Friday, September 16, 2005

Ich bin ein Berliner

And here is the news. . .

I well recall the controversy when The Gaurdian last changed its design – what was it, ten years ago?. After all the hoo-hah everyone quickly got used to it. So it will be with their latest design. The size, which I heard Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger refer to as a half-Berliner, feels and looks good to me. Truth be told it’s very rare for me to buy a newspaper during the week. Mostly I do my news-grazing online in between mouthfuls of cornflakes and Earl Grey in the mornings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Holy Repressed Costumed Vigilante. . .

Batman: Bruce Wayne Fugitive

Although I thought Frank Miller’s Dark Knight sequence was a brilliant re-setting of Batman, I have to say that whenever I dip into my children’s comic collection I find the thin-lipped grimness of it all a bit too much to take.

There’s a part of me that still hankers after the Adam West-era Batman or those early Bob Kane strips. This everyday story about contaminated heroin on the streets of Gotham with an over-aching conspiracy line was just a bit too predictable for its own good.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Love Is. . .

Penguin Modern Poets 10
Adrian Henri
Roger McGough
Brian Patten

It was 1968. Hey Jude was playing endlessly on my sister’s blue Dansette record player and memories of Yellow Submarine, which I’d seen that summer, were still fresh and vivid when into our classroom came a timid-looking student teacher carrying a copy of The Narrow Road To The Deep North.

For a while several of us were beguiled by these ancient Japanese Haiku poems; oiky working class Basho street kids lost in images of old frogs jumping into rippling pools and the like. But when we began to lose concentration, that canny student teacher pulled out a copy of The Mersey Sound and whipped us back in line.

The cover design was a psychedelic beacon flashing at the outer edge of our black and white lives. The times were polarised and solarised and this small book was impossibly exotic and esoteric. At the time, the poems by Roger McGough were the ones we all liked best. “Mother the wardrobe is full of Infantrymen” and “Icarus Allsorts” had a slightly scary Cold War / CND edge that brought with them the merest whisper of the protest that clamoured on the periphery of our youthful consciousness. More immediately perhaps, the liberal sprinkling of comic book characters mentioned by all three poets certainly helped win friends and influence people in class.

So much so that when it came to writing down a list of the books I wanted for Christmas and birthday, The Mersey Sound was on the top. At the time, although I didn’t know then, the book was something of a poetic phenomenon. Penguin had printed 20,000 but it quickly sold out, requiring a reprint. During 1969 that slim volume was as well read as any of my Marvel and DC comics, space race enclyopedia or the Dr. Who annuals that never quite lived up to the show itself.

Of course I didn’t “get” most of what The Mersey Sound was about but that didn’t matter. It made me feel somehow connected to, well, whatever it was that I thought was going on out there in that wider, long-haired world that I intuitively knew I wanted to be part of.

By the time I was in my teens Adrian Henri’s poems were my favourites and they remain so today.

Endlessly self-referential and archaically hip, they gather up the smell and feel of the period in a declamatory whirlwind; each one a glittering prize captured from the counter-culture crown. They may sound old and well-worn now but they are undeniably authentic little gems. His poem, “Me”, essentially a list of his heroes at the time, was for me a literary equivalent of trying to name the faces from the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s.

The only ones on Henri’s list I knew when I first read it were The Beatles and Manfred Mann. With each passing year I began to bump into more and more of those immortalised names like so many notches on the bedpost of my cultural awakening.

Flashing forward to the 90s and I’ve just met a woman called Debra at a party. We are introduced by a mutual friend and get talking. Somehow poetry comes into the conversation. “One of my favourite collections is The Mersey Sound” she tells me and in that moment I knew my life was going to change forever.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

ToiletS humour

Well, I don't know if this will catch on or not but Rupert Loydell has at least shown willing.

He writes. . .

betjamen and loydell? now im scared. very scared. :) [my next tome will be vast - destined for yr booksheld not yr toilet....] our bog has steve bell's IF; the small editions of the house book, art book etc; ted hughes CROW; ts elito's THE WASTE LAND; an edition of cartoons from St Trinian's. and some toilet paper. hoorah.

It seems appropriate to point out that ts eliot is an anagram of toilets and even more spookily I had to throw away my copy of Peter Ackroyds biography of Eliot after leaving it on the floor in the book only to discover that one of our cats had peed over it during the night. Cats eh? Who'd have thought it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

What's It All About?

Prompted in part by Barrie Sillar’s recent query regarding me putting up a picture of the contents of my CD and book shelves, I thought it might it might be good to put the fun back in fundament and supply a weekly picture of what’s being read when I visit the toilet!

Now I realise that this might be just a touch too much demystification of the online diarist and that for many the notion of knowing what someone is reading whilst, ahem, going through the motion might be just too much detail. Yet I’m sure I can’t be the only one who seeks to improve my mind of a morning with the aid of a tome or two.

In my experience the best kind of bog book is nearly always a slim volume of poetry. Unlike weighty blockbusters books of poetry lend themselves to easy browsing - and if the worst comes to the worst and the paper runs out (or more likely in our house being shredded by a pesky ginger cat) well at least you’re not entirely helpless.

Now it may be a flash in the pan but please feel free to send me details of your reading material (no samples please!) of poetry or any other reading matter, complete with a photograph and appropriate commentary and I’ll post them up in the blog.

Grand Opening Offer - Two For The Price Of One!

Summoned By Bells A Verse Autobiography by John Betjeman
Familiar Territory by Rupert Loydell