Feb 1st

Dracula - THE 'TRUDTH"

By mike
There was a query about Dracula and the current craze but I backtracked and lost the post.     Dracula  'as we knew him' had been a product of the romantic movement.    I had been attempting a 'blog' on this but was sidetracked by Baron Samedi who seems more promising subject.  According to the 'Radio Times'  voodoo is the subject of a new Walt Disney Cartoon'  which is a blow! But I will do my little piece, as I wonder if my views of Baron Samedi and Walt Disney's  are the same?   I will try and do this tonight before I look the Walt Disney version up.
My view of Baron Samedi is of someone like Joel in 'Cabaret'  - a jovial master of ceremonies to the underword - but decidedly sinister.  ( Papa Doc etc)  

Dec 21st


By mike

Dear Secretspi, Bren,  (or anybody else)

Some months ago, I posted a ‘blog’ concerning the possibility of a musical about a poet trying to write a successful poem.  ‘Infinitude’ is not this poem -  it is not successful!   In order to write this successful poem, the aged, hermit-like poet calls for help - to God, his muse and his younger self.   It is an end-game.

Imagine a blacked-out South London room during the blitz.  Verandah windows are, nevertheless, open.  An old man stares out to his garden and the beams of searchlights circle into space.  A broken violin lies on the floor. The drone of planes are heard getting louder.   There an explosion and a flash of light.  A figure in black is suddenly illuminated at the window entrance.

‘”Is it you? the old man says,” Have you come?  Can we not put it off awhile?”

The old man tells the visitor of his life.  Scenes from his past are re-enacted by  ‘tableu-vivants in the garden.  His life is being judged.

The plot of the musical is taken from a novel  (In a novel, the visitor from infinity is summoned by violin diabolism)    It might well be assumed that this figure is death but he can be interpreted in many other ways.   At the end of the play, there is another explosion as the old man leaves his room with the visitor.  The stage clears, the old man’s room is demolished, and the old man is left in his garden which has gradually changed during the production and has become the ‘Lost Paradise’ of his youth.  

I’ve posted the whole poem ‘infinitude’ but it does need some sort of biographical context.  In many respects, the poet only wrote one poem.  Later poems are versions of earlier poems written by an older man with an older man’s experience.  ‘Infinitude’ belongs to a time when the poet’s life, and his poetry went badly wrong.  To introduce the poem, I’ve taken a verse out of a poem that he wrote after the war. 

“I sought to cure each lovely fault

That children have when all untaught

They jump out of the forest track

And ride, unbidden on one’s back.

My rosary broke, and thus my prayers

Dashed, like a shower, my hopes and theirs.

When did the rosary break?   About five volumes of poetry were published between 1911 and 1914.  ( These poems were the embryonic travel books.)   Then there was a gap until 1932 and another volume of poetry was published along with an 84 page lyric drama and a travel book. 

(It might well be that the poet is referring to about 1925, as the time when his rosary broke. He became unfashionable in the 1920’s during  the jazz age.  But I think the rosary broke in the 1930’s.)

‘Infinitude’ was written in the late 1930’s.   Everything has gone wrong.  About 1939 he printed a booklet with blueprints for poems and lines from these blueprints were exchanged between various later poems. ‘Infinitude’ was the first of these poems and the last lines: 

As, cast up on the shores of my own mind,

I call to God across the night of dark and wind!

are relevant to a dramatic production.  Does God reply? It is impossible to say?  But God can be introduced onto the stage as a character.  God could be the conscience; the critic, the soul, St Peter, death, the superego, a manifestation of the subconscious. etc etc - the black figure, very similar in appearance to the old man.

There is a verse in ‘A Symphony in Trees’ which might refer to this period in the poet’s life.  ‘She came and I fell’ can have both a poetic and religious meaning - a fall from grace.  The poet and the muse have  became estranged,  The muse does have something to say on the matter:

 ‘I weep that thou, in seeking God to find

Didst lean out of the window of thy mind

Too far. plunging us into the starry-dark and wind’

The poet sums up the situatiuon  in ‘A Symphony in Trees’  By the time the play reaches this verse, the poetry becomes quite clear.

Ah, such was my transcendental dream-

And nothing so true as the soul of my verse. 

I'd think that life's dream is a nightmare's scheme 

That Destiny dreamed - then woke up! a curse, 

Some spite of the Fates - who eminently know 

That they who ne'er climb can never fall low-

As they watch mortals climb and climb, then fall-

To their loud guffaw.


There is a loveliness in wind and tree

That touches all the heart and soul of me -

A magic, dreamlike, boundless, yet confined

Down in the lost Atlantis of the mind;

It haunts like a song of Long Ago,

A song that I ne’er heard yet somehow know! -

It falls - a singing wave runs up the strand

Of some far-off and long forgotten land.

Again, beneath strange stars, I voyage the Main

That lies beyond the Gulf Stream of the brain,

Where, lost upon the lovely blue expanse,

Beyond the wrecking shores of Time and Chance,

My Argosy, e’er tacking round a Cape,

Is buffeting with sails set unship-shape.

“Tis beating t’wards the sunset of a Sorrow

That, lodged upon the skyline of a Morrow,

Lo, won’t go down!  its bright reflex, unsetting,

Makes all the past the future’s unforgetting! -

One blaze of starlight down some awful glass

Where thought itself must founder, cannot pass!

Those half remembered seas oft flash and roll

Down in the stagnant depths of my own soul -

A pool off which I blow the scum of grief

And lo, the stars are shining underneath,

Till, gleaming far, the Boundless Peaks of Light -

Remote upon the ocean of insight -

Do topple on the skyline of thought’s sea,

And crash! the universe, engulfed in me,

Sinks grandly! - not a vestige doth remain

It disappears! naught leaves but a real sky -

And, glinting in their myriads, worlds that lie

Against the sunset of eternity.

Then once again, the stars shone on my brow

And shape a Cross - whereat I’m kneeling now -

As, cast up on the shores of my own mind,

I call to God across the night of dark and wind!

Dec 3rd

A small query. (Lost Atlantis)

By mike
I posted a rather unsuccessful 'critique called 'circling 'Solaris'.   However, I had been interested in the Russian version of film with its view of a bubbling sea from which manifestations of memory and the subconscious rise.
I researched a grandfather who used the phrase'The lost atlantis of the mind"
Does anybody know where this phrase  originated?  I had been  under the impression it came from the poet 'W.E.Henley but this seems not the case.
The phrase was used by my grandfather in the 1930's and he used it an an autobiographical sense.   I wonder if it came from 'Jung' or another psychologist.
P.S I had been  rather taken with the idea of Spock of  'Star Trek' being an art critic and enquired of this possibility from an artist at work. She replied that he could not fulfill this function as art is illogical.    I am corrected!

Nov 23rd

The Beatles for jazz piano

By mike
A few weeks ago I went up to Chappells in Wardour Sreet looking for some music.  I usually play pieces that are far too difficult for me and I was looking for something easy and came across a 'The Beatles for Jazz Piano.'  
As they were early pieces and had all the jazz chords written out I thought I would give it a try.
The first piece is 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and i cannot made any sense of it.
This is probably lack of musical ability on my part but has anybody else come across this album and given it a try?
In my defense, I looked it up on 'Google' and the level seems to be intermediate to advanced.
Nov 22nd

Madness in writing (plot for drama)

By mike
Madness is merely a convenient term - for Bren.

I had examined madness  in writing in that I had researched the life of a grandfather who suffered from what he termed ’brainstorms’ ( He also lived life as loose cannon.)   The nearest condition I came across is now termed ‘’bi-polar disorder.’   But I came to the conclusion that such a condition would only be one factor in many concerned with a writer’s life.

In a newspaper interview, Margaret Attwood wrote that the brain is ‘hot-wired’ for poetry and religion. (She did not use the word poetry but poetry seems a more appropriate word)  After some thought, I rather dispute this in that she could also have said the brain is wired for science, mathematics, painting or or music.   She did, however, suggest that the ability to use words is innate. I remember commenting, earlier, not entirely facetiously that, for some people, such an activity could lead to the church, the asylum or the ‘Dictionary of National Biography’!

Is a ‘hot wired brain connected with ‘bi-polar disorder.”   I thought it a possibility but the majority of artists, musicians etc do not suffer from this condition. 

‘Poor Arnold went out of his head’ had been the comment of a niece of my grandfather and he certainly had an uncontrollable imagination in which he increasingly began to live.

I was very interested in the comments on one of his poems ‘A Symphony in Trees’ (I had posted this)   There seems to be sympathy for the character and I certainly tried to portray a sympathetic character in my biographical research.    

Now, some years ago I had mentioned my grandfather’s life to another writer - a  Jungian - and he said that a writer’s life could just go askew.    It in this respect,  it did seem to me that this writer’s life had gone askew because he adhered to the creed of the romantic movement in an age where their beliefs had become an anachronism.    This dilemma does provide both conflict and resolutiom.

I enclose an extract from the writer’s final travel book published in 1950 - the year in which he died,  Madness is just a convenient term.    It is quite possible to dramatise this extract and bring ‘A Symphony In Trees’ down to earth as it were.    
 The writer is describing his house in South London -  a sort of artistic ‘half-way house.    (He mentions living in an ‘Opera Bouffe’  ) 

What does anybody think of this idea,   I am the executor of an estate so I can  provide the material for something like a play or musical.    I think the story would appeal to someone like Terry Gilliam or an imaginative theatrical producer. but producing a plot is very difficult as the best plot resolution involves a triple personality which can only really be given a ‘gothic’ interpretation.  (Images in mirrors- dreams etc,)        But this is not the only plot.    

‘My landlord and the resident folk, hearing me continually talking to myself, dubbed me a mad musician.  I wasn’t the slightest perturbed  It was what I wanted and expected. For, after that, they left me severely alone. Indeed, I knew a delight in the thought of being deemed mad. I had experienced quite enough in my life in which to realize that it was far better to be mad than deadly sane. 

For many days I walked afar, trekking to the mountains, enjoying in my self-communings the companionship of wise old trees. 

Free from all responsibility over moral laws and ethics, my mind became centred wholly in the absorbing contemplation of the splendid philosophy of knowing nothing and wishing to know nothing. 

Thus my humble room and I, with its orange and lemon trees - growing in flower pots - became a veritable Opera Bouffe to me. 

The shabby room with its parcels of old parasols and umbrellas stuck in the corner - an enormous Bible in the centre of the mahogany table, became intimate friends.

We would in an imaginative sense, talk sound sense to each other.

 The young lemon-tree would say: 'I do like your sweet violin~playing especially the unacidity of the double-stopping, it soothes my lemony nerves'.

 Then the dilapidated old sunshades and umbrellas becoming loquacious, would say: 'Don't stay all day in this gloomy room, talking to yourself, come out into the glorious sunshine. We can successfully hide your blushes while we gaze on the Hawaiian  maids bathing by the sea-shore stripped naked, the brazen little hussies!  We opine you have been badly brought up in that you think it aesthetic to eschew healthy sensuality and play stupid music all day. But remember, even umbrellas had a maker.  And don't forget, you had a mother with a  womb, thus you are of the animal world, however your  earthly brain nurses high faluting notions'. 

Convinced beyond myself and astonished, I broke in:  'Why you dear old umbrellas, I've read dozens, nay hundreds of wonderful scientific and poetic books, but never such common senses as you’ve just spoken.  What you you say agrees with my own opinion of Thoreau. Though, dear umbrellas, I like Thoreau, I have always thought that, notwithstanding his philosophy. he only proved that in jumping in the Walden Pond he contracted consumption and found an early grave.  You've convinced me how right I was!

The umbrellas at hearing me speak so, looked embarrassed and blushed when I heartedly clutched their old fashioned handles. For until then they had never felt more than the affectionate clasp of simpering Hawaiian belles. 

Then the door, thinking itself ignored said: 'Come quickly, open and shut me. I am of life's entry; and of its exit - forever.'

 And the Bible, lifting its palsied hand, would say: 'Listen to me. I am the light of the world and its darkness; and whatever you think of me doesn't matter a row of pins.  I shall always remain head of life's 'Supper Table' so dip your hands into the dish and betray yourself as much as you please. ‘

Nov 19th

De Quincey. Mad poets.

By mike

This post is for Bren as she is interested in the period.  The piece is half of something I wrote last year which i had intended as the introduction to a potential biography of a Victorian journalist.   I found the material by chance by a keyword search on the ‘Internet’ and is  a precis of a chapter from a book of recollections of De Quincey  (The book also mentions the journalist who had been known to De Quncey and his circle.  I subsequently found a better introduction)
 I had intended a different blog but got one of Sainsbury's meal for two - wine included - and have finished half the bottle - so my blog will  be postponed!

"Singen, my dear sir, Singen.’

 Towards the end of the year 1846, Colin Rae Brown was offered employment as business manager of the first daily newspaper in Scotland.  The paper was to be called ‘The North British Daily Mail’  The proprietors of the ‘Mail’ had also purchased ‘Tait’s Magazine’ and it was thought advisable to retain the  services of  Tait’s leading contributor, Thomas De Quincey, in order that the magazine should  remain true to it’s radical nature.  It was also proposed that De Quincey should be persuaded to write the occasional article for the ‘Mail’ and to reside in Glasgow for a short period as the ‘Tait’ had moved its offices there.

 In due course, De Quincey moved to rented accommodation with a landlady called Mrs Tosh and Colin Rae Brown recorded his memories of De Quincey in  “De Quincey and his friends’ by J Hogg’  which was published in 1895.

 Rae Brown describes the ethereal wraith-like appearance of De  Quincey, his extreme gentleness, like a ‘retiring yet high bred child’; his ‘exactitude of pronunciation which was the very reverse of pedantic’ and his extreme politeness.  But he also describes the difficulty of getting ‘copy’ from the famous, opium-addicted writer.

‘The old gentleman had no got ‘oot o’ his bedroom yet.’ 

 It was with these words that Mrs Tosh greeted the paper’s boy messenger,  who had arrived on her doorstep, seeking De Quincey’s contribution to the day’s paper.  In some alarm, the editor dispatched Rae Brown to De Quincey’s residence where, accompanied by Mrs Tosh, he entered the room where De Quincey was to be found ‘either fast asleep or in a state of stupor’.

  “I’m sure the puir body’s deid.” exclaimed Mrs Tosh and proposed, ‘Dash cauld water on his face’

  However, the ‘copy’ was secured and,  as Rae Brown left the lodgings, Mrs Tosh whispered, “There maun surely be somethin’ railly wrang wi’ my lodger.  He doesna eat as muckle as my wee oo (grandson) eats in a day.  D’ye think he’s in his richt mind?”

Oct 29th

Family research

By mike

If you are interested in family history - or biographical research -anything elderly relations scribble down is invaluable.   I have posted this for a ‘Word Clouder’  who shall be nameless - well she is nameless!!

Exrtract from Great Aunt Nell’s  Notebooks.   (Her adventures in Germany circa 1912 which followed on her adventures in Paris and the artist studios of ‘Le Belle Epoche’ - in the late 1890’s)    

 I went out with Iris and Marianne.    Iris was six years old and Marianne was three.   We picked many flowers and walked up a bank studied with violets.    There were mountains of gold flowers and everywhere looked like coloured hills.    We could see  all the way to Frieburg.   

The tempo of life was far gentler than Paris.   I seemed to be flung into the fourth dimension - head first.   ‘Un beau plongen!’   The houses which looked like small white palaces were scattered.   Some were  so high up  that their lights at night looked like stars.   One night I told Edmund the stars were rather low.    He laughed and said, “They are lights from various windows up and down the valley.” 

The fir trees reminded me of the fir trees far away on Brasted Chart.

A musician named Iga Kertov - the pianist - came one evening.   He was handsome and his voice was his charm.

“Sprechen sie Deutch,  Fraulein?” 

“Nein - nein,”   I said.

He looked disappointed  as he was not good at English and would not attempt it.

He played Chopin’s ‘Mazurka in B Flat’.   The gay and restless beauty enchanted me.   The delicacy and ease going from one master to another.   He played the  ‘The Moonlight Sonata’.    Echoes of beauty sank and died away.    I was asked to play but I dared not.   My spirit sank within me.    How could I?    After Iga Kertov?

Stephani’s garden was an enormous one.   The house itself  was built like an old farm and there was an exquisite green, smooth lawn - like velvet. ....  There were clumps of Christmas trees with very high points. 

Oct 27th

Using poetry in drama.

By mike

Using poetry in drama

Using poetry in drama is rather difficult and there are a few possible models. But has anybody on 'Word Cloud' attempted doing this?

 I saw a play,  some years ago,  which illustrated one problem.   Tom Courteney portrayed Philip Larkin  in a one man show which I very much enjoyed - as the did audience.    I recall that Tom Courtney recited complete poems.  

Using  memory and anecdote,  Courtney put the poems into their context and I suspect the audience knew all the poems that were read out;  however, some  of the poems did not have an immediate story narrative which might have lost an audience if they had been used to excess.   (This play is available is a talking book ‘Pretending to be Me)

I also remember a film in which Glenda Jackson impersonated Stevie Smith.  There seems to be no DVD available which is a shame. I would like to have seen this  again as I recently attempted to read some of her poems aloud to an audience.  The structure of Stevie Smith’s poems are perverse, to put it mildlly.   

I heard a version of Moliere’s ‘Hyperchondriac’ on Radio 3 about a month ago.  This had been translated into rhyming couplets by Roger MacGough.  This  version seems to be available as a CD.

Rather unwittingly, I must admit, I once used Shakespeare as a model as i had been attempting a play in which an aged poet bids adieu to the  imaginary world he had  created.

It would seem that there are two options.   Either  use  poetry and forget dialogue -  or to leave the poetry out  completely which seems to be the option taken by TV dramas

It is difficult to use  poetry in plays as is not spoken in the average drawing room but what about Oscar Wilde?    He comes close, surely?   I am sure Tom Stoppard has mixed poetry and dialogue but I cannot recall a specific play.

I can well imagine Byron suddenly laughing and improvising ‘’Tis strange the mind that very fiery particle/should let itself be snuffed out by an article’  - after reading that Keat’s death might have been caused by reading a bad review . But Byron could also land up as a character in ‘BlackAdder’

It is a problem!

Oct 11th

A taboo subject

By mike

If anybody wants to use this story idea, please do, as I am unlikely to follow it up.  

It was reading a ‘post’  this morning  (by Rebecca Holmes - a lovely tale about her plum tree) that caused me to imagine a story as I walked back from the local shopping centre where I had been searching for a kitchen timer.  Like many single  people I am envious of the family life she describes.

I used to live with my widowed mother  in a family house - though, in truth, my widowed mother lived with me.   She died a few years ago,  but had declined in health -  and mostly old age - for many years.  The garden had been her hobby but I could no longer keep it up and the back half  of the garden was left  alone and has  turned into a  woody corps.  The house declined as my mother did.  The garden now looks like a forest and we left it to grow wild as you could  not see the surroundings houses  out of the windows  and the garden became totally secluded.

Last year, I  became aware that children from the houses to the back - on the other side of the trees - were using the corpse  as a lover’s tryst and meeting place,  In the corps, you cannot be seen from any of the surrounding houses and there is really no back fence as the trees provide the  barrier.   Their affairs were none of my business so I made no mention of it.  I am sure that I am just a boring old fart to them and I don’t know the families at all.  ( I am at work all day and it is usually dark by the time I get home and they were not causing a problem)

Earlier this year I found girl’s knickers on the lawn which made a bit of a change from crisp packets but  I just left the the knickers here and in a few days they had gone. 

I don’t know why, but I while  was thinking of these trysts and the family life they implied, ‘Silas Marner’ came into my head.  I can barely remember the plot.  Suppose the boring old fart - a John Thaw type character -  found a baby in the garden?    Whose baby is it?  The neighbor's child?  What is to be done?  Keep the baby? Just think of the implications......

But I think this would now be a taboo subject and it is not the sort of writing I do.  I did attempt a children’s novel many years ago but this was about a girl who becomes interested in local history.   The Chislehurst caves are nearby.  These  caves were a pop venue  in the late sixties; they were  also used as a fall out shelter during the second world war.  The characters were total inventions and bore no relation to life as we know it.

Sep 14th

Margaret Atwood. ‘-artistic impulses are hard-wired into our brains’ -

By mike

 ‘The Metro’ is a daily freesheet handed to commuters as they board suburban trains into London.    Lurid accounts of the previous day’s bodycount, and how much Amy Winehouse has had to drink, occupies the mind though  Grove Park tunnel,  but  interest wanes long before the approach to Hither Green.  

One day last week, however, an article held the attention almost to Lewisham Station.  

‘THE BOOK INTERVIEW’ proclaimed the headline and Margaret Atwood is on the loose promoting her latest novel. 

Perhaps Margaret Atwood wishes to add technophiles to her audience?   The interviewer provided a precis of her speech.  ‘The idea that religious and artistic impulses could be hard-wired into our brains - and that we probably couldn’t have one without the other - fascinates her.’

That the brain needs to understand itself, and express this search,  is surely an argument for philosophy?   But is Atwood saying anything more than Keats?  Fingers are hovering above the ‘abort’ button, I can tell,  and my laptop is coming out in sympathy, but is Margaret Atwood saying anything more than Keats who speaks of poetry being a ‘Priest-like Task?”

It is possible that academics have usurped this ‘priest-like task’;  though they might argue that their relationship with artists  is symbiotic.   Writers produce gnostic scripts that require scholarly exegesis and the verdict is passed down to  mere mortals.   Most mortals have responded by abandoning the church for the music hall.

But what does Keats mean?  What did he mean by ‘high romance?’  Is there a romantic ‘credo[’ in a sacred sense?

When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

Academics will draw attention to subtexts and refer mere mortals to earlier scripts, to Shalkespeare - to the Bible - no, I will use the the word ‘sacred’ or the ‘numinous - or to the ancient Greeks.

But did Keats really mean this?  Perhaps he meant ‘Word Cloud?”

(This seems a good point to stop.)