Wednesday, July 27, 2011

in the clouds

We went up Åreskutan (a mountain in Jämtland) in the cable car, which takes you to about 4,000 feet, only about 200 short of the summit. This was on a rainy July 18th, the first day for weeks when the mountain happened to be in thick cloud. It was cold, windy and wet, with visibility down to about 20m.


The view from the restaurant. The flags, L-R, of Finland, Jämtland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Same people.


Fortified by an 11 am lunch of grillad korv and gulaschsoppa we managed about ten minutes outside before being ported back down to our world. Here's what it was like outside (and that's my mum, more sensibly dressed than I was).

During those minutes I took a few snaps of plants growing near to the cablecar station, and later I looked them up in Fjällflora, Sten Selander's Swedish translation of the classic book by Olav Gjærevoll and Reidar Jørgensen with illustrations by Dagny Tande Lid (1952 and many later editions). Be assured that, blurry as they are, these were the best ones. And there's something wonderful about them, at least to me.


Saxifraga rivularis L. (Snöbräcka - Highland Saxifrage)


Gnaphalium norvegicum Gunnerus. (Norsknoppa - Highland Cudweed)


Juncus trifidus L. (Klynnetåg - Three-leaved Rush)



Some sort of willow. Possibly Salix lanata (Ullvide) or Salix hastata (Blekvide).



Saxifraga stellaris L. (Stjärnbräcka - Starry Saxifrage)


Eriophorum scheuchzeri Hoppe. (Polarull - "Polar Cottongrass"). Not found in the UK, at least not now. Thomas Walford's Scientific Tourist (1818) recorded it (under the older name Eriophorum capitatum) as growing "by the side of a rivulet" on Ben Lawers.


Polygonum vivipara (L.) Ronse Decr.* (Ormrot - Alpine Bistort). Also a very common plant in the lowlands of N. Sweden, but there, because of the hot dry summer, it had finished flowering. The mountain plant was less advanced and looked very different, because entirely viviparous (spike consisting entirely of bulbils, no flowers at the top).

*This means that Linnaeus originally named it Polygonum viviparum, and Ronse corrected his grammar.


Alchemilla glomerulans Buser. (Källdaggkåpa - a Lady's-mantle which is also found in the UK but, like many of the species in this critical genus, doesn't have a recognized English name)


Sagina saginoides (L.) H. Karst. (Stennarv - Alpine Pearlwort)



(Above and below) Poa alpina L. (Fjällgröe - Alpine Meadow-grass)




Oxyria digyna (L.) Hill (Fjällsyra - Mountain Sorrel)

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

anne brunty

Reading Anne Brunty's Agnes Grey last night, because I couldn't sleep, and a chap from Nidderdale - I'll fill in the name when I get home* - complaining about Charlotte's undervaluation of both her younger sisters' writings. Which certainly is striking, and painful. Does anyone accuse Charlotte of having destroyed the Gondal writings? I feel almost certain of it - until I speculate that Emily, sufficiently rattled by Charlotte's publication of her Gondal poems, might on her deathbed have asked Anne to get rid of the rest. But he tells us as a certainty that at any rate Charlotte did destroy the manuscripts of their published novels, so I suppose that is authoritative, though I don't know on whose authority.

[Brontë - I know, they changed the last name like u creatively re-spell a first name today, Erykah. But "Brontë" is difficult to type into Blogger when you're in a rush.]

*[Arnold Craig Bell. An enthusiast from outside the universities, he lived in Nidderdale at Folly Lodge. Between 1950 and 1992 he wrote studies of Alexandre Dumas, Handel, the songs of Schubert, as well as Anne Brontë.. -- all published by small presses, e.g. Merlin Press in this case. Also several volumes of poetry, which were published by Outposts.]

Writing about Anne Brontë is almost inavariably about REPUTATION, because of her unusual situation, for a novelist, of being always damagingly compared with two more famous sisters. Not that you find many people explicitly stating that Anne is a lesser author than the other two. That is, as it were, a judgement that doesn't need to be spelled out. I suppose it is a judgement secretly felt - and thus made - even by those very people who are very fierce in her defence. Bell writes about reputation for pages. The Internet, as regards authors, is always boringly obsessed with this theme. I am thoroughly weary with hearing about George Moore. Subtract that theme from writing about Anne Brontë, and what else are you left with? That Agnes Grey is a powerful statement about governesses. That The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful statement about debauched behaviour and a wife's right to escape it. All this is true, but it's not very exciting or original. I should want to say something else, but I too feel the blankness, the - What to do with this text? What to do with this babied Anne, whom we must refer to by her first name?

Yet, after all, when we entered the lofty iron gateway, when we drove softly up the smooth, well-rolled carriage road, with the green lawn on each side, studded with young trees, and approached the new but stately mansion of Wellwood, rising above its mushroom poplar-groves, my heart failed me, and I wished it were a mile or two farther off.

(Chapter II)

This is Agnes, aged 18, arriving at the Bloomfields. "Wellwood" is one of those names that might in earlier fiction promise a Jonsonian image of abundance and moral strength. Here the symbolism is replaced by realism. Of course they would give it a nice name; they have a nice name themselves. "Lofty" and "stately" are staples of idealistic description, words later used in tourist literature. But somewhat complicating this is the daylight clarity of the estate's newness; those studded beginnings of a park, and the "mushroom poplar-groves". The adjective refers not to shape - these might well be Lombardy Poplars, widely planted after 1800 - but connotes "sprung up in a night" (poplars being all fast-growing trees).

Agnes' feelings are, naturally, aroused from the weary journey into active fear at the thought of meeting strangers and having to rely on unaided powers as never before. But this sentence also describes the dwindling of fancy into fact - not alarming fact, but specific, and different from what could have been imagined.

Her thoughts on education are about to be severely shaken up.

Whatever others said, I felt I was fully competent to the task: the clear remembrance of my own thoughts in early childhood would be a surer guide than the instructions of the most mature adviser. I had but to turn from my little pupils to myself at their age, and I should know, at once, how to win their confidence and affections...

(Chapter I)

Ideas beloved of authors and romantic poets, ideas supposed adequate, still, by most parents. In a family, buttressed by instinct, affection, and the child's utter dependence, they work out all right, a lot of the time. Agnes did not go to school herself, she was taught within the family. But now she is to find that the governess's role places her in the family but emphatically not of it. She is repulsed by these children, and all thought of identifying them with her own younger self is immediately blown away.

Relativism values All literature, in a way that is supposed to be unsustainable, like an economy with roaring inflation. Every instance of destroyed literature is thus equally regrettable, whether it's Anne's 4-volume Henry Sophona sensation or Byron's diary or the business papers drafts and junk emails that we destroy every day. In principle.

But ignoring those, what we might well excuse to ourselves on the basis that their composers probably have copies, and ignoring also our own writings, which we may feel are a special case that we are allowed to destroy without compunction - perhaps even meritoriously - we do sometimes end up being the sole possessor of papers with a little more relevance to the Gondal analogy - dead and not widely-remembered creative people who sometimes wrote things that looked like poetry. Sometimes I glance at those papers (e.g. when moving house) and I think, no-one cares whether this exists or not.

Or our children's drawings, how many boxes of them will we hang on to?

Selection is everywhere, tidily scissoring and sometimes leaving a bleeding lobe.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

i drift

Skönheten & Odjuret

Tjena
avslöja – disclose, reveal
samhällets avskum
*
Klia katten Pelle
Jag ska lata mig i Norrland

Nothylla
Poäng
He’s a musician, an urbanite through and through.
The ants work through the night.

Shakespeares En Midsommarnattsdröm Skogsfolk
TepÅsar Köksrulle Plopp
guldstolpar
Myrica gale
Ulv / split logs / Telia

Friday, July 08, 2011

The last few odds and ends

These are some books on the floor beside my mattress (I'm in the middle of moving house; this is in the old gaff, which I continue to occupy as a janitor for the absent Lordship Myself.)

Århundradets Ordmusik - this is a collection of 20th Century Swedish poetry, all part of getting myself in the mood (not that it's hard) for next weeks' trip to the north. A second volume was planned - this is the first one, featuring poets who came to some sort of prominence before 1960: the big guns are Österling, Boye, Södergran, Björling, Martinson, Lagerkvist, Forssell... The real delight for me is the lesser-known names, same way as it's the spruce-shadows that will draw me into the forest next week. A handful of poems by each, with enthusiastic commentary by the editor (whose name, I'm afraid, isn't to hand) and illustrations by 20thc Scandinavian artists: what could be lovelier? I am the humblest of poetry readers in Swedish, I'll take anything on offer. A comparable publication in the UK would provoke my scorn, I fear. Still, things are different over there. Poetry sits close to popular culture. And this is a beautiful volume. And as an outsider I don't see the conflicts and the choices that, here, would stare me in the face.

Rob Roy (Scott). I liked this better than ever.
[I didn't like my note about it - this must be about the oldest bit of writing in the Brief History, and it nastily shows its age in certain late-70s-university-era litcrit pertnesses: "Failure" indeed! "Challenges him" - oh, really? "Explore" - oh, spare me! (..I hate that idea of writers "exploring" like some combination of redneck colonialist and pre-school infant.) Well, if I am honest, not so much the idea as the word - after all, this is mainly a fashion thing, both the would-be smartness and the belated cringe.]
This is a novel I've now read three or four times. It's fascinating to me how my imagination of the setting changes. I think this is the first time I've read it since passing through the Highlands north of Glasgow, and some of the visual memories from those car journeys (I was being taxi'd to Loch Linne to pick up the boat to Glensanda quarry on the Morvern side) have now penetrated my reading. Compared to my previous reading, Fairservice and Jarvie have returned to joyous prominence.

Byron's complete poems and dramas. Big cheap paperback - this is the book to ensure that, however long before I'm reunited with the rest of my library, I'm definitely not going to run out of reading. In point of fact, I'm still in Hours of Idleness (1807). This is not so absorbing as The Corsair, the style is not so developed, but Byron's honest bad faith is already something to conjure with.

Lisa Samuels, Tomorrowland. And this is the go-to book when I want something with a bit more, well, challenge and modernity to it. When I first heard that LS had written a long poem (sequence of poems, really), I imagined something like a narrative and I worried that the flashing, kinetic impenetrabilities of her two previous collections might get a little diluted. I needn't have worried. I haven't got my head round it yet, but I know it's formidable.

John Gilmore, Head of a Man. New release from Reality Street, a novel, not quite actionless nor quite characterless, but nearly, written in minimalist paragraphs. A very beautiful - desolately beautiful - book. I finished it some time ago, but I want to go back over it more combingly. With the thought in my mind: "Something definitely happened there, but what?" The reader is a detective, too.

Dictionaries (Swedish and Spanish), plus book "Spanish in Three Months". That estimate was based on a world without the Internet - I'm getting near the end but it's been more like five years.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

the leaves darken

I have a new piece on Intercapillary Space, which touches on books by David Wevill, Jeremy Reed, Giles Goodland, Hanne Bramness, Lars Amund-Vaage, María Baranda and Carrie Etter.

Makin and Philpott must have read my mind. Anyway they've been too quick for me (not that this was difficult), and now that Dwelling is about to be published in Reality Street Editions, have adroitly withdrawn its ur-text St Leonards from public display at Great Works. Foreseeing this, I had vaguely planned to take a copy of the text and self-appoint myself as a Makin "scholar" with access to materials denied to the public at large. I'm glad this plan went wrong. You can still go there to read Makin's earlier Work in Process (though the first couple of photos have gone missing). And you should, every day.

Talking of long-deferred plans, I'm bitterly disappointed to discover that Great Works has now ceased trading - I had a quiet but profound ambition to get something published in it. In personal compensation, the final tranche does include a new poem from one of my fave poets, Catherine Daly, which is grand news - all publication activity from her seeming to have dried up for the past four years or so, unless that's a transatlantic illusion. Anyway, Great Works remains a great site for discovering things. Long pause while I go off to dip more deeply into Paul Holman's The Memory of the Drift. And to look up "grimoire" (book of magic), a word employed by both Holman and Makin.

In other news, Daithidh MacEoghaidh heartily detests The Littlest Feeling, for all the right reasons.

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