Archive for the ‘Chat’ Category

How all the graves of Cookham Church 
gaped breathless, baroque, gave up 
among hawthorn hedges hoary with leaf,  
box graves yawning, tilting on edges
stained pediments… the common grave,
the pauper’s grave, forgotten suicide, 
the restless babies, gave 
their elderly dead made brash with youth;
and the young dead, unelaborated.

How one day each grave of Cookham Church
turned over the copper and gold in its pocket, gave
change for the loan. The mysterious tomb, 
and the fenced-around thorn bush; the flesh and bone
in ranks and rows, to the right and the left –
climbed out whole into common light
and turned, shafts of light through July trees

their drift of pollen dust, to the sun.

The Resurrection, Cookham, 1924 - 1927 - Stanley Spencer

Image from:

Poem by:

The Company’s Lament

Posted: May 21, 2023 in Chat
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for Bakhmut.



One little money-earner at the moment is to use the ‘neuro-diverse’ label.

I’ve heard recently of at least one publisher wanting to publish writing by an autistic person, only to reject the offered material because the characters were not congenial enough.
Yes, they are autistic characters. That’s what you asked for.

A little earner must be some of the many online courses that advertise as being ‘neuro-diverse friendly’.
Only, when the neuro-diverse on the course respond they have all the old rejection, anger, and lack of understanding as always, from course peers as well as tutors .
No one had done the work, looked into exactly what this description means, implies, and how those who are neuro-diverse express themselves differently.

And they would have got funding for being ‘neuro-diverse friendly’.


I’m, sorry you feel that way, but…’

No, this is what I have observed.

What is really odd is the inexplicable anger flung at the neuro-diverse. The ‘straight’ people also seem shocked at their own responses.
But then double the anger in consequence.

Nothing is reflected upon, considered, thought about: the instant response is all, and acquires a kind of authenticity by being emotive rather than thought through.
How thought has become toppled by the puerile child of emoting.

So, how is neuro-diversity experienced, and responded to?

Title slide is black with a set of scornful eyes and reads:Thin slice judgements and the different world autistics inhabit

All slides in this slideshow have black as the primary color with candy colored accents.
Two images are on the left that shoe illustrated people reacting. One looks alarmed, and the other looks scornful. 

Text reads:

What are thin slice judgements?

A “thin slice” judgement is based on a first impression that becomes a long-lasting part of someone’s perception and attitude.
Research has demonstrated that after only a couple seconds of seeing an autistic person, non-autistic people begin to have a negative reaction to them.

Autistic people are often distrusted and disliked on first sight.
Image has a silhouette of a person. A slice of the person is in different colors indicating someone is only seeing a slice and misreading the person. 

Title: People reported experiencIng the following after viewing an autistic person for a few seconds:

An illustration of a bus with the text: Would not want to sit next to them on a bus

An illustration of a neighborhood with the text:  would not live in the same neighborhood

An Illustration of a person being pointed at and mocked with the text: would not want to talk to them

An illustration of two men, one with his arm around the other, smiling, with the text: would not want to hang out with them
Image has an illustration of a man with curly hair in a man bun and words appear around him. It reads: After just seconds, non-Autistic people rated Autistic people as less... trustworthy attractive smart dominant likeable
Image has a title and 5 text boxes and reads:

Why people make thin slice judgements
Communication, manner of speaking, syntax, & vocabulary are different
Body language, eye contact, & tone
are not typical or expected
Clothing, hairstyle, &
accessories may signal disability
Atypical gait, clumsy, or hemiplegic
movement (one side moves more)
Lack of confidence in one’s own ability to predict & respond to behavior causes anxiety
Image has an illustration of a person with afropuff pony tails and giving thumbs up and has the following title and text:

Evaluate your Thin Slice Judgements
Ask yourself: 
Am I reacting to disability?
Sit with your feelings to understand them.
Engage in safe contexts to explore
your reactions.
Question if your behavior is causing
Image reads: listen to your thoughts and “Thin slice judgements can sound like,” and has a dotted line connecting phrases:
Sexual predator
School shooter
Does not fit in 
Bad vibes
In the center is a sketch of a lightbulb with the text inside: Don’t just ignore thin slice judgements. They are always sending you a sending you a

Around the lightbulb are four text boxes separated by arrows forming a circle around the bulb. They read:

Getting a “vibe” from others could indicate
real danger. 

Victims of violent crimes often had a feeling of fear before being attacked.

It could indicate that personality differences would make you a bad match as friends.

Negative “vibes” could mean that your biases make you a danger to someone innocent.
Image has an illustration of a woman looking contemplative and is titled, “overcoming biases and practicing active harm reduction”

Surrounding the woman are key points in local text boxes:

Do not weaponize judgements to justify harming others

Do not overcorrect & subject others to pity or savior relationships

Reflect on past interactions with people you may have unfairly judged

Interact in ways that are safe for both you & the other person

Realize you have automatic processing & may have automated biases

Eurovision 2023

Posted: May 10, 2023 in Chat
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Yep, it’s that time again!

Love it, hate it, or be indifferent, it’s here and it’s everywhere.

A uniquely European phenomenon, bringing together cultures and languages and locations… or so it used to be. Entries now seem to meld into majorly Westernised copying.
Which is a pity.

In some ways.
It did begin to seem parochial and redundant in that older format. The new acts, with more theatrics and fitness regimes than songs, are maybe not good showcases of cultural uniquenesses.
But they are just points on a journey to different formulations of the basic concept.
And it has blended gender-issues into cultural acceptance very well.

The American fantasy and Sc-fi writer Catherine M Valente was amazed at Euovision’s uniqueness. There has been nothing remotely similar to it in the USA.
– Imagine if the Americas did draw on all their huge continents’ cultures, North, South, Mid and Caribbean!
It might even be quite therapeutic.

Catherine M Valente based a sci-fi novel on the Eurovision phenomenon, Space Opera.

One recent development has been a greater politicising of act material. A response to the Ukraine crisis. The old format has always steered well clear of overt political statements.
It is tempting to say that the barbarity of the attack on the Ukraine has so shocked people – like something from the far distant Stone Age lumbering through modern cities – but politics have been creeping in for some time.

In the UK I have found enjoyment of the event seriously marred by the UK commentators, who veer uncomfortable close to repugnant chauvinism in the responses to other nations. Insidious, poisonous.

Political voting has been in practice for some time, and is becoming more apparent.
These are not reasons for scrapping the event, but show how it reflects contemporary conditions and concerns.

I really must catch up on the entries this time around.

I am particularly struck by the French one, La Zarra’s ‘Évidemment’ .
A good, solid work with high production values, and uniquely French.
Of course, it did not make it through to the finals.

Perhaps La Zarra’s performance wasn’t considered gymnastic enough.

I put a fist to the sky
and I left it there
I took a fist to the day
wished I wasn’t there
I took a fist to the face
of everything that would break
and everything that would break broke
so I took a fist to me.

I took a course in hatred
and passed top grade
I took a course in mechanics
to unmake the world
I took a course in religion, bigotry
anything that’d further me
and everything that furthered me stranded me
so I took a spanner to me.

I changed the colour of my skin
to better learn hatred
I changed gender, attraction
to learn centuries of oppression
I changed everything about me
to learn how to be someone
who has constantly to change to fit in
with someone like me.

I was born hungry like this
I cursed my fate, cursed it
I was born disappointed, unsatisfied
I thought this the worst, this
I was born restless, would never give in
it kept me going when everything failed
I was born with a dynamo
a bad one.


Author Ian Crockatt has just published these translations of Norse Skaldic verse. Published by Ark Publications.

CRIMSONING THE EAGLE’S CLAW is a new translation of the Norse poems of Rognvaldr Kali Kolsson, Earl of Orkney.
Rognvaldr Kali was nephew of Earl Magnus of Orkney. Both were Norwegian by birth, and inherited the titles of Earl and the lands of Orkney, incorporating Shetland, and parts of Sutherland. Both also became saints. Rognvaldr Kali established St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, where both he and Magnus were interred.

Rognvaldr Kali’s exploits were recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.


Rognvaldr Kali has been translated before; we have versions in ‘THE TRIUMPH TREE, Scotland’s Earliest Poetry, 550-1350′. The collection is edited by Thomas Owen Clancy, and published by Canongate Classics, 1998.
There is also another version of translations, available online at the Skaldic Project:

What is special about Ian Crockatt’s book, a lovely production by Arc complete with illustrations by the author’s accomplished partner Wenna Crockatt, is that these translations have been made using the actual Skaldic metres and verse forms.

Ian Crockatt has divided Rognvaldr Kali’s oeuvre into nine sections: Early Poems; Incidents in the Earl’s Daily Life; Shetland Shipwreck; The Lady Ermingerd; Seafaring and Piracy; Jerusalem; Sailing to Byzantium; Illness, Loss; In Praise of Rognvaldr (this last is a collection of poems by other skalds in praise of Rognvaldr Kali).


The verse form is, the Introduction notes, ‘defined entirely by sound pattern and rhythm‘. It has not been possible to use the exact rhyme forms, or reproduce the actual authentic sound of the originals (although for cognoscenti originals in old Norse are printed here per poem) so compromises have been sought. Crockatt has been scrupulous in this; he has not deviated from the original forms of metre, rhyming scheme or line length.

To give an example of the strict measures he reproduces Crockatt gives us this example:

Muck, slime, mud. We waded
for five mired weeks, reeking,
silt-fouled bilge-boards souring
in Grimsby bay. Nimbly
now, our proud-prowed, Bergen-
bound Sea-Elk pounds over
wave-paved auk-moors, locks horns
with foam-crests, bows booming.

(reproduced with permission of author)

He keeps this level of patterning and beat throughout each of the forty-one poems he has translated here. This is surely a tremendously skillful feat!

The poems are written as couplets, stitched together as a unit and as a quatrain, with sound, metre and image. It can be seen that the eight line poems break into two, not always exact, halves. In the above example we have predicament/description, followed by resolution. In general the poems act as subject address/ rumination/ open statement, and personal response.

One distinctive element of the poems is the use of the lacuna/intercalation; most poems incorporate an aside, comment, apostrophising of the subject of the verse, that is interpolated mid sentence.

There are one or two problems in such concentrated forms: no poem is longer than eight six-syllable lines, the poem construction follows strict rules of rhyme, alliteration, half-rhyme, internal rhyme and trochaic ending per line.
Such concision depends upon kennings to communicate fully. Ian Crockatt lists the one’s used at the end of the book eg foam-stallions for ships etc.

The book title Crimsoning the Eagle’s Claw is taken from a kenning used by Rognvaldr Kali. To crimson the claws comes from providing corpses for the eagle’s to feed on, that is, the killing of enemies.
Can we ask Why eagles, and not crows, or ravens even? Is it eagles because the enemies slain were another king’s favourite warriors? Or were eagles more plentiful on the battlefield than the crow family? Might it be a reflection back on the prowess and status of the victor himself, that whomever he kills is made up to better status by his act?
I suspect it is the latter: the poems are in essence boasting poems.


Also, if we take into consideration that poetry was considered Odin’s mead, and that Odin appeared at times in the guise of an eagle… then we have the eagle providing the inspiration, and the skald providing the corpses for the eagle: the poems as the remnants of that inspiration. These poems by Rognvaldr Kali are those corpses.

This gives an example of how complex a keening can be. What we read into, behind, beside, each poem is a wealth of back-story. If we read the Ermingerde poems in this way, do we begin to glimpse the woman herself, the woman in relation of the northern warrior, an Earl maybe, yet one from a different climate/world ?

On one occasion this concision and kenning does trouble the translation. How are we to read the poem His first encounter with the monks on Westray (page 32)?

The Skaldic Project gives us:

I have seen sixteen [women] all at once, denuded of {the old age {of the ground of {the serpent-field}}} [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD], and [they had] a fringe on their forehead, walking together. We bore witness to the fact that, here in the west, most maidens are bald; that island lies out in the direction of storms.

The Triumph Tree:

I’ve seen sixteen women1
at once with
forelock on forehead1,stripped of the old age2 of the land3
the serpent-field4, walk together.
We bear witness
that most girls here —
this isle lies against the storms
out west — are

1 Religious clothing, and Celtic tonsure
2 clean shaven
4 gold on which dragon’s lie
5 tonsured

Tonally it all hinges on the last few lines: Ian Crockatt has:

…… We skaldsmen
guffaw — gales of laughter
goad them west — Shaven! Blessed!

The versions shift between bewildered acceptance, outright scorn, and mockery that borders on acceptance.

It is hard for us now to imagine a world where for each man to go out killing on such a scale, of barely met others, was accepted and expected. What must this have done to their sensibilities?The scale of social grief and grieving must have been deafening to any with ears to hear it.
Here we begin to detect the challenge to sensibilities in the meeting with the monks. Of the need for the monks, also, to begin to approach a sense of solace, perhaps.

In France – Ermingerde’s home – it was the time of amour courtois, of the Troubadours and Trouveres already well established when Rangnvaldr Kali came on the scene. It is also the period of a flowering of Arabic and Jewish poetry, philosophy and music.

I think the music of Ragnvaldr Kali’s poetry can now, thanks to Ian Crockatt, take its place amongst them.


Cornelia Parker, Sculptor

Posted: April 15, 2023 in Chat
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I started to take notice of Cornelia Parker’s work with her exploding shed of the 1990s: COLD DARK MATTER: AN EXPLODED VIEW, 1991.

This was a simple wooden garden shed, exploded from the inside.
The explosion was carefully documented by film and camera; then the pieces collected (she used an Army demolition crew – they knew how to collect meticulously) and then arranged.
The sheer skill that went into all of this – in particular the arrangements – was outstanding. The shattered pieces were hung/suspended at various heights and distances. This was like a captured explosion, without the obscuring of smoke and detonation.

Each piece/fragment had to be relocated to its original position as near as identifiably possible, and its arranged position proportionally placed.

The end result was one of contained violence, suspended force: arrested destruction.

The work was then lit from the inside with a single source of light.
We had the suspension of materials, and we also had the shadow effect – an extra dimension of chiaroscuro that shifted the cognitive possibilities of the piece beyond metaphorical implication, beyond but including connotative implications.

Thinking entropically that arrested position is ours: in the cosmic entropy of our entire universe, we exist, our lives are lived, in what appears to us as a stable system; and yet how we see it is as a fractional moment in the movement of its great unwinding. We have the sun or big bang centre of the universe, and around it our solar system, and/or the current state of expansion, caught.

We also have here the fragility of our world, the penchant for destructiveness of its inhabitants, and a pointed reference to destructiveness of closed mind-sets.

Our experience of the work constantly shifts between interpretive models, visually arresting phenomena, awe, and appreciation of the technical accomplishment – this last engaging our mechanical and spatial aesthetic modes.

This exhibit not only depicts basic and stereotyped gender attitudes: destructive and creative attitudes, but goes beyond that to posit an energising creative-through-destructive approach to knowledge and experience.

OK, hyperbole over-load!

The Army was deeply unpopular at the time, she says, ‘and I was aware that this would feed into the perennial debate about whom you could or couldn’t accept as a sponsor for your art.’ Even more provocatively, she comments, ‘I needed to elicit the expertise of an explosives engineer. Perhaps I could use special-effects people, or a demolition crew, The IRA….’
As it was she used the Army School of Ammunition. And Semtex. What we have then, is a cross between the IRA, and the British Army.

The two parts of the title together sound like,’ she comments, ‘a forensic examination of an emotional state or a murder, an attempt to measure something you can’t measure…’ (all quotes from CORNELIA PARKER,  by Iwona Blazwick, Thames and Hudson, 2013).

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 by Cornelia Parker born 1956

Some ten years later she produced another exhibit – a re-visiting almost of an aspect of the exploding shed, in THE EXPLOSION DRAWINGS, 2001.
The exhibit consists of three glass sheets; and splattered centrally on one is a solution – charcoal on one; on another sulphur; and the last saltpetre. All are combined with fixing agent. How is your chemistry? Combined they constitute gunpowder.
They are held separate – three solutions held as three ingredients in one solution, as we see them superimposed on each other. And yet it is an arrested solute. It is a potential explosion.

The ‘exploded’ theme has also been revisited – for instance in HEART OF DARKNESS, 2004; and ANTI-MASS, 2005.
This last consists of ‘Suspended charcoal retrieved from a Kentucky church burnt by arsonists’ (ibid). Here I ask you to note the word play on Mass. She writes, ‘The aging black congregation had suffered years of intimidation…’ at the hands of a gang of bikers, ‘who made a sport out of racial harassment.’ What we see and what we interpret are disturbing: the social and racial evil is depicted as an anti-Mass. In physics terms anti-mass, like anti-matter, is a negation of our positive state, destructive to it. And yet a part of its nature.

The former, HEART OF DATRKNESS, we are informed ‘uses the charred remains of a forest fire in Florida.’ It was a controlled burn whipped up by sudden winds. This particular fire caused a huge blaze which became known as ‘The Impassable One’. ‘At the time it seemed … an appropriate metaphor for the butterfly effect of political tinkering, from Florida’s hanging chads…’ the anomaly that meant George W Bush became elected President… ‘and the ongoing war in Iraq, to the cutting down of the rainforests to grow bio-fuels…’ (ibid).


What we see in all these examples are challenge, controversy, and great skill and craftsmanship.

Cornelia Parker’s parentage intrudes on occasion – describing her video animation from 2010, DOUBTFUL SOUND, she says, ‘… Like a waking nightmare, this is the unheimlich – the ‘unhomely’ or uncanny space.’ German mother and English father, Cheshire farm background. This dislocation from the English heartland, from central location in full English culture and tradition, have perhaps helped develop a unique slant on culture in general. Hence we have SUBCONSCIOUS OF A MONUMENT, 2001-5, which uses ‘Earth excavated from underneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa…’. There are many such instances.

What is pertinent here is that each piece is not the Duchampian thing-of-itself, but derives its meaning, impact, resonance from its context, its wider perspective. The works are apart from and yet still remain part of the world. We see the uniqueness of for example the chalk dust micro-photograph of Einstein’s working on his blackboard, the rubbed-off tarnish from James Bowie’s Soup Spoon, but these objects are also invoked as part only of the matrix of their relevance in time, meaning, and space.

The Dinner. A satire

Posted: March 25, 2023 in Chat
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The dining room dimly lit
only table and guests illuminated;

the servers encircle in darkness
awaiting the call to commence.

Conversations flow, then break;
laughters explode, cackle,

gutter, die; then other groups,
a break-out of noise, follow suit

and another, another:
obligated laughter, on cue 

A General – Just you, alone? –
unperturbed lifts fine meat from bone,

an epicure’s precision, while finishing
a witty aside.

                         His sleeve
catches on cuff-link, reveals

woad beneath clothes; then covered.
His wife’s bone necklace greatly admired

(Are they… real? 
A solicitous wheedle, 

but required).

The premier slow smiles, 
observing his Head of Security’s 
discomfort under scrutiny.

A glint of honed incisors, tongue-relish. 

Guests applaud some quip, 
then glutted, glow at him. He sips,

having perfected the mysterium
of pose and suggestion

to cover cold threat, his wide

His taxidermist is waiting tables; 

his neat, gloved hands… name-labels.
‘The poor material I get…’ 

his neat teeth, set
smile, hiding status-worries; 

‘- Shot-up, broken bodies, 
for game trophies?’

A craftsman, 
only for as long as the customer 
is satisfied.

Waiting Zone

Posted: March 18, 2023 in Chat
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Of all waiting zones, this, 
as the effects of painkillers 
begin to show, the screen glow
brightening around figures, 
becoming more distant. 
Focus shifting from backgrounds 
of urban traffic, crowds, 
to, yes, this.

And as distinctness emerges 
there is also glazing – 
perhaps the brightness 
is the iris relaxing, flooding 
more light into that 
tight sphincter, and the glaze 
catching more angles of light, 
so every particular 
becomes its essence. 

And where the pain played 
the nervous system
is suddenly to find it has used 
a day’s worth in a morning. 
A veneer, even-sheen 
emerges out of the glare, 
inviting or slipping-in 
a dream here where thought 
wandered; and the moving 
dark of dreams’ peculiar 
evolutions become only 
one stage of those 

Father Prout

Posted: March 10, 2023 in Chat
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Let us consider Father Prout, or Reverend Francis Sylvester Mahony, Irish Roman Catholic priest and former Jesuit.
He was also and perhaps more pre-eminently a journalist, and bon-vivant, born in Ireland, 1804, and died, Paris, in 1866.

Yes, I’m currently reading a biography of Robert Browning, where he figures startlingly:
Browning: A Private Life, by Iain Finlayson. Published Harper Perennial, 2014.

Father Prout was his pen name when he published articles in Fraser’s Magazine and others. (

So, what is the big mystery?
He was a man-about-town, whom Robert Browning encountered when he was first making his way into the literary world in London, in the 1830s and 40s.
So far so good.
Father Prout’s about-town, though, was huge.
Where was he not!

Take the famous Browning-Barrett elopement of 1846.
The marriage itself was planned in a highly secretive, but desultory fashion. But then events took a surprising turn, and the day was brought forward suddenly.
Robert Browning emerged, new passport in hand, who should he run into straight away but… Father Prout.

Then take the elopement itself: train to Southampton, sea voyage to Le Havre, rest, then onward via Rouen, Paris, through France and then boat to Genoa, Italy. Then a train to Livorno, and boat to Pisa. Why Pisa? Because had Shelley loved it.
As their boat approached who was there at the sea front, cloak billowing around him? Father Prout.
On another occasion, Father Prout… happened upon Robert in the street and kissed him full on the mouth – a good deal to Robert’s surprise….

I give these details to show that the Browning’s doings and goings could not have been followed or predicted in any way.

After five-six months in Pisa the couple travelled overland, eventually to arrive at Florence.
Why was he there?
Business in Rome, of course, and taking his breaks in Florence.

The Brownings moved lodgings several times before settling, but also moved to the east coast and back trying to find cooler summer air, to no avail.
Settling back in Florence, who should they meet yet again? Father Prout.

You may think that this was leading somewhere, and it was.
Father Prout became a regular ie nightly, visitor to the very private Case Guidi residence of the Brownings. And long evenings they proved to be.
Robert had became ill, and Father Prout’s remedies helped enormously.
How big is gratitude?
Father Prout liked to talk, smoke, and expectorate into a spittoon, all copiously, for three hours and more at a stretch.
(Why have a spittoon in the first place? Or… did he bring his own?)
When Father Prout finally left…. there was a general burst of indignation and throwing open of doors to get rid of smoke and malice.

But they were not yet done with Father Prout. He had suggested he may return from Rome and stay for another couple of months.

In the 1850s back on an infrequent visit to London… Father Prout!

What of the man himself?
Wiki tells of a roguish sense of humour, foisting origin-forgeries of modern poems, upon the public at one point. He was ‘soon expelled‘(Wiki) from his earlier teaching job.
It also tells of a more serious side. knowing both Charles Dickens and William M Thackeray. In later years:
He acted as foreign correspondent to various newspapers, and during the last eight years of his life, his articles formed a main attraction of The Globe. (
He was well known at another point of his life for the poem The Bells of Shandon.

And his fame has lived on:
The protagonist of Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt mentions regretfully his life’s unfulfilled ambition “to be recognised as an English Mahony and celebrate Southwood as he celebrated Shandon.

Even Elizabeth Barrett Browning gave him his due, despite the visits:
Still, one likes the human nature of the man.