It is, isn’t it. I’m bloomin’ freezing. But yesterday was lovely and sunny, and the books are pouring in for review. The James Merrill biography has arrived – all 3 kilos of it, I reckon – and I’ve been getting in the mood with his Collected Prose and (of course) some poems, so there’s a kind of wonderful ‘Changing Light’ feeling going on at the moment. Look at this, for example, from a poem called ‘Time'; it really captures what the wee hours have been like lately here in Baroque Mansions:

All day you had meant
To write letters, turn the key
In certain friendships, be ticked through at dusk
By hard, white, absent faces.

Let’s say you went
So far as to begin: “It’s me! Forgive…”
Too late. From the alcove came his cough,
His whimper – the old man whim sunset wakes.
Truly, how could you bear another night
Keeping him company while he raved…

Well, and today’s batch is like a meditation on time in itself. A surprisingly fat envelope delivered three books: Jim Carruth’s debut collection, Killochries, a hill-farming novella in very spare (‘thrifty’) verse; Other Countries, an anthology edited by Claire Trévien and Gareth Prior and subtitled ‘Contemporary Poets Rewiring History'; and Steve Ely’s second collection, Englaland (which is anything but thrifty, frankly, and indeed includes a soupçon of the poet’s characteristic Anglo Saxon). Ely quotes William Faulkner: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past’. All these books will in some way rewire history, I know, including the present.

Which is what I for one feel like I’m doing every day…

The old man talks in code:
fables and parables

biblical and otherwise.
Today it’s a dairy heifer

who wouldn’t accept
her place in the byre

but roared a protest
from her stall…

No more for now, as I’m contracted to review these books, and I haven’t read them yet. And now I must go and rewire today before it blows up in my face, or simply fizzles out before dark…


merrill biogSomething about American book production values… Look! Just a real pleasure, and even buying them is more exciting – you feel like spending your money is an occasion.

And can I also say, it got here in three days from New York. UPS. Feels like being a somebody.

And the really tragic thing is, no time to dive in yet, because I’m (actually) doing background reading! The Collected Prose is on the go at the mo, reading his interviews and they are great. I just love it when he talks about The Changing Light at Sandover. It’s one thing to spend decades over a homemade Ouija board; another to give interviews and write articles about it for serious journals, and just expect to take people along with you. I love him. The key is about this lightness, a lightness that makes things bearable, if you will… It is slightly harder to achieve without money, true, and slightly unfashionable at the moment I think. But more anon, when I come to write about it.

And look at that face. That is a man who remained open to life. Salinger had a line about Seymour Glass, the only unguarded face in New York…

In other news, I have been taking enquiries about my impending ten-week whistle-stop tour of the techniques of poetry. It’s a summertime special, all in one, brush up your Shakespeare (and your demanding contemporaries), self-contained version of my usual year-long class. Meets Tuesday evenings in Covent Garden starting on the 28th; great for anyone who wants a refresher or just wants to find out more about how the various poets, formal and free, do it. Email me if you’d like to join.

And in further news, I spent a few hours of today, when I should have been reading or writing, cleaning and fixing a 1955 Smith-Corona Silent-Super typewriter. I am in love with it. These are really hard to get in the UK, and they type like a DREAM. It’s an amazing classic piece of mid-century, back-to-the-future engineering and Americana. Even looking at one you are filled to the brim with other people’s hopes and dreams… here it is when it was on eBay:

Silent-Super eBay pic

Unfortunately this one when I got it was riddled with rust, and the outside of it even now – a shade or two lighter – looks a bit shellshocked. I don’t mind that so much; and the muddy gunk, nicotine mixed with oil and dust, is coming out nicely with elbow grease and meths. So that’s nice. And the o was sticking and making it impossible to type – have you noticed how often we use the letter o? – and I got it fixed today and was JUBILANT. [After pic to follow in the morning when the light’s better]

But the very next thing that happened, after me typing a page of jubilation, was that I went back in and cleaned the bit inside the back of the carriage where it opens up. You’d think that wu;d be a good thing. And I cleaned the type itself, which hadn’t been attended to, and you’d thing that would be a good thing too.

And now the tops of the letters don’t print. It’s uneven, they print sometimes and not others, and I wonder if the rubber on the platen (the roller) is uneven, and I wonder if I disturbed some ecosystem, somebody’s hopes and dreams, but I can’t think what I did that could make that happen. It is SOOOO frustrating. I had to pack it back up in its case. I can’t afford to send it to the Typewriter Man. Not just now.

In yet other news, I have bought, in the Mind shop, the entirety of ‘Six Feet Under’. Woohoo! Five box sets! I’m not sure whether I might be able to use that as a way of channelling James Merrill…



Some reading, and sonofabook

April 8, 2015

This picture from Humans of New York is speaking to me at the moment;  the caption reads: ‘When I came out of the closet, everything came out of the closet’. Here in Baroque Mansions we can only applaud his hat. I’m sitting here in a favourite café in Newington Green, with a frankly ridiculously sunny and […]

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New life

February 27, 2015

Well, the halls of Baroque have been more or less closed for the winter, and there has been black crepe hung along them for Thomas Vink-Lainas, my  much-loved uncle, who died one month and one day ago. He was an artist – a painter, a graphic designer, a maker – a furniture restorer, a framer, […]

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another holding post

February 20, 2015

Just a quick update to let the world know that Ms Baroque is still here, just. There is a lot of work on,  and there has been a recent death in the family which has knocked everybody for six. The past four weeks have been mostly a very painful confluence of those two factors. Normal service will be […]

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Busy, back soon!

January 22, 2015

Normal service will be resumed shortly, I hope! Meanwhile I am making like this doll and have been pretty much constantly typing on various things since before Christmas. Some of them are documents. And some of them are typewriters. It’s hard to believe that January is nearly over already, but  am hoping to be able […]

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We are all Charlie Hebdo

January 7, 2015

I was going to write about Pascale Petit’s poetry collection, Fauverie, today. It is a fine book. Its poems are spare and precise, and its images are startling and bright. But then the news came from Paris, and all thoughts of poetry, or anything else besides grief and rage, went out of my head. Pascale is […]

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Delayed Reaction: the Free Verse Book Fair, back in September

December 31, 2014

What follows is a post I began and never finished, back in the day when it would have been relevant. This has been very much the story or 2014, and for this reason I am publishing this post as it is. Or was. The year DID happen, even though my blogging of it was fairly […]

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