e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Out and about”

Evening song

Bird on roof

 

The blackbird’s song flows
through an evening garden; today
ends musically.

From Mimi Matthews blog – Jane Eyre and the Legendary Gytrash

An excellent demon for your next horror story. And a literary one, with contacts in Jane Eyre and Harry Potter.

Mimi Matthews

Snarling dog from Darwin's Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)Snarling dog from Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.
(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)

According to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, a Gytrash is a goblin or spirit which takes the form of a horse, mule, or large dog.  Typically found in the North of England, the Gytrash “haunted solitary ways” and often surprised unwary travelers as they journeyed alone in the dusk.  Jane Eyre herself encounters what she believes to be a Gytrash one bleak, January evening as she is walking from Thornfield Hall to post a letter in the nearby village of Hay.  Alerted to its arrival by a loud, clattering noise, Jane observes:

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Poetry of leap years and days

Thirty days has September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
Which has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

I was reminded of this old rhyme when I switched on my computer this morning and realised that I’d forgotten the leap year.

We get a whole extra day – to do what? In my case much as I always do; write, cook, gardening – perhaps not today as it’s so cold, read – currently A Killing Frost by R D Wingfield and fiddle about – something I’m good at.

I thought I’d see if anyone has commemorated this calendrical oddity in verse.

Hello Poetry has a section on leap year poetry. Some of the poems don’t seem to have much to do with the date, but perhaps something that only occurs occasionally stimulates the imagination to look at other rare happenings.

Let’s be like leap year.
Let’s leap through time

A nice idea from Monkey Zazu.

Reading Juice is well into the spirit of things with all kinds of leaping, not just the day. Kangaroos, frogs, crickets and others get in on the leaping, hopping, jumping act.

The only serious poem on the subject I’ve come across so far is Jane Hirshfield‘s Ode to the Leap Day on Brainpickings site.

Light on the subject – but what kind?

Today I logged into Wordnik for the first time in many months. As you can guess, if you don’t already know it, Wordnik is about words – finding, gathering, listing, sharing, commenting.

Browsing through my collection I was reminded of the words I’d garnered in the past, including one of my favourites: lucubratory. This word has two meanings that may of may not be related. One is laborious or painstaking. The other is much more poetic; composed by candlelight or by night or pertaining to night studies.

A special word for composed by candlelight!candle-197248__180

I imagine an old-time sage painstakingly writing out poems or music (or both – maybe he’s a singer/songwriter) by the light of a guttering and smelly candle; which is all he can afford until people recognise his genius and reward him accordingly. Preferably while he’s still around to enjoy it.

Are there words for composed by torchlight or electric-light? Do we need them?

Composed by moonlight is a beautiful thought: shall we call it lunabratory?  I suspect even a determined sage would find it difficult to see well enough by the moon alone.

Perhaps fairies compose by firefly light, and mermaids by deep-sea squid light.

On a more serious note, is writing or composing affected by the kind of light used? Do candles encourage the romantic and halogen the aggressive? I think it likely to have an effect, but I also think it would be both individual and very subtle.

National Libraries Day

Today is National Libraries Day and all over the country libraries are holding special events.

nld-logoIn my opinion a nation’s libraries are a major national treasure. Among other actions, they spread culture, provide a quiet place for the hassled to sit and recover their calm, and store the thinking and creativity of the past.

The also provide pleasant and worthwhile employment – or used to before austerity started harassing everyone.

While it’s the public libraries that are most active today, I like to imagine all the others joining in, in spirit at least. Universities spring to mind of course, but companies, hospitals, government departments, charities, all have their libraries and people to look after them – often volunteers or employees librarianing (I’m a writer – I’m allowed to invent new words!) in addition to their main job.

I’ll be off to my local library this afternoon, and this evening I’ll raise a glass of gin and tonic to all those people who care for our books, journals, CDs, and old papers.

Haiku in Spain

I’ve been away on and off for over a month, which is why there’s been no action on this blog. I plan to get back into posting and sharing from now on.

First, a belated Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope you’ve had a great winter so far.

Orange tree

While roaming around the sunny streets in southern Spain and looking for subjects for haiku, it occurred to me that the haiku I’m familiar with all come from further north; from autumn harvests and snowy winters. This isn’t a necessary feature of any poetry, so I looked again at where I was and what was around.

The year’s shortest day;
oranges ripen under
blue and cloudless skies.

 

Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts

I never knew there are special literary archives. What a treasury!
I’m also amazed at the quantity of material some archives hold. I hope anyone in the Manchester area gets a chance to visit the exhibition described here.

University of Cambridge Museums

GLAM – the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts – celebrated its tenth anniversary in October with a meeting at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. The Fitzwilliam Museum is a member of GLAM due to its fine holdings of literary manuscripts, including autograph manuscripts of Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. GLAM’S aim is to support all forms of literary archives and it unites professionals working in a variety of institutions: national bodies (The National Archives), universities, museums, local authorities, and special repositories.  With such a wide base of members, it is ideally placed to provide a support network for professionals working in the field of literary archives and one of its most significant achievements has been to produce cataloguing guidelines and a thesaurus.

Meetings of GLAM are usually held biannually and include presentations on…

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Ferocious effort

Soft toy

This little fellow comes from a museum in Holland, but I can’t recall which museum or what exhibition he was part of.

I was browsing through some old photos and came across him. I know why I kept his picture. He’s trying so hard and getting so cross in the process – a familiar experience.

The picture reminded me of a poem by Josephine Miles that I stumbled across recently called Effort for Distraction. The full poem is on the Poetry Foundation site, but it’s the first verse is what really suits.

Effort for distraction grew
Ferocious, grew
Ferocious and paced, that was its exercise.

I don’t know what our little creature was working on, but I do hope he was successful.

 

Rhapsodomancy: a form of divination

Rhapsodomancy is another word new to me, and one that actually has some application. It means using the text of a poem to foretell the future.41VKAAY5nvL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

According to Wikipedia there are several ways of determining which poem to use. Some of the systems involve writing a poem or some poems’ titles on bits of paper (or tree-bark if you want to be really authentic), putting the papers in a pot and drawing one out (without looking of course). Alternatively you can spread the papers over your desk and toss a die at them. The one the die lands on is the one you use.

Fortunetelling isn’t really my thing, but I was intrigued by my reading about rhapsodomancy so I thought I’d give it a go. Writing a lot of titles or lines out seemed like work and a waste of paper, but using the die is a good idea, so I decided to adapt that. It took a few goes to make it work, so what follows isn’t entirely my first effort.

Some time ago I was given a copy of a lovely book, Poem for the Day: One edited by Nicholas Albery, which has one poem for each day of the year. It seemed a good book to use as my text – very varied poems by many poets.

To find the poem I need I have to have a randomly chosen date. Since we are in the first half of the month I decided the date used should to be in the first two weeks. So I toss a die. It lands on 6.

I don’t need another toss – I’m not going to do any adding. If I used another toss I might get a 1 or 2 and could use them with the 6 to give me 16 or 26, but I’ve already decided to rule these dates out.

So now to toss for the month. I get a 2 – February. I toss again in case I get December, but I don’t – I get a 3. Since there are no months 23 or 32, I stick with February.

Now for the text for 6th February. It is The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by Christopher Marlowe. But it has six stanzas which seem too much for divination, so I toss again and get a 6.

The verse:

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning.
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

All this die work is just the preamble. We’re now at the tricky part, which is working out what it means.

An experienced diviner could probably draw a lot of conclusions from such a verse. My immediate reaction is that next May there will be dancing and singing near enough to me for me to observe it and maybe join in. This is such a cheerful prediction that I’m going to stop there and wait until May 2016 to see if it comes true.

If any of my readers see something different in the verse, I’d love to hear what it is.

Slipped down the plughole?

Lost Pubs cover artI recently came across a book (now, sadly, out of print but still available here and there including libraries) called The Lost Pubs of Bath by Andrew Swift and Kirsten Elliott.

My inner pedant was irritated at the imprecision of the title – how do you lose a pub? Did it slip down the back of the sofa or get thrown out with the old newspapers? Maybe it ran off like a lost puppy.

In reality it may have been demolished or bombed, but in a place like Bath, which seriously conserves its heritage, it has more likely just changed its use. So why not say so in the title?

But ‘lost’ is an emotive word. It carries a lot of baggage for almost anyone – we’ve all lost things or people that mattered to us.

‘Lost’ gives us a straightforward ‘no longer around’ with that little hint of sadness that the vanished past ought to have – though whether any of us would really want to un-vanish it is another question.

So the title is a suitable one, and the inner pedant can go back to sleep.

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