This will be my shortest ever post – I just wanted to say ‘HAPPY CHRISTMAS’ to my regular visitors and to anyone who has landed here by chance. The picture above is a small detail of the traditional decorations on my tree.
This one is one I took last Sunday, before a heavier fall of snow on Monday threatened to prevent my sister and family from Cornwall arriving to spend the night with us en route to their destination in snowy Scotland.
I also want to alert you to my new challenge for the start of 2011.
Frequent visitors will already know that the middle part of the novel is set in 1930 in Hong Kong, and that this section was inspired by the discovery of a cache of love letters. The story of that find was so interesting in itself, that the Birmingham Sunday paper published a two-page spread about the find, and included some of the original photographs.
I shall be posting more pictures of the real-life characters involved, as well as some of the handwritten letters, because my big challenge for the new year is to see if I can find any of their descendents.
All will be explained in my next post,
so keep an eye open.
You might know someone
who just happens to know someone who used to go to school
with someone whose grandmother used to know
the daughter of
someone who …..
HAVE A VERY HAPPY
IN THE WORLD
(I saw this swan in my local park - it made me laugh!
Now that I’m in between writing novels and have returned to my other love, poetry, I was inspired to find out more about the Scottish poet, Norman MacCaig, whose centenary celebrations were held this year. I wouldn’t normally be attracted to TV programme with the word ‘Fishing’ in its title. The fact that it also had Billy Connolly and Poetry, didn’t attract me either. I like all kinds of poetry, including the humorous, and enjoy do enjoy (smallish) doses of Billy C, too, but this suggested an hour of slapstick.
To my surprise and delight, it wasn’t like that at all. There was humour, tenderness and beauty and enough food for thought to keep me going for weeks.
For me, the programme was at its best when MacCaig spoke directly to us from the dead– via photos and old TV programmes. Hearing him recite his own poems has given me the voice with which I can hear any of his work that I’ve managed to track down.
I’ll buy a copy of at least one of his (20?) books published between 1943 and 1988. The images he uses hit me with surprise before I find myself breathing out in recognition. Here’s one I love, from True Ways of Knowing: “You let me know/The way a boat would feel, if it could feel,/The intimate support of water.”
And how about this, from his poem ‘Stars and Planets’:
“It’s hard to think that the earth is one-
This poor sad bearer of wars and disasters
Rolls-Roycing round the sun with its load of gangsters,”
I found this one, along with Treeless landscape, on this site
It’s wonderful the way so many people share pictures and information freely (I do try to acknowledge anything that I use here on this blog). I found this short poem on YouTube presented against a picture of Tony Blair in parliament, which seemed a very apt setting for these words, which are recited by the poet himself:
Watch him when he opens
His bulging words –justice,
Fraternity, freedom, internationalism, peace,
Peace, peace. Make it your custom
To pay no heed
To his frank look, his visas, his stamps
And signatures. Make it
Your duty to spread out their contents
In a clear light.
Nobody with such luggage
has nothing to declare.And here’s another Youtube, with more poems, and pictures of Maccaig’s favourite place, Assynt, and another of MacCaig’s poems, In Praise of a Man on a site called ‘The Scottish Patient’“The beneficent lights dim
but don’t vanish. The razory edges
dull, but still cut. He’s gone: but you can see
his tracks still, in the snow of the world.”
As an amateur poet and a creative writing tutor, the title of this post is a question that enters my head from time to time, so I was fascinated by his reply to interviewer, Jennie Renton, quoted in full on Frost’s Meditations with several more of MacCaigs poems and other articles about him and his work.
Here’sMacCaig’s answer: “When I was asked to be Writer in Residence at Edinburgh I thought, you can’t teach poetry. This is ridiculous. I’d always been suspicious of ‘Creative Classes.’ However, I learned something. I thought that if the young person, the student, has poetry in him or her, to offer them help is like offering a propeller to a bird. And if they haven’t got poetry in them, there’s nothing you can do that will produce it.”
That seems a bit dismissive, but his explanation of how he does, in fact, help the students is exactly the type of input which I find most useful – and which I often receive myself from the members of SoundsWrite, the inspiring poetry group in Leicester that I attend whenever I can.
“ A very common thing was to find a line I just couldn’t understand, and I’d say, ‘I don’t understand that line. It’s very boring to ask, I know, but what does it mean?’ Extraordinarily often they’d say, ‘Well as a matter of fact I don’t know.’ And I’d say, ‘What’s it doing there then?’ And they would say, ‘I liked the image.’ I’d say, ‘So do I. But I don’t know what it means. It’s a nice line. Remove it. Make it the start of a new poem.’ “