Wednesday 27 October 2010

Prospero bettered

We talked about what lives on.

David Henschel's poem Prospero bettered quoted a line, I believe from Shakespeare, every third thought was my grave.

I think the correct line is every third thought shall be my grave, from The Tempest. In searching the internet for the source I came across the strange claim that Shakespeare's contemporary, the playwright Christopher Marlowe, had a fake burial in St Nicholas's Church, Deptford, with the implication that he didn't after all die in a pub brawl.

I mention this apparently irrelevant claim because, coincidentally this morning, before coming across this curious claim, I was in conversation with my sister and for some reason the song Dem bones dem bones dem dry bones... came up. I told my sister something she didn't previously know, that the words of the song are derived from Ezekiel chapter 37 in the Old Testament. I went on to say that there is a rather crude carving depicting all the skeletons coming together set into the wall inside St Nicholas's Church, Deptford.

(The carving is attributed to Grinling Gibbons, but if that is true then I imagine he was six years old at the time and was trying out his first pen-knife, because it certainly didn't look like the work of Gibbons to me.)

I also mentioned associatively that Marlowe was supposed to have been buried somewhere in the churchyard but the grave is unmarked (I looked).

So there we are. Did Marlowe die or did he live on? What of us dies and what lives on? Or as the Bible says, can these bones live? (Ezekiel 37:3)

Prospero bettered

Father and son walked by
holding hands
the elder balding, face lined, yet
showing in the boy's clear face
spring hair and summer-coming feet
as once he was.

At first I smiled at this; then
saddened by time's evidence my
'third thought was my grave.'

But who would languish there –
the fourth was like the first and surer
for the sense of what lives on
despite the single death: perhaps
to better Prospero every fourth thought
should be brave.

Confirming worth
came sun with shadow patterning
the present path.

Monday 25 October 2010

Temporary hiatus

My computer is in for repair. There may be a slight gap in posts. I hope to resume within the next week.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Converting the book for Kindle

My main aim in publishing Heres and Nows is that David Henschel's poetry should persist in the world.

What is good should live on, and this theme recurs a number of times in the poems themselves.

To this end, I am working on making Heres and Nows available in an inexpensive edition for e-readers like Kindle, Sony Reader and iPad.

I have to start somewhere, so I am starting with the Amazon Kindle machine.

On uploading the electronic pdf file via the Amazon web site I found that all my beautiful formatting had gone and the poems were jammed together with their lines concatenated. The thing was an unreadable mess.

What I thought would be the work of a few minutes is going to take me many weeks of work, tinkering about with html tags, replacing accented characters with their ASCII-codes, and creating links (because Kindle books don't have page numbers). It's lucky I have some web knowledge or this would be a non-starter!

When it's ready, you'll read about it first here.

Monday 11 October 2010

The poet in you

The poet within was the other theme that emerged from the book launch of Heres and Nows.

Extracts from Each waking one of us:

I only know I rediscovered how
each waking one of us is poet
and may utter hope
as confidently as the Pope.

And you - whoever recognise
a kind of beauty, any place
in anything where eye or ear discerned
and touched with them in turn
your spirit with the laughing wand
have also waked, and passed beyond.

Thursday 7 October 2010

What lives on

The theme of what lives on emerged several times.

I hadn't planned it that way, but that's how it was.

Of course, at the book launch of Heres and Nows three poems were in memory of David Henschel, and it was natural that the question of persistence should arise there. But the question arose in some of David's poems too, in a way that I hadn't thought about when choosing them.

John Torrance, in his poem Dimensions of remembrance, asked,

Who knows the rules? If not
pegged down by place to a date,
can 'when' be large as time,
wandering early and late,
could you be with us even now?

and said:

your voice all letters, poems, now.

David's own poem Prospero bettered asks and perhaps answers the same question more indirectly. He watches a father and son walking by, contrasting the boy's clear face with the father's lined one, referring to time's evidence.

At first I smiled at this; then
saddened by time's evidence my
'third thought was my grave.'

But he has a fourth thought. More on this topic next week.

Later this month I shall post the whole of Prospero bettered.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Beer and poetry

Lovibonds provided a very special ambience for the book launch.

Here we were, people who love poetry, together with people who love and make beer.

It is always a pleasure to meet people who put attention into their craft, and Jason and David of Lovibonds made us feel very welcome.

The people who turned up for the poetry loved the beer - Lovibonds certainly seemed to be making a lot of sales - and I think that the people who came for the beer loved the poetry. Everyone was very attentive.

Afterwards a young couple who hadn't known the poetry event was on made a point of coming up to me to thank me. The young woman said "I haven't heard poetry before but I really enjoyed it."

It is my belief that good poetry properly read is a kind of magic. I think it reaches the parts even beer cannot reach.

Lovibonds have posted some photographs of the event on their Facebook page, here. Some of the photos are of a different event the previous day. This is me in this photo. It's a bit weird because it looks as though I am scratching my left ear, until you notice that both my hands are holding the book.

Sunday 3 October 2010

A happy event

The launch of David Henschel's Heres and Nows at Lovibond's Brewery in Henley-on-Thames was a lovely occasion.

A varied selection of David's poems from the book were read by myself (Martin Dace), Norah Henschel, and John Torrance, as well as some poems of our own (also in the book) remembering David.

Good though they are on the page, David's poems were made to be read out loud, and the event breathed them into life.

I realised how many of the poems encourage us to find and be the poet within - not necessarily that we shall all write, but that we can all live poetic lives. There was a recurring theme of what in us passes and what lives on, too.

It's late and I'm tired. I'll write more tomorrow.

Here once again is the Amazon link to David Henschel's Heres and Nows. (RRP £6.50).