Quentin’s Big Adventure

q1Illustrated children’s book (about 5 years) recently released – paperback or Kindle.First page:

“Quentin was a bit fed up.

He spent his days on the bottom shelf of a messy room. Nobody had picked him up and spoken to him for ages.

He didn’t have a very good memory. Sometimes he would decide to do something interesting. Then, before he got round to doing it, he forgot what he wanted to do. But he did remember that nobody had spoken to him for ages and ages, so he was fed up with sitting on the bottom shelf on his own, where nothing interesting ever happened.

Even though he had a bad memory, he could remember that his name was Quentin. He remembered that nobody ever called him Quentin. They called him ordinary, uninteresting names, like Mr. Bear. That didn’t seem right at all. So, after thinking about it for a long time, he decided to go outside and See The World.

He would have gone earlier, but he wasn’t quite sure where The World actually was. This time, he was so fed up he decided to go outside anyway and see if it just turned up.

He pulled on his blue bag, with some useful things inside, and followed a sign that said “station”.”

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Reunions are suddenly big business. The next telephone call will not be to sell you double glazing, but your own past. Should you buy it?

Reunions used to be simple things. They were organised by schools and universities who needed funds to balance their books or restore the crumbling West Administrator, who hoped to put their inky fingers in the pockets of Old Nostalgics rendered receptive by the site of those adolescent initials still carved in the tapioca. The experience ranged from depressing to hilarious, often simultaneously, and once was usually enough. But that has all changed.

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If you think rap is too violent read this (or get a slap)

It is a cliché to argue that rap is nothing more than a noisy, misogynistic,
homophobic rant. But compare it with the cultural inheritance of the Anglo-Saxon
groups. This is from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowolf (Faber 1999), which
includes macho advice on the low value of life and the importance of having a
reputation in the hood:

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wot is poetry? (three answers for the price of one)

1 -The Conundrum of the Workshop

What is the difference between a good poem, a bad poem and something which is not poetry at all?

There is no simple answer, but there are a few simple responses which can render the question less problematical. First, it would help to try to see the matter in historical terms. Each succeeding age has its own notions of what poetry is for and how it should work. It has its own view of what is real or valuable, and seeks to find new ways to express itself.

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Does poetry have rules?

Does poetry have rules?


But yes.

But no.

Each generation or new movement breaks away from old routines, habits and restrictions to create a new way of making poetry. That is how we develop and keep it fresh. Often,
readers or audiences will not know how to deal with this new wave. They don’t know how it works or how to appreciate it. They don’t know ‘the rules’.

It is, of course, a poet’s job to create the taste by which they expect to be appreciated. If
they write something strong enough they succeed and the public will learn. Then they
fashionable public will demand nothing but the new stuff and in no time at all it becomes
the new orthodoxy. So we get bored with the same old stuff and some new radical voice will break away again. Ted Hughes is a school syllabus, Che Guevara is a face on a T-shirt, Johnny Rotten advertises butter and we need something new. Something of our own.

Rules are merely the expectations of the most recent majority. By the time they form a
majority they are already out of date. So poetry does not flourish by keeping ‘rules’ in that

What it does have is discipline.

Some years ago I lent a theatre space to a group of anarchists. They wanted to put on Rob
Newman to raise funds for their work and I was happy to see the show (and take a
percentage plus the bar profits). The uninformed, associating anarchy with chaos, thought
they would wreck the place. In fact, their philosophy was that society would not need to
impose rules on us if we behaved with self-discipline and consideration. So they kept order, tidied up afterwards and asked for a dustpan and brush to make the place spotless. Had they been sloppy, lazy, self-indulgent or disorganised it would not have worked.

Poems work by control. They need structure, organisation, editing. What kind of order you
impose is up to you. If you use some new principle or style we don’t recognise or
understand you’ll have to show us how to read it. Or wait until you’re dead before we come
round to it – like G.M. Hopkins. You can borrow a traditional format or genre or set of ‘rules’ or not. Your choice. What the words must have is some kind of power or tension or interest or effect. A poem is not a diary for your therapist or a jigsaw puzzle with no straight edges. It is not a piece of tired old elastic with no spring in it. If it is just self-indulgent it needs rules to make it behave.

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Fruit entry one

Risible and risqué, the banana is never safely handled. They are fundamental to smoothies, but lost Smooth David the leadership of the Labour Party when he was caught like a chimp limply hanging it from his wrist and mocked in the morning editions. You can’t take anything seriously when associated with it, and a banana republic is always ignorable, yet bananas fuelled the longest running trade war in Europe. Unexpectedly, they are produced even in Iceland but nowhere can they be safely be stored in a trouser pocket. Banana Equivalent Dose is a formal measure of radiation exposure. Avoid them. More warnings will follow, kum quat  may. Beware the wrath of grapes.

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The bicycle in Irish Literature

There is, of course, famously, the way atomic theory is explained in Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. Whizzy little particles move between the pumping buttocks of a postman and his faithful saddle over years of active service. It has consequences.

Lugubriously, Becket’s Molloy learns to balance handlebars and crutches, resting head on hands and becoming the runner-over of an already moribund mongrel on the end of an old lady’s leash. In Camier and Mercier, the pedals rise and fall. There are people in Beckett’s world “who could on no account resist a bicycle” and it seems that on http://www.samuel-beckett.net/JoysOfCycling.html you can learn how the bicycle is an erotic sign of hope. On, on to Endgame, by way of www.toutfait.com where we are again informed that “the bicycle tends to arouse sexual desire” – indeed, on page two there are what he calls “a posteriori reflections”, although I am not sure that has to do with postmen at all. And in any case, they start bringing Dylan Thomas into it (Me and My Bike) and we haven’t the space for all that.

Then it becomes academically adventurous, with the bicycle in Beckett functioning like a plot on www.english.fsu.edu/jobs/num06/Num6Menzies.htm where “plot in Watt becomes a device for moving characters”. Plotwatt indeed. Descartes, according to www.bopsecrets.org/rexroth/essays/beckett.htm considered an angel to be a man riding a bicycle. What he considered a woman on two wheels it does not say, but it is likely that angels deny themselves intimate contact with saddles, although Beckett went cycling in France in June 1926, and by the time he rose triumphant from the Loire valley he must have exchanged the odd atom or two. When he was stabbed in Paris in ’38 he was helped to the hospital by a woman on two wheels.

Now, I’m sure there are journeys galore on mere two wheeled machinery in English, but is it only in Irish and French that the bicycliness gets transcended and become metaphysical? I have no record of Yeats being moved by pneumatic tyres, although www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/ideals.html records a conversation between himself and important others about whether the bicycle is susceptible to poetic treatment and to this day you can book a two wheeled tour to visit his grave – just ask Google.

But who has the time for the randomness of such exploration. Better by far to rely on the abstruse knowledge of blogees. There is Trevor Howard’s Love and Summer, as I recall. Lucy Gault. A Francophile tried to point us towards Alfred Jarry. What else can you tell me out there?

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