Styx and Hubris

Mon 11/01/2021

Hello again. How are we welcoming this year in? I know I haven’t found my flow, or maybe I have found flows, but no sure steady flow. It isn’t always clear what ought to be shared, and with whom, but there is always a tune (an underlying hum at very least), demanding words for its own release. 

Our Climate: A Coalescing Eclipse Pattern — Plumwood Mountain

Rarely have I enjoyed such daunting walls of text so thoroughly. This is flowing, and difficult to pull quotes from, but know…

“This is no longer the world of the painter Titian or even Arthur Rimbaud with its nano-technical prowess and attendant attempts at opening a possible shift into other galactic dimensions.”


Will Alexander   Not thought as evolved complexity or psychic definition as philosophical splendour but the reality of both not only as our inner climate, but as our devolved inner climate as well. This is what I will call a coalescing eclipse pattern. Our circumstance seems as more analogous to one of a devolved hull […]

Our Climate: A Coalescing Eclipse Pattern — Plumwood Mountain

Smoking Guns and Cat Skin Drums

Sunday 20/12/2020

Who ever knew what it felt like to be shot through the heart? Maybe Sharon Olds, or anyone who (in her words) beats the cat skin drum.

Yesterday I listened to a recording shared by Billy Mills in his blog Elliptical Movements I was warmed and inspired by Dianne di Prima’s words and wrote three poems: two, which I felt bold enough to rehome (here), and one, which isn’t done with me, yet.

Today I came across a tweet of Dr Kim Moor’s that put me on to this recording… of Leila Chatti in conversation with Sharon Olds. I suppose that I (semi-consciously) join the conversation, and that is quite emboldening. I have more to say about loyalty than I could dance around in a day. Leila Chatti’s response to Sharon Olds’ concise statement “My loyalty is more horizontal than vertical”…

“Could you say more about that?”

…made me hum “Yes, please.”

I found this middle section of the conversation especially enthralling. Sharon Olds says, of her art, that…

“I can’t call it up, but I find that exercise, and taking my vitamins, and reading poems (other people’s poems) is good for that.” 

It was good seeing the sun out, and walking, and listening, in agreement, stopping to take a picture

and jot down a mildly affirming observational verse

I keep hearing artists’ dystonic reactions to the adage that art somehow comes from inner madness. There was a seed of this dilemma in my mind. 

Leila asked Sharon if she would read her poem Little Things, and Sharon replied that she’d be happy to. They each give an analogy for the virtuosity or benefit of paying attention…”a kind of praise”…a kind of antidepressant”.

I was reminded that I have been without my prescription for two days, and resolved to visit the pharmacy. The pills aren’t preferable to sunshine, exercise, nutrition, taking in other people’s poems/art, making, and the joy of real recognition within conversation; but they do seem to bring these things more readily into the scope of my attention. Shrinking away from the world is never inspiring. Depression is not something I want to write about, but I am inspired to share any thing that sparks, and seeds a dilemma, or answers a cryptic and pertinent allegorical question with a wicked line, and another, and another. Today it was that conversation, both poets’ readings, and then

that one line and the way she read it…

Maybe she beats the cat skin drum 

from As if my Mother, from Sharon Olds’ Arias: that made me look up! You’ll have to listen. It’s around 20 minutes in.

And then her Ode of Broken Loyalty, too. 

Christmas Carols: Carol Anne Duffy and more…

Thursday 17/12/2020

The spirit of Christmas found me well, today, after a previously novelly sombre lead up. I wrote cards, and opened cards from friends, and also a card from the local Christian Centre along with a carol sheet for this Sunday’s socially distanced service on the green. O Come, All Ye Faithful!

The National Theatre of Scotland’s Makar to Cracker added a sense of celebration to my evening.

Jackie Kay is Scotland’s Makar, and she describes her role as being “to enthuse about poetry, and to take poetry oot and aboot…”

She MCs Makar to Makar, and this Christmas special, with certain enthusiasm, and I’m already looking forward to the Burn’s Night special, on Thursday 28/01/2021.

Imtiaz Dharker was the first poet to appear, and described her poem Go to the Child as “the closest I’ll ever get to writing a carol”. It can be heard (and enjoyed) here, . I found it to spin a sense of magic and majesty.

Jen Hadfield read A Bad Day For Ice Fishing, the closest to a snowglobe I’ve got”…a dog makes snow angels. She sees heaven in a rockpool, reads Rockpool, then reads To A Limpet (a glorious ode).

I felt invited into her Shetland home, upon her reading of In the Same Way: a poem from her second collection Nigh-No-Place, published in 2008 by Bloodaxe Books, and winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize. At the centre of this poem is the kitchen door that separates herself, and her adventurous cat from the squalling Shetland winter. Letting her cat out, and then (with the wind) in again, and out, and (there is so much more to it, but) finally

“…the wind canters in, and She, with a wild carol, and all the night hail (melted) gleaming in her furs.” that’s the way I heard it, anyway. 

Surely, worth reading and re-reading.

Carol Anne Duffy (kindly, and humorously) shares the story of her birth, and Jackie Kay comments that upon reading her good friend Carol Anne’s book Meantime, she…

“really loved Prayer in it, and the image…the idea that we can have a prayer for the secular, and that prayers or blessings (if you like) are in everything“. 

Dame Carol Anne Duffy resigned from her role as Poet Laureate in 2019, and is a professor of contemporary poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. She seems to me to (generally) embody gravitas. She chose seven poems to read, with the “spirit of Makar to Cracker, in mind, and also the very difficult year that not least 60 000 families have endured, and that people are continuing to endure.” The seriousness she brought to proceedings was not altogether sombre. After reading Prayer, she reads The Bee Carol, an intimately hopeful creation, possibly inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Oxen and it’s last line“hoping it might be so.” 

You might like to compare…

She goes on to describe Premonitions as a “resurrection poem”, and hopes it can offer comfort. I found a delicate and familiar warmth in the imagery of the poet watching her Mother (who is gaining youth)… 

“open the doors to the grace of her garden” where “flowers close to their own premonitions” then seeing Mother’s “magnolia tree marrying itself to may air”

Carol Anne’s lyrics are beautifully sung by Kathryn Williams, and in fact the singing, throughout the hour and forty five minutes of Makar to Cracker, is all shades of angelic. The whole thing (and Makar to Makar, too) can be found on YouTube.

Jackie Kay’s final special little gift (in her penultimate offering as Makar, before her Burns night farewell) is a special Christmas message from Annie Lennox, but before that, she makes an inspired toast and reads her poem The Promise…

Fill your glass. Here’s tae us.

Before Christmas

Wednesday 16/12/2020




Pin up

holly-red and hawthorn crowns


with shedded wool all round,


soften the song the mistle thrush throws.


Say goodbye to waking in the night

to deathwatch knocks turning time back,

and waterlogging fallen trunks and

branches creaking as they crack.


Light a candle,

clove an orange, and

hand out hearth-hot cups.


Ignite the coals, and

as the grate gets a-glowing,

engrace each padded patchwork stocking.

R.S. Thomas, THIS, and A Lasting Gift


I haven’t been writing (much), but rewording. My college art tutor (Kevin) said “It’s (all) well and good, you having ideas, but you’ll have to produce some work at some point.”

There are reasons, such as…I shouldn’t say, and other reasons to let the pen dry, and the paint turn (into) tin-wrapped brick;

and it’s been less than half-done for so long now, that’s just the way I’ve learned to like it. 

They’re all good reasons. The best laid plans…

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.

Aft, but not always.

Rabbie (Burns) wished that…

I for poor auld Scotland’s sake

Some useful plan, or book could make

And does he hear the thanks he gets for doing just that? I bet he does.

’till next month, Rabbie.

R. S. Thomas is kind to me, when I have nothing to say. I imagine he could have been less kind to those keen on freely emptying their minds. 

R. S. asks, in his poem NO

Are you better than he, that the glib questions

Multiply at your tongue’s tip?

His poem THIS, you can see here: along with INDOORS (another show of the man’s humility, and his weariness with facing proud intolerance). 

I find his solemn intercessions soothing.

The tone of THIS is more wistful, and the poem reveals a desire (for more), that isn’t common in Thomas’s collections of testaments to the goodness of a stoic existence. 

I thought, you see, that on some still night,

When stars were shrill over his farm,

And he and I kept ourselves warm

By an old fire, whose bars were bright

With real heat, the truth might ripen

Between us naturally as the fruit

Of his wild hedges, or as the roots,

Swedes and mangolds, he grew then.

I believe ripe truth is a fine thing to wish for.

Bloodaxe’s 1986 publication of R. S. Thomas’s selected poems 1946-1968 was passed to me in Rosthwaite car park, with (needless) apologies for the lack of wrapping,
this time last year, before last Christmas,
after walking my favourite loop, up to Watendlath, down through Ashness Woods, to Grange…
We diverted at Grange, up toward Manesty Woods, and played chess in the Borrowdale Gates, before skirting (back) between the ever-green east side of Castle Crag and the Derwent’s chill and languid waters, in the dusk.

To borrow a question (not too glib) from fellow blogger Bret:

What do you make of this poem?…or that poem?

Where the Rivers Meet

Friday 11/12/2020

I might write easily about the town I call home (close and familiar all my life). Here the river Cocker (twelve miles from it’s source at the head of the Buttermere valley) runs into the Derwent, which carries its waters (another nine miles) out to the coast. I’ve grown to see the town’s subtleties as worthy of protection and preservation. The floods that struck the town, in years gone by, took homes from folks, and broke businesses, but (overall, I believe) they didn’t shake the place’s identity.

I may go meta (here) about meetings. I have been hearing, and reading (In Martin Buber’s I and Thou) about the worlds that we connect in, and the ways that we connect; we: natural beings, human beings, and (if you’ll let me have it) spiritual beings. I am taking liberties.

I did not grow up espousing the hills and vales that hemmed me in, nor the bards of the lakes that haunted their clouded tops and low hanging mists. Those poets that garnered popularity, and whose fame endured; they seemed to me to be the antithesis of everything edgy, that (from my tens through to my twenties plus) desperately (and successfully) demanded my attention. They made their own impressions, though (the landforms and their lovers). I might yet make a friend of Coleridge’s inquiring spirit.

The climate here (socially) has never felt as foreign to me, as it does now. Familiar faces are (essentially?) obscured, and (though this country’s people are often recognised as being self-restrained) some of us seem to be overcome by a distant manner that isn’t inherent. Every thing does change, and I imagine (hope, maybe) that every flu and fad floats over and away from something more lasting and substantial. All that said, I am not at all averse to fashion or import, and any strange day (be it haunted or blessed) is rarely not improved by the use…or misuse (I am guilty) of the popular Japanese poetic form (the Haiku).

I often take a quiet moment, at the place (pictured) where the rivers meet.
Sitting there (with myself, with nature, or with spirit) I doubt it would be terribly foolish to try to do the form justice, and pen 17 syllables that breathe out the movement of the moment and the feel of the season.

Clouds covered the whole face of the sun, today, and I stayed a little further inside my own mind than I might usually. The closest I came to inspiration was in reverie of a fond carefree complacency…actually in solemn recognition of its absence from the conversation shared with a family friend that I chanced to meet on the street.

we hover and see

nothing touching lightly but

clouds meeting pavements

I and Thou, Me and Thee

Thursday 10/12/2020

I backed and forthed on WordPress for some time.
I am here now, I believe, in an attempt to relieve…
Is it lonliness?
I don’t believe my world is overpopulated. Our world…may be.
My first post here was (possibly) unintroductory and uninformatory, so
I shall expand upon "I and Thou" and also "Antinomian".

I and Thou

I and Thou seemed to me…
to be a rather less bumpkiny way of saying "me and THEE."

Martin Buber’s work Ich and Du (I and Thou)…(I must confess) is barely familiar.

Usually priced at £17.23, it seemed like an excellent use of one Audible credit.

Bronson Pinchot(!) narrates Walter Kaufmann’s translation of Ich and DuI and Thou.
In Kaufmann’s prologue (I and You) he clarifies that Thou is…not…very similar to the German Du.

“German lovers say Du to one another,

and so do friends.”

I wonder, then, if Me and thee may have done (as well…for myself)…and also wonder…

whether it is a very strange thing for a kind…friend (friend?) of mine, to be asking…

“…Kay. How art thou?”

anon 🙂

Kaufmann suggests (I am not quoting directly)…that Buber’s work found popularity with a particular brand of anti-sentimental, pseudo-intellectual, overgrown adolescent, that would…

“…talk of Heidegger, usually without having read him.”

Well, I will not talk about Buber, but have so-far enjoyed hearing what Kaufmann has to say about him, and when I’ve come beyond Kaufmann’s prologue, I may even wish to read along.

Now to Antinomian



denoting or relating to antinomians or their beliefs.

definition from Oxford Languages

I shouldn’t like to be called an antinomian…


a person who believes that Christians are…

some “definition”

The term antinomianism does have both religious and secular meanings, and could (should?) connote (lawlessness?…or at least…) the rejection of legalistic notions of obedience.

On…another note, I am looking forward to hearing Max Richter’s Voices on BBC Radio 3 at 7:30pm this evening.

VOICES is 56 minutes of music for orchestra, choir, electronics, solo soprano, solo violin and solo piano.  The orchestra is a radically reimagined ensemble called a “negative orchestra”. As the world has been turned upside down, so have the proportions of this orchestra. It is nearly all basses and cellos.

In addition to readings by a narrator, hundreds of readings of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights in dozens of languages have been sourced from all over the world. These readings are the aural landscape that this music flows through: they are the VOICES of the title.


I can’t imagine this world free of diseases, and I can’t imagine this world (or indeed, our universe) free of tyranny.
I do thank…goodness for these creative geniuses that seem to somehow manage to minister their all-embracing imaginations. And I am thankful, too, to whoever did hang that colourful bunting (pictured) at St. Cuthbert’s in Embleton, sharing hope, and sharing hopes for health.

Three Views of a Spire

Wednesday 9/12/2020

There is a painting on my wall. The scene: a green and tan-toned skyline formed from robust ag-ed English trees

trees line walls

walls — seams

seams between pasture and residence

residences unseen

unseen beyond the trees,

and Jutting —

into a mass of (only dark enough to suggest a cooling breeze) clouds — nearly white…ivory page pronouncing from thin…blue…sky…

The Spire — of All Saints: the artist’s inspiration for this painting (I dare say), and for another fine painting of Old Cockerm’th.

That painting’s foundation is the river (wide and low) and

Now the fields that (all that time ago) stretched wide and green

are built (or being built) upon.

We look down Kirkgate to the spire for the second time this hump day afternoon.

The van’s engine misfires, or the plugs…fail…to start…to glow. I don’t know.

The red clamp clicks onto its vinegary terminal. The black’n sparks off of a ruddy bolt, and the jump-starter clicks-in heart-shrinkingly, un-affectingly ineffective…ly.

She is a Thursday’s child, lending her time (and her borrowed booster pack) to me. She always has a place to be.

I concede (after repeated re-calibrations) to one…final…try… and I look again, up at that spire, imagining Doctor Frankenstein’s fate-delivering bolt (some power that had), but no such power (for me or mine), until I’m quite alone, unrushed, and

leafing the meager paperwork, I find no further clue to the age or frailty of my bled battery. I scrubbed up most it’s chalky seepage, before,

before the final try, and before mustering grace to say good– bye without betraying (needless) woe.

What is IS, so come on, and tidy round (the papers, paper cups, and greasy rags). Oh just… one…last…go… and (GO) it did.

I drove (recharging) around Bass Lake. I’ve known (this) for some time, I must refrain from asking “…why?”

I hark back to our first meeting (where?)…way back there…(when?)…way back…then.

He prompts (teasingly) “Who?”

I…and Thou




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