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Sunday, 27 January 2019

Songs on Sunday: As the night draws in

[Verse 1: Ghostpoet]
I had a dance with the devil
I couldn't keep his pace
He gave a trademark cackle
I tried to hide my face
Trying to stay on the narrow
The straight's come to an end
I seek prose for a pep talk
I need your help, my friend

[Chorus: Ghostpoet]
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love

[Verse 2: Ghostpoet]
One step at a time
Tattered on our foot
You gave me food for thought
We're packed in on the tube
Bee's sweat on the mission
Crawling down my cheek
Eyes wide like a flatscreen
I haven't reached my peak

[Chorus: Ghostpoet]
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love

[Bridge: Daddy G]
Who gives a fuck if you be acting a clown?
Pass the queen's head and watch it go down
Tit for tat gets a young girl's passion
Hold it on tight to that glass of fashion
Knocking down the spirits till you're dropped to your knees
Don't sneeze, ninja please
We're dancing 'round the toilets in this whimsical scene
And if I be wicked then woe unto me

[Chorus: Ghostpoet]
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
We're all seeking love

© Obaro Ejimiwe/Ghostpoet 2017

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Songs on Sunday: Introduction to Zen Buddhism

First, there is a mountain,
Then, there is no mountain,
Then, there is.

The caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.

Would you like more of an explanation?

No? Fine. Have some philosophy of politics and some logic.

Yes? Okay.

As I see it, we begin with our natural habit of labelling. This here, this is a mountain. Once we have been properly socialised, when we therefore see said physical manifestation (hills notwithstanding) we 'see' the label of mountain.

After, we have analysed this thought process, this socialisation of identification, we might then see the landmark and having unlearned what we have learned 'see' no mountain. Seeing instead what is there, which is not what the human language label says, it is not literally mountain as this is merely our language code for identification. Nor is it der Berg or le Montagne or Yama or any other language's term. What it is, is not a linguistic term. Through philosophical thought you have negated the linguistic mountain, now there is now no mountain.

But it is still there. It is after all existent reality. There is a large rock* there, you see it. (*Yes, it's not just a 'rock' but 'rocky shape' sounds no better) You have not made the mountain by naming it, it always had existence as it has existed, and one way of taking the 'third phase' here (as many do) is that the Zen Buddhist has 'over-intellectualised' matters and has now (in the third phase) returned to 'true' direct reality.

I think that this is not the case. It is not a matter of returning to the status quo unchanged. When we return to the 'there is' we are returning now (having been through phases one and two) as one whose usage of 'mountain' now accepts that it is a human label used merely as a tool for communication (i.e. what language is) rather than the true meaning of the existent 'object'. Existence lives around us, with us or without us, with language or without. There is a mountain.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Quotes Worth Saving (25): Andrew Greig, "Excellent advice."

Part of the reason I've been compiling this list of interesting quotes from books (and so forth) is that there's a particular thrill in coming across something and saying to yourself, "yes, that's how I feel about that too!" A bit of validation I suppose that someone else shares your thoughts. Not many of them however have been quite on the nose as this from Andrew Greig's memoir about the folk music scene in the 1960s in Scotland and, in particular, the Incredible String Band. Former ISB member Mike Heron writes the first 100 pages or so, detailing his teenage years and starting the band. Greig then continues the tale with his own story of his attempted band and finding his own way in the world.

Andrew Greig
You Know What You Could Be
riverrun, London: 2017
'In the Footsteps of the Heron'

Sufism, Maoism, Divine Light, the Maharishi, TM, the Hare Krishnas, Scientology, anarchism, psychoanalysis, life-coaching and, in younger days, the Seaside Summer Mission - there has been much on offer in my lifetime. I have felt the pull of them all. Who does not wish to be saved, to be made whole? Who would not want to shed this burden? 
But even the less preposterous precepts of humanism, Buddhism, the Quakers that my mother joined in her later years - in the end I've turned away from entirely signing up to any of them. Anthea Joseph was opinionated, loyal, generous and darkly troubled, but on this she was right. You must not hand over the burden of yourself to anyone else, not even to your beloved if you're fortunate enough to have one. 
There's a handwritten sign by the A82 on the way to Fort William: Bag your own manure. Excellent advice.

I have also investigated many avenues of thought and routes of potential escape; mysticism, Hermeticism, Taoism, Zen, and others more close to home. However, I've never quite managed to fully commit myself to one cause and for some time I wondered if this was a failing on my part. That this certain unwillingness was in fact a fear of dedication. In the end, I think I would always eschew duty to any one meta-narrative for the responsibility of continued striving. It is better, I would say, to commit one's self to being an always unfinished work in search of, rather than a devotee to any one thing in particular.

Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Words on Wednesday: Norman MacCaig 'The White Bird' 1973

The White Bird
Norman MacCaig
Phoenix Living Poets
Chatto and Windus with The Hogarth Press
ISBN 0 7011 1918 7


I open the second volume
of a rose
and find it says, word for word,
the same as the first one.

The waves of the sea
annoy me, they bore me;
why aren’t they divided
in paragraphs?

I look at the night
and make nothing of it –
those black pages
with no print.

But I love the gothic script
of pinetrees and
on the pond the light’s
fancy italics.

And the cherry tree’s petals –
they make
a sweet lyric, I appreciate
their dying fall.

But it’s strange, girl, how I come back
from the library of everything
to stare and stare at
the closed book of you.

When will you open to me
and show me the meaning of all
the hard words
in the lexicon of love?


So green's my colour, though my country is
Gray stone, gray water.
(I hate a man who calls a country his.)

I watch red minds absolved from bodies go
In my gray weather,
Will-o'-the-wisping, fading as they glow.

Or bodies hulking hugely through the air
Mindlessly wander,
Shagging with browns and blues the grayness there.

Sometimes the bold sun, happening to pass by,
Blushes, just pinker,
The stone, the water and the drowning sky.

What's that to a man whose helpless knowledge is
Green is his colour?
(I hate a man who calls a colour his.)

So, like a bird that, perking up his song,
Denies it's winter,
I say green, green, green, green: and get along.


The mountains fold and move.
I'm not quite lost. The thing that troubles me
Is that the easiest way out
Is not the one that's easiest to see.

I know just where you are.
But how to get there when lochs change their place
And the familiar track
Squirms like an adder into the heather bushes?

I curse my sense: and speak
Into the mist: Stay where you are, please stay -
I've got my compass yet.
It'll get me to you, if not by the easiest way,


I'll save the longest and best from this collection 'Inward Bound' for another day/year.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Words on Wednesday: Norman MacCaig 'Rings on a Tree' 1968

I recently 'discovered' poet Norman MacCaig in typically circuitous fashion. I was recommended Andrew Greig's excellent memoir/homage/meditation 'At the Loch of the Green Corrie' (2010) which I would also recommend to you dear reader.

In these pages I read about the author's connection to this spindly spiky Edinburgh schoolmaster, poet and sometime fisherman, Norman MacCaig, who was one of the explosive set of Scottish poets from the middle to later half of the last century, a group that included such legendary figures as; Edwin Morgan, Sorley MacLean, Sydney Goodsir Smith, Iain Crichton Smith, George MacKay Brown, Hugh MacDiarmid, and others, some of whom I'll be writing about at a later date.

Knowing that my local public library and employer has a reasonable collection of 20th Century Scottish poetry I investigated the reserve and choose this collection to start with based purely on the name, Rings on a Tree (1968). Here are a few from that collection.

Rings on a Tree
Norman MacCaig
The Phoenix Living Poets
Chatto and Windus with the Hogarth Press
SBN 7012 0304 8


Can you keep it so,
cool tree, making a blue cage
for an obstreperous population? -
for a congregation of mediaeval scholars
quarrelling in several languages? -
for busybodies marketing
in the bazaar of green leaves? -
for clockwork fossils that can't be still even
when the Spring runs down?
No tree, no blue cage can contain
that restlessness.  They whirr off
and sow themselves in a scattered handful
on the grass - and are
bustling monks
tilling their green precincts.

Crossing the Border

I sit with my back to the engine, watching
the landscape pouring away out of my eyes.
I think I know where I'm going and have
some choice in the matter.
I think, too, that this was a country
of bog-trotters, moss-troopers,
fired ricks and roof-trees in the black night — glinting
on tossed horns and red blades.
I think of lives
bubbling into the harsh grass.
What difference now?
I sit with my back to the future, watching
time pouring away into the past. I sit, being helplessly
lugged backwards
through the Debatable Lands of history, listening
to the execrations, the scattered cries, the
falling of roof-trees
in the lamentable dark.


Because I see the world poisoned
by cant and brutal self-seeking,
must I be silent about
the useless waterlily, the dunnock's nest
in the hedgeback?

Because I am fifty-six years old
must I love, if I love at all,
only ideas -- not people, but only
the idea of people?

Because there is work to do, to steady
a world jarred off balance,
must a man meet only a fellow-worker
and never a man?

There are more meanings than those
in text books of economics
and a part of the worst slum
is the moon rising over it
and eyes weeping and
mouths laughing.