Friday, 24 March 2017

Dead Poets Society #31

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Blues by Derek Walcott

Those five or six young guys
lunched on the stoop
that oven-hot summer night
whistled me over. Nice
and friendly. So, I stop.
MacDougal or Christopher
Street in chains of light.

A summer festival. Or some
saint's. I wasn't too far from
home, but not too bright
for a nigger, and not too dark.
I figured we were all
one, wop, nigger, jew,
besides, this wasn't Central Park.
I'm coming on too strong? You figure
right! They beat this yellow nigger
black and blue.

Yeah. During all this, scared
on case one used a knife,
I hung my olive-green, just-bought
sports coat on a fire plug.
I did nothing. They fought
each other, really. Life
gives them a few kcks,
that's all. The spades, the spicks.

My face smashed in, my bloddy mug
pouring, my olive-branch jacket saved
from cuts and tears,
I crawled four flights upstairs.
Sprawled in the gutter, I
remember a few watchers waved
loudly, and one kid's mother shouting
like 'Jackie' or 'Terry,'
'now that's enough!'
It's nothing really.
They don't get enough love.

You know they wouldn't kill
you. Just playing rough,
like young Americans will.
Still it taught me somthing
about love. If it's so tough,
forget it.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Make You Feel My Love
Love Is (new song)
Can't Help Falling In Love

Da Elderly: -
You've Got A Friend
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

The Elderly Brothers: -
Then I Kissed Her
When Will I Be Loved?
You Got It
You Never Can Tell

A very quiet start to proceedings, with a half empty bar. But as the open mic kicked off folks started to drift in and very soon we had a sizable audience to witness the usual eclectic mix of performers and tunesmiths. Ron's new song Love Is was well received - a ballad with echoes of early Fleetwood Mac. The Elderlys dug out songs by The Bee Gees and Roy Orbison and paid their own tribute to the recently departed Chuck Berry. The after-party acoustic jam featured mostly Elvis and Neil Young, with a little Springsteen thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Colin Dexter RIP

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Colin Dexter obituary
Crime writer who created the deep-thinking Oxford detective Inspector Morse

Dennis Barker
The Guardian
Tuesday 21 March 2017

Though he thought of himself primarily as a school teacher, Colin Dexter will be remembered as the crime writer who created the curmudgeonly but entertaining Inspector Morse. Morse, the beer, crossword and Wagner-loving detective who drives a vintage Jaguar around Oxford, solves murders by deep thinking, often about chance remarks made by his sidekick, Sergeant Lewis.

Dexter, who has died aged 86, claimed that he was no writer, but could revise his “bad starts” into something that worked. The formula was certainly a success for some dozen Morse novels and many original scripts for television, the medium that delivered the doings of the idiosyncratic Morse to an audience across 50 countries. “I just started writing and forced myself to keep going,” he said. “And it’s been the same ever since.”

Intellectually rather like Morse, Dexter was a master of the literary high wire. Morse’s first name was kept under wraps for years, always presenting audiences with a riddle to be solved – a riddle almost as interesting as the one about why Morse, though presented as constantly falling in love with women, never married one.

Only gradually was it leaked out that his first name began with an E. But the secret about his first name – in real life it would have appeared on documents easily accessible at the police station – was not dispelled until 1996, when there was a landslide of useful publicity about the disclosure that the name was not Edward, nor Ernest, or even Enoch, as some pundits had speculated, but Endeavour – because Morse’s parents had been Quakers who greatly admired Captain Cook, whose ship bore that name.

Dexter happily went along with publicity strategies to boost Morse because he felt he owed a debt of gratitude to his publishers but, like Morse, he hated cant and pretentiousness. He made millions out of Morse but lived in the same four-bedroomed house in Oxford that he had occupied since moving to the city in 1966.

He was neither impressed by displays of wealth nor anxious to live up to his income, his main sybaritic expenditure being on red wine, Flowers beer, whisky and his car. The last of these was as elderly as Morse’s, but of a lesser make. The one extravagance to which Dexter would admit was his purchase of the first editions of the works of AE Housman. He had planned to write a book on Housman when he finished with his detective, but found by that time that other writers had cornered the market.

Dexter was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire. His father, Alfred, was a taxi driver who had left school at 12, as had Colin’s mother, Dorothy (nee Towns), and was determined that Colin and his elder brother, John, should be well educated. The boys were not required to do any domestic chores but were expected to spend every available moment studying. Both gained scholarships to the independent Stamford school, and Colin then went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he studied classics.

He became a classics teacher, claiming for the rest of his life that he was a born teacher rather than a writer: he took no interest in the moral welfare of his pupils but prided himelf on getting them better exam results than they thought they were capable of. He taught at schools in Loughborough and Leicester, and by his mid-30s was head of classics at a school in Corby, Northamptonshire. It was there that he discovered there was something seriously wrong with his hearing.

He was teaching The Aeneid, Book II, when he began to feel that there was something going on that he knew nothing about. In fact, pupils in the fifth form were playing pop music during his lessons at ever increasing volume, but he could not hear it. His family history might have warned him of approaching danger: all four of his grandparents, an uncle and his father became deaf.

This had the effect of making him seek a second career in which impaired hearing would not be a disadvantage. So he became a GCE examiner for the Oxford University Board. It required him to move to Oxford, and he remained there from 1966 until 1987, by which time Morse had changed his life.

The first of the Inspector Morse novels, Last Bus To Woodstock (1975), was written because, with his wife, Dorothy, and two sons, Dexter was on holiday in north Wales at a time when the rain never seemed to stop. Thoroughly miserable and bored, he read both the detective novels in their holiday accommodation, decided that they were not much good and thought he could do better. With the benefit of medieval and suburban Oxford as the setting (Dexter reckoned that he would never have become a writer had he moved to Rotherham), Last Bus to Woodstock proved the point.

The names for the characters were chosen with the same liking for intellectual riddles as the plots. He chose the name for Morse, and for all the others in the novel, except for the murderer, from a crossword, at a time when he entered regularly for the Observer Ximenes puzzle, which was won more often by Sir Jeremy Morse and a Mrs B Lewis.

Once it was obvious that he had found a winning character and setting, Dexter seriously set about writing detective novels. There were 12 more in the Morse series, including Service of All the Dead (1979), for which he won the Silver Dagger award of the Crime Writers’ Association, The Dead of Jericho (1981), another Silver Dagger-winner, The Wench is Dead (1989), for which he won the Gold Dagger, The Way Through the Woods (1992), another Gold Dagger-winner, and the last, The Remorseful Day (1999), which killed off Morse, as well as a short-story collection, Morse’s Greatest Mystery (1993).

The first of 33 episodes of the Inspector Morse television series was presented in 1987, with John Thaw as Morse and Kevin Whately as Lewis, and Dexter himself appearing in various cameos. When the novels ran out, Dexter wrote additional scripts for Morse before turning over the series to other writers. The last episode, in 2000, featured Morse’s death, and after Thaw’s death in 2002, Dexter stipulated that no other actor should reprise the role. However, the story continued in a spin-off series, Lewis (2006-15), and a prequel series, Endeavour, with Shaun Evans as the young Morse, which began in 2012.

Dexter was often asked whether he wrote for a readership or for himself. His answer was that he wrote for his old English teacher Mr Sharp. He would write a page and then ask himself, “Would Mr Sharp like that?” His aim was to feel that Mr Sharp would give it at least eight out of 10.

Dexter was appointed OBE in 2000. He is survived by Dorothy (nee Cooper), whom he married in 1956, their children Jeremy and Sally, and two grandsons, Thomas and James.

• Norman Colin Dexter, teacher and writer, born 29 September 1930; died 21 March 2017

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Chuck Berry RIP

Chuck Berry, wild man of rock who helped define its rebellious spirit, dies at 90
Chuck Berry, a charismatic singer, songwriter and one of the greatest guitarists of all time, died March 18 at at his home in St. Charles County, Mo. He was 90.

Terence McArdle
TheWashington Post
18 March 2017

Chuck Berry, the perpetual wild man of rock music who helped define its rebellious spirit in the 1950s and was the sly poet laureate of songs about girls, cars, school and even the “any old way you choose it” vitality of the music itself, died March 18 at at his home in St. Charles County, Mo. He was 90.

St. Charles County police announced the death in a Facebook post on its Website, saying officers responded to a medical emergency at Mr. Berry’s home and administered lifesaving techniques but could not revive him. No further information was available.

“While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together,” reads Mr. Berry’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

A seminal figure in early rock music, he was all the rarer still for writing, singing and playing his own music. His songs and the boisterous performance standards he set directly influenced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and later Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger.

Mr. Berry so embodied the American rock tradition that his recording of “Johnny B. Goode” was included on a disc launched into space on the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977.

Besides Mr. Berry, members of the rock hall of fame’s inaugural class included Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino and the Everly Brothers. Of those he survived, Mr. Berry remained among the most indefatigable and acclaimed performers, playing concerts all over the world well into his 80s.

Despite John Lennon’s oft-quoted quip — “If you tried to give rock-and-roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’ ” — Mr. Berry was an unlikely idol for a burgeoning teen subculture that he sang about at the dawn of the rock era.

He was 30, married and the father of two when he made his first recording, “Maybellene” in 1955. The song — a story of a man in a Ford V8 chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in a Cadillac Coupe de Ville — charted No. 1 on Billboard’s rhythm-and-blues chart and No. 5 on the pop music charts.

It was soon followed by “Rock and Roll Music” (“it’s got a backbeat, you can’t lose it”) and“Sweet Little Sixteen,” whose astute reference to the teen-oriented TV show “American Bandstand” (“Well, they’ll be rockin’ on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P.A.”) helped him connect to adolescent record-buyers.

With his lithe, athletic body, high cheekbones and perfectly pomaded hair, Mr. Berry personified the dangerous appeal of rock. He’d grin salaciously and telegraph the lyrics with a wide-eyed, almost childlike exuberance and then shoot across the stage, unleashing a staccato burst of bright, blaring guitar notes.

When he went into his signature “duck walk,” his legs seemed to be made of rubber, and his whole body moved with clocklike precision — the visual statement of his music’s kinetic energy. His charisma was the gold standard for all the rock-and-roll extroverts who followed.

He once told The Washington Post that he initiated the duck walk at the Brooklyn Paramount theater in 1956, based on a pose he sometimes struck as a child. “I had nothing else to do during the instrumental part of the song,” he said. “I did it, and here comes the applause. Well, I knew to coin anything that was that entertaining, so I kept it up.”

Mr. Berry was credited with penning more than 100 songs, the best known of which used carefully crafted rhymes and offered tightly written vignettes about American life. They became an influential part of the national soundtrack for generations of listeners and practitioners.

“Back in the U.S.A.” (1959), later covered by Linda Ronstadt, delighted in an America where “hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day.” And “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell)” (1957), written about the over-crowded St. Louis schools of Mr. Berry’s youth, became an anthem for bored, restless kids everywhere.

The Beach Boys had a hit record with “Surfin’ USA” (1963), its melody borrowed without credit from “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The Beatles began their first U.S. concert, at the Washington Coliseum, with Mr. Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956).

And when Bob Dylan turned toward electric rock-and-roll, he acknowledged that his “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965) borrowed its meter almost directly from Mr. Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business’’ (1956).

Perhaps the most performed of his songs — indeed, one of the most performed of all rock songs — was “Johnny B. Goode” (1957). Its storyline embodied Mr. Berry’s own experience as a black man born into segregation who lived to see “his name in lights:”

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans

Way back up in the woods among the evergreens

There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood

Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode

Who never ever learned to read or write so well

But he could play the guitar just like a ringin’ a bell

“The gateway from freedom, I was told, was somewhere near New Orleans where most Africans were sorted through and sold” into slavery, Mr. Berry wrote in his self-titled 1987 memoir. “I’d been told my grandfather lived ‘back up in the woods among the evergreens’ in a log cabin. I revived the era with a story about a ‘colored boy named Johnny B. Goode.’  ”

Mr. Berry said he knew the song could have a wider appeal. “I thought it would seem biased to my white fans to say ‘colored boy’ so I changed it to ‘country boy,’ ” he added.

In an interview with The Washington Post this year, rock historian Albin Zak called Mr. Berry a “very literate” wordsmith but that more important was the “durability” of his songs.

“In early rock-and-roll, there were so many one-hit wonders, but Chuck had so many hits that he was one of the most recognizable stars in the business,” Zak said. “When rock became solidified in 1964 and the British invasion comes along with bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones performing Chuck Berry songs, it seals the deal on the vitality of that repertoire. His music became tradition at that point.”

Despite Mr. Berry’s charisma, race played a factor in preventing him from achieving Elvis-like levels of commercial success in Hollywood and Las Vegas. He had hits including “No Particular Place to Go” (1964) and “Dear Dad” (1965) and appeared in “The T.A.M.I. Show,” a 1965 concert film with James Brown, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and Marvin Gaye. But Mr. Berry was relegated to the oldies circuit by the end of the decade.

In 1987, in the wake of his induction into the rock hall of fame, Mr. Berry released his memoir and was the subject of “Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a documentary and concert film featuring guest performers including Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.

At the time, Mr. Berry said he was wary of accepting a crown — bestowed by critics or peers — as a “king” of rock music.

“It’s not me to toot my horn,” he told The Washington Post. “The minute you toot your horn, it seems like society will try and disconnect your battery. And if you do not toot your horn, they’ll try their darnedest to give you a horn to toot, or say that you should have a horn. It’s them that creates the demand, so let them toot the horn.”

Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in St. Louis on Oct. 18, 1926. His father was a carpenter and handyman.

He was 14 when he began playing guitar and performing at parties, but that was interrupted by a three-year stint in reform school for his role in a bungled armed robbery. After his release, he worked on an automobile assembly line while studying for a career in hairdressing.

On weekends, he sang at the Cosmopolitan Club in East St. Louis, Ill., with a group led by pianist Johnnie Johnson, who later played on many of Mr. Berry’s records.

At the urging of Muddy Waters, Mr. Berry took his demo tapes to Chess Records, the Chicago label that specialized in blues and urban rhythm-and-blues. Label owner Leonard Chess was impressed by “Ida May,” a country-and-western-styled tune, and said he would allow Mr. Berry to record it if he would change the name to “Maybellene.”

The song’s countrified style and Mr. Berry’s non-bluesy intonation reportedly led many disc jockeys to assume that he was white, and the song’s popularity with white record-buyers helped spur his quick rise in the music industry.

His savvy about the unsavory business practices of the day — giving co-writing credits to deejays, such as Alan Freed, in exchange for frequent airplay — also propelled his career.

His career was nearly derailed in 1959, when he was arrested on a federal charge of taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines for immoral purposes. Mr. Berry was convicted but granted an appeal on the basis of racist remarks made by the judge. A second trial also ended in a conviction. Mr. Berry eventually served 18 months of a three-year sentence and paid a $10,000 fine.

He was released in 1963, soon to find his career overtaken by a second wave of rockers and the so-called British invasion of bands, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He continued to be drawn into the headlines by legal troubles. In 1979, he served four months in Lompoc Federal Prison in California for tax evasion.

In 1989, Hosana Huck, a cook in Mr. Berry’s St. Louis restaurant, the Southern Air, sued him, claiming that he secretly videotaped her and other women in the establishment’s restroom. Huck’s suit was followed by a class-action suit by other unnamed women. Mr. Berry denied any wrongdoing but settled out of court in 1995 for $1.5 million.

In 1948, Mr. Berry married Themetta Suggs, known as Toddy. Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Berry receiveda Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 1984 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000.

In later years, when Mr. Berry reflected on his age, he always made it clear that he intended to keep rocking as long as he lived.

“Elvis’s songs will always be there, and I hope mine will be after I’m gone,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. “But you can’t compare that, because he’s gone and I’m not!”

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Derek Walcott RIP

Derek Walcott, Poet and Nobel Laureate of the Caribbean, Dies at 87

William Grimes
The New York Times
17 March 2017

Derek Walcott, whose intricately metaphorical poetry captured the physical beauty of the Caribbean, the harsh legacy of colonialism and the complexities of living and writing in two cultural worlds, bringing him a Nobel Prize in Literature, died early Friday morning at his home near Gros Islet in St. Lucia. He was 87.

His death was confirmed by his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. No cause was given, but he had been in poor health for some time, the publisher said.

Mr. Walcott’s expansive universe revolved around a tiny sun, the island of St. Lucia. Its opulent vegetation, blinding white beaches and tangled multicultural heritage inspired, in its most famous literary son, an ambitious body of work that seemingly embraced every poetic form, from the short lyric to the epic.

With the publication of the collection “In a Green Night” in 1962, critics and poets, Robert Lowell among them, leapt to recognize a powerful new voice in Caribbean literature and to praise the sheer musicality of Mr. Walcott’s verse, the immediacy of its visual images, its profound sense of place.

He had first attracted attention on St. Lucia with a book of poems that he published himself as a teenager. Early on, he showed a remarkable ear for the music of English — heard in the poets whose work he absorbed in his Anglocentric education and on the lips of his fellow St. Lucians — and a painter’s eye for the particulars of the local landscape: its beaches and clouds; its turtles, crabs and tropical fish; the sparkling expanse of the Caribbean.

In the poem “Islands,” from the collection “In a Green Night,” he wrote:

I seek,
As climate seeks its style, to write
Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,
Cold as the curled wave, ordinary
As a tumbler of island water.

He told The Economist in 1990: “The sea is always present. It’s always visible. All the roads lead to it. I consider the sound of the sea to be part of my body. And if you say in patois, ‘The boats are coming back,’ the beat of that line, its metrical space, has to do with the sound and rhythm of the sea itself.”

There was nothing shy about Mr. Walcott’s poetic voice. It demanded to be heard, in all its sensuous immediacy and historical complexity.

“I come from a place that likes grandeur; it likes large gestures; it is not inhibited by flourish; it is a rhetorical society; it is a society of physical performance; it is a society of style,” he told The Paris Review in 1985. “I grew up in a place in which if you learned poetry, you shouted it out. Boys would scream it out and perform it and do it and flourish it. If you wanted to approximate that thunder or that power of speech, it couldn’t be done by a little modest voice in which you muttered something to someone else.”

Mr. Walcott’s art developed and expanded in works like “The Castaway,” “The Gulf” and “Another Life,” a 4,000-line inquiry into his life and surroundings, published in 1973. The Caribbean poet George Lamming called it “the history of an imagination.”

Mr. Walcott quickly won recognition as one of the finest poets writing in English and as an enormously ambitious artist — ambitious for himself, his art and his people.

He had a sense of the Caribbean’s grandeur that inspired him to write “Omeros,” a transposed Homeric epic of more than 300 pages, published in 1990, with humble fishermen and a taxi driver standing in for the heroes of ancient Greece.

Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize. The prize committee cited him for “a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.”

It continued: “In his literary works Walcott has laid a course for his own cultural environment, but through them he speaks to each and every one of us. In him, West Indian culture has found its great poet.”

As a poet, Mr. Walcott plumbed the paradoxes of identity intrinsic to his situation. He was a mixed-race poet living on a British-ruled island whose people spoke French-based Creole or English.

In “A Far Cry From Africa,” included in “In a Green Night” — his first poetry collection to be published outside St. Lucia — he wrote:

Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?

Derek Alton Walcott was born on Jan. 23, 1930, in Castries, a port city on the island of St. Lucia. His father, Warwick, a schoolteacher and watercolorist, died when he was an infant, and he was raised by his schoolteacher mother, the former Alix Maarlin.

Both his parents, like many St. Lucians, were the products of racially mixed marriages. Derek was raised as a Methodist, which made him an exception on St. Lucia, a largely Roman Catholic island, and at his Catholic secondary school, St. Mary’s College.

His education was Anglocentric and thoroughly traditional. “I was taught English literature as my natural inheritance,” he wrote in the essay “The Muse of History.” “Forget the snow and daffodils. They were real, more real than the heat and oleander, perhaps, because they lived on the page, in imagination, and therefore in memory.”

He published his first poem at 14, in a local newspaper. With a loan from his mother, he began publishing his poetry in pamphlets while still at St. Mary’s. His early models were Marlowe and Milton.

At the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, where he majored in French, Latin and Spanish, he began writing plays, entering into a lifelong but rocky love affair with the theater. His first play, about the revolutionary Haitian leader Henri Christophe, was produced in St. Lucia in 1950.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1953, Mr. Walcott taught school in St. Lucia, Grenada and Jamaica while continuing to write and stage plays. His verse dramas “Ione” and “Sea at Dauphin” were produced in Trinidad in 1954. “Ti-Jean and His Brothers,” a retelling of a Trinidadian folk tale in which Lucifer tries to steal the souls of three brothers, was produced in Trinidad in 1958.

Mr. Walcott studied directing with José Quintero in New York for a year and, on returning to the West Indies, founded a repertory company, the Little Carib Theater Workshop, which in the late 1960s became the Trinidad Theater Workshop. One of the group’s first productions was Mr. Walcott’s “Malcochon.”

His best-known play was “Dream on Monkey Mountain,” which received an Off Broadway production in 1971. He later wrote the book and collaborated with the singer and songwriter Paul Simon on the lyrics for “The Capeman,” a musical about a Puerto Rican gang member who murdered three people in Manhattan in 1959. The show opened at the Marquis Theater in 1998 and closed after 68 performances, becoming one of the most expensive flops in Broadway history.

With the publication of “In a Green Night” in 1962, Mr. Walcott captured the attention of British and American critics. Robert Lowell in particular was enthusiastic, and served as a point of entry to the American literary world. With each succeeding collection — “Selected Poems” (1964), “The Castaway” (1969), “The Gulf” (1970) and “Sea Grapes” (1976) — Mr. Walcott established himself as something more than an interesting local poet.

“Aficionados of Caribbean writing have been aware for some time that Derek Walcott is the first considerable English-speaking poet to emerge from the bone-white Arcadia of the old slaveocracies,” the poet and critic Selden Rodman wrote in a review of “The Gulf” in The New York Times Book Review. “Now, with the publication of his fourth book of verse, Walcott’s stature in the front rank of all contemporary poets using English should be apparent.”

The lyric strain in Mr. Walcott’s poetry never disappeared, but he increasingly took on complex narrative projects and expanded his vision of the Caribbean to accommodate an epic treatment of the themes that had always engaged him. The artistic self-portrait of “Another Life,” with its rich, metaphor-heavy intertwining of the artist’s developing sensibility and the lush landscape of St. Lucia, set the bar for Mr. Walcott’s later, increasingly ambitious poetry.

In “Omeros” — the title is the modern Greek word for Homer — Mr. Walcott cast his net wide, embracing all of Caribbean history from time immemorial, with special attention to the slave trade, and refracting its story through Homeric legend. In his hands, the Caribbean became not a backwater but a crossroads — what the scholar Jorge Hernandez Martin, writing in the magazine Americas in 1994, called “a dispersion zone, a sort of switchboard with input from and output to other parts of the world.”

Travel and exile were constants in Mr. Walcott’s poetry. “Tiepolo’s Hound” (2000) presented a dual portrait of the author and the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, who spent his childhood in the Caribbean before being transplanted to Paris. Like his father, Mr. Walcott was an accomplished watercolorist; his landscape paintings appear on his book jackets, and in “Tiepolo’s Hound” they are interspersed through the book.

The wanderings in “Omeros” were rivaled by Mr. Walcott’s own zigzag itinerary as a teacher and lecturer at universities around the world. He taught at Boston University from 1981 until retiring in 2007, dividing his time among Boston, New York and St. Lucia but constantly en route.

“The Prodigal” (2004), a late-life summation with a distinctly elegiac undercurrent, offered a glimpse of the author’s restless movements, which take him, in the course of the poem, to Italy, Colombia, France and Mexico. “Prodigal, what were your wanderings about?” he wrote. “The smoke of homecoming, the smoke of departure.”

Mr. Walcott’s three marriages ended in divorce. His survivors include his longtime companion, Sigrid Nama; a son, Peter; two daughters, Anna Walcott-Hardy and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw; and several grandchildren. His twin brother, Roderick, a playwright, died in 2000.

In 2009, Mr. Walcott was proposed for the honorary post of professor of poetry at Oxford University. His candidacy was derailed when academics at Oxford received an anonymous package containing photocopied pages of a book describing allegations of sexual harassment brought by a Harvard student decades earlier. Mr. Walcott withdrew his name.

“I am disappointed that such low tactics have been used in this election, and I do not want to get into a race for a post where it causes embarrassment to those who have chosen to support me for the role or to myself,” he told The Evening Standard of London. He added, “While I was happy to be put forward for the post, if it has degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination, I do not want to be part of it.”

Mr. Walcott was always conscious of writing as a man apart, from a corner of the world whose literature was in its infancy. This peculiar position, he argued, had its advantages. “There can be virtues in deprivation,” he said in his Nobel lecture, describing the “luck” of being present in the early morning of a culture.

“For every poet, it is always morning in the world,” he said. “History a forgotten, insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.”

Friday, 17 March 2017

Dead Poets Society #30

Image result for james joyce

The Ballad Of Persse O'Reilly by James Joyce

Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
By the butt of the Magazine Wall,
(Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?

He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he's kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he'll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
(Chorus) To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.

He was fafafather of all schemes for to bother us
Slow coaches and immaculate contraceptives for the populace,
Mare's milk for the sick, seven dry Sundays a week,
Openair love and religion's reform,
(Chorus) And religious reform,
Hideous in form.

Arrah, why, says you, couldn't he manage it?
I'll go bail, my fine dairyman darling,
Like the bumping bull of the Cassidys
All your butter is in your horns.
(Chorus) His butter is in his horns.
Butter his horns!

(Repeat) Hurrah there, Hosty, frosty Hosty, change that shirt
on ye,
Rhyme the rann, the king of all ranns!

Balbaccio, balbuccio!

We had chaw chaw chops, chairs, chewing gum, the chicken-pox
and china chambers
Universally provided by this soffsoaping salesman.
Small wonder He'll Cheat E'erawan our local lads nicknamed him.
When Chimpden first took the floor
(Chorus) With his bucketshop store
Down Bargainweg, Lower.

So snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous
But soon we'll bonfire all his trash, tricks and trumpery
And 'tis short till sheriff Clancy'll be winding up his unlimited
With the bailiff's bom at the door,
(Chorus) Bimbam at the door.
Then he'll bum no more.

Sweet bad luck on the waves washed to our island
The hooker of that hammerfast viking
And Gall's curse on the day when Eblana bay
Saw his black and tan man-o'-war.
(Chorus) Saw his man-o'-war
On the harbour bar.

Where from? roars Poolbeg. Cookingha'pence, he bawls
Donnez-moi scampitle, wick an wipin'fampiny
Fingal Mac Oscar Onesine Bargearse Boniface
Thok's min gammelhole Norveegickers moniker
Og as ay are at gammelhore Norveegickers cod.
(Chorus) A Norwegian camel old cod.
He is, begod.

Lift it, Hosty, lift it, ye devil, ye! up with the rann,
the rhyming rann!

It was during some fresh water garden pumping
Or, according to the Nursing Mirror, while admiring the monkeys
That our heavyweight heathen Humpharey
Made bold a maid to woo
(Chorus) Woohoo, what'll she doo!
The general lost her maidenloo!

He ought to blush for himself, the old hayheaded philosopher,
For to go and shove himself that way on top of her.
Begob, he's the crux of the catalogue
Of our antediluvial zoo,
(Chorus) Messrs Billing and Coo.
Noah's larks, good as noo.

He was joulting by Wellinton's monument
Our rotorious hippopopotamuns
When some bugger let down the backtrap of the omnibus
And he caught his death of fusiliers,
(Chorus) With his rent in his rears.
Give him six years.

'Tis sore pity for his innocent poor children
But look out for his missus legitimate!
When that frew gets a grip of old Earwicker
Won't there be earwigs on the green?
(Chorus) Big earwigs on the green,
The largest ever you seen.

Suffoclose! Shikespower! Seudodanto! Anonymoses!

Then we'll have a free trade Gael's band and mass meeting
For to sod him the brave son of Scandiknavery.
And we'll bury him down in Oxmanstown
Along with the devil and the Danes,
(Chorus) With the deaf and dumb Danes,
And all their remains.

And not all the king's men nor his horses
Will resurrect his corpus
For there's no true spell in Connacht or hell
(bis) That's able to raise a Cain.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Da Elderly: -
I Am A Child
Is It Only The Moonlight?

Ron Elderly: -
Love Is The Drug
Just My Imagination

The Elderly Brothers: -
When Will I Be Loved
Out Of Time
Bring It On Home To Me

Our host David Ward Maclean kicked off the evening by playing tunes from his new album "Nine Songs", this being an appetiser for the full band versions (hopefully with extra tracks) to be recorded in the not too distant future. An earlier post on Facebook had alerted folks and The Habit was rather full as a result. There were so many players that late-comers had to be disappointed, but my, what an outstanding night of open mic music! A rare Habit outing for the excellent duo Mulholland, the lass with the Gretch resonator guitar and our Spanish guitar duo friends all added to what was a very special night. The Elderlys finished off the night with just 10mins left, but pleas from the audience, including a very excitable lass from Whickham, resulted in an extended unplugged session with songs by the Everly Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles.

I knew a girl from Whickham once; no, wait a minute, it was twice...

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

John Burnside - America

Image result for john burnside poet


When I sleep, I am also the stranger I used to be,

driving from Monterey to Calistoga

or leaving the car at the edge of a country road

and crossing the Brandywine in the yellow of morning;

and this is as close as I come to a mind I can love,
slowing for deer on a fire road near Shipshewana,

or later, in some blue-lit Kansas town
stopping a while to watch, as a gaggle of children

play out the final innings of a day
they'd thought was theirs, and could have been forever.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting at The Louvre - review

Image result for Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Johannes Vermeer - Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, c.1662 - 63

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting review – the birth of the cool
Louvre, Paris
Vermeer exhibitions are often padded out with his lesser peers – but here, fine choices illuminate the staggering soulfulness of the Dutch master

Jonathan Jones
Tuesday 21 February 2017

Some artists are so dazzling they reduce all around them to greyness. Their genius is a flame for us moths who queue for hours to see any exhibition with their name on it. 

Image result for vermeer woman holding a balance
Johannes Vermeer - Woman Holding a Balance, c.1664

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting, which opens this week at the Louvre, was already jam-packed when I went to see it and that was two days before the general public was allowed in. No wonder. This is a unique chance to see some of Vermeer’s most stupendous masterpieces in one place – about a third of his entire surviving output, including such glories as The Milkmaid (c.1660), lent by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Woman Holding A Balance (c.1664) from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the marvellous Woman with a Lute (c.1662-63) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Image result for vermeer the milkmaid
Johannes Vermeer - The Milkmaid, c.1660

This is by far the biggest and best array of Vermeer’s precious paintings that I have seen in any exhibition, and it makes the show a must for anyone who has ever been entranced by his poetic moments of inner drama.

Johannes Vermeer - The Lacemaker, c.1669 - 70

But what about all the other artists in this exhibition – those “Masters of Genre Painting”? Are they left looking stupid next to the genius from Delft? For every Vermeer in this blockbuster there are several paintings by his 17th-century Dutch contemporaries such as Gerard ter Borch, Nicolaes Maes and Gerrit Dou. So it goes with Vermeer exhibitions. His output was small and his paintings are treasures; even when the selection of his paintings is as fine as it is here, it needs fleshing out, just to make up the numbers. All too often, this results in frustrating shows where you move on past minor paintings to get to the next pearl by Vermeer.

So where Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting truly leaps into a league of its own is by making you look at, and appreciate, the “lesser” lights of 17th-century Dutch art. They only look lesser when you set them next to Vermeer – and this brilliantly chosen exhibition casts even that into doubt.

Vermeer is one the most acute painters of everyday life who has ever lived, yet his fascination with domestic scenes was not unique among his rivals. It was not even original. He is one of many Dutch artists in the 1600s who rejected the big, noisy stuff of traditional art – battles, myths, martyrdoms – and preferred to paint a man offering a woman a drink, a servant watching while her mistress writes a letter, a doctor making a diagnosis: episodes that take place not in palaces but canalside merchant houses.

The title of this exhibition uses the traditional name for this art that would have been used by Joshua Reynolds in the 18th century or John Ruskin in the 19th: “genre” painting. This slightly dismissive term reflects the fact that long after they were created, these radically realist paintings were seen as vulgar and trivial compared with a noble portrait of a king on horseback or a vision of the Olympian gods.

Hendrik Maertensz Sorgh - The Lute Player, 1661

In Hendrick Martensz Sorgh’s The Lute Player (1661), a woman listens languidly while a man plays his lute for her at a table laden with fruit. The room they are in opens onto a sunny canal, and the summer mood is sensual. A dog looks at us out of the painting, sharing its cynical view of this flirtatious situation. And that’s it. The drama is implied, not shown. Maybe we’re witnesses to adultery, while her husband is away on business. May it’s just an innocent music lesson.

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Gerrit Dou - La Cuisiniere Hollandaise, c.1640 - 1650

Such paintings of everyday moments turn the drama of art inward, and make it hesitant, uncertain, complex. Right and wrong are not obvious. There are no dragons. Ter Borch’s Officer Writing a Letter (c.1658-59) is a quiet moment from military life. While the officer concentrates on his writing, a soldier waits with a brooding look on his face. Is it a love letter the long-haired officer is writing, or news of a defeat?

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting gets away from the idea that used to be overdone by art historians, that every Dutch Golden Age painting has a clear moral. Far from warning in flashing lights against drinking with men or having secret lovers, these are paintings that tell deliberately unfinished and unresolved stories.

Gabriel Metsu - Young Man Writing a Letter, c.1664 - 66

They tend to have women as their central characters. More clearly than ever before, this exhibition reveals the feminisation of art in 17th-century Holland. Genre painters take us into the domestic world, behind the windows of merchant houses, into the spaces in which women spent their lives 300 years ago. We see something like the reality of women’s lives in the past as a doctor takes a young mother’s pulse, while a clock ticks away the hours of life, or a woman concentrates on domestic work in Maes’s painting Young Woman Sewing (1655).

Samuel van Hoogstraten, The Slippers, aka View of an Interior, c.1655 - 62

The most radically realist painting here is not by Vermeer. It is Samuel van Hoogstraten’s View of an Interior (c.1655-62), in which we look through an open door into a tiled room where a painting by Ter Borch hangs on a white wall above a white chair. We are inside the servants’ quarters. There is a broom propped up in the shadows. Hoogstraten reveals the reality of a Dutch house as he gives us a servant’s perspective on its domestic perfections.

So what marks out Vermeer? Does he just become one of the crowd, after all? On the contrary. By rooting him in his age this exhibition reveals his true distinction.

Image result for johannes vermeer the letter 1670
Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, 1670

Some people (including David Hockney) think he used a camera obscura or other early optical device to make his pictures that much more real, and it’s not impossible. In his great Woman with a Lute, the furniture in the foreground is seen in deep shadow, while bright light, as bright as the image in a camera obscura, illuminates the young woman’s face, collar and earring. She practically shines. Are these intense yet subtle contrasts of light the kinds of effects Vermeer noticed when using a camera-like device?

Johannes Vermeer - Woman with Lute, 1663

Maybe, but he’d still have to create those blues and yellows, greys and silvers on his brush. Vermeer’s colours are purer and stranger than those of his rivals; he uses his own poetic palette of sensually cool tones that create a deeper, more enigmatic mood. For the distinction of Vermeer is not just technical or optical. That’s why a secret camera seems such a poor explanation for his art. His paintings have an extra dimension of soul. Far from observing the visible world more acutely than his contemporaries, he looks beyond it more insightfully than they do. Time and again, comparing his paintings with similar scenes by other Dutch artists in this majestic display, it is the greater sympathy and imagination of his art that leaps out. Other artists can show women playing lutes, their faces fixed on sheet music. Only Vermeer can show us the inner life of his lutenist as she looks poignantly into the silver light from the window, thinking of a world beyond, waiting for news from a lover perhaps. On the wall above her hangs a meticulously painted map, showing ships on the North sea and Atlantic. Is her lover or husband off trading in Asia, or London, or Muscovy? All she can do is wait, and play sad music.

Her face is so expressive, so full of light. It is the human depth of Vermeer that is utterly confounding. Like Van Hoogstraten he looks beyond the well furnished quarters of the house into the less than spotless kitchen where a servant patiently pours milk out of an earthenware jug. Her face is a disciplined mask, her eyes downcast. Her name will be forgotten by history. Yet Vermeer sees her, and makes us see her, as so much more than she is allowed to be. History does not happen on the battlefield. It happens in the kitchen, before the master of the house is even up for breakfast.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Dead Poets Society #29

Image result for barry macsweeney poetry

Song by Barry MacSweeney

Out of our seats
we watch the starlit company.
All those animal garments
of the hungry soul.
They fall on the stars
and the stars absorb them.
To win, suck seed.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Da Elderly: -
Sugar Mountain

Ron Elderly: -
Need Your Love So Bad
The River

The Elderly Brothers: -
You Really Got A Hold On Me
I'll Get You
The Sound Of Silence
Never Be Anyone Else But You

It wasn't as packed as last week, but a fair crowd were well entertained with the usual wide variety of music on show. Last week's Spanish guitar duo's jazz-tinged Latin instrumental jams had the audience spellbound once more. A young lass who has also been before also wowed the crowd with some great guitar work and one of the warmest vocal deliveries heard in a long time.

With yours truly still recovering from last week's sandpaper throat, things could have gone rather badly for the Elderly Brothers. A quick run-through "The Book" allowed us to choose songs unlikely to challenge the vocal chords and with the aid of various potions from the doc we made it through.

Special bonus: The Elderlys get down and dirty...

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Paddy McAloon: A biblical deity...

Image result for paddy mcaloon

Why Prefab Sprout's return with America is a whim and a wonder
Paddy McAloon surfaced on Friday with a new track that is heartbreaking in an entirely unexpected way

Pete Paphides
The Guardian
Monday 6 March 2017

Instinctively, your thoughts turn to One of the Broken, with its opening line: “Hi, this is God here.” In 1990, when Paddy McAloon recorded that song, he didn’t look remotely like God. But now, in 2017, if you were to imagine Him suddenly breaking His extended silence, chances are it wouldn’t be dissimilar to the manner in which Prefab Sprout’s 59-year-old frontman has resurfaced. The look favoured by McAloon these days is textbook biblical deity: a silver-haired man of seemingly advancing years with a beard to match. The manner of the recording also seems somehow appropriate. McAloon’s impromptu return, with a new song, America, looks like it was filmed on a phone in a place that could just about be anywhere or indeed nowhere. And, of course, few would disagree that, if there is an all-knowing, all-seeing creator out there, there has never been a better time for Them to send us a sign.

But although the first responses from fans might have you believe otherwise, the creator of America is visibly vulnerable to the vicissitudes which loom over all humans. McAloon’s eyesight is severely impaired these days – hence the enormous shades and the magnifying glasses that lie scattered in every room in his Durham home – and he suffers from tinnitus. For all the prescience of Prefab Sprout’s 2013 song The Devil Came a Calling – which depicts Satan as an unscrupulous huckster happy to feed his lust for power by issuing promises he has no hope or intention of keeping – the McAloon of America looks heartbroken at what has since come to pass. “America, America,” he sings, straining to reach the high notes, “Liberty welcomes everyone / Now she’s blushing in the sun … An orphan child exiled by war / She may become a doctor / And work among the poor /A scientist who finds a cure.”

Such global neighbourliness isn’t exactly surprising coming from McAloon. Since the release of 1997’s Andromeda Heights album, his faith in human empathy as the only thing that mitigates the unbearable brevity of our time here seems to be the engine of much of his songwriting. It reveals itself most transparently on Life’s a Miracle from that album, but you don’t have to scratch too deep beneath the surface to find it on List of Impossible Things, Grief Built the Taj Mahal and his astounding 2003 solo album-cum-fever-dream I Trawl the Megahertz. Perhaps what’s more surprising is the spontaneity of this release. When I interviewed him two years ago, he explained that he lives in a perpetual state of “the here and now”. That meant that while writing songs wasn’t a problem, recording them properly and releasing them into the world was harder to commit to.

Like perhaps his closest early contemporary, Green from Scritti Politti, McAloon’s love songs often acknowledged their own impudence in seeking to follow in the footsteps of songwriters such as Jimmy Webb and Stevie Wonder. McAloon sometimes casts himself as a true believer in idealised love who nonetheless remains aware of evidence to the contrary. On Blue Roses, from The Gunman and Other Stories, and Cruel, from Swoon, we’re listening to a protagonist perpetually on the verge of holding his hands up and admitting his chances of saying something about love that has never been said before are fanciful. And yet, the thing about McAloon is that he frequently does, often with disarming simplicity. “What you see in me / I will never know / That’s the mystery of love / But each time we kiss / Ignorance is bliss / That’s the mystery of love.” (The Mystery of Love from Andromeda Heights.) Both Jimmy and Stevie would have claimed that in an instant.

Like Green, he allowed himself – more out of curiosity than megalomania – to be co-opted into the world of pop stardom, abetting the process with an album (From Langley Park to Memphis) that made the job easy for radio pluggers at the time. Both artists emerged from the experience with a reluctance to fully re-enter the music industry, with its necessary promotional cycles and the commitments it demands from the artists on whom it depends. As a result, both have amassed demos of far more songs than they can ever hope to formally record in their own lifetime. Over time, the unfinished projects – among them, entire albums about Michael Jackson and Princess Diana – have become such millstones that he refrains from naming any others.

His ambivalence about the tension between the sometimes conflicting demands of the muse and the market has led him to strange places. The chorus of Prefab Sprout’s biggest hit, The King of Rock ’n’ Roll, saw its protagonist musing on the chorus that made him famous: “Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque.” In doing so, the song about an albatross became an albatross – something he had already realised by the time he attended an industry function and Paul McCartney told him that The King of Rock ’n’ Roll was to his back catalogue what My Ding-a-Ling was to Chuck Berry’s. An astute businessman like McCartney wouldn’t have meant that as a putdown – and neither was it taken as such. On Meet the New Mozart (from Let’s Change the World with Music), McAloon sang: “Meet the new Mozart / He’s in the bed where commerce / Sleeps with art / Who can blame him? / No pauper’s grave this time round / Will claim him.”

For all of that, it’s pretty clear that, as long as the annual royalties from earlier successes pay his mortgage, McAloon’s continuing reclusiveness shows no sign of abating. I would be amazed if America is a portent of a new album. It’s entirely consistent with what we know about McAloon that, without even stopping to set up a microphone, he filmed it on a whim and gave it to his manager (who uploaded it to YouTube) before he had a chance to change his mind. I suspect that, like many of us, McAloon had tuned into the radio every day, and with every new executive order from the White House, every new transmission of anti-immigrant rhetoric, imagined that someone somewhere must have written a song about it, and perhaps gathered together a bunch of well-known musicians to sing it. But we’re still waiting.

Perhaps no one found a combination of words and music that could hold a big enough mirror to what we’re seeing happening in America (and, of course, in Britain) right now. Perhaps there is simply no combination of words and music that can do that at this moment. And yet to watch one of our greatest songwriters setting aside the trappings of the studio and forlornly exhorting an entire country not to “reject the stranger knocking at your door” is heartbreaking in an entirely unexpected way. In 2017, McAloon seems unable to believe that it’s come to this. And neither, of course, can we. Therein lies the power of his newest creation.

Recluse? He was in M&S on Saturday!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Bill Evans: Time Remembered - a new documentary...

A New Documentary Explores The Troubled, Brilliant Life Of Pianist Bill Evans
NPR Staff
25 February 2017

Jazz pianist Bill Evans (seen here as he appears on the cover of the 2016 legacy release Some Other Time) is the subject of a new documentary called Bill Evans: Time Remembered.Courtesy of the artist

Bill Evans was a genius: The jazz world, which can be roiled by factions and jealousies, usually agrees on that. He was a composer and pianist with a light, lyrical touch that was once described as what you might hear at the gates of heaven. But like many geniuses, Evans died too young — in 1980, at the age of just 51, after years of cocaine and heroin addiction.

A new documentary by filmmaker Bruce Spiegel helps capture that genius with interviews of musicians, family members, and archival footage of Bill Evans himself.

"When you listen to some of the songs that he plays, some of the intros that he plays, some of the long compositions, they're emotionally wrought. They just take you to a different place than most normal piano players would go," Spiegel says. "I got a couple kids; they aren't really into jazz. But in the course of making the movie I played [Evans] for them, and they say, 'Jesus, that's pretty good.' So I think it's interesting that people are rediscovering Bill, and part of the reason I'm doing this is because I want people to rediscover Bill. I think he's a great American artist, and I think more people should listen to him and respect the beauty that he was able to create."

Spiegel spoke with NPR's Scott Simon about the eight-year process behind Bill Evans: Time Remembered.

Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

Poster No. 3
A Complete and Concise Documentary

Bruce Spiegel has produced a complete documentary giving you insights into Bill Evans; not just the musician, but also the person. The film moves chronologically starting with Bill's childhood in New Jersey and culminating with details about his death.

"The film Bill Evans, Time Remembered took me 8 years to make. Eight years of tracking down anybody who knew Bill and who played with him, to try and find out as much as I could about the illusive and not easy to understand Bill Evans. I feel very honored to have had the chance to interview and get to know good guys that spent a lot of time with Bill: Billy Taylor, Gene Lees, Tony Bennett, Jack DeJohnette, Jon Hendricks, Jim Hall, Bobby Brookmeyer, Chuck Israels, Paul Motian, Gary Peacock, Joe LaBarbera. It was a once in a life time experience talking to these gifted talented guys about their time in jazz music, about their “Time Remembered“ with Bill Evans. - Bruce Spiegel"

"The film was a bull's eye at capturing as much as one can capture of someone's music, pain, and life story. My family is forever grateful to your outstanding work." - Debby Evans (Waltz for Debby)"

"The film is musically intriguing and sensitively crafted. Not soppy with just the right amount of honesty regarding his personal life." - Nenette Evans