Monday, November 26, 2012

Philip Larkin: Church Going

There's something magical about the poetry which transports you from a damp and miserable November afternoon, pitch black at 4pm.  You could end up back in the classroom where you first heard it, or the places being described, either way it's so much better than the cold and damp outside! lkm xo

Chaldon Church, Caterham, Surrey


C H U R C H  G O I N G
P H I L L I P  L A R K I N
Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for which was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
 
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Keltie Colleen: A Brief Interview

Keltie Colleen, author of Rockettes, Rockstars, and Rockbottom kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about her book and her life as a dancer in the world famous Radio City Rockettes.  Enjoy!



Do you feel that writing this book was different from writing a blog or a journal?  If so, in what way?

Of course, because it all had to make sense. I sort of jump all over the place when I am blogging, and in this book you follow me from age 6 dancing in my backyard to present day.

How do you make time for blogging in your very busy life?

Luckily for me my busy life includes many airports, airplanes and hotel rooms. I spent a great deal of time alone and so it makes it easy for me to find time to blog. My heart and guts are usually pretty messed up to so I am never short on inspiration!

Are there any books or blogs which you think are ESSENTIALS for young dancers? (or maybe old ones!)

Well, besides Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom- I think that twlya tharp had a really amazing book called "The creative habit".

You seem to have a really close family - what were their first reactions when you decided to publish your story?

Ha! I think my parents were the last to know! But then again, I am always coming up with crazy ideas. My parents would probably say "that's nice" if I told them I was going to go swim across the ocean!

Dancing can take a real tole on the body and cause aches and pains in places you didn't know even existed - did writing about your past loves and passions have a similar effect?

Actually the opposite, the more I dance the worst my body feels. The more I wrote about my heartache and confusion with the way the world worked the clearer the picture of myself became, and the warmer my insides felt. Writing this book was like the best therapy session ever.

Your mantra is courage. passion. hardwork. - when did you start using this?  
How did you come up with it?

When I was in high school a hockey player friend of mine used to take masking tape and put his mantra over his door. I kinda stole his idea and started doing the same thing. People think mantras are just words, but I swear these three little words, and keeping them in the front of my mind has changed my life.

If you could have 3 wishes right now, what would they be?

1. That diet coke was not bad for you and that I could drink it all day long.
2. That everyone would buy and read their copy of Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom.
3. More wishes~

My book Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom is available at amazon
follow me on twitter @keltiecolleen
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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Casual Vacancy: Review and Extract




I want you to do me a favour  - and just forget who the author is.  Forget what she has written in the past and whether or not you loved / hated / were forced to read it.  The people who I have spoken to about this book all seem to hate it without actually giving it a chance.  'Oh, I've heard that it's rubbish' is their automatic response when I say that I am reading it.  Is it because there aren't any mentions of wizards or Hogwarts?  Or because with all the swearing, masturbating, and drug use it seems as if J.K. Rowling was trying a bit too hard to distance herself from a certain boy wizard...I don't know....but I decided to find out what all the fuss was about.

The Casual Vacancy is a story about the muggles.  Ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in a small town by the name of Pagford.   It appears to be a thriving small town community in the English countryside but when you stare at the small cottages long enough you can see the curtains twitch; neighbours watching neighbours, fraught with jealousy, rivalry, and badly concealed racism.   The local council estate - The Fields is introduced as that dodgy place you drive through on the bus route, with its boarded up windows, graffiti, and dirty terrace blocks.  It certainly isn't the place you would choose to live, as the neighbouring villages of Pagford and  fighting over who is responsible for this mess on their otherwise idyllic village.

When Barry Fairbrother, the liberal chair of the parish council dies in the opening chapter, this creates what is termed a 'casual vacancy' on the board.  Barry, who had been raised in The Fields himself, is more sympathetic to the plight of the children and people living there than his opposition on the board, who see his death as a brilliant excuse to finally rid themselves of being responsible for the black-mark on their town.  

Personally, what I loved the most about Harry Potter (someone had to mention it) was the character descriptions.  These characters came alive on the page because of how J.K. Rowling described them and this is still very much alive and kicking in The Casual Vacancy.  As we work our way through the streets of Pagford - from those at the top of the career ladder to those who have never even stepped on to it, each character is described with such vivid detail that they come alive on the page.  These are people that you are likely to have encountered yourself, and you smirk, or sympathise with them accordingly.

I do not, however, believe that this is truly a book for adults.  Yes, it certainly does deal with adult themes, and is harrowing in parts, but just as the likes of Jacqueline Wilson write about adult themes they do so in a way which is accessible for children and young adults to understand but also in a way which is sometimes obvious to adults.  Pagford is a real town, this isn't magic anymore, and whilst an adult reader would accept this immediately, Rowling reiterates the point so many times that it almost loses its realism.  You're almost waiting for her to say...'A HA! This is in fact a novel which Ron Weasley's dad has been working on for the Ministry of Magic - to help wizards understand the struggle of the ordinary muggle!'

That isn't to say, however, that this doesn't make for interesting reading, Rowling's character descriptions, even if at times they may be reminisicent of those we met in the Harry Potter series never fail to delight in their biting truthfulness.   There are times when you really feel for the characters that she has created; and I believe that it is that ability to make such relatable characters which holds the key to her success with Harry Potter and what stops The Casual Vacancy from being just any old novel, and being a good novel instead.


 
 
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget





I N  F L A N D E R S  F I E L D
J O H N  M C R A E

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



It is thought that doctor John McCrae (30th November 1872 — 28th January 1918) began the draft for his famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ on the evening of the 2nd May, 1915 in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres.


It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for McCrae's poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. One account says that he was seen writing the poem sitting on the rearstep of an ambulance the next day while looking at Helmer's grave and the vivid red poppies that were springing up amongst the graves in the burial ground. Another account says that McCrae was so upset after Helmer's burial that he wrote the poem in twenty minutes in an attempt to compose himself.


A third account by his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Morrison, states that John told him he drafted the poem partly to pass the time between the arrival of two groups of wounded at the first aid post and partly to experiment with different variations of the poem's metre.


John McCrae, was serving as a Major and a military doctor and was second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. The field guns of his brigade’s batteries were in position on the west bank of the Ypres-Yser canal, about two kilometres to the north of Ypres. The brigade had arrived there in the early hours of 23rd April.

Poem and information source here. Photograph source here.

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