A Poem for a Thursday #70

Poems on the Underground is a project that was started in 1986 by American writer Judith Chernaik.
It is designed to bring poetry to a wider audience. The poems are displayed in ad space on the trains and are changed a few times a year. The program has been very popular and has been duplicated in cities around the world. Today's poem is one I saw on an Underground train when I was in London last week. Ciaran Carson was an Irish poet and novelist. I had never heard of him before (a constant refrain on Thursdays) but I liked this and will be reading more of his poetry.

I fear the vast dimensions of eternity.
I fear the gap between the platform and the train.
I fear the onset of a murderous campaign.
I fear the palpitations caused by too much tea.

I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee.
I fear the books will not survive the acid rain.
I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane.
I fear the Jabberwock, whatever it might be. 

I fear the bad decisions of a referee.
I fear the only recourse is to plead insane.
I fear the implications of a lawyer's fee.

I fear the gremlins that have colonized my brain.
I fear to read the small print of the guarantee.
And what else do I fear? Let me begin again. 

Ciaran Carson

London, I Still Love You

Even in the rain. Even when my husband gets the flu. Even when we don't do half the things we planned. Even when it is cold and grey. Because a rainy day in London is still better than almost any other day.

But yes, my poor husband got the flu 36 hours after we arrived in London. Those evil airplane germs did him in. We still had fun though. He did a few things with me in the morning and then went back to the hotel and rested a bit in the afternoons and then came out to dinner. He felt bad about being out and about while sick but he had to eat and we tried to do outdoor things where he wasn't in too close contact with people. The weather did not always cooperate though. We have been to London a number of times and this is the first time we have not had good weather. Oh well, it had to hit sometime. It still was warmer than at home and things were blooming. That was very exciting. We won't see blooms at home until about April and in London, there were all kinds of flowers. It must make winter feel so short.

I went to even more bookstores than usual, partly because of the rainy weather and partly because it was an easy thing to do when my husband was back at the hotel. I will do a separate post about the books I bought. I mainly bought secondhand books, as usual. I wanted so many in Waterstones but they cost more and I can more easily order them online. After all, I did have to fit all my purchases in my suitcase. It is not like I could buy everything I saw though I wanted to. I started taking photos of all the books I wanted and hopefully, I can slowly buy them. I am in continual amazement at how much better bookstores are in the U.K.  I have decided I am doing my life all wrong. What I really want is to live in a lovely flat somewhere in the U.K. and work as a bookseller. I will be reasonable here. I don't have to live in London and I don't have to work at Persephone Books. Any charming bookshop in a charming city will do. Is that too much to ask?

These are just a few photos I took on my phone. I haven't downloaded the photos from my camera yet. I didn't take as many photos as usual because of the rain and because we didn't go to as many new places. I am sure I will have another post or two though, simply because I love talking about London.

Meanwhile, I will be researching flats and bookselling jobs for my dream (impossible) life.

A Poem for a Thursday #69

Photo by Dmitry Grigoriev on Unsplash

I have been reading A Vicarage in the Blitz:  The Wartime Letters of Molly Rich 1940-1944. I love it and thoroughly recommend it. Here is what she says about the poems of W. B. Yeats.

The other day I took two hours off to read the poems of W B Yeats. His poems are lovely but need taking in small doses. I think this is true of all poems. After all, people only write poems because they must. There is no economic reason because it seldom pays. They write because something inside them makes them do so and one gets a glimpse right down to their thought life. Yeat's mind is like a lovely dark etching with bits of bright colour in oil among the darkness. Have you ever thought how odd it is that a great many people may do the same thing every day, but their inner lives are different because they all think differently about the same thing. When you read a lot of one man's poems, you have in a small measure entered inside him. 

I shared one of his poems a while ago but after reading that I had to share another one. I love the connections between the different things I read.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the crickets sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.  

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats

A Poem for a Thursday #68

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Tony Harrison is an English poet, translator, and playwright. Much of his poetry is inspired by his working-class childhood. He said that he "wanted to write the poetry that people like my parents might respond to." This poem is so sad but so beautiful.

Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call. 

Long Distance II
Tony Harrison

Reese shared a soliloquy from HenryVII this week.

Reading Recently//Nonfiction

I have been reading a lot of nonfiction lately. All too often, people think of nonfiction as difficult to read or demanding but much of it is engaging and engrossing. One of my favorite books of the year so far (I know it is only the beginning of February. But still. A Favorite.) is Dear Mr. Bigelow by Frances Woodsford. I absolutely loved it and think all of you should read it. It is a collection of some of the weekly letters Frances Woodsford wrote from 1949-1961 to the father of one of her friends. He was a wealthy American whom she never met and yet their friendship became an essential part of her life.

Frances Woodsford wrote about everything; her work at the Public Baths in Bournemouth, her travels around the country, her sometimes annoying brother, her friends, her car, redecorating her bedroom, the clothes she made. Her letters are a perfect picture of her life in post-war England. The letters are funny and touching and guaranteed to make you wish you had a friend like her. Mr. Bigelow's letters to her were not preserved which is a great pity. It would be such fun to read both parts of the correspondence. I love reading volumes of letters and diaries because they give such a wonderful window into a life. Dear Mr. Bigelow was a joy. I have no quotes to highlight because I gulped it down with no consideration for a future review. I enjoyed it that much. You will too.

I bought Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks at Barnes & Noble a while ago. I was surprised to find it since I have read mentions of him on various British book blogs but I have never encountered his books in the U.S. before. Here is a description of the purpose of the book from the first chapter.

Books, like landscapes, leave their marks on us. Sometimes these traces are so faint as to be imperceptible--tiny shifts in the weather of the spirit that do not register on the usual instruments. Mostly, these marks are temporary:  we close a book, and for the nest hour or two the world seems oddly brighter at its edges; or we are moved to a kindness or a meanness that would otherwise have gone unexpressed. Certain books, though, like certain landscapes, stay with us even when we have left them, changing not just our weathers but our climates. The word landmark is from the Old English landmearc, meaning 'an object in the landscape which, by its conspicuousness, serves as a guide in the direction of one's course. John Smith, writing in his 1627 Sea Grammar, gives us this definition: "A Land-marke is any Mountaine, Rocke, Church, Wind-mill or the like that the Pilot can now by comparing one by another see how they beare by the compasse.' Stong books and strong words can be landmarks in Smith's sense--offering us a means both of establishing our location and of knowing how we 'beare by the compasse'. Taken in sum, the chapters of Landmarks explore how reading can change minds, revise behaviour and shape perceptions.

Macfarlane examines various nature writers and their works.  He also includes a glossary of nature words used in the U.K. Some of them are gloriously wonderful words. If you enjoy nature, language, and wonderful writing then this is the book for you.

On my coffee table right now I have The Outermost House:  A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. I haven't started it yet but I have high hopes. I love the Cape and it is described as a classic of American nature writing. I'll get back to you after I read it.

What nonfiction books do you recommend?