Night Terrors

Last night I had a proper existential nightmare. I went for a walk but the landscape started to change, and I felt confused and frightened. So I decided to ask the name of this strange place, thinking to get a bus back. Nobody would tell me and I’d forgotten where I came from. Worse still, I didn’t know who I was.

At some point I realised it was a dream and woke up with a horrible feeling of being hollowed out. But at least I got this poem.

There’s a black hole in my heart
I’m a golem with the scroll
missing, bare oblate spheroid
mourning for its atmosphere.

Waking up, my name feels strange
who I am a fantasy
my brain whistling in the dark.

Here We Go Again

Do I dare to eat a peach? CropI renewed the domain subscription for Beautiful Railway Bridge today. I’d been putting if off till the last minute – the lights would have gone out tomorrow – for several reasons. One is irritation at being being bombarded with reminders by WordPress when I knew the deadline and didn’t want to think about it until absolutely necessary. And part of the reason for not wanting to think about it was a reluctance to question whether writing a blog is worth the effort.

Yes, I get a great deal of pleasure from making a good blog post. But there’s always the fight with the worst broadband service in Britain, the faff of putting in all the links, and the maintenance involved in making over a thousand posts accessible and easy to find. And most of all there’s the self-imposed guilt when I don’t post on a daily basis.

The maintenance thingy is a shambles. And the images are scattered between this and an unused blog, when I really want them all in one place. It will take literally years to get everything sorted out, but that’s me in perfectionist mode – it might be better to ignore the trait as much as possible. Knowing where everything is probably matters only to me.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I’m still here and attempting once more to post every day. Ish.

In Praise of Seasons

First this painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who worked a niche market in the 16th century. His specialty was portrait heads “made entirely of such objects as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books.” This one is Vertumnus, Roman god of seasonal change, as personified by Arcimboldo’s subject the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II.

Rudolf II as VertumnusJohn Keats invokes the god of seasonal change in his poem To Autumn. Here is the great actor, Ralph Richardson, reading it on the Russell Harty Show.

And finally, an acoustic performance by Dando Shaft of September Wine.

A very happy Autumn to you all.

Best Search Engine Term of the Day

Goes to…don’t ask me, love, for that first love.

A beautiful and tender line that sounded vaguely familiar. I had posted the whole poem by Iranian writer, Mimi Khalvati, in the Poetry Parnassus series. There are more to come – I have been lackadaisical in posting new poems.

Here it is: Poetry Parnassus: Don’t Ask Me, Love, for that First Love (Iran).

Bonnie Dundee

Back in the Noughties (love that word), when I still lived in Seattle, I made the pilgrimage to Dundee. It’s the city where the genius loci of Beautiful Railway Bridge, William McGonagall, lived and wrote his poetry.

Dundee Central Library has a superb collection of original McGonagall manuscripts in the great man’s strong, confident handwriting. I spent a blissful afternoon actually handling these documents, getting a sense of him from the materials he used.

Below is the manuscript of Bonnie Dundee, the poem I used as the background to Beautiful Railway Bridge.There’s nothing so personal as handwriting, and nothing tentative or self-doubting in these lines. While this manuscript might be his fair copy, the words could also be exactly as they poured from his busy mind that day in 1878. He evidently didn’t do much revision. You can see how he altered the size of of his letters to squeeze in the words he thought were absolutely essential. And paper was expensive for a poor man with a large family, so he couldn’t afford to waste any.

Bonnie Dundee BB1024Here’s a recreation of McGonagall reciting his most famous poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879, by the wonderfully named Eugene Cheese. It is historically correct. It was practically de rigueur to heckle McGonagall at his public performances and throw things at him.