e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Departure

Today Chèvrefeuille has given the topic of departure as a prompt for haiku. For examples he’s roamed to haiku and to the Persian poetry of Rumi.

Departure is a huge topic – every time we go to work or shopping or wherever, we depart from where we are. Sometimes we depart further afield on holiday, to visit or to escape. We may be tourists or refugees; we have departed willingly or fearfully. Some kind of departure is inevitable.

Blackbird on roof

 

Everything departs: spring or rainy season, animals or plants, days of celebration or grief.

Since haiku are usually about nature I have chosen to look at departures in the natural world.

Each season to its
own time. Each bird to its own
song. Then both have flown.

Another piece of my ignorance discovered

By chance I stumbled on a Wikipedia article about Allah Jang Palsoe, an Indonesian stage play, dating from 1919, by Kwee Tek Hoay. The title translates as False God and is about two brothers who discover that money does not bring happiness.

Despite the fact that the original idea came from a short story by E. Phillips Oppenheim, a westerner, it is a truly Indonesian work and is still sometimes performed.

Reading the article I realised I know practically nothing about Indonesian theatre, or other literature. I have heard of the puppet theatre and have even seen extracts on TV, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I strongly suspect that Indonesians know much more about our theatre than we do about theirs: they may even read Shakespeare in school.

My ignorance probably extends to numerous theatrical traditions, and it seems such a pity to miss so much. Another topic to add to my ‘to be googled’ list.

Memories of Summer

p1000865

A coneflower displayed
its green and brown. Serenity
in a summer garden.

Shrines to imagine

Chevrefeuille’s blog, Carpe Diem, has a fascinating article on the Ise Shrine, one of the most important sites for the Shinto religion.

The haiku challenge is to write about it, but I’ve never seen any Shinto shrine, so my poem is more about a shrine of the mind.

31246228783_b3ab5e188b

A soft breeze whispers
in the eaves of the temple;
frost on the roof melts.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from Photopin.

Found poem – Party On

Pleasure pavilion

My motto is

Keep calm and party on

so, when I found in The Art of the Chinese Gardens (published by China Travel & Tourism) a lot of place names associated with inviting guests, drinking wine and generally being sociable, I knew I must make a poem out of them.

The result is below. It may actually be more a semi-found poem as the short connecting lines are my invention.

Party On

Once, in the
Twilight of the Setting Sun
Near
The Sunlight Welcoming Pavilion
In our
Garden of Harmonious Delight,
Guests arrived,

Through
The Gate for Inviting the Moon,
Into
The Pavilion for Bestowing Wine –
Pearl of Shichahai.

They chattered in
The Pavilion for Enjoying the Scenery
Danced in
The Hall of Cheerful Melodies:
Our
Places of Mutual Affinity.

Later we left
The Moon Inviting Terrace
For
The Tower of Clear Voice
In
The Musical Gully.

Today
The Solitary Hill
And
Snow on the Broken Bridge.

The original of the  picture is in the Walters Art Museum. The picture is creative commons from Flickr.

‘Cold Comfort Farm’ by Stella Gibbons – very inventive

92780I’ve just finished reading Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons and I’m wondering how I didn’t read it before. No one told me it had beautifully written descriptions (and I’m not a lover of description usually). Nor had I known that it’s full of lovely neologisms and dialect; who could resist cowdling a mommet or inhaling the perfume of the sukebind. You could even teazle a scranlet, though it might be uncomfortable.

The book, written in the 1930s, is a satire on the rural misery novels popular at the time. But like any good satire it stands on its own and doesn’t require familiarity with the likes of Mary Webb.

The heroine, Flora, orphaned at twenty and with very little money, accepts an invitation to live with her relatives at Cold Comfort Farm. She arrives to find the farm in chaos and its numerous inhabitants filled with angst, misery, regret and a good many other horrible emotions. Instead of joining the doom, gloom and victimhood, Flora sets to work to overturn the current malaise and sort out her relatives lives.

One of the things I particularly liked about this book is that it’s a tale of success. Through hard work and cunning Flora succeeds in setting up her various aunts, uncles and cousins with the kinds of life they really want. She then falls into the arms of a handsome, rich man – but don’t expect traditional romance, this is satire.

The book was filmed in the 1990s and one day I hope to see this version.

Cover art from Goodreads.

On re-reading ‘The Rattle Bag’

7fb35406cc300cf593138475541434f414f4141For my late night reading lately I’ve been re-reading The Rattle Bag, a poetry anthology edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Apparently the original intention was a collection aimed at the young or new poetry reader, but it doesn’t shirk serious subjects like death, love or loneliness. I love it and, to judge by the reviews around the web, so do many other not-so-young people.

Here is a collection of poems to which the term ‘quirky’ seriously applies, though there are plenty of ‘normal’ poems for readers who like their quirky in moderate doses.

On a more serious level the book goes to the edge of what poetry is, both in subject and form: midnight mice, no punctuation and horses eating violins crowd together with the more traditional.

One of the innovations is to arrange the poems alphabetically by title. This means that the usual pattern of date or subject is broken up. Sylvia Plath is on the same page as Shakespeare, while a pet cat precedes a pilgrim.

I’ve had this book for some years (it was published in 2005) and have read most of the poems already, some several times. However, this time I’ve had a serious look at the glossary at the back.

Many of the entries are dialect or archaic terms I already knew, and some I don’t really want to know: should I care that a danegun is an “old firearm, fairly primitive”?

But there are plenty of new-to-me words to enjoy. I’ve seen many solons (gannets) in my time, but have never met a goney (albatross). As I write the gullies (seagulls) are squawking outside. I didn’t know a rack was a cloud in the upper air and I wonder if, like other clouds, it can be scrowed (streaked).

Apsley Cherry-Garrard and the world’s worst journey

I wish I was in Buxton to hear this talk. Thank you James Burt for reminding me that the ‘official’ history isn’t all there is.

Buxton International Festival

The Odditorium: the tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors whose obsessions changed the world (Hodder & Stoughton, 2016) includes some amazing characters. Some you’ll have heard of, some you probably won’t. All of them have changed the world, although in some cases the wider world hasn’t noticed yet. They include Joshua Norton, first Emperor of America, and Reginald Bray, who carried out strange experiments with the Royal Mail. I was delighted to be asked to write about Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who is by far my favourite explorer. 

When I was at school, we were often told stories about adventurers and explorers as something to aspire to. Captain Robert Falcon Scott was held up as a great example, bravely sacrificing himself in an attempt to reach the South Pole. As Sara Wheeler once described Antarctica, our southernmost continent often seems to be “a testing-ground for men with frozen beards to see how dead…

View original post 359 more words

Tanka for a foggy autumn

30368213160_05994fafdd

Carpe Diem has started a series of posts on tanka techniques. Even for non-writers, it’s worth reading the post to enhance understanding and appreciation.

The first technique is to add mystery and depth. Autumn is a good time for mystery I think; not only do we have Hallowe’en and the supernatural, but we are in a sort of between-ness – assessing summer just gone and looking forward to/dreading winter to come.

But autumn is a time of its own, as the old Japanese writers knew so well and wrote about so movingly, as in this tanka written by Toshiyuri and quoted on Carpe Diem:

Cries of quail
from the shore of Mano cove
winds blow
waves of plume grass
ripple in autumn dusk.

My response is:

A dense, white fog fills
the garden; among yellowed
grasses no blade stirs.
A crow, hidden in whiteness,
croaks three times, then falls silent.

 

 

Picture from Photo Pin.

The words of Gerard Manley Hopkins and others

Cover artRecently I did a post on the words listed in Landmarks By Robert MacFarlane.

In the glossaries are several words attributed to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Words like endragoned for a raging sea, or bright-borough for an area of sky thickly strewn with stars. I never knew we needed a word for ‘thickly strewn with stars’, but looking at it I can see it could be useful and poetic.

I had not realised that Hopkins went in for neologisms in a big way, but I’m not very familiar with his poetry. So I decided to read up on it and found several interesting websites: Crossref-it.info and The Wonderful World of English among them.

Science fiction should be a good hunting ground for novelty in all forms including words, and academia positively blizzards invented/imagined/redefined terminology.

I’ve known people who really hate invented words, but IMHO without all these authors developing new words, our language would be poor indeed.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: