Posts Tagged ‘Forward Prize’

Forward Prizes, spring garden and free will

April 4, 2014

I have just finished reading The Forward Book of Poetry 2014. It’s an annual collection of poems submitted for various elements of the Forward Prizes. The best collection was by Michael Symmons Roberts entitled Drysalter which I’ve referred to in the blog. Taking the book off my bookshelves and opening it at random, I find Discoverers including the lines “History as layers of paint, sedimentary/ and underneath them all, spread/ like a painless contagion, stone”. The best first collection prize went to Emily Berry for Dear Boy, which includes the truly original prose poem “The International Year of the Poem” in which the poet imagines poems being seen as internationally subversive and governments taking action e.g. an Israeli prime minister stated that “We have now declared war on the poems of Gaza….we will treat the population with silk gloves/ but we will apply an iron fist to poems”. If you don’t normally buy poetry books, buy this one and read one or maybe two poems a day – your imagination will be richly stirred.

For the last 10 days, the east of Scotland and most of the east coast of  England has been covered in low cloud, with the occasional slow inrush of haar (sea mist) and the temperature has hung about 6 or 7 degrees. At times, it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s sentence at the beginning of his novel The Road – “Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world”. Now in The Road, the world has suffered a disaster – possibly nuclear war – and the sun has been permanently blocked out. The sun will return next week here but the image of a “cold glaucoma” is startling. Despite the ubiquitous grey in the sky and on the sea, my spring garden provided some relief and welcome colour, in the form of wallflower. grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips in the 1st photo below. The 2nd photo is a pot with pansies, red and white tulips and daffodils. The 3rd photo shows the aftermath of the rain on a cyclamen plant.

Spring garden

Spring garden

Spring pot

Spring pot

Cyclamen after the rain

Cyclamen after the rain

Out on my bike this week, I listened to an episode of In Our Time, the weekly radio programme hosted by Melvyn Bragg on free will. This episode is from the programme’s archives. It was a fascinating discussion and it did not get too bogged down in terminology. Proponents of free will argue that we have freedom over our actions – will we choose the chicken or the fish in a restaurant? – although this is not complete freedom as our choices will be influenced by factors such as societal pressures, our experiences and our tastes. Opponents of free will – the determinists – argue that everything we do is determined e.g. by nature or by divine intervention, so we cannot have free will. However, if everything is determined, why don’t we just act as we like, possibly irresponsibly, as what we do is determined anyway? Some philosophers argue that if we have moral responsibility for our actions, then we don’t have complete free will but they also reject determinism. As with all things philosophical, there are many arguments and counter arguments e.g. we must try to define “free” and “will” before we can discuss it. So, while it looks like you have free will with regard to reading this blog post or not, you don’t make that decision uninfluenced.

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“Poetry is the bomb”, making chowder and crocuses

March 15, 2014

I recently bought The Forward Book of Poetry 2014. I buy  this anthology  every year as it is a collection of poems which were considered for the Forward Prizes each year. The best collection, I was very happy to see, went to Michael Symmons Roberts for his book Drysalter which I have featured on this blog e.g. here. The foreword to the book, written by Jeanette Winsterston, has a dramatic start. Winterson writes “POETRY IS THE BOMB [original capitalisation] and the safe exploding of the bomb”. The author acknowledges that this may be “too violent an image” but argues that the world is besieged by the rich, environmental and religious problems, and by information overload. Winterson concludes that “The poem as the bomb is the poem as the flash of energy capable of blasting an opening into our private bunker”. You can read the foreword by clicking on the book cover here. Today, I read one of the poems At Llantwitt Beach by Oliver Dixon, which includes the imaginative lines “the sea itself now/ that giant loom/ perpetually unravelling/ the striped tapestry/ it’s just woven”. The book is a snip at £8.99, so buy it now.

There are many, many recipes for chowder including fish – just do a search. I’ve been making smoked haddock chowder for a long time, and I started off only including smoked haddock along with leek, carrots, potatoes (mashed and chopped), fish stock, milk and crème fraiche or cream. Recently, I have started adding salmon to the chowder and including some celery. So, my method is to sweat a large, thinly chopped leek, 2 carrots diced small and 2 sticks of celery. I then put the smoked haddock and salmon, cut into big chunks, on top of the vegetables. I turn the fish and cook until it’s steamed and then I add half pint of fish stock, made up to a pint with milk. To this I add previously cooked mash potato and chopped potato. To finish, I add the crème fraiche or cream and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve the chowder with a crispy baguette warmed in the oven, and 2 servings of this constitute a full meal. You can of course, add prawns, mussels or other fish, as chowder is one of the most flexible of soups. It tastes delicious.

March sees the crocuses emerge from grassy areas here in Dunbar and there’s a magnificent display in the nearby village of West Barns, which is known to some of its former residents as The People’s Republic of West Barns. The photos below are from Spott Road in Dunbar, just up the road from my house. The crocus is one of the oldest known flowers and following on from the snowdrops, the crocuses provide a welcome splash of bright colours at (you hope) the end of winter. Thomas Hardy’s poem The Year’s Awakening asks how the crocus bulb knows that winter might be over and that there will be “mild airs that do not numb”. Once the crocuses are above ground, however, you have to admire their beauty because, as soon as strong winds arrive, their delicate petals are threatened.

Crocuses on Spott Road

Crocuses on Spott Road

Crocus close up

Crocus close up

 

Crocus bunches

Crocus bunches

Crocus close up

Crocus close up