Wednesday, December 22, 2010
When I lived in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's and early '90's, I went to hear Bill Carney (her husband, drummer and vocalist) and whatever other fine musician was featured with them and the resident bassist that day, in the Meiji-En now legendary Sunday jazz brunches, and, before that, at Jewel's, my favorite jazz club, on North Broad Street. She was always just terrific "never a boast or a see-here" and her solo CD, produced by Mr. C, and titled "Me, Myself and I" is beautiful and forever.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
It is difficult now to speak of poetry ---
about those who have recognized the range of choice or
those who have lived within the life they were born to---.It
is not precisely a question of profundity but a different order
of experience. One would have to tell what happens in a life,
what choices present themselves, what the world is for us,
what happens in time, what thought is in the course of a life
and therefore what art is, and the isolation of the actual
* * * * *
One must not come to feel that he has a thousand threads in his hands,
He must somehow see the one thing;
This is the level of art
There are other levels
But there is no other level of art
Olson, from "Only the Red Fox, Only the Crow"
We shall not know, but you
remember this: the two-edged worth
The night's for talking and for kissing
And when, on summer field
two horses run for joy
like figures on a beach
your mind will find us,
as we have found,
within its reach.
This, then, under the leaves
or under snow,
you who come after us,
we send you for envoy:
make most of love.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
(N.B. 28 Dec. The most well-balanced and the fairest review I have read is by Susanna Sonnenberg in The San Francisco Chronicle, 26 Dec.)
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
the new jersey deer cull is scheduled to begin in January.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
from Ibn Arabi's TRANSLATOR OF DESIRES (Ibis Editions, 2000)
"Lords Of Love"
I wish I knew if they knew
whose heart they have taken
Or my heart knew
which high-ridge track they follow.
Do you picture them safe
or do you picture them perished?
The lords of love in love
are ensnared, bewildered.
from "Bid Hurayra Farewell" by Al-A'sha (Desert Tracings - Six Classic Arabian Odes -Wesleyan, 1989)
Bid Hurayra farewell.
The riders are departing.
Can you, man that you are,
bear bidding farewell?
Brow aglow, hair flowing,
a gleam from the side teeth as she smiles,
she walks gently as a gazelle,
tender-hoofed in wet soil,
As if her walk
from the tent of a neighbor
were the gliding of a cloud
neither slow nor hurried.
You hear her anklets whisper
as she turns away
like cassia rustling
suppliant in the breeze.
She's not one of those
whose neighbors hate to see her face.
You won't find her,
ear to their secrets, listening.
She braces herself
or she'd be thrown back flat
when rising to visit a neighbor,
She entertains her companion awhile,
lower back and buttocks
Full at the bodice
at the waist sash nil,
a belle, seeming as she comes near
to divide in two.
How sweet a bedmate
on a cloudy afternoon,
not for some unbathed rude
to lay and take some pleasure,
elbows soft, walk tender,
as if a thorn were caught
in the arch of her sandal.
As she rises
a fragrance of musk trails,
her sleeve-cuffs with the scent
of rose jasmine brimming over.
No meadow of the meadows
of the roughland plateau,
luxuriant and green, blessed
by dark-trailing big-dropped clouds,
When the sun is teased
by a blosssom in full flower,
drenched in color,
mantled deep in rushes and greens,
Is ever more fragrant,
than she, or more beautiful
when evening shadows fall.
Rumi (from THE MASNAVI - Book One)
translated by Jawid Mojaddedi (OUP, 2004)
(from "The Healing Of The Sick Slave Girl")
Being a lover means your heart must ache,
No sickness hurts as much as when hearts break,
The lover's ailment's totally unique,
Love is the astrolabe of all we seek,
Whether you feel divine or earthly love,
Ultimately we're destined for above.
To capture love whatever words I say
Make me ashamed when love arrives my way,
While explanation sometimes makes things clear
True love through silence only one can hear:
The pen would smoothly write the things it knew
But when it came to love it split in two,
A donkey stuck in mud is logic's fate,
Love's nature only love can demonstrate:
(from "The Song Of The Reed")
Love's fire is what makes every reed-flute pine,
Love's fervour thus lends potency to wine;
The reed consoles those forced to be apart,
Its notes will lift the veil upon your heart,
Where's antidote or poison like its song,
Or confidant, or one who's pined so long?
This reed relates a tortuous path ahead,
Recalls the love with which Majnun's heart bled:
The few who hear the truths the reed has sung
Have lost their wits so they can speak this tongue.
The day is wasted if it's spent in grief,
Consumed by burning aches without relief -
Good times have long passed, but we couldn't care
When you're with us, our friend beyond compare!
While ordinary men on drops can thrive
A fish needs oceans daily to survive:
The way the ripe must feel the raw can't tell,
My speech must be concise, and so farewell!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
PS & N.B. ... (August 16th).....Even the name "Cordoba Initiative" shows disrespect and intolerance to all who are not of Islam. It is deception (and self-deception on the part of Muslims) to believe that the Muslim army hordes who invaded and conquered and occupied the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages for several centuries before finally being driven out, had established some sort of "golden age" in Spain. The "conviviencia" as it is sometimes called was a golden age only for Muslims, everyone else being a second-class citizen at best. The leading Judaic thinker (Maimonides) and the leading poet (Halevi) both were forced to flee Islamic Spain in fear of their lives. Scholars and historians today disagree as to the extent of the oppression in Cordoba, but there is general agreement that towards the end of the occupation it was little more than slaughter of non-believers and a prelude to the horrors of the Inquisition which followed.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Ed Dorn in his long poem titled "Oxford" from his early book The North Atlantic Turbine (Fulcrum, 1967), writes in part V:
..........But I said everything ?
has been talked about
around Oxford. I was assured
it had been. I didn't say while walking
but I thought well then make up!
something! Because baby if you don't
they's gonna take all your wine away
they's gonna turn you into a state
institootion and you'll all be working
for the state just like in America
and you'll have to prove
you're useful, the most useless
sort of proof you'll ever have to make
you'd better at least start digging up
to talk about. Get laid, describe that.
the world seems endlessly interested.
The election for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry is being held now. Although Geoffrey Hill appears to be the front-runner, those eligible to vote could surprise the establishment by choosing a long-shot who is in the running, Britain's foremost Beat/post-Beat poet, Michael Horovitz.
Horovitz is the only poet except for Allen Ginsberg to have read at both the 1965 Royal Albert Hall reading, and the follow-up thirty years later in 1995. Still an active poet, performer, independent publisher, poetry entrepreneur, organizer and troubadour, his 1969 Penguin anthology, Poetry of the 'Underground' in Britain, remains one of the best collections of the alternative and innovative.
His own work continues to demonstrate a Blakean seriousness of purpose tempered with a kind intelligence and wit. Here is a brief excerpt from his elegy, published in Wordsounds And Sightlines (New Departures, 1994), for his wife, Frances, herself a fine and sensitive poet:
Night after night your muse's breath
in the trees and scrubs comes calling,
tugs me away from habit and routine
- owl cries swoop in on reveries
calling back a secret music,
the unfinished symphony
of your life and work
- how it steals upon the senses
stately, flowing, clear - the sabbath of
your poetry's leaves
Thursday, May 27, 2010
(2) Order his crony, the Attorney-General (who called America "a nation of cowards" in his Feb. '09 race-in-your-face speech), to issue arrest warrants for the executives of BP in addition to the CEO's of Transocean and Halliburton, and an international arrest and extradition warrant for the billionaire Chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, sitting on his derriere in Sweden saying things to the press like "BP is big and important...The U.S. needs BP just as much as BP needs U.S. business." Since, realistically speaking, he cannot freeze all BP assets and nationalize all oil companies operating in the U.S., he could at least expropriate and comandeer every scientific and tecnhological honcho of all oil companies, who are doubtless praising Mammon that they don't work for BP, and perhaps, just perhaps, one of them knows of and is sitting on a solution which BP does not have, if the "top kill" fails.
(3) Demonstrate some humility and compassion.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Dr. David Craig, Lecturer at the University of Lancaster and a Marxist theoretician, asked Dr. Leavis "how can the man in the street be helped to appreciate literature?" Dr. Leavis' answer was that he did not believe that they could. The days are gone, he said, when Shakespeare was both an author esteemed by the intellectuals of the day, and the great national entertainment as well....The study of English literature, he said, should give people a sense of the continuity of our literature and this sense should be instilled through a whole range of studies in which mediaeval ideas and mediaeval texts should be as freely discussed as the moderns, so that in studying the mediaeval period we should become aware of of the mediaeval tradition behind the development of Shakespeare. It was only towards the end of the seventeenth century that the break came between popular and sophisticated literature.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Pound, Eliot, Yeats: the three giants of first generation English language modernist poetry. Pound, late-in-life, recants his anti-semitism, saying to Allen Ginsberg at Spoleto, 1965, it was a "suburban prejudice" and, referring to The Cantos, "I botched it." Eliot, worse, was clever and pernicious, and he never recanted, but reaffirmed, cf. his letters to Leslie Fiedler.
In After Strange Gods (1934), Eliot wrote: "Reasons of race and religion make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable." He did omit this sentence in a reprint after WWII, but "Gerontion" and "Burbank..Bleistein" confirm his prejudices and embody them in his poetry, sneeringly. The best biographyof TSE is Carolyn Seymour-Jones' biography of Vivienne, which brings everything into the light of day, including his same-sex affairs, and his role in committing his wife to an insane asylum (probably, she suffered from Tourette's) and keeping her there, perhaps not just for reasons of his social embarrassments, but also to spend her inheritance, because she was declared incompetent. Also, as the major acknowledged arbiter of literary taste in Britain, with politics far to the right of, say, Philip Larkin, TSE wielded enough power to keep William Carlos Williams, for example, first published in the U.S. in 1909, out of the mainstream of UK publishing until 1964, one year after Williams's death. Eliot was keen as well to keep heterosexual poets well away from Faber and Faber, and other major publishers.
Marcus Klein, in his book Foreigners (1981) was the first to point out the extremes of Eliot's anti-semitism, and Anthony Julius devoted an entire book to the subject: T.S. ELIOT, ANTI-SEMITISM AND LITERARY FORM.
But et tu, Willy?! W.J. McCormack, Chief Librarian, Edward Worth Library, Dublin (and formerly Prof. of Literary History, Goldsmiths' College, U. of London) has written a most condemnatory text, BLOOD KINDRED: THE POLITICS OF W.B. YEATS. Yeats was never exactly "liberal" in his political views, but for the most part he managed to keep his politics out of his poetry; however, as is pointed out in his Letters it is clear what his real feelings were. He supported the 1930's German race laws passed at Nuremberg in 1935, and even went so far as to accept an award from the Third Reich, the Goethe-Plakette, from Oberburgermeister Krebs in 1934. He wrote ballads for the Blue Shirts, supported Mussolini in an interview in the Irish Times, describes democracy as "muck in the yard" during the Spanish Civil War, and refers to a "Negro girl who lived near Sligo" in his childhood, noting "she is among those our civilization must reject." (On The Boiler, 1939, p. 266) Writing to Olivia Shakespear about Germany in 1934, he says "what looks like emerging is Fascism modified by religion. This country is exciting."
As McCormack points out: "Irish paramilitary politics has displayed a steady right-wing bias, even when the rhetoric was socialist." Then there were the war years, and an alliance between the IRA and Nazi Germany. Yeats wrote of "Judaism's disappearance from the historical backyard of Christianity" Despite schoolmaster Deasy's comment in Ulysses alluding to Jews in Ireland, that we "never let them in" Jewish people were in 1943 10% of the population of Dublin and Cork. Never was there a public statement from Ireland on the issue of persecution in WWII. Orwell favorably reviewed Indian scholar V.K.N. Menon's THE DEVELOPMENT OF W.B. YEATS , a book pointing out the sinister side of Yeats' politics.
"He gave comfort to democracy's enemies, to decency's enemies, to the enemies of art and culture" writes McCormack, and continues "he was fascist on (for me) too many occasions. Perhaps the hurtfulness of this judgment should be tempered by the qualification that, on many of these, he was fascist by doing nothing (p. 433). He declines to act because he cites "the Irish nation as his one and only loyalty."
The Rest Is Noise as Alex Ross titles his his interesting study of the politics in and of modern music (2007).
Thursday, April 29, 2010
All Lines Down
1 Kings 19:11-13
All roads being closed and all lines down,
You'll have to make your own
Language now. No one except the one
Who is himself the word can answer you.
(I preach what you've already proved is true.)
I pray you may have found
Peace amid the clamor, discipline
In the confusion, eloquence within
A tiny whispering sound.
I Want To Say
I want to say don't go, this is your spot,
But you are inching onward every day,
And what are we here for, if not to go?
You are changing even while I look
Across this trifling table and this unread book,
Going even as we say hello.
Say to the waters, stay,
And to the sea, change not.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Their very Homeland coasts, mile after mile.
-----James Norman Hall
Or is "hypocrisy" too strong a word. I have read that he never said he would not consider drilling for oil in the ocean. So were we gulled by "the art of the possible" - "poly-tiks" as Cid Corman used to put it....To get a "climate-change" bill through. More nuclear power stations. Just what we need.
(April 29th...In light of the catastrophe for sealife/birds/mammals as the oil spreads, will Obama rescind his energy policy in terms of East Coast drilling offshore? The Philadelphia Inquirer believes he should. I wonder if he can admit that he was wrong. He's been around clever lawyers much of his life, at least since leaving Honolulu. Is his intelligence less superficial than theirs? Come to think of it, I can't remember a single time when he admitted he was wrong about something.) (May 1st...Disconcerting that friends I've known for years and years bash me for criticising Obama (for whom I voted in the belief his Presidency would help Native peoples) saying this makes me a racist right-wing tea party nut, or at least aligns me with them.)
Friday, March 19, 2010
They'll give me a nibble - bit o' biscuit ere I go.
Sure, a messmate will reach me the last parting cup;
But, turning heads away from the hoist and the belay,
Heaven knows who will have the running of me up!
No pipe to those halyards - But aren't it all sham?
A blur's in my eyes; it is dreaming that I am.
A hatchet to my hawser? All adrift to go?
The drum roll to grog, and Billy never know?
But Donald he has promised to stand by the plank;
So I'll shake a friendly hand ere I sink.
But - no! It is dead then I'll be, come to think.
I remember Taff the Welshman when he sank.
And his cheek it was like the budding pink.
But me they'll lash in hammock, drop me deep.
Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I'll dream fast asleep.
I feel it stealing now, Sentry, are you there?
Just ease these darbies at the wrist,
And roll me over fair!
I am sleepy, and the oozy weeds about me twist.
(Recommended reading: MELVILLE - His World And Work - by Andrew Delbanco)
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
(And highly recomennded, for the serious cineaste only, Haneke's film THE WHITE RIBBON.)
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
(N.B. One more reason why it is becoming difficult to live in London....As I blogged in a former post on gangs and knife-crime, the police seem powerless to intervene on time. The days of the Bobby-on-the-Beat are long gone, along with bowler hats and Dixon of Dock Green.)
The number of dangerous dogs being seized by the police has soared as young people increasingly use them as 'weapons', rather than carrying knives.
Teaser is a 10-stone Staffordshire bull terrier cross-breed, flanked like a horse and with a head the size of a rugby ball. It lives in a small flat in Somers Town, central London, and local kids on the estate often knock and ask to walk it, amazed that the 22-year-old owner can make it sit and give paw. Many of the kids have their own dogs: staffie crosses, rottweilers, and illegal pit bulls and the numbers are multiplying as they are bred with other dogs on the estate.
"It's a status thing - one or two people get them and then everyone's got one," says CJ. "Kids think I've got a pit and I'm a hard man, but they're the ones running around estates being pulled on leads. [The dogs] keep spreading because they're so easy to get. Just go on to the internet and type in 'pit bull puppies'. It's not surprising everyone I know has a dog."
Yet a growing number of dog owners are irresponsible. In London, the number of dogs seized by the police under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) soared from 263 in 2006-07 to 719 in 2008-09. So far this year, 1,000 dogs have been confiscated a fourfold increase in three years.
The act allows dogs to be seized because they are illegal, dangerously out of control, or if they are used to threaten or intimidate someone. So legal breeds, such as Staffordshires, can be seized under the act. Pit bull-type terriers, Japanese tosas, and the dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro mastiffs are all illegal breeds, but many owners get around the rules by mixing illegal breeds with Staffordshires and calling them crosses.
The increase in seizures in London has been driven by a crackdown and the opening of a Metropolitan police Status Dogs Unit (SDU) last March, but national data suggests there has also been an increase in violent dogs on the street. According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of dog owners prosecuted for causing injury rose by 50% between 2003 and 2007. The RSPCA says that calls about dog fighting have increased massively over the last few years, with two-thirds of complaints now directly connected to young people using dogs as "weapons" in streets and parks.
A series of high-profile attacks have focused public attention on this issue. Last February, a baby died in south Wales after being attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier and a Jack Russell. In November, four-year-old John Paul Massey was mauled to death by a pit bull in Liverpool. And just before Christmas, a guide dog was viciously attacked by another dog, whose young owner was walking it unleashed by in north London. CJ says that walking without a lead is too often used as a sign of power and control on the street. "I'm always paranoid that some dog off a lead is going to attack Teaser," he says.
David Grant, director of the RSPCA's Harmondsworth hospital in north London, picks up the pieces of irresponsible dog ownership every day. His hospital is full of emaciated staffies that have been abandoned often in the hospital's reception by young men who don't want to give their names or pay veterinary bills. Many of the dogs are sick, as their owners haven't had the money or the knowledge to apply for vaccinations. In the worst cases, dogs have been abused by irritated owners or been forced to fight.
In 40 years of practice, Grant, whose veterinary operations were seen by millions on the BBC's Animal Hospital television series, says things have never been so bad, and he has started documenting the worst cases. His computer now hold hundreds of images of dogs that have been shot, stabbed or burnt.
"A typical problem owner will be from an inner-city estate, unemployed, without any educational achievements," he says. "Young males predominate, although the fighters often register the dog in a girlfriend's name." Names such as Terror, Chaos, Killer, Ice and Asbo often tell a dog's story, says Grant, as does evidence of harnesses accessories often used to glamorise dogs before gang fights.
But Grant is keen not to sensationalise or oversimplify. He wants to distinguish between "fashion dogs", which are simply part of a craze, and "status dogs", which are bred for offence and defence. "Fashion dogs tend to be staffie crosses that are naturally good-natured, turning nasty only when they suffer abuse, or neglect when their owners get bored," he says. "Status dogs, on the other hand, are bred to intimidate. At the worst level, gangs will use them for mascots, muggings, safeguarding territory, and fighting enemies and other dogs."
Grant, along with dog wardens and police officers, has repeatedly drawn attention to the parallels between dogs and knives. Both are carried by young people in areas where crime is high, often for defence. In some cases, even parents have been known to encourage their children, particularly girls, to walk with dogs as a means of protection. However, in contrast to possession of knives, a young person will not face five years' imprisonment for having a dog.
But if fear and fashion are multiplying dog numbers, so is the potential money that unemployed young people can make from dog dealing. Staffordshire puppies and their crosses can sell for 400-500 each, and with an average litter size of eight and a bitch able to produce two litters a year, an owner can earn up to 8,000 annually from a single dog.
From his council flat in north London, Dion, 24, supplements his living by dealing dogs. He's got a few scars from violent dogs he's owned in the past, but now he's got just one, a mixture of a staffie-pit cross and a presa Canario. "My dog has had her first litter and two generations of grandchildren," he says. "I wanted to keep the bloodline going. The money's not the priority though. I'll sell them for half of the 350 I could get when I know they're going to a good home."
Security is another reason Dion hangs on to his dog. He says: "My dog attacked my stepdad once for good reason. He was a bit of an alcoholic, and when my sister got scared of him once she screamed and the dog went straight for him and shredded his forearm before he could hurt her. It's another reason to feel safer."
According to Sergeant Ian McParland, chief officer at the SDU, simply banning more dogs under the DDA is not the answer. The problem is not genetics, but upbringing, he says. Most dogs can become aggressive or peaceful, depending on how they're raised, he says.
"You could go on banning breeds until the cows come home and it won't make a difference," McParland says. "We're almost fortunate that the status dog of choice, the pit bull terrier, is illegal. I don't know what we'd do if Akitas, German shepherds and rottweilers started becoming fashionable [as status dogs]. Akitas were used by Samurai warriors."
He points out the threat posed by selective breeding. "Breeds are getting more dangerous," he says. "If you've got a nasty dog and your mate's got a nasty bitch, they're the ones you're going to breed."
So far, local authorities' response to the problem has been mixed. Last month, the London borough of Harrow proposed vetting and chipping all dogs owned by people waiting for social housing. Anyone with a dog that it suspected of being used for fighting would be refused a tenancy, though deputy council leader, Susan Hall, insisted that this would be a last resort. "We will work with the RSPCA and police to make sure that people in council properties don't keep dogs that are a menace to others," she said.
In south London, Wandsworth council is already piloting a programme that will see residents threatened with eviction if they fail to keep their dogs responsibly. Other London councils employ specialist dog wardens who are on call to answer residents' problems; others simply slide dog issues into the files of the resident environment officer.
In Liverpool, following the death of John Paul Massey, councillors voted for an amnesty on illegal dogs, free micro-chipping, and tougher rules on leads and muzzling. They are also investigating a dog registration scheme.
According to Grant, it will take more than punitive measures to curtail irresponsible dog ownership. "A lot of the time I feel as sorry for the owners as the dogs," he says. "These young men have been on a conveyor belt of social deprivation since the day they were born, and we're at the end of it, trying to pick up the pieces. They've had no upbringing, and they've got no educational qualifications and no prospects. Society has let them down. We need to address the root causes if we're going to solve these problems."
Back on estates in north London, young people are talking about breeds, bloods and lineages. Videos of dogfights recorded on mobiles are changing hands, and an old cage for dog fighting sits in a garage.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Michael Foot, the most improbable literary romantic to lead a major British party since Benjamin Disraeli, has died at the age of 96 after a turbulent political career that left him a much-loved but also deeply controversial figure.
A brilliant orator, steeped in Swift, Byron, Shelley and the great political struggles of the 17th century, Foot was first an incorrigible rebel who helped foster the left-right Bevanite split that damaged Labour throughout the 50s. A champion of British unilateral nuclear disarmament, one of the left's great post-war causes, he gradually moved towards office in the economic crisis of 1974.
Foot led Labour from 1980 to 1983, presiding over the party during the formation of the breakaway SDP. He resigned after Labour fell to a stunning defeat in the 1983 election, the voters having rejected a manifesto later called the "longest suicide note in history".
In a statement, Gordon Brown said: "Michael Foot was a man of deep principle and passionate idealism and one of the most eloquent speakers Britain has ever heard.
"He was an indomitable figure who always stood up for his beliefs and whether people agreed with him or not they admired his character and his steadfastness."
Tony Benn, his cabinet colleague and occasional nemesis, added: "He was one of the great figures of the Labour movement."
Foot's gallant reputation and prestige kept the left and the unions on side during his time as Jim Callaghan's deputy PM in difficult years from 1976 to 1979. He was also accused of irresponsibility and ironically in view of his past of appeasement of the unions by resurgent Conservatives and some Labour MPs.
For others his idealism, which included a life-long devotion to Plymouth Argyle FC, was highly attractive. Despite the defeat of many of his most cherished causes, he had a rich and deeply fulfilled life, which he shared, until her death in 1999, with his beloved wife, the filmmaker Jill Craigie.
In the crisis that followed the defeat of the Callaghan government and the rise of Margaret Thatcher, Foot led the Labour party from 1980 to 1983, presiding over it during the formation of the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP), which used his election over Denis Healey as the excuse for their defection.
He stepped down in favour of his protege Neil Kinnock after Labour slumped to a stunning 145-seat defeat in the 1983 election in the wake of a manifesto that a Labour colleague called "the longest suicide note in history". It fell to Kinnock to rebuild his party and put it on the road to three election wins under Tony Blair. Foot, who refused all honours including a peerage, must often have been unhappy with Blair's leadership, but in old age loyalty to his party was a paramount consideration.
It was not always so. The frail child of a West Country Liberal dynasty, Foot was always a rebel, who hitched his star early to the charismatic Welsh ex-miner, Aneurin Bevan, whose admiring biographer he became. Their radical socialist views did not prevent either of them becoming allies of Lord Beaverbrook, the Canadian press tycoon, owner of the then-mighty Daily Express, who shared their sense of mischief.
A distinguished writer and journalist with a passion for literature as well as politics, Foot gained his first great claim to fame as the author of Guilty Men, the celebrated polemic against the pre-war appeasers in 1940. Beaverbrook entered Churchill's cabinet, Bevan attacked Churchill, and Foot briefly edited Beaverbrook's London Evening Standard though the leftwing weekly Tribune was his life's love.
Tribune helped set the tone for Labour's victory in 1945 when Foot, alone in his Liberal family, unexpectedly won Plymouth Devonport for Labour and became a Westminster gadfly. It was a role he maintained from outside after losing Devonport in 1955 and resumed after succeeding Bevan in Ebbw Vale after his hero's death in 1960.
Foot and Bevan fell out over Bevan's renunciation of unilateralism. But Foot followed his mighty heart for much of his career. His firm support of Indian independence led him to back his friend Indira Gandhi when she declared a state of emergency in the 70s. In the 60s he joined forces with Enoch Powell, with whom he shared the title of best parliamentary orator, to block Labour efforts to reform the Lords though he wanted it abolished, Powell wanted it left untouched.
Such quixotic behaviour prompted his old Oxford friend Barbara Castle to complain that he had "grown soft on a diet of soft options". But when Labour unexpectedly took power again in the global energy crisis and domestic crisis between Ted Heath's government and the miners Foot accepted the tough job of employment secretary under Harold Wilson. Under Jim Callaghan, as Labour lost its majority after 1977, he was leader of the Commons and deputy PM, fighting night after night to keep the government afloat.
Among his many gallant defeats of that period was the campaign in which seven cabinet ministers, including Foot, were allowed to fight for a "no" vote when Wilson offered voters a referendum on Britain's still-new EU membership in 1975. The yes camp which included Margaret Thatcher won by a ratio of 2:1.
He and Benn were not peas in the same pod and Foot felt personally betrayed when Benn insisted on contesting Healey's role as deputy Labour leader in 1981 a divisive contest that Healey narrowly won when young leftwingers like Kinnock refused to back Benn.
After his leadership Foot stayed in the Commons backing Kinnock against Militant entryism for which his earlier tolerance had been criticised, until 1992 when his protege lost the general election to John Major. But his passion for books, as for Plymouth Argyle, never dimmed as the infirmities of old age took their toll.
In the bloody 90s when Yugoslavia was torn by civil war Michael and Jill Foot went there and made a film on behalf of their beloved Dubrovnik. No puritan, Foot was fond of drink and laughter as well as ancient historical ports. It was a fitting last hurrah.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
What fated her to choose him;
She meets in his engaging mask
All reasons to refuse him;
But what she meets and what she fears
Are less than are the downward years,
Drawn slowly to the foamless weirs
Of age, were she to lose him.
Between a blurred sagacity
That once had power to sound him,
And Love, that will not let him be
The Judas that she found him,
Her pride assuages her almost,
As if it were alone the cost.
He sees that he will not be lost,
And waits and looks around him.
A sense of ocean and old trees
Envelops and allures him;
Tradition, touching all he sees,
Beguiles and reassures him;
And all her doubts of what he says
Are dimmed with what she knows of days -
Till even prejudice delays
And fades, and she secures him.
The falling leaf inaugurates
The reign of her confusion;
The pounding wave reverberates
The dirge of her illusion;
And home, where passion lived and died,
Becomes a place where she can hide,
While all the town and harbor-side
Vibrate with her seclusion.
We tell you, tapping on our brows,
The story as it should be,
As if the story of a house
Were told or ever could be;
We'll have no kindly veil between
Her visions and those we have seen, -
As if we guessed what hers have been,
Or what they are or would be.
Meanwhile we do no harm; for they
That with a god have striven,
Not hearing much of what we say,
Take what the god has given;
Though like waves breaking it may be,
Or like a changed familiar tree,
Or like a stairway to the sea
Where down the blind are driven.
This post for all who have commented nastily/condescendingly/disparagingly on the late-life marriage of Lorine Niedecker.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Probably because of the supposed, rather than actual, political incorrectness of GRAN TORINO, Clint Eastwood has fallen out of favor with the Hollywood liberal elite. INVICTUS, clearly and, in my opinion, undeniably the best American fillm of the year, wasn't even nominated. Nor did Eastwood receive a nomination for Best Director. Going just a bit deeper and more speculatively, I wonder if his masterpiece, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, although far too fine a piece of film-making to not be nominated in its year, began to cause his downfall in the eyes of the self-righteous Academy. That film, along with its companion, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, stand, when combined, head and shoulders over and above anything ever to have come out of Hollywood. Eastwood never has received recognition for his work as an actor. He should have been nominated for GRAN TORINO last year, and the omission of INVICTUS, an inspirational film, shames the Hollywood Academy. Of course it is unlikely that Hollywood would honor a film in praise of a successful revered contemporary communist.... The rugby sequences in the film have been called "poetry in motion" and there is an excellent interview with Julian Lewis Jones, the Welsh actor and rugby enthusiast who plays Etienne Feyder in the film @ www.dailypost.co.uk (January 26th). Eastwood is the first director since Lindsay Anderson (THIS SPORTING LIFE, with Richard Harris) to accurately portray the game. (Note that rugby League was portrayed in This Sporting Life and rugby Union in the Eastwood film, and as Jim Pennington of North London reminds me: this is important because of the "class" difference between the two, not simply that League is "professional" and Union is "amateur".) Several world class rugby players participate in the film, most notably Isaac Feaunati as the incomparable Jonah Lomu.... Matt Damon (coached in his rugby by Chester Williams) as Francois Pienaar gives the best performance of his career, and Morgan Freeman (who initially had purchased the book rights) as Nelson Mandela, melds into the role (as one critric had put it) as the film progresses until he seems to become, uncannily, the man himself. They at least were rightly nominated.
I will watch the Academy Awards, however, if for no other reason than to see what will doubtless be only a brief mention in their honor role of "people who died" this past year of the passing of a great genius of comedic writing, Larry Gelbart, truly one of the last, as they say, of the "good guys" who I had the pleasure of meeting in London in 1965, where he played shortstop (I think it was) in the weekly American expatriate Hyde Park softball game. He was kind enough to invite me to lunch with his wife, Pat, and then young family, and his grace, charm, and self-deprecating modesty (he was about to leave for Buenos Aires for the stage premiere there of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM), and his desire to help a fledgeling writer like myself, remain in my mind images of nobility.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Bus driver and passengers pay tribute to Casper the cat who would board Plymouth bus and ride around city
The tale of Casper the commuting cat, who would politely queue with bus passengers before contentedly riding around Plymouth, made headlines and raised smiles around the world.
Sadly the cat's love affair with the open road has proved his downfall after he was killed by a hit-and-run driver, it emerged today.
A notice appeared at the cat's usual bus stop saying: "Many local people knew Casper, who loved everyone. He also enjoyed the bus journeys. Sadly a motorist hit him and did not stop.
"Casper died from his injuries. He will be greatly missed. He was a much-loved pet who had so much character. Thank you to all those who befriended him."
Casper's life on the buses came to international attention last year. It turned out that for four years he had been riding the no 3 bus, passing the Devon city's historic dockyard and naval base, en route.
He tended to curl up on a seat or sometimes purr around fellow passengers' legs, all the way to the final stop, stay on and make the return journey. Drivers got used to letting him off at the correct stop.
His owner, Sue Finden, said she had never understood what he was doing until a bus driver let her into the secret of Casper's travelling.
"I couldn't believe it at first, but it explains a lot. He loves people and we have a bus stop right outside our house so that must be how he got started -just following everyone on," she said at the time.
Postings on the website of Casper's local newspaper [http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/news/Celebrity-cat-killed-hit-run/article-1718680-detail/article.html" title="Postings], the Herald, proved just what a popular character he was.
"Hail to Casper the cat, I'll miss ya m8 ride in heaven," wrote Chris the bus driver. "RIP Casper, you will be missed," said another reader.
There were, inevitably, a few sick jokes, while Mick from Plymouth said he would not have let any cat of his run across roads and jump on buses.
And Eternal Optimist questioned whether the paper should be troubling itself with Casper's story: "I am so glad that I live in such a peaceful and crime-free city as Plymouth where so little happens that a dead cat is considered newsworthy."
However, Mel of Plymouth summed up the feeling of most: "RIP Casper, you were one cool cat! Reading about your travels put a smile on my face."
Friday, January 15, 2010
Ae weet forenicht i' the yow-trummle
I saw yon antrin thing,
A watergaw wi' its chitterin' licht
Ayont the on-ding;
An' I thocht o' the last wild look ye gied
Afore ye deed!
There was nae reek i' the laverock's hoose
That nicht - an' nane i' mine;
But I hae thocht o' that foolish licht
Ever sin' syne;
An' I think that mebbe at last I ken
What your look meant then.
Tom Leonard (from HESITATIONS, and from FOODIES)
a dont give a shite
fur any a thim
a dont give a
a dogs turd
supposin thi entire
and all thir fukin wurks an pomps
copped thi fuckin
it would serve
it would serve thim
which they totally fuckin deserve
thats ma opinion
and having delivered it
I will now have my fucking breakfast
the cattle in our pies
professors of psychiatry
ah like ma egg turned
the white quite firm
ma yoke saft enough
- though no too runny
thanks a lot
a could go
a right big haddock
deep-fried in batter
crunchy at the tail
thick in the middle
dead white inside
a single fish
Tom Leonard's excerpts from the etruscan books 1997 triptych: Raworth, Griffiths, Leonard.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And if that memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.
Patrick Kavanagh.....COME DANCE WITH KITTY STOBLING
No, no, no, I know I was not important as I moved
Through the colourful country, I was but a single
Item in the picture, the namer not the beloved.
O tedious man with whom no gods commingle.
Beauty, who has described beauty? Once upon a time
I had a myth that was a lie but it served:
Trees walking across the crests of hills and my rhyme
Cavorting on mile-high stilts and the unnerved
Crowds looking up with terror in their rational faces.
O dance with Kitty Stobling I outrageously
Cried out-of-sense to them, while their timorous paces
Stumbled behind Jove's page boy paging me.
I had a very pleasant journey, thank you sincerely
For giving me my madness back, or nearly.
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from a chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.