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Looking beyond libraries for learning

Reading facilitates self-knowledge and life

In a recent Poet in the City post, Lockie McKinnon muses on the assumption by some people (led in this instance by economist Dambisa Moyo) that society can get along fine without the arts as long as we focus on science.  Lockie argues passionately that, despite the current regime of cuts, we must retain art as an equal partner with science.

Although science may offer us water and food, our motivation for life itself and our understanding of ourselves, comes from the arts (not his words, but I understand this from Lockie’s example of Alberto Manguel’s Colombian villagers in The Library at Night choosing the Iliad as the one book that they refused to return to the travelling library). He finishes with an appeal to join a local library to oppose cuts.

I’ve been thinking about this post and wondering why, when I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot contemplate life or society without art, I felt hesitant about committing to the libraries campaign.

When did you last visit a library?

Today in The Independent, Mary Dejevksy asserts that “our view of libraries is sepia-tinted” and I knew, considering my own behaviour, that this is true.

Despite being a keen reader, and definitely old enough to know how important libraries have been in encouraging reading, I never use them. The last time I went into my local library to find a book (which they didn’t have, but did order for me), was 2001, I think. 

How we find what to read today

Since then, I’ve never encountered a “finding” challenge that I couldn’t solve using the Internet. The process is much quicker and entirely under my control. I can read reviews to help me determine whether search any further; I can find summaries, excerpts or entire texts that sometimes supply all I need, depending on the reason for my search.

Many great books are free, for example, via Project Gutenberg, and if I decide to buy a book, I can usually find it at a reasonable price. Definitions, interpretations, background and context are literally at my fingertips via links or online search, while I read, wherever I’m reading.

Travel-wise, the convenience of instant download and reading books on my Kindle or iPhone is unparalleled. The books cost less than they do in hard copy, I don’t have to carry the extra kilos, and I don’t have to return them to anyone.

Of course, I’m aware of the digital divide and I know that, right now, reading devices are still relatively expensive, but digital reading will inevitably become ubiquitous as prices go down and it fits better into our busy lives.

Beyond online books to digital literature

Digital reading also opens wonderful new possibilities for narrative, as witness these collections from the Electronic Literature Organisation: Volume 1 and the recently published Volume 2.

One of my favourite digital poets is Peter Howard, whose e-poems use digital facilities in a non-trivial way to support and/or convey the poems’ intent, and manage to be aesthetic at the same time (surprise, complexity, intelligibility and beauty are a rare combination in the still-nascent world of e-poetry). See, for example, A Poppy. He is also a master of pace and comic timing, which many digital poets are not (yet). See Xylo and Portrait of the Artist.

We still need literature curators and guides

As we navigate the explosion of data on the web, I believe that there will always be a role for reading guides or facilitators, people who inspire and encourage us to read, experts who not only curate directories of literature and suggest what to read, but also teach us how to engage with what we read, and to read critically, so that we grow through these encounters, but I doubt whether libraries as we currently know them are optimally suited to this task.

For anyone interested in pursuing this topic, The Institute for the Future of the Book is a great resource and their blog if:book addresses developments in reading. You can also find new thoughts on the evolution of the creation and consumption of communications across all media on Transliteracy.com.

Copyright



Do different love-types spawn different poetry?

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

Thinking about Valentine’s Day, and the Love Poetry event at King’s Place tonight, to which I am looking forward immensely, I suddenly wondered which of my own poems had been inspired by love, in the sense of romantic love.

I am a very occasional poet, but, as for most people, those occasions are often linked to love or the loss of it.

Of course, I’m interested in the nature of love in its broadest sense, an interest developed through my years in the Christian church.

Four types of love as per Christian theology

We were taught to categorise love into agápē (God’s love — sacrificial love, the highest kind, a matter of choice), philia (brotherly love or friendship – the next best, perhaps imperfect, but also a matter of virtuous choice), storge (familial affection — a love to be expected, as good and natural) and eros (romantic love — also a natural love, but a dangerous and unreliable one, to be outwitted, outwaited, carefully managed, or repressed … and never trusted).

Nowadays, although I still find these concepts useful, I don’t see any of them as exclusive to particular types of relationships, which, I guess, reflects my more mature view of humans as psycho-sexual-spiritual beings who are inevitably always all of these things in all relationships. As the Wikipedia entries point out, the ancient Greek terms encompassed a wide range of concepts and affections.

But the goal of Christian teaching is usually to simplify life, rather than to revel in its complexity, so the above simple English translations and the relative values assigned to them by my teachers were what stuck for a very long time.

Finding these love-types in my poems

And yet, despite this drilling in the compartmentalisation of love, when I looked through the paltry collection of my own poems, I was startled to realise that I had never read or examined the love poems as a group. Each was born in its own time, and each out of a different relationship or phase in my life, and although I have worked on each of them for years, I have never related them to each other.

In retrospect, this seems strange, so today I looked at my poems to see a.) which I could call love poems and b.) whether I could sort them into the ancient Greek groups.

While in this “grouping” mode, I’ve enjoyed reviewing the more agápē-oriented poems arising from my spiritual quest, but that’s a post for another day.

Valentine’s Day is the day for contemplating romantic love (and friendship, I think, because there is often so much overlap). With these poems, I was surprised to see, firstly, how they reveal precisely that tendency toward synthesis of which I’m now conscious, and secondly, how different they are from each other.

At least, to me, they seem different from each other. I wonder if another reader would be struck by similarities or differences?

Poems on romantic love and on friendship

Eros

Philia

Copyright



{Wed 12 January 2011}   Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon

Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon

Happy New Year!

New Year, new start… well, that’s what January’s for, no? Due to (lots of lovely) work (for which I am very grateful) and an extraordinary amount of travelling, family visiting and hosting in different countries, six months have whizzed by. Well, here I am again, full of fresh passion and resolve!

One of my new roles this year is Social Media Manager for Poet in the City (PinC). I have begun facilitating the organisation’s presence on various social media platforms, including the new Poet in the City Blog. The engagement with social media involves a learning curve for all Poet in the City volunteers, including myself, so I am looking forward to that, and also to introducing PinC’s very large audience to some of the best digital poetry.

Mindful of my own slow and sometimes reluctant journey from being entirely text-bound to enjoying the delights of digital literature, I would also love to see more transliterate discussion here on TiaTalk, so I’ll start by reposting a piece I wrote for www.transliteracy.com. This was published on 29 December 2010 — sandwiched between two humongously extended public holiday weekends in the midst of the festive season, this date was probably not the best time for anyone to read it, so I’m giving it another go here. Please let me know what you think!

Reblog: Story Gardens of Holon: 3-D, immersive, interactive, social and offline

During our MA studies, it was suggested that digital storytelling is non-linear whereas text-based storytelling is linear, and that engaging with online stories is immersive, active, interactive and social, as opposed to offline reading which is less immersive, relatively passive and often solitary.

Those of us who since childhood have known the pleasures of immersing ourselves in a bookinitially found it hard to accept these distinctions. We were adept at imagining our own versions of scenes described, placing ourselves in characters’ shoes, and engaging our friends in repeated acting out of the stories in our own gardens or living rooms (accepting with good or bad humour the inevitable story variations arising when actors, props and locations do not exquisitely reflect the text),

In one online discussion with classmates, I said,

I was quite startled to realise that … new media art might be defined by non-linear narratives. Is it always a requirement that the reader not be offered, or be able to choose not to follow, a linear storyline? … when I think about the interactive possibilities of the new media, I can see ways to engage the reader and enable them to contribute, but still have them follow a narrative chosen by the writer.

I went on to say,

I think of the non-linear approach as more ‘poetic’, in the sense of the genre of poetry. The best way to engage with this kind of work is in a meditative frame of mind, where one takes the time to dwell with sounds, images and associations and follow these imaginatively. A poem may, of course, have a strong narrative structure, but much of the pleasure it offers is found ‘along the way’, before one reaches the conclusion or the resolution of any ‘plot’. Even in a linear story, attempts to evoke the emotions and perceptions of characters or of the reader may create ‘poetic’ moments during the story. If one maximizes these moments and reduces the linking narrative, even to the point where it is implied rather than described, one may produce a relatively ‘non-linear’ story (although the idea of story inevitably contains linearity).  I suppose that this is my perception of how Inanimate Alice works. There is a linear chronology, but this is suggested rather than detailed, and my experience as the reader is of poetic moments at intervals along that chronology.

This was my limited view of new media’s potential at the time and, of course, it turned out that there was some sense in what our teachers were saying and we learned to identify and value the different kind of immersion, as well as the relative autonomy, creative freedom and social discourse offered to the reader by many online stories.

However, I still felt that these comparisons, necessary though they might be, could devalue the power of text-based stories. I longed to hold on to them while still embracing video games, MMOGs, cross-media narratives and all the other online possibilities… I did not want the new literacies to supplant the old.  Thus, I was delighted when a recent visit to a Story Garden (“Gan Sipur”) in Israel suggested a way of creating and maintaining a transliterate approach to the enjoyment of stories.

Holon, a large city south of and adjacent to Tel Aviv, has 31 of these Story Gardens. Along with the Children’s Museum, the Mediatheque Cultural Center and various other youth-friendly initiatives, they contribute to Holon’s growing reputation as a “children’s city”. Hana Herzman, managing director of Holon Municipality, and Moti Sasson, Mayor of Holon, are credited with originating and driving the development of the Story Gardens project. They explain the concept further in this video:

Story Gardens of Holon (view on YouTube)

In other words, Story Gardens are landscaped sculpture installations where the sculptures are characters, objects or abstract representations of thoughts and emotions from well-loved children’s stories.

Each garden (there may be several within a park) is a visually identifiable, cohesive space for one particular story, but offering unlimited points of access and egress.  A path suggests the author’s original linear progress through the story, but nothing prevents the experiencer from being attracted to or seeking out alternative routes through the story.

Thematic and aesthetic cohesion for a particular story is established by having one sculptor per story, so only one artist works with a particular writer or text to interpret that story, but these unique story gardens are then united by tasteful, spacious landscaping in and between each “storyverse”, as though an editor had placed them in an anthology. See some more examples in Yair Karelic’s photos here:

Holon’s Story Gardens (1 of 2)

Holon’s Story Gardens (2 of 2)

Besides the simple pleasures of experiencing the gardens themselves, from an analytical point of view, the collaborative creation and the confluence of literacies here is wonderful.  In creating a story garden, an author’s text is interpreted by a selection committee, a sculptor, and architects, environmental planners and engineers (often in live discussion with the author), and then re-interpreted with great satisfaction by teachers, parents, grandparents and, most importantly, by the children at whom the entire exercise is aimed.  And taking transliteracy a step further… some of the stories have even morphed their way into the world of philately through photos of the sculptures!

And the text is never far from the story experience, despite its outdoor, 3-D, immersive, flexible and very social nature: apparently the most popular books in Holon are those featured in the Story Gardens. They are borrowed from the Mediatheque library and are taken to the gardens to be read aloud or home to be enjoyed again, by parents, teachers and children.

In a recent wide-ranging post, Reading in the Digital Age or Reading How We’ve Always Read, Kassia Krozser of Booksquare muses most engagingly on the technological developments required to facilitate social reading in the online environment, but what struck me is her assertion that reading has been a social activity for much longer than it has been a solitary one. She reminds us that

Social reading is normal reading. …  Even after the invention of the Gutenberg press, the possession of books was outside the reach of most people. …. The tradition of people reading to each other remains alive and well. …  It wasn’t until mass market books became available that reading, as we know it, was identified as a (almost-solely) solitary activity (overall literacy rates had to catch up as well, but that’s another issue).

I sometimes think of reading as “story absorption” to remind myself that stories were not always bound in books, but I am also glad that, at this point in the evolution of storytelling, when “wreading” happens in a Story Garden (because analysis, comment, reinterpretation and embellishment are inevitable parts of creation and of play), texts may still be part of the discussion.

Copyright



{Tue 20 July 2010}   On banning face veils
Thoughts on banning face veils

After reading about the French ban, I was interested to see in Ha’aretz yesterday that Syria has banned face veils at universities in order to protect the secular nature of the state. The article also reports that hundreds of niqab-wearing primary school teachers were transferred to administrative jobs.

I agree with the banning of face veils, for practical reasons related to identification and communication, yes, but also because I believe that face veils are shaming of women and womanhood in general.

In the UK we tend to believe that tolerance involves tolerating everything, especially the behaviour of the weak and disadvantaged, so as not to add to their burdens by shaming them. But, paradoxically, this attitude can entrench that weakness, allowing an extreme intolerance to grow amongst us that threatens the very society that tolerates it. Damian Green says that Britain is unlikely to follow France’s example because banning the burka would be “unBritish”. I agree with him, but not because I believe that being “British” in this particular respect is a Good Thing: The French approach is an attempt to engage with the problem. In Britain, “tolerance” is often shorthand for ignoring both issues and people and disengaging from them.

I believe that a woman who wears a face veil is participating in a declaration that womanhood should be effaced from public life… its message to me is that women are dangerous, require restraint and should not be allowed to participate equally in the world with men. It is an intolerant, insulting and disrespectful message which challenges all the gains women have made in the slow and still-incomplete battle for freedom that has cost many their lives over centuries. It is also aggressive, or, at the very least, insensitive, as it creates fear and discomfort in non-wearers who feel threatened and weakened by what it represents — women at the mercy of men.

The veil also insults and weakens men. It assumes that men cannot control their sexual urges in the presence of a woman. It reduces men to the level of instinctive beasts and removes from them any responsibility for learning to respond appropriately.

In Western societies, even the wearing of just a headscarf (rather than a niqab or a burka), when it is clear that the purpose is total covering of the body and hair, conveys similar messages.

While I say this, I am aware that millions of women have no choice but to wear the veil — they face ostracism or death if they do not. These women are damned (by the West) if they do and damned (by their cultures) if they do not. Their plight is terrible and I have deep compassion for them. They are being used as human shields to draw the fire of negative responses to extremism in the same way that some terrorists use their own civilians as human shields. While extreme displays reveal extreme distress, the causes of which should be investigated, understood and addressed, this does not mean that terrorism should be tolerated.

I actually think the terms of the French ban recognise the problem very well — the fine is only €150 for the woman wearing the veil but €30,000 or a year in jail for the man who forces her to do so. This recognises that the woman does not deserve further shaming and attempts to go to the source.

Of course, the man too may suffer shaming and ostracism by his culture (although likely not death) if “his” woman is not covered, so truly “going to the source” requires a much deeper and wider educative approach where men and women are encouraged to find ways of affirming their identity and their honour without shaming or degrading each other.

P.S. After writing the above post, I found this wonderful article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown which eloquently and fervently expresses some of the same thoughts and many more… I so admire her stance as a Muslim woman and I urge anyone who is interested in the implications of the veil to read her too: “Stand up against the burka” (The Guardian, 17 May 2010).

P.P.S. 04 April 2011. The wonderful Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has again written a great piece on the dangers of the veil. She says that banning is too extreme a response, but urges society to consider sixteen reasons why Muslims themselves should oppose it: Sixteen Reasons why I object to this dangerous cover-up.



2010: The Abuse and Insult Continue

How about this latest instance of the “good news” and the “loving” message of Jesus Christ from the Catholic Church:

The Guardian today reports that “Revised Catholic rules put female ordination in same category of crime under church law as clerical sex abuse of minors”: Vatican makes attempted ordination of women a grave crime

Why not legislate that Catholic women should wear burqas too? That should really make the position quite clear. And before you cry that there is no similarity, I ask you to consider this more deeply:

  • They are both rules made by men in power
  • To ensure that women never have power
  • On the basis that a masculine god-construct said so
  • And that men are supposedly better rulers of themselves and of others
  • And that women are supposedly mentally and emotionally weaker than men
  • And that women exercising power are more dangerous than men exercising power
  • Despite the negative examples of enormous bad done by powerful men
  • And the positive examples of enormous good done by powerful women

One’s gender does not define one’s morality or one’s capacity, even physically. For every strong man there is one who is weaker than a woman. For every weak woman there is one who is stronger than a man. And in all issues of conscience and character, any person has the potential to grow stronger or weaker. We are what we choose to be, not what religion or any man says we must be.

The gospel that the church claims it was commissioned to preach is the gospel of love. Why can we never feel or hear or experience that love amongst the welter of prohibitions and condemnations that exercise religious minds? Do any of them actually believe that Jesus came to set the world free? Or is love just so hard that no one is actually capable of it?

It is so much easier just to legislate and condemn and blame anyone other than oneself for sin … man has been doing it since Adam and it looks like the Catholic Church has learned nothing since then. Didn’t Jesus say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone…”?



{Sun 13 June 2010}   Alone Together
Alone Together

There’s something so poignant about the phrase, “alone together”. It stuck in my head after I saw this CNN video about Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir on YouTube. I presume that most readers of this blog have seen it too. I wonder whether the same phrase at the end of John Vennavally-Rao’s report has also intrigued, delighted and troubled you?

I’m putting down here some random thoughts that haven’t fully coalesced yet into a coherent philosophy, but I’m chasing something/ some things that are hard to see.

The haunting beauty of the choral sound and the inclusive arc of differently coloured faces and backgrounds on the red-curtained stage of cyberspace pleased me deeply. I smiled. I watched it again. I forwarded it to a few friends. I watched it again. I studied a few of the faces — each singing peacefully and unselfconsciously as one can only do in one’s own private space. I felt glad and privileged to have access to those private moments mixed together in an enormous public display that reached and continues to reach across continents and across time. It was/is something precious. I googled Eric Whitacre. I was pleased to read that he’s working on more pieces for the Virtual Choir, perhaps some original work…

And yet, why does it haunt me so? The sense of longing, of reaching out for connection that is communicated to me, the viewer-hearer, is largely a function of the strangeness of the presentation, not of each individual’s communication. Most of the singers look extraordinarily serene, like people absent from the world because they’re in “flow” (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990).  People who are physically together when singing together, no matter with how much joy or harmony, don’t wear exactly the same expression as an individual in private rapture. Or didn’t, anyway. As we reach out for connection in this new way, are we inviting others to steal a part of our soul that previously only revealed itself to the walls or landscapes of our private spaces?

Even as I delight in the confluence of digital media that make possible this self-revelatory joining of humans who know nothing of each other besides that all (all of those who are featured, anyway) can sing, I cannot help but be conscious of all those intervening media, “the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data”. They make the fragile meaning that could not exist if the electricity failed.

But isn’t this just a logical 21st century extension of the artistic process? Artists have always used materials and techniques to transform base material into something else. It’s what artists do. Why does this seem different to me?

Partly, it’s the ephemerality of it — the is-and-notness that flickers on and off at the whim of the switch. Also, it’s the way the human sources are both enhanced by and subsumed in the media. Their “togetherness” is something that the media help us (and them) to imagine. We imagine willingly, but the compulsive clarity of video entices us to go further — to believe, despite ourselves. This mixture of the not-real and the real is disturbing. The putative “togetherness” (not-real) painfully emphasizes the aloneness (real) of the participants. We see each person’s aloneness clearly, multiplied a hundred times in an instant. Usually, we would suspect it only by extension from our own aloneness, when we can risk being conscious of that, and only one-by-one, from the occasional glimpses provided by circumstance.

On the other hand, we also see some elements that inspire us to seek togetherness… that give us hope. Despite our different countries, languages, cultures, genders and body types, we can all sing; we all aspire to make beautiful sounds; we can participate and cooperate to harmonious effect (albeit with the help of a strong guiding and editing hand); we all seek out private time or space to connect with ourselves, we can all be receptive; we can all be gentle. We also all enjoy and depend on similar electronic equipment for our communication and pleasure, so we are patient with each other as we struggle with its vagaries.

As the days passed, my thoughts turned to the creator/conductor/guide/editor — the uber-artist who put it all together. The reach of the work in terms of participants and, even more, of audience, and the fact that the harmony is created in his own private space by one over/above/outside the private spaces of those making the sounds, made me think of him in godlike terms. He is a small god, but with incredibly long digital arms. And now we can all be like him. We “little kings” are no longer held in check by the limitations of our physical resources. We are let loose with the power to make our megalomaniac dreams come true — in a sense — but we pay with the constant awareness of our aloneness.

This aloneness has always been the human condition, but before these digital joinings in eternally-preserved and universally accessible public spaces, we only dipped in and out of this awareness occasionally. Well, there is no way back, unless we have a Butlerian Jihad in our future. Until then, humanity is working out the Zen of our growth into full and constant consciousness of how we really are — just google the phrase “alone together” to see how much this concept exercises us in the current age.

Published simultaneously on www.transliteracy.com.



{Fri 4 June 2010}   Living in a Digital Economy
Living in a Digital Economy

On Wednesday I attended a great talk hosted by Amplified Leicester at the Phoenix Square Digital Media Centre, Leicester. John Stobart of Harvey Ingram LLP gave an excellent presentation titled “Legal Aspects of Online Business and the Digital Economy Act 2010”. I’ve written this up in more detail on my business blog at http://get-it-write.com, but just wanted to review here my feelings about it.

Of course I feel, as a content creator as well as a content consumer, that I want my copyright to be respected. Although it’s unlikely at this stage that any of my articles, poems, etc. will generate millions of dollars for anyone, including myself, I think I share with most artists, writers or even idea-generators who haven’t yet implemented or will never implement their ideas in concrete form, the desire for at least the bare minimum of recognition by people correctly attributing to me any work or ideas of mine when they publish them in any form.

But I don’t think that the way to enforce copyright is by introducing legislation which penalizes everybody who uses a particular internet connection just because some other user may have used it illegally. This creates fear and uncertainty and will likely hamper creativity. Rather, I think we need a massive education campaign to teach what copyright is, and which emphasizes both respect for original sources by users AND a more generous attitude on the part of copyright holders so that the wonderful creativity which new media has spawned and facilitated is not choked off. Creative Commons is the way to go!

I think my view is shared by most people who work online for a living, even when their income depends on their being paid for their creativity. After the talk on Wednesday, I had the pleasure of lunching with Jayne Childs of Creative Coffee Club Leicester and George Ballentyne of the Leicester Council of Faiths. Like others at the talk, they were more concerned about the potential for heavy-handed abuse of the DEA’s provisions than they were excited about the powers it gives to copyright holders. Copyright is already well-protected in UK law.

Notes

Here is the text of the Digital Economy Act 2010, which is now law.

You may still be able to influence some aspects of its implementation via the current Ofcom consultation on how “to give effect to measures introduced in the Digital Economy Act 2010 (“DEA”) aimed at reducing online copyright infringement. Specifically (they) are seeking views on a code of practice called “the Online Copyright Infringement Initial Obligations Code”. This consultation period ends on Friday 30th July.

For general information apart from the Act itself, the Wikipedia entry is a starting point with its selection of links to external sources.

John Stobart is a partner at Harvey Ingram LLP and specialises in Corporate Finance & Transactions. See http://www.harveyingram.com/biographies/john-stobart.aspx.

George Ballentyne is the Equality & Diversity Officer for the Leicester Council of Faiths. He blogs at http://equalitydiversityofficer.blogspot.com/ and his latest post is about the John Stobart presentation mentioned above.

Jayne Childs is the Project Coordinator for Creative Coffee Club Leicester which is based at Phoenix Square in Leicester. This is the place to meet like-minded creatives in Leicester, or meet them online at www.creativecoffeeleicester.com.



{Sun 18 April 2010}   Spring Poetry
Spring Poetry

“Spring Transformations” was the original theme for Saturday’s reading. I was a little worried that we might end up with a round of sickly sweet “positive” poems, but as it turned out, none of us brought poems specifically to do with change and renewal. These ideas are always associated with spring, along with youth, innocence, idealism and hope, but most of us found poems with “a shadow over them” as the poets looked back with a mixture of pleasure and regret on past springs. Perhaps, as none of us are exactly “spring things” ourselves, we are attracted to poems that have a more complex view of this season.

My favourite amongst those shared was the gorgeous Nocturne of Remembered Spring by Conrad Aiken. This is a bittersweet poem, capturing all of the above themes, but from the perspective of one looking back on the promise and potential of a path not taken.

Other poems shared included:

  • Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, From you have I been absent in the spring, a poem of longing where the lover declares that despite the spring all about, winter remains for him while he is separated from his lover.
  • Men ask the way to Cold Mountain (scroll down to read stanzas 6-8) by Han Shan. This does not seem to be a spring poem, but perhaps a reluctant spring is implicit – the reader spoke of a resonance with the feeling of deep-seated cold when the summer is not able to break the ice of winter.
  • Spring (8 Haiku) by Ben Gieske, a whimsical, funny and tender poem that is also of remembrance, of one or several springs.
  • A series of Spring Haiku by different poets, accompanied by photographs, curated by Ray Rasmussen. The Haiku poems sparked quite a discussion about Haiku and even inspired some sharing of poems written by the various participants.

We rounded off the evening by watching Michael Radford’s Il Postino, a funny and touching delight that was good to revisit as I’d last seen it many years ago. I was quite surprised to discover that in fact this story about Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s friendship with, and inspiration of, a humble postman on a remote Italian island is fictional… I suppose I believe so much in the power of poetry that it seemed to me perfectly plausible.

(Update 19/04/10: ) The Haiku shared included this one that I loved and which I can share now with the permission of the poet:

Drowning the day’s sorrow
Back and forth
The swimming pool

© Nitzan Marinov, Spring 2007



{Sun 28 March 2010}   Warm Winter Poetry Reading

Warm Winter Poetry Reading

Given the sparseness of my snowy post and my subsequent apparent absence from the blogoverse, you’re forgiven for thinking that winter got the better of me and I didn’t make it through! There’ve been times, given the !*&#insert-curse-here*~&! weather in the UK over the past six months, that I didn’t think I would.

But, contrary to appearances, I have actually been around, lurking and learning and adding my two cents’ worth to a few other web projects. I’ve also been having some offline fun, such as the poetry evening we hosted at home on 30th January.

This event came together quickly due to last-minute cancellations for the scheduled reading of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. We didn’t have enough people to read the play, but we still wanted to do something Shakespearean. I asked each person to bring a favourite Shakespeare sonnet, with another poem, by any other poet, which addresses that sonnet’s themes. It worked brilliantly – the selections delighted us with their variety, yet there was a strong sense of unity because of the Shakespeare connection.

Some of the paired poems

Because there were only six of us, and because the readings were much shorter than when we read an entire play in an evening, not only could we have a sit-down dinner instead of a buffet, but there was also much more time for discussion and for diverging along delicious poetic and non-poetic tangents.

Speaking of delicious… I created a new soup for the dinner, which went down extremely well and had everyone demanding seconds. As I’m not the world’s best chef, this was something of a culinary miracle, so, for posterity, here’s the recipe:

Tia’s Green Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 large leek (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 whole broccoli (chopped)
  • 1 whole cauliflower (chopped)
  • 5 celery sticks including leaves (chopped)
  • 6-8 peeled carrots (unless the peel is sweet, then use it)(chopped)
  • 1 large pkt spinach
  • 1 pkt “salad or stirfry” leaves
  • 1 can green flageolet beans
  • 4 tsp vegetable stock granules
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 bayleaf
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 litres water

In a very large pot:

  1. Fry leek and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes
  2. Add broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots and stir-fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add spinach, “salad or stirfry” leaves, vegetable stock granules, mixed herbs, bayleaf, sea salt and water and simmer for about twenty minutes. Add more water if the mixture doesn’t look right, or if you cook for a bit longer, but the goal is to keep the soup really thick, so don’t overdo it.
  4. After twenty minutes, add the green flageolet beans with the liquid from the can and cook for another five minutes.
  5. Remove the bayleaf and use a hand-blender to liquidize the soup to a thick, smooth consistency.

The result is an amazingly creamy, tasty, green soup. I finished preparing this two hours in advance and then reheated it to serve and it was great.

Tia Azulay 28Mar10 Copyright © 2010 Tia Azulay



{Wed 6 January 2010}   Snowy Delights
Snowy Delights
Yes, the weather’s awful and it’s hard if you’re out on the road right now, but Eyal and I are snugly (and just a tad smugly) working from home today! The view from our house is so lovely and so different from usual that we just had to take these pics!



et cetera