Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Poem Of The Week - Roger McGough

This is another in my sporadic series of poems from places where you might not expect poetry- I heard about it on Top Gear I don't remember who it was but one of the celebrities in the "Star in a reasonably priced car" section of an old re-run quoted a line from it and I had to look it up.  Good poetry is the kind that is found every-where.

Let Me Die a Youngman's Death

Let me die a youngman's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death

by Roger McGough

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Poem Of The Week - Sylvia Plath

I'm not sure where or when or how I first came across Sylvia Plath or even this poem but I love the tempo and music and sense of fun of the villanelle form and I love this poem.  In it Sylvia Plath combines the madness of madly-in-love with spiritual insight.  Or maybe I just made that up inside my head...

Mad Girl's Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

by Sylvia Plath

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poem Of The Week - Pablo Neruda

I discovered Pablo Neruda through the movie Patch Adams starring Robin Williams. I loved the movie and loved the poem. Since then I've become a fan of all Pablo Neruda's work but this one is still my favourite. I've been dabbling with learning Spanish so I can read Pablo Neruda's work in it's original tongue as well as the works of César Vallejo and Federico García Lorca- I seem to have a soft spot for Spanish language poetry.  Alas my Spanish is a long long way from being able to appreciate poetry.

XVII (I do not love you...)

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

-Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Age Of Risotto

I've been a vegetarian for almost 20 years now and I've noticed that restaurants go through phases with the "vegetarian option" which they offer.  When I first became vegetarian back in the early 90's the option was vegetarian lasagne.  I've never had a bad vegetarian lasagne but during the age of vegetarian lasagne I had some pretty ordinary ones. 

The next age was a dark one.  The spinach and ricotta cannelloni age. If you've never had spinach and ricotta cannelloni I can thoroughly recommend trying something else.  If you ever went to a restaurant with  me during this age you would have noticed a strange desperation as I studied the menu: looking and praying for anything else that was vegetarian.  I spent this age wishing I'd never complained about the age of lasagne. 

I notice we've now entered the age of risotto.  I used to enjoy an occasional risotto when I found one on the menu during the age of cannelloni.  I still enjoy a good one.  They vary wildly from the divine to what is at best stodgy rice.  Even the stodgy rice form is better than a cannelloni. 

I can understand restaurants only having one or two vegetarian options on their menu.  I don't have any complaints about that, choice is good but being able to eat is better so I appreciate that the option is there.  I do wonder why it is though that the vegetarian option is common across so many different eateries, even places with completely different non-vegetarian menu's will offer the same vegetarian dish.  If there is any-one in the hospitalities that can shed some light then I'd love to hear from you. 

Also worth noting: the above only relates to places serving "western" cuisine.  If you want good vegetarian and variety your best bet is to go Asian; my personal favourite cuisine remains Indian.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Dreamt with the Brass Buddha

Bill Barton 7/12/1921 - 10/4/2010

I Dreamt with the Brass Buddha

Smooth cold skin,
tarnished and collecting dust.
He is a twin.
His brother
was a courting gift
from my mother
to my father.

I ask the Buddha
if my father has rejected Buddhism
or embraced it so deeply
it is beyond me to recognise.
He smiles
and a drop of sweat
beads on the folds of his chest
and rushes furiously
across the sacred mound of his belly.

He invokes my childhood
walking across a paddock
with my father explaining
the essence of Buddhism;
To fully be
whatever you were doing-
walk paddock, repair car.

I dreamt with the Brass Buddha
and recognised my father,
eighty one years old
playing guitar.
Calloused hands
gripping the fret,
stroking strings.
His whole body listening,
just as he once did, walking with me.

The Brass Buddha
wipes the sweat from his brow
and returns to his contemplation.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Poem Of The Week - Percy Bysshe Shelley

My Dad introduced this poem to me.  He remembered only a few lines of it from his childhood and didn't know its author.  I remember tracking it down on the internet for him and I think one of my sisters did the same and he was delighted.  Later a trip to the book exchange found a collection of Shelley's works which he was equally delighted with.  Dad is 88 now and starting to get frail, and yes starting to get frail is accurate.  There is a lot I have to be thankful to Dad for, but I am especially grateful for the gift of reading which he gave by example and for the introduction to Shelley through this poem. 

My own socio-political outlook in non-violence, vegetarianism and social justice is no doubt an ongoing expression of Shelley's legacy, though I have only drawn the connection much later, my inspirations coming indirectly through others including Dad.  Thank-you Dad and thank-you Percy Bysshe Shelley.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert ... Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poem Of The Week - Ranier Maria Rilke

Rilke is one of those poets whom I felt an instant connection with, his introduction on Wikipedia says it way better than I could: "His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety".  This poem came from Jaime who forwarded me a newsletter with the query "I don't know if this is of interest", it wasn't particularly but it did have a snippet of this Rilke poem and I had to hunt it down and share it with you.

I Love The Dark Hours

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots

a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.

 - Ranier Maria Rilke

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poem Of The Week - Mary Oliver

I think my very first meeting of Mary Oliver's poetry was in Philip Carr-Gomm's "The Druid Way" where Philip quotes from "The Wild Geese", it remains one of my favourite poems.  Mary Oliver combines a keen observation of the minutiae and magnificence of nature with deep insight into what it is to be human.  At the same time her work has the polish of a master; the craft is invisible and the poem shines.

The Buddha's Last Instruction

"Make of yourself a light"
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal-a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I'm not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

Mary Oliver