Novahead, by Steve Aylett. Published by Scar Garden, 2011. ISBN 975 0 95665677 2

https://www.steveaylett.com

A book full of crackling dialogue. All mood, atmosphere, attitude.
It is written in flows of rhetorical language, surfing on the edge of meaning at times.
It is the created worlds and assumed allusions that pull it all together. His worlds are the further edges of dystopia; his intent satire. The language is so allusive, tight, I wonder about amphetamines, coke. The main character/narrator, Atom’s, drug of choice is Jade.
It’d disservice the ethos to review. The best I can do is excerpt.

Striking quotes so far:

Taffy Atom meeting Betty Criterion:
‘There you are, dangling from your head,’ she said.
……………………………………………………………….
‘The sooner I’m replaced by my corpse-in-waiting the better.’
‘Cushioned in loose worms.’
‘In a coffin, adjusting to my remains.’
……………………………………………….
With courtesies fulfilled, she stood, placed her pet ganglion on her throne….
(page 72)

And later:
‘Do you understand that when a collective identity is formed it has a very distinctive intelligence of its own, always lower than the average among its individuals?

………………………………………………………..

‘For millenia humanity’s been learning with the handbrake on… but a stopped clock never boils, Mr Atom.
… science has created the misery and systems of drainage that separate us from the barbarians…
(pages 92/3)

I’ve plenty more riches to read, yet.

Novahead is the last of the Beerlight novels.

We meet the young lad, Heber, the boy with a bomb in his mind. To render him temporarily safe Atom relocates him to The Fadlands, where nothing stimulating or lively happens; where nothing can spark off interest in his mind, and so set off The End. It is a place where everything, all energy and creativity, are drained from people.
Major metaphor, anyone?
I look out of my window, and… hmm…
Perhaps I’ll leave something interesting around for him to find.
But first, must read on.

For Philip K Dick, that’d be be the trap laid out for you, to draw you in to closed recursive mind-sets: see Lies Inc. For Steve Aylett the trap is ourselves: we are each the ampitheatre of our own ruin.

And I was reading on, and a character quoted some lines. I had to re-read that again,  What? I know that. It’s lines from an early song by a band, circa 1967/8. They are not credited, I noticed, nor permission sought – so I will not press this, other than to say I can’t think of anyone more remote from Steve Aylett.
Ok, why’s that?
Well, Steve is cooler-than-cool, hipper-than-hip, to some readers. That is to say he is The Cutting Edge of present day, ‘and beyond’ (to quote Buzz Lightyear).
And he also has been adopted by the bizarro movement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bizarro_fiction

Of course, once you start spotting things, it takes a hold.
So then, Heber, the boy with the bomb in his mind – was he part-suggested by an early Mark Leyner story (‘Ode to Autumn’) from the short–story collection, My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist (1991), about the human bomb ?

There is family-resemblance of style, too, with the early Leyner. Steve Aylett does far more with the concept, though.
There are passing/throw-away references to William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and no doubt loads of things I just don’t, but should, know.

Each of the three sections of the book concludes in a battle scene; all very laddish, perhaps. But even Atom, in the middle of it all, is circumspect: he begins to suspect this happens every night, not to win any fight, but just for the sake of fighting. A weariness sets in.
And the ubiquitous car chase – it is more Blood Drive than Wacky Races, though.
And there is his fascination… obsession, with guns – but here he develops it into sentient weaponry, guns, that evolve their own living species.
Yep, Cronenberg is in this mix, and why not.
But all this saved by the wit in the telling, and the fun in the multiplying exuberance.

His flows of language are more than vehicles for attitude, and ‘smart’: they reach.
They reach, and in mid-
air
achieve some amazing feats, grasp new-minted concepts, ideas, that are sometimes just a little beyond my own grasp; I see them sparkling there, but can’t get to them.

And then the mix changes, and new possibilities suggest themselves.
It is like watching a vast kaleidescope, that holds one configuration for a moment, and as we are busy spotting the patterns, it all changes again. The constituents are many and intricate, and so the patterns possible are endless, and all fascinating.
And it is 3-dimensional.

Steve Aylett:

sa

New Collected Poems, Tomas Transtromer. Translated and Introduced by Robin Fulton

Robin Fulton in his Introduction to the Bloodaxe edition of Tomas Transtromer’s ‘New Collected Poems’ (2002), writes of the poem sequence Baltic’s ‘arch-like patterning of themes.’ Page 15, Introduction, ibid.
Instantly I was paying attention.

1

In the nineteen-seventies Tomas Transtromer published his poem sequence ‘Baltics’.
It is based, we are told, on the writer finding (inheriting?) his grandfather’s ship’s log. He was a sea captain, and sailed the archipelago of islands from Stockholm to the Baltic regularly.
His home was one of the islands of the archipelago. From this grew an exploration of the writer’s family history, and its repercussions and interrelations with history and events.

If we look at ‘Baltics’ for its structure and thematic patternings we can see many interesting features.
It is a sequence of six poems of varying length. Poem Three has a striking structure, the beginning and ending sections enclosing an isolated word in capitals. In the first part of the poem we encounter a 12th Century church font; the writer imagines it revolving in his memory. Immediately prior to the last isolated word (MANDRAKE) we have an image as of a rotating lighthouse: ‘The strategic planetarium rotates. The lenses stare into the dark (…).’

This central division is critical to the sequence as a whole, treating as it does of transition from heritage issues and memories to a more contemporarily responsive approach.

The whole sequence begins with the grandfather in poem one, with the list of all the ships he has worked on; it is in effect a log book and also the diary of a man unused to recording his inner life.
The last poem in the sequence, poem VII, concentrates on the grandmother, and emphasises her unwillingness to dwell on or explore the past of her life. This attitude frees her, we read, ‘to catch what was new/ and catch hold of it.
The grandfather disappeared from sight, the grandmother remained, if only in the writer’s memory.

Many have argued that this sequence marked a turning point in Tomas Transtromer’s writing, from more closed and structurally conservative modes to more open and free-ranging modes.

2

Images of wind and water recur in many guises throughout the sequence. We open with fog, a combined air and water image, as the grandfather seaman edges his way through the Swedish archipelago into the Baltic. The air/wind image is taken into the next poem, where the grandmother shows concern for seafarers whenever the wind blows, even inland on her island.
Here it is contrasted with the image of free-flowing life the child surmises the wind to be. The wind can fan the flames, or blow them out.
It is in this poem we encounter the theme of the unknown threat. The threat is turned into a benign image: the sea mine was made safe, used as an ornament. The threat is from outside, whether as here the devices of a nation at war, or later where an imposed political totalitarianism brings in the contemporary reference to eastern Europe in the depths of the Cold War.

This water image recurs in the next poem as an image of peace and safety: the church font depicts carvings of battles fought, the threat theme recurring again, but once more made safe in the use of water as a placid element. In the central section the steamer continues the water and danger themes until, ‘a hundred year’s later’ and shore-based, the threat is made safe once more. The poem is top and tailed with the image of religion paralleled with the superstition surrounding the mandrake. Both are assumed to have magical properties. The writer includes the font water into this assessment by implication. By doing so he smudges any strict demarcation of paralleled elements to great effect.

Poem Four is a short but interesting piece. It is paraphrased in the first line: ‘From leeward/ close ups.’ We encounter Bladderwrack seaweed, a Bullhead fish, then the shore-based rock face on the lee-side.

We again meet the image of water, the Baltic Sea, and picking up on the previous image of the font water as placid, a calm endless roof of sea. The sailing image returns: the flag we sail under washed-out, sun-bleached – a wonderful image of sailing under all flags and none; the parochial and national identity has broken down: the close-ups have given us a sense of perspectives: near and far as a necessary relationship, inter-dependent and mutually productive.
As a poem this too falls into two contrasted halves. Note that they are not opposed but made safe by being put into a mutually reciprocal relationship. Is it another chiasmus? A chiasmus of an order we have not come across before?

Poem Five gives us an influx of jellyfish, they are not a threat so much as a curiosity, a symptom even.
Air recurs as a wordless condition, a mis-condition of the brain – aphasia (Aphasia as a rewriting of history: what was known is devalued, overwritten).
We find here that there can be style without content, there can be language without words. In poem One the grandfather attempts conversations in a kind of English, attempts communication using whatever means he can.

Threat recurs; we have seen the danger of fog at sea, of war and the sea mine, here we have the totalitarian regime that denounces the Conservertoire Director. His response after eventual rehabilitation is aphasia: danger, and its consequences. The close-up of a snail in the grass opens up the vista a time: Franciscans brought them here as a food. The influence from outside again, but this time benign.

Poem VII gives us the grandmother’s story. And it is harrowing: TB and the loss of one’s family, it also looks at the meaning of family: another close up. Family as blood-kin can also mean being used as an unpaid servant. The grandmother refuses to look back, to be caught up in the recriminations and self-recriminations that are inevitably produced by this. 

The poem moves with the narrator whose memory keeps the grandmother alive. The archipelago reappears. This time the narrator uses an island fisherman’s cottage. Wind and water recur as potent images, this time of a sense of time moving on, and of perspectives opening up, newness becoming possible.

3

The patternings tie together the poems, rather than opposing them as we might expect with a chiasmus. Nor do we find structurally reversed placing of theme or image between first and latter half of the sequence as a whole.  

Transtromer has noted that ‘Baltics’ marks the writer’s ‘most consistent attempt to write music’, that is, to structure the sequence thematically as a musical piece.
Helen Vendler remarked on Tomas Transtromer’s abiding concern with music in his work, particularly the work of Schubert, Grieg and Liszt, which he could play himself very competently (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/99536/tomas-transtromer poetry-inexplicit). It has been suggested that his return to piano helped him over a critical period in his life, aged fifteen.

Schubert’s last sonatas in particular make great use of recurring themes and modalities; we find here similar arching structures to what we see in ‘Baltics’. Musically they are called ‘ternary’ structures, and generally have the pattern of ABA, or extensions on that, ABBA  etc.

Commentators on the Bach Cantatas WebsiteBach Contatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Chiasmus.htm, have gone into some depth discussing what constitutes a chiasmic structure in music, and how it differs from a palindromic structure.
These are literary terms applied to music. The chiasmic structure, according to the Bach writers, must needs have more than one term between first and middle part, in each half of the whole; all else is a palindrome.

To apply a musical term in turn, we can say then that a ternary structure does have similarities to a chiasmic structure. In practical terms things are much more complex: tonality and melodic elements are the elements of the structure. Schubert even introduced intermediate tonalities that had only distant relations with the general key of the piece.

Tomas Transtromer’s sequence fits more comfortably with the less oppositional structure of, say, Schubert’s last sonatas, than with strict chiasmus and ring.
His psychological concerns here with conflict-resolution, appeasement of danger, the untying of heritage-issues and parental demands does seem to have accord with Schubert’s possible last accounting and valuing that went into how and by what means he structured those last sonatas.

The title phrase ‘Cid’ is from an Arabic word sidi/sayyid, ‘Sir.
Nor are the Moors in the tale portrayed as badly as in ‘The Song of Roland’. There are many examples of the Cid taking and being received by Moors as friends. There is a lot of in-fighting amongst the Muslim inhabitants in the tale: towns held by the Cid earlier on are grateful to him for his releasing them with property and lives intact as he moved out to take on the bigger rulers, the ones who also had laid burdens on the smaller towns.

We see in the history of the Alhambra in Granada how the delightful gardens witnessed much slaughter and bloodshed by rival Muslim rulers. It is important here to distinguish between the Umayyad Arabic rule, based at Cordoba, and the new incursions of warlike Berbers from North Africa. The Berbers overthrew the settled Muslim rule and threw Muslim Spain into chaos as they vied for power and control amongst themselves (Introduction, Night and Horses and the Desert – An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature, by R Irwin).

1
One source states, that the entire work was divided into three parts in 1910. This has significance; although the text itself does divide into sections by explicitly stating ends and beginnings in the places the cantares are introduced. The only ambiguous one is the last one: the cantare begins with the humiliation of the Infantes in the ‘lion episode’, whilst the Penguin Classics edition begins it on the marriage betrothal of the Cid’s daughters, prior to this, and where the Infantes come into the story fully.

2
In the first cantare we meet the Cid, his devoted friends, his family – he had just been banished from Castile. We don’t know why, because the first page of the ms is missing, and no copy has yet turned up.

He left his family at the monastery, had a dream of greatness, and then had to go out from Castile. None were allowed, on pain of death, to sell him food, or allow him a bed for the night.
He had to plan a ruse to raise money to fund his foray, and support his followers.
Once outside of Castile he first of all planned and executed raids on Muslim townships along a river course. Each was successful, through the Cid’s use of tactics. He was able to send back his first gift to King Alfonzo. Following this he planned a much more difficult raid among a bigger series of towns. This raid involved planning, trickery and subterfuge; he gained great prestige and booty from this.

We see the cantare begin with the Cid’s banishment from Castile, and it end with the restoration of the Count of Barcelona to his freedom and region. The high point of the cantare must surely be the presentation of the first gift to King Alfonzo. It followed from this act that the Cid’s’ followers were pardoned for their part in helping him, and allowed home.
Home is the hidden theme here, that informs beginning, middle and end of the cantare.

The second cantare has three main raids: one in the Levantine, the second in the towns surrounding Valencia, including the lengthy siege of the city. Then he settled the city as a reconquered Christian city.
The emir of Seville was defeated in battle, and much booty gained.
The Cid set up a Christian bishopric, and was henceforth allowed restitution of his family. They all settled in Valencia.
The last battle was with King Yusuf of Morocco.
This was by far the greatest. The spoils were magnificent. He sent back his greatest gift to King Alfonzo, and won his own pardon.
His renown as a great and wealthy warrior was settled.

The two main battles book-end the seizure of Valencia, whose capture depicted a very prolonged siege as a battle of wills between Spain and Moor. The battle with the emir of Seville ran concurrently with the winning of Valencia.

This is surely the centre of the poem. All changes from here; from now on the whole tone of the poem is different. The latter part of the poem is concerned with justice under Spanish law, whereas the first parts were concerned winning prestige – is there a hint of injustice in his exile? – wealth and a reputation for loyalty and honesty. That is, of winning back his place in the Spanish sphere of civility and legality.

Throughout, the poem set out to prove the Cid’s loyalty and honourable character.
One under-theme image is the beard of the Cid; he vowed never to cut it (or have it travestied) until he won restitution. All through the poem are references to his beard: well, the poem does take years to run the story’s course: even the King was outclassed by the Cid’s beard! Ok, but the point being the beard is a mark of the Cid’s commitment to the cause, and an emblem of his prestige.

3

The first cantare saw the Cid banished, cut off from family and legal recourse. He fought three campaigns against the Moors of Henares, the Jalon River, and the Jiloca River. At each he won bounty and wealth.

In the last cantare of the poem we saw three legal challenges to the treachery of the Infantes whereby the Cid reclaimed his generously given wealth; and also three duels – one duel per campaign. He won back, by recourse to Spanish law, his position and prestige.

We began (despite the lost first page) with the Cid realising his banishment from Castile (a metonym for Christian Spain), and end with the Cid helping unite Spain through marriage. The central event also echoed in this, where we saw the Cid settle Valencia and environs for Christian Spain, but also establish a Christian bishopric there under battling Bishop Jeronimo.

The reverse order of events is encapsulated in the court case: the lawsuit, the duels, the marriages (laisses 135-52).

So, yes, it does work. We have a ring of the whole poem, and as in true classical style, the three smaller rings of the cantares.

But where did Per Abbad learn of the structure? So little has come down from pre-Moorish Spain. But what of Mozarabic Spain? I may have to hunt out Arabic sources, but also perhaps Sephardic as well.

4

We see in the Penguin edition of ‘The Cid’ what has been called the prosification of the poem. The term is relatively self-explanatory; the implications, however, are not. With prosification goes the break-down of the line; epithets and formulas are lost, as their function in the line is lost.
As we know from chiasmic and particularly ring construction, these play an important structural role, indicating a parallelism, point of special notice or as rhythmic notifier.
Benjamin Smith notes the symmetry that chiasmus gives to a work is important to its message. He examples the interior chiasmic form in the lines 2402-3, ‘Los de mio Çid a los de Búcar de las tiendas los sacan,/ sácanlos de las tiendas, cáenlos en alcazas’, as the form  A B C C B A. This is a particularly interesting chiasmus because it is the only instance where we bridge two stanzas, 117 and 118.
The translation has it: ‘The Cid’s men drove Bucor’s men out of their tents.// When they had driven them out they fell to the pursuit.’
What we see here, what we can say the chiasmus is drawing out attention to, is how the poem is skillfully structured to emphasise an ongoing action that changes as the fortunes of the two parties change. The Cid here encounters Muslim King Bucor outside Valencia, and the battle turns in the Cid’s favour.

 We begin to see here how richly textured the text is in the original Spanish. This written text also appears to be richly structured, with many inner treasures and smaller rings. Perhaps this implies the poem was also a part of a national treasury, for which read a cultural heirloom of sorts.

Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) is an innovative mental health workforce transformation model that brings together the police and community mental health services, in order to better support “high intensity users” of Section 136 of the Mental Health Act (MHA) and public services.

SIM Programme Content 

The SIM programme consists of: 

  • A model of care using specialist police officers within community mental health services to help support service users struggling with complex, behavioural disorders 
  • SIM supports the small number of service users in every community struggling with complex mental health disorders who often request emergency services whilst making limited clinical progress 

Can you imagine… the police having a quiet word?
They are surely, going off actual results, the very last people who should engage with mental health issues.
And, yes, this is the same police force that suffered and still suffers many austerity cut-backs in officers and money available.

And here we come to the nitty-gritty:
           

  Reduced cost to the police and NHS/ambulance services due to reduced crisis/999   calls, attendances and mental health bed days. 

Reduced pressure on the police/ambulance/ED services, releasing them to deal with other demands. 

Improved patient experience as service users receive earlier intervention leading to higher recovery rates. 

Service users receive mentoring to help them to avoid reaching crisis point and improve their quality of life. 

Cost-cutting.
How much is one’s mental health worth?

Who does not get an undercurrent of ‘bed-blocking; drain on the services; pull-yourself-together’ mentality from this?

Obviously someone does, because:

Through our engagement we have heard significant concerns that reinforce our view that there is a lack of evidence that the SIM model meets three core principles …

• That no one is ever denied access to life-saving treatment. 
• That people need access to the appropriate personalised and trauma-informed care for their needs, delivered by appropriate health and social care professionals. 
• That all models of care are genuinely co-produced with people with lived experience.

https://www.rethink.org/news-and-stories/news/2021/05/rethink-mental-illness-welcomes-nhse-commissioned-review-of-serenity-integrated-mentoring-sim-by-relevant-mental-health-trusts/

And, more to the point:

StopSIM: Mental Illness Is Not A Crime

SIM is a model of care for mental health services that has been developed by an ex Hampshire police Sgt. Paul Jennings. It is already being used in 23 out of 52 NHS Trusts in England, and there are plans to continue expanding it rapidly. SIM is owned and run by the High Intensity Network (HIN): a private limited company….

The SIM model is designed for people who are very unwell, and who most often come into contact with emergency services. Despite being at very high risk of self-harm and suicide, the SIM model instructs services that usually provide care in an emergency not to treat these people. This includes A&E, ambulance services, mental health services and the police. This also affects people under the SIM model if they want to access a diagnosis or treatment for physical health conditions. For example, they can be denied care for a chest X-ray, even if people with the same physical symptoms would usually be offered one…..

A key part of SIM is the police being a part of community mental health teams. These police officers are called “High Intensity Officers” (HIOs) and they are given NHS contracts. SIM documents state that HIOs receive 3 days of initial classroom training, which is “facilitated and led by Paul Jennings” (who is not a mental health professional), and ‘understanding of mental health provision and services’ is not an essential job requirement. HIOs have full access to service users’ medical records, and are also able to share police records with medical staff……….. 

   We believe that SIM breaches the Human Rights Act 1998. SIM’s policy on withholding potentially life-saving care from patients breaches Article 2, relating to the Right to Life.

We believe that SIM breaches the Equality Act 2010. SIM discriminates against people on the grounds of disability, gender, race, gender reassignment and sexuality.

We believe that SIM breaches UK GDPR regulations. SIM allows ‘sensitive data’ (information like medical records, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender reassignment and financial information) to be shared between services without the subject’s consent (the subject is the person who the information is about).

We believe that service users under the SIM model are suffering institutional abuse. Institutional abuse is where the individuals are treated badly, cruelly, or roughly, because of the way an organisation is set up. This can include neglect (when a person isn’t listened to or helped.) and preventing someone from doing what they want to do, as well as lack of respect for a person’s privacy and dignity. We believe the way SIM operates could be classed ans institutional abuse.

We believe that SIM will disproportionately impact people from minoritized and recialised communities. It is likely to act as an additional barrier to asking for help, especially because police are involved in mental health care, given the fear of police brutality and discrimination.

There is no reliable evidence that SIM helps people. SIM’s outcome measures (how they measure success) focus on ‘’service demand’’, meaning how often people use services. There are no outcome measures used to assess the patient’s wellbeing or experience.

There is more to the statement by StopSIM.co.uk.
It can be found here:

https://stopsim.co.uk

Occupied City, by Paul Van Ostaijen is a Belgian Dada masterpiece.

Republished and translated by David Colmer, in 2016, by Smokestack Books, it retains all the typographic experiments of the original.
And these have to be seen to be appreciated.
https://smokestack-books.co.uk/book.php?book=123

Originally published in 1921 as ‘a work of rhythmical typography’, (book jacket) it must have been a typesetter’s nightmare. Ably aided and abetted, though, by Flemish artist Oscar Jespers it works wonderfully.

Ok, but is it just a gem of cultural history?
I find it very relevant to our immediate present.

The artifact – it is more than a book – gives the expression of a city overtaken by foreign troops.
Set in the outbreak and throughout the First World War, and centred on the writer’s home city of Antwerp, it captures the German army sweeping through the region; the occupation; and how the inhabitants struggle with this. It also captures the hollow euphoria of the withdrawal on the Armistice.
The text centres on the inhabitant’s breaking and broken sensibilities, their lives, capturing in fractured typesetting their cultural materials.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_van_Ostaijen

The text is divided into thirteen sections, headings: Dedication, Threatened City, Hollow Harbour, Brothel, Zeppelin, Sous Les Ponts de Paris, City of Grief, Good News, Music Hall, Asta Nielsen, Mobile, Folies Bar, The Withdrawal.

The effect is cumulative; you also have to read cumulatively to savour the layout.
In Threatened City we get a very strong impression of the approaching big guns, the increasing threat, the breaking spirit of the people under occupation, the desolation .

The     ciTy     STands       STill
as if the city’s                                         strings have been cut   
 

………………………………………………………………
are we or are we performing a macabre play

There is a description of an oil spill, its black lake spreading out further and further, ruining all. Like an aerial view of Flanders, under German uniforms 
And throughout the book we hear the constant beat of 

ein zeit ein zeit ein zeit                                 of marching columns of soldiers

………………………………………………………………………….

conquering houses city country
smashed anthill
people flee

Into backrooms
blind blinds

And then that stomach churning

All citizens are required to  

Later  

You moved amongst the press-ganged unemployed
long trains to Germany full of ragged men and half-grown boys

2
I cannot help but see reflections of present-day Kandahar, Kabul here, undergoing these same or similar experiences. 

This is what most people in England, North America, have not experienced, the forced occupation of one’s city, country, by another.

Then there follows the prohibitions, the demands on resources, the shortages because all basics go to the occupier; the forced work – usually making munitions to flatten your own country further, and to inflict the same on neighbouring cities, countries.
The breaking of the spirit. The desolation.

Paul Van Ostaijen did not prettify the experience, he noted the unburied corpses, the ruined people, buildings, and also how the end of the war did not end the war-experience.

Not just a book: in the original language it added all the phonetics and sonority of the language in local popular songs of the time, snatches of lyrics. Visually it is amazing, textually daring.
So it is an audial, visual, textual, semantic, let’s go with this some more: historical, cultural, political, urban, metropolitan, aesthetic, but also down-to-earth and satirical, nihilistic, modernist, Dadaist. 

It was written in Dutch, plus with Flemish variants, French, German, Latin, even English. It is indeed, multi-vocal.

The publishers have added very welcome notes to the text at the end. We get the references, and the translations. 

Astra Nielsen, for instance, on whom the writer devotes a whole section. She was a Danish film actress of the silent era. And obviously a source of great comfort at the time.

3

Paul Van Ostaijen died horribly early, aged 32, of TB
In that brief time – shall we say ten years – he produced this work, but also collected his other writings, poems, into several collections. Of which, in 1982 was published, The first book of Schmoll: selected poems 1920-1928 (English), Bridges Books, Amsterdam.

There is thankfully a generous selection of translations available on the Poetry International site: 

https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poet/6636/Paul-van-Ostaijen/en/tile

The PI page tells us The poet aimed to endow his poems with the lyrical naturalness of children’s songs, counterbalanced by an unfamiliar inner resonance and depth. That was at any rate what poetry was to him: “word play that is anchored in metaphysics.”

I find them hilarious, and for myself find I am in a better place because of the man and his work.
The man?
Wiki tells us: His nickname was Mister 1830, derived from his habit of walking along the streets of Antwerp clothed as a dandy from that year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_van_Ostaijen

Mention must be made of Katy Mawhood, fonts specialist at Oxford University Press.
And without whom this book would lack its great innovations.

I treasure this book.

The Song of Roland is reputedly one of, if not the actual, oldest of the medieval French chansons de geste, or songs of deeds.

The Song first made its appearance in this form in the twelfth century, shortly after the First Crusade. This is important because, although it is based on an actual incident in 778AD, the twist in the chanson de geste version is very important.

The actual incident concerned King Charlemagne, and his being approached by Saracen rulers in Spain for help in dealing with a mutual Saracen enemy. He agreed and entered Spain with them, conquered two major cities, and was besieging Saragossa, when he was called away. He left Spain via the Pyrenees pass of Roncevaux. Here his rearguard was attacked by Basques, who slaughtered them to a man, and left with their goods. It was Basque territory.

The version in the geste has the Saracens the enemy throughout, and the attack on the rearguard an agreement between a renegade Frenchman and the Saracens. The composer of the piece, like his audience, knew next to nothing of Islam, and so we come across some absurdities, some crazy assumptions.

It is very important for the story-line to remember that Count Roland of Brittany was the nephew of Charlemagne, and that it was rivalry with his step-father  – as in the old folk tales, and modern life – Ganelon, that caused his death.

The Song of Roland consists of 291 ‘laisses’, that is, stanzas, of varying length. They all follow the same strict metrical pattern, however: this is syllabic verse, and each line is strictly ten syllables in length.

Each line consists of ten syllables, divided roughly down the middle by a pause or rest. The rhythm of the line is formed by strong stresses falling on the fourth and tenth syllables. Within a single laisse, the separate lines are linked by assonance—a partial rhyme in which the accented vowel sounds are the same but the consonants differ, as in “brave” and “vain,” for instance. The vowel sound repeated through one laisse never carries on to the next. Since the poet has divided his song into laisses according to the sense and not any standard length—for instance, a new laisse will begin when one combat or speech ends and the next begins—this use of assonance reinforces the divisions of plot, of action.

The death of Roland occurs in the middle of the piece. The second half is then taken up with Charlemagne’s revenge. The first half shows the treason of Ganelon, the build-up to the central fight scene.

The ending is really quite poignant. We see Charlemagne wearied with fighting, having dealt with Ganelon, sitting down at long last. Only to be met with new calls of his warrior ship: ‘How weary is this life.’ he says.

The first appearance of the chanson was as one of many legends and tales that circulated on pilgrim trails, and in local courts and gatherings.

At just about 4000 lines it required quite a feat of memory. And so the tale is structured in such a way, with parallels, repetitions of motifs, events etc, that once the main structure was grasped the reciter could riff with rather detailed subject matter fully, and with skill.

It is structured so as to be symmetrical through and through. The poem is centered around four great scenes which balance each other perfectly.
At the very beginning we have Ganelon’s (stepfather) crime; at the very end we have his punishment.
Around the center of the tale, Roland’s martyrdom and Charlemagne’s vengeance face and mirror each other, both taking the shape of great battles, presented in a parallel order, at Roncesvals.
Ganelon’s successful treachery and Roland’s early death temporarily set the scales of good and evil askew; the events of the rest of the poem then set them right.

The many repetitions and parallel passages of the poem contribute to the total sense of purpose and symmetry.
For instance, the similarities between how the battle between Roland’s rear guard and Marsilla’s army, and the battle between Charlemagne’s and Baligant’s men, reinforce the poet’s point that one battle is the mirror-image of the other, that Charlemagne’s triumph over Baligant is perfect revenge for the Saracen ambush.

The order in which the two battles are presented is the same; first there is the inventory of the two opposing forces as they assemble themselves, then, when they meet on the field, the threats and boasts and first blows. Each one-on-one combat, besides the most remarkable and important ones such as that between Charlemagne and Baligant, takes up one laisse, and all are described in the same language.
Comparing the various rather gory ways in which the warriors kill each other, one sees immediately that each description is a slight variation on all the others. Ideally, the effect of such repetition is a sense of ceremonious consistency and rhythm.

Rather than running along at a consistent pace, the narrative consists of certain scenes where time is slowed down so much that it almost stands still, suspending the noble and the wicked gestures of the characters mid-air, with bits of quick summary providing the connection from one tableau to the next.

This rhythm is particularly clear and easy to pick out toward the beginning of the poem, in the first fifty or so laisses. After some quick exposition in the first laisse, we get the council of Marsilla presented as if it were a drama. The poet summarizes nothing; he describes the stage of the action, the “terrace of blue marble” (2.12) and then gives us the speeches of Marsilla’s advisors in full.
The story is conveyed in this section by dialogue, not by running commentary. Then, after another quick laisse of summary, telling how Marsilla’s messengers rode out to Charles’s camp, we go back to the same slow, dramatic mode of presentation that was used for Marsilla’s council for the conversation between Marsilla’s envoys and Charlemagne. This alternating, fast-slow-fast-slow rhythm, interspersing quick pieces of narrative between long dramatic scenes at regular intervals, is characteristic.

Within each laisse, each sentence and phrase stands separate, on its own. Similarly, no grammatical connection is drawn between one laisse and the next. The reader must draw the connection between one element to the next on his own, for the author does not make the relation between the separate elements clear, but instead simply sets them side by side, without conjunctions.
This technique is known as parataxis, which means “a placing side by side” in Greek. To see more clearly what this is, one might take a quick look at laisse 177, for instance, a particularly striking example. There is no connective tissue: “Roland is dead, his soul with God in Heaven. / The emperor arrives at Roncesvals” (177.2397-2398). The corollaries of this lack of relation between phrases include a propensity towards long lists and a lack of simile, aside from certain highly stylized and conventionalised comparisons which are repeated often—beards, for instance, are very frequently “white as April flowers.” The elements are strung together like beads, one after another.

Narration

It is thought the The Song of Roland, like other medieval chansons de geste, was passed on orally, sung by wandering performers known as jongleurs at feasts and festivals, before it was ever written down.
The written epic that we now have, based on a manuscript version set down by a medieval scribe, bears the marks of its origin in the performances of the jongleurs in its narration. The voice that tells the story is the voice of the jongleur. He does not take on the character of one who was there, nor does he take on any kind of neutral, third-person-omniscience of observation. He tells the story as a story-teller.

While the events recounted in The Song of Roland are almost all myths and inventions, the jongleurs’ medieval audiences accepted them as historical truth. Because of this, and because the heroic deeds described took place in what was the distant past for even those long-ago listeners (the centuries that separated the audience from the figures they heard about made those figures seem all the more grand and glorious), the jongleur could not take on the point of view of an eye-witness of the events he sings about. If he did, the whole story told would lose credibility in the face of the obvious impossibility of the jongleur having seen himself anything that he was describing. Thus, the effect that the narration aims for and achieves is a vividness without immediacy. The characters and events are brightly painted, to be sure, but there is none of the you-are-there feeling that one usually expects nowadays from a well-told story. Different eras want different effects from their literature.

The narrator does not pretend that he was there; he instead implies that he has his knowledge from chronicles and tales, which he alludes to in order to gain the best effect of credibility for the story he tells: for instance, he says of Olivier, Roland, and Turpin fighting at Roncesvals that “The number that they killed can be determined; / it is written in the documents and notes: / the Chronicle says better than four thousand” (127.1683-1685). It is probable that many of the historical chronicles he speaks of are as much his own inventions as many of the events he recounts, but this does not hinder his allusions to them from creating the desired effect of a past both mythic and historical.

That the telling of The Song of Roland does not aim for surprise or suspense is a result of the way in which it, like other chansons de geste, was passed about orally, told again and again, varied but still recognizable in each new performance. The narrator assumes that his audience is already thoroughly familiar with the story he is telling them; he knows they have already heard it plenty of times, but that they enjoy hearing it again. The interest of the audience is not bound up in the question of what’s going to happen next; the listeners already know that Ganelon will betray Roland but that Charlemagne will avenge him in the end. Familiarity was part of the story’s charm for medieval listeners. And so the element of surprise is absent, and suspense is not cultivated; in the very first laisse, we are told that Marsilla will be clobbered by Charlemagne’s men, and Ganelon is called a traitor before he makes a single treacherous move.

‘SUNDIATA, AN EPIC OF OLD MALI’ by D T Niane. Translation by G D Pickett

1
This Mali epic as we have it now is the summation of a collection of oral legends. The legends are based around King Sundiata Keita, who consolidated and expanded the Mali Empire. His period of governance was 1217 to 1255.

The role of the griot is central to the story. The Preface describes the functions. Furthermore the opening commentary to the tale is entitled Words of the Griot Mamadou Kouyate, and he explains his functions and status. The griot is the King’s counsellor; he keeps the tribal customs, histories, and musical and oral traditions. His role may be similar to what we at the present time understand by the role of what we take to be the traditional Welsh bard. To be granted a griot is to be accorded great status. Sundiata was given Balla Fassekeas as his griot. Balla was later captured by the sorcerer King Soumaoro Kante’, however, before Sundiata came into his power.

On one level it is a straight forward story of a king growing to greatness, overcoming a formidable enemy, and consolidating a mighty empire. The telling of the story, however, reveals many levels and complexities. To give an example of the complexity of storytelling let me show you the finding of Sogolon, Sundiata’s mother: 

                          ‘(…) a soothsayer turned up at the village of Niani and prophesied to King Nare`that the would father a great warrior king. Some time later two hunters and a young woman came across King Nare’ and company as they were out hunting. They approached the king and told him this tale: as they were hunting they came across an old woman weeping, she begged them for food, which they shared with her. For their kindness she informed them that she was the spirit of the Buffalo of Do, no warrior could kill her; and she had already killed seventy-seven warriors. There was only one way to kill her, which she told to the hunters, and gave them the requisite tools. They were to take the body to the local king who would be overjoyed and grant the one who killed the buffalo a choice of a wife amongst the women-folk of his town. But, the old woman said, they must only choose the ugly one with the hunchback; she also was an aspect of the buffalo woman. This woman would give birth to a warrior king. After telling the King this they presented him with the woman, Sogolon Conde. She was the one the old woman said; the king married her.

As you can see from this we have a story within a story within a story: three levels of story. Add onto this the symbolic level: the Lion king who marries the Buffalo woman. This also has its own chiasmus, a sequence based on the all-important binding of Sogolon to King Nare’.

2

Sundiata grew up unable to walk; the King desperate for a healthy heir married another wife. This set up all sorts of jealousy and supremacy problems between the wives. Sundiata was seven before he could stand and walk. This is a variation on the standard hero presentation.
Just before this time the King had died, and Sundiata, who was supposed to be his choice successor due to prophecy, was judged physically incapable, and he and his family relegated, ridiculed, and subjected to mockery and increasing hostility.

As soon as Sundiata could walk he quickly learned hunting skills, warrior skills. All along his mental acuity had been high, his kindness supreme. The old kings’ new wife plotted against him: she hired nine witches to catch him out and curse him; his kindness towards them, not knowing who they were, won them over. He was warned of the plot.

His mother Sogolon took her family away for safety. She found however that many tribal kings had been bribed to turn them away. They were forced therefore to travel out of Mali and into Ghana. There they met kindness. It was when they travelled to Mema that the old King, Mansa Tounkara, took them in. He had no children himself, and warmed greatly to Sundiata. In all they spent six years with him. Sundiata grew into a strong and tactical warrior.

While in exile, however, the sorcerer King Soumaoro Kante had grown strong, attracted many followers, and moved in on the Mali tribes, and capital Niani. 

Representatives from old Niani travelled around in search of Sundiata. When they found him at Mema they told of what had befallen Mali. Sundiata vowed to return and destroy Soumaoro. The old king however refused to let him go.
It is at this time that Sundiata’s mother, Sogolon; died. The old king accused Sundiata of being ungrateful, and a turncoat. Sundiata, a very powerful warrior by this time was able to command most of the old king’s men. He had to let him go back. He took half the king’s men with him.

As he returned many tribal people who resisted Soumaoro joined with Sundiata. There were three main battles (and one night sortie), each time Sundiata was victorious, but Soumaoro escaped using sorcery. The pursuit of Soumaoro was long and bloody. It is only when Nana Triban, Sundiata’s half sister by his father’s new queen, along with his own griot, joined him, that he learned the way to defeat Soumaoro’s sorcery.

Soumaoro was defeated, but not captured.
Sundiata levelled Soumaoro’s city of Sosso; he re-entered Mali a victor; he granted land and livings to all loyal tribes, showed mercy to the defeated, and rebuilt Niani on a greater, grander scale.

3

The whole movement of the epic is based on two arcs superimposed and conflicting with each other, one where we see the build up to Sundiata’s eminence, is contrasted with his unfortunate beginnings: we have the auspiciousness of his prophecy and the inauspiciousness of his childhood.
There are three interpolations by the writer into the narrative; these are
Chapter 1, The First Kings of Mali;
Chapter 8, History; and
18, Eternal Mali

: that is the first, middle, and last.

Each of these chapters has the same structure of author’s assessment of the story, followed by a précis of the following events. These three chapters differ from all others, in that the others consist of direct and engaged narrative of the story. The first and last chapters also are connected in the ways they begin and end the tale.
The First Kings gives a brief history of the Mandingo people and of Sundiata’s genealogy, before introducing us to the story.
The last chapter Eternal Mali, sums up the ending of the tale, and in the latter half gives a brief history of Mali after the time of Sundiata.
The central chapter, History, begins by reverting to the same objective tone of the first and last authorial interpolations; it tells how the story of Sundiata has reached its central point, and how all the auspicious signs of his childhood will now come to fruition. This is followed by a brief précis of the preceding chapter, and introduces us to the proceeding events of the story.M

La Trappe 0.0
created La Trappe Nillis brewery\

Written by

Madhavi Raaijmakers

On Saturday there are long lines at the Abbey of Our Lady of Koningshoeven. Both the shop and the food court are busy. Many beer lovers come to have a look, curious about that new beer.

In the monastery shop, sales were so strong that they limited the sale. Customers can only pick up a maximum of six bottles. People who can’t wait sit on the terrace to immediately savor the newcomer.

Brother Isaac of the abbey points out that it was not easy to make a special non-alcoholic beer. “It’s not about: let’s take a Trappist beer and make alcohol out of it,” explains the brother. The idea was born three years ago. “It responds to a trend. About 28 percent of young people want to drink alcohol-free. But we also found that we could do something with alcohol-free beer to reduce the risks of alcohol use.”

https://remonews.com/netherlandseng/the-first-non-alcoholic-trappist-beer-is-underway-long-lines-in-the-abbey-shop/

But, can we get it? NO!
Only from the monastery shop.

I cannot tell you how looooong I have waited for this!
Trappist beer is how I always wanted beer to taste. But the alcohol content was always too high.
And now….

the torment

so near,
and yet….

Choose The Future

Posted: August 23, 2021 in Chat
Tags: ,

I’ve been reading recently of ventures in past-life experiments.
You know, the attempts to explore past lives through hypnotic regression, out-of-body experiences etc.
Many have heard tales of young children remembering in great detail other lives, people, places that they had no chance of knowing themselves.

A lot of questions are prompted by this, of course: how reliable are these tales? What exactly were the circumstances of the recalling; of the recording of the recalling?
I’m sure you can come up with many more.

– It is disconcerting how many of these the writer takes at face value, though.

So, new ventures – what new ventures?
Some thought it interesting to try future seeing.
This seems to imply that regress-memories/lives are part of a base-fabric of time-existence. That futures also exist to be accessed.
Ok, so they tried it.
The same questions apply, of course.

Get to the point!
Ok, so they tried it with volunteers etc. Amongst the scenarios that came up with something like four recurring themes.
These, they seem to say, are our possible futures.

‘One group described a joyless future… living in space stations... silvery clothes… synthetic food’

‘Another… happier, more natural lives in natural settings, in harmony with one another….’

Yet another ”hi-tech urbanites’ described a bleak mechanical future … in underground cities and cities enclosed in domes and bubbles….’

The last is ‘post-disaster survivors in a world … ravaged by some global… disaster. Living in… urban ruins, caves… isolated farms… obtained much of their food by hunting.’

Another note is that none of these scenarios are of hugely populated worlds like our present one.

So where do I get all this?
The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot, published 1996.

He also writes authoritatively of religious states and concepts, teachings.
– Most of/all these require guided interpretations, strictly applied. I seriously doubt that any ‘teacher’ could cover so many disparate teachings.

And So I have serious doubts about the veracity of this book, its bases of arguments.

The argument seems to be that we create our world through thought and mental preoccupations. That our world as we know is a projection of mass mental states.

If that is the case then we’d better start opening up our options.

And how much of the above smacks of pulp Sci-Fi novels, Western fiction, and films?
All of it?

One thing I do know, is that we prime our ‘seeing’, imagining, foreseeing, by reading and acquainting ourselves with other similar accounts – we get the framework, terminology, style, there – and imaginative reading – this prompts/limits our own imagining.
We see, in other words, what we expect to see.

We really do need better, wider, options than these, though.
Is that really all we can up with?

2

I remember, way back, a then renowned meditation organisation declared they were going to open a centre in every city, if not town. This would steady the mood of the place, make it more settled and productive.
I thought at the time, No, don’t tell people, let the results speak for themselves.
But also there are always those who see their sole purpose in life as disrupting such things: this is an open invite

What was being done, was more prosaic, yet subtle, than transcendental: the organisation was using its current kudos and prestige to influence behaviour: ‘They have a centre here now, see how calmer we are.’
People adjust their behaviour, then translate that as outside influence.

This was how the church building movement worked: God is in our midst, we must behave better etc.
This leads onto the famous Pascal’s Wager: behave well now, just in case….

There were, of course, those in the meditation organisation who really believed in their mind-power. And so we got things like… yogic flying.
Remember that? No, that rather spoiled the effect.

And how Western all this seems.

3


I wonder if, during lockdown, you’ve been like myself, trawling and exhausting Netflix and TV channels,
Our future world options from there seem to be young women running screaming from two-dimentional male ‘things’.
Wonderful entertainment.
All our fears.

Murdered women, and something male that lumbers off to do more of the stuff.
We stay with the victim, naturally. And so we should.
But what of this other ‘thing’/creature? What is it?
And how many lost, wrong-headed and disgruntled messed up males… copy that? A ‘kind’ of identity.

We are shown a male behaviour here that I have never come across in real life, nor have I ever known anyone who thinks, never mind behaves, that way.
Everyone always at extremes. Because none of us are, and we need excitement in our lives?

Until people start copying it.

Are all men psychopaths?
If they were then these portrayals would have little impact or interest, this would be ‘normal’.
But they are not, and this is anything but normal, and so this kind of scenario has a kind of usableness.

I was going to say we need to rethink these things from scratch, but we are always influenced by what is happening around us, and what we would take as base, ground, normal,
would probably be anything but that.

Yep, I am writing this in the middle of Afghanistan, wild-fires, earthquakes… not to mention Delta-variant upsurges..

We really do need to get out more.

4


So what do we make of this book, The Holographic Universe, greatly praised by many?
I cannot grasp the holographic idea, how it works, what it is.

Then here was a promising article in the recent Scientific American magazine
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-art-of-pondering-earths-distant-future/

well, until I hit the paywall.
So why not take a subscription?
Oh, believe me we have tried.
On this up-to-the-minute science and technology platform the subscription service cannot seem to cope with UK money.

The Ripples of Hope Festival is delighted to have commissioned and unveil a powerful new body of work: The Poetic Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

www.homemcr.org

Simon Armitage has convened 30 poets from around the world to create a unique poetic response to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Join Simon as he hosts the poets as they unveil this work for the first time, with music from Jaydev Mistry.

From 15th to 19th September
Venue: Home, Manchester

With events including the unveiling of a new poetic response to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an In Conversation with Hillary Rodham Clinton and three days of discussions, workshops, storytelling and performances, this brand new 5-day festival asks us to:

  • Think about the challenges we face as communities and as humanity;
  • Celebrate the power of people to make change; and
  • Explore how we can – together – take action in our communities and across the world to create a future that truly serves people.

After a year that has isolated and divided us, the Festival is a place to meet, share ideas and experiences – and to get excited about changing the world for the better. Add your voice to a weekend of exhilarating and challenging debate, intimate conversations, inspiring stories, workshops and performances, as we explore the world we can create together.

Join local and international community activists, performers, poets, organisers and artists as we delve into our five core themes:

  • Dignity & Justice
  • Equity & Equality
  • Arts & Culture
  • Activism & Participation
  • Environment & Climate Change