Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Gone Shopping...

The problem started when I went in to Waterstones. They were doing a 3 for 2 on EVERY BOOK IN THE FREAKIN’ STORE. I was in Glasgow for a wee spot of shopping. Look at me. 2009 is going to be an organised holiday. (Now if I could only get someone to write out my frickin’ cards, I would be in crimbo heaven. BTW, I don’t get the whole Xmas card thing. Can people not just visit/ phone/ email the people they care about and wish them a Happy Christmas? And how come the Climate Change brigade hasn’t jumped all over this habit? How many trees do you think are cut down for this annual postal jamboree? It’s a disgrace.)

Anywayyyy, I ended up not buying any presents...but I bought lots of stuff for me. It’s ALL about me. Me, me, me. Does anyone else do that or am I just a selfish bastard?

And in Waterstones I was like a dog with two tails, Larry (as in happy as, dumbass) and the pig in shit all rolled into one. Regular readers will know that I am the Imelda Marcos of book buying. Except I’m not from the Phillipines and my other half isn’t the country’s leader. But hey, imagine if she was....the possibilities...the bookcases... I’m hoarding for the day (cos I can’t possibly read all of these at the moment) when the publishing world implodes and the only places left selling books are supermarkets and the only books on offer are from John Grisham, Dan Brown, the latest celebrity halfwit and a row of Woe-Is-Me Memoirs. And when everyone else is bored out of their tits with this tat I’ll have piles upon piles of fantastic books to read. So there.

I may start up a library service, if you speak nicely to me. Cash or sexual favours may also be traded.

Anywho, there was I like a midge in a nudist colony...not sure where to bite first... Long story short I went for a thriller (Nelson Demille), a fantasy novel (JV Jones) and a poetry anthology called Being Alive from Bloodaxe Books. As you can see, I like to mix it up.

Being Alive (which includes one from an old poetry pal, Kona MacPhee) is a thumper of a book with hundreds of poems from modern-day poets. I spend a lot of my reading time reading crime/ thriller novels for Crimesquad.com so I like to have a wee change now and again...and I don’t read enough poetry. So I decided I would set myself a target of reading a poem every day. For ease of access, Being Alive will therefore stay by the toilet. As good a place as any, no?

A quick glance and I am loving it.

For those of you who don’t GET poetry, let me borrow words from a few poetic geniuses who might persuade you to have a look.

“Poems show us that we are both more and less than human. That we are part of the cosmos and part of the chaos, and that everything is part of everything else.” Julia Casterton.

“Poetry speaks to something in us that so wants to be filled. It speaks to the great hunger in the soul.” – Lucille Clipton.

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically that the top of my head has been taken off, I know that is poetry.” – Emily Dickinson.

Poets can be pretentious wankers, can’t they?

It was George Bernard Shaw (I think) who said that the ability to hold two conflicting opinions at the same time was a sign of intelligence. If that’s the case I’m a frickin’ genius. I have to keep reminding myself that there’s a thin line between appreciating an art form and being full of shit. Take yourself too seriously and you’re in danger of disappearing up your own arse. (Wonder if I can throw in any more references to bowel movements?) There’s a lot of the Emperor’s New Clothes in poetry, given that there’s no adequate definition. If I write three lines and call it a poem then it’s a friggin’ poem, people. And that’s part of its charm. Anybody can do it. But (whisper it) some should keep it to themselves.

Lemme give you an example of someone who should share. You know you want one.

From Fleur Adcock’s Weathering as contained in Being Alive. (Apologies BTW if I’m breaking any copyright rules – good luck suing me, Bloodaxe people. I own next to fuck all.)

“there’s little enough lost, a fair bargain

for a year among lakes and fells, when simply

to look out of my window at the high pass

makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what

my soul may wear over its new complexion.”

Love it, love it, LOVE IT. Ordinary language used to extra-ordinary effect. There’s so much in those lines, eh, eh, eh? makes me indifferent to mirrors. That’s the phrase that makes the whole poem.

Seamus Heaney said something to the effect that often the best poems are “about something else”. Often there is something between the lines that as a reader we have to tease out. It just takes a little effort.

When somebody does poetry well...well, it blows the top of your head off! This book is full of people doing it well. It’s full of work that feeds the hunger in my soul.

When humans are being creative they shine, providing a counterpoint to all the hate and isms that display us at our darkest. This is why I get pissed off when people moan about public money that’s spent on Art – without art, we are bound to a life that’s a spiritless desert - but that’s a whole other blog.

Poetry can amplify our joys, share our pain, turn the mundane into a welcome insight – it gives me moments where I feel I am in the presence of something that is as close as we human’s will get to perfection. So there.

And if you think I sound like a tosser when I’m talking about it, you can bite me.


  1. I always wanted a room with bookshelf covered walls. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I must have two thousand books but I'd buy more if it took more, lol.

    Exquisite poem! I'm getting that book. Your blogs BTW are poetic prose even though you are full of it, DElightfully so.

    Excellent post!

  2. That's my dream too. Marley. Thanks for persisting with making your comment. It was worth it!

  3. Wouldn't be surprised if whole 'climate change' stuff is a con.....but if it can get rid of Xmas cards???? Yippee!

  4. i find myself more drawn to poetry, both reading and writing. i 'need' it more. one of my favorite poems is Percy Shelley's Ozymandias. timely, in light of all this war.

  5. Michael - have done worse than you. Bought gifts for friends the other week and they'll never see them cause I like them myself! Will buy something I don't want to keep.

    You've reminded me that I've had 'Being Alive' for a few years (gift from sis-in-law who knew I'd appreciate it). Like 'What if the Road' by Sheenagh Pugh (pg.37)

  6. E - I'm beginning to agree with you on the whole CC thing.

    Thea - keep it up.

    Ros - diznae surprise me hen. I'm off to check out p37. Staying Alive was the first collection and that's awesome too.

  7. Great post, Michael, and it knocks on the head the notion held by some that poets are pretentious wankers. I must confess to being baffled by lots of the stuff I read but when I see lines like those you've quoted, I know it's language being used in a different way. And yes, the 'makes me indifferent to mirrors' is the seemingly simple but brilliant wee insight that alters everything around it. Thanks for this. I need to get that book.