Saturday 17 April 2021

Milton Marmalade's Remarkably Silly Stories for Grown-ups

Milton Marmalade's Remarkably Silly Stories for Grown-ups is a slim volume of strange tales which struggle with universal questions like the meaning of now, infinity, and why Wolf fell in love with Redcap. The girl who was not a vampire explores the problem and triumph of being who you are. Chocolatina is a satire on the odd puritanism that informs some New Age thinking and at the same time a paean in praise of chocolate. Milton Marmalade has also sneaked in a few poems, mostly silly and one just a little bit erotic (not enough to make you spurt your takeaway coffee in public). In a deliberate protest against the decayed mores of the age, the poems rhyme. A literary tapas time for curly minds everywhere. Illustrated by Martin Dace.

Saturday 6 August 2016

'A Mermaid in the Bath'—a new novel by Milton Marmalade

'A Mermaid in the Bath' front cover design
A mermaid turns up in your bath, without explanation or warning—what do you do? It's almost as disruptive as the search for Truth (or worse) finding it. To complicate matters further, Lionel falls in love with her just before she disappears into the clutches of the evil Dr Squidtentacles.

This is a ripping yarn with some very slow car chases involving a Morris Minor and a slow ping-pong duel Matrix-style, not to mention (but I will anyway) a Greek chorus of Cornish villagers and a description of the mythical St Doris Island and what took place there in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Between chapters of adventure not a lot more absurd than real life are philosophical ponderings by Professor Neville Twistytrouser of St Doris College, Oxford together with testy rebuttals by Professor Alphonse Pince-Nez of the department of Saltimbanques de Mer at the Sorbonne, not to mention (but I have, haven't I?) the fully justified complaints of Milton Marmalade's exotic Welsh secretary, Myfanwy.

Publication date: 31st August 2016. You can pre-order from or or for that matter or now.

Sunday 19 February 2012

A piece of the maine?

The title of this poem from David Henschel's Heres and Nows is taken from John Donne's No man is an Iland:

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

- Meditation 17, John Donne (1572-1631)

All who attempt to write, or to create anything, and write from the heart, make themselves vulnerable to those who will see only the flaws and miss the essence. For if something is created from the heart, no matter how clumsily, it will have value.

A piece of the maine?

Go to another man and show him –
“This I've just written, tell me what you think.”
He'll say “Oh yes, how nice” and take the scrip
To use the eyes and hide the doubtful lip.

Why should he otherwise?
Whose many headed self preoccupies
His secret entrances,
Whose thoughts’ continual tide
I have attempted to divide
And march my feelings like an exiled band
Into communion’s promised land.

- David Henschel

Thursday 22 December 2011

What quest or rest?

Christmas is a jolly time, you might think not the ideal time for posting a more disturbing poem.

But think about it: our northern world has settled Christmas - the birth of a new beginning - at the very darkest time of year. This is for a reason. Old things must perish in winter's frost for spring to be possible. We cannot profitably drag the old into the New Year and expect everything to improve of itself.

We cannot sail home without work and a map, or think that a rudderless boat could reach the shore. Now is the time to leave behind what doesn't work, to study, find or make a map, and begin.

This poem opens but does not close questions about who we are and what we think we are doing in this the only life and moment we have.

Looking for a poem from David Henschel's Heres and Nows to suit the mood for the ending of a year, I was first going to post The Blackbird, as being one of David's most beautiful poems.

But I find I've posted it before. Of course you're welcome to read it again - poems grow by being revisited.

Here is What quest or rest?

You are adrift. – I tell you
You are adrift and do not know it.

– Towards what bourne then are you going
In this no longer rimmed confusion?
Do you have lodestone, compass, map
Recognise stars to steer by?
What do you do when winds
Pull every which way whirling thoughts –
Let down your anchors? What anchors
Have you, engines, oars in case of breakdown
Lifeboats do you carry? Indeed
What flag or flags do you sail under –
Only old bones’ anarchy and ending?

Let us change metaphors.
Unwrap your layers like Peer Gynt’s onion.
– What heart have you that is really you?
At any given moment, stop! – say this I am
And hear your thoughts clash swords
While all your civil wars break out like eczema;
Then raddle up your brow
To perceive battles’ end the morrow
Beyond tomorrow
When your spirit and your circumstances
Sign the grand peace.

Come then to the green table.
Leave seas and wars, turn lawyer, diplomat
Bargain the terms on which you will
Be what you become
(Rubbing your wants like shoulders on the bars
Of what you cannot do –
Upon what terms do caged beasts sign truce?).

Yet if they could I could you could
What choice between the warring selves
Would satisfy one’s soul
Quell ferment, light up firmament
And in what quest or rest bring peace?

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Clocks go back

There has been a long gap between posts - other projects (of which more soon) have taken up my time.

There is so little time to do everything one imagines to do.

Here is one more poem from David Henschel's Heres and Nows.

It refers to that time in England when we change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time, a time when autumn is well-established, and the trees amaze with gold, copper and red.

This poem is not in the end difficult, but it repays close reading and re-reading. The gold of autumn is ground out of summer by time turning like a mill, and the crocus bulbs dug up by mistake foretell the spring that is to come. So the poem is about time, our relation to time and how that in turn relates to our desire for meaning.

Yet to me the poem is rooted in the present. The very act of digging focusses the mind on the now, as the spade cuts through the earth and finds hidden bulbs.

What does smirrh mean? My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is silent. The word sounds Nordic. Perhaps it is the cold mist smearing the landscape. The only literary use of this word I could find on the web is in a book by John Nichols called The Last Beautiful Days of Autumn (1982). "...the spears of a million bare aspens - only moments ago bursting with resplendent foliage - create a soft gray smirrh across jagged hillsides."

Back to David's poem. For all the references to past and future, the poem takes its being from the damp-drip earth and greyspit sky - from the sensations of autumn now.

Clocks go back

The clocks are back
Two days gone – still
I can’t get round to it: the mill
Of time revolves on summer hours
When grinding autumn gold.
I shall get used to winter’s white and black
Its boney cold
The morning window’s frozen flowers;

But I was digging round the silver birch
The day clocks closed the summer down –
I’d quite forgotten having sown
Beneath the tangle I was forking out
Narcissi, snowdrops, crocuses.
It’s odd – I’ve registered before
How digging focuses
The spirit’s obstinately endless search
For hopeful signs of what life’s all about.

No doubt it needn’t be admired
(Signs do most often go together)
And yet it touched me deeper than the eye
That when I took the dog a walk, smirrh weather
Today at dusk, testing the novel clock,
Both damp-drip earth and greyspit sky
Glowed russet yet with setting summer fired.

I need – don’t you? – both backlook sigh
And the buried bulb-growth’s shock.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Here and Now

A little late, here is David Henschel's Here and Now. There is no other reality. I think further commentary from me is not necessary.

Here and Now

Enjoy, oh do enjoy
The hereness and the nowness of it.
Whatever is beyond, behind
Be, if you must, aware of
But not too much – no more than serves
To measure by, to savour by
To live by grace within
The here and now.

It is the clumsy man we too much are
That cannot delicately hold the time
Within his juggling mind
And commandeer the chasing heart
Softly to send the blood like fingers
To touch and know the living hour
And store it richly by.

One day we die.
They say we scan
In the last living moments all our span.
We’d wish, I think, to go to Death
Or God
Like guests with gifts
Remembered and collected from our store
Of heres and nows
And say:
This trust of life’s fulfilled,
This gift’s returned, with more I found:
I was not poor.

Monday 25 April 2011

Easter sun

I find this poem enigmatic. Does the sun stand for what is highest, finest, most desired?

We could define God as whatever is finest for us, now. That is our god (for better or worse - let it be something more than our small selves).

The breathless tomb. A wordless state. The sun stands for the world we have, and also the world we could have.

Easter sun

When cloud shrouds shredded by the wind
Disclose the risen body of the sun
And cartographic cherubs are imagined
Blowing lively barques on
A thriving trade run

The image of the quiet white angel is discarded
– that guarded solemnly the breathless tomb –
This side of heaven seems enough awarded
And demanded for whoever’s from
Only a man pierced womb.