Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Demaundes Joyous
The lightness of these, when measured against the Old English Riddles, makes them seem mere bagatelles. Quite a lot of those Old English Riddles are light and jokey also; it is just the labour of translation makes them seem less. But for ease of reading, and sheer fun, we  have these.
Did I mention translation? Yes, well, these are also translations – but not from the heavy?, stodgy? Anglo-Saxon – no, they are from the Romance of northern French.

The Demaundes Joyous

1 Who was Adam’s moder?

2 What space is from the hyest space of the se to the depest?

3 How many calves tayles behoveth to reche from the erthe to the skye?

4 Which parte of a sergeaunte love ye best toward you?

5 Which is the moost profitable beest, and that men eteth leest of?

6 Which is the broadest water and leest jeopardye to passe over?

7 What beest is it that hath her tayle between her eyen?

8 Wherefore set they upon churche steples more a cocke than a henne?

9  Why doth an ox or a cowe lye?

10 Which was first, the henne or the egge?

11 Which tyme in the yere bereth a gose moost feders?


– It is always best to have a ‘flavour’ of the kind of answer expected. So, here is the answer to Question 3:
No more but one if it be long ynough.

If you want to try and answer these… then let’s say you must do so in the curious English of their period.

The source of these Demaundes Joyous is Wynkyn de Worde, 1511.
The collection contains about fifty such riddles – I have skipped the more church-orientated, and so maybe a little obscure now eg Why come dogges so often to the churche? etc.
My source says the collection here is based partly on an early sixteenth-century French collection, Demandes joyeuses en maniere de quolibets.

There are some old crocks here: Which came first, egg or hen? But there is no Why did the chicken cross the road? Maybe that is in the other forty, not included.
Some are a little… indelicate? Some just crazy. All have the flavour of their period.


Happy Festive Season!



Negative Energy, by Richard Livermore.
24 Essays and Blogs. Elefantasia Press, 2016

ISBN: 976-1911357-17-9                  Price £.7.99 (Postage free in the UK)

The book can be purchased from:
Richard Livermore, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN, Scotland, UK.

3 Reasons you should buy this book

This book is a great place for skinny-dipping  in The Western Canon, as Harold Bloom calls it  Swim without prejudice; just your own sweet self.

The book is a great reminder why people are so great when they create.

The book is a treasure-house of known things, things unknown,  and things we thought we knew but didn’t really.

Discover, re-discover, and savour.

If you need any more reasons, then try these:

These are the most stimulating pages you will probably come across… until his next book.

Brain-food here in quantity and quality. Give them a try.

Pages glinting with the riches of a life lived, a life of thought, and a life exploring the limits of life, and beyond.


Recommended book.


It being Sunday, the character of the gift of this day is still to be found at the bottom-back of its drawer in this house.

Should I therefore dedicate this state of mind, of this momentary loss of angst, to that delayed discovery?  I am reminded of that couple’s shock and wonder at finding her father’s  fob-watch long kept and pristine in its packing, to be worth many thousands of pounds because of the uniqueness of the mechanism: a real tic-toc movement, and not just the regular toc-toc of most of our days.
Their Sunday was a full movement, and expansive, whilst the regular was a shot-off, half-hearted regularity that proves the normality. Their characteristic gift was the uniqueness that was the real and the rule that all else fell against in a mouthy clatter. I was happy to see them, their surprise was genuine, there was no stain of deserving in their expressions, it ran through them like unused mill water, as open to the sky as their faces to the switching emotions started up by the antiques expert’s pronouncement.

As open to the sky, nothing hidden away, but also not kept in oneself – running clear as language expressing itself fully for once, rather than the wasted, tragic form of one’s usual self-expression. Hmm. Something comes clear after long, long months of rustling through the drawers and cupboards of oneself: strange to find within oneself a kernel, an object of outsideness, almost a door… a fissure?… no, but more of a technique, a quality, of the outside.

On waking… is maybe the best of times, the day’s long building-up, re-building from sudden ruins, the affirmations of a self not yet underway, defences down, and all the regular little tropes of selfishness not yet active: don’t think, and so activate them all. Rattle around emptily inside one’s head before it stalls, gets in gear its sense of self – and open to a surprising adventure, tending the modes of thought and memory like young, vulnerable plants -young lettuce, in their beds? No, I can take anything but not that – lying idle there outside the narrow frame of one’s daily … a billiard’s game: earnestly try to pocket those balls that are aims, or thoughts, or hopes, down their appropriate holes of achievement, but constantly having your elbow nudged when lined-up for shooting. And by the other-self that cannot allow achievement, that dark one so coloured with doubts and sulks and glooms, and little else of any worth. The task therefore is to turn these around: the pattern says to turn them inside out: positive those negatives….

This day’s little hidden gift pays homage to patterns, but still runs around wiily-nilly as though sufficient such running could make one pay little heed to the constructions of one’s activities.

And which is best, of most value? The gift itself… or the packaging?


across the blue sky’s bald pate,
lit and then obscured.
It had been dark all day —
I had no windows like these.

Nine-thirty flexitime nears,
while high above the miles of clouds
gather, move huge weathers.
Their scale constantly changes
how we seem to scurry,
our smallness, and how huge
their slow masses.

We live our lives in words
all scurrying together;
vocabularies like clouds:
huge, full of everything
to sustain us.
So why, then,
the traffic chaos, empty shops,
this late for work, this rush-hour,
these stops?

I have sent words out,
scurrying little helpers,
to draw you back from harm,
with a busy tie-ing in
of reasons for continuing,
where breath fails, voices crack,
on the roof edge.

And I have stood there,
face to face with that wordless place —
it has nothing to say to us
that words can understand

Every so often a poetry publisher comes along with a list you really feel at home with. For me it is Picador Poets. Probably followed by Enitharmon and Peter Owen.
Not that the others do not list writers I value most highly, because they do.
But with Picador I always feel ‘These are my people.’

Annie Freud is on the Picador list. She first published ‘A Voids Officer Achieves the Tree Pose’, a pamphlet, on Donut Press in 2007. Later that year her first full collection came out: THE BEST MAN THAT EVER WAS. The book gained the Dimplex Prize for New Writing, and was Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
Her editor on that book was John Stammers, another of my valued Picador ‘friends’.


This first book brims over with riches and abundance. There may even be too much. Either that or the layout makes it seem so. It is a treasure-trove of poems of all sorts and kinds, from the brief lyric, to full narrative poem. It is a very stimulating read, and a book you find yourself keep going back to.

Annie Freud studied English and European Literature at Warwick University. She lived most of her earlier life in London, with wide travel experience. She also worked as a talented embroiderer, and tutor.

The first book is steeped in place, and that place London. Having said that, it does not hum with it like many London-centred books and magazines: the fractured lines, the deliberately mannered, opaque language. Her work has an angled take on the place. She is essentially, and this is another thing I love her for, a European. She is completely at home with the German language and French languages; she knows where she writes about, what it means to walk down a Berlin strasse, a French rue. Lived-in environments.
Hers is a London that is not the thing in itself, complete and self-referential/reverential, but part of a bigger picture.

Her subject matter is always angled, her subjects never static. She inhabits the world from the inside. The reader feels her great appetite for life: sensual, gastronomic, colour-responsive. A Caneletto Orange navigates cultural kitsch, and historical and gender eddies, shallows and sudden depths, by use of tone of voice, personal perspective, authorial voice, and the sudden interposing of personification.
She writes archly about encounters with psychological groups and theories. We are made aware of her background: prying public expectation vies with personal privacy, and her own passing interest in such subjects. She is her own self, one who just happens to have this legacy and experience.

Currently she is literature/writing tutor back at Warwick University (as George Szirtes wrote, you have to be very thick-skinned to teach. I have heard of such comments as “Hey, I just bought one of your books for penny on Amazon!” “Do you teach because you need the money?”). She relocated to Dorset some few years back. As a recent Guardian interview states, she now owns a small-holding with a few hens etc. Since moving to Dorset she set up her own poetry group. This is the setting for her latest two books, THE MIRABELLES and THE REMAINS.

THE MIRABELLES ventured out into newer styles of writing. An avid practitioner of traditional forms, she had gained the confidence to broaden her practice.

Where before she had avoided The Name, and its legacy, even at one point going under a different name, in these two books she has confronted her part in it all. That is no small feat. But she has made herself room to move, to maneuver, to negotiate her self’s positioning in the world and the legacy.
THE MIRABELLES contained a last section of poems based on, formed from, her mother’s letters. Kitty Garman also brought her own legacy, she was part of the Jacob Epstein family.

Above, I wrote the first book was maybe too full. There is also perhaps a feeling in contemporary poetry that the format is beginning to lack dynamic. In THE DETAILS she tackles this by interspersing her own paintings among the text. This adds a wonderful cross-genre feel. THE MIRABELLES’ cover outside and in, is a lovely painting, The Wreathed Jug, by Kitty Garman. Hugely attractive.
This is a great new direction: she has the painterly skills and writing skills to make the whole enterprise work.

THE DETAILS, as the title suggests, has a close focus. Gone are the hugely enigmatic long titles, except perhaps for ‘Anne Bancroft Addresses the No-Name Ladies’ Lunch Club’.


The book ranges over human experience as before, but she listens to the depths sounding when she speaks their names: Something Gallant, for instance, celebrates a new mother’s forging of her own life-balance and dynamic among the advice, expectation and normative pressures.
Celebration is the key to the book.
Another key is the novel by Goethe, ‘Elective Affinities’. The title refers to a nineteenth century phrase from chemistry to describe the varying relationships of elements in a set environment. Introduce another and the arrangement changes. Indeed one of the images used in the novel describes a petri dish containing acids. A blue circle can be seen; when another acid added the circle expands as if beyond the bounds of the dish. This is a metaphor for the setting of the novel, and the consequences of the actions of the inhabitants in the wider world. For Annie Freud the novel is valued for the meticulous way it charts the changing relationships of the main characters, and their positions independent of each other, and emotional dependencies and independence as she has encountered them.

Describing these things one has to summarise, edit in, effect leave out, the details of lives. This has moral consequences far beyond one’s intentions. Should one’s ideas and world view become based on such edited versions, then what worth have they in the reality of our lived lives? This the art of writing: hitting just the right nodes.

Annie Freud’s writing has a warmth and humanity to it; she takes the pains to chart the difficulties as well, but they are a part of the overall shape of lives.
With some writers the reader travels the journey with them. It is so with Annie Freud. They surprise us, maybe wrong-foot us at times, but they also challenge us: the reader must open up to appreciate the writing, and that opening up rounds us out as people.

Annie Freud. – I especially like this photo, it shows strength, vulnerability, and also a suggestion of wit and humour.