Monday, 22 April 2019

How now, brown cow?

Some time ago I wrote an article for the literary magazine Boundless. It was about accents, dialect, vernacular and speech. It still is And it's been published today.

So why dunt thee 'ave a neb?

Monday, 1 April 2019

A Thousand Blended Notes

Some poems for the start of April, read by Robin Holmes. Holmes - who was an announcer on BBC Radio 3 for many years - used to select and recite a small group of seasonal poems each month and they were broadcast to fill the off five-minutes air-time:during the interval of a concert, say (now they just play a CD).

I wrote to the BBC a few years ago to see if they still had the tapes. They haven't. They were wiped. But then I found a couple lurking on recordings I'd made on cassette off-air of concerts I was in. (I used to sing with the Liverpool Phil.)

Here's one of them.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

The Lads in their Hundreds

It's A.E.Housman's birthday. He would have been 160.

His poetry isn't particularly popular today. His short lyrics, his rhyme and metre hark back to a much earlier age and can sound dated. But the sentiments are every bit as relevant, eternal in their scope and beautifully, eternally preserved in Housman's poetry.

He was always a favourite of composers, never more so than in the case of George Butterworth (killed on the Somme in 1916). But the lads in their hundreds aren't going off to fight in the First World War. Their conflict is earlier, the Boer Wars in South Africa.

But the sentiments are the same. No wonder the pocket edition of 'A Shropshire Lad' was long the most-carried books by troops in the First War trenches.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Putney Sofka Zinovieff

PutneyPutney by Sofka Zinovieff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I approach books that have been 'hyped' with caution. Many of the books I think I should enjoy, admire, devour become turgid feats of endurance. Others, often books picked up on a whim, become page-turning treasures. This is one book that straddles both categories: it came recommended (highly) but I only started reading it on a whim the other day. But then couldn't stop. Literally couldn't stop until I got to the end. It was like a reading marathon, complete with runners' high. To say anything ordinary about the book seems inadequate. It's got depth, atmosphere, plot, twists, ideas and poetry. I suppose if I was to have one criticism it is that it ultimately comes to a rather predictable conclusion, after starting with a boundary-destroying daring that is almost breathtaking. Still, well worth reading. (Approach with caution!)

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