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It is National Poetry Day in the UK, so Twitter informs me, which is a good moment to link to this post by Sofia Samatar, who wrote  . the beautiful-but-not-very-plotty A Stranger in Olondria. Samatar has done translations of some classical Arabic poetry by women; my favourite is this, by tenth-century Cordoban Aisha bint Ahmed al-Qurtubiyya, who knew how to send someone packing:

I'm a lioness.
I'll never be anyone's safe place.
And if I did choose that, I wouldn't love a dog
when I've been deaf to lions.

There are some lovely (and very funny) poems at the link - do have a look. Aisha herself sounds awesome:  she died in 1010 having never married, but she seemed to have far more fun being an excellent calligrapher, writing copies of the Koran, collecting books and being keen on science. And living in Andalucia, which no doubt was pretty OK, too.

I am having an unusually delicious day: determined to break out of my carrot and ginger soup rut, I made spicy aubergine, apricot and tomato soup for lunch (it still has ginger in it. Baby steps.), and carrot, cumin and bean burgers from A Girl Called Jack for supper. Working from home has its upsides.
allochthonous: (then you can tell if it's summer)
Home sweet washing machine. I had a gorgeous time in Turkey, of which more anon, but there was rather too much getting up at the crack of dawn to hike or catch buses for it to have been 100 per cent relaxing, and the lovely green landscape of the Black Sea region is brought about by an incredibly humid climate that leaves your clothes slightly damp at all times. Fortunately this weekend I have nothing to do except sleep, cook, and catch up with the Great British Bake Off (sure the highlight of the televisual calendar). I'm thrilled that it's squash season again; living on seasonal produce is a pain in February, but a joy in September, and everything is so abundant, that my giant weekly veg shop cost all of 2 Euro. Pumpkin and ginger soup for lunch, ratatouille for dinner.

I was saddened to come back to the news that Seamus Heaney had died. Like everyone else in the country. I studied this greatest hits at school; Digging and Blackberry-Picking were lovely, but Act of Union was the one that really stuck with me; it was the the first time I'd really encountered political poetry and I remember it really startling me when I read it. I've really enjoyed reading through the tributes online and finding out people's favourites of his work, lots of which is unfamiliar to me. Scaffolding is mine.


Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure the planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tightly bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
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Happy belated birthday to Shakespeare; this poem is for his wife, who I (and apparently Carol Ann Duffy) always think got rather a raw deal.

Anne Hathaway
Carol Ann Duffy

'Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed ...'
(from Shakespeare's will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover's words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he'd written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer's hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow's head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

The Globe Theatre's Globe to Globe Festival is starting this week and I am so very, very jealous of those of you with tickets. I read a great article about Shakespeare in the Soviet Union that makes me even more annoyed I won't be seeing any of the former USSR versions. Someone needs to give the Globe (well, every theatre) a massive chunk of cash to be used purely for recording their output.


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April 2015



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