Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blogs and Writers...

The discussion on blogs over on David Maybury's blog has thrown up a lot of viewpoints as to how writers can achieve recognition and the divide between whether blogs/websites/links can further that end seems to show that there are no easy answers either.

It seems to boil down to the difference between hard copy and soft copy.

For myself, blogging has been about bouncing ideas around, but mostly its about blethering into the blogosphere, letting off steam and generally having the blog equivalent of a scream jar in a library, like in the cartoons - you scream into it and run outside and open it. But I like having some record of what I've thought, even if it does make me squirm further down the line.

Either way, I'm grateful to David for asking the questions!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Lil Fluffy Clouds

O praise be to the met office - the rain clouds have passed, literally and metaphorically speaking! Sunny days have arrived, even if the north wind doth blow - they say it will veer to the west in a day or two, so I am waiting for the return of salad days once more.

I took a few days off last week and to ensure that I didn't do anything study-related, I bought Tomb Raider: Legend, the latest installment of Lara's engaging lifetstyle instead! What a pleasure it was to jet all over the world, swinging off iron bars, riding motorbikes, crashing fork lift trucks (loved that one!), and generally enjoying oneself in the ironic manner that only one who has six children can: on a playstation, even though it didn't seem to last quite as long as Angel of Darkness did. I did enjoy all the nods to previous Lara incarnations, but I still felt cheated when I started it on Wedneday and finished it by Friday. Pffft, what can I say, either they are milking the other adventures into (yet another) sequel, or they ran out of time/ideas/disc space.

I had been waiting for this one since before Christmas when it had been allegedly due out, but it was held over until Spring. Anyway, Lara is just as improbably buxom as before, (how does she put up with the gravitational pull?) with improbably skinny arms, given all the swinging off them she has to do...

Anyway, the break did me a whole power of good, and I came back to study with renewed impetus this morning. I now have a good hook for the 19thc essay on Germinal and Far From the Madding Crowd, which involves gourmandising, ha, ha! But I'm still having doubts about whether my method of tackling the Eliot/Woolf essay is the right one. I'm torn between a complete rewrite and just leaving it alone - only so many times you can pick a scab, I guess. Nagging doubts are all part of the study thing and don't seem to diminish the further on you go either - you just doubt more of yourself! Aie, yie, yie.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Bridge and other Conveyances

The latest Amazon order got here this morning. The post seems to have improved since last year when it used to take weeks before I’d see those little cardboard packets. It was on the dining table when I got up this morning. Nice wake up call.

Inside was the The Bridge, by Marin Sorescu, Myne, Frances Presley and Anything the Landlord Touches, by Emma Lew. Opening The Bridge and reading quickly over cereal, I found translations of poems that Sorescu wrote as his final poetic cycle before he died at 60 from liver cancer. He wrote these from about five weeks before his death (although the collection includes two from just before that) almost up to the last, and the entire collection is a real poetic Jacob’s ladder, where Sorescu works through and strips away the stages of dying using metaphors and language so poignantly. Its hard to write about Sorescu’s work without sounding clichéd and trite, so I’ll refer you to a much better review if you’re interested. I thought The Bridge was one of the bravest efforts I've ever read.

Funny thing is that death is such a subject this weekend. Last night I watched The Life of David Gale for the first time. Yes, I don’t get out much - sore subject! I found the film a little awkward in what it was trying to depict, not what you’d expect from Alan Parker. But the whole subject of using a good death to make up for the mistakes of an average life, made me think. There was a line in the movie where Gale, played by Kevin Spacey, questions what is life but a long slow death anyway – every day we die a little… I find death an awful hard subject to think about, probably because it’s so damned final.

Emma Lew & Frances Presley’s work both look to be very interesting – but I’ll have to come back to them later because I’m only on here sneaking out of studying!

Oh, the joys of the Woman in White and The Portrait of a Lady. I just finished with Madame Bovary yesterday and though I really enjoyed it and Germinal previously, I’m going to have leave them both for strategies in the exam, since neither suit the remaining three assignments I have chosen to do. Reading Flaubert was interesting for making more connections between T.S. Eliot’s Europhile connections and also for showing how the French were just that little bit more developed style and language-wise to the English – or is that my Franco-fangs showing again? Zola and Flaubert don’t seem as hung-up on flogging their moral concerns to the readers, more the reader is expected to be relatively intelligent and work it out for themselves. I can hear the distant rending of crinolines as the 19th century comes to the fin de siècle, all over again!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Still Raining. Still.

Well, guess what? It's still raining here. Yes, I know what you're thinking: Ireland - home of the 'soft day, thank God'. Rain is as it should be, in the Emerald Isle. Well, that would be fine if it was the occasional shower followed by some nice warm sunshine, but not this daily deluge that we've been having since Sunday! There is now a trail of mud all over what used to be the grass in the back yard extending up the steps and to the doorwipe that is there for the odd moment when my tresors remember to wipe their bloomin feet... I hope we're going to have a reasonable summer this year. Or that ten-man tent we bought at Easter will never get an outing - more on that another time. I can't help thinking sometimes that Ireland was just put here as a buffer for England, somewhere for all the rain to fall before making it as far as there... funny how they're having nice weather over there.

I am now officially fed up to the back and front teeth with this essay writing business. I've been at it since last Saturday, writing plans, drafts, analyses, more plans, more drafts, more analyses... yadda-da-yadda-da... it's all begining to seem like an awful amount of torture. But then there are moments when I go away from it all and realise what I'm after learning... and realise that the points I've been trying to make are crap! Oh well, maybe some night down the pub (when the kids have grown up and buggered off and I have a life again) I'll meet a few people that have read Mr Eliot and Mrs Woolf and trade the finer points of modernisms with 'em.

I think I need to stop writing!

In the meantime, I've been having fun finding some more interesting blogs to browse in (when I'm trying to study!) and have come across Geoffrey Chaucer's blog. I never knew old English could be so much fun ;¬)

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Bird in the Hand is Worth…?

We are having such peculiar weather at the moment. It was beautiful yesterday and today it’s hot and then thunder, lightening and showers! As most Irish people would say – that’s Irish weather for you.

Anyway, the weather is some long-winded way of getting round to what I’m thinking about at the moment. I have 4000 words to write on a topic that goes something like this: modernist writers attitudes to the present were shaped by their attitudes to the past – discuss with reference to two poems by T. S. Eliot (Prufrock poems) and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. I’ve been kicking around the question, reading up on the writers in question and am now full to bursting with many ideas on how to tackle them both.

In a way, it ties into the separate work I’ve been doing on reviews for NHI Review. I’ve been reviewing for this site for almost two years now. At the start I found it difficult to know how to approach the pamphlets and books that I received. But lately the sort of work I’ve been sent to review really reflects a sort of growth I’ve been going through. Last year Messalina kindly directed me towards the PFFA site where I learned a great deal about how to read and criticise poetry. Initially like all other newbie posters there, I wanted to post poems and see what other people thought. But I learned very quickly that there are far more gains to be made by reading other peoples’ poetry, carefully and painstakingly, and seeing how they put it together and how it can be taken apart – in short how it stacks up.

Feeding this useful information back into my own work and study, I have moved closer towards seeing how reviews and critiques should be written, and now worry much less about my own poetry these days. Funny really, because and old friend of mine once told me that the real lessons in poetry are learned from critical pieces, and the writing of them, less so than the actual poetry itself, betimes.

Anyway, the real excitement this week, has been receiving some top-class work for review and sitting down and analysing what I think is going on, how it is put together and formulating responses that are relatively coherent whilst giving truer impressions and opinions. Up to now I’ve always been quite reticent about giving opinions – tending towards hedging my bets. This is because I have believed, rightly or wrongly, that giving a ‘bad’ review of something can be detrimental to one’s own career! A bad review can haunt you for a long time. Or so I thought – there’s a lot to be said for being honest too… It’s all a confidence thang really…

Buzzed up about: other peoples writing!

Reading: Dead Stars Have no Graves, Shadows Bloom, How Things are on Thursday, Orlando and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and other poems

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Waiting for Godot

Last night I went to see Waiting for Godot with my husband. It’s Beckett’s centenary year (for those living in a completely different planetary sphere) and the Gate Theatre, Dublin is running a whole series of his works here with WfG getting a long run. It stars Barry Mc Govern, Johnny Murphy, Alan Stanford, Stephen Brennan and Luke Mountaine and is directed by Walter D. Asmus.

The Gate is a small theatre, intimate in atmosphere – but you really can’t get any more intimate than the second row of seats (getting showered with actor's saliva!), to get you right into the action. Barry McGovern plays Vladimir and Johnny Murphy (Joey da lips – The Commitments) plays Estragon, and they are marvellous at getting across the married couple/two halves of a whole personality in the play. Alan Stanford as Pozzo uses his enunciation and diction to really get across what Pozzo is and Stephen Brennan as Lucky (unLucky), got a round of applause for his long “thinking” speech.

It is so hard to believe that this play was written by Beckett 57 years ago. The topic is so fresh and the method of conveying an existentialist germ through all these characters is just breathtaking and it really hasn’t dated. The clowning around, the allusions to silent movies, French culture, literary culture, mime, comedy, tragedy...! I’ve yet to study this on the 20thC lit course, but for sure I’m strongly thinking of doing the assignment on WfG and Heaney’s Selected Poems… if for no other reason that they are compatriots of mine, and both are exceptionally newsworthy this year. The play was bloody brilliant and I can’t wait to see it again on DVD and get analysing for real with the course material. It may be a cliché, but watching plays performed is far better than reading them or watching on TV, because as part of the audience you have to invest energy back to the actors – that’s why they are up there: they’re working your emotions in time with the words and actions (same reason why poetry works better aurally than just off the page!).

To add my personal evening to things, I had arranged to go up and meet my husband in Dublin at Drumcondra (about 2 miles from the City Centre) about an hour before the play. His specified mission, after work ended, was to find out where the car park at the Gate was and to suss out somewhere reasonable to eat. Instead, he took a fit of the stubborns and went to the pub (can’t blame him really). So when I picked him up I didn’t know where to park the car and time was running short. The Gate theatre is part of a complex known as the Rotunda hospital – a maternity hospital. You can drive right around it (as I did four times) and there is a choice of not one, not two, but three car parks – BUT only one is the right car park! It seemed a shame not to visit all of them, as indeed we did.

Food was another yarn – having had our own Didi/Gogo-esque tiff on O’Connell Street, anything vaguely foody seemed like an option so we settled for Beshoff’s Fish and Chip Emporium. Its moniker is something of a misnomer. These days although the fish may be deep-fried, the chips have much less deep an acquaintance with the frying oil. I settled for getting carbs from the croutons (cretins?) in the supposed ‘salad.’ With fifteen minutes to go before the play’s start, a drink was definitely called for, so we went to Conway’s, allegedly the oldest bar in Dublin (a lot of Irish pubs claim this – so there must have been a competition in the long past to set them up in the first place) which happened to be serving? Yes, real homely pub grub. Ah well, we know for our next visit... as optimists say around here!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nipple Gazing

My husband coined a term the other evening. There we were sitting on the back door step discussing Maighread Medbh a performance poet that I've read with, and he commented on the sexuality that her poems contain - calling it nipple-gazing, as opposed to navel-gazing, which he thinks a lot of poetry does.

That is not to criticise MM's work. She has a rare ability to actually 'perform' her work and to get across the aural in poetry very well. She's won prizes at poetry slams and what she does takes a lot of confidence and determination. It made me think about the difference approaches poets have when they're reading their work. On the 20th Century literature course I'm doing, there's a recording of T.S. Eliot reading 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' about thirty years after it's writing, and his voice sounds dry and dusty, academic and bookish for the most part giving little to the reader in terms of interpretation. This led me on to thinking about other poems and in particular Shakespeare's Sonnets. When we hear a good voice reading them, instilling them with emotional undertones, are we hearing what Shakespeare meant us to hear or is it the interpretation of a modern mind that we are hearing?

I went back to listen to Eliot again - this time I could hear emphasis on certain sounds. I stopped listening to the sense of the words and started listening to the voice and the music that it made, the rising and falling intonation, the weird emphasis that certain consonants and vowels made - the whole of the poem sounding like a concerto for voice - speaking voice as opposed to singing. I think I may have found some way into his work, but it really depends on switching off the normal critical faculties and allowing the aural sense of his work to come through.

But what about 'nipple-gazing'? I think this takes me towards an area that I'm not entirely sure about, just yet: the representation of women in their poetry. Some say that it is overdone. Some say that it is a necessary redressing of balance in the discovery of what language can be used for in the hands of women. And some say that it is... unneeded! I think that there are aspects of these judgements in literary criticism towards what women have and do write. The important thing is to read it and read the whole picture, rather than selecting what seems to suit. And that leaves it wide open critically! So I guess this could be a rebuttal of sorts to el hubby. Which I am throwing open now for discussion...