Alexander Averin

Monday 31 October 2011

Samhain 2011

The Crystal Ball
John William Waterhouse

I woke in bits, like all children, piecemeal over the years. I discovered myself and the world, and forgot them, and discovered them again.

Anne Dillard

Dear Diary,

Being at home off sick now I have taken to searching my own bookshelves for reading matter and I found Anne Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to read again and am also re-reading all my John O'Donohue books, both newly discovered finds which are such a joy to read.  What would you seek out from your own bookshelves?

I am listening to a lot of Radio 4 and this morning I enjoyed the first part of Jeanette Winterson's memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal as it is the Book of the Week. The adoption aspect is close to my heart so perhaps I get even more from it but she is such a great writer (and poet).

On Sunday morning I heard Will Self's A Point of View about the arms trade (and more); what a fine piece that was. Details are below if you would like to hear it.

Will Self A Point of View Arms Trade
Duration: 11 minutes
Will Self deplores the arms trade and Britain's role in it, including the sale of weapons to authoritarian regimes which abuse human rights

Listen Again or on Podcast

Anyway enough of the present for you surely know that it is Samhain/ Halloween and the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest so all our ancestors will be at their closest.

I for one will be out tonight and hopefully there will be sweet moonlight to ride by..........................................

Here is a poem that fits the occasion. 

Sweet dreams.......


Come to me in the silence of the night;

Come in the speaking silence of a dream;

Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright

As sunlight on a stream;

Come back in tears,

O memory, hope, love of finished years.

Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,

Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,

Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;

Where thirsting longing eyes

Watch the slow door

That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live

My very life again though cold in death:

Come back to me in dreams, that I may give

Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:

Speak low, lean low,

As long ago, my love, how long ago.

Christina Rossetti

Saturday 29 October 2011

Michael D Higgins

Michael D Higgins

So Ireland has a new president. The marvellous Mary Mcaleese who has been such an excellent representative of Ireland will indeed be a very hard act to follow but I was pleased to hear that Michael D Higgins has been elected and by such a huge margin. Perhaps it could only happen in Ireland that a poet could be a President though he is much more than that of course but it did make me happy to learn that he is one. He is also decribed as being without charisma - don't you just love that? And he is seventy years old to boot.   He is a proper socialist, an anti-war campaigner and a fighter for human rights and I particularly loved his statement that he wants to 'create an intellectual space' in our dear country.  God bless him.

Here is one of his poems.

When Will My Time Come?

When will my time come for scenery

And will it be too late?

After all

Decades ago I was never able

To get excited

About filling the lungs with ozone

On Salthill Prom.

And when the strangers

To whom I gave a lift

Spoke to me of the extraordinary

Light in the Western sky;

I often missed its changes.

And, later, when words were required

To intervene at the opening of Art Exhibitions,

It was not the same.

What is this tyranny of head that stifles

The eyes, the senses,

All play on the strings of the heart.

And, if there is a healing,

It is in the depth of a silence,

Whose plumbed depths require

A journey through realms of pain

That must be faced alone.

The hero, setting out,

Will meet an ally at a crucial moment.

But the journey home

Is mostly alone.

When my time comes

I will have made my journey

And through all my senses will explode

The evidence of light

And air and water, fire and earth.

Michael D Higgins

Friday 28 October 2011

Samhain approaches

Friday already, this week is really flying as I will be in a few days when I have prepared my besom.

Today, after a slight frost overnight the sun is shining and the magical low lying mist has lifted.  I am taking gentle little walks with the dogs every day to fill my lungs with our pure Welsh air.  It is such a beautiful day and very well-deserved as yesterday was not just wet but was a dull, dull, dull dark and dreary grey all day.

Isn't it funny how sunshine lifts everyone's spirits so? It must be a light thing, perhaps we truly are drawn to the light.

I am reminded that Halloween is approaching; my grandchildren are getting excited and have been busy carving huge orange pumpkins. I am still not yet inspired to write myself but I am following dear Exmoor Jane's advice to just be and to watch the raindrops on the windows, we get plenty of those. Anyways I have found a poem for you, a contemporary one written in 2001 by a poet unknown to me. The Internet is wonderful in the way it introduces me to poets and poems I might otherwise miss. This poem is not a very happy one so does not fit the mood of the day and for that I apologise.

Dispatch from the Home Front:

Halloween 2001

like every other year I sit outside with a guitar

while kids roam in small packs

from lit door to lit door

the costumes tonight are not that frightening

angels and fairies and superheroes abound

a few bloodsuckers and ghouls

a sprinkling of skeletons

no terrorists

the adults pretend to be scared

jessie (the giraffe from across the street)

solemnly hands me M & Ms from her stash

when I put the Snickers in her pumpkin

“honey,” I tell her

“it’s not a trade – it‘s a gift”

and she solemnly takes them back

the young girl in the bathrobe and curlers

wearing the sign that says


says to me

“I want to hear you play your prettyful music”


I hand her candy

and I pick up my guitar

to play a song appropriate to the season

(a song by the Grateful Dead)

for this world’s recent ghosts

this world

where unimaginable ashes

sift down on children’s beds

in one part of this world

the very rocks and baseballs

smell of abrasives, jet fuel, burning rubber, corpses

in another part of this world

they are making the mail glow white

long enough to kill what lives on the words

in another part of this world

this guitar would be


in that country a shrouded woman

has been carefully picking food from a minefield

(food that was air dropped in my name)

she runs and lifts her child from the ground

raising his head high up onto her shoulder

vainly trying to keep the frightening blood from spilling too much

it will take her years to fall asleep again

when she does fall asleep

she will dream of picking up a yellow bomblet

wrapping it in swaddling clothes

suckling it until it blooms hot and bright

but she will not cry

as she holds him in that dream

we all dream that dream these days

we all hold our children closer

while holding back tears

a dream like that

is not a gift

it is a trade

we have all already given

more than enough in return for this one

and you do not let go of your tears

when tears are all you have left

Halloween night

I am pushing aside the veil between the worlds

a mourning person waiting for dawn

pretending to be scared to cover real fear

while I give sweets and prettyful music

to my neighbors’children

we are all a long way from home

if I knew the way

I would take you home

Tony Brown

Tony Brown is a poet, publisher & host of the long-running Poets Asylum reading series at the Java Hut in Worcester, Massachusetts. You can find more of his work online at the Open Mike Poetry site.

Monday 24 October 2011

Oatmeal and Inspiration

Dear Diary,

Thank you for your good wishes in the comments, they mean a lot to me.

After having been really rather ill I am convalescing slowly and feeling a little stronger each day; I am eating well on a strict low-fat diet and though I am weak my body is feeling strangely well on it. I should be feeling even better when my gall-bladder is taken from me – please let it be soon.

All that’s missing is creative inspiration, I have none at all and feel quite bereft because of it so all I can post for you is a poem I heard on Radio 4’s Poetry Please on Sunday afternoon. It’s by Galway Kinnell and is called Oatmeal. Perhaps it struck a chord with me because I too eat oatmeal every morning and also eat it alone. I have never dreamed up an imaginary companion though as I am not a morning person, I love to be solitary and do not like to converse with anyone if I can help it.

I hope you enjoy the poem too – and pray tell me …….who would your imaginary companion be at breakfast time?

And please do tell me how I can get my inspiration back?


I eat oatmeal for breakfast

I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.

I eat it alone.

I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.

Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health

if somebody eats it with you.

That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have

breakfast with.

Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary


Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge,

as he called it with John Keats.

Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him:

due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime,

and unusual willingness to disintegrate, oatmeal should

not be eaten alone.

He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eat

it with an imaginary companion, and that he himself had

enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and John


Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not as

wholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn something

from it.

Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the

"Ode to a Nightingale."

He had a heck of a time finishing it those were his words "Oi 'ad

a 'eck of a toime," he said, more or less, speaking through

his porridge.

He wrote it quickly, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in his


but when he got home he couldn't figure out the order of the stanzas,

and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and they

made some sense of them, but he isn't sure to this day if

they got it right.

An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacket

through a hole in his pocket.

He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas,

and the way here and there a line will go into the

configuration of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up

and peer about, and then lay \ itself down slightly off the mark,

causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble.

He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about

the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some

stanzas of his own, but only made matters worse.

I would not have known any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmeal


When breakfast was over, John recited "To Autumn."

He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words

lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.

He didn't offer the story of writing "To Autumn," I doubt if there

is much of one.

But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field got him started

on it, and two of the lines, "For Summer has o'er-brimmed their

clammy cells" and "Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours,"

came to him while eating oatmeal alone.

I can see him drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmering

furrows, muttering.

Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion's tatters.

For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch

I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneously

gummy and crumbly, and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanagh

to join me.

Galway Kinnell

About his work, Liz Rosenberg wrote in the Boston Globe: "Kinnell is a poet of the rarest ability, the kind who comes once or twice in a generation, who can flesh out music, raise the spirits and break the heart."

Bye for now,


Friday 14 October 2011

A poem

Sorry I have been off the radar for a while; I have had a spell in hospital as I was taken ill quite suddenly. Am on the mend now but waiting for a little operation some time soon (I hope). Times like this makes one appreciate friendship and quite coincidentally, among the doom, gloom and despair that seems to dominate the news these days I heard this poem on Radio 4's Today programme in the Thought for the Day slot.

Really bad news yesterday was hearing that Alan Bennett and the protestors have lost the fight to save Brent libraries from closure.  Sad news indeed.

Anyway here is the poem.


Such love I cannot analyse;

it does not rest in lips or eyes,

neither in kisses nor caress,

partly, I know, it’s gentleness

And understanding in one word

or in brief letters. It’s preserved

by trust and by respect and awe.

These are the words I’m feeling for.

Two people, yes, two lasting friends.

The giving comes, the taking ends.

There is no measure for such things.

For this all Nature slows and sings.

Elizabeth Jennings