Friday, 26 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
I wish I could ride a bird side saddle, like this rabbit.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "Bull's-eye." My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have manage to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."
- Billy Collins
Friday, 12 December 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
Other times they ask me what I intend to do, if not a DPhil. The other day I met someone, and told this person that I intend to do something fashion related. Learn to make some clothes - because I've wanted to do that for a long time. This person then asked me where I intend to do that. I said Toronto, because I miss home. Then this person asked why Toronto? Isn't there only about, like, three places in the world to study fashion?
I didn't really know what he meant. But I took it to mean that if you want to study fashion, then it's New York, Paris or Milan. I could laugh my ass off at that. Again, I reiterate: I'm not sure if this is what he meant. But in my mind it seems that he is just so used to be the best at everything that he can't imagine doing something somewhere that isn't the best place for it.
This, ladies and gentleman, is not what I have in mind.
Stupidly competitive as I am with myself and others in my head I don't think that being the best at something matters a whole lot to me anymore. I still have the tendency to compare myself to others - but coming to Oxford has made me realize that being the best simply isn't worth it, in my opinion. At least not for someone like me. There's alot of clever people out there in the world - and you'll have to get up pretty early every day (proverbially) to keep up with them. I think the strain of that would do me in. I hope those people who are the best at things find their lives not too stressful, and quite satisfying.
For me, I just don't think that the satisfaction and the reward would be recompense enough for the hard work, that is all. I ask again - where was Do-nothing in Piers Plowman? What's with all this striving business? I think I can get on and make a pretty satisfying life for myself without being under the strain of having to do Do-well, Do-better, or Do-best.
Instead, I'll do whatever the hell I feel like. At least some of the time. Without worrying about if I've 'achieved my full potential' or some such crap. I say, old friend, what really matters is that I am happy.
So if you are reading this, don't bother asking me what I'll do after I graduate. You know my reply: Yo ho ho, a pirate's life for me.
Monday, 1 December 2008
"How the First Helandman of God was Maid of ane Hors Turd in Argyle"
God and Sanct Peter was gangand be the way
Heiche up in Argyle quhair thair gait lay
Sanct Peter said to God in a sport word
Can ye no mak a helandman of this hors turd
God turnd owre the hors turd wi his pykit staff
An up start the helandman as black as ony draff
Qwod God to the helandman quhair wilt thow now
I will doun to the lawland lord and thair steal a kow
And thou steal a kow carle thair thay will hang the
Quattrick lord of that for anis mon I die
God than he lewch and owre the dyke lap
And owt of his scheith his gowly owtgatt
Sanct Peter socht this gowly fast up an doun
Yit could not find it in all the braid rown
Now qwod God heir a marvell how can this be
That I suld want my gowly an we heir but thre
Humff qwod the helandman an turnd him abowt
An at his plaid neuk the gowly fell owt
Fy qwod Sanct Peter thow will nevir do weill
And thow but new maid sa sone gais to steill
Umff qwod the helandman an swere be yon kirk
Sa lang as I may geir gett to steill will I nevir wirk
- Anon., from the Bannatyne MS (c. 1568)
Lauch Whan Ye Can
"Lauch when ye can"
Said the puddock to the taed:
"For the fairest days are flichty
And we're a lang time daed."
"Hey" sech'd the taed,
Wi a wiggle o his pow:
"I've juist buried my guid-brither
And I'm gey wae the now."
"Come awa man,
Fash nae mair for what has been:
Let's mak merry wi the livin
Sae lang's our luck is in."
Juist as he spak
He was trod on by a coo.
"May the Lord forgie me, puddock,
I'm lauchin herty noo."
- William Soutar
I'm actually working on the first poem as part of my C essay. So if anyone's got any insights, do share!
My friend Louise works for a charitable organization called People & Planet, a student action group on world poverty, human rights, and the environment. She recently sent out an email publicizing some ways we can help P&P by doing not very much at all - so take note, everyone!
People & Planet have a deal with Amazon wherby if you shop through our link we get 5% of what you spend. Free money...happy days! So if you're buying any Christmas pressies off Amazon this year please do so via:
You could save this link in your bookmarks. Remember: if you want to open new Amazon windows as you search, do it via this link in order for us to get the cash.
Also, from 1 December any donations made to P&P will be matched by the Reed Foundation. So if you've ever vaguely wondered about giving a fiver to People & Planet then do it this way and we'll get a tenner (plus gift aid)! More free money! Donations need to come via: