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A Poet Walks Into A Bar …

The double negative didn’t walk into no bar!humour

What’s a Grecian Urn? About twenty thousand drachmas a year after taxes!

Okay I’ll stop now, so today we’re talking about HUMOUR and like poetry, humour is everywhere and we all respond to it. Cracking jokes can take the awkwardness out of some social situations; at work it can help build relationships; it’s a coping strategy too that relieves tension taking the edge off daily stresses which is critical to promoting harmony in our lives and diffusing negative emotions. In the serious business of poetry, humour is often viewed with suspicion and yes there are a lot of nonsense verses out there, fun nursery rhymes and terrible gibberish but then you get the great stuff, the satire, the irony the comic timing from writers like Billy Collins who uses comedy to lighten the pain of loss in his poem Putting Down The Cat which we’ll read later, but also here about his dead parents in No Time, he writes:

In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
Where my parents are buried
Side by side beneath a slab of smooth granite
Then, all day, I think of him rising up
To give me that look
Of knowing disapproval
While my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.

So through humour he crafts a poem that is full of feeling without being over sentimental. This reminds me of something Russian playwright Anton Chekhov said about having a necessary coldness when you write ’when you want to make the reader feel pity, try to be somewhat colder … the more objective you are, the stronger will be the impression you make’. So using poetic devices such as humour, satire and hyperbole ensure that otherwise serious topics pack more of a punch.

When we laugh, we temporarily give ourselves over to those who make us laugh and that’s what we’ll do now. Today’s show features Putting Down The Cat by Billy Collins, The Cremation Of Sam McGee by Robert William Service (read by Johnny Cash), God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught, Symposium by Paul Muldoon and also, in Ill-wishing Him British poet Dorothy Nimmo takes a stoical approach to her lovers departure. You know it hurts when somebody leaves us and I think that how we heal depends on how we deal. Our outlook is everything and sometimes humour can help to mend the wounds of loss. Humorists have one cardinal rule: Don’t be inhibited. It’s better to take a rebellious attitude toward sensitive subjects than to pussyfoot around them. Nimmo writes from a pared back place, of a strength gained through painful insight, and with clever sleight of hand, she wittily gets her own back on the man who walks out on her.

Now there’s a joker in every pack isn’t there. There’s always someone who will, I don’t know, lets say eat the food someone else was saving! We know who you are William Carlos Williams! Somebody has eaten all the plums – and New Jersey doctor and poet William Carlos Williams gives us a poem written in the form of a note or memo left on a kitchen table, probably a note to his wife that turned into a poem, or as the experts call it – a found poem – where you take an existing text and refashion and reorder it. Was it a fair trade for the plums she was saving for herself? Is he really sorry? Known as an innovator, his poem This Is Just To Say is written in the imagist style, a poetic form that focuses on precise imagery and sharp language.  It reminds me of younger days when I used to house-share with people and we’d all have our names left on random grocery items in the fridge or in the cupboard and woe betide anyone who put their hands on my plums!

Next, the American poet and playwright Kenneth Koch gives us a spoof on the plum poem in his Variations On A Theme. Labelled as just a comedic poet, Koch himself spoke of the comic element as something that enabled him to be lyrical. But he was a very funny poet and here in Variations On A Theme By William Carlos Williams, Koch extends the original poem from one to four topics in what seems like almost a retaliation for Williams having eaten the plums! The plums were being kept for breakfast but with Koch now having nothing to do he chops down Williams’ house and so on, asking for forgiveness as Williams does in the original.

Remember humour can have a significant positive effect on our lives. Laughter, as they say, is the best medicine and it’s one of the first things we learn to do as newborns. And funny people receive a lot of attention and admiration don’t they? Most studies find humour to be a highly desirable attribute, which probably explains why the acronym GSOH is so popular in dating ads. Humour is big business too, when you think that it influences many of our daily decisions about what books or magazines to read, TV shows to watch, marketers’ are constantly trying to grab our attention with funny ads and products, all with their own in-house humorists writing them. And for writers, its all about imagination, constantly asking what if?, looking at ordinary things in extraordinary ways, it’s imagination that drives comedy and practically everyone has an imagination – or else no one would ever get married BOOM BOOM!

Music from Clem Snide, The Divine Comedy, Morcambe & Wise, Cathy Davey & more.  Enjoy the show!

… p.s.

funny dog sign

 

 

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Dear Readers, Your Review Matters!

Evie Gaughan

love of books

Out of every 100 copies of my book sold, approximately 2 people will leave a review.  The fact is that most readers don’t think it’s important to leave a review and wouldn’t even consider that their opinion might improve the book’s visibility on Amazon or Goodreads.  In fact, few people outside of the publishing industry are aware of the importance of reviews.  They are the lifeblood of authors and their books – a priceless promotional tool that is aimed purely at other readers.

The publishing industry has changed a lot.  It used to be that you went to your local bookshop, picked up a book you liked the look of and if you enjoyed it, you probably loaned it to a couple of friends.  There was no such thing as writing a review and word of mouth was the only way to spread the love.  Nowadays however, leaving travel reviews on…

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Journeys: Travelling within

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  Emerson

The idea of life as a journey is a well worn theme in poetry and it’s the focus of our show this week.  And what’s the message?  What great wisdom can we expect from our featured poets? Well, I guess it’s that life is a trip we have to take, no matter how bad the roads or the accommodation! In his poem The Journey, journeys 2American poet James Wright finds the secret to living in this world, in a quiet moment of reflection while visiting the medieval village of Anghiari.  Accepting life for what it is, its experiences and burdens but not being weighed down by them is the message he imparts to us.  ‘Step lightly all the way through your ruins’ he says.  We have a tendency to over-criticize and pick holes in every little thing we do, hold on to negativity and not let go of the baggage of the past, but Wright urges us to walk free from all of that and just be.  Be here now.

Life is is a voyage of discovery, of ourselves and others and we have nothing to fear on this journey only what we’ve conceived in our minds before we set out.  We spend so much time worrying about what might happen in the future that we’re sometimes blind to the magic that is happening around us.  Greek poet C P Cavafy prepares us for a great adventure to Ithaka, metaphorical destination and home of the legendary Greek king Odysseus.  I think Ithaka is about enjoying the pleasure of being alive – the people we meet, places we visit and knowledge we gain along the way.  Dreams and goals are important but I think the real value is gained through the process of living.

In Journey To The Interior, Margaret Atwood compares the rough Canadian landscape to the inner journey of self-discovery. Something not to be undertaken lightly as ‘only few have returned safely’ she warns.  I can completely relate.  Sometimes these inner journeys can be tough to navigate, there’s a fear of going too deep, of making discoveries you wish you hadn’t, but the reverse is also true and can lead to some self-illuminating moments.  Sometimes I find I just need the distraction away from myself though and take a journey out of my own psyche and into someone else’s … that can be illuminating too!

Mary Olivers’ recognition of the inner voice, the true authentic self is the subject of one of her best known poems The Journey, where she tells us to go out into the ‘wild night’ and find the voice that will ‘keep us company’ as we go deeper and deeper into the world. For most of us, the decisions we make are based on externals like what other people think.  We think it’s better to fit in, but you know what fitting in is?  Fitting in is resisting yourself … and resisting yourself can only lead to a life full of uncertainty, self-doubt and self-reproach.  Being honest with ourselves is risky business but big risks yield big rewards.  So take a friendly attitude towards your thoughts.  Be bold enough to live your truth, turn up the volume on your inner wisdom and in the words of (I think) Allen Ginsberg “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness”.

Audre Lorde and Philip Levine also feature on todays show, along with music from Mick Flannery, Tom Petty and Bjork.

photo credit: http://www.trans-siberian-travel.com

Where Was Your Book Born?

Evie Gaughan

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We’ve all heard how JK Rowling famously wrote Harry Potter in a local cafe.  In fact, the chair she sat on recently sold for €344,300.  That’s some indication as to the importance we give a writer’s creative perch.  Writers and readers alike are enchanted by the idea of where a book was conceived, convincing themselves that even the chair they sat on must be oozing with literary genius.  There’s something romantic about it, scribbling ideas in a local cafe.  Writing  at a desk wedged into the corner of your council flat while wearing old Primark pyjamas doesn’t really have the same ring to it, although one can only assume that Rowling must have written at home too.  But does it really matter where you write your masterpiece?

I think I’ve written in every room in my house, bar the toilet.  I would include a photo of my beloved attic (where I write…

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One Born Every 5 Minutes

Evie Gaughan

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Idiots?  No, books on Amazon.  Apparently there’s an idiot born every minute, which unfortunately seems about right, but this blog is about publishing.  So with a mountain of new books being published by both Indie authors and traditional publishers ever few minutes, how can you get your book noticed?

There’s nothing like typing the words ‘The End’ to get you all hot and bothered about publishers, bestsellers and writing acceptance speeches (*gushes* I really wasn’t expecting this!)  As a committed self-publishing author-entrepreneur, I do sometimes fantasize about life with a traditional publishing deal.  Would I be better off?  Or is it a case of ‘Is glas iad na cnoic, i bhfad uainn’ an old Irish saying meaning  ‘faraway hills are green’.

A recent article by Dougal Shaw for BBC News explores the current state of self-publishing and finds that, while it is a hard road, it can…

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Sometimes It Snows In April

Fabulous tribute Evie

Evie Gaughan

It’s impossible to quantify the impact an artist/musician has had on your life, but when they’re gone, the strange feeling of loss is equally hard to put a name on.  They’ve been a part of your ‘becoming’ and just like your first love, they will always have a special place in your heart.  And the fact that we’re talking about Prince… where do you even begin? Expressing complex feelings about a complex man in such a simplistic format is bound to fall short, but I’ll do my best.

I will never forget the first time I heard Prince – I was twelve years old and my brother had just bought his album 1999.  This was back in the days when you actually listened to albums and lavished over the artwork; I would go into our living room, put the record on full volume and listen to it over and over…

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#EarthDay

In recognition of Earth Day I’ve got a poem by Patricia Kathleen Page, born in Dorset, England in 1916. She and her family moved to Red Deer, Alberta, in 1919, so that her father could advance his career in the Canadian military. Her first book was a romantic novel called The Sun and the Moon (1944), which she published under the pseudonym Judith Cape, 2 years later, in 1946 she published her first solo book of poetry As Ten, as Twenty, under her real name. In her lifetime, Page published more than two dozen books — spanning poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature — and also developed a parallel career as an accomplished painter, after studying under artists in Brazil and New York.
In 2000, Page’s poem Planet Earth, inspired by four lines from a longer poem by Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, was chosen by the United Nations for its Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry reading series.  This is like a love poem to the earth.  An assertion that we need to treat it like a precious object, thereby making it stronger.  From The Hidden Room, Collected Poems, it’s:

 
PLANET EARTHEarth
By PK Page

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.
—– In Praise of Ironing by Pablo Neruda

It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.
The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness
and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an O! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.
It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.