatively late one, when Charlotte's head must have been already bursting with the big new forms that were swimming around restlessly in there. Anyway...

Well, I'm writing elsewhere about Leevi Lehto, so I leave his book on one side for the moment.

I read Allen Fisher's Birds again - I need more of this. I read a strange poetry book in Bath, 300 pages of walking round London, remarkably like Goldsmith's Fidget - I didn't take in the poet's name, but it must have been in the 90s. I wish I'd bought this now. There was also a big Thomas Merton, that Trappist west-coaster who died in 1968 - who can bear any book of poetry that big? I read about XenApp 5.0, (Syngress), written by a host of bods. Sometimes lucid (like, a real human being is talking) and sometimes shoddy - whole paragraphs that don't make any sense - obviously thrown together against the clock (like, we WILL be the first on our block to write a CCA guide for Xenapp 5) one grows to almost like this after a time. I'm reading A.S Byatt's Possession - see remarks on XenApp 5 - no, I'm kidding. "Hugely enjoyable." But you know what I mean - one page you're lost in admiration and the next page you're gasping in a different way, you know, at "broad" characterization (on the analogy with broad comedy). - But I'd better finish it.

A new Proust first vol, seen in Waterstones. They've managed to mangle the title into "The Way by Swann's". Written by a tag-team of translators. The second one apparently thought that "A rose-garden of young girls" was a good idea, but was over-ridden by the series editor, who nevertheless published this embarrassment . Not reassuring. All this is me showing my age. I was never going to feel anything other than a kneejerk spasm of contempt at any new translation (like - you REALLY think you could do it better than Moncrieff/Kilmartin?). But when I opened it up and read some, it just seemed like good old Anglo-Proust again. I fancy that Anglo-Proust seems a bit different from Franco-Proust, because class prejudice runs along slightly different fault-lines. But whichever language you read it in, Proust vies with Jane Austen as the apex of classist literature. Upper-middle-class, naturally. So why is there a stack of "The Way by Swann's" in a thoroughly working town like Trowbridge? (Not that it will sell very well, though doubtless ten times better than any of the later volumes.) Why is Radio 4 so invested in preserving the genteel classes? And hey, Radio 1 listeners, don't you get all morally superior: Why do people who listen to Chris Moyles only ever have names like Kev and Mark and Karen and Lindsay and why is so much of the comedy on this show about foreign words and accents? And actually, why am I writing about Proust? Literature is a paltry thing, isn't it?

I read about kopparslageriet (Gammal Koppar), but I haven't had time to translate it for you.

I ordered Johan Jönson's Restakitivitet. The title means something like surplus-activity or leftover-aktivity. I have no idea if this is in any way representative of Jönson's other writings. It is 274 pages long and consists of three bits: "O", which looks like a sequence of lyric poems, "RESTAKTVTT", which consists of 1031 numbered paragraphs of which about 200 appear twice - I mean the numbering, but the paragraphs are completely different. And "MOLOK ORALIAAPPENDIX", which is all in capital letters and uses "|" as its only punctuation. That's it really, until I get the dictionary out and start to read. The point of the purchase was really to try out, which will deliver to the UK (and lots of other countries too, including Australia and NZ, though not Canada or the US). This will get very expensive if I start collecting the x-hundred volumes of "Nationalnyckeln till Sveriges flora och fauna" as they come out, an extraordinary enterprise - unique, I suppose - I guess they owe it to Linnaeus. Well anyway it won't get expensive, because unless I am unexpectedly made a millionaire this just isn't going to happen. But I can dream.

But wouldn't it be better still to have an INTERnational key to the flora and fauna of planet Earth? An impossible book, but you might do it electronically. The text could be automatically translateable into any other language - after all, the vocabulary of botany/zoology is extremely translateable. I suppose someone's grand plan is that the Swedish work should be the start-off point (since there's no point in redescribing the species). Cultural world domination has always appealed to some Swedes - velvet colonialism. I'm not immune to that compulsion. Oh, I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Swedish literature - which is a rubbish article, btw, but what an idiot you'd have to be to read Wikipedia on a wide general topic like that! -
anyway, I was that idiot, and there you can read Sweden's catalogue of shame, literature-wise - not Henning Mankell, but those absurd Nobel Prizewinners, Karlfeldt, Eyvind Johnson, Heidenstam, - decent-ish local writers disfigured by gross over-decoration. But then, the Nobel Prize for Literature is absurd whatever. Yet it still has to be conducted, there's a bequest.

What else? Cobbett's Rural Rides. Sometimes these are great, but sometimes they aren't. Cobbett bangs on for ever about the black locust (tree), which he thinks is a massively superior timber tree. He thought for himself, with all that that implies, i.e. originality, force, freedom, quackery and crankery. And as UK readers may have noticed, our woods are conspicuously not full of Robinia pseudoacacia, though Cobbett made plenty of money selling the seeds. His seeds were unselected, and the trees didn't grow straight. Besides, it's not that great with wet soil. The timber does have fantastic properties, as Cobbett claims, but especially if it's grown on poor soil (and therefore, slowly). Grown on good soil, timber-production is superfast but the wood is nothing like so close-grained. Finally plantations are difficult to thin because any sapling that is cut down immediately springs a thicket of vigorous root suckers which the thin canopy of the selected trees does not suppress (this is from Alan Mitchell's Trees of Britain). In the US, its own native land, it's been even less successful as a forestry tree because of the depredations of a locust borer that ruins the timber. But Cobbett wasn't all wrong. The locust is widely grown for timber in E. Europe, e.g. Hungary. And it is a recommended species for agroforestry, i.e. the intercultivation of crops or pasture with lines of trees, said to be a highly productive use of land in the long term.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Cornus. Mahonia. Audi. Saab. Cypress. South Elevation. Mark Prindle.

Smoke - swayed... grew in the eaves, developed. It was only a puff of cloud, nevertheless. and taking our ease in the greenlight under boughs.

The dry chattering of a typewriter, on and on in the corner of the stable block, with that commercial certainty that only comes with possession of a definite audience: it is more than commercial, it is assurance.

When the cousins came their mother hissed at them to stop meddling with their phones on the sofa. They did not pay any attention to our talk. There was nothing for them here except a rotten swing under an apple-tree.

I couldn't concentrate with their fidgeting. Go, I waved them away liberally.

You come back here if you want anything, mother said.

Well, we all chipped in, I continued with the story of Tania's bike ride.


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