Poem—fragment from a university portfolio—notes to myself in square brackets

…[Going to put the stress patterns on by pen—don’t know how to do that by computer.][16/06/2015—‘woolly mammoth’—5th line down—I wonder about that now—in the footnotes, I have it as ‘my own interpretation’—well, it would be.]

27/11/ 92

Where is the poem, beneath the stress pattern?

Where is the meaning, my merry old man?1

We’ve looked at the metre, we’ve used the tape measure2

We’ve footed the fortunes3, of firth and away.4

But where are the words?  My own woolly mammoth?5

Where are the meanings, my merry old man?…


1  merry old man—stock phrase for God or Aristotle.

2  Associated with the merry old man, via Aristotle—poetry—measure; “The form of art that uses language alone, whether in prose or verse, and verse either in a mixture of metres or in one particular kind…” (Aristotle, Poetics, 32)  (But verse is metre, or measure); “Poets who write in strict conformity to a single metrical pattern will achieve the music of a metronome and soon drive their listeners away.”

Robot speech = regularity

Human speech = regularity/irregularity, or variation. (Norton Anthology, 1408)

3  footed the fortunes = imposed a pattern (Latin metre) on something formerly freer (Anglo-Saxon tradition which only needed two stresses per each half-line and as many unstressed as required to complete the meaning); putting English speech rhythms into Latin metrical could be seen as an imposition.

4  firth and away = freedom of Anglo-Saxon poetry compared to Latin metrical; firth—a route to the sea where no landmarks point the way.  [‘firth’ reminds me of ‘Forth’, of course.]

5  woolly mammoth = my own interpretation.

[Note from 7/06/2017—this poem is mine, by the way.]

London atrocity

I find that I am in a position that I was in before—see my post at https://joanenochthewriting.com/2017/02/02/trump/

I felt then that I couldn’t blog at all until I had said something about Trump.

Others has spoken but he had silenced me, in effect.

He made me afraid.

He had taken a stance of general non-negotiation.

I was stunned by his attitude.

The London atrocity of last Saturday night, following on so closely from the attack in Manchester just a few weeks ago—and there had been, last March, the attack at Westminster that I hadn’t mentioned—you—if you are me—note these things and think they are one-off—they won’t happen again.  But…

Three attacks now.

According to one eyewitness account, a jihadist stabbed a woman repeatedly (was it at least ten times?), shouting that this was ‘for Allah’—while she screamed for help.

It is that reported image that stays with me—more than others.

The eyewitness tried, but he couldn’t get to the woman, though he helped whoever else he could.

Islamist extremists—a perverted form of Islam.

We must stand together as communities, Theresa May said—we must not let this break our democracy—our right to speech.

Feeling silenced—but that is the last thing you must be, they say.

There must be negotiation between groups—we need (I would say) an attempt at defining terms of debate.


The Handmaid’s Tale—Atwood—recommended reading

…watched adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale on Channel 4 on Sunday night.  Oh—I was going to say that I was going to blog that and recommend the book for reading—and then I thought I wouldn’t—but I’ve just quickly looked on the net to see if that The was there in the title—and glimpsed favourable reviews and something about it being able to tell us something about Islamic extremism.

I read the book years ago, and saw it as a re-take on Christian practices of the Old Testament.

And so—I will put this here—it signals to people where I am.

I would recommend that everyone reads this book.


I’ve realised—I’ve been saying for long enough that I don’t explain—I use theory so much and to explain negates that.  There need to be instances where I can explain if I think that would be useful—I’m talking about not being bound in, necessarily, by rules—not as a way to give myself power—but as a way of starting to understand the world for myself.

But—I don’t have to say what I am doing.  I don’t have to try to encompass every contradiction that I may come across—no matter from where—in an effort to account for every nuance.  I think that isn’t possible.


The ghouls come out…(unfinished fiction)

Bobby is ill.  He could be on his deathbed.

She would have preferred to keep him at home but the doctor came out and then the ambulance swung by.

She would get some soap and a flannel from the chemist, she thought, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and then she’d go to the hospital.  Nothing was imminent, she’d been told, though a procedure would be done that would keep Bobby in, at least overnight.

She felt the presence of her dead father by her right shoulder.

“Hi, Dad,” she said.  “Hope things are okay where you are.”

“Ye-es,” he said, in that considering way he sometimes had.  “Don’t worry about me.”

He kept her company all the way down the hill.

She could see someone at the bridge—it was the ghoul, Elmo.

The ghoul’s eyes were wide and alarmed as she approached.

She knew that Elmo the ghoul had already heard, and was waiting for further bad news.

There was no way she could avoid him.

Elmo waited at the start of the bridge and she had to cross.

She had no choice but to meet Elmo the ghoul head-on.

Elmo the ghoul was just that bit fearful—to her, he was—beyond a doubt, there was no fear in the ghoul himself at all.

She lifted her hand to her brow, shielding her eyes from sunlight that wasn’t actually there.

She didn’t want to show her feelings—she knew Elmo the ghoul would lap them up.

“How are things?” the ghoul Elmo said as she reached him.

“Oh—not bad,” she said.

“Not bad—or does that mean not good?” the ghoul Elmo said.

She knew that Elmo the ghoul looked for any chink in armour through which he could send his barbed poison darts.

Elmo always did—and she always fell for it.


She got back home.

She put the things she had bought for Bobby into his toiletries bag.

She had just called for a taxi to take her to the hospital and put the phone down, when it rang.

It was the ghoul Beedee.

“Where are you?” the ghoul Beedee said.

“I’m at home,” she said.  She knew that the ghoul Beedee had already heard.

“Is he very bad?” the ghoul Beedee said.

“Oh—not too bad,” she said.

“Or not so good,” the ghoul Beedee said.  “I’ve come across these things before—it’s unusual if they turn out well.”

“I’m sure everything will be fine after the procedure,” she said, concealing any truth of the matter—if the ghoul Beedee knew, he would feed from it.

The taxi hooted then, outside…



The Manchester Muslim community distances itself from such a heinous act.

Trump met the Pope yesterday.

Trump seemed to think it had gone okay.

But there was that thing where the Pope had said that if Trump built a very big fence—no, wall—between the USA and its neighbour, Mexico, then that wasn’t a Christian act.

See comments at–https://joanenochthewriting.com/2017/05/19/tied-up-tight/

An open letter—upon the anniversary of my father’s death—to absent friends, and the Scottish relatives, with whom we have lost touch

15 June 2016

Dear Christopher

I’m sorry to have to let you know that Dad died suddenly on Saturday, 21 May 2016.  He was 87.

It was an abdominal aneurysm, and both Jean and I were with him.

He was a remarkably fit man for his age, but things had started to go wrong with him the last few years.  He had trouble with his eyes, and could no longer drive (he’d been driving for 70 years).  He had also been troubled by a pain in his shoulder for quite some time, which was getting no better.  Pain-killers didn’t help and neither did physiotherapy.  They got him on codeine, which did take away the pain, but upset his stomach.  He finally had a scan, though we never did get the results from that.

Jean took on most of the looking-after of Dad, since my husband is still getting over side-effects from treatment—it is a case of him building up again, though it is still difficult for him to eat.

Someone or other was over at Dad’s every day—I saw him when I could.  Tommy visited Dad just about every day—Tommy could hardly walk, but could drive, and Dad could no longer drive, but could walk better than Tommy—they managed things between them pretty well!

Dad tried to keep the garden going—he was interested in that, Sudoku and crosswords—but it was getting more difficult.  Again—Tommy would help—they would do a line each with the lawn mower!

So, all in all, Dad was beginning to lose his independence, and we feel that the way he went was the best for him.

He didn’t suffer much, or for long.  I went with him in the ambulance to the hospital, and Jean followed in the car.  We both spoke to him, and then they got us out of the room.

Not long after, someone came to tell us he’d taken a turn for the worse, and we should go in.

Jean and I both told him what a good Dad he was—he was conscious at that point, and then—it sounds like a cliché, but the light just went out of his eyes.  His heart had stopped, and that was it.

They suspected the aneurysm, and did get a specialist there before he died, who confirmed it.  They also gave him a scan after death, for final confirmation—and so he didn’t have to have an autopsy.

The funeral was on 3 June, and everything went well—we had garden flowers for him, and there was a framed photograph on his coffin, which set everyone off crying.

Connie and Dennis are still reasonably well.  Connie sends you her best regards.

I believe you wrote to Dad, quite some time ago, to tell him that John had died of a heart attack—we were so sorry to hear about that.  He said he was going to write, but I’m not sure if he did.

I hope that you and everyone else are okay.

Yours sincerely