Thursday, 22 December 2011

What quest or rest?

Christmas is a jolly time, you might think not the ideal time for posting a more disturbing poem.

But think about it: our northern world has settled Christmas - the birth of a new beginning - at the very darkest time of year. This is for a reason. Old things must perish in winter's frost for spring to be possible. We cannot profitably drag the old into the New Year and expect everything to improve of itself.

We cannot sail home without work and a map, or think that a rudderless boat could reach the shore. Now is the time to leave behind what doesn't work, to study, find or make a map, and begin.

This poem opens but does not close questions about who we are and what we think we are doing in this the only life and moment we have.

Looking for a poem from David Henschel's Heres and Nows to suit the mood for the ending of a year, I was first going to post The Blackbird, as being one of David's most beautiful poems.

But I find I've posted it before. Of course you're welcome to read it again - poems grow by being revisited.

Here is What quest or rest?

You are adrift. – I tell you
You are adrift and do not know it.

– Towards what bourne then are you going
In this no longer rimmed confusion?
Do you have lodestone, compass, map
Recognise stars to steer by?
What do you do when winds
Pull every which way whirling thoughts –
Let down your anchors? What anchors
Have you, engines, oars in case of breakdown
Lifeboats do you carry? Indeed
What flag or flags do you sail under –
Only old bones’ anarchy and ending?

Let us change metaphors.
Unwrap your layers like Peer Gynt’s onion.
– What heart have you that is really you?
At any given moment, stop! – say this I am
And hear your thoughts clash swords
While all your civil wars break out like eczema;
Then raddle up your brow
To perceive battles’ end the morrow
Beyond tomorrow
When your spirit and your circumstances
Sign the grand peace.

Come then to the green table.
Leave seas and wars, turn lawyer, diplomat
Bargain the terms on which you will
Be what you become
(Rubbing your wants like shoulders on the bars
Of what you cannot do –
Upon what terms do caged beasts sign truce?).

Yet if they could I could you could
What choice between the warring selves
Would satisfy one’s soul
Quell ferment, light up firmament
And in what quest or rest bring peace?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Treasured Chests

Sharon Gordon's beautiful photographs
matched with poems old and new.
This is our second book! Beautiful photographs by Sharon Gordon of the nude female form.

The photographs are matched with poems, some well known and ancient, from Chaucer through Shakespeare to Whitman, one from the late Beat poet John Esam (a beautiful man whom I knew personally), and some new poems by unknown and previously unpublished poets.

This is a project that Sharon started way back in 2001. No-one would publish it, although I am told one company who rejected it then came up with their own version of Sharon's idea shortly afterwards. Anyway Sharon put her photographs in a drawer and forgot about it. Then she saw 'Heres and Nows' and realised we could go it alone without the hassle of using a big publishing house.

So much time having gone by, some of the original models no longer wanted to be in the book. Although we had signed model releases, Sharon never wants to create bad feeling, so she found more friends who were happy to have their beauty recorded.

In one case Sharon even agreed to take a photograph especially to illustrate one of the new poems - actually my own poem on page 52 - thanks Sharon!

The mood of the text varies from high art to humorous.

It is possible to get a hint of the delights within using the 'Look Inside' feature on Amazon. Also I have uploaded some additional images - hover your mouse cursor under the 'Look Inside' image on the top left of the Amazon page.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Clocks go back

There has been a long gap between posts - other projects (of which more soon) have taken up my time.

There is so little time to do everything one imagines to do.

Here is one more poem from David Henschel's Heres and Nows.

It refers to that time in England when we change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time, a time when autumn is well-established, and the trees amaze with gold, copper and red.

This poem is not in the end difficult, but it repays close reading and re-reading. The gold of autumn is ground out of summer by time turning like a mill, and the crocus bulbs dug up by mistake foretell the spring that is to come. So the poem is about time, our relation to time and how that in turn relates to our desire for meaning.

Yet to me the poem is rooted in the present. The very act of digging focusses the mind on the now, as the spade cuts through the earth and finds hidden bulbs.

What does smirrh mean? My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is silent. The word sounds Nordic. Perhaps it is the cold mist smearing the landscape. The only literary use of this word I could find on the web is in a book by John Nichols called The Last Beautiful Days of Autumn (1982). "...the spears of a million bare aspens - only moments ago bursting with resplendent foliage - create a soft gray smirrh across jagged hillsides."

Back to David's poem. For all the references to past and future, the poem takes its being from the damp-drip earth and greyspit sky - from the sensations of autumn now.

Clocks go back

The clocks are back
Two days gone – still
I can’t get round to it: the mill
Of time revolves on summer hours
When grinding autumn gold.
I shall get used to winter’s white and black
Its boney cold
The morning window’s frozen flowers;

But I was digging round the silver birch
The day clocks closed the summer down –
I’d quite forgotten having sown
Beneath the tangle I was forking out
Narcissi, snowdrops, crocuses.
It’s odd – I’ve registered before
How digging focuses
The spirit’s obstinately endless search
For hopeful signs of what life’s all about.

No doubt it needn’t be admired
(Signs do most often go together)
And yet it touched me deeper than the eye
That when I took the dog a walk, smirrh weather
Today at dusk, testing the novel clock,
Both damp-drip earth and greyspit sky
Glowed russet yet with setting summer fired.

I need – don’t you? – both backlook sigh
And the buried bulb-growth’s shock.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Here and Now

A little late, here is David Henschel's Here and Now. There is no other reality. I think further commentary from me is not necessary.

Here and Now


Enjoy, oh do enjoy
The hereness and the nowness of it.
Whatever is beyond, behind
Be, if you must, aware of
But not too much – no more than serves
To measure by, to savour by
To live by grace within
The here and now.

It is the clumsy man we too much are
That cannot delicately hold the time
Within his juggling mind
And commandeer the chasing heart
Softly to send the blood like fingers
To touch and know the living hour
And store it richly by.

One day we die.
They say we scan
In the last living moments all our span.
We’d wish, I think, to go to Death
Or God
Like guests with gifts
Remembered and collected from our store
Of heres and nows
And say:
This trust of life’s fulfilled,
This gift’s returned, with more I found:
I was not poor.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter sun


I find this poem enigmatic. Does the sun stand for what is highest, finest, most desired?

We could define God as whatever is finest for us, now. That is our god (for better or worse - let it be something more than our small selves).

The breathless tomb. A wordless state. The sun stands for the world we have, and also the world we could have.

Easter sun

When cloud shrouds shredded by the wind
Disclose the risen body of the sun
And cartographic cherubs are imagined
Blowing lively barques on
A thriving trade run

The image of the quiet white angel is discarded
– that guarded solemnly the breathless tomb –
This side of heaven seems enough awarded
And demanded for whoever’s from
Only a man pierced womb.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Panic and pain

This is the second poem about ideas from David Henschel's Heres and Nows.

The metaphor of seeing ideas like races to be run suggests to me a distance between myself and the ideas, as though I could watch them from a little way away.

This is reminds me of the pool of thought in the poem Thought water. Once again, thoughts are not me, they are something separate, that one bathes in or watches.

Normally we are what we think, what we emote, what we feel. But the body and the heart are no more us than the thoughts that think in us.

Yet the poet gives thoughts, ideas, words a special value. Perhaps these are touchstone words of truth. Then there is yearning to pass this truth on to others before it is lost.


Panic and pain


Of course lifelong I had been finding
thoughts, or they found me.
But suddenly
it seemed I crossed a frontier to a land
as rich as spring with newnesses and
no more frontiers.
There
ideas like races to be run tore
open panic lest they should be lost
and beat like tides about the swiftening blood.

This is no land of milk and honey quiet.
Only the restless searchers come
here drawing words like water from
deep wells below their spirits’ hills:
to whom the printed page becomes
a joy too much like pain
yearning to be given
in others
birth again.


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ideas

This month and next I shall be presenting two poems about ideas from David Henschel's Heres and Nows.

This will lead me to considering silence, the absence of ideas, thoughts or mind activity, which I shall argue is an accompaniment to the state of presence itself.

Then in May we shall have the whole poem Here and Now, which deals with being joyfully in the present. Perhaps later I shall post my own poem, In memoriam David Henschel, which discusses the same thing in relation to what lives on.

That is, we shall talk about the idea of eternity in relation to presence.

We have already touched on the question of what lives on and you can see all these blog entries together on one page by clicking the tag eternity at the foot of this blog entry.

For now, I shall quote a Sufi saying:
Ideas can lead you to the door but they can't take you through.


Ideas


Sometimes they come unexpected –
Ideas as clean as blessings:
Phrases, sentences, clues; keys
To doors to corridors with doors
And suddenly by passages of sight
To halls of understanding
Sunshot domes of light.

I never know why. Wherefrom
Puzzles me infinitely.
They come like birds with beaks of
Olive branches to my ark
From lands of hope and guesswork.

(If shot - an albatross of words
It may be or may seem no more
However others find it gives rewards;
If not – a flake from flying snows
That crystal came but shapeless goes.
How rare the bird which nestles, branch that grows.)

I don’t expect to reach their shore
But I can send their signal from my ark
Into the dark.


Thursday, 3 March 2011

iLiterati

Here's something interesting - a place where you can upload your novel or short story or poetry book for others to download to their computers or e-readers and read free.

www.iliterati.com - I understand this is supposed to be pronounced i-literati (as in iPad, iPhone, Ford Escort XR3i etc.) not as in 'illiterate.'

Anyway, I wish it well.

Maybe I'll upload something free for people to read in due course - perhaps my first very slim volume.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Poems on the iPhone, iPad, iPod

The Kindle version of Heres and Nows is now available at a bargain price of £3.45 including VAT. It is also available from Amazon.com and via direct download to your Kindle.

It looks as though there's already an app for the iPad, iPod and iPhone that allows you to read Kindle books, so it should be possible to download and read David Henschel's Heres and Nows on your iPad, iPod or iPhone already.

The formatting of the sample pages on the Kindle is very odd, and the authors are listed in the wrong order in the product description, but when you actually download it, all is well.

e-books should look beautiful, and I think this one is. It is as close as I could get it to the original paperback version.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Kindle edition of Heres and Nows ready!

Finally, after a steep learning curve, I have David Henschel's Heres and Nows in a format suitable for the Kindle Wireless Reading Device
and other e-readers using the Mobipocket format.

The reason it has taken as long as it has is that I wanted the look and feel to be as pleasant as possible, while at the same time using the features that make using an e-reader a different experience from reading a book. For example, there are no page numbers and instead there is a linked table of contents.

Because there are no physical pages, I wanted to make it clear where the end of a poem is, rather than have to turn the page to find out if that was the end or not. To this purpose I have put small printer's leaf ornaments at the foot of each poem.

The link above is still to the paperback version, but the Kindle version should be available by 1st March, and when it is I shall change the link if necessary.

I also have a version ready for the Sony Reader and iPad, iPhone and iPod, so my next thing to learn is how to make it available on those machines.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Link with Blue Logic


Narrow Gate Press is now teamed up with Blue Logic so that we can tell you about all their unusual books and eBooks on esoteric subjects.
Click the link!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Thoughts welcome

If you have a comment on one of these blog posts it is welcome. If the comment is on an old post I shall link to it from a new post, so that your wise musings are not lost. Time passes in the blogosphere like a shadow.

Thought water


A little late, here are my thoughts on David Henschel's poem Thought water.

I need a pool of thought
to dip my mind in
cool and clear and sweetly springing
from some deep source on some high mountain.


We all have thoughts and plenty of them. The overwhelming majority of them are useless.

Worries about things that may never happen, anxieties about what we think other people think of us, resentments of things that could not have been otherwise, dreams unaccompanied by the least intention of working to realise them, items in the news that we're powerless to do anything about, impotent opinions based on no knowledge, churning in the mind of last night's television or a tune that we don't like that won't go away. That is why the denizens of hell are said to gibber.

This is not the pool of thought that the poet is asking for.

The poet is asking for a pool cool and clear and sweetly springing.

It seems to me that there is no room for such a pool unless we first detach ourselves from the thicket of our usual thoughts. I like the idea of the pool being up a mountain. As we climb higher, the thicket of useless thoughts is still there, but we pass through it, it is below us.

Another thought: in the fairytale Sleeping Beauty the prince has to make his way through a thicket of thorns. But those who had gone before perished in the attempt to hack them back. It is an effort doomed to failure. But because it is the right time, the thorn thicket separates before him, without effort. No doubt he came prepared, with a sword and ready to do battle. But no battle was required.

The poet goes on:

There is no pool unless I make one
from depths of spirit in the heights of mind.
It can only be cool if I am clear
only as clear as my own seeing
only as deep as my own loving
only as high as my own thinking.


My commentary: seeing is not thought, love is not thought, and thinking is a ladder, rightly used.

How we wish we could be clear.

It seems a last reality
necessary to truth
to recognise what living water
can only be drawn from one's own well
and nothing comes out
of nothing put in.


Lewis Carroll recommended making the effort to learn a poem by heart. That way, at least there is a corner of the mind that is filled with something worthwhile, something that becomes part of our own inner singing.

The impressions we expose ourselves to - literature, music, theatre, films, the clouds in the sky, the birdsong that even a city has, the smiles of strangers - make our thinking what it is.

Of course it is not I alone
who conjure rain into my earth
or trickle truth and understanding in;
but I am sand to parch my givers
thin earth which gives scant blessing back -
yet I have caves
and through my fissured rock
slowly the water gathers in my dark.


If we have received something then we can only be grateful. We can do nothing of ourselves, though we should like to think otherwise. Even so, I am richer because of these poems made by someone else.

I wish
it lay less deep and more accessible
I wish it lay upon the mountain side
and had the colour of the sky -
in which to bathe would be to fly.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Heres and Nows - price increase

Well, I tried to hold the price until 26 February but between the printer and Amazon it's already been put up to £10 and then marked down again by Amazon to £9. This is outside my control.

Since I said I'd keep the price down until 26 February, if anyone wishes to contact me direct before the end of the month I'll send you as many copies as you like at the old price (£6.50). Click the email link and send me your postal address. Don't worry, I'm not going to spam anybody!


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Thinking, swimming and flying


Thoughts on this next week. Meanwhile why not add your own perceptions? What are thoughts that live in dark caves? Is the best thought so much like the sky that it is nothing at all? What would it be like to have no thoughts?

Commenting on this blog is free! Someone has.

Thought water


I need a pool of thought
to dip my mind in
cool and clear and sweetly springing
from some deep source on some high mountain.

There is no pool unless I make one
from depths of spirit in the heights of mind.
It will only be cool if I am clear
only as clear as my own seeing
only as deep as my own loving
only as high as my own thinking.

It seems a last reality
necessary to truth
to recognise what living water
can only be drawn from one’s own well
and nothing comes out
of nothing put in.

Of course it is not I alone
who conjure rain into my earth
or trickle truth and understanding in;
but I am sand to parch my givers
thin earth which gives scant blessing back –

yet I have caves
and through my fissured rock
slowly the water gathers in my dark ...

I wish
it lay less deep and more accessible
I wish it lay upon the mountain side
and had the colour of the sky –
in which to bathe would be to fly.

Monday, 24 January 2011

One publisher's struggle with Amazon 'Search Inside'

At last! The Search Inside feature on Amazon.co.uk for David Henschel's Heres and Nows actually works! (Click the link to go to the Amazon page, then click on the picture on that page to see inside the book.)

This means that you can go and browse the book on-line just as you would in a bookshop.

I believe that people want to see what they are buying, especially if it's a poet they've never heard of. You have to give something away so that people see the quality, then they'll want more and buy.

I originally asked Amazon to activate Search Inside back in August 2010. The whole process was immensely complicated. The link provided was simply wrong. Then they didn't tell me that my Amazon.co.uk password wouldn't work on Amazon.com. I had to set up a new account.

I finally uploaded the book's pdf file at the end of September.

By early December the Search Inside function worked on Amazon.com but still not on Amazon.co.uk, so again I clicked the link inviting publishers to activate this feature. Once again I was invited to sign up to Amazon.com. I emailed back explaining that I had done all this already and nothing had happened to the book's listing on Amazon.co.uk.

Amazon replied as follows:
We can use the same files on Amazon.com for Amazon.co.uk so you don’t need to resubmit. In future, just contact us if you wish your titles to be active in other Amazon territories.

to which I replied:

Yes please, please do this.

To which they replied:

Your title will be live on Amazon.co.uk within 24 hours.

My advice to other print-on-demand publishers: as soon as you hear from Amazon Search Inside, set up an account with Amazon Seller Central at once and upload the pdf file without delay. Then expect to wait two months before anything happens on Amazon.com. When it does, email them again and ask them to activate the feature on Amazon.co.uk as well.

Kindle edition coming soon!


It's been a struggle but I think I'm there. Watch this blog!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Heres and Nows price held until 26 February

Having discovered to my consternation that the entire first stanza of Come peaceful had been omitted from David Henschel's Heres and Nows, I have painstakingly gone through the whole book with simultaneous reference to the original typescript.

The new version of the paperback edition of Heres and Nows with the missing stanza of Come peaceful reinstated, and one or two trivial punctuation errors also corrected, is now available through this link: David Henschel's Heres and Nows, or via the usual link to the upper right of this blog post.

I am holding the price of the new edition down to GB£6.50 or US$10.00 on Amazon until 26th February, thereafter the price will increase to GB£10.50 or US$15.00. This is to allow sufficient margin for high-street bookshops to sell it.

As previously stated, anyone who bought the original version can have the new edition posted to them free of charge provided only that they email me telling me where they bought their copy and sending me a postal mailing address. This offer expires at the end of March 2011. Anyone I already know about and have a mailing address for will get a new copy free without having to ask for it.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Come peaceful – a commentary

So what do we do when suffering from the private tempest and the heart's riot?

David's poem (see the post immediately below for the complete poem) describes the internal civil war and the war on the heart that follows from it:

Discharge the armies of my disarray
Which turn from civil forays on my hopes
To plunder purposes heart kept, and bray
Across my sleep their trumpets of dismay.


The poem goes on to suggest two ways out.

First, he hopes for a smile
A touch, or words to knit the mind’s torn ease
.

Sometimes sympathy is enough. In my experience this sympathy should try not to justify the sufferer's sufferings. I mean, if your friend is in a hole, don't climb in with them. Instead, offer the hand of friendship. You can offer a hand, but they must make some effort to climb out by themselves.

You might, for example, ask your friend, or yourself, 'What are you going to do next to improve things? What is the next step?'

The wrong kind of sympathy, even the wrong kind of listening, can make a person's problems more real than they deserve to be. The inner enemy in our internal civil war is often weaker than we imagine. Many (admittedly not all) of the things that are terrible today we laugh at or forget within a year.

It is even possible to recover from a broken heart. (You cannot in any case suffer from a broken heart unless you allow yourself to love in the first place – risking failure is a necessary precondition of success.)

The poet asks for a smile, a touch, or a few words only.

The poem offers us a second option.

... despatch that spirit by which I
Can set the eyes to search again
For lights within my stormy sky
And ears to hear some song behind its rain.


The medieval Sufi, Ibn 'Arabi (AD 1165-1240) wrote:

This noise is the noise of the wind and storm that your ego causes to be raised between the angelic influences and the world in which you live. The storm can only be quieted, and your heart find peace, through the remembrance of God.

It is the noise of our internal strife that plunder[s] purposes heart kept and clouds from us our true nature, which is the song behind its rain. That song, that peaceful place is you.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Come peaceful

A proof-reading error for which I am entirely to blame left off the first stanza of the lovely poem Come peaceful, which I reproduce in full below.

I am preparing a new print edition of David Henschel's Heres and Nows which will be ready very soon, correcting this error and one or two very minor errors I have come across while preparing the Kindle edition.

Special offer

For anyone who can provide me with a plausible story that they bought the first edition I shall send free of charge a copy of the new edition as soon as it is ready. Use the email link at the foot of the right-hand column of this web page. Don't forget to supply a delivery address!

Next week I shall post a little commentary on this poem. There is a way through the private tempest and to find the lights within my stormy sky which we shall talk about next time.

Meanwhile I wish you a happy and peaceful New Year.

Come peaceful


Oh make my private tempest quiet
And all cares still:
Come peaceful to the heart’s riot
Whatever can, whoever will.

Discharge the armies of my disarray
Which turn from civil forays on my hopes
To plunder purposes heart kept, and bray
Across my sleep their trumpets of dismay.

If you – bring blessed things to please
This tyrant anguish and my martial fears: a smile
A touch, or words to knit the mind’s torn ease
With meaning’s reconciling guile.

If not – despatch that spirit by which I
Can set the eyes to search again
For lights within my stormy sky
And ears to hear some song behind its rain.