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2016-05-11 09:27

For some values of European

Writing about the New York poets in 1968 Stephen Kock remarked:

But for the older poets- Koch, Ashbery, and even most of their young followers- all is changed. Baths are de rigeur. No more pretending to be illiterate; unashamed, these writers bluntly confess to being influenced by the great tradition of classical European modernism- by Mallarme, Proust, Breton, Henri Michaux and Raymond Roussel.

Our Varied Reader would be forgiven for wondering if "classical European modernism" was exclusively a French phenomenon, but Michaux was in fact Belgian.

2016-04-29 08:31


While growing up, I didn't care that I couldn't speak Igbo, but in adulthood, especially since becoming a father, it's something I want to fix. I find myself wanting to bequeath Igbo to my son, Anyikamba (the name means "we are greater than a nation"), as an invaluable inheritance.

I don't yet know as much as I should about my ancestors, or enough about Igbo history, so I can't pass these on to him. But language as an embodiment of that living, breathing, history, I (and especially my wife) can give.

Knowing little of his recent ancestors' culture or history
he resolves to teach his children
a language he himself does not speak.

I go one better by teaching mine Pictish,
which has not yet been deciphered,
and from whose speakers I am unlikely to descend.

2016-04-21 10:00

The Queen (of England &c.)'s 90th Birthday

Festivities galore

There was an old Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
whose birthdays had become quite a bother
But knowing our luck
when she's dead we'll be stuck
With that arsewit of whom she's the mother

2016-04-20 07:57

Edging towards flightlessness

(A précis)

Since at least the dawn of time,
mankind has envied birds their flight -
the apes' nostalgia for the trees
masks a deeper sense of plight
at the gravity which denies
them access to the open skies.
And yet it seems that certain kinds
of island birds are disinclined
to soar the way a bird should soar;
unencouraged by predation
they've abandoned aviation -
they can't be bothered any more.
Others have not quite lost heart
but need a flying leap to start.

2016-04-19 16:29

Sant Jordi

Le 23 avril, la Catalogne célèbre la culture et l’amour. C’est l’occasion d’offrir à ses proches une rose… ou un livre.

Would that I were, on George's day,
In Catalonia where one may
Express affection with a rose,
Or else a choice of deathless prose.

All hail the Catalunyan lovers
Who judge no roses by their covers!
But remember, lest your lover frown,
There's no book that can't be put down.

2016-04-18 08:19



The family of a Bavarian farmer confessed
to murdering him,
dismembering his body,
and feeding the pieces to their dogs.

when his car was fished from the Danube
his body was found intact
in the driver's seat.

(Spiegel 1/2016; after Reznikoff.)

2. Nuits debouts comes to Groningen

Young persons! I would like to join
your non-specific night-time protest
against the many evils neoliberal policies have brought,
but I am not young

and it is past my bed time.

2016-04-15 12:14

Return of the manglewurzels

The manglewurzel seedlings
rot in the spring rain.

We sit indoors, nursing
the last of the winter's manglewurzel wine.

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