Favourite blogs for H's blog

My favourites » All entries

February 25, 2013

Last Blog Entry

Writing about web page http://www.zoebrigley.com

This is just a note to say that I will no longer be using this blog. I have now moved over to my website and blog at zoebrigley.com


June 09, 2012

Etch Dance Company

Writing about web page http://www.etchdance.org/etch_dance/Home.html

I have been meaning for a while to write about a dance company here in Pennsylvania called Etch Dance. I have been to see a few of their shows and I was really impressed by the choreography, much of which is inspired by literature – writers like Kate Chopin, Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Edwidge Danticat. The dances explore female identity and how to express different aspects of that psyche. What particularly struck me about the dances too was how they allow the female body to be athletic, muscular, strong in a way that is very female. Many of the shapes and poses reminded me of female dancers in art – the strong women of Paula Rego or Tamara de Lempicka.

(All the photos of the dancers below are publicity shots from their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/134406240544/photos/ ).

Etch Dance 1
Etch Dance 2
Etch Dance 3
Tamara de Lempicka 2
Paula Rego

April 29, 2012

Four copies of Conquest to give away….

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335706442&sr=1-6

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Conquest by Zoë Brigley (Thompson)

Conquest

by Zoë Brigley (Thompson)

Giveaway ends June 07, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

April 06, 2012

Conquest and Repeated Words…

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.com/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307

Someone asked me recently about the repeated words that appear in Conquest, and I am posting my answer here. I recently created a Wordle to see exactly which words are repeated most in the book.

Conquest Wordle

It is certainly true that repeated words like ‘garden,’ ‘window,’ ‘long,’ ‘flower,’ ‘never,’ and ‘dreams’ feature prominently in Conquest. I have always liked repetition in poetry: the sense that in reading an entire book you are circling round and round the same ideas. I think that’s why I chose to use the sestina form twice in this new book. You can find out more about the sestina on poets.org .

There are two versions of a double sestina form in Conquest – I say versions because each stanza has fourteen lines like a sonnet, and fourteen repeated words, so it’s a hybrid form different to those used by Swinburne and Sidney . The first (found in the ‘Conquest’ section from p. 35 to 43) uses the words (with variations in brackets):

Conquest

*plot (plotted, plotting);
*land (onland, Disneyland, scrubland, dreamlands, garlands, land-burning);
*fat (fattening, fatten, fattened, fattest);
*gold (golden, golden eyes, gilds);
*graph (cartography, sonograph, autograph, geography, photographs, choreography);
*man or men (bondsmen, woman, ottoman, kinsman, women, workmen, figure, cattlemen);
*earth;
*cell (sells, call);
*script (description, inscription, conscripts, scripture);
*bear or bore (harbour, harbouring, born, borne);
*thing (nothing, anything, everything, something);
*shore (onshore, shore up, shoreline, sure, lakeshore);
*colony (colonists, colonies, colonise);
*and one wild card for words that had something to do with the body: most often I use ‘mouth’, but I also use ‘teeth’, ‘burst’, ‘tongues’, ‘faces’, ‘lips’, ‘open’, ‘hair’, ‘touch’, ‘body’, and once I use the word ‘bereft’ which is an obvious cheat but was necessary for the poem.

There are words related to geography (land, earth, shore) and the civilizing of place (colony, plot). Some of the words relate to the greed of imperialism (gold, fat), and to the suffering that it causes (bear, cell). There is also a feeling in some of the words that the protagonists are trying to chart a course away from such an oppressive way of living (script, graph, thing). This is a physical journey too , as indicated by the bodily words in the wild card list.

The second version of a double sestina is ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ sequence, and the repeated words (with variations in brackets) are:

*garden (gardener);
*year (yearly);
*day (today, Sunday, daylight, weekday);
*plant (planted, plantations, replanted, transplanted, Jardin des Plantes, planting, pieplants);
*time (thyme, night-time, mistimed);
*flower (flowers, Mayflower, flour, fleurs, marigold, flowering, flowerbeds);
*sweet (sweetest, sweetcakes, sweetnesses, unsweetened, sweeten);
*wreck (wreckage, wrecked);
*out (outside, outed);
*window;
*walls (walled);
*and a wild card for words related to the senses: mainly I use ‘tongue,’ but on two occasions I use ‘eye,’ and once ‘marmalade.’

‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ is a poem about recuperation and healing. The epigraph from A Midsummer Night’s Dream reads: “It fell upon a little western flower, / Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound.” There are repeated words related to growth (garden, plant, flower), and to obstacles that prevent growth (walls, wreck). Words related to the passage of time (time, day, year) indicate that this is a slow process, but there are rewards (sweet, the sensual wild card list) and possibilities of escape (window, out).


March 22, 2012

zoebrigley.org is no more…

Writing about web page https://www.facebook.com/zoebrigley

This is just a note to say that zoebrigley.org is no more. The domain was somehow hijacked – apparently this is quite common. In the meantime, I have set up a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/zoebrigley and a new, improved website will be coming soon.


March 18, 2012

Conquest arrives…

Copies of my new poetry collection Conquest arrived last week… Thanks again to the artist Victoria Brookland for allowing me to use her wonderful image Hawk on the front cover. There are also three pictures by Brookland inside the collection.

Conquest

Alan Moore Essays

Writing about web page http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514412-sexual-ideology-in-the-works-of-alan-moore

The collection on Alan Moore and sexual ideology is out now, and I have contributed an essay. See the contents below… I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Introduction: The Polarizing of Alan Moore’s Sexual Politics
TODD A. COMER and JOSEPH MICHAEL SOMMERS 5

Part I: The “Low Form”: Moore and the Complex Relationships of the Comic Book Superhero
1. Libidinal Ecologies: Eroticism and Environmentalism in Swamp Thing
BRIAN JOHNSON 16
2. Green Love, Red Sex: The Conflation of the Flora and the Flesh in Swamp Thing
MATTHEW CANDELARIA 28
3. When “One Bad Day” Becomes One Dark Knight: Love, Madness, and Obsession in the Adaptation of The Killing Joke into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
JOSEPH MICHAEL SOMMERS 40
4. “Don’t laugh, Daddy, we’re in love”: Mockery, Fulfillment, and Subversion of Popular Romance Conventions in The Ballad of Halo Jones
KATE FLYNN 52
5. The Love of Nationalism, Internationalism and Sacred Space in Watchmen
KARL MARTIN 65

Part II: The Vicious Cabaret of Love, Sexual Desire … and Torture
6. Theorizing Sexual Domination in From Hell and Lost Girls Jack the Ripper versus Wonderlands of Desire
ZOE BRIGLEY-THOMPSON 76
7. “Do you understand how I have loved you?” Terrible Loves and Divine Visions in From Hell
MERVI MIETTINEN 88
8. Body Politics: Unearthing an Embodied Ethics in V for Vendetta
TODD A. COMER 100
9. The Poles of Wantonness: Male Asexuality in Alan Moore’s Film Adaptations
EVAN TORNER 111
10. Reflections on the Looking Glass: Adaptation as Sex and Psychosis in Lost Girls
NICO DICECCO 124

Part III: Victorian Sexualities and the Ecriture Feminine: Women Writing and the Women of Writing
11. “Avast, Land-Lubbers!” Reading Lost Girls as a Post-Sadeian Text
K. A. LAITY 138
12. The Undying Fire: Erotic Love as Divine Grace in Promethea
CHRISTINE HOFF KRAEMER 150
13. “It came out of nothing except our love”: Queer Desire and Transcendental Love in Promethea
PAUL PETROVIC 163
14. Self-Conscious Sexuality in Promethea
ORION USSNER KIDDER 177
15. I Remain Your Own: Epistolamory in “The New Adventures of Fanny Hill”
LLOYD ISAAC VAYO 189

Afterword: Disgust with the Revolution
ANNALISA DI LIDDO 201

Selected Bibliography 207
About the Contributors 217


October 13, 2011

Film Noir: Bibliography

Build Your Gallows High

Abbott, Megan (2002) The Street was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

Allen, Virginia M. (1983) The Femme Fatale: Erotic Icon (New York: The Whitson Publishing Company).

Beeler, Karin (2006) Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television (Jefferson NC: McFarland).

Biesen, Sheri Chinen (2004) ‘Manufacturing Heroines: Gothic Victims and Working Women in Clasic Noir Films’ in Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey: Limelight): 161-173.

--. (2005) Blackout: World War Two and the Origins of Film Noir (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press).

Boozer, Jack (1999) ‘The lethal femme fatale in the noir tradition,’ Journal of Film and Video 51.3/4: 20-35.

Bould, Mark (2005) Film Noir: From Berlin to Sin City (London and New York: Wallflower).

Cassuto, Leonard (2009) Hard-boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories (New York: Columbia University Press).

Chopra-Gant, Mike (2006) Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Film and Film Noir (London and New York: IB Tauris).

Corey, William (1999) ‘Girl Power: Female Centered Neo-Noir’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 311-327.

Diapaolo, Marc (2011) War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (Jefferson NC: McFarland).

Doane, Mary Ann (1987) The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (Bloomington and Indianapolis IN: Indiana University Press).

--. (1991)Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis(London and New York: Routledge).

Evans, Caroline (2007) Fashion at the Edge (New Haven CT: Yale University Press).

Farber, Stephen (1999) ‘Violence and the Bitch Goddess’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 45-55.

Fay, Jennifer and Justus Nieland (2010) Film Noir: Hard Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization (London and New York: Routledge).

Feasey, Rebecca (2009) ‘Neo-Noir’s Fatal Woman: Stardom, Survival and Sharon Stone’ in Neo-noir, ed. Mark Bould, Kathrina Glitre and Greg Tuck (London and New York: Wallflower).

Flory, Dan (2010) Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir (University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press).

Forter, Greg (2000) Murdering Masculinities: Fantasies of Gender and Violence in the American Crime Novel (New York and London: New York University Press).

Hollinger, Karen (1996) ‘Film Noir, Voice-over, and the Femme Fatale’ in Film Noir Reader, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 243-260.

Irwin, John T. (2006) Unless the Threat of Death is Behind Them: Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir (Baltimore MD: John Hopkins University Press).

James, Dean (1998) ‘Interview with Sara Paretsky’ in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensible Companion, ed. Jan Grape, Dean James and Ellen Nehr (New York: Connell and Graf Publishers): 287-290.

Kinsman, Margaret (1995) ‘A Question of Visibility: Paretsky and Chicago’ in Women Times Three: Writers, Detectives, Readers, ed. Kathleen Gregory Klein (Bowling Green OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press): 15-28.

Maxfield, James F. (1996) The Fatal Woman: Sources of Male Anxiety in American Film Noir, 1941-1991 (Madison/Teaneck: Farleigh Dickenson University Press).

Menon, Elizabeth (2006) Evil by Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois).

Orr, Stanley (2010) Darkly Perfect World: Colonial Adventure, Postmodernism, and American Noir (Columbus OH: Ohio State University Press).

Phillips, Gene D. (2000) Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction and Film Noir (Lexington KT: University Press of Kentucky).

Pronzoni, Bill (1998) ‘Women in the Pulps’ in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensible Companion, ed. Jan Grape, Dean James and Ellen Nehr (New York: Connell and Graf Publishers): 17-19.

Reddy, Maureen T. (1988) Sisters in Crime: Feminism and the Crime Novel (New York: Continuum).

Richardson, Michael (2010) Otherness in Hollywood Cinema (New York and London: Continuum).

Spicer, Andrew (2002) Film Noir (Harlow: Longman).

Telotte, J.P. (2004) ‘Voices from the Deep: Film Noir as Psychodrama’ in Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey: Limelight): 145-159.

Wager, Jans B. (2005) Dames in the Driver’s Seat: Rereading Film Noir (Austin TX: University of Texas Press).

Ward, Elizabeth (1999) ‘The Unintended Femme Fatale: The File on Thelma Jordan and Pushover’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 129-136.


September 02, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Apocalypse —– September 2011.

Writing about web page http://nvwn.wordpress.com/

(Part of the NVWN newsletter).

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, people up and down the East Coast are left in awe at the incredible power of the wind and sea. Apart from the hurricane, there have been tornadoes, even an earthquake, and one can’t help feeling humbled at the chaos produced, worthy of a disaster movie.

Environmental destruction and ecological balance are at the heart of Neil Astley’s anthology_Earth Shattering_, which brings together over 200 poems to celebrate the natural world, lament its corruption, and consider how it might be preserved. When it comes to the power of nature and the possibility of apocalypse, however, one poem particularly struck me.

Working out of genres that he calls ‘Alternative Realism’ and ‘European Darkness,’ the Irish poet Matthew Sweeney imagines the breakdown of the civilized world in ‘Zero Hour’ (http://www.cstone.net/~poems/twoposwe.htm). As oil reserves slowly run low in this frightening, new society, Sweeney imagines cars left useless on the roadside and people attacking one another for the most basic goods. Sweeney’s scenario is one that we all doubtfully envision at times of crisis, and his final question is chilling:


…who
out there could have predicted
this sudden countdown to zero hour,
all the paraphernalia of our comfort
stamped obsolete, our memories
fighting to keep us sane and upright?

August 01, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Trauma —– July/August 2011.

Writing about web page https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork

The world is still coming to terms with the massacre on the island of Utøya in Norway. Reading accounts of the horror by young people like Emma Martinovic in The Guardian is moving and thought-provoking: we ask ourselves, how would we respond in the face of such brutality?

Poets have often tried to make sense of inhuman and barbaric acts of murder. For example, the poem `Psychopath’ by the British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, or Carolyn Forché’s remarkable prose poem, `The Colonel,’ which presents a brutal Latin American dictator: “The colonel returned with a sack that he used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this.”

Perhaps the most poignant, however, is poetry of the survivor, the poetry of those who mourn for the lost and seek a new future. Take Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno’s collection Slamming Open the Door written after her daughter, Leidy, was brutally murdered in 2003. Bonanno writes of her precarious existence after the event in the poem `Ice Skating’:

we skate way far over in the distance,
remotely visible,
two pitiable lurchers
where the surface is wafery thin
and the light is bad,
where no one would choose to skate
had God not pointed an icy,
peremptory finger
and said, There.


-
(This is a column for the NVWN Newsletter: https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork).

July 04, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Nature —– June/July 2011.

Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork

Poetry is often thought to have a special relationship with nature, from the British Romantics to Walt Whitman and Robinson Jeffers. Nature poetry is now sometimes frowned upon as being too sentimental or idealist, imagining utopias that cannot exist in a modern, urban world. Poetry, however, might be a very useful tool for understanding the human relationship with nature, especially when pollution is rife and industry threatens to destroy America’s beautiful natural spaces for the sake of profit.

In his study, The Song of the Earth, the critic Jonathan Bate draws on the ideas of the philosopher Martin Heidegger to put forward the idea of “poetic dwelling”. Though writing is an act of human production, far away from the natural world, Bate notes that poetry emphasizes the imagination rather than possession, something that is particularly important with regards to nature. This poetic attitude can be seen in the poems of Robert Frost, such as `The Need of Being Versed in Country Things,’ which describes a tumbledown house where birds fly in through the broken windows. Frost notices that in this scene of human wreckage, life carries on: `the lilac renewed its leaf’. Human beings do not dominate the landscape and finally nature reclaims the human dwelling. Frost concludes that for the birds, `there was really nothing sad’.

-
(This is a column for the NVWN Newsletter: https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork).


June 18, 2011

More Poetry Set to Music: Harper's version of Angelou's 'Still I Rise'.

I discovered this on the Live From Mars album this morning. Ben Harper merges a beautiful song about Martin Luther King with Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’: http://youtu.be/Yi4SHLrmiqI


June 11, 2011

Karen LaMonte's Recining Dress Impression with Drapery (2009)

Writing about web page http://www.karenlamonte.com/

Taken at the Renwick, Smithsonian, Washington DC, 2010.


Viewing this work is a remarkable experience. Your first impression is of looking at a solid mass, but when you catch it at particular angles, the body-shaped hollow pops out at you. It really makes you gasp. There’s an incredible presence for something that is not there, a woman who is conspicuously absent. Karen's work draws attention to clothing as a cultural construct--an identifier that relays who you are and your place in the world. The history of the dress is fundamentally tied to what it means to be a woman. Yet Karen has stated that the subject of her work isn't so much feminism, but femininity. (Quoted from... http://www.karenlamonte.com/media/Eye%20Level_%20In%20Conversation%20with%20Karen%20Lamonte_Jan%202010.pdf)


June 09, 2011

'Memory' – a poem by Frida Kahlo.


Frida Kaho

MEMORY

I had swayed. Nothing else. But suddenly I knew

In the depth of my silence

He was following me. Like my shadow, blameless and light

In the night, a song sobbed…

The Indians lengthened, winding, through the alleys of the town.

A harp and a jacaranda were the music, and the smiling dark-skinned girls

Were the happiness

In the background, behind the “Zócalo,” the river shined

and darkened, like

the moments of my life.

He followed me.

I ended up crying, isolated in the porch of the parish church,

protected by my bolita shawl, drenched with my tears.

----

Reproduced in The Letters of Frida Kahlo: Cartas Apasionadas, ed. and trans. Martha Zamora, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, p. 9. 


June 06, 2011

Robert Frost and the Environment: A Short Bibliography

Writing about web page http://enviroencyclopedia.blogspot.com/

Robert Frost and the Environment: Bibliography

I recently wrote up an entry for a new Encyclopedia on the subject of the environment in American literature. The entry was on Robert Frost, and I paste a fuller bibliography here. In the process of writing, I was very much struck by the complexity of Frost's poems, beyond his more well-known poems like 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'. 

Robert Frost


Faggen, Robert (2001) Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press.

---(ed.) (2001) The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

---(2008) The Cambridge Introduction to Robert Frost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Frost, Robert (1964) Complete Poems, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilso.

---(1966) Interviews with Robert Frost, ed. Edward Connery Lathem, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson.

---(2006) The Notebooks of Robert Frost, ed. Robert Faggen, Boston MA: Harvard University Press.

---(2007) The Collected Prose of Robert Frost. Ed. Mark Richardson. Cambridge: Beknap Press/Harvard University Pres.

Kearns, Katherine (1994) Robert Frost and a poetics of appetite, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parini, Jay. Robert Frost: A Life. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000.

Spencer, Matthew (2003) Elected Friends: Robert Frost and Edward Thomas to one another, New York: Handsel Books/Other Press.

Timmerman, John H. (2002) Robert Frost and the Ethics of Ambiguity, Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

Tuten, Nancy Lewis and John Zubizarreta (2001) The Robert Frost Encyclopedia, Westport CT: Greenwood Publishing. 


June 01, 2011

Being an Immigrant During World War Two

Wars are not only fought along battlelines, but also at home. And while cultural and political tensions are played out on the field of war, they also show themselves in the towns and cities that soldiers are fighting to protect.

One sad story of the home front was told to me by my Welsh grandmother, Norma Roach. it told the tale a family of Italian immigrants, who during World War Two, lived in Maesteg, a small coal town in South Wales. Italians from the Apennine Mountains migrated to the UK during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and many of them settled in Wales. The Welsh Valley people became used to Italian cafés and ice-cream parlours.

One such Italian family was the Bellis, who set up an Italian café in Maesteg, the town where my Welsh family lived for hundreds of years. They were well liked in town, but during World War Two, a policy of internment was brought in for immigrants from Italy, Germany and other enemy countries. After Mussolini declared war in 1940, the British government saw Italian immigrants as enemy aiens and potential spies. To control this unknown quantity, the government decided to send these immigrants to Canada where they could do less harm.

This meant, however, breaking up families. The older Bellis who were Italian citizens were rounded up and put on a boat to Canada – the SS Arandora Star, while members of the Belli family who were born in Wales had to stay behind.

The ironic thing was that the Bellis journeying to Canada on the Arandora Star never completed their journey. It was sunk in the Atlantic by a German submarine. There were over 1200 German and Italian internees on board, and over 800 people died including the Bellis.


Leadership Underground: My Grandfather's Story

Writing about web page http://www.redroom.com/blog/zbthompson/leadership-underground-my-grandfathers-story

[This entry originally appeared on Red Room: http://www.redroom.com/blog/zbthompson/leadership-underground-my-grandfathers-story]

When I think about leadership, I will always remember family stories told to me about my Welsh grandfather. Graham Roach was a miner who worked his way up to be the pit’s safety officer, a job which often involved dealing with painful and disfiguring injuries. People are often aware of mining disasters, but often, they are not so conscious of the accidents that happen regularly, every week even. How, for example, my grandfather watched a slice of stone fall down and cut off the four fingers of a man who had been resting his hand on the seam. The stories of these eponymous accidents and how my grandfather dealt with them, were passed along the family grapevine. My grandfather told my uncle who in turn told my mother who in turn told me.

One famous story tells how my grandfather himself was injured. The night was when a conveyor belt snapped and wrapped itself round the leg of my grandfather and another man.

The first man was screaming: ‘For the love of God, get it off me, boys.’

My grandfather, never one to waste words, simply said: ‘Me too, boys.’

He was always a man of few words, and the story made us all laugh, even though it meant hours of agony for my grandfather. The first man was weeping and wailing and calling out for a doctor. My grandfather simply repeated: ‘Me too.’

On another shift, my grandfather was underground when the mine flooded. Down one tunnel, some of the machinery had been swallowed up by the water. At the end of the tunnel was a long black pool. Taking off his boots, my grandfather readied himself. Now he dived into the water-filled shaft meeting the water’s cold slap. He dived down feeling his way along the side of the shaft in the dark. His hand blundered on something metallic and sharp. He came up with the drill and worked all night in his wet clothes.

It doesn’t surprise me that during World War Two, my grandfather had one of the most dangerous jobs in the airforce as a rear gunner. In the airforce and in his job at the mine, he always seemed to be the one to take on the difficult task, the thing that no one else wanted to do. He is altogether the kind of leader that I admire. Not a showy or conspicuous man, but nevertheless a man who knows how to act in a crisis. A man who doesn’t make a fuss when something goes wrong, but simply waits in silence for help to come. A man who does unpleasant tasks, not relishing them, but knowing that they have to be done and that he must lead by example.

My grandfather: Graham Roach

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Music —– May/June 2011.

Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork

At a recent event at Penn State, poet Robin Becker opened her reading by noting that poetry had its origins in song, and she quoted the Pennsylvania poet J.D. McClatchy who says: “All arts want to have their birth in music”. Poetry and song do seem to overlap in significant ways. Some poets like the Surrealist Peter Blegvad set their words to music. Musicians also make songs of poems, as in Joni Mitchell’s rendering of W.B. Yeats’ `The Second Coming…

...John Cale’s version of Dylan Thomas’s `Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night…

...or Leonard Cohen’s ‘Take this Waltz’ based on Lorca’s
poem `Little Viennese Waltz’...

Some songwriters, too, have the lyrics of a poet. Many cite Bob Dylan as a prime example, or his forebear, Woody Guthrie, who wrote poetic narratives on the lives of the poor. This particularly American tradition is carried on today by artists like Gillian Welch, who write the stories of the outcast, poor and bereft. Written about the tragedy of American sharecroppers in the 1930s, Welch’s `Annabelle’ recalls Walker Evan’s eponymous photographs of Depression-era poverty. Songs like this also recall the origins of poetry, as an essentially sung form and a means to convey oral histories.


April 28, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: War Poetry —– April/May 2011.

Last year, I joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.

-

War is all over the news at the moment. The Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East has seen millions of people rise up to demand a new democracy. The news coverage is insufficient to convey their sacrifice. Poetry, however, might fill this gap, because it offers language free from political jingoism.

There have been many solider poets, from the English World War One poets like Wilfred Owen, to the modern day Brian Turner who served in the US army in Iraq. Most recently, however, I discovered Elyse Fenton’s Clamor, which won the $50,000 Dylan Thomas Prize.

Fenton is married to a trauma specialist in the US Army, and_Clamor_ is based on experiences of waiting for him to return from Iraq. The opening poem, ‘Gratitude’, finds the wife listening to her husband describe the grotesque scenes witnessed by her husband. When the body of a burned soldier is delivered ‘beyond recognition’, her husband must be ‘the one to sink the rubber catheter tube’. The distance is frustrating; over the phone, the wife hears ‘rotors / scalping the tarmac-grey sky’. The conversation and the story end, but the question is how long can anyone, let alone her husband, survive? How long before he comes home? The final image might indicate relief or foreboding.


[…] That moment just before we think the end will never come and then
the moment when it does.

April 02, 2011

Dylan Thomas Tour

Writing about web page http://www.newyorkfuntours.com/dylan-thomas.html

New York, Greenwich Village

I have been meaning to write up something about this for ages, but I have been completely snowed under with work recently. New York fun tours have set up a Dylan Thomas tour of Greenwich Village in New York: http://www.newyorkfuntours.com/dylan-thomas.html and, a good few months ago, I was invited with a group of Welsh artists and actors to go on the inaugural tour led by the writer Ianto Jones. The script for the tour has been written by the poet Peter Thabit Jones and Dylan Thomas’s daughter Aeronwy Thomas.

New York, Dylan Thomas Tour, Ianto Jones

The tour took us around many of Dylan Thomas’s old haunts. It began at the church where hundreds attended Thomas’s funeral – St. Luke’s in the Field – and it visited the sites of speakeasies which he frequented, and the Cherry Lane Theatre set up by Edna St. Vincent Millay, where Thomas gave one of his most successful American readings. We were able to have a look inside the beautiful Washington Square Hotel, where Thomas used stay during his tours of NYC, and we also went to visit Patchin Place where E.E. Cummings, poet and friend of Thomas, used to live. It was also where Djuna Barnes used to live, and Ianto Jones pointed out her house. Finally, we saw the hospital where Thomas was treated – St Vincent’s – and the eponymous White Horse Tavern which was one of his favourites.

New York, Greenwich Village, Cherry Lane Theatre

Overall, it was a really entertaining tour, and it gave a powerful sense of what Greenwich Village must have been like in the fifties. The facts about Thomas and the readings from his letters and writing were illuminating, but the tour also gave a more general history about the stories behind Greenwich Village, such as Thomas’s namesake Bob Dylan.

New York, Dylan Thomas Tour

The people on the inaugural tour were an interesting lot. There was the winner of this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize, Elyse Fenton, whose poetry collection_Clamor_ discusses war from the point of view of a soldier’s wife waiting at home. It’s a great collection, and later Elyse gave a short reading of some very moving and powerful poems. There was also the cast and crew of the Welsh film Third Star, set in Pembrokeshire, including the writer Vaughan Sivell. There were a number of other Welsh actors too including Hywel John and Emer Kenny, as well as Welsh radio and drama producers, the British consulate and his wife, and many others.

New York, Greenwich Village, EE Cummings
E.E. Cummings’ house
-
New York, Greenwich Village, Djuna Barnes

Djuna Barnes’ house


November 27, 2009

Moving on from Warwick

At the end of this week I move on from Warwick after 7 years in the comms team. Whilst I am sad to move on, I am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities ahead.

It is nice, however, to reflect on that time at Warwick and it’s a good opportunity just to say a few things about this and that.

Whatever has happened over my time here has been based on a set of strong collaborations of extremely talented people who have (largely) been a joy to work with. Warwick is blessed with a great community of people who are passionate about their discipline (and I include administrators in this, not just academics and students) and the institution. There are many great minds around here that are capable of great things.

It’s been a considerable pleasure to work with many people and teams at Warwick and I would like to just thank a few of them here.

eLab are a fabulous asset to the University and a provide pool of skills and knowledge that is the envy of many. Despite the odd hiccup, usually thanks to me, the development team have proven themselves to be an outstanding group – creative, insightful and able to navigate paths through challenges in a way that is always accessible. John, Chris, Karen, Sara and Julie have always been great to work with and serve the interests of both parties in an exemplary fashion – which is not always easy! If I have one frustration with the team it is that they don’t tell their own story half as well as they should do.

I have to also give due credit to Steve Carpenter, Rob O’Toole, Stephen Brydges and Chris Coe for being great to work with and helping me navigate through the elearning world so effectively. And yes, I do mean that to apply to Mr O’Toole, tortured genius that he may be.

Steve Carpenter has also been a massive help (along with the King of Wales, Mr Mat Mannion and the patient Nick Howes) in getting many of the video and related projects going. I hope I have given good value in return. Keep the flash faith my friend. Keep the faith.

I have to admit that the podcasting and video work has probably been the most fun I have ever had in a job (to date, future employer….). It has been an absolute pleasure to have worked with academics and students across the University. All the innovation in the world counts for nothing without the ideas and insight to grab the imagination of audiences. I feel lucky to have been able to have had access to some brilliant academics and discuss their passions and interests in such an intimate and privileged way.

I can’t think of many academics I have had problems with in these projects (though 2 spring to mind, no names – this is a positive reflection). In particular I would like to comment on a few close friends and colleagues.

David Morley is a creative whirlwind and you can judge just how much people value his ideas by the responses to the Writing Challenges series. It has been a great experience to work with David and I count it amongst some of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

The team at CAPITAL – Carol, Susan, Johnny, Nick and the others put up with me for 3 whole months. It is rare to get that sort of time to breath and think but I found it really valuable and insightful. They are a great team of people who are passionate about their work and gave me a great deal of confidence to deal with academic subjects in a more considered way.

Nick Barker, Jeremy Ireland and the wonderful Stefan Bon – how we generated so many great plans and delivered so little ;-) but always with a smile and a laugh.

David Davies and friends at the med school; Peter Pormann in Classics, the brilliant Ian Stewart in Maths. All those in engineering and WMG who were happy to get their faces on film.

Too many to mention really – sorry i can’t name you all.

The thing that this has left me with is a deep respect for the academic community at Warwick in terms of their knowledge and expertise but also in the way that with few exceptions they have been willing to embrace new (stupid!) ideas and grab opportunities to try new things and push creativity and ideas. Please don’t lose that enthusiasm and continue to be brilliant at this stuff.

I also have to talk about the students I have worked with over the years. Warwick should be (and is) rightly proud of its student community. They are capable of great innovation and can deliver fantastic results. I have infinite respect for them and what they can and will achieve. Special mention to Alex Dzeigel who I hope goes on to all the success that her talent deserves.

There are many within the University administration that I could mention, so I won’t bore you with a long list of beaming comments.

As for the Communications Office. It’s a great team of people to work with and I have learned much from one of the best in the business. They have accommodated many of my wilder moments and put up with a large dose of grumpiness with good humour. I only ever once came close to lamping a colleague and that’s not a bad record for 7 years (they would have deserved it too…).

In particular I have to say thanks to Emily and Lesley for their commitment to the icast and digital press projects over the last few years. They have both been invaluable in supporting me in developing these programmes and making them successful. That we were able to make the case to retain their services is testament to just how good they are at what they do.

Ian Rowley and Peter Dunn – between them they have probably stopped more lunacy and supported more craziness on my part than anyone else in this place. If we have clashed it is only because we all care so damn much.

As for the rest – Trevor, Alison, Jackie, Jo T, Kelly, Natalie, Julia, Sam, Suzanne, Jess, Roberta, Jo E, Helen, Peter W, Casey, Tracy, Varsha and the rest – a great time and thanks!

Have I left anyone out?

Oh yes.

About 4 years ago Trevor Seeley and I recruited Ellie Lovell as a communications assistant to help us do a load of things. She has proven herself to be a fantastic addition to the team and has saved my arse on numerous occasions! Never afraid to tell me to shut up when needed and with the patience to cope with regular requests from Peter Dunn she has lived up to the potential Trevor and I saw in the interview. I wish her every future success and hope that she goes forward with the confidence that her abilities deserve.

So, what would I say to my replacement (other than duck… run…. :-). I think working at Warwick has been a privilege and a great experience. Despite difficult times Warwick remains an institution blessed with great talent and commitment that should see it to great success in the future. Any replacement will find talent, capability, confidence and a willingness to embrace change and new ideas. That is a precious thing and should be celebrated. I hope that there remains a culture of trust and creativity for this to thrive.

Oh – and try and avoid committees – an approach that has served me well for 7 years!


October 20, 2009

Marc Reeves on the future of local and regional media

Writing about web page http://bit.ly/1zhwox

Big announcement today about the future of the Birmingham Post:

http://blogs.birminghampost.net/cgi-bin/mt421/mt-tb.cgi/154938

Warwick hosted an event last week where Post Editor Marc Reeves talked about the future of local and regional media, including some discussion on the situation at the Birmingham Post.

Here is the presentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ppjUogQuM

The other presentations are at:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/business/news/does_business_news/


July 13, 2009

Media outcries, military tactics and the problems of Afghanistan

Much of the reporting of the current British military involvement in Afghanistan has left me somewhat irritated and has caused some discussion in the household about the current state of war reporting and of people’s understanding of military matters.

Two things to say first.

1. None of this discussion is intended to lessen the individual tragedy of any death or injury or the impact of this on families and loved ones – it’s all horrid and awful

2. I say this stuff as a reflection on various reading and study over many years rather than from any direct experience of military engagement.

So, firstly. Some of the debate about ‘are our troops getting the protection they need’ or ‘we need more armour, helicopters, bigger, heavier, stronger’ leaves me wondering about what people understand about military operations.

Lets think about helicopters first.

Helicopters are great for getting from one place to another very quickly and in moderate safety. Not complete safety mind you. Helicopters are still vulnerable to ground fire – Black Hawk Down is a useful reminder of this.

The other thing about helicopters is that they are great for rapid response to a situation, but they don’t allow for long term domination of territory. The American experience in Vietnam is a useful comparison. Helicopters allowed US forces to move quickly around zones but with a few problems. Landing zones attracted a lot of attention from enemy fire making them dangerous locations. VC forces would get wind of the approaching US troops, leave an area wait for the patrols to leave and then come back. It made it very difficult for the US to actually gain long term control of areas. To do that you need men on the ground over a long period, not jumping from zone to zone to zone in an endlessly futile dance.

At some point you also have to get out of the helicopters and actually spend some time on the ground. You can’t effectively search an area using helicopters – you need to talk to people and get a grounds eye view, and that means risk.

And on that point – piling up armour seems to me to be an odd response. There are many occasions where fast and light wins over slow and heavy, especially in areas of uneven terrain and against a lightly armoured fast enemy. Yes, it means accepting greater risk but there are reasons why it can useful to be quick and manouverable.

Take for example a much older scenario. The massed ranks of French cavalry on the field of Agincourt were feared as the ultimate shock troops of their age. Heavily armoured, a mass charge was a terrible thing to experience, let alone be on the end of. However, as history illustrates, a muddy field and an opposing line of lightly armed English Longbowmen soon brought the medieval tanks to a grinding halt.

Similarly there are plenty of examples from more modern time where quick infantry have knocked out heavily armoured tanks and transports. Sure, you’d give the odds to the tank but then you can still get occasions when a plucky soldier armed with just a PIAT (basically a high explosive round stuck on a spring – not kidding! Afghanistan would not be the first time British Troops have been sent into combat with crap weapons!) can take out a heavily armoured German self-propelled gun.

And again, at some point you have to get out of the tank and walk about and that means risk.

The heavy armour approach leads you down the line of American Forces – big tanks, big guns – and this is not necessarily going to win hearts and minds.

The Russians had this same problem in Afghanistan – they had plenty of helicopters, tanks and more, and they couldn’t manage it.

This is a difficult conflict in military, political and ethical terms. I worry that the way it is reported turns it into the sort of debate we have about England’s lack of a genuine left-footed winger. It’s a gross over simplification of the reality of modern conflict.

And on this subject. The media representation seems to have drifted into a position where death and injury is a surprise. Do we think this is a zero-cost engagement? What is the agenda here? Do we think that with more equipment we can make soldiering a no-risk activity?

Some numbers:

Falklands – 74 days, 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers dead
Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam (where they had plenty of helicopters!) – 307 US killed
Allied dead in WW2 – 16 million in 6 years – of these 382,000 were UK
UK losses on D-day – 2,700
At Monte Cassino allied forces could lose 100s of men in hours of fighting, let alone days.

and that’s not to mention the terrible attrition of the first world war.

Not sure what the point here is – do we think that we can minimise risks in a combat situation? Considering where we have been the forces in Afghanistan seem to be doing a rather effective job of managing risk.

If you look at those numbers it’s simple – this is a risky business and if we are going to take military action then people will die, regardless of how many helicopters, tanks, sets of body armour and the like we can provide. Indeed, over reliance on these things may in fact reduce operational effectiveness both in terms of getting the locals on side and being able to respond to a mobile enemy.

It’s all a damn sight more complicated than the reports on the 24 hour news channels would like it to be.


July 01, 2009

The disruption of scienctific publishing – is this a wider issue?

Writing about web page http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/?p=629

A very interesting post from Michael Nielsen on the disruption faced by the world of academic publishing: http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/?p=629

What I find challenging about this post is that you can take the arguments and apply them beyond that context. So, when you hear ‘oh, HE won’t be effected that much’ or that ’ all this disruption talk is over-hyped’ we should bear the following in mind.

1. Industries and sectors do fail – there are plenty of examples of long established sectors and industries that do suffer significant upheaval, often without warning. HE is not immune to this by any means.

As my recent podcast interview with Steve Fuller reminded me, our modern concept of HE and universities is just that – a modern view. Who is to say that this view is not likely to go through a major readjustment as a response to digital developments.

2. The case of the music industry is characterised as – they were too stupid to see it coming or they are evil so deserve what they get. This may or may not be the case, but as Michael points out, just thinking you are smart and good is not a get out of jail card.

‘But if disruption can destroy even the smart and the good, then it can destroy anybody.’

I guess Universities see themselves as being on the site of progression and social good. This should not render us complacent to the challenges of digital disruption.

3. Michael points out that blog news sources are a lot cheaper and a lot more flexible than traditional newspapers, and so seem to be kicking the ass of print media. Universities are generally not cheap or flexible. We should be wary then, right?

This paragraph is interesting in this respect:


The same basic story can be told about the dispruption of the music industry, the minicomputer industry, and many other disruptions. Each industry has (or had) a standard organizational architecture. That organizational architecture is close to optimal, in the sense that small changes mostly make things worse, not better. Everyone in the industry uses some close variant of that architecture. Then a new technology emerges and creates the possibility for a radically different organizational architecture, using an entirely different combination of skills and relationships. The only way to get from one organizational architecture to the other is to make drastic, painful changes. The money and power that come from commitment to an existing organizational architecture actually place incumbents at a disadvantage, locking them in. It’s easier and more effective to start over, from scratch.

4. Another quote:

One common response to such predictions is the appealing game of comparison: “but we’re better than blogs / wikis / PLoS One / …!” These statements are currently true, at least when judged according to the conventional values of scientific publishing. But they’re as irrelevant as the equally true analogous statements were for newspapers.

Universities may think they are the best at research and teaching, but what if values change? Change happens.

5. What about risk taking:

When new technologies are being developed, the organizations that win are those that aggressively take risks, put visionary technologists in key decision-making positions, attain a deep organizational mastery of the relevant technologies, and, in most cases, make a lot of mistakes. Being wrong is a feature, not a bug, if it helps you evolve a model that works

It is hard to see how big organisations like universities are able to take big risks, especially as we are publicly funded. This is not a problem for other groups getting into this space. Apple, Academic Earth, YouTube and so on – they can take risks we can’t.

So, should troubled financial times be a stimulus to change? Probably. Inertia is a killer and reputation matters little when things shift so quickly, especially in a globalised environment.

Big disruptive change may or may not occur, but if we kid ourselves that it is impossible, then we or any of our peers are as likely to fail as any other organisation.

Warwick should be well able to deal with disruption – we are a disruptive force ourselves!


facebook groups part 2

Follow-up to faststudentcash.com and facebook freshers groups from Contemplating the Frame

So, I had an interesting exchange with the owner of one of the facebook groups relating to Warwick freshers.

Essentially they denied any connection to faststudentcash or to the 118 other groups with identical content. In the absence of further evidence to the contrary I will give them the benefit of the doubt. This is not to say that the other ‘official’ groups are in the same boat.

Note that in general this is not a call for Uni’s to seize control of facebook or prevent people from setting up groups relating to specific institutions. I have no issue with unofficial groups and am happy for students, present future or past, to do what they will with FB.

Where there seems to be something systematic though, this should be raising eyebrows.

Where this is useful is in reminding HEIs that they need to be active in their engagement with these channels, rather than passive. The creepy treehouse effect is a strong argument for non-involvement – do you want your dad at the school disco? However, a vacuum is there to be filled and so as Brad Ward argues, better to have a University sanctioned presence so that there is some clarity as to the official line rather than a free for all where no-one is clear who is official or not.