Archive for writing

Poem: ‘Don’t let the Child out’

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , , on May 8, 2010 by echostains

I was watching a film the other day.  There was a burial scene.  These words were spoken as the ashes were sprinkled.  They’re from The First epistle of  Paul to the Corinthians, Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, verse 11

When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known.

It got me thinking about what is childish and what isn’t.  As we get older we are expected to behave in an adult way of course, but our emotions can still be child like.  We know this, so have to suppress them.  We are encouraged from time to time not to take ourselves too seriously and to be more childlike (but not too much..)   This poem is about this suppression:-

Don’t Let the Child out

 

Freeze up the feelings to stop the drip dripping,

Filter the words and stop them from slipping

Bite back the anger that’s burning inside

Bury emotions you’re trying to hide. 

Lie to yourself and pretend you don’t care

Dodge from the spotlight of life’s tragic stare.

Just rise above it – prove you are better

Follow this formula down to the letter 

Only wear adult size stiff upper lip

Try to be sensible – don’t let this slip

Even when really you just want to shout

Stop all from seeing you let the child out.

 

© Lynda M Roberts 2010

Image by the imaginative children’s photographer Ann Geddes.  This image here

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Poem: Drowned in sound

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on March 1, 2010 by echostains

I wrote this poem a few days ago.   I tried to get an unusual rhythm going with the meter.  The subject is abstract of course.   It concerns the nagging doubts and fears that you don’t want to discuss, address  or give name to.  It’s as if by doing so, they may become more real.  Though by suppressing them it makes them even more nebular and scary.  You can’t win really.  But the point is that they don’t win.

A Crab Nebula - or a Black Hole

  

I start to sieve silt from my crowded house

There’s too many ghosts in this soft machine

They vie for attention

And beg for a mention

I feel myself helpless to contravene

 

 The constant drip drip of these nagging thoughts

 They  won’t let me be – they just want their say

They whisper and rustle

They bluster and bustle

  I try to submerge and  keep them at bay

 

They beg to address me – engage me in chat

 They just want importance. They want some form

 They long to break free

 To impersonate  me

 But can I hold out and weather this  storm?

 

 They quite rightly sense that I can’t set them loose

 They  pinch and creep up especially at night

 I keep  drowning them out

 As they scream and they shout

 I won’t let them out and cross into the light.

©L. M. Roberts

 

My other poetry experiments;

Haiku: Three for March

Her Facebook has it

Finding the words

Poem: Last Impression

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , on February 25, 2010 by echostains

I’m beginning to enjoy these little poetry experiments.  I might be the only one, but I don’t care!   I like playing about with meters and seeing what happens.  Here’s one that sprang up, probably influenced from writing about that poor old ice man.

 

There’s a chill in his gaze 

Just a frosty hint

And the breath from his mouth

Smells of Glacier mint

And his earlobes are red

As they cringe to his head

As they freeze what was said

Like a ghosts  footprint.

© L. M. Roberts

My other poetry experiments;

Haiku: Three for March

Drowned in sound

Her Facebook has it

Finding the words

Titus Groan: Keda

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by echostains

Alas no image of Keda

I’ve not wrote about my re reading of Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake for a while.  But that doesn’t mean that I’ve haven’t been reading it.  I have and am very nearly finished the first book and shall be soon into Gormenghast itself.   But as far as the writing concerned, I am up to the chapter about Titus’s wet-nurse Keda.

This woman seems to alien compared to the other characters – even the Dwellers.  I think this is down to her having a kind of vitality and beauty.  Beauty in the Gormenghast region seems very scarce. The Dwellers have it for such a short time before premature ageing.  They have a hard life and cluster around the bottom of the mountain – like they have been  cast out of Shangri la..

Keda has a past, and she’s running away from it.  Her ancient husband died and she had to choose between two lovers.  She is glad to go to Gormenghast.

With the dark cloth hanging to her ankles and caught in at the waist with the thong of jarl root: with her bare legs and feet and her head still holding the sunset of her darkened day, she was in strange contrast to little Nannie Slagg, with her quick jerky walk, her dark satin dress, her black gloves, and her monumental hat of glass grapes.  Before they descended the dry knoll towards the archway in the wall, a sudden gutteral cry as of someone being strangled, froze the old womans blood and she clutched at the strong arm beside her and clung to it like a child.  Then she peered towards the tables.  They were too far for her to see clearly with her weak eyes, but she thought she could make out figures standing and there seemed to be someone crouching like a creature about to spring…….

Keda had not long ago buried her baby.  She came willingly to be Titus’s nurse, though her first meeting with the little boy was fraught with sorrow:-

Keda stared down at Titus.  Tears were in her eyes as she watched the child.  Then she turned to the window.  She could see the great wall that held in Gormenghast.  The wall that cut her own people away, as though to keep out a plague; the walls that barred her view the stretches of arid earth beyond the mud huts where her child had so recently been buried…..

The relationship between the wet-  nurse from the Dwellings becomes increasingly unbalanced as the story unfolds.  It seems that Keda has two babies to look after (the other being Nannie Slagg who becomes more and more reliant on her).  Meanwhile:-

Titus had stolen the limelight and Keda’s indifference was soon forgotten, for he was beginning to cry, and his crying grew and grew in spite of Mrs Slagg dangling a necklace in front of his screwed up eyes and an attempt at singing a lullaby from her half-forgotten store.  She had him over her shoulder, but his shrill cries rose in volume.  Keda’s eyes were still upon the wall, but of a sudden, breaking herself away from the window, she moved up behind Nannie Slagg and, as she did so, parted the dark brown material from her throat and freeing her left breast, took the child from the shoulders of the old woman.  Within a few moments the little face was pressed against her and struggles and sobs were over.  Then as she turned and sat at the window, a calm came upon her as from her very centre, the milk of her body and the riches of her frustrated love welled up and succoured the infant creature in her keeping.

What a tender moment this is between baby and Keda – the only mother Titus will ever know.

Titus Groan – Climb upon my knee Nannie Slagg

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by echostains

Nannie Slagg played by June Brown in the BBC adaptation

The reading is now 18 chapters ahead – the writing is following at a slower pace.  In this chapter we get another glimpse into Fuchsia’s bedroom;-

The sunlight was streaming through the eastern turrets and was lighting the Carvers battlements and touching the sides of the mountain beyond.  As the sun rose, thorn tree after thorn tree on Gormenghast mountain emerged in the pale light and became a mass until the whole shape was flattened into a radiant jagged triangle against the darkness.  Seven clouds like a group of naked cherubs or sucking-pigs, floated their plump pink bodies across a sky of slate.  Fuchsia watched them from her window sullenly.  Then she thrust her lower lip forward.  Her hands were on her hips.  Her bare feet were quite still on the floorboards

‘Seven,’ she said, scowling at each.  ‘There’s seven of them.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  Seven clouds.’

It is curious that Peake uses the term ‘sucking-pigs’ instead of ‘suckling’, but I love the juxtaposion of them against the grey slate.  It’s not often we get a glimpse outside Gormenghast.  The battlements being  the hallowed ones used by the lucky  Bright Carvers who have earned the privilege to walk them.

Fuchsia loves to scrawl on her wall.  Scribblings which mean something only to herself.  She is superstitious too in her counting of clouds, rather like we count magpies – I can only get up to 10 myself and the tenth one is very dubious (being a bird you cannot miss), I talk of the children’s programme ‘Magpie’ now, popular many years ago.

But back to Nannie Slagg whose chapter this is.  When Fuchsia is trying to remember what the seven ‘clowds’ are for, old Nannie Slagg is preoccupied:-

Fuchsia stamped her foot and peered into the poor old nurses face.  Nannie Slagg made little noises in her throat which was her way of filling in time and then said “would you like some hot milk my precious?  Tell me now because I am busy, and I must feed your mother’s white cats.  Just because I’m of the energetic system, my dearheart, they give me everything to do.  What did you ring for?  Quickly, quickly my caution.  What did you ring for?’

 

Demanding a big breakfast, Nannie is dispatched to prepare it.  Nannie is an old woman – just how old? we do not know, only that she has been a Nannie for a long long time so was probably Lord Groan’s too.  What  we do know is that she is very small, ancient and of a nervy disposition.  She is prone to tears and much wringing of hands.  Yet both the Groan children are in her charge and she does take her duties seriously, even though she is always compaining about her ‘poor weak heart’.  In her haste to prepare the girl’s breakfast, she collides with strange Dr Prunesquallor.  This gives us an insight into the old nurse’s thoughts and feelings:-

‘Well, well, well, well, well, ha, ha, ha,, if it isn’t dear Mrs Slagg, ha, ha, ha, how very, very, very dramatic,’ said the doctor, his long hands clasped before him at his chin, his high-pitched laugh creaking along the timber ceiling of the passage.  His spectacles held in either lens the minute reflection of Nannie Slagg.

The old nurse had never really approved of Doctor Prunesquallor.  It was true that he belonged to Gormenghast, as much as the tower itself.  He was no intruder, but somehow, in Mrs Slagg’s eyes he was definitely ‘wrong’.  He was not her idea of a doctor in the first place, although she could never have argued why.  Nor could she pin her dislike down to any cause.  Nannie Slagg found it very difficult to marshal her thoughts at the best of times, but when they became tied up with her emotions she became quite helpless.  What she felt but had never analysed was that Dr Prunesquallor rather played down to her and even in an obtuse way made fun of her.  She had never thought this, but her bones knew it.

Poor old Nannie Slagg.  She is surrounded by larger than life characters.  Her whimperings are drowned out by the whinnyings of Prunesquallor, the monosymbolic barking of Lady Groan and the crushing caresses of Fuschia.   Out of all the characters in Gormenghast, Nannie Slagg is probably the most ordinary.  She might not be able to express herself vocally, being overshadowed by one and all.  But she does have feelings.  She feels the weight of responsibility at times, feels helpless at other.  When the mood strikes her she can be full of her own self-importance.  She cries a lot, is frightened a lot, sucks her knuckles a lot and loves babies so much that she could ‘eat them up!’

Nannie Slagg is coerced into sitting upon the long bony knee of Prunesqaullor.  I always find this image very surreal.  How long is the Doctor’s knee?  He is squatting at the time too.  How small is Nannie Slagg? and how frightened she must be of this strange man!  He does his best to put her at her ease though, by talking about her favorite subject:-

‘Do you like babies my dear Mrs Slagg?’ asked the doctor, shifting the poor woman on to his other acutely bended knee-joint and stretching out his former leg as though to ease it.  ‘Are you fond of the little creatures, taken by and large?’

‘Babies?’ said Mrs Slagg in the most animated tone that she had so far used.  ‘I could eat the little darlings, sir, I could eat them up!’

Nannie Slagg is very maternal, which offsets her character against the Countess.  Slagg is the only mother Fuschia has ever really known.  But Fuchsia is now 17 years of age and she has no friends – just her old nurse who she has now outgrown.  The teenager does love her old nannie but she does get frustrated with her times:-

‘Can’t wait until doomsday – you’re so SLOW!’

This is the note left on Fuchsia’s door.  She has given up waiting for her breakfast.

HERE is the wonderful website of Gormenghast

Lot’s of information about Peake and his work at Peake Studies

Authors I have read – Thomas Hardy

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by echostains

‘The Authors I have read category only has one criterion – and that is I must have read at least more than one of their books.

The maddening Captain Troy

Of course, there are some books by this author I haven’t read yet like ‘Under the Greenwood tree’, and ‘A a pair of blue eyes’ but no doubt I shall get around to them.  It is my intention to critique some of these books properly when I get time.  In the meantime – some brief comments and my preferences, in order;

which is movie is the best though?

Far from the madding crowd  Definitely my favorite book, I have read this lots of times and am always thrilled with it.  I just like everything about this tale of vanity and patience.  Bathsheba has to be one of the vainest heroines ever!  We can excuse her age however.  Captain Troy is a bad un, but did he really love poor Fanny Robin?  He did turn up for the church so I suppose he must have.  All Hardy’s books have many layers and many morals, so each time you read them you find yet another aspect that you hadn’t even thought of before. Gabriel Oak is the real hero in the story though, winning out in the end.  I have also watched two films of this book.  I will contrast and compare these later, as each has some to commend them.

thomas_hardy the mayor of casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge  Another brilliant tale about a man who sells his wife at a fair – and whose crime comes back to haunt him.  What a curious tale this is – lots of twists and turns.  I think that there is a moral in there somewhere (like in all Hardy’s tales) .  His future and past are dependant on each other.

TESS

Tess of the D Urbavilles  Although this book is loved, I  still prefer Far from the Madding Crowd.  The poor Durbeyfields are misinformed by the local vicar that they are related to the noble family of d’urberville.  the misunderstanding that ensues from this ends of course in tragedy.  This story has many layers: Angel Clare and Alec d’Urberville seem to exchange places throughout the book in goodness and badness.  Tess herself, I can never make my mind up about.  Is she weak, or willful  or just a victim of circumstance?

Jude the obscure – the DVD is good too

Jude the Obscure  This book is so well written, but heavy and so sad and tragic it made me cry.  I can’t let that stop me from making it number 4 though.  The tale of a man Jude Fawley who educates himself, marries unwisely and falls in love with his cousin Sue Brideshead who is married.  The pair run off together and live in ‘sin’.  The tragic end to this story still shocks me.  The film is true to the story too – but painful to watch.

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

The Woodlanders  I read this book for the first time last year – it made a pleasant read.  A woman plans to marry her childhood sweetheart, but finds that through education, she (Grace Melbury) has now risen above him.  Her father makes her marry the Doctor Edred Fitzpiers who turns out to be another bad one.  Another tragic tale of unrequited love and sacrifice.  And that is what is so good about Hardy – he does not have conventional happy endings – at best it is more a case of settling for, or making the most of what is left  (well, Far from the Madding crowd was I suppose)

Wessex Tales – another book I only read recently.   Nice gentle little stories about rural life, with lots of humour and observation.  A few of these have been made into plays or films.  I believe there is going to a film about them collectively – I shall look forward to that!

Titus Groan: Lord Sepulchrave – why the long face?

Posted in Flashback challenge, Gormenghast journey with tags , , , , , , , on February 1, 2010 by echostains

sepulchrave played by Ian Richardson in the BBC adaptation

This chapter gives us a better idea of the melancholy Sepulchrave, the man and his world as he starts his morning in the Stone Hall, where his ancestors have before him.  The raised table gives him a good view of the refectory and its ancient ceiling:-

On either side and running the entire length, great pillars prop the painted ceiling where cherubs persue each other across a waste of flaking sky.  There must be about a thousand of them all told, interweaving among the clouds, their fat limbs forever on the move and yet never moving, for they are perfectly articulated.  The colours, once garish, have faded and peeled away and the ceiling is now a very subtle shade of grey and lichen green, old rose and silver.

This man has no sentimental feelings towards his home – only a sense of duty and a weariness, which seems to be part of his disposition.  His life is dictated by ritual –  different ones for each day of his life.  They must be adhered to because?  He doesn’t know why exactly – only that it must be.  There is not much narrative in this chapter, though Sepulchrave does sigh a lot. Here’s a description his breakfast – what a wonderful picture it paints!

The silver shone and the napkins were folded into the shapes of peacocks, and were perched decoratively on the two plates.  There was a delicious scent of bread, sweet and wholesome.  There were eggs painted in gay colours, toast piled up pagoda wise, tier upon tier and each as frail as  as a dead leaf; and fish with their tails in their mouths lay coiled in sea blue saucers.  There was coffee in an urn shaped like a lion, the spout protruding from the animal’s silver jaws.  There were all varieties of coloured fruit that looked strangely tropical in that dark hall -.  There were honeys and jams, jellies nuts and spices and the ancestral breakfast plate was spread out to the greatest advantage amid the golden cutlery of the Groans.  In the centre of the table was a small tin bowl of dandelions and nettles.

This is the very first meeting with Sourdust, the ancient keeper of the rituals.  Without him, Gormenghast would come to a halt.  He is the Lord of the dance, the oil that makes the creaky repetition of Gormenghast gasp.  His age is indeterminate, his beard black, white and knotted and:-

…His face was very lined, as though it had been made of brown paper that had been crunched by some savage hand before being hastily smoothed out and spread over the tissues……

What a wonderful explaination Peake offers us of the old servants face!  More about Sourdust later.  Here we get a more detailed description of Lord Groan’s physical appearance :-

…His face was very long and was olive coloured.  His eyes were large, and of an eloquence, withdrawn.  His nostrils were mobile and sensitive.  His mouth a narrow line.  On his head was the iron crown of the Groan’s that fastens with a strap under the chin…..

Sourdust reads from 3 huge books.  All the rituals of the day are written there – hour by hour, minute by minute.  The clothes to be worn, routes that Lord Groan will take, the gestures, the rituals that he shall perform.  All lies within the books.  Is it any wonder that the man is melancholy?  This is all he has to look forward to – all his time mapped out for him. Yet, he loves his library and his books!  Where does he find the time to enjoy it though? What time does he have to himself?  He is enslaved to those ancient stones.  He has no power over his own will.  He has no will.  The stones own him.

HERE is the wonderful website of Gormenghast

Lot’s of information about Peake and his work at Peake Studies