Tag Archives: Facebook

Custard Trolley with llama

16 Jul

Are other people as astonished as I am by this kind of thing, found on any social networking site any day of the year?

Fabulous news! My haiku ‘The last dollop’ has been accepted by poetry mag ‘Custard Trolley’ special haiku edition. I am so thrilled, you can’t possibly imagine! Custard Trolley is one of the most prestigious and longstanding poetry mags of its kind: vibrant, innovative, and welcoming to unpublished or little known writers such as myself. What’s more they charge only $20 per submission, so it’s a bargain! Thanks to all my friends and family who have encouraged me to carry on writing despite so many rejections over the years, my recent nervous breakdown, and the loss of our cat, Tibby. I couldn’t have done it without you all!

This garbage will usually be followed by fifty ‘likes’ and a score of encouraging remarks such as ‘keep on writing, Gerry!’; ‘Always knew you had it in you’; ‘Next the Nobel!’

Why? Why does anyone care? Not specifically about Gerry’s haiku, but about such things at large? Why such a torrent of praise and encouragement? Is there not too much stuff in the world, especially dodgy stuff, bad poetry being amongst the dodgiest stuff around? Am I being a killjoy? Does it matter? Should anyone get worked up about this? Why do I look at Facebook anyway?

Good question. There must be something in me that feels that I am like Gerry, that I am, in fact,  a version of him,  and he of me. This is all so awful I think I should probably be condemned to death, probably by stoning. Better still, should never open Facebook again.

On a lighter note, I find this among my files, though I have no idea from whence it comes. A small delight, reflecting perfectly my own attitude to reading.

Much as we should love to grasp things with a complete understanding, invariably we cannot bring ourselves to pay the high cost of doing so. From books all we seek is to give ourselves unlaboured pleasure: or if we do study, pursue only those branches of learning which deal with self-knowledge and which teach us how to live. This is the winning post towards which your sweating nag should canter. Never bite your nails or use the whip when you come across difficult passages in your reading: after making a charge or two, let them be. Nothing worthwhile is done without some gaiety: persistence and too much intensity dazzle the judgement, making it sad and weary.


(with thanks to Eugene Dubnov for the llama)






Life in a Day

23 Jul



This is, in its way, a very contemporary film: a kind of visual equivalent of flash fiction. Based on thousands of hours of video recordings from a single day – 24th August 2010 – the editors have created a 90 minute collage of moments, some more extensive than others. Certain of the characters are seen once only, others are revisited several times over the course of the film, among which are a Korean man who has been cycling around the world for seven years (he has been knocked off his bike six times and had surgery five times: some drivers are very careless, he remarks, generously) and a trio of goatherds from somewhere in eastern Europe, who swear at their goats and are troubled by the prospect of wives and of wolves.

It could have been called ‘youtube: the movie’ but the point about all the mini-narratives being set within the frame of a single day gave it more coherence than might otherwise be expected. We do retain a sense of global village life with the weird juxtaposition of footage from a New York coffee shop being followed by African women preparing cassava while singing and a South American shoeshine boy stuffing his pockets with sweets. I left the cinema with the sensation that for so many people, desperately attempting to assert their own experience and their own lives, social networks and new media such as Facebook and youtube might provide a constant if imperfect means to an end. We all do it, especially if we blog, twitter and facebook (is that a verb?). Everyone can be Montaigne in the digital age. In a way, too, the film reflects the fetishization of travel familiar to us from ‘gap year’ philosophy, whether of the youtube variety, or the more polished, but equally nauseating version proposed to its readers every Saturday in the Guardian travel section.

A recent article by Christopher Tyler in The London Review of Books mentions how Colin Thubron, in his Shadow of the Silk Road imagines ‘conversations with a sceptical trader resurrected from antiquity. “I’m afraid of nothing happening,” he tells him, “of experiencing nothing. That is what the modern traveller fears . . . Emptiness.” In the current era, the notion of pseudo-travel has become available to all of us, emerging nervously from our terror of nothing happening.

Back home, I eventually retire to bed, to read. I have been reading poetry at night for a few months, but I also read fiction, and am currently with Claire Keegan’s Walk the Blue Fields, stories of profound clarity, steeped in the Irish storytelling tradition. While reading, I drift in and out of sleep. I wake at three in the morning with the book still in my hands, sitting up in bed and wavering in the space between sleep and non-sleep, though not yet wakefulness. This has become familiar territory. I have spent a long time being sleep-deprived, and am acquainted with this place, the zone. Drifting between sleep and not-sleep I am confronted by a person, standing at the foot of my bed. I am accustomed to this kind of intervention. Some call them hallucinations, but I know better.

This time he wears a cowboy hat. I ask him who he is.

“Calvin Bucket,” he says.

A likely story.

“Andy Coulson?” He suggests.

That’s better. I like the way these episodes meld with the fantasy that we call reality.

“Now, here’s how it is, Calvin, Andy, Cyrano, whatever.” I say. “You want to validate your existence? Fuck off and do it somewhere else, with someone who believes in you.”

And pouf. He vanishes.

The only ones validating their existence around here are me and my dog.