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Their Duty Done: Forest Town and the Great War – Tim Priestley

wp_20161122_001Forest Town in Nottinghamshire would send many of its men to war.  This is the story of those who never returned and whose names are inscribed on the local memorial.

From every city to the smallest of villages around Britain, every traveller will always come across a war memorial dedicated – most often – to those fallen in World War One and World War Two.

All too often one finds themself looking at the names of these people and imagining those times and of the utter devastation of the population and the trauma suffered both at the front and of those waiting back home to hear news; yet waiting in dread as each letter may be an official notification of death.

Their Duty Done, reminds us that each name on the memorial stones and the graveyards spread around the world belonged to real people, with families, jobs and a sense of duty.

Whether you are familiar with my neck of the woods or not, Forest Town and its surrounding area is a typical example of any town you care to pick from, all of which saw many men go to war. FT has the distinction of being a mining town which perhaps aided (for those in that occupation) with the speed of demobilisation and arguably saved many from the early stages of the war, if they chose not to volunteer.

The first half of the book gives a brief overview of each year of the war and chronicles those who died, giving details of their ages, rank and date of death.  There is also a write-up about each soldier, from their birthplace , parent’s names, job, army history and the details of their demise and resting places, where the bodies could be recovered.

It brings home the fact that each person was real, it seems obvious, of course  but with all the literature, films and so on, it is easy to be fixated on the final body count of various battles and the war in total.  In essence we have become desensitised to the human side of war, in the face of the sheer scale of carnage. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 24/11/2016 in History, Life

 

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Game, Sets and Match

In a week or two I will be moving house and this has led to the ordering and  packing up of my many books, which is strange due to my penchant for appreciating the quirky and often fascinating juxtaposition of books when randomly placed, like the Bible tightly packed next to Christopher Hitchens or Alice in Wonderland next to de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

BaumdlessImagination

I have been busy putting my series of books together to be boxed up and it made me think about the times when I used to travel to Nottingham once a fortnight to collect all 21 Famous Five books.  Even years ago I was paranoid that the publishers would change the covers so they wouldn’t look as sexy on my shelves.

JordanEtAl

It all started with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time Series which was actually a bit of a blessing, the black covers look a lot better than the less than impressive (to my eye, at least) illustrations of character set pieces.  Since then I have always strived to collect the full series in the same cover. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 20/11/2016 in Book Memories, Lists/Ephemera

 

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Poetic Finale

Certain things, I know are lacking on this blog such as children’s books, graphic novels and poetry being the three most obvious so this week I have – hopefully – succeeded in my aim to redress one of these failings.  There is something intriguing about a form that packs so much into so little space, each word has to be weighted and measured for its precise purpose and trying to convey that has been a diverting challenge and learning experience.

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Found at Pixabay.com

Seven posts in seven days has certainly been one heck of a challenge and one that has not only been a lot of fun but also fuelled a love for poetry that I never really knew I had, having more of an eye for the novel in the past.  In choosing (and being chosen by, in one case) writers to feature, I didn’t realise I had amassed such an international flavour of poets until I began gathering my notes and panicking somewhat at my task of adequately capturing each book’s effects on me.

Reading through each one made me think in a different way about what I would write and indeed how I judged each book, with a novel it tends to be a ‘go with the flow and let it all catch up with me somewhere near the end’ job, where I distil it into word chains for the blog but poetry demands each piece is thought upon and understood before moving on.  It was really invigorating and made my squishy brain matter much more malleable for the future.

Poetry makes up some of the best literature out there, The Iliad, The Canterbury Tales, Bhagavad Gita, Through (the looking-glass) to Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare’s Sonnets and the War Poets, and now bloggers there are so much enriching and enduring collections out there that it is often easy to forget how poetry stealthily fill our bookshelves.  Poetry is innate in us and ties tight into our collective histories and cultures and the beauty is tat anybody can have a go themselves or pick up a book and be transported into another mindset.

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Posted by on 14/11/2016 in Poetry

 

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Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence – Rehana Shamsi

lifefactsDay six and post six of poetry week, thanks for all the likes and comments so far and please bear with me as I will be around to view your blogs just as soon as I complete my seventh and final post.

Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence is the result of Rehana Shamsi’s observations, experiences, and relationship to her former society. Many of the poems bring to the forefront the emotional and psychological trauma caused by men’s traditional dominance over women in majority of South Asian households. Women’s constant struggle to overcome suppression is a major theme covered in this collection of poetry. In addition, Shamsi showcases her perspective on life in general.

Through her captivating and incisive style, she explores joys and sorrows, challenges and choices, and ignorance and intelligence.

After reading Nadeem Alsam’s excellent novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, I didn’t expect to come across something as moving, which confronted the same issues so soon.  Right from the first poem, the reader will find a strong voice that tackles one of the most important issues facing society today, the repression of women and their lack of education.

Shamsi’s experiences are a strong indictment of these failures in society and her remembrances are as difficult to read as it is, not to be angry at the number of girls still subjected to arranged marriages and the horrors that can stem from such ‘deals’.  These social issues seem to almost taken for the norm these days or at least less mentioned by the media for fear of upsetting the hegemony of men that still think this is still acceptable.

The book then takes a turn towards the positive.  After emigrating from the suppressive Pakistan to America, thoughts of a freer life are expressed, one where Shamsi can bring forth her unrestrained reflections on her journey through life.  Structured into parts titled: Awareness after Repression, Gender Disparity, Resurrection, Health, Migration, Family, Facts of Life, Old Age, Bereavement, Nine – Eleven, and Curiosity and Others, each of which will hold a strong resonance for her readers. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13/11/2016 in Poetry

 

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Haiku Rhapsodies – Celestine Nudanu

bohemianHaiku as a genre is less known on the Ghanaian literary landscape. Against this background, the publication of HAIKU RHAPSODIES, (verses from Ghana) by Celestine Nudanu is very timely and historic. HAIKU RHAPSODIES explores a field where no Ghanaian poet has ever published in hard print. Hence Celestine Nudanu’s work distinguishes her as a trailblazer among her contemporaries. And most notably HAIKU RHAPSODIES comes in at the opportune time to answer the world call for haiku to be added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

HAIKU RHAPSODIES is a finely structured book arranged under the following themes; Afriku, Nature, Haiku My Heart, the Divine and Death. Through these themes, Celestine Nudanu succeeds in transporting the reader into her world by creating animated, serene and yet powerful scenes. At the same time, the poet draws the reader into the complex yet fascinating phenomena of what life is all about; Love, Death, Spirituality and Life itself. The beauty lies in her skill of brevity as a haiku poet. She writes with elegance, using few words which like magic are enchanting, leaving the reader exhilarated and wanting more.

Celestine is a prolific writer of poetry, plenty of which is showcased on her blog, Reading Pleasure.  After gaining a fan base in the past few years, a book was a welcome treat for her readers.  C’s work has featured in many international Haiku publications and as such is already well recognised within the Haiku community.

With clear imagery, each bite sized piece is simply written but layered with visual beauty and thoughts personal to the author, this intimate showcasing allows the reader to see a place through Celestine’s eyes.  The concepts of the world around her is brought to us in a series delightful vignettes which read like a moment captured in time. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/11/2016 in Poetry

 

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Rilke’s First Duino Elegy

Sharing with you my fine friends, a piece of work that I really enjoy for a myriad of reasons.  The words of which speak for themselves in all their transcendental beauty, enjoy.

Rilke

The First Elegy

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Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic

Orders? And even if one were to suddenly

take me to its heart, I would vanish into its

stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but

the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,

and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains

to destroy us. Every Angel is terror.

And so I hold myself back and swallow the cry

of a darkened sobbing. Ah, who then can

we make use of? Not Angels: not men,

and the resourceful creatures see clearly

that we are not really at home

in the interpreted world. Perhaps there remains

some tree on a slope, that we can see

again each day: there remains to us yesterday’s street,

and the thinned-out loyalty of a habit

that liked us, and so stayed, and never departed.

Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind full of space

wears out our faces – whom would she not stay for,

the longed-for, gentle, disappointing one, whom the solitary heart

with difficulty stands before. Is she less heavy for lovers?

Ah, they only hide their fate between themselves.

Do you not know yet? Throw the emptiness out of your arms

to add to the spaces we breathe; maybe the birds

will feel the expansion of air, in more intimate flight.

#

Yes, the Spring-times needed you deeply. Many a star

must have been there for you so you might feel it. A wave

lifted towards you out of the past, or, as you walked

past an open window, a violin

gave of itself. All this was their mission.

But could you handle it? Were you not always,

still, distracted by expectation, as if all you experienced,

like a Beloved, came near to you? (Where could you contain her,

with all the vast strange thoughts in you

going in and out, and often staying the night.)

But if you are yearning, then sing the lovers: for long

their notorious feelings have not been immortal enough.

Those, you almost envied them, the forsaken, that you

found as loving as those who were satisfied. Begin,

always as new, the unattainable praising:

think: the hero prolongs himself, even his falling

was only a pretext for being, his latest rebirth.

But lovers are taken back by exhausted Nature

into herself, as if there were not the power

to make them again. Have you remembered

Gastara Stampa sufficiently yet, that any girl,

whose lover has gone, might feel from that

intenser example of love: ‘Could I only become like her?’

Should not these ancient sufferings be finally

fruitful for us? Isn’t it time that, loving,

we freed ourselves from the beloved, and, trembling, endured

as the arrow endures the bow, so as to be, in its flight,

something more than itself? For staying is nowhere. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 11/11/2016 in Poetry

 

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Return to the Sea – Etnairis Rivera

seasideDay and post three of poetry week takes us all the way across the waters to Puerto Rico, unless you happen to be reading this from there, that is.

There’s no blurb for this one but whilst attempting to hunt one out on Amazon.com, I noticed that the one used paperback copy was going for $35 dollars.  Not bad considering I got mine for $4 whilst using Letizia’s fun method of poetry buying – which can be found here  – and seeing where the journey takes you.

Return to the Sea sets both Spanish and its English translation side by side on the page, which I find fascinating and although this is nothing unique in the world of poetry books my eyes were drawn over to the Spanish side frequently through curiosity many more time than my Rilke books ever have, perhaps because the language is easier on the eye and more familiar.

It is clear from the start that Rivera is fiercely strong in her patriotism and her writings are shot through with calls for independence and self determinism of the country she so clearly evokes with passion through the text.  The love shines through in many way from reminiscences to the impassioned defence of her people.

There is fury at the legacy left by the US military, after testing chemical and nuclear weapons on the island of Vieques (nicknamed La Isla Nena, usually translated as Little Girl Island, which somehow makes it worse) left thousands with serious health issues including Cancer.  Not only does Rivera demand justice but also exhibits a diligent need to cleanse the people and their land. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 10/11/2016 in Poetry, Politics

 

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