Monthly Archives: October 2017

The War of 1812

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Last weekend, the first 3 stanzas of the 1812 War segment of Stars & Stripes arrived at the theatre. On Thursday I finished off the first part of the triad on a walk around Haddington. The next morning I took a hike in the glorious Lammermuirs beyond Snawden, the epic expanse from Dunbar to Stirling along of the Forth before my feet,  & the loneliness energized by exercise & a strangely balmy late October. I also found a few magic mushrooms dotted about, a surreptitious aspect of my hitting the hills to compose, but one the Pendragons of old would have approved of.  On the walk I completed the middle part of the triad. I also mused a little on the architectronics of my poem, which I can now finally present, well in at least scaffold form.

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The poem is divided into at  ten-lined stanzas, of which 5 make up either the Strophe, the Epode or the Antistrophe of an individual Ode. A little like the Odes of ancient Greece,  the Epode – here placed in the centre of the Ode rather than at he end – is chaunted by actors just as the chorus was sung at the sacred altar of classical Ode performances. I have also infused the Epodes with a some energetic Shakespeariana – everybody loves a bit of acting. On either side of the drama, a narrator will read the strophe/antistrophe. Perhaps reading out over images projecting onto a screen while the actors/actresses change between scenes.

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Come the evening I found myself driving through Edinburgh’s rush-hour traffic, with Led Zeppelein on full blast may I add, then crossing the recently opened Queensferry Bridge. Its a fine structure, but it baffles me what they are doing with the old Forth Road Bridge at the moment. So on to Perth, where I think I found the last parking space in the city, & the Saint Petersburg Orchestra. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, The Fantasy Overture by Tchaikovsky was rather like the Venus & Adonis./ Rape of Lucrece paintings of Titian – where poetry bursts out of its conventional literary chains & into other artistic media. I also managed to compose a stanza of S&S in the same, un-noted fashion as at the Dundee Rep. It reads;

An empty city is emptier still
Excepting crimson Cockneys, Scotch & Welsh,
Tough faces in the torchlight until Dawn
Drags up its smoking wracks of destruction;
Tho’ private properties left as were found
The map with all the government buildings
Sees crosses red spread slowly ‘cross a grid
Beseeming as by Freemason design,
Whose noblest part, tho’ gutted, parch’d & black,
Stands defiant to its dreadful damage!

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I enjoy driving back from Perth – the quiet & dark motorways a real sort of meditative bath of the soul. On the drive I mused my way into another blog, realising that I am writing a new epic poem, & I should record the processes with a little more detail than Axis & Allies, for the benefit of future appreciatives. So here I am.

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Yesterday (Saturday) – I took another walk up into the hills, this time parking up at the cottages under Stoneypath Farm & hitting the public bridleway to Whiteadder. I climbed for about two miles, composing the final four stanzas to accompany the one that came to me in Perth. The final one really does invoke the galaxy of heather buds I found myself among as etched down my lines.

Our sun is a bauble of red heather
Up in the Lammermuirs, so many stars,
The Universe is distance, as is Earth,
Thus, while in Belgium laughter blends with wine,
On Chistmas morn, tho foes the day before,
At New Orleans the battle rages on
Where black & white united for the cause
Protecting beauty from the filthy grip
Of British rapists, God fell on their right,
Skittling Redcoats back to panicking ships.

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Nasty Women

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I’m really not quite sure how it happened, but it appears I have started the composition of another epic poem. The other night, as I sat in the Dundee Rep theater with Emily, 3 stanzas (30 lines) of blank verse dripped like distilled whiskey into my mind, concerning the War of 1812 between the fledgling United States of America & Britiain. They form the first parts of the 4th canto, of which I have recently architecturalised there shall be 75. The title is Stars & Stripes, & it begins at Valley Forge with the Revolutionary Army & George Washington, & shall end in the present day. I have studied copiously & shall continue to do so; a mixture documentaries including Ken Burns’ recent one on Vietnam, web-study & of course the National Library, which outwith its numerous volumes of American literature has some rather fine old American dictionaries I can read for authenticity. The poem begins;

America, carv’d long by ice & fire,
Twyx endless streams of blinding orison,
Tho’ dream me here in Burnley, Lancashire,
My wife’s ancestor fought for Washington
& him no less than colonel, in the strain
Of desperate refusal to the crown,
When East of Mississippi’s vital vein
Upsoar from field & homestead, port & town,
Brave men to sever, with portentous knives,
King George’s haughty hold upon their lives.

In my own life I am happily dwelling in the Lothians, but these days the benefits of driving allow me to wander the hills & admire the coasts… in the same morning! It is upon these missions I am mostly composing, but of course there are other pans in the fire. I am returning to Alibi once more, with a cabaret singer called Rosie as my lead girl, & Harry the hat as my lead man – both of whom are excellent singers. Tinky fo from strength to strength & I have an interesting November lined up for us all, beginning with a trip to Featherstone Castle for a gig with the Eden crew. The Mumble is also ticking over I have recently opened up ‘markets’ in Leeds & Seattle, finally realising the true international potential of my site.

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Two mornings ago I was sat writing this paragraph in the ‘The Law,’ a room in the lower levels of the deliciously opulent Malmaison Hotel in Dundee. The city is Emily’s nursery, where she brought up her babies from birth. Two nights ago I had picked her up from work driven us to Glagow – stopping off at a recently-turned 60 Colin’s for food – before engaging with La Traviata at the Theatre Royal. A funny yet brilliant melodramatic opera by my favorite composer Verdi (he just soothes me without effort), it means ‘Fallen Women’ & I am sure it is after this particular creation that the term ‘soap opera’ was meant. We drive back through the rain & darkness to Haddington, & this morning we were away again; me dropping Ems off at work while I typed up the Opera notes in my flat in Edinburgh. A couple of hours later we were back on the road, driving to Dundee to catch two pieces at the Literary Festival – a performance of my favorite poem the Raven & an author-talk on the recent ‘Nasty Women’ anthology – & in the evening, The Maids.  It is while watching The Maids that 3 new stanzas arrived in the world – the first of their type thus far with S&S, ie naturally & without referring to my notes One of these is an epic simile concerning the release of the British Army from the Napoleonic Wars, in order to fight in America.

As when a troupe of cowboys shoots thro’ town
Unstoppable, & robs its little bank,
When word spreads thro’ the counties all around,
Whose sheriffs ride to help, but while them gone,
The towns they left protectless in the dark ,
Descended into anarchy & crime,
Until the sheriffs rode back from justice – 
So too Europa’s ogre has been chain’d
On Elba’s isle, freeing the scarlet lines,
Those battle-harden’d veterans of war.

 

The next morning I left Emily snoozing & had a potter around Dundee, an interesting town. On checking out, Ems drove us to Broughty Ferry & the two houses she lived in when she was having the girls – a fine nursery. We drove back through Fife, calling again at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk to trace Ems’ ancestor (it was closed this time) & rather pitying the shoppers of the poor town. We did get a DVD of Spielberg’s Lincoln, however, with which I concluded my mellow Saturday. On waking early Sunday morning & I got to work, writing the following three reviews;

LA TRAVIATA. Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Britain - 16th Oct 2017

LA TRAVIATA

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DUNDEE LITERARY FESTIVAL

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THE MAIDS

As the Sunday began to trickle by, Emily alerted me to the fact that I had seem to have aroused some form of feminine angst among the Nasty Women authors. This proceeded throughout the day, but it was when one of them attacked my use of the ampersand (the – & ) that Emily flipped. She loves William Blake (he used them prodigiously) & me, & leapt to my defence. She’s like, ‘nobody disses my man’s ampersand!’ It had been bubbling. As we left the Bonar Hall in Dundee, I asked her what she thought of the Nasty Women & you could have fried an egg on her anger. Anyway, here’s the chat. I’ve changed the names of the ladies involved in order to avoid any more flare-ups;

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Aglaea : Hi. I’d like to query the descriptive language used in this article ‘two punks and a maiden’ is a sexist description of three professional writers at an event ON SEXISM. Secondly, do you have editors? You need to check your statistics on rape, and stop your journalists making dismissive and inaccurate assertions. Rape statistics are far higher than ‘0.1% of men’.

Thalia : See also “ladies of demure countenance”. This article is ridiculous.

Thalia : Just in case this doesn’t get past moderation on your website…

1) “Two punks and a maiden”? Please tell me which century you’re living in. Here in 2017 we are fighting against men dishing out patronising bullshit towards women

2) The comment about learning more about one’s body from the internet than from formal sex education was Becca’s, not mine. You might recognise her as the blonde “punk”, not the red-haired one.

3) You’re actually going to “not all men” an existing “not all men”? Unbelievable. Thanks for being part of the problem.

Calliope : Hello! Another Nasty Woman and professional Technical Writer and Editor chiming in here. Did you know that inane and nonsensical are so close in connotation that your statement about Donald Trump is almost as repetitive as Trump himself? And I also take issue with the use of ampersands throughout this piece of journalism. You may want to consult a style guide moving forward.

ME : sorry to offend

Ive changed it to

rather than the 96 percent of all likelihood given figures of rapeline calls & those that go unreported

I think ‘vast majority’ would have been a better phrase. The description of two punks & a maiden was one of aesthetic literary style, btw, not a personal judgement x Damo

Aglaea : Can I suggest that you take a serious look at your aesthetic literary style? Personal judgement is conveyed through language, which you used.

Thalia : “Two punks and a maiden” is sexist bullshit. Edit it out.

Thalia : Likewise “demure countenance”.

Thalia : Also, can I suggest that in future you don’t end your comments with a kiss? Trust me, nobody here wants your kisses.

Thalia : And analytic prose might serve you better than your distinctly purple “aesthetic literary style” (a phrase you should edit for redundancy).

Aglaea : A shred of professionalism would not go amiss here. If you really think you aren’t being sexist, can I suggest reading something, anything, about micro aggression or patronising language or even looking up the OED for maiden? Your grip on standards of journalistic language seems loose.

Euphrosyne : My essay literally parodies the sexist distinction between fairy tale princesses and witches in art. Ironic that you manage to use that very same language to write about us.

ME : Ok – Ive changed it

Thalia : Well done. Now, have you learned anything from this?

ME : I didn’t realise there where 200,000 rapeline calls a year in the UK, that’s mental

Clio : Hi, another Nasty Women here. Language has connotations, and it is frustrating to see an article that is largely positive still using loaded terms.

“Demure,” as has been stated, paints the audience as Victorian ladies or similar (modest), with a juxtaposition of women with pink hair, I suppose, who are undemure (immodest) by contrast?

Swapping out “two punks and a maiden” to list the three Graces still doesn’t help. These are not mythological creatures–they are working, professional writers. It does seem to be part of your style–you refer to a man as a lion and there’s mention of ambrosia, but it’s still something that tends to not go down well with women. It sounds like they are being put on a pedestal.

“Cooked up to order” has that connotation of women in the kitchen, whether or not you meant it, and “virgin” publisher likewise has a lot of baggage. Even if you take out the sexual definition, it then means naive or inexperienced, and 404 are neither of those things.

Saying a woman “chirped in” makes it sound like she’s a bird, and it’s a verb that is very rarely used with men even if a comment is delivered in the same tone.

Others have mentioned the dismissive tone of the rape statistics.

Is this nitpicky? Perhaps. But it’s frustrating that in an otherwise complimentary writeup in an event to see these microaggressions come up and again. One or two could be shrugged off, but these gave a cumulative effect. We point it out because we are tired. This sort of unthinking objectification is partly why Nasty Women as a collection exists.

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The Wife

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ME : An alternative view from a female Mumbler (the wife) also in attendance..

Attending the Dundee Literary Festival, I took the opportunity hear a few voices from the many contributors to Nasty Women. I had no previous knowledge of this book of essays, but immediately understood the sad origin of the title and knew, this is important. Regrettably, I left trembling with anger for the missed opportunity.

To kick off the talk, the contributors on stage explained the impetus for the book; marketing. Let’s jump on the Trump bandwagon while feminism is hot. When one said, “the marketing was amazing”, I clenched my fists with frustration. Before we even heard their stories they told us the empress has no clothes. The back story is, this was merely an opportunity to sell books, and they each quickly sought an essay for inclusion. Unfortunately, in haste to catch this cynical marketing wave, the essays appeared to be poached from their private teen-angst journals. What a brave exposé! But no new insights, only the adolescent attempt to sound intellectual, then pride that their “pitch” was selected. We’re not off to a good start.

The first essayist explored how the punk diva Courtney Love helped her through depression and ostracism; that timeless growing pain of being misunderstood. We all need our heroes, who as kids we feel speak only to us. Mine was Baba Ram Dass. His book Be Here Now helped me through those dark years. We’re lucky if we find that book, that CD, but because I was a 20 year old woman in the Seattle music scene of 1992, I can tell you that Courtney is an awkward hero. I was there. She’s no hero. She’s a narcissistic junkie who reaped the benefits of her dearly departed to mutilate her body with Hollywood surgery. It was hard to circumvent my real-life experience, but I acknowledge the woman who wrote this essay wasn’t in Seattle didn’t ‘Live Through This, she only saw the myth. I understand the Courtney archetype resonated with her, but beyond that, what is she saying? When I was a kid a woman who appeared strong empowered me to feel strong. This is not enlightening. As far as mental health goes, I myself experienced clinical depression as a teenager (and still do) with the threat of being institutionalised, but as much as I commiserated, I couldn’t help think, “Yeah, and…?” Let’s blossom beyond this suffocating time and speak of what we learned. Be your own hero.

The second speaker again reached for her dear diary with an essay on periods, birth control, and the scars patriarchy left on her body. Periods suck, and it is commonly known that male dominated big-pharma doesn’t care about women, but you know what? They don’t care about ANYONE. There aren’t any good birth control choices, we all know this. So an essay that big pharma is evil and doesn’t care about women was bereft of deeper insight. The cliché of a woman singing her lament of periods and the damage caused by birth control was pedestrian and trite. Similar to a “female comedienne” who’s act is all about menopause. Can women just be comedians and talk about life stuff? Aren’t we more than our bodies? Can we transcend our periods or lack there of? Are there not bigger Trumpet fish to fry?

Our third contributor’s essay was familiar, youth enamoured with the Goddess power we find in Wicca and sisterhood. But I felt the subject of empowerment through foraging petty considering the enormity of the causal misogyny we face today. I heard in her such overly-academic naïveté; that she discovered making a tincture with women is a threat to men. That the threat to patriarchy through our ability to heal ourselves (as witches did) has any relevance today was a huge disappointment. This is something an 18 year-old coven discovers and is not worthy of today’s discourse. Let’s move beyond this fledgling epiphany.

During the question/answer segment, I was appalled to hear one contributor say “some male friends are like, ‘but I’m a good guy’, but I don’t care, I want them to apologise and reform”. Hold on a minute, my best friends are men; wonderful, insightful, kind and generous men who have nothing to apologise for. These pseudo-intellectual “feminist” blinders are antithetical to equality and impede us moving forward.

I was also disappointed by the old chat that they’re victimised because they don’t want children. Those on stage were outraged that breeders want them to conform. Again, this is without understanding a wider perspective. When friends who are parents say this, it’s merely an unabashed, evangelical outburst. We’ve fallen in love with our children and had an amazing life experience that cannot be replicated. It’s similar to what we might say to celibates; “Are you sure you don’t want to have sex? Orgasms are amazing!” Don’t take it personally – we don’t actually give a shit if you have kids (or orgasms), just understand anyone who says such is “sharing the good news”, speaking from their experience. You don’t have to agree, just smile and nod, as I would to Jehovah’s Witnesses because it’s not my bag. That’s what we do, us humans, we share experiences and want others to see what we found. To be offended by this is shallow, insecure, and simply ridiculous.

On exiting this talk it took effort to control my anger, it was a struggle to keep my voice down as to not offend those beside me. And this was curious thing, why was I so angry? What button has been pushed? After a few days of digesting the experience, I feel that the outrage comes down to the missed opportunity. The gravity of our present situation was dumbed down by regurgitated notions of feminism. It’s disheartening to think these women aspire to be our voices in the Trump era. Dig deeper, there’s so much more to say.

In all, the talk was wrought with nit-picking without wisdom, lack of nuance, and a childish defensive reflex that hides female voices to be heard. I was embarrassed for the contributors, the publisher, and the audience of women who were not challenged to think beyond this pathetically one-sided wankery; this lazy, self-soothing excrement that is Nasty Women. I hoped for so much more.

Thalia : Do you not allow your wife to have a Facebook account, that she needs you to speak for her?

Thalia : I’m also curious about why you think this is an appropriate thing to post on your publication’s professional page.

Thalia : And do you not know that your edit history is visible to anyone who clicks on the word “edited”?

Me : I swear down, when we came out of the talk & she started going on about all that Im like, I cant say that in the review babe – but after reading your comments, shes like let them hear the truth babe x

Thalia : Yeah, but why not post it herself? Why does she need you to speak for her?

Diana : Why on earth even post it ANYWAY? What on earth is your point here? This is the most unprofessional thing I’ve seen in a while

Me : the wife says…

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Thalia : Seems to be you she’s pointing that at, mate.

Cassandra : Another Nasty Women writer here to add my two cents (since you appear to be acting as the middle man for your wife, please let her know to angrily clutch her faux feminist pearls as appropriate). It’s a little alarming that you felt the need to post this follow up after reading the comments from my fellow writers critiquing your initial review. Instead of even attempting to understand why your “aesthetic literary style” was inappropriate at best and incredibly sexist at worst, you issued a non-apology and then edited your review with an even more ridiculous comparison of these professional authors to eroticized mythological representations of charm and grace, as if your reference to the audience as of “demure countenance” wasn’t horrendous enough. I’m not even going to touch the “not all men” implications that you made.

I’m just genuinely baffled as to why you felt it necessary to diminish these women in their talent and write a review that at face value appears charitable, but upon further reading makes it clear that you do not take them seriously at all. You write about the event as if to sound as though you appreciated it while simultaneously attempting to put these women back in their place, which to you appears to be an ultra pink, ultra feminine space where they speak softly and prettily as virgins and only say words acceptable to your delicate ears.

This follow up, on the other hand, is full of out of context statements regarding how this book came about, misconceptions related to the writers’ contributions, and a hefty dose of holier-than-thou attitude based on your wife having not actually read the book. Had she read it, she might actually know that Nasty Women is an intersectional collection of over twenty feminist offerings on many subjects, written from many perspectives, all touching in some way on how we as women navigate life in this era. These were but three of them, and considering a basic tenet of the book is that we speak our truths however they present themselves, they require no justification to either you or your wife on how or why these writers chose to relate their lives to the public. She literally missed the point so hard on all three of the essays discussed at this panel that I would not be surprised if her hair is still messy from where it flew over her head. Pardon me if I sound rude, it’s only that it seems nonsensical for me to claim that something has entirely missed the mark when I’ve had only a small taste of it, especially when I didn’t know what I was getting a taste of in the first place. Imagine if I assumed the Mumble was made up of asinine and rude reviews without ever having read any of them but this one… though perhaps that’s not a stretch.

We’d love it if either you or your wife picked up a copy of Nasty Women and read it cover to cover, though I can infer that this is unlikely. Writing from a place of blissful ignorance instead is the height of lazy, self-soothing excrement, so I’ve heard.

Sorry if I’ve offended.

Me : Tell me about it, she gets reyt uppity when she’s ‘ad a rum. Anyway, after all the one-way attacks on my ‘aesthetic literary technique’ yesterday, I thought I’d explain what it was. I’m a poet, I branch into prose from time to time like a necessary walk in the hills, but the poet is always with me. In Arabian poetics & the poetics of classical Greece, there are the two notions of Takhyil & Phantasia. In essence its painting pictures in the mind. Thus when I wanted to set the room scene in Dundee, my ‘two punks & a maiden’ was, although not 100 percent accurate, in a visual sense everybody who hears the phrase who was not there would get a mental image not too far away from the photograph. It also took only 14 letters & an ampersand to achieve. Into the mix then comes the two extremes of feminism, defined as people who who really there, the radical dyed-haired lady & the quiet, rather plainly dressed woman with a definite ‘demure countenance’ who sat in front of us. This was actually a metaphor showing how well attended the talk was. I do believe that through a proper understanding of the nuances & results of both Takhyil & Phantasia, the Nasty Women may have rendered a different opinion. I think people are too keen to leap at the pindrop these days. X Damo.

Aglaea : I am a poet. I am also an academic, and a reviewer. All three of those require very different approaches and registers. Most writers manage to separate these three. Also you’ve had enough of our time. I couldn’t care less about *why* you wrote such a sloppy and sexist review, only that you did. I don’t think I’ve ever met such an unprofessional poet or reviewer.