Ann Wordsworth – a Tribute

I have recently been searching out friends and acquaintances from the past – searching out to either make contact or to see how they are getting on in their lives from what information I can find. Sometimes there has been a closeness that warrants contact; sometimes it is a genuine but distant interest in the pathway of their lives.

The interest is sparked by my own aging and thus nostalgia for years past. At times I have regretted having lost contact. In many cases I have wanted to get in touch and reminisce with those who had made an impact on my life, either by an occasional but memorable engagement or some more indelible meaningfulness.

Over recent years I have tried to find information on Ann Wordsworth who was my English tutor for a year at Oxford. Having been unsuccessful for some time, and perhaps not trying intelligently enough, I did recently and sadly find an obituary about her death in 2013, aged 80. That wasn’t then necessarily a surprise, and I couldn’t be angry with myself for not having succeeded: and perhaps most significantly, I will have been a minute part of Ann’s life and she will have had, I’m sure, the richest of engagements and memories with family and friends.

The obituary here brought back my fond memories, especially of my meetings at her house too where I would read essays aloud, essays so heavily influenced by her teaching, ideas and directions they will have been, at many times, direct and possibly embarrassing mirrors of her influence – though I hope she took pleasure too in that inspiration having taken such a hold.

I was actually studying for a B.Ed. at Westminster College, and having attained this after three years, one of the bonuses of being there was to be tutored by someone from one of the Oxford universities for the English totality of the degree, Ann Wordsworth then teaching at St Hugh’s College.

I was a mature student, having worked before study, and I don’t know if it was because of this or simply common, but we would always drink a glass of wine during our tutoring sessions. She was above all the most stimulating but also demanding teacher – stretching me to places I’m sure I never quite reached, and even to those that I did I cannot now understand their surrounds having lost the relative peak and intensity of the moments – but she was also most attentive to me as a person and the life I was living at the time: married and living and working on a farm for the first two years to pay for my study.

Always then and since a sceptic of the privilege of the Oxford and similar system/situation – the ‘town and gown’ of my actual experience living there for the final two of my four years studying, and, for example, a first teaching practice in an Emergency Priority Area school at Blackbird Leys as well as causal work as an industrial cleaner at the Cowley car plant – I nonetheless revelled in that privilege. The privilege of using the Bodleian Library to research the criticism Ann referenced and recommended; attending Oxford English faculty lectures, ranging from the likes of Stephen Spender to Terry Eagleton, and I would tend to the more radical as Ann herself was a radical thinker and teacher.

In this respect I was so lucky. I am sure many of the tutors there at that time, 1979, would have been far more traditional in their thinking and tutoring. Ann was steeped in Freudian theory and influence, Lacan especially, as well as structuralism and deconstruction, Derrida the critical theorist darling then. I was out of my depth with this, not least when Ann arranged for me to attend a lecture by Derrida where the select audience [I recall Maud Ellman being there] was clearly fully engaged in his talk, delivered entirely in French so that I didn’t understand a single word.

Authors that influenced most from Ann’s recommendations were Harold Bloom and Edward Said, the former an advocate of Ann Wordsworth’s work. I did use and apply much of what Ann had taught me in my early years of teaching, most obviously when my school acquired a sixth form and I thus taught A Level English Literature. I was still so heavily influenced in those early 80s teaching years that I wrote a poem about Derrida and submitted it to the Times Education Supplement. It was politely declined, and I’m not at all surprised, especially when I read now. I did also write to Ann occasionally then, sharing my continued enthusiasms [and that poem] but we eventually lost touch and, as I have been saying, it is in more recent years I tried to find out about her with the possibility of contacting again.

Being too late, I have written this tribute, and thank her all the same for that particularly and intensely challenging but enriching period of intellectual activity. As important was her friendship, that care and attention to me as a person when times were hard in certain respects, and her overall personal warmth when I will have been just one of many awestruck students.

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Coleridge Weekend Programme, October 20th – 22nd, 2017

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As a member of the Coleridge Memorial Trust I am pleased to announce The Coleridge Weekend Programme on the 20th-22nd October, in Ottery St Mary, England, the home of STC’s birth.

This is to launch the appeal for funds to secure the sculptural memorial to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is a lively and varied programme, and it is fitting that this will also be held on the date of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s birthday: 21st October, 1772.

It is CMT’s great hope to have the sculpture memorial in place by the 250th celebration of his birth!

Coleridge Weekend Programme, October 20th – 22nd, 2017

Friday 20th October – Afternoon, 3.00pm – at St Mary’s Church
Free admission

An edited reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Laurie Palmer in period costume.
Poetry readings by The King’s School students.

Friday 20th October – Evening, 7.00pm – at St Mary’s Church
Free admission

Chairman’s welcome

Presentation by Dr Sandra Tuppen, Lead Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts 1601-1850 from The British Library entitled Samuel Taylor Coleridge manuscripts at the British Library

Talk by Coleridge Memorial Trust sculptor Mr Nicholas Dimbleby on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge sculptural memorial.

Interval with refreshments: Tea, Coffee, Wine.

Presentation by Oscar Pearson on the Coleridge Memorial Trust’s achievements and aims.

Chairman’s outline of the CMT fundraising plans.

Reading of Kubla Khan and other Coleridge poems.

 

Exhibition all weekend in the Dorset Aisle – STC banners, maquette etc.

 

Saturday 21st October

9.30 – 10.30am

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Birthday Celebration peel of bells by the Bellringers of St Mary’s Church, Ottery, in honour of the town’s most famous son. Sponsored by Otter Vale Probus Club.

12.30 for 1.00pm

Coleridge Anniversary Lunch at the Tumbling Weir Hotel, organised by Robert Neal –
Ottery St Mary Heritage Society.

Guest speaker: Historian and author Todd Gray – Coleridge the Walker

4.00pm
£10

Short guided walk [at own risk] and talk – led by Sam Coleridge to Pixies Parlour. Meet on the bridge between the Land of Canaan car park and The Tumbling Weir Hotel on the Mill Stream. £10 contribution per head for fundraising; children under 12 years old free. Dogs welcome if on lead.

Sunday Morning, 22nd October

10.00 am – 4.00pm approx.
£10

Coleridge Link – strenuous 9 mile walk [at own risk] led by Sam Coleridge. Meet on the bridge over the Mill Stream between the Land of Canaan car park and The Tumbling Weir Hotel. £10 contribution per head for fundraising. Dogs welcome if on lead. Bring water, suitable walking shoes and clothes.

 

 

Freedom Lyrics 3 – Absolutely Free

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from International Times

Frank Zappa’s ‘freedom’ lyrics are typically him, an hallucinogenic version, so not for all, with perhaps a tinge of his own cynicism/satire on this freedom trip:

Absolutely Free

Suzy: I don’t do publicity balling for you anymore

FZ: The first word in this song is “discorporate.” It means to leave your body

Discorporate and come with me
Shifting, drifting
Cloudless, starless
Velvet valleys and a sapphire sea, wah wah

Unbind your mind, there is no time
To lick your stamps and paste them in
Discorporate and we will begin, wah wah
(“Flower Power” sucks)

Diamonds on velvets on goldens on Vixen
On Comet and Cupid on Donner and Blitzen
On up and away and afar and a go-go
Escape from the weight of your corporate logo

Unbind your mind, there is no time
To lick your stamps
And paste them in
Discorporate and we’ll begin

Freedom, freedom, kindly loving
You’ll be absolutely free
Only if you want to be

Dreaming on cushions of velvet and satin
To music by magic by people that happen
To enter the world of a strange purple Jell-O
The dreams as they live them are all mellow yellow

Unbind your mind, there is no time
To lick your stamps
And paste them in
Discorporate and we’ll begin

Freedom, freedom, kindly loving
You’ll be absolutely free
Only if you want to be

You’ll be absolutely free
Only if you want to be

© 1967 Frank Zappa Music BMI, a subsidiary of Third Story Music BM

Falling Like The French Off A Ladder

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I was trying to be French,
or more precisely, existential –

you know, Sartre and all –
but it was only during the

fall from a ladder and
waiting to land on my back

when I wondered what would be
the essence of such a breakage.

This was a lifetime’s third major
drop: once taking out a large

rhododendron on landing; a
second, wrenching my arm when

lessening the descent, and today’s
complete backwards arc to hit the

ground in my own thunder. But I
couldn’t then speak French if

trying, the tip still there but a
teeth-drawn line on the tongue

where a full bite might have been,
as precarious as that fourth rung.

Freedom Lyrics 2 – Chimes of Freedom

Here’s the obvious one:

Chimes of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden as the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsakened
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the poet and the painter far behind his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
For the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chaineded an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flared
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

by Bob Dylan
Chimes of Freedom lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

‘Listening to Myself’ by Al Purdy

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Listening to Bruce Cockburn’s latest Bone on Bone this morning – a good album – and there’s a song called 3 Al Purdys about a guy on a street corner trying to hawk the rendition of three Purdy poems for 20 dollars.

I have not read any of Canadian Al Purdy’s poems before but searched out and have done so this morning, some quite Bukowski-like, but this one about being older, loss and remembering is less stylised in that way. The allusion to the ‘a still pool in the forest’ is poignant. Have just ordered his collection To Paris Never Again.

Listening to Myself

see myself staggering through deep snow
lugging blocks of wood yesterday
an old man
almost falling from bodily weakness
— look down on myself from above
then front and both sides
white hair — wrinkled face and hands
it’s really not very surprising
that love spoken by my voice
should be when I am listening
ridiculous
yet there it is
a foolish old man with brain on fire
stumbling through the snow

— the loss of love
that comes to mean more
than the love itself
and how explain that?
— a still pool in the forest
that has ceased to reflect anything
except the past
— remains a sort of half-love
that is akin to kindness
and I am angry remembering
remembering the song of flesh
to flesh and bone to bone
the loss is better

 

‘The Co-ordinates of Doubt’ by Daniel Y. Harris and Rupert M. Loydell – Knives Forks and Spoons Press

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Not yet on a numerical par with the likes of the Rocky/Star Wars film franchises, Messersarounders Harris and Loydell have here produced a second in their series of poetic collaborations [well, it has only just become a series at this double landmark, but word is afoot that three other poetic screamplays are already in the bags of potential presenters] and the poems in this volume continue their explorations of human nature and the nature of its articulation.

As the blurb on the back page of this new volume tells us, these ‘anthropoetjests’ [a new and apt nomenclature appropriated from the mysterious Professor Some Diurnal Awe] follow a journey of lament and comic challenging of this – not quite good cop/bad cop but sad cop/mocking cop.

When the sequence opens with two dark accounts of an apparent apocalypse, the anticipation of an occasional optimistic view seems thwarted. Landslide teases with its descriptive beauty of a darkened place, and an ominous sense of forced change in a world lived is immediately established. Just as immediately, the following poem Black Crow introduces us to a saviour of sorts, Phillip J Jackdaw, yet any hope he can retrieve things from the darkness is comically revealed in his surname and the fact he was wrong. Such is the mess of this occupied world of the writers’ creation.

With such believable – and not so much so – absurdity, the only hope is more of the same. In Looking South, there is hope but only in finding death in the future, and Timeslip laments the further loss of lost identity. It is as if Hughes’ Crow has flown in with wings so enlarged from time’s blackness that flapping is the rush of thought and ink in all others’ imagining. And it is at times just as darkly enlightening.

In the world now inhabited by Harris and Loydell, light and dark are one and the same, and being alive is a good question,

‘Alive, certainly, like the stench of rotting flesh, but human? Doubts
remain. Was Roxanne still human? Roxanne, the ectomorph with the
possum nose, the one they called Gidget-the-Broom, was she still
one of us? Who are we?’
[Safety Zone]

Where there is room to salvage something of the past, it is in the sad beauty of lament,

‘The early morning mist always softens the day and mood, makes me
remember other places where the sun rose late or early, or the city
was so hot we never got to sleep. Late night coffee on the hotel roof,
walks under moonlight, the campsite in France where it always
rained. I miss everything, know I will miss this when I am over it. I
am very much looking forward to looking back.’
[Lament]

Living is making do with what assuages, like ‘those healing creams, lubricants and corked cambiums’ [Sidetracked] and an acceptance that being alone is the best we can get from being alone, ‘You can choose to maroon yourself between tides and pretend you are alone’ [The Island].

But I digress. In this is being, and being many things to keep us guessing about who we are, what we have done, and what we can remember of this. The cast-list is as legendary, ‘I am Saint Bernard Mazzola-Iniquity, bastard nephew of Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola. I am draped in gold-leaf halo, aureola, mandorla and almond-shaped vesica piscis’ [Psalm] as it is anyone, ‘…I am in a time loop for centuries, revisiting the moment we make love, made love, will make love; the moment after you have left me, softly saying goodbye’ [New Skin].

And after this? This is just the beginning. After this, the poems loop back on one another, create new characters and mysteries, revisit and rewrite the truth and lies of what has been written before. Mrs Jackdaw becomes ascendant; the supply to living improves,

‘It’s good chiasma when we make the leap from 5 mbps to 12 mbps
while shaving. Of course we know that hell is fast and configured
never to decay in flakes of rust’
[Flakes of Rust]

and routine is as it always was,

‘Back to school, back against the wall, back to the future, to the
impossibility of ghost loops and living memories, of pictures re-
enacted in the future’
[Time Machine]

Even Phillip returns, a skulk of a reprise elaborated by his aphoristic sayings. Then you realise this isn’t darkness, though you probably saw the light already.

Stepping outside this reviewing ruse, I’ll conclude by observing these poems by Daniel and Rupert are delightfully dark, interactive with one another, vibrant in their fictions, and plaintive in their realities. And much more. As you read on, those loops, refractions and refinements begin to take on new[er] meanings and it is a genuinely exciting journey. The first read introduces the surprises, and a return makes you all the more surprised.

Highly recommended. Further details [with samples] and how to purchase here at the excellent Knives Forks and Spoons Press