Archive for the ‘John Stammers Page’ Category

The opening fanfare is phenomenal!
What a performance.

It’s good to see American director, Jane Campion, back in the news.

We just happened to catch one of her earlier films a few weeks back, An Angel At My Table, based on the autobiographies of New Zealand writer Janet Frame.

It was great to watch the film again; I got more out of it this time around, too:  Kerry Fox is really very good in the main role.

And so I went to the autobiographies.
To the Is-Land (1982); An Angel at My Table (1984); The Envoy from Mirror-City (1985)

There are so many surprises and enlightening episodes and events. Her writing is very even-handed, even though she had every reason to not be so. She casts no blame, partly because her life, like everyone’s is a steady revelation of meaning, realisation. And also, I suspect, because of the counselling she received.

One of the first things surprised me was the difference between the South and North island of New Zealand. Following eight years of hospital treatment she travelled to Auckland, to stay with her married youngest sister and family. The air, she found, seemed more temperate, the flora more lush, almost tropical, brighter colours, different flowers, plants.
Away from the snow melt of the Lord-of-the-Rings mountains of South island, and also being that little bit nearer to the equator, made a lot of difference.
We only meet one Australian in the books, and then only in passing, as passenger on the sea journey to England.

The family background is intriguing, as well as tragic. Her mother had cleaned for the writer Katherine Mansfield’s family. 
Of the five children, the eldest, ‘Bruddie’, developed epilepsy; the next, Myrtle, drowned in the local swimming pool; Janet went through eight years of mental health hospitals; lively, vibrant Isabel developed heart trouble and also drowned… only the youngest, June, came through relatively unscathed.

It was suggested that ‘Bruddie’ be taken to Seacliffe, the mental health hospital – that is how epilepsy was seen and treated in those years. Her mother swore no child of hers would go there. She cared for him at home.

When Janet was to be taken to Seacliffe, her mother signed the papers. 
How is one to take this, she asked, in the autobiography.

The diagnosis was schizophrenia. 
There’s a new electrical treatment, she heard at one point. It was ECT; she went through about two hundred of these ‘treatments’.

Later, another new treatment came forward: Leucotomy, or as we now know it lobotomy. And she was on the list.
It was only by winning a prize for her short stories The Lagoon and other stories, and mentioned in the newspaper review, that she was saved that fate, and later released.
One associate, Nola, had not such luck. Janet Frame wrote to her often, and she was in and out of hospitals all her life.
It’s the dependency upon other’s judgements, decisions, that is so disabling, reducing, negating. This is especially so for women, the never-ending centuries of subjection 

Her mother died: Her life was awful, she said, and her sister agreed. She had no life of her own, or the one she did have she sank into her Christadelphian beliefs.
She wrote The well-meaning consideration of my family served to emphasise and increase the separation I felt from them.

‘You are the unmarried daughter. Your duty is to look after your father now.’
Other’s expectations… even one’s own expectations… can be destructive.

It was in Auckland that she met Frank Sargeson, a successful New Zealand writer, living in his little isolated island of art. She stayed there… eighteen months? Writing her first book, Owls Do Cry; and it was accepted for publication, and published in New Zealand.
Frank’s own books were out of print by then, a horrible fate for a living writer.

Coming out of the mental health system, where the emphasis was on non-communication between staff and in-patients, no newspapers, no stimulation, and observation of rules, order, regulated time. It was an experience she described as a steady diminishment of one’s personality. 

With Frank Sargeson she then found herself in a caring, considerate environment.
The problem there was, as nurturing as he was, his interest was other men, and constantly disparaged her woman’s body. From one area of negation, to another.

He did have connections, though. 

On the strength of her novel she applied for a travel grant ‘to broaden one’s life experience’, and was awarded what was then a reasonable amount of money: three hundred pounds sterling.
She travelled to England, by boat: she was not a good sailor. 
She was determined to go to Spain – Ibiza was the place to live cheaply, so she stayed there about eighteen months. 

Poverty was a trap; there was no way out for the local people, except tourism, a hate-relationship but necessary. She identified more readily with the poor, that was her background, her experience.
Aged thirty-two, and then her first love affair! And a pregnancy. Money was running out, and so Andorra was recommended, the exchange rate more amenable. And almost trapped into marriage with a local smuggler. Then losing the baby.

Back in London she was to fall into another redundant relationship: poor, dull, unimaginative, and thinking he was looking out for her – but he was forcing her into corners.
She had to look for work, and her situation became untenable.
A previous medic recommended her contact the Maudsley Hospital when in London. She did, and they took her in observation. ‘You never had schizophrenia.’ they said. ‘What you are going through now is the result of eight years of hospitalisations.

She loved London, though: the early nineteen sixties, all the new life, the French New Wave writers, the American Beat writers, West Indian literature appearing. She witnessed the growth of CND, the Aldermaston Marches

She loved being anonymous but a part of the multitudinous life.
She wrote, and published. One review wrote This must be the worst book, whilst another said of the same book, This book could well be a work of genius.
What do you do with that disparity? 
You have to come to some accommodation, and it has to be one’s own.

She was healing, she was growing stronger.
She changed her name to Nene Janet Paterson Clutha …in part to recognise Māori leader Tamati Waka Nene, whom she admired (
This is the only Maori reference I am aware of.

And then her father died. And she returned to New Zealand, still a bad sailor. 

But the legacy had to be sorted, the meagre belongings.
She loved London, but was glad to return to New Zealand.
Beware, the London doctor said, They might not accept our diagnosis.

Her appreciation of the neglect of women’s lives comes through in the autobiographies. 

She could spot desperation in all its forms, it was something that affects everyone, but especially women denied prospects, lives, education. 

We may think that is all being solved now but, well, it isn’t, and there’s nothing to stop any improvements being turned around tomorrow. 

We are so vulnerable – to economic constraints, to market forces, to prices shooting up beyond control: heating, basic foodstuffs, energy, petrol. And the ones who bear the brunt of this are the poor and women, because they have no protection in society.
The poor are always with us, and especially the ones who cannot, do not know how to, fend for themselves.

I would love to know what happened next; how she lived. Her New Zealand celebrity status protected her somewhat, but could also ensnare.

But take a look at the prizes she had won in her lifetime!

1951: Hubert Church Prose Award (The Lagoon and other Stories)

·      1956: New Zealand Literary Fund Grant

·      1958: New Zealand Literary Fund Award for Achievement (Owls Do Cry)

·      1964: Hubert Church Prose Award (Scented Gardens for the Blind); New Zealand Literary Fund Scholarship in Letters.

·      1965: Robert Burns Fellowship, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

·      1967: “Buckland Literary Award.” (The Reservoir and Other Stories/A State of Siege)

·      1969: New Zealand Literary Fund Award (The Pocket Mirror: Poems)

·      1971: Buckland Literary Award (Intensive Care); Hubert Church Prose Award. (Intensive Care)

·      1972: President of Honour: P.E.N. International New Zealand Centre, Wellington, NZ

·      1973: James Wattie Book of the Year Award (Daughter Buffalo)

·      1974: Hubert Church Prose Award (Daughter Buffalo); Winn-Manson Menton Fellowship.

·      1978: Honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Litt. Honoris Causa) University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

·      1979: Buckland Literary Award (Living in the Maniototo)

·      1980: New Zealand Book Award for Fiction (Living in the Maniototo)

·      1983: Buckland Literary Award; Sir James Wattie Book of the Year Award (To the Is-Land); C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire)

·      1984: Frank Sargeson Fellowship, University of Auckland, NZ

·      1984: New Zealand Book Award for Non-Fiction (An Angel at My Table); Sir James Wattie Book of the Year Award (An Angel at My Table); Turnovsky Prize for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

·      1985: Sir James Wattie Book of the Year Award (The Envoy from Mirror City)

·      1986: New Zealand Book Award for Non-Fiction (The Envoy from Mirror City); Honorary Foreign Member: The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters

·      1989: Ansett New Zealand Book Award for Fiction; Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (The Carpathians)

·      1990: O.N.Z. (Member, Order of New Zealand)

·      1992: Honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Litt.), University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ

·      1994: Massey University Medal, Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ

·      2003: Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award; New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement[77]

·      2007: Montana Book Award for Poetry (The Goose Bath)

One of her family homes on South Island was bought and restored by a group of supporters, and it is now open for visitors, a tourist spot:

Janet Frame House

Next, of course, is to read the books.

-off line –

Posted: March 5, 2022 in John Stammers Page

Off-line for a week! One whole week.

We’d been with our server for about twenty years, but now its prices are going sky-high.
We’d found a package elsewhere, that cost a third of the price; and so being at the end of one contract took our thirty-days’ leave notice.

Ours is an inclusive package: internet, TV, and landline.

So, their Sales Team got in touch and dangled cheaper packages for us. I said Send us the details.
They didn’t, but being Sales people took that as a Yes, and so cancelled our leave and signed us on for another eighteen months.
Didn’t tell us.
We happened to look at our billing page, and found the contract.

So we had to ring them. It took about three hours of waiting, and then increasingly confusing conversations. A lot of their customers it appears, were also trying to cancel, or re-negotiate. We were trapped in that queue.

And so we restated our leaving commitment: thirty days. Yes we were already set up with another provider.

And they did it again, cancelled our leaving and put us on another contract.
We rang again, We did not authorise this. Someone in your company is deciding for us. That is illegal.

And they did it again.
We rang again. Your details with us are very confused, they said.
Purposely so, we thought.
– Look through it, at no point do we ever say to another contract. Thirty days, we said, Then phht.
We’ve got you down for for leaving on 10thof March. 
– No, 23red of February.
We can do 25th.
– OK, ok. You get the impression: frazzled, stressed. That’s what they wanted, so they could string us out further, agree (You have to say a robust No to the Sales team, they said. So everything but a robust No, is a Yes?).

The message boards for this company have plenty more stories very similar to this.

The day before switch off, we checked the billing page, and… they’d done it again!
We rang again.
Next day they Did switch us off.

And so our new provider said, You need a line putting in. 
– Your van has been round, checked availability, posted us a letter by hand.
The engineer put us a line in the same day as out switch off.

– Nothing follows through, does it! –

Router? We asked. Your site says Same day online.

Because you’ve not had a line for a long time, we have to check viability.
They did.

The router’ll be with you tomorrow, only… we can’t set up your package until Friday. And then it’ll need time to get up to speed.
– How long?
A few weeks, possibly a month. 
– A month?
You’ll be able to use basic functions before then, of course.

It was overnight.

Apart from the fall-out of stress from the leave-farrago, and the sign-on-to-the-new charade I have to admit it has been very peaceful without it.
We’ve been able to catch up with reading, and, what’s more surprising and something we don’t realise we have lost: time to Think.

How much of the day is wasted frittering and flitting about online and getting almost nothing back from doing it.

Then Crash! into the craziness of the Ukraine situation. To process what most other people have already had to confront and process. 

The first call on out new landline? A phone-scam centre.
Oh, and the label sent for us to return the equipment to the old provider, does not scan at the designated hub, nor does it accept the alphanumerical provided.

But this new provider, a smaller company, does seem to be commendable.

Cellar Door

Posted: November 16, 2021 in John Stammers Page


I was watching the film, Donnie Darko, again the other night – lost count of viewings now – those young Gyllenhaal siblings, aw.
And what a soundtrack!

There’s that moment where the young teacher, as she packs her belongings having just been fired, tells Donnie D how the phrase Cellar Door was considered the most euphonious, ‘perfect’ English sound.

‘Cellar Door’ also propels the main characters to their crisis point, before the great ending.

And who was that teacher? Played by Drew Barrymore. She was really vey funny in Santa Clarita Diet.
And who was Donnie Darko’s psychologist Dr Lilian Thurman? Katherine Ross. Among her many credits is one of the important characters in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; in Stepford Wives, that really chilling film. And of course, The Colbys.

Donnie Darko was released in 2001.

On ‘Cellar Door’, Wiki gives us:

The English compound noun cellar door has been widely cited as an example of a word or phrase that is beautiful purely in terms of its sound (i.e., euphony) without inherent regard for its meaning.[12] The phenomenon of cellar door being regarded as euphonious appears to have begun in the very early twentieth century, first attested in the 1903 novel Gee-Boy by the Shakespeare scholar Cyrus Lauron Hooper. It has been promoted as beautiful-sounding by various writers; linguist Geoffrey Nunberg specifically names the writers H. L. Mencken in 1920; David Allan Robertson in 1921; Dorothy ParkerHendrik Willem van Loon, and Albert Payson Terhune in the 1930s; George Jean Nathan in 1935; J. R. R. Tolkien as early as a 1955 speech titled “English and Welsh“; and C. S. Lewis in 1963.[12][13] Furthermore, the phenomenon itself is touched upon in many sources and media, including a 1905 issue of Harper’s Magazine by William Dean Howells,[a] the 1967 novel Why Are We in Vietnam? by Norman Mailer, a 1991 essay by Jacques Barzun,[15] the 2001 psychological drama film Donnie Darko,[16][17] and a scene in the 2019 movie Tolkien.


Back in 1986 there was an English TV series, The Singing Detective, written by Dennis Potter. A nightclub singer who also solved crimes, basically, played by a much younger Michael Gambon, yep, Dumbledore.

Taken to hospital he underwent fevers and recovered, ably assisted by a nurse, played by Joanne Whalley, shortly before she married Val Kilmer.

Part of the detective/singer’s recovery was the revelation that the most perfect English sound is carried by the word 


Incidentally this ‘elbow’ gave name to the English band:
They changed their name a second time to ‘Elbow’ in 1997, inspired by a line in the BBC TV drama The Singing Detective in which the character Philip Marlow describes the word “elbow” as the loveliest word in the English language.[12]

So, is it Cellar Door, or Elbow?
This would suggest it is all a matter of subjective judgement.

They do both carry the same sound sequence, however: the short e: ce… and el…, followed by the lingual ‘l’, then there is the discrepancy between plosive ‘b’ and dental ‘d’, to be followed by a rounded o : door, and bow.
Does this b-d discrepancy tell us how vocalics have changed over time between England and USA? How has usage changed the palate?


And ‘Aye but’, I thought, watching the film, ‘Cellar Door is so obviously a French sound’. 
Think of cela d’or : ‘that gold/golden’.

You can’t really go wrong with this French one
Both sound and meaning.

That muted sibilant ‘c’ of ‘cellar’ that is absent in the more direct English English ‘elbow’… is not that, perhaps, more… French?
In the meld of American English, is there an aesthetic echo remaining, of French?

It could, of course, be that the English English ‘elbow’ is the corrupt version. It retains more clearly the mouth movements of front front to inner – bite-off to mouthful, as the gestural origin of language would have it, but misses so much else.
The American English ‘cellar door’, with its echoes of French, of romance sounds, is certainly the version to prefer. N’est ce pas?

And… in America… is it cellar, or basement… door?

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).

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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  


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

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.


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:

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.

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

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

CarSun re-post

Posted: August 11, 2021 in John Stammers Page
Tags: ,

It may have been the angle of the sun over roofs –
it may have been a case of right place at right time –

it definitely was a moment out of time on a hot street.100_1186


On the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, is the Tanabata Festival in Japan.
Why only then?
It is all based a story from early Japan.

This is the story, one of the many, connected with the Milky Way in the night sky. In Japan it is known as the River of the Sky.

It is the story of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who represent the stars Vega, and Altair. They are only allowed to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, at the River of the Sky.
It is a based on poems in the Manyoshu volume, ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves’.  It can be traced back, in turn, to an old Chinese tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. The corresponding Chinese festival is the Qixi Festival, of the 7th of the 7th.

The Weaver Girl,  was, of course, a princess, and… was she weaving the pattern of the stars and constellations? Her father grew concerned that in her lonely profession she was not able to meet any young men. He invited the cowherd (who herded the cows of heaven?), to meet her.

The meeting went very well, and in time they fell in love. They were able to marry.
On marriage, however, they neglected their duties.
It was thought best for all if they were separated, and only allowed to meet once a year. On meeting, though, they found themselves on opposite sides of the Sky River. Orihime wept so much and so hard that a flock of magpies took pity, flew down and made her a bridge with their wings.

If it rains on the seventh day of the seventh month, though, the magpies may not be able to come.

Tonight he takes his one journey of the year
             Over the Heavenly River, passing Yasu Beach –
He, the love-lorn Oxherd longing for his maid,
Whom he can never see but once a year,
Though from the beginning of heaven and earth
They have have stood face to face across the Heavenly River

 Tonight, this seventh night of the seventh moon – 
Strangely it thrills my heart.

(excerpted from: Japanese Love Poems, Selections from the Manyoshu. Edited by Evan Bates, Dover Publications Inc., 2005)

People write messages, poems, prayers, and hang them from trees on this day.

Astronomically, on this date, the distance between Vega, part of the Harp constellation, and Altair, The Eagle constellation, is bridged by a group of stars called The Coathanger, more properly Brocchi’s cluster.
This arrangement forms a straight line with a few dotted stars above this in the centre.


Is this the bridge Hikoboshi crosses?

in Flanders.

Well, leaky roofs were, if not the norm, then, an expected annoyance.

Take the case of George Chastellain, appointed chronicler and celebrator of the ducs de Burgundy, Philip the Good, and successor, Charles the Bold.
This spanned the period 1419 to 1477.
George Chastellain was active in his role between 1450s to 1470s.

It is the latter part of his life we have most incidental details.
In 1455 he moved into a ducal property in Valenciennes, of the Flemish/French border. The move was permanent.

There is nothing material of that period left, now. WW2 saw to that; the city had to be almost wholly rebuilt after the War.


What we have, was pieced together from various written sources by Graeme Small, in his book :
George Chastellain and the Shaping of Valois Burgundy, (The Royal Historical Society/Boydell Press, 1997).

In his earlier career, setting out into his literary life, he had work performed before the best writer of the time, Charles D’Orleans, resettled from a quarter century of ‘enforced’ English residence.
The work presented, The Azure Throne, was warmly received, both by duke Philip the Good, as well as Charles D’Orleans.

The residence, we are told, was situated in central Valenciennes as-was. The building (‘le lorgis Jorge’) overlooked the Escaut canal at the back, whilst the front had a courtyard. Oh, and a well. How easily we forget these basic necessities.
It was situated ‘close to’ the house of the grand receiver, and on the other, er… an oat loft. OK.

The building had a cellar, and chapel. Standard, then.
The ground floor was a ducal stables. Also there was a kitchen down there. Hm.

The actual rooms, chambers, etc, were up a staircase, which had doors leading off.
The staircase led up to a gallery. Here were the main rooms.
This gallery, however, was sort of like a cloister, open to the weather. In time he had to have installed wooden frames to stop the wind.

Off this draughty passage,’ writes Graeme Small, ‘lay several rooms…. Among these rooms were ‘le grant chambre de George Chastellain’, and one further, private room…. Built at Chastellain’s request, this was his ‘comptoir’ … where he wrote….

This was not a property for a family to live. George Chastellain did not marry, although he did have an acknowledged child, Gonthier.
Gonthier was brought up by his mother. By the time of his ‘majority’ his father had already died. His successor, Jean Molinet, elected to support the claims of Gonthier to applications for ducal support.

The times had changed, however. Charles the Bold was a very different character to Philip the Good. He was ‘the Bold’, but this also meant merciless, fearless. He was a warrior duke, and died in battle. He was expansionist, and his time was an unsettled time.


Here was George Chastellain at Valenciennes, away now, from the ducal court, as well as his ambassadorial missions to the royal court.
But Valenciennes was at an important meeting place en route between the two. Missives and ducal and court callers came constantly.
He wrote his great Chronicles here.

These Chronicles were lost, forgotten for centuries, until rediscovered.
… first edited by Buchon in Les chroniques nationales 1827 and re-edited by Kervyn de Lettenhove.:

These Chronicles, as well as George Chastellain’s surviving written works: political poems, ballades, formal poems, pieces written to other writers, allegorical plays etc became the main source material, or should we say, spring-board, for the huge and famous work
The Waning of the Middle-Ages,
by Johan Huizinga.

Here we read of the all-round sensual experience of the times: the noises – of parades, animals, people in general; the smells: no toilets, remember, and living close to animals, as here; the colours – this was the time of Jan Van Ecyk: look at those costumes.
The gorgeous costumes, and furnishings of the Arnolfini portrait, give us a glimpse into the period, the Italian connections, and supposedly portrays their residence in Bruges.
This was also the period, and environment, for the great works of Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem (

Interestingly, when George Chastellain was taken on as chronicler of the Duke of Burgundy, Jan Van Eyck was also on the payroll. From the records of their recorded pay, George Chastellain’s the highest of the two.

George Chastellain was one the earliest of what became known as the Grands Rhétoriqueurs (étoriqueurs).
They were many, in time, and what may of begun as a latinate chronicling and court entertainments, evolved as writer responded to writer. We had eventually a force, and their fascination with “copia“, verbal games and the difficulties of interpretation link them to such Renaissance figures as Erasmus and Rabelais. (étoriqueurs)

Such literary movements set off their own trajectories.
They were succeeded by rejection, and counter-claim for prominence, by Pierre de Ronsard’s La Pléiade.
But also both were rejected by the example of Francois Villon and his anti-rhetorical, ultra-realist writings.