And This Seed Did Sprout

You know how it is: you are in the middle of something for which you have a strong instinct, an informed gut-knowing, a professional goose-bump apocalyptic grasparoonies.

And then you do some research:


I wouldn’t say I’m proud of this statistical revelation and knowing already – for all kinds of obvious reasons – but I can confirm there is no definitive grade on this evidence and in my own experience, though some are I believe more definite than others…..

Oscar Wilde – An Ideal Husband by Dr Jackie Moore, Oxford Student Texts

ideal hus

Context is everything.

I have said this before, and elements of what will follow: this latter in more ways than one.

I have wanted for some time to expand on thoughts and feelings about social inequalities here in the UK and everywhere else, really, but it is that everywhere else, really that smacks of such hopeless naivety – without a contextualising – and therefore I avoid launching myself into a general and inevitable black hole of personal observation.

One specific and relevant context was explored on this site recently when I made observations about examining student responses to the GCSE text An Inspector Calls and their insights into and anger at the social inequalities and gross injustices portrayed there, these augmented horribly by the Grenfell Tower disaster at the time of my marking. You can read this here.

I also recently wrote here about acquiring Adrian Mitchell’s 1971 collection of poems Ride the Nightmare where I reminisced about reading again the poem Old Age Report which I used to teach. The poem, however, that made the first nostalgic impact and impression on reading was this one,

 Flag Day – But Not for the Revolution

Hunger scrapes the inside out of the human belly.
Your charity small change clanks into the tin
And makes no real change.
They are not slot machines for your spare pennies
Although you can read your own gross weight
Scrawled across their faces.
The razors of hunger slash and slash and slash their skin
And all your fat pity helps no one but yourself.

This quite simply – and yes, naively – reminded me that nothing has changed: not since Priestley writing in the mid-1940s or Mitchell in the early 70s, riding as he was on the cusp of a counter-culture and its adamant belief in the changing power of an artistic expression of peace and love, and a social conscience.

I have also been watching repeats of the brilliant TV series When the Boat Comes In [1976-1981]. I am actually only on the first series, and it hasn’t lost any of its incisive portrayal of the pain and desperation of working class poverty and the wealth and privilege responsible for this. Indeed, the emotional and political attachment I had to its messages then is, it seems to me, even more aroused today: precisely because nothing has changed.

Current Tory austerity, the bedroom tax, food banks and the very latest news about homelessness here in the UK bring it all back in the admittedly briefest of historical contextual accounts, but anyone following – and worse, experiencing – the consequences of poverty and deprivation as a direct consequence of social divisiveness won’t need an expansive convincing.

And this contextualising has allowed me to say these things, however obviously, and thus fulfil that urge, but to also set up this brief review of the excellent Oxford Student Texts Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband by Dr Jackie Moore.

When I reviewed her previous OST The Importance of Being Earnest here, I also commented on the context she then provided about Wilde’s exposure of the social inequities of the 19th century – and thus we trace this back before Priestley, and [naivety alert] long before then. But my focus with Priestley and Mitchell and WTBCI, and now Wilde, is to assert, as Moore does so tellingly, the need to study and champion those artists who do remind us of the world we live in, and why it is so wrong.

As Moore reminds us again with this text,

Wilde believed that ‘it is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection’ (The Critic as Artist). An Ideal Husband becomes a parable, demonstrating the serious flaws of society in desperate need of reform, and the chance of redemption through art and aestheticism.

There is a broader brush in the world’s need for exposure and change, but as Moore continues, it is, as with Wilde’s other work too, importantly relevant today,

An Ideal Husband addresses issues that are still relevant in today’s society, such as insider dealing, business scams that target innocent people for the sake of profit, the undue influence and dangerous propaganda of the tabloid press, and unrealistic popular expectations of political leaders…..and above all, addresses the hypocrisy that enables the wealthy to hold on to power…..

As a study text it is so much more than this, but its framing within these important observations serve to establish both the importance of studying Literature as well as Wilde, and by doing so, to reflect on how art mirrors life at the time of representation, and whether that reflection has changed – or not.

And the ‘much more than this’ is contained in the wonderfully informative, accessible but also scholarly notes that are provided by Moore at the end of the actual script. These provide the kinds of insights students need to fully appreciate a work so much of its time, but they are also deeply engaging for the reader who simply wants [or needs] to further understand these other crucial contexts.

Chapters I found particularly interesting because they focus on the relevancies of the text in the way I have contextualised it in this posting are The problems of society and Lord Goring as philosopher guide, both of which focus on Wilde’s themes of exposing hypocrisy in society [think today of the millionaire and Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond chastising public sector workers for complaining about pay and conditions of service] and of exploring platonic ideals, which in this case, if I extrapolate from Moore’s more detailed analysis, can be when we have a dialogue with Wilde’s text, listening to and learning from the dialogues within its literary constructs as well as the artistic messages these deliver as good sense, applicable as knowledge then, and now.

It is in promoting but also helping us to understand yet one more literary text’s importance to our comprehension of the wold in which we live that makes Moore’s book/s significant reading. They help students in particular, as well as necessarily, but also me to provide the contexts for understanding the rich resources we have to read, which in themselves provide the contexts we need to begin to understand.

Context is everything.

Exit 200 Sheep off the Cliff, Pursued by a Bear

sheep falling - Copy

[enter shepherd who recounts a few survivors’ stories]*

They told me they fell – I took notes so I quote – because

I was scared shitless
There was nowhere else to run
Someone was counting me over
I was checking out the floatability of wool
My name is Lemming
I have poor depth perception
A bear has 10,000 pounds of force when angered
I was testing the Doppler Effect for anyone climbing that cliff
Where am I?
I wasn’t looking where I was going
My PhD in ‘The Success of Pastoralism’ needed a theory verified
Yo era uno de los 169
I’m gregarious
We are a prey animal
My intelligence is ranked just below a pig’s – have you read ‘Animal Farm’?
Some sheep shouted ‘Sheer!’ but I just thought it was that time of year again: damn homophones
I was singing R. Kelly


*Reported in today’s Guardian, 200 sheep jumped off a cliff to their death in the Pyrenees, chased by a bear

Nebraska 24 – from The West Wing


[Dean Martin song playing in background]

Love me, my love
And say you’re mine
Kiss me and hold me tight

I don’t want to intimidate you, but it turns out I’m the first Democrat in twenty years to make a clean sweep of the Plains states and I’m not just talking about Iowa and Nebraska.

Are you trying to turn me on now?


All right.


It’s Surreal, Really!

dali - Copy


Over three decades at ten past ten
his shtick still sticks, a moustachioed
smile to greet after the prised lid.

It was surreal anyone bereft of
calling it what it is – a real absurdity –
regurgitates having heard some

other gush on experiencing an
experience: a contemporary yapper’s
embalmed, received apocalypse

spoken like someone also dead.
So much lost over the years – the wow of
real surprise in life, or a drooping clock.


From today’s Guardian: ‘Experts who exhumed the body of Salvador Dali to collect samples for use in a paternity claim have revealed that the enigmatic artist’s trademark moustache still graces his face almost three decades after he died.’

NB Later today: this ISN’T surreal, but I think uncanny – I’m watching a programme on the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. It was dubbed The Ice Bowl because of the freezing temperature where, taking in the wind chill factor, it averaged -38 degrees centigrade.

A variety of players and others provide running commentaries on the game and conditions, and one, Lance Rentzel, a Dallas Cowboy Receiver, is describing the fans’ breath as ‘frozen vapour’ so ‘prevalent’ it was hard to see them in the stands [a nice slice of nostalgic hyperbole, but we get the picture, especially as there is footage!].

He then says – and this is the uncanny link to this posting of mine today – ‘it was really a kind of surrealistic Salvador Dali type of ambience’.


When driving by his house
I always slow down
to have a look,

and when I do,
there appears to be a carcass
hanging in the window.

I could, but I am passing
late at night, and the inside
is only lit by a burning fire.

It is the dim glow of a flame,
in fact. By that time, it’s just
embers, nothing more.

I could, but I am also passing
on a very steep hill.
Parking would be a risk

and I’d have to slam the door
hard – another consequence of
the incline –

this forgetting the fact I
need to get home to my own family
to say goodnight.

It could be, of course,
and the outline of a carcass
isn’t ingrained by experience,

yet I’ve passed a butchers too,
and seen those trucks that
pull up outside, unloading.

Yes, this is true. But
in my experience, the authorities
ask too many questions.

I will. But only one more time.
After that, I am taking
another route.

And I should have said
only for
the last two nights;

at other times
it has been carcass free
or the curtains drawn.

I have always enjoyed
driving at night,
but not lately.


King Crimson and Tom Phillips


A good friend recently sent me a link to an article about the writer/painter Tom Phillips and his artwork for the King Crimson album Starless and Bible Black. I had no idea he had done this.

Being a huge fan of Phillips’ work A Humument, I immediately ordered the vinyl that has now arrived and from which I am posting images here.



I do highly recommend Tom Phillips’ book A Humument: it is a found, subverted new text taken from the Victorian novel A Human Document: see how to order and explore other amazing information and examples of his wider work here.

When teaching English and creative writing, I always introduced humuments to students to read and as prompts/inspiration for devising their own, the latter usually from the torn-out pages of disused novels and other school texts, and have over many years enjoyed making my own, again from novels but also the emails and documents and other paraphernalia I encountered as a teacher, both internal and external. I am most proud of the set I produced which subverted the first National Curriculum in English document, mine telling the story of lish [Eng lish] and his attempts to get laid at the age of 19: I should have said ‘corrupted’ as well as ‘subverted’, and I know it was a puerile creation, but it made me feel upbeat at the time. When I left my teaching job nearly 7 years ago I removed this set from my office wall where it had been on display but I have been unable to locate ever since. I must search, find and post here some day.

It is interesting now to check out online ‘experimental’ poetry sites – and there is a rich and wonderful variety – and to see so many writers using the technique created/popularised by Tom Phillips, from the selection of text within another text and simply blotting out the unused original, to those more artistic encapsulations of the way Phillips not only generated new textual content but produced original artwork to cover/conceal/remove the unused original text.

If the above descriptions do not appear to make sense, then I urge you again to check out the great man’s site. Here is an example from the back of the KC album,