Christmas Crackers 4

It will take a lot more than a short, simple, vague poem to put me off the way I live.

The metaphor of the sea and shipwreck is as poetry entrancing but also, in my opinion, makes the reader not feel as sorry for him because if the writer could be as creative in life as he is with the pen then he would have nothing to complain about.

John Clare was highly gifted in that he understood exactly what he didn’t understand.

By making reference to genitals she is suggesting sex in a subtle way.

Arthur Hugh Clough attacks greed, materialism and deprocussy.

Damon wanted Phyllis the fair, which in modern English would be Phyllis the Fit.

Stereotypes have a lot to do with the view of people towards things. I think Lively is saying “Wait a minute, just because someone may own a BMW it doesn’t make them better than a person with a Lada.”

A lot of the soldiers would have had hobbies or lots of other things to do when they were not in battles. Poetry was Owen’s hobby.

In the final verse he learns how to relieve himself.

These poems rhyme occasionally but it isn’t deliberate.

Daily London Recipe is one of my favourite poems and in my opnion is exactly right.. That’s what peoples lives is all about – routine. You get up in the morning and go to work by the same road every day, you come home to same woman every day, you eat with her, drink with her and fight with her while there’s some people running after 20 year olds. You just want to have a good time and booze, booze, booze.

Christmas Poems

In 1995 I began writing an annual Stocking Fillers with Christmas poems and stories for teaching colleagues, initially to entertain and eventually to alleviate as well. I last posted a complete run of these in 2011 on another blog, and will post about 4 or 5 favourites from the very many over the next few days

Christmas Crackers 3

There is no direct conflict like the threat of death or someone trying to punch your lights out.

The death of Auden’s lover left the poet with a large hole to fill.

John Clare was placed in a lunatic asylum because he was literate.

Golding abandons a group of boys on an uninhibited island.

Dill plays with himself when he is home in meridian.

William Wordsworth is a famous British poet from the lake District. He lived in Dove Cottage and visits are allowed.

I’m sure that at that time when the poem was written all the words made perfect sense, although this is not the case today.

I am Very Bothered is saying that marriage scares you for life.

The poem The Daffodils is indefinitely the most powerful and memorable poem we have to date. Its chronological order makes us feel this is an enjoyable poem to read and hear. It hits us with frivolous sights of wonder.

I am not persuaded by this poem. After all, not everyone has sex in Yarmouth.

Mr Tate’s aiming was not very precise so Atticus shot him.

I think I would be alive if I was Dickie in Examination Day after this exam.

When Damien is sad about Phillis his projection torments him. He then returns to his cottage which provides his climax and is a very old-fashioned English thing to do.

Christmas Crackers 2

I believe that the paragraph (and I’m sorry to be possibly crude) is when they are both at their climax (sexually). “Yes” followed by a comma (which so far is the only punctuation used) seems too obvious to pass. The lack of punctuality adds to the effect of what she feels.

I believe the speaker is male and the listener female because the listener is always interrupting and criticising.

Blake accuses the rose of being evil – like a woman.

During the war the government forced people to do natural Service and they could not refuse. They were constricted.

The rhythm of Valentine makes your two hips move when it is read.

Examination Day deals with the brusque and abrupt and at every turn it reels and rocks like a roller coaster until it lunges to the ground at the end.

If you were to listen to a scientist such as Simon Armitage’s wife they would probably say that such emotions exist in order to procreate and rank love among lust and carnal pleasure.

Lennie has a leaning problem.

I AM is written in three verses of six lines, with every other line indented. If you turn the page 90 degrees clockwise it resembles castle battlements.

The Twa Corbies is written in a Scottish dialect. This adds to the suffering.

thirteen-year-olds did sex in a science lab. Grown ups would have done it somewhere else.

This poem thinks it is a sonnet but it is not.

Christmas Crackers 1

Over the next few days I will post a sequence of these Christmas Crackers which are made up of GCSE English Literature exam ‘howlers’ from some years ago [I recently found a collection from 1999!].

To find out about the origins of these, and the spirit in which they were collected and celebrated, please read my posting here.

There will be added nuances if you know the texts actually referenced and/or being responded to, but I also think they stand on their own. Enjoy:

The author thinks that Damon is not in love with Phyllis because he thought he going to jump off the cliff he looks down and sees his torment projecting, which could have a hidden meaning and mean an erection which he got out of his passion

Walsh is saying that because of his love he would not have cared what was happening, whether it was the regional haggis-munching finals or the Boar War

What’s the point of reading this poem The Twa Corbies? I mean you can’t even understand it anyway. If I was to write like that people would say “you can’t spell and it doesn’t make sense”

Mrs Rutter is seen as a pleasing pattern with bread-like qualities

The Lowest Trees is a very unrealistic poem. I mean to say what on earth have ants and tress got to do with love? Exactly. Nothing at all. See?

The beast has an outstanding effect on Simon. It kills him

I have to say that I am persuaded by these poems and they make me feel a bit guilt myself knowing that I have helped to create this immoral world, and it makes me think that I should attempt to sort it out

I am the self-consumer of my woes. This is an image of John Clare eating himself.

In What is Our Life, the message is ‘take your life more seriously’ because you will when you are dead

George is like a father-figure to Lennie. “You crazy bastard”. This shows the father son relationship.

there is use of a slash in the wrong place

Publicly, John Clare was rejected

She makes Kerry feel underneath her

Christmas apples – Ted Walker

I have recently been revisiting the excellent poetry of Ted Walker – the first four volumes of his work that I have had from the early 1970s – and have just bought two more that are new to me: one burning the ivy, published in 1978, from which this poem is taken.

The title of the poem made it apt to post here now, but I do so because it is much more meaningful than that. Having also recently thought about the loss of a good friend three years ago this month, and finding out that another dear friend has just lost his wife last week, this poem in its own focus on the death of friends and how one does, or does not, deal with this obviously resonates.

I won’t analyse the poem as anyone bothering to read a post here will surely be able, if they want, to do this for themselves. I will, however, observe that whilst a complex poem in many ways, it is Walker at his very best: ruminations on personal life and nature used to reflect on thoughts and feelings we all experience, but doing so in that poignant way great writing variously awakens, challenges and sharpens our own similar emotions.

Christmas apples

Year-long, weekdays, I pass an orchard.
Mornings, where its windbreak poplars are,
The engine warms and I change into top
Toward the day. There’s nothing to see
Of fruit-tress from the road. Blossom-time,

A dry thaw of blown petals may sift
To the ditch, soon gone; and winter nights,
When I slow for the corner near home,
Sometimes I picture the stiff ballet
Of trees imploring frost from starlight:

But, back in the warmth, forget them. Once
A year – a Sunday in December –
I drive to a warehouse at the heart
Of an acreage seeming vaster than
Memory tends. Black banners, crows flutter

High over the fields. I park the car
In an empty lot, walk to the edge
Of the same, leafless plantation where,
A twelvemonth since, my face to the wind,
I laid by the sorrows of a year.

There’s been another death: though by now
It has sunk under, like the water
Of small snow that fell the day I heard.
Once again (though to remember them
Is an ice along the skull) I call

To mind the gradually dying
Who haunt, more accusing than the dead,
These days I riffle at another
Year’s end. Month by month I have screened
Their lives from mine; today each mindful hurt

That love inflicts in fostering love,
Each mindless act of chronic neglect
That dismembers a friendship alive,
I would undo. In exact patterns,
Yet frantic as drowners, apple-trees

Lift bare arms into the shortest day.
I’ll not see them bud, burst into leaf,
Bloom, or their limbs bend when summer dust
Falls: my road leads by and beyond them.
Behind me somebody slides the door

And I turn and stare blank in a blank
Hangar. An appalling fragrance spills.
I breathe apples in before I see them,
Laxtons and Coxs, rack upon rack,
Shocking as a wiped-out flock of birds.

Crooked Lines, by Domonic Garnett

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Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl.

– Ernest Hemingway.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the high quality of Dominic Garnett’s writing for some time, but have only recently discovered the excellence in its fishing focus – and much else – when I read his wonderful piece Memories of Manhattan in Fallon’s Angler, that article included now in this superb collection.

I’ll start my review of Crooked Lines by returning to the article, it exemplifying all that is engaging about these stories as it is a fine mixture of travelogue and fishing emphasis wherein observations about people, culture, environment, emotion, discovery, and naturally the actual fishing coalesce into vignettes of personal experience that appeal precisely because of this expansive canvas – and that writing quality.

Memories of Manhattan begins with a walk through Harlem to Central Park, …an Englishman carrying a fishing rod and it is the dual sense of being an outsider as foreign visitor but then belonging as a member of the universal fishing fraternity that absorbs. There is, respectively, that experience of being new to the place, Some smile, others just look quizzical, and the eventual fishing where observation is then on a comfortable par with his surroundings, A stocky, baseball capped man is hurling out a gaudy red spinnerbait in the hope of bass. On route to Harlem Meer, Garnett has discovered, It is a minor revelation just how green and calm it is here, and once fishing, the expertise assumes its descriptive certainties, but also does so with the vivid precision of his describing eye and voice, The rod rattles pleasingly and I bring in a pretty little bluegill, a fish which shares the spiny dorsal fin and bold biting characteristics of our perch, but with beautifully marbled cheeks; the perfect catch for a sunny afternoon in Manhattan.

The collection opens with A White Van in Wales and the witty description of Norbert Darby’s shambles of a van has a brighter humour compared with Hemingway’s bitterer comic line used to preface this review. For Garnett, arriving safely at a place to fish is a more critical requisite than the protocol of how near one fishes to another, My head is scraping the roof because, naturally, the seats don’t work. I try wrestling with the wheel thingy at the side, thrash backwards and forwards and search for non-existent levers. I’m beaten so I ask Norbert “So how do you adjust the seats?” He just chuckles. “You can’t. I mean…they don’t,” he admits. So I just sit there, head wedged in place. And again, within the general and wider evocation of the framing narrative, there is always a spotlight on fishing and fish, The wild carp is a very different creature to the fat, farmed fish we know from home. While the big mouth and whiskery barbules remain, it is a longer, sleeker creation of leathery gold scales and raw power. A strikingly long dorsal fin reaches almost right to the tail.

Elsewhere the vignettes focus more narrowly, for example on fly-tyer Leon Guthrie in Fly Life on Mars. Having established Leon’s idiosyncrasies with more descriptive bright humour – but always respect – Garnett tells us The flies themselves are random, manic treasures. They delight and baffle you in equal measure. There are flying insects, trapped in time; rows of salmon and trout flies sitting like birds. But look closer and you might also find an Earthworm, a Haggis or a Fried Egg. In The Curse of the Towpath the philosophy of angling gets its apt aphorism, As any diehard angler understands, for the possibility of sudden elation to exist there must also be the possibility of failure. There is a valiant defence of skive-fishing in Sick Leave. The closing article Escape from Dartmoor continues the successful symbiosis of finely judged description with aspects of fishing, this evoking the interest of all readers rather than just those with the topical attraction. In addressing the angler Garnett is addressing all by, in this case, linking activity with place – as he does throughout his writing – and making it clear that nothing of value to an individual takes place in a vacuum, and here the landscape is a shared significance, For the angler though, Dartmoor has a simple, primal appeal. Its boulder-strewn rivers and savagely beautiful trout take fishing back to its fundamentals: a fly rod, a few basics, miles and miles of stony solitude. The fish are easy to catch but even easier to spook, perfectly adapted to their craggy ancestral home.

This is a beautifully presented book: a great cover illustration by Lord Bunn and fantastic photographs as well as excellent production throughout. I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who appreciates honest and skilled writing, and obviously those who know with an angler’s heart and knowledge just how near to stand next to a fishing comrade.

And what a great Christmas gift! Details for buying can be found here.