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Friday, June 30, 2006


Seamus's country and western mixed tapes were the stuff of legend

Reading a new book about Michael Longley, I came across this statement by Seamus Heaney about the Irish poetry archive in Emory University, Georgia: ‘It’s odd to see the whole thing turning into “an archive”. Before we’ve been archived ourselves. But Mahon-San is probably right… there’s no such thing as privacy no more.’

The follow thoughts occurred to me.

All those drafts, notebooks and letters Seamus Heaney must have lying round the place: instead of handing them over to university libraries, or even keeping them, he could… rip them up and throw them away.

Every time he sent someone a private letter (the above quotation comes from one to Michael Longley), he could include a ps saying ‘If you sell this letter or even show it to anyone else, I will rip your spleen out.’

Every time someone asked to interview him, he could say ‘If you ever ring this number again, I’ll rip your spleen and pancreas out and feed them to my dog.’

When the Swedish academy rang him up in 1995, he could have said ‘Give the prize to James Simmons instead; he’ll enjoy it a lot more than I would, and besides I can’t be bothered with all the publicity.’

Instead of becoming a writer he could have become a tour bus-operator in Magherafelt, freshly retired after forty years’ distinguished service in the south Derry area.

None of which courses of action might have been enjoyable as the life Seamus Heaney has chosen to live instead. But at least if he’d done any of the above things (and there’s still time…) he categorically wouldn’t have to worry about there being ‘no such thing as privacy.’

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Profoundest of Slumbers

Harriet the tortoise has died, aged 175.

'When one reflects on the state of this strange being, it is a matter of wonder to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile which appears to relish it so little as to squander more than two-thirds of its existence in joyless stupor, and be lost to all sensation for months together in the profoundest of slumbers.' (Gilbert White, quoted by Nancy Banks-Smith in today's Guardian)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Saturday, June 24, 2006

André the Giant

André the Giant acknowledges the cheers of the crowd for his celebrated post-bout rendition of Lucky's speech

Beckett fact no. 65.

André René Roussimoff, otherwise André the Giant, professional wrestler and man mountain who weighed anything up to 540 pounds in his prime, was born in Ussy-sur-Marne in 1946, round about the time that Beckett was settling in for the 'siege in the room' back in Rue des Favorites, on the proceeds of which he later bought his small house in the same village.

André suffered from pituitary gigantism, which left him too big to fit on the Ussy-sur-Marne school bus, so Beckett would drive him to and from school every day. Their conversations on these occasions have sadly not been preserved.

As reported by Cary Elwes in his video diary of The Princess Bride.

Among the celebrity funerals Troy McClure pitches in The Simpsons is 'André the Giant: We Hardly Knew Ye.' Maybe because he would have been two feet shorter than the wrestler and didn't fancy trying to scale his stomach to have a conversation with him.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Journey That Very Few May Take

Headline in local paper advertising its Baby of the Year contest: Make Sure You Enter Your Child.

Enter women under their married name, as it said on a list of library regulations spotted by Kingsley Amis.

Sticking with the League of Gentlemen-style sicko kiddy dimension though, I’m reminded of a grotesque poem by Michael D. Higgins:

To see your seed
in every child’s eye
[…] requires a journey
that very few may take.

{quotation ends}

Let’s just say I very much hope so.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Charles Olson

There are things that were good then and are still good now.
There are things that were good then but are shit now.
And then there are things that were shit all along.

I've always wanted to say this, but reading yet another post about him on Ron Silliman's blog has finally persuaded me: Charles Olson was a shit poet, shit then and shit all along. He had a few ideas about typography and that was it. He never wrote a single half-decent poem his whole life long.

He was NO BLOODY GOOD. And that's all the room I have in my brain for Charles Olson. Any fresh information on the subject can go live in someone else's brain instead.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


To go with dogging, whaling etc, peacocking would have to be the act of having sex with a petrol pump, in honour of 'Mr P', an eight-year-old peacock 'who spends his waking hours displaying, strutting and calling to four petrol pumps at a service station in Brierley in the Forest of Dean'.

In his defence, the sound of the pumps resembles an amorous peahen.

Peacocking. It's the must-try deviancy du jour. The stains take forever to get out though.

Japan and the IWC

Under pressure from anti-whaling nations, not to mention land-locked African whaling enthusiasts and IWC allies Mauritania, Gabon and Togo, Japan has finally revealed the findings of its 'scientific' whaling campaign: they're delicious.

Also, about the word 'whaling'. Now there's a word you can guess wasn't invented by whales.

Dogging: having sex with people in car parks
Birding: being an obsessive bird-watcher
Cowing: intimidating someone
Whaling: the ultra-cruel slaughter of superintelligent mammals

On the model of 'dogging', you'd think 'whaling' could at least mean having sex with a dolphin on the deck of a North Sea trawler, wouldn't you.

Oh, and fuck you Japan, by the way.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Roger Casement

Speaking of Glasnevin cemetery, Mr Bloom would surely have had an opinion on one of its most famous in-non-habitants, Roger Casement. Are the remains reburied there in the 60s really his? Could they, as has been alleged, be Dr Crippen's?

It's heartening though to learn that the Irish form of Roger Casement is Ruairí Mac Easmainn. Phonetically, he was an assman through and through.

I feel for the shrimp (see two posts down).

Devil A Lot Of Maggots

I daresay the soil would be quite fat with manure, bones, flesh, nails. Charnelhouses. Dreadful. Turning green and pink, decomposing. Rot quick in damp earth. The lean old ones tougher. Then a kind of a tallowy kind of a cheesy. Then begin to get black, black treacle oozing out of them. Then dried up. Deathmouths. Of course the cells or whatever they are go on living. Changing about. Live for ever practically. Nothing to feed on feed on themselves.

(Bloomsday cancelled for state funeral of noted crook Charles Haughey)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hair of a Shrimp

Spanish manager Luis Aragones turns down a bouquet of flowers at the Spanish training ground: 'There's no room up my arse for the hair of a shrimp, never mind flowers.'

Is he saying that if he did have room up there for an intrusive, bum-frequenting shrimp (and since when do shrimp have hair?) he'd go away and think about sticking the flowers up there too? And since when has the receipt of a bunch of flowers been followed by sticking them up one's bum? Is that a Spanish thing? There are many reasons why someone mightn't want to have dinner with me, but for the woman to say 'There's no room up my arse for a Bavarian brown bear's paw, never mind an Indian meal'... well, it just wouldn't make sense.

I feel for the shrimp. But then I always do, in moments of crisis. When Charles Haughey died, when West Ham went two up in the FA cup final, I felt for the shrimp. It's just an eccentricity of mine.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Louse That Does Not Allow Itself To Be Caressed

Like Raymond Roussel or Maurice Blanchot (who wrote a book about him), Lautréamont is one of those rare authors lucky enough to have no real biography. First he lived in Uruguay, then he came to France, then he died. How disappointing, on some level, even to have a photograph of him. How pleasing too that, even in his twenty-four short years, after the literary apocalypse that is Les chants de Maldoror he had time to take the Pascalian turn of those strangely penitent Poésies. Did he mean it/them? Three quotations from Maldoror to chew on while you decide:

Je suis fils de l'homme et de la femme, d'après ce qu'on m'a dit. Ça m'étonne... Je croyais être davantage.

J'ai reçu la vie comme une blessure et j'ai défendu au suicide de guérir la cicatrice.

L'éléphant se laisse caresser. Le pou, non.

Elders of Zion

Anti-Semitism is not a pretty sight.

The Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is protesting against the appearance of Israeli poet Amir Or at the Dublin Writers' Festival.

They feel the festival should not have accepted sponsorship from the Israeli embassy in Dublin, given Israel's propensity for blowing up Palestinian picnickers and other such acts of banditry.

Another festival sponsor is the British Council. The last time I checked, Britain was also involved in a war or two in the Middle East which have involved the death of all manner of civilians, though I can't speak for the popularity of picnics in Kandahar and Umm Qasr and the attendant casualty rate.

Somehow it's all right for the Dublin Writers' Festival to accept British Council money, while the Israeli shekel is beyond the pale.

It reminds me of the NAFTHE (that's a British university lecturers' union) boycott of Israeli academics, to go with their existing boycott of Chinese, Russian, Syrian, Burmese etc academics, in protest over the appalling human rights records of those countries. Except of course there are such no boycotts except for the Israeli one, because while the thought of standing up to those evil Israeli bullies may give academics a political hard-on over their own self-righteousness, they don't really give a shit about those other innocent victims, or even, I'm sensing, given their selectiveness, the Palestinian victims either.

Anti-Semitism is not a pretty sight.

PS The Israeli army are a bunch of murdering bastards for what they are doing to people like this ten-year-old girl. Obviously so. But why does saying the above make me feel I need to spell this out in case people assumed I felt any other way about what are, by any standards, war crimes?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Clocks and Clouds

György Ligeti, 1923-2006

In an ideal world his obituaries would be a lot larger than those of Charles Haughey, who has also just died.

Prokofiev died on the same day as Stalin. The composer's widow was forbidden to place flowers on his grave: all flowers were for Stalin.

Beckett died on the same day as Ceausescu.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Homophonic Translation

Speaking of translations, in the absence not just of a satisfactory existing translation but any reading knowledge of the original language, there's always the fallback position of homophonic translation. Louis and Celia Zukofsky homophonically rendered Catullus's Latin (not that they couldn't read Latin, of course they could), and more recently David Melnick has done the same for the Iliad. Here's his opening:

Men in Aïda, they appeal, eh? A day, 0 Achilles!
Allow men in, emery Achaians. All gay ethic, eh?
Paul asked if tea mousse suck, as Aïda, pro, yaps in.
Here on a Tuesday. 'Hello,' Rhea to cake Eunice in.
'Hojo' noisy tap as hideous debt to lay at a bully.
Ex you, day. Tap wrote a 'D,' a stay. Tenor is Sunday.
Atreides stain axe and Ron and ideas 'll kill you.

I won't trouble Blogger's slender character set resources with an attempt to reproduce the original Greek.

And then there's Luis D'Antin van Rooten's Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames:

Un petit d'un petit s'étonne aux Halles,
Un petit d'un petit- ah, dégrés te fallent!
Indolent qui ne sort cesse,
Indolent qui ne se mène.
Qu'import un petit d'un petit,
Tout Guy de Ragènnes.

(Picture at top counts as puzzle answer, in case you don't get it.)

I Love Latin (II)

Still on Latin, here's a Baudelaire poem ('Francescae Meae Laudes') in that language, flanked by some images of Paris by Atget. I'd post a translation except I haven't found any I like.

Novis te cantabo chordis,
O novelletum quod ludis
In solitudine cordis.

Esto sertis implicata,
Ô femina delicata
Per quam solvuntur peccata!

Sicut beneficum Lethe,
Hauriam oscula de te,
Quae imbuta es magnete.

Quum vitiorum tempestas
Turbabat omnes semitas,
Apparuisti, Deitas,

Velut stella salutaris
In naufragiis amaris.....
Suspendam cor tuis aris!

Piscina plena virtutis,
Fons æternæ juventutis
Labris vocem redde mutis!

Quod erat spurcum, cremasti;
Quod rudius, exaequasti;
Quod debile, confirmasti.

In fame mea taberna
In nocte mea lucerna,
Recte me semper guberna.

Adde nunc vires viribus,
Dulce balneum suavibus
Unguentatum odoribus!

Meos circa lumbos mica,
O castitatis lorica,
Aqua tincta seraphica;

Patera gemmis corusca,
Panis salsus, mollis esca,
Divinum vinum, Francisca!

I Love Latin

Writing of Galba, the disastrous first of four emperors in the turbulent years 68-69 AD (not that the other three were much cop either), Tacitus declared him capax imperii nisi imperasset: capable of having been emperor as long as he never actually did (become emperor).

Just look at how many words it took me to explain that in English. What English needs is an imperfect subjunctive tense, and fast.

Everyone should read and speak Latin. Starting with me.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Act of War

The suicide of three prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is an 'act of war'. Presumably it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world's 1.2 billion or so Muslims follow suit en masse, at which point I'm assuming we're totally screwed.

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Live

Poland v. Ecuador not being played in local pub after all, absence of grass, stadium seating bit of a giveaway on reflection.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Is there anything more improbable than the thought of an impotent rat?

Cioran (again). I paraphrase.

Artaud in Ireland

Antonin Artaud spent some time in Ireland in the summer of 1937. He brought with him something he called the Staff of St Patrick, which he'd found very handy in solving his divided loyalties over sex and art (the true artist must abjure sex, he thought). He thought the Irish might be interested too, having perhaps got wind of the free love culture so comprehensively undermining artistic expression at the time in De Valera's Ireland. After some mishaps on the Aran Islands involving non-payment of rent he stormed a Jesuit house and was arrested for breach of the peace. Six days in jail later he was deported to France, where he was treated by Jacques Lacan.

If he still looks rakish in his own asexual way in the above picture, his appearance in Dreier's Passion of Joan of Arc always reminds me of a more swivel-eyed Buster Keaton.

Irish poet Aidan Mathews has written a radio play about his time in Ireland.

Artaud says: 'All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar's teeth.'

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Am A Camra

I Am A Camra: Christopher Isherwood's abortive first draft of I Am A Camera. For randy sailors in Berlin read fat blokes in the North of England with a real ale fetish. No wonder it never took off.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christians and Torture

Run into one too many weaponless pagan mobs for your liking? Halo starting to slip? You need the Mutilator (TM)! 'I had such problems having my limbs/vital organs removed by rampaging heathens until I tried the Mutilator. Now I'm a limbless stump with no pancreas, spleen or liver, and I owe it all to the Mutilator!'

Have you noticed how portraits of John F. Kennedy always feature the President holding a rifle? Because when you think President Kennedy you think rifle, brains blown away by, don’t you? So you don’t want the rifle missing, on your Kennedy portrait. You’ve got to have the rifle.

Or maybe not.

So why is it then that portraits of Saint Simon traditionally depict him holding a saw? He was chopped in half by one, you see. Given which you’d think that someone at that committee meeting might have raised a hand and said, Maybe we could just give him a puppy or something to hold, something that isn’t a saw.

Ditto for the dentist’s patron saint, Apollonia, and her ubiquitous pincers (had her teeth wrenched out with one by an angry pagan mob).

Ditto for St James Minor and his fuller’s club (was bludgeoned to death with one).

And ditto too for St Agatha and her pincers. This time the angry pagan mob fancied a bit of boob, and used the pincers to remove her breasts. One small problem with this was the similarity of the severed breasts to bread rolls, duly christened ‘St Agatha’s Bread’, and also to bells, bagging Agatha the gig as patron saint of bell-founders.

But my point remains the same. Why lumber the poor woman with the pincers all the time?

Do her a favour, Christians. Next time try flowers or a bottle of wine. Give the girl a break.

Are It?

From a review of Seamus Heaney's District and Circle in today's TLS:

'In such conditions, the value of a poet who can grip and weigh up the hot coins and stove lids of this world are as apparent as ever.'

Are it?