it’s okay, his father’s a writer

Daydreaming as a profession

so the assignment was to write about
what the perfect
vacation would look like

and he wrote about
running away from home and
stealing a car
and running people over

robbing a gas station
assaulting and beating
a lady in the restrooms

shooting the cops
smashing their heads in

and at the end driving the car
into a wall and
dying with a shitload of money
and a lady’s head in
the trunk

“Your kid seems very…
troubled,” said the
teacher

“Oh my God!” said the mother. “No,
it’s his father…”

“Hm? His father treats him…
inappropriately you mean?”

“Well, you see… no actually.
His father doesn’t spend
much time with him. He is
a writer…”

“Oh. I see.”

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All Bent and Broken

Dracul Van Helsing

When I was a kid in elementary school
My older sister was in High School
She talked about a student in her school
Who was a poet
I, at the time, was surprised.
I didn’t think there were any poets
left in the world
I thought they all died out at
the end of the 19th Century.

I don’t remember this poet’s first name
But his last name was Cardinal
And he apparently wrote poetry
Under the pen name
Charles Frederick

He self published his own poetry
In a book
They sold in the High School store
The book was called
Here Lies Charles Frederick
And the picture used to illustrate the cover
Was of a gravestone
That had the name
Charles Frederick on it

My sister bought it
I read the book
And I was impressed

But the only poem I remember this day from it
was about a…

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THE MANY-COLOURED LAND by Julian May (Review)

I have started re-reading, after many years, what I now believe is my all-time favourite SF series, and have just finished the first volume, The Many-Coloured Land.

On the front cover of my paperback edition from 1981, it says “will eventually rival THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY” – which sounds good although actually they are three very different things. I suppose it might be fair to say of this series that the genre is mixed unlike the other two, that it is both SF, which LOTR is not, and is set in a fantasy past, which the Foundation series is not. Certainly they are all three among the very best of their kind.

The story opens in a remote corner of France where a disregarded researcher has established a time-portal into the early Pliocene Epoch, nearly six million years ago. His discovery is largely ignored – it only flows in one direction, so what possible use is it? – but after he dies someone comes to his widow and begs her to let him use it to travel back through time. Reluctantly, but feeling sorry for him and agreeing that is it better than suicide, she agrees. Then others start coming – and are willing to pay any amount: they can’t take their money with them. The impoverished Madame Guderian cannot resist the temptation – although she does wonder and worry about the matter of paradox:

The notion that time-travellers might disrupt the present world by meddling with the past had seriously troubled Madame Guderian for many weeks after the departure of Karl Josef Richter. She had concluded at last that such paradox must be impossible, since the past is already manifest in the present, with the continuum sustained in the loving hands of le bon dieu.

But in Part I of this book, what concerns the travellers themselves is what they are going  to find there. Not even a brief message has ever been sent back.

In Parts II and III, they (and we) find out.

It is beautifully written, and very addictive. I have now started the second volume!

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS (by Rudyard Kipling)

Ghosts crop up frequently in prose fiction, but not so much in poetry. However, here is a little ghost poem by Rudyard Kipling, who, though much maligned by the PC crowd, will still be read and loved (think The Jungle Book, The Just So Stories, Kim, and the poem If) centuries after they themselves have been consigned to the dustbin of history.


They shut the way through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a path through the woods
Before they planted the trees;
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate
(They fear not men in the woods
Because they see so few),
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods . . .
But there is no road through the woods.

SPRING IN PROVENCE (by Lotte Kramer)

Even the birds have double summer time
In this rich region where the stumps of vines
Stand regimented in dark knots. Here Greece

And Rome have left their massive mark, from Africa
Some heavy footprints penetrate the earth:
Orange with light it still resounds their names.

And Jews – at Carpentras they paid their dues
To Popes at nearby Avignon to build
Their tiny heaven saved from Spain, still now

They gather there in this dark house, to pray.
The hills are pricked with scrub and gorse in bloom
Like yellow stars that melted in the sun.

And further south, near Arles, you see van Gogh’s
Great swirl of paint do justice to the land,
You feel the mistral’s madness take your hair

To tune the rondo of his cypress trees.
But not one lonely house or stone remains
That he could call his home or refuge there.

‘Le pont de Langlois’ is a replica.
Yet still he strides into the fields with us
Under those energetic clouds and skies.

The bridge of Langlois at Arles with laundresses

 

ISABELLA AND THE STRANGE DEATH OF EDWARD II by Paul Doherty (Review)

England, 1296-1332

By the end of 1311 Isabella was still only fifteen years of age but nevertheless a Queen in her own right, a powerful landowner and a lavish patron. She had a household of over 200. Her tailor, John Falaise, employed sixty seamstresses to maintain and repair the Queen’s robes. Falaise also supervised the Queen’s treasury in the Tower of london – huge iron-bound coffers containing Isabella’s jewels, plates and precious cloths, which were supplemented by gifts from the King. She was given rich wardships and the control of lands whose owners had yet to come of age. The manors of Bourne and Deeping, as well as the royal manor of Eltham, with additional lands in Kent, were added to her estates. She attended her husband, graced the state occasions and made royal tours, such as her pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine in Canterbury, being awarded £140 to defray the costs …

This was the first non-fiction Doherty I ever read and, for those of you out there who enjoy historical fiction but can’t cope with straight history (too much like school), I recommend it: this will open your eyes and change your mind. This is how history can and should be written.

The first half just gives us the facts, a brief biography, of the early life of Isabella of France, daughter of the notorious Philip IV (le Bel), a great queen, a second Eleanor of Aquitaine, but who unlike Eleanor always had a bad press. And always has had, till now.

The heart of the book is in the second half, when Edward II is deposed and dies (is killed?) and is buried in Gloucester Cathedral, Isabella and her paramour Mortimer hold the reins of power until 1330; then the boy king Edward III seizes power and has Mortimer executed. Beneath these few short dramatic years, there lies a mystery. What really happened to Edward II? Did he die as a result of ill treatment and the bad conditions of his imprisonment? Was he murdered, at Isabella’s (or Mortimer’s) orders? Or had he in fact already escaped or been freed by his supporters? If the latter, then the story of his death would have been a cover-up so that when he eventually surfaced, Isabella could claim he was an imposter.

There is not enough evidence to prove conclusively that Edward II did escape, and Fieschi’s letter to Edward III cannot be taken literally, but there is certainly enough evidence to cast serious doubt on the traditional story of his death as depicted in Marlow’s play Edward II.

But read Doherty and see: it is a real “detective” story that reminds me of some of the books about Richard III (Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, for instance). If “truth is the daughter of time”, then it is certainly high time the truth about Isabella and Edward came out into the open.

I particularly like the thought that what happened to her and Edward was all part and parcel of the “Templars’ Curse” put on Philip IV and his family by the dying Jacques de Molay. As Doherty observes,

Isabella’s war-like grandson, the Black Prince, turned France, Spain and Northern Europe into a battleground, ravaging her home country and destroying the massed might of French chivalry at the battles of Crecy and Poitiers. She, the last Capet, saw her father’s great dream crumble into dust. Isabella must have wondered about the curse of Jacques de Molay, screamed from the flames as he burnt to death on an island in the Seine. After all, Isabella was supposed to have brought a lasting peace between England and France by her marriage to Edward II. Instead, her brothers had all died without male issue, leaving Edward III with a claim to the French throne. Isabella had, in effect. brought about a war that would last one hundred years.