Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Mi dispiace ma non e possibile così"

So Mr. Signs and I are off to Italy day after tomorrow and this, basically, is the Italian that I have managed to learn so far.  For those not proficient in the lingo it means, I am sorry but it is not possible this way, and it will have to serve me in all kinds of situations because we are going to southern Italy (Puglia) where English is not generally much spoken.  The daughter, who in a few weeks learned Spanish well enough to get by on a recent trip to Cuba, was a brilliant role model but somehow we haven't been able to follow through.  It will be ok as long as I am not in urgent need of a lavatory, although come to think of it, with a few appropriate gestures it might do nicely.

A couple of people have asked me if I have begun to pack and Prepare.  This would be a very good idea, but I never do this until close to midnight of the day before, thus ensuring that I don't get much sleep before the inevitable early start next day.  What I am doing is reading Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi which is set about a hundred kilometres from where we will be staying, and we plan to visit the caves at Mantera which is not far from there.

I have only been to Italy once, to a beach resort near Rimini with my sister and grandmother when I was eleven.  This will be nothing like that.  We are staying on an organic farm where the owner invites people to hear the sound of people's steps along the lanes, see the hands that placed the stones, feel the toil and sweat of those who shaped the land so as to be able to draw from it what they needed to live, but without depriving it of its life force.  A life force which still exists in some places and those who know how can hear its very breath.

I wonder if I will be one of those who know how to become all ear so that I can hear the very breath.  Spirit of place is a powerful thing, as I have sometimes experienced, and not for the faint-hearted.  Of course, one can do this just as well at home as abroad - feel the breath and being of a place.  But sometimes the shock of a new encounter can awaken the sleeping faculty.  The forest was never so present to me as when I first came to live here, and then it was on a particular day in a particular spot, unannounced and unexpected.  Something was revealed and laid bare, and the vision (if that is the word) I had is something I have never been able to properly put into words, and it only came once.  But once is enough because it isn't something you lose.

In my late twenties, sitting alone somewhere in the Austrian Alps because even then I was not strong enough to keep walking up with the others, spirit of place came with such force that I was not fully able to meet it and literally hid my face.  At the time, I thought it (the presence) might have been God.  But I think it was the land and the mountains that asked, as all places do, for me to say who I was.  And then the only position I could take was: mi dispiace ma non e possibile così - though obviously I did not say this in Italian or, in fact, any spoken language.

I think I need to prepare another phrase - just in case.

Ciao amici.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Celebrity Bear

Three songs from a musical the daughter wrote.  

If you would like to vote and help her get through to the finals of a competition for new musical theatre composers you can vote here.  Her name is Rose Lewenstein.  You'll find her in the third column.

You will also see a link there to the other submissions.  I'm obviously a bit partial.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Rampant Heart (or Cooking the Books)

I’m still tripping over old notebooks even though I thought I put most of them in the attic.  It would be ok if I just let them be instead of dipping in and reading them – if I kept the lid shut.  Instead, I open the box (the hardback covers) and out they fly, all these unfinished stories, bits of almost-poems, chronicles of life with my constant companion, M.E.  I feel as though I am rifling through someone else’s writing, taking in the good, the bad and the ugly with a kind of dispassion.  Reading old notebooks is like spying on oneself, not altogether comfortable.  That person then is not this person now, but one is implicated.  She was not necessarily expecting all the words to be read by another, which I now am.  Grudgingly, because I want to be better than her, I admire her – particularly how she negotiates the business putting down words with being, at times, so ill that she can hardly hold the pen.  She keeps trying to push on, though she shouldn’t.  Some of what she writes is so overblown I want to rip out the pages.  But there are lines that take my breath away and I am half tempted to nick them.  I have in fact done this and cobbled together a poem from notes taken when she was in the far north of Scotland.  It was the image of a brown bird on a rock, perched on a leg as thin as wheat grass.  This is the image that stands at the heart of something-or-other, and my workshop group also liked this particular line.  But I have now looked up wheat grass and found that it is not what I had in mind (the dry kind with some kind of kernel and whispy stuff on top) – it is green and people use it for juicing and promoting health.  Bugger. 

But anyway.  I have other poems standing like greyhounds in the slips ready to go, but I’m not letting them.  I have submission block.  It takes a kind of courage to send work off, particularly if one has to put it in an envelope with a covering letter.  It takes a stronger heart than the one I feel precariously beating in my breast.  Ok, that last sentence is awful but now you can tune in to what I experience when looking over old notebooks.  Precariously beating is not good, by anyone’s standards, particularly if it is a heart.  Long ago my sister and I decided to compose the worst poem ever and present it at a family gathering.  We called it The Rampant Heart (even without the qualifier, this is a dodgy word to have in the title).  The last line went: it is too late, oh funfair of my fate!

Though actually, this does kind of speak to me now.  I’m going to send those damn poems off.  In the funfair of my fate, it’s not yet closing time.