Tag: mortality

thing 30: ‘we are the wood drake’: reading together

‘… and then you’d think aha! something interesting is going to happen and then someone would mention Derrida and it would all be over…’

Thus my friend Simon, speaking about his time reading English at Oxford and the death-by-theory thing which can so often happen during formal study. I know what he means. In my very first group supervision at Cambridge we were issued copies of a poem—I have repressed the knowledge of what it was, if I ever knew—and the Director of Studies’ opening gambit (more…)

thing 23: ‘where the soul can think aloud’: a walk on the beach

Nobody brings anything small into a bar round here.

One of the lines which convinced me about Tom Waits; and I remain convinced, despite the discovery that the line was lifted more or less verbatim from Harvey. In the film, Elwood P Dowd also claims ‘I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years… and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it’. I went to the beach, this day, feeling that reality had definitely won out over me—more TS Eliot and a reality overdose than Jimmy Stewart and an escape from it. But maybe people rarely bring anything small to the sea, either. (more…)

thing 22: ‘… in this blank of things, a harmony’: a night under canvas

’96 cans of beer, or 3 dead otters.’

This was Jana’s response when I asked how much the big cool-box held. But before you get on the blower to the RSPCA, let me add that part of her work supports a research programme about otters, which involves the collection and study of otter-corpses. Makes sense, of course, to cool them: minimise whiff, preserve the maximum amount of information… Still. I was kinda glad we were using a different cool-box for our trip. (Plus: (more…)

thing 18: ‘kissing the joy as it flies’: a bluebell wood

Like Bach, wild swimming and my sister’s home-made blue cheese and mushroom pizza, spring soon exhausts my superlatives, so I’ll simply go with Hopkins and say that ‘Nothing is so beautiful as spring’. On a day like this, who could possibly disagree?

I discovered this tiny nature reserve only last year—a friend recommended it—and by the time I got there the bluebells were already on the wane. Ever since, I’d been looking forward to this spring and (more…)

‘loveliest of trees, the cherry now’, AE Housman

You can read this poem here.

This is one of those poems I read and simply think, ‘Yes’. The simplicity of the rhyme-scheme and the regularity of the metre feel part of the irrefutability of what the poem has to say. It seems very Housman that he’s feeling such a drive to make the most of his time at the not-very-old-really age of twenty! I started mentally re-writing stanza two to say ‘Now of my threescore years and ten/Fifty will not come again’ and then realised it was all going to go wrong at the end of life three, so abandoned that… But however premature his worry may seem, about running out of time, his point stands: that spring is a time when we may connect with the joy of renewal, the beauty of the world, and the anguish of our own fleetingness. I think Housman has it right, though. The only thing to do, in the end, is make the most of what you get. About the woodlands let us go…