Source: The Grave Danger of Being Silent
Another of Shelley’s skim off the cream, place to one side, and enjoy with Amaretti biscuits and chocolate sauce posts.
She is closed to comments or even ‘hang-on-a-second’ raised fingers.
Source: The Grave Danger of Being Silent
Another of Shelley’s skim off the cream, place to one side, and enjoy with Amaretti biscuits and chocolate sauce posts.
She is closed to comments or even ‘hang-on-a-second’ raised fingers.
Stimulated by a post from Nicholas Rossis that disabused me ( I thought this idea had been original) instead I offer a short short story for your delectation! A collection soon due. Free taste.
Yesterday was my best Valentine ever; the day when I, nobody from nowhere, knew that God loved me. You can keep your red roses. Usually on Wednesdays I have two hours to meself, seeing as how Tuesdays is the night Dad spends with his bit-on-the-side and comes in late. After I open up the factory I makes a cafetière of decent coffee and I sets out some fresh scones or rock cakes, and then I open up me magazine and usually have two hours fancying a new hairdo or planning a recipe with duck. I love duck.
Not this one. I didn’t have to wait for Dad to appear and start complaining that I ought to at least look busy.
‘Can’t have my own daughter slacking, sets a bad example’ He always says that and I always takes no notice.
So it was the last thing I expected when, instead of Dad, his Land Rover spat through the gravel and hand-braked like a rally stop in front of the stores. Who do I mean? Well that’s the something! It were Heil Hitler Walthorpe hisself. Not his manager, not his driver, but Lord High-an-Mighty at the wheel with his farm hand in the back holding on for dear life. He got out, slammed the door and stood waiting for service like we was his herd of cows and would come running. He’s a right arrogant git in his combat trousers trying to look like a man of the people, when everybody knows he inherited his millions from Daddy who made it selling hardware from the back of a van in some concrete Midlands jungle…
He seemed in a hurry. Well I wasn’t, so I took me coffee with me and strolled across the yard.
‘Your father, where is he?’ No good morning, how are you, nice day.
‘He could be anywhere’ I says, ‘Maybe up at mother’s, maybe down at Mole Valley…’
‘Well fetch someone, will you.’ I obviously wasn’t a Someone.
‘Righty ho’ I says.
‘And don’t say righty ho, just do it’
That’s the sort he is. If I hadn’t had the coffee I might of given ee the Nazi salute with me finger under me nose and practised me goose-step back across… He just stood watching me like I was a mangy dog, too old to bark.
I found Marcia doing her cuticles in the cloakroom and told her that Walthorpe wanted something from the stores so she’d better take the keys. She looked right smug to be doing the honours; bustled out with that person-of-importance clip-clop she puts on. Marcia is Dad’s PA, she thinks she’s a cut above and she resents that Ed, me brother, and me will inherit the farm when she is pensioned off. She will have to take her see-through blouses and her shorthand with her.
I watched her open up and then, blow me, Walthorpe and the farm boy start throwing all the metal cheese moulds into the back of the Land Rover like they was due for scrap, sounded like a harrow chewing barbed wire. Anyway they moulds had only been made last month. Just then Dad arrives and I see him trying to talk to Walthorpe who ignores him. Then he points to the stores and Dad nods. Then he drives off with the same mad frenzy. Dad tells Marcia to lock up and he comes in looking real puzzled.
‘What’s going on, what did he say?’
‘Not much. Just that we’re not to make any more of those heart-shaped cheeses’
‘Well you never wanted to make them anyway. You should be pleased’
I had never thought dad should get involved with that rubbish. The formula was crap, the milk organic but only just, and the method? Well let’s just say MacDonalds would not have batted an eye. They could’ve made it in their sleep. I mean who in their right mind would want to give their Valentine a plastic cheese looking like raw liver?
‘Don’t get sarky with me girl. You know why I agreed to it. It was just to keep the work-force on through January instead of laying them off till March. Now I’m going to have to pay compensation for breaking their short contracts…’
‘Didn’t you tell him that?’
‘Some things, girl, you just have to let go. I knew I shouldn’t trust him…I was a fool to ignore it’
‘What’s he planning to do with they moulds?’
‘Scrap, he said’
A week earlier we’d had six hundred of they cheeses stacked like outsize German Lebkuchen waiting for custom. It weren’t no Christmas. It was horrible seeing those swollen hearts sweating in the dark at the back of the stores, not like Dad at all. We make good Cheddar and we get lots of prizes at agricultural shows. I couldn’t really understand why he’d agreed to put our reputation on the line with a short order for Johnny Walthorpe. The only good thing was that although Dad had agreed to make them, he said no to marketing or distribution; so maybe the damage was done. Nobody would need to know we’d had anything to do with them. All but eight had already gone.
On the whole I think Dad was relieved, but worried that he couldn’t get a handle on the why’s and wherefore’s. Dad deals with real farmers like hisself, not these tax-loss Johnnies whose farms are left to rot while their Statelys are rebuilt, and their driveways re-surfaced. Walthorpe had set up his so called ‘vintage organic’ cheese five minutes after his farm was registered ‘organic’. How do you get both vintage and organic that way? No wonder he sealed it in plastic after it was punched out with cookie cutters like fat biscuits. A cheese that can’t breathe, can’t age. Dad had to watch Walthorpe’s fleet of trucks bustlin about the country with ‘vintage organic’ written everywhere, when he’s spent his life trying to improve already good real cheese.
Walthorpe wasn’t the sort Dad could talk to. He couldn’t ask the proper questions, like ‘why have you changed your mind’ but had to content hisself with the ‘what’s and when’s’ instead. Dad may be slow but he’s used to being in charge, understanding things. I made him a fresh cafetière and put out a rock cake as well. You know what they say about a man and his stomach.
What I couldn’t understand was why Walthorpe had cancelled the operation just after the whole consignment had been bought. Didn’t make sense. We’d had a sudden phone call from the other side of the County and told they had to be delivered that same day, which was last Friday. Seeing as Valentine’s Day was yesterday that figured and Joel, the driver, had put on a clean shirt and managed to take the whole afternoon off, and stretch the delivery into Saturday when he was due to be off anyway. I had a hunch that the two was connected. So I went to find Joel. He didn’t seem too co-operative but went on cleaning his nails with a screwdriver, not looking up.
‘Joel, where did you take that consignment of hearts?’
‘Bridgewater way, leastwise in that direction…’
‘Look Joel I’m not bothered about the time it took, or what lay-by you parked in to snog Tracey just say where exactly…’
‘Cherington Manor first, then on from there… Cherington unloaded ninety two himself, and then gave me fifty quid to take the rest to Butlin’s Holiday camp. He said I was to say they was a gift for their Valentines Day bash from a nonymous well-wisher…He also told me about a place, St Valentin, where heart cheeses has allays bin…intrestin’ bloke Cherington…’
‘Lord Cherington?’ I could hardly believe it.
‘Yup’ No wonder Joel had kept it dark. Fifty quid bonus on Dad’s time was out-of-order. Still, we could think about that later.
This was big time fishy. You have to realise that Cherington is the cat’s pyjamas when it comes to cheese. He never has to exhibit. His entire output goes to the Palace, or to Fortnum’s. His is the real crème brulée. He even imports the linen from France to wrap the truckles and ages it for five years. What would Cherington want with a load of plastic cheese tasting like soap?
I decided not to tell Dad about Lord Cherington. It was hard enough that his Lordship knew who had made that cheese, let alone that the only time we had any contact with him was through jumped-up Johnny Walthorpe. Cherington is Dad’s God on two counts; first when it comes to cheese, and second on the Countryside Alliance. He reckons Cherington is one of the few gentry who understand country ways.
I need not have bothered keeping stumm.
That evening it was in all the papers; our bleedin’ cheese, worldwide! When we turned on the telly Dad went white. To start with he thought it was a plant to get him banged up for being so mouthy on the Countryside Alliance. It was much worse than that. It was first in the six o’clock headlines.
‘Today, both Houses of Parliament were evacuated due to a bomb scare.’
It turns out that heart-shaped ‘bombs’ had been left first thing outside MP’s offices in the House of Commons. Major panic! No wonder Walthorpe was going to destroy the evidence…There was pictures of all they politicians being shepherded out, and the Lords being escorted like a crocodile of vintage schoolboys across the bridge, with their fur and flaming gowns a’flyin. The Japanese tourists were snappin’ away while the bomb squad was shunting them back. There was serious interviews of MP’s nodding in that know-it-all way, sayin it was clearly an Al Quaeda plot because they timed it for Prime Minister’s Questions, being Wednesday… Bingo to the British Government.
Then someone reckoned that Al Quaeda had got together with the Mafia (it being the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) and there was pictures of the police in Palermo rounding up every Mustapha wid a moustacha…..with helicopters hovering…
Of course I knew it had to be Cherington and I was sure it was supposed to be a joke, a political joke; ninety two cheeses, ninety two hereditary peers. Work it out. Come to that, some of the MP’s seemed miffed they wasn’t important enough to get a personal heart-shaped explosive.
The bomb squad likewise took it po-faced. They marched off all the cheeses and x-rayed and scanned and reckoned by the weight it was semtex; but they couldn’t find no detonators. They did a controlled explosion on one and everyone agreed it tasted like semtex. Anyway one swallow does not make a summer so they took the lot off to a disused quarry and blew them up. At this point I realised Dad was crying… tears of laughter.
‘If they’re so keen on re-cycling why didn’t they use them to demolish the Dome’ he says. I decided not to tell him there were still 500 unaccounted for via the Butlin’s knees-up.
They are still running around trying to decide how the terrorists got into Parliament and why they chose the people they did. After they let them all back in they found three more under the Dispatch box. ‘ Sorry fellas, out again’ Then there’s Blair tryin to find his emergency face and swingin between ‘ Churchill’ and ‘Plum scared,’ and stroking his tie the way he does for the cameras, like it was a ferret. Loved it! Much better than Question Time.
You know the best bit of all, the hug yourself forever bit? I, Emmy Johnson, who yesterday wasn’t even a somebody, is the only person in the Country that knows the recipe. The last cherry on the top was added after.
In today’s local paper there’s a small paragraph which is going to put egg on everyone’s face. It says that Butlin’s have started this new tradition, the anti-Valentine Party…you send a present to the person you hate most in the entire world (hate being more common than love they say). All they cheeses were given out to start the ball rolling. No wonder some got three. Cherington must have got the intelligence early somehow. I can’t decide whether to show it to Dad. Best not probably; less he knows, less he’ll hang hisself. He’d never be able to keep it quiet.
No wonder Lord Cherington is God; wiping the smile off the Prime Minister and doing in the scam of the local Ponce. That’s what dad calls economy of effort, that is.
What I must do is get me brother Ed (he’s the local post-man) to drop they last eight at the Grange. He could drop them in a sack by the kitchen door. Better still, I’ll put a candle in the middle of each and leave a flickering line to Walthorpe’s oak portal after dark. I’ll light up his ‘Fetch someone!’ He’ll never know which local nobody might be a Somebody. It’s put paid to the ‘vintage organic’ that’s for sure.
My sweet secret is like chocolate on me tongue.
IMage By Myrabella – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6814083
Taken from Asymptote Journal. Quite wonderful poems in their use of searing language to speak of the unspeakable…. ( translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Haj)
Do Not Believe Me Were I to Talk to You of War
War preoccupies me. But I’m ashamed to write about it. I flagellate my metaphors then implore them. Pain makes me depict a bullet, after which I recede into depicting an emotional slap. I disembowel the words and the harakiri victims awake, all of them, and disembowel me.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war, because when I spoke of blood, I was drinking coffee, when I spoke of graves, I was picking yellow daisies in Marj Ibn Amer, when I described the murderers, I was listening to my friends’ giggles, and when I wrote about a burnt theatre in Aleppo, I was standing before you in an air-conditioned one.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war. Because each time I bombarded the city streets in a poem, the concrete would recline, the lamps would sway towards it, and the prophets would pass by in peace.
Whenever I imagined my father’s skin flayed in it, I could still touch him afterwards, safe and sound, with an embrace. And whenever I heard my mother’s wailing, she would lull me to sleep with an old song, and I would sleep like a baby.
But dreams are open cheques
Signed by a Hourani woman whose….Read More
I have always been fascinated by Gibran’s ‘source’. The chapters in The Prophet speak so universally, and have done for decades across all cultures, that one might assume his ‘Road to Damascus’ had been a detached spiritual encounter. Certainly the tone of his pronouncements, the universally loved sage, drenched in light, implied that.
Instead today, thanks to Brain Pickings and Maria Popova I find that it was the deepest personal passion, but that passion sacrificed by the object of it, ( Mary Elizabeth Haskell) for his own greater fulfillment and the eternal preservation of what they both ensured would stretch beyond them. I have always believed that love denied the narrower road, would spread above , and over all, in creative expression for love has to be expressed.
Since this site is entitled ‘Letters of Love’ it seemed imperative to share this quite literal exchange of letters. You can read the full article here:
A similar encounter for Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freemen was similarly described in a previous post on Brain Pickings. It is, for me, wonderful to encounter such confirmations of the explosive creativity of personal longing, because ‘love’ is the universal Creator, and so often diminished to ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfillment’ rather than the Souls’ search for Self.
This re-discovered interview merits re-exposure. Particularly in te light of a recent review ( of another book by a different author) rejected by Amazon ( without clarifying any reason) which may well have been this post! Tragic that the little one has to offer ( merely a spontaneous response) is now suspect because the world is full of people who abuse the liberty of reviewing for spurious reasons! It was good to rediscover this!
This post was sparked by a stimulating and taxing interview Philippa Rees conducted with the writer Vivienne Tuffnell The interview attempts to re-define the gulf between writers and readers in the way commercial algorithms define values for readers, blanking out the appearance of new green shoots.
This disrupted my sleep, in addition to lots of other stuff going on, so I tried stepping back for a wider perspective. No answers, only a few muddled reflections …
My generation, whose early years were without TV, needed to adjust to rapid periods of change, particularly the change from analogue to digital recording, – two entirely different metaphors. The true significance of this shift has not yet been absorbed by the general public. In a dissertation during a sabbatical film degree as a mature student in the mid-nineties, I quoted Jean Baudrillard who saw the forced silence of the masses no…
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“Really?” I said in a weak voice that imitated a woman who’d just been told that her mother-in-law was about to become her new roommate. Or that new federal regulations on sleep had been voted into…
Reposting this from my friend Shelley Sackier is also one way I add my hopes for us all, and good things in the coming year to all my facebook friends. A very happy Christmas from me to all. P
This poignant post ( and the song Tumbleweed) has a curious effect- on me- and I loved the juxtaposition of the images. Whiskey Girl and Nowhere Man remind me of a couple I know. They may recognise themselves if they find their way here!
[Several years ago I came upon this story of this married duo on Facebook. It seems that Amy had died from complications of her kidney disease and her partner Derrick killed himself a few days later. The entire drama of their demise took place in social media. The story still haunts me. Their Facebook page still exists at https://www.facebook.com/Nowhere-Man-and-a-Whiskey-Girl-32839047843/ -KHF]
It began with a post from Amy Ross on FACEBOOK.
AMY: Hey kids! Bad news! I died this morning and Derrick didn’t know how to tell you. I love you all and hope you go out and be nice to someone. Funerals are a bore so hopefully I don’t have one. Give Derrick some space… He stinks at this stuff so leave him be for now. Thanks for all the kindness… Please spread it around. -Whiskey
Juliya Pogrebinsky Listening to you was one of my absolute favorite things about…
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Spotting Genius Everyday
Spotting Genius- It’s Characteristics, its Temper and Significance.
Having spent much of my life marvelling at the explosive gifts of genius, and spotting a new example last week, in an unexpected discovery of Ruth Finnegan I thought to try and put a finger on the pulse that distinguishes it. Let me start with a draft poem. (I am no longer spending time with polishing- but hack out a brief economy since I have been accused of pointless perfectionism!).
Hunting The Shakespeare Snark- Genius on the Loose.
‘I stood on the shoulders of giants’ Newton said, in rare modesty.
He never meant elevation. A wider view.
The perspective from a vantage point
A Rugby scrum’s exuberance. To lift aloft a worthy Captain of endeavour
No, the devilling, sifting, panning has been done
Leaving gold gleaming, shining in the seams, the streams, the flowing thought of water.
The debris of collective labour was the reclamation heap
haphazard, strewn and half submerged
after others had discarded, and moved on.
Unbonded by design until he sat relaxed
to feel a gravitas, that binding law of all.
in dunes of trickling sand, apples fallen,
carved into caves by feeding wasps…
Feathers in Pisa
dancing curvatures of gentle challenge
for which poor Galileo once gave answer ‘eppur si muove Signore…’∗
Though he could not, after that.
Insight it was, not diligence.
Once flooded, diligence tramps along to make a way.
Solid stones of logic, a rope across a gorge;
Twists an equation, plaits a verse, sweeps a landscape, paints a play.
Dedication is maddened vision, urgent for corroboration and one gift of ‘Yes’.
You could be right. ‘How foolish not to think of that’.∗
The inner vision, coaxes out,
Extends a hand towards the growling bear of solitude.
Feeds an altered hunger, new, aroused
Blinded by shafted splintered light, genius ventures out.
Tentative on the turned new earth of change.
It may take his weight, mire his delusion, evaporate like morning mist burned off.
He has been bit: He must go on.
Once aroused, the hunger will persist for it can no longer feed on arid plains.
It may starve, endure a century of ridicule, grovel for a blade of green
Until the tungsten light secures one bowl to hold its liquid truth.
Genius is Creation’s nib, whittled and split to hold the ink
Of IN-sight. An inflammation that will spread, turn feverish,
dampen sheets, ignite a blaze, until submissive and all spent,
Sight brings servitude. Genius is the lowly ass
(As loaded as that one to Bethlehem)
Whose message is unwelcome
Puncturing the palm on the small and open hand of time.
∗All the same it moves ( the Earth round the sun)
∗ Thomas Huxley on reading The Origin of Species.
I might as well be hung for a lamb for I shall expand. The misuse of genius to describe the Big Personality, David Bowie, John Lennon, Steve Jobs and their ilk of theatrical exhibitionism, or inventive acumen (however wow or timely it may be) is the devaluing of an important concept- genius is not simply originality ( though that is one hallmark), not cleverness, not reading the easy drift of tide, but a porous availability to the rushing gale of urgent messages for Man. That is how I see genius-the minion who bridges the present and the future while the counter-crowd draws on the past, and trails its popular authority as the acid test of worth.
Traversing Mongolia without a yurt. The Journey of Genius.
Why Mongolia? Scarcely inhabited, barren of much comfort, no pre-ordained or clinker roads to determine a crossing, and decidedly cold and windswept at first glance.
That is the landscape faced by genius; genius impelled to tread out a vision.
Genius has become almost a dirty word, over-used, dubiously ascribed to success (which almost defines its misuse) and applied to easy competence, self-belief or aggrandisement by those who cannot tell the difference. Its over-use in such instances has melted its meaning to vapour.
So let’s start again. When I use the word I look for its tell-tale spoor, as I would if following a Yeti, Dinosaur or three toed sloth. It emerges unexpectedly from some cave of solitude; its first steps are tentative because this gait is entirely new, yet it gains confidence simply by treading into the unknown, never tempted to return. For it is armed, no, not armed, but infected by a disease, the disease of certainty. Of what is it certain?
Of valid vision.
The vision is undefined, except by the inadequacy of what pre-existed it. Space was made for it before it grasped a truth. That truth demands a language, but that language will be new, shaped to be understood by very few, those few will already know of the existent inadequacy, but have started to hunger for an alternative. They are ready. The soil of acceptance is high up a cold mountain, a small patch of possibility, and genius must plant there. To begin with that truth takes root roughly, grows raggedly since it has not grown before. It has no morphic field to resonate in the collective;yet. It will be battered by winds of opposition, uprooted by ridicule; but cuttings will be taken surreptitiously, to flourish in the hot houses of acclaim. Those cuttings will never thrive beyond a short span for they have been severed from the vision that gave them life.
Each new vision must forge its own language: For the lucky it might be a mathematical equation, for others it will be a dogged search through the debris of thought, or the clues left by ancient civilisations sifted with a sable brush; for the truly transported by vision it will be poetry, which is permitted greater freedom to remain half defined and stay closer to its fluid origins. It is always bigger than language; all language fits it ill.
Genius has been bitten, fatally bitten by an all encompassing, blood and brain suffusion, and its constructions match that holistic landscape. They tend to be complete in themselves, a fast link in a chain or compendia that like a tsunami take all with it. Homer and his Iliad/Odyssey, Milton with Paradise Lost and Found, Gibran’s The Prophet defining all elements of relationship, Dante and his tripartite Divine Comedy, Goethe with his ever renewed Faust, nothing excluded, nothing irrelevant. Genius may be difficult to define but not to recognise. (Unless you have a vested interest in denying it space) for it speaks below the brain, in the unity that is shared and instinctively recognised because it is already known.
That unity, from Faraday’s lines of force, Maxwell’s fields, Einstein’s space-time, is the testament of genius, for it has drunk deep on certainty and its rivulets spread uncontained, and a whole life may be given to directing and expanding that flow. Nobody understood relativity, but relativity took root and changed the whole of physics, but has taken time to invade biology through neuroscience, or sign a new contract with chaos theory.
The paramount signature of genius is its facsimile to its closest kin; madness- and obsession, but unlike madness the breastplate of certainty protects the genius. He/she has been gifted, and is shacked between the shafts of service to the vision, to the unique need for the new language, and to the obligation to impart and to safeguard it.
Promoting, or promulgating a vision may be the closest to its service a genius might get, but its specifics once imparted can be left to themselves, which brings me to the infection. What decides who will be bitten? Who will shine with that indefinable light?
I have given much of my life into seeking an answer to that question, the artesian wells of inspired ideas or creations must lie where the crust of collective thought is thin, for although genius is mostly a maverick solitary, the eruptions are often synchronous, as Farkas Bolyai wrote to his son Janos urging him not to delay publishing his work “When the time is ripe for certain things they appear at different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring”.
This seems to extend the ‘chosen’ to a pregnant collective urge, seeking out the vulnerable through which to impart new understanding.It begs many questions about the prevailing idea that brains emit rather than receive consciousness! It is more likely that brains are chosen by consciousness through which to express itself.
One thing is apparent: The belief that these great geniuses have somehow assembled new understanding by a thoughtful selection and rearrangement of cogent reclamation has to give way to perceiving that the understanding came first. Insight knew and structured the search for evidence or inspired the language by which to convey what was not yet clothed. Or in any state to be transmitted. The sheer scale of the creations of genius could never be undertaken by anything less than certainty.Academics and intellects will work on good ideas that will find funding, genius will take a job in a patent office in Berne, and reflect on the clock at the end of the road.
The book I reviewed in the last post, Ruth Finnegan’s Blank Inked Pearl I believe was one such ( which is why, although not flawless judged against other works, it will prove a classic- the imaginative construction of language to quote emotion where feeling is unquestioned- the raw substance and subject of language) and the next one I hope to review, though very different in language is equally mind-blowing. It uses the chisel of intellectual analysis to de-cypher a fallacy and proves every idea about Shakespeare false; but since our collective incarceration of the Bard is so (literally) entrenched it will have a harder time breaking through. The intellect was merely a tool but will be mistaken as THE argument. Another post dealt with Jose Diex Faizat’s extraordinary insight ( and examinations) of the harmonic intervals followed by evolutionary changes at the diminishing nodes of time’s tripartite (Trinitarian?) sub-divisions. More than forty years of a man’s life are not spent on an hypothesis. He examined the whole of creation , the structure of time as the harmonic intervals of celestial music. Another Symphonic Dance to the Music of Time. Or the reincarnation of Johannes Kepler?
Brave new ideas are sensitive
To antigen attack by the body politic.
Genius walking amongst us, walks unrecognised and lonely, but there are distinguishing stigmata as well as light emanating, and much labour (and little but labour) to reshape vision under whole new empires of conquest. Genius is about reaching for the All. Close to Divine.
Bis später. For Shakespeare.Maybe.
By me (w:User:pfctdayelise) (Image taken by me using Casio QV-R41) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Review of Black Inked Pearl- A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan
Invitation to Feast; A wholly- Holy Original Bouillabaisse Book.
I fell upon this extraordinary work as one might spot an encrusted amethyst on a walk in a dark wood, picked it up, licked, sleeved, polished it; Still its full depths await new light, full warmth. Any opinions offered are bound to be personal, since it calls out only the connections a reader might make. Further ones will emerge, since its richness is the boundless ocean of experience, not merely the author’s but the compendium of the human race, as explored in every myth, and the great echoing symphony of poets, their piping lines now a piccolo, now a Beethovenian thunder cloud.
I can think of no comparable work, but there are echoes of others, ‘By Grand Central Station’ that searing lamentation of loss, came to mind, Brief Encounter was there Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and Gerard Manley Hopkins sat like a goat on a rock and approved. Elizabeth Barrett Browning counted the ways, Eliot’s rose garden was inviting through an open gate; it was all of these, woven anew, since the literature we recognise has been transmuted and flows in our sparked recollections.
For this was a bouillabaisse, gathered ( as the author clarifies) in a succession of sequential dreams, transcribed in the dawn before their light faded. Who would edit the authority of a dream? Or seek to tailor it to the conventions of fictional structure? You take a dream as you must take this book, whole. As it comes. You do not choose your dreams, they choose you.
It masquerades as fiction, for that is the only shelf on which it might be shouldered, yet it is autobiography, and memoir, gathered as fresh salad in leaves of impressions, spiced with asides ( for the author is no great respecter of the straight face) but above everything it is the pure poetry of the Celt. Her Donegal childhood, its rain driven sleet, its barren beach, on which her first unsettled dream was denied, thread through this search for the Seeker, the Divine Lover, who is also the Sought, the Self; the journey we all make.
In that way it is the universal longing, tossed into the steaming cauldron of a single kitchen, the ingredients of one life lived, opened to itself, and playing with the words that might capture it, words toyed with, strung along, amputated, chopped with the sharp knife of humour, or permitted to fall on the floor in an excess of delight in their power.
No Celt can escape W.B. Yeats or Joyce, their inflections and their cornucopia of inventive language is in her blood and bones, as Catholicism is, with its spare and lean injunctions, a world of habited nuns, their admonishments, as well as tempered affections. Dreams are timeless, and this elderly oh still-so-young author gives us the ‘thyme of ever time’ in her passing through the ever-time of Adami and Yifa ( Adam and Eve) in Africa where ‘God was sitting up above, a snooze after nut an’ apple lunch, not payin’ heed’. Delicious disrespect! Yet in it more devotion than can be captured.
One longs to quote, but once begun where would it end? The ‘fragrant soughing song of boughs’ will tempt you into Eden, the ‘Rumi, ruminating Persian poet’, will reassure you’re on the right path, Gustave Dore’s illustrations of Dante with loom into focus, and the ‘journey through the snake oiled business world of persuasion’ might give pause. You will encounter Tygers burning bright, the lonesome wolf, and a gibbon at sunrise in this journey through yourself. The purpose of a review is to persuade a reader to read. Say too much and they might feel they do not need to.
I cannot say too much, nor nearly enough. This is a work that evokes all the glory of what man is capable of, and I feel I know this author intimately, for her celebration of the simplest beauty of the natural world as well as her affections for her dead dog Holly who ‘would never take to a new master, wouldn’t know her wants, her mistress-throw-stick likes, dislikes, that she must never catch the squirrel, didn’t want, don’t try to stop her, hurt back, fondle love her pull her ears and gentle…’ Anyone who has loved a dog will find it anew in her love for Holly.
There is a subterranean philosophy, which like the wise serpent stays hid, only to momentarily appear, so that its lessons might remain when the delight has been digested.
‘Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote’
‘And as the tides follow the moon, as the winter the autumn….as the earth rounds the sun…as man has ever turned to woman and woman to man’ ‘She saw the present in her past, the past in her present’
This work is the past and present of us all, hung in the sun, re-wrapped and new given. A truly phenomenal work that bears the hallmark of the gift through the chosen visionary, like Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet. An unbelievable mastery of language (and new inventions) and of love, free of coercion or sanctimony.
I am me …and that is how I want to be’
Oh what a wonderful gift, this book! Before it becomes embossed with the word ‘classic’ find it, as I did, serendipitously, and rejoice.
There is something incredibly magical about the transition from October to November. And by magical I mean mostly spine-chillingly creepy. I cannot begin to keep count of all the happenings around …