Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney

I came online to post some poetry here only to see the sad news that Seamus Heaney had passed away aged 74.  Considered the best Irish poet since W. B. Yeats and a strong feature on Literature syllabuses up and down the country Heaney won the 1995 Nobel Prize and took a moment to consider the jump between writing a few lines and winning a Nobel Prize.  

'I credit poetry both for being itself and for being a help, for making possible a fluid relationship...between the child gazing at the word "Stockholm" on the face of the radio dial and the man facing the faces that he meets at this most privileged moment.'

There is something unique, I feel, about not only the death of a poet but also a poet who features so heavily in children's education.  His name will be one which people will recognise and remember from their school days - his poetry will sit unassumingly on their bookshelves, and today will be read out of respect for both his career and for their old English teacher who urged them to enjoy poetry independently of English lessons. 

// Kate Mortmain

B L A C K B E R R Y  P I C K I N G 

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

S E A M U S  H E A N E Y

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kiss me First by Lottie Moggach

Leila is a lonely young woman.  She can’t remember how she found ‘Red Pill’ but she knows it didn’t take long for her to become obsessed with the website dedicated to philosophical discussion.  Spending hours formulating her contributions to the ethical discussions on the site it isn’t long until she is noticed by the site’s founder – the enigmatic and mysterious Adrian.  They arrange to meet and discuss ‘Project Tess’: a plan which would allow a depressed woman to commit suicide without her family and friends knowing.  Tess would tell her loved ones that she had moved away to a remote Canadian island and Leila would keep up her online life: her Facebook profile, emails, even leaving pre-recorded messages for Tess’ mother.  But Leila will soon discover that there is more to a person than any amount of Facebook messages, emails, or memories can cover…

Written in the first person narrative we catch glimpses of Leila’s personality and warped perception of the world through her misunderstandings of Tess’ life.  They spend hours sending emails, talking on Skype, trying to comb over every person who was ever once significant in Tess’ life.  Spread-sheets detailing the arguments Tess has had with her mother: the topics, the dates, the fallout are composed.  Leila’s bedroom walls are decorated with a timeline of Tess’ life.  The problem being, however, is that all of the information Leila gathers is from Tess’ perspective – the events and people she remembers, and Leila has no information about those phrases Tess has forgotten: what ‘kiss me first’ means as a sign off in emails.

The marketing for the book ties in perfectly with the theme: an app which accesses your Facebook page, as you see another person type in a status for you, and (in my case) a girl I last spoke to seven years ago asking if I was okay as I seemed ‘a bit odd lately’.  We are living in a time when people you would otherwise have forgotten can access a lot of personal information via our social media accounts which whilst it may allow us to feel like we’re ‘keeping in touch’, Moggach cleverly turns this notion on its head and asks: how do we know we’re ‘keeping in touch’ with the person that we used to know?

The intense relationship which develops between Leila and Tess shows how brilliantly and deftly Moggach has created two women who jump off the page.  As Leila takes on Tess’ life she grows as a person, learning things about herself which no amount of hours on an internet forum could offer.  Moggach has spoken in interviews of the novel morphing into an unintentional thriller; which, I feel, sadly shows at the end where there has been such build up, only to have the various threads of the story thrown together at the last minute. Thankfully, however, this doesn’t stop Kiss Me First from being a fascinating and insightful read into our dependence on our online relationships.  

If you’re looking for an unputdownable book for the summer – look no further! 

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Personal Courage

Have the personal courage to explore and expand your horizons; don't stand still while everything around you is changing.  Demand excellence in yourself and in others -- and opportunities you will have are unlimited.

J A N E  A U S T E N

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