Monday, 5 December 2016

At the Point of Madness

At the point of madness,
Where people dare not tread,
I live, if just, to live with you
And those words we never said.

At the point of madness
My answers question me.
And all that has gone before
Coalesce in ruinous levity.

At the point of madness
I'm overwhelmed by thoughts
Of love and life and hope and loss;
Of everything and nought.

At the point of madness,
Where people dare not tread,
You waited so I could find you.
In the madness we were wed.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

They Matter to Me - Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Robert Browning 1812 - 1889 and Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861

I am, at present, suffering from a form of writer's block. I know what I want to say to my wife, but when I try to put pen to paper it becomes; at best cumbersome, at worst cliche and one dimensional. How can this be when I love her so much that I'm quite sure that she doesn't exist?
The premise of what I'm trying to write is that I don't love her because she is so beautiful, frightfully intelligent, hysterically funny, kind, etc etc she is all of those things and much more... but I love her because I love her - even if she was none of those things..... I know what you are thinking, 'Peter it's time to give up poetry!' And you may be right!

I am,obviously, embarrassed that I can't find the perfect words to tell Becky what I feel. And I make terrible excuses to myself like 'this is the plight of the poet though Peter. Poets are searching for the perfect way to say something and are never satisfied.' Bollocks! Can you imagine being Shakespeare and not being satisfied with Sonnet 18? I bet the moment he finished it, he couldn't wait for Anne to read it - knowing full well it was perfection, knowing that every single letter was exactly what he wanted to say.

This leads me to my favourite couple of all time.... and a lesson in how to put your feelings on paper.

For those who don't know, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were both successful poets in their own right before they met. The year 1845 had barely begun when Robert first seen Elizabeth's poems and without ever having met he knew that he loved her completely, In fact on 10th January 1845 he wrote the worlds greatest love letter...
January 10th, 1845
New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey

I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,--and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write,--whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me--for in the first flush of delight I thought I would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration--perhaps even, as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some little good to be proud of hereafter!--but nothing comes of it all--so into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew.........
I do, as I say, love these Books with all my heart-- and I love you too: do you know I was once seeing you? Mr. Kenyon said to me one morning "would you like to see Miss Barrett?"--then he went to announce me,--then he returned... you were too unwell -- and now it is years ago--and I feel as at some untoward passage in my travels--as if I had been close, so close, to some world's-wonder in chapel on crypt,... only a screen to push and I might have entered -- but there was some slight... so it now seems... slight and just-sufficient bar to admission, and the half-opened door shut, and I went home my thousands of miles, and the sight was never to be!

Well, these Poems were to be--and this true thankful joy and pride with which I feel myself. Yours ever faithfully Robert Browning

Yes, they lived happily ever after - of course they did! They are the royal couple of poetry because, through their continued writing, they were the closest we've got to documenting true love!
As an aside - after the initial letter Robert struggled with the same message as me. He would tell Elizabeth that he loved her from his core, not for her attributes or genius etc... Elizabeth said it herself;

If thou must love me, let it be for nought 
Except for love's sake only. Do not say 
I love her for her smile ... her look ... her way 
Of speaking gently, ... for a trick of thought 
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought 
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'— 
For these things in themselves, Belov├Ęd, may 
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought, 
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for 
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,— 
A creature might forget to weep, who bore 
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby! 
But love me for love's sake, that evermore 
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

Robert got it right in the end.... maybe there is hope for me yet.
They matter to me because they matter to all of us. They say what we haven't the talent to say, but have the depth of emotion to feel.

Monday, 22 August 2016

They Matter to Me - Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 -1930)

'Imagine writing the most famous character in literary history. What a burden it must be. What a sad state of affairs when people don't give your other work the time of day and you are trapped in this character - who increasingly means less to you and more to others. Of course I will read Conan Doyle's other works and rejoice in its variety and the freedom that it gave him.' - was what I should have said when my brother asked me; 'Have you ever read any Conan Doyle that isn't Sherlock Holmes?'

What I actually said was, 'why would I bother reading anything other than his masterpiece, what a fucking waste of time. Come on Chris (brother's name) you are better than this.'

Unbeknowest to me my brother had bought me a bunch of Conan Doyle books for my birthday and was going to give them to me the following week.
This came to light a week or so after my birthday when he apologised for my late gift as he 'had bought some Conan Doyle books but gave them to a charity shop after our conversation.'  - I think we can all agree that he is a dick?!
If you happen to be one of my usual (nearly) 10s of readers you will note that I have form in offending people when it comes to literature. But my brother got me back. He didn't mention to anyone what had happened until Christmas day when he relayed the story to the entire family and as everyone shook their heads at me he went out to the car and produced the offending books. He had been to the charity shop and re-bought the exact same books for me - twice! My embarrassment seems to have made the double purchase well worth the money.

Since I read The Speckled Band in year 8 English I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. And there in lies the problem - I was a fan of Sherlock Holmes, not Arthur Conan Doyle. I gave no credit to the wonderful mind that created him, instead I fantasised about becoming him. Of course I did, we all do. There is a reason why he is the most loved character in all of literature. Sherlock Holmes is the part of us that sees the world differently and allows us to scoff at the rest and their blinded view. Sherlock Holmes is so important he has become real - a celebrity, and therefore we pour affection onto him instead of where it belongs.

Plagued with guilt from my brother's present, I read The Lost World. And wouldn't you know it.... I really enjoyed it! (He's still a dick)

Hmmmm.... maybe it was Conan Doyle that I liked after all. I re read the collection of Holmes stories and found that I love how Conan Doyle writes. The elegance of his sentences, the depth of the language he uses and plots that he can narrate are nothing short of incredible. I can't begin to imagine what the world would have been like if the idea of Sherlock Holmes had fallen into other hands.... the wrong hands!

If you are interested in fiction then I implore you to read as much Conan Doyle as you can. Let Sherlock become a part of your life and let Conan Doyle become the orator of it.

Arthur Conan Doyle matters to us all - perhaps we don't give him the credit for it.

Side note
Oh how I wish he could have ended it all with The Final Problem. Every word contained within the adventures, up until this point, is perfect. Some of the magic fades in the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes as you can almost feel Conan Doyle's lament in writing it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Tequila Dream

I think you would like my Brother and Sister! My Brother writes a hilarious blog about being a teacher and the things that happen and my sister is an unbelievable singer songwriter. Both of them are incredibly talented and as such I have come up with a little experiment for us. 

I don't know a great deal about musical theory - but I've been thinking recently that if I could write some lyrics and put some chords to it, send them to Chris (Bro) and Shel (Sis) then they could independently write 2 melodies and - my hope is - they would be so compatible (as they would only be using the notes in the given chord scale) that it would make a great song!
Ambitious? Crazy?
Well they called Bobby Fischer crazy and.... oh wait!  (little chess joke there for anyone who is interested :-))

Where was I? Oh yes... I hear you ask why I would be the one who writes the lyrics and the chords when I've just explained that they are more talented than me. That's a good question and my answer is in 2 parts
a) Fuck 'em
b) It was my idea so please review point a!

So here is what they will be working with.
Maybe you want to play along too.

Tequila Dream
A                                              G                           A
We met in Texas when you asked me for the time,
A                                         G
Then you said, ‘Are you looking for fun?’
And we crossed the borderline

E                              D                         A
It turned into a tequila dream in Mexico
E                                           D                               A
When you heard my song play on local radio
E                                  D                         A
You held me tight all night when you heard that tune
E                                              D                                 A
And for one night we were East of the Sun and South of the Moon.

A                                              G                                A
I sold my Daddy’s watch to buy you a diamond ring
A                      G
It meant everything to him
To you not a thing

E                             D                       A
It turned into a tequila dream in Mexico
E                                                          D                     A         
When you wanted it fast and my body wouldn’t take it slow
E                                  D                     A
You told me that you would be leaving soon
E                                              D                                 A
But for one night we were East of the Sun and South of the Moon

Middle 8
G             D                            G                  D
Now I’m sat alone at the river’s bend
G                  D                G         D
I knew the dream just had to end
G              D           G        D
Another drink before I go
And one more night in Mexico


E              D                       A
I had a tequila dream in Mexico
E             D                    A
I had to stay but she wanted to go
E                                         D              A
She came and went , her heart was immune
E                                      D                             A

But that night we were East of the Sun and South of the Moon


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Impossible Eyes

There are many ways to bleed
And I choose you.
In my many moments of need
I look for the blue
Of those eyes, those impossible eyes.

I am vulnerable when you hold me,
Protected and bare.
The midnight things you told me
And the devil you dare
With those eyes, those impossible eyes

When I lose it is for you
It's then I gave all.
For the only thing that's true,
Looking up from a fall
Is those eyes, those impossible eyes.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

He Surrendered

When he told her he surrendered
He gave it all, has nothing more.
She says she doesn't know him
He's not the man he was before.

He whispers so she can't hear it
'I just need to feel you cry.
I'm not cruel, but I act cruelly.
And my soul can't tell me why.'

When he hurts her it is honest,
In her tears she has to care
He's not proud, yet in these moments
Loves her more than he can bear.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Some thoughts - fiction vs nonfiction

Fiction, as with all forms of art, has the paradoxical ability to illustrate life far more accurately than fact. It is through fiction, and the exploration of the deepest recesses of our imagination that we are able to conceptualize our yearnings for facts and design experiments for truth.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. - Einstein

Fiction provides an arena to discuss the abstract. Concepts such as morality and social responsibility are better understood through the lens of fiction – it is a fool’s errand to try and label notions, born in subjectivity, as fact. Without fiction we wouldn’t have Great Expectations or To Kill a Mockingbird; both pieces of work are able to explore themes of culture, ethics, morals and emotions – the things that drive instances and events i.e. produce facts. In the worlds that authors create we are able to navigate through taboos such as murder and play out the consequences of it, given the tools to empathise with different situations and find common humanity in circumstance far removed from our norm. Fiction is our highest from of governance as it holds up a mirror to the world and asks us if we like what is reflected back.

If you wanted to learn about another culture, country or time then read their fiction. It will allow you to understand the psyche, the essence, the very soul of what you are trying to comprehend. You don’t need to revise battles, monarchs, scientific breakthroughs or legislative action, as these are all just byproducts of the narrative that fiction has woven into the fabric of their existence.

It is, therefore, no surprise that bookshops are split between fiction and non-fiction. NOT fact and non-fact. It is fiction that is the root, the dominant concept, and thus infers that there is fiction and there is the rest.
These thoughts only really came to me a couple of weeks ago as I was absent-mindedly looking through the shelves of a local bookshop. I suddenly ‘noticed’ how prominent fiction was and felt that I could learn about everything and anything in these pages. (Yes, I too am shocked it has taken me this long – considering I have been frequenting these places all of my adult life)

Of course it isn’t always our objective to try and understand the world every time that we pick up a book. We may just need a little escapism or to get lost in a different universe for a while. That, by the way, is the perfect reason to pick up a book. These books will still influence you though, they will change your view point and question your values. It’s unavoidable. We are taught that we are the sum of our experiences, and the words that you read are an enormous part of your experiences. A great book will change you and that is a good thing.

So next time you pick up a book make sure that you let it in. Fiction can teach us a thing or two!

Friday, 19 February 2016

They Matter to Me - Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854 -1900)

It is a peculiar thing being an Oscar Wilde lover and, as such, I’ve felt a strange sort of pressure in getting this post right (truth be told this is my 4th draft). I think other Wilde fans will appreciate my plight with this quick summary of my thoughts;
Oscar Wilde isn’t an author/playwright/poet/wit whose books/plays/poems/quotes I pick from my bookshelves in order to have a jolly good read. He is more than this. He is a friend, someone that I know, someone that has shared their turmoil (De Profundis) and joviality (The Importance of Being Earnest) with me and listened attentively to my own.
Usually, when a person loves something, like an author, they glean great joy in introducing new people to their work and delve into passionate discussions about it. This doesn’t happen with Oscar Wilde! I will introduce people to his work and hope that they enjoy it but only on the (in my mind only) proviso that they acknowledge their enjoyment is of a much shallower sort than mine. How could they possibly understand Oscar Wilde like I do – after all he belongs to me, not them. They can laugh at his one-liners, be moved by his poetry, even pity the unravelling of his life – but they can’t have him. After all they aren’t ‘real’ fans. Not like me!

With that out of the way lets see why Oscar Wilde matters to me.
I’ve read it countless times that he was born in the wrong century. It is assumed wisdom that he would have thrived in the 21st Century with our liberal values and more civilised outlook. I’m not sure this is accurate. You see, if he lived now then he wouldn’t have lived then, and it’s the effect that he had upon the Victorian world that has helped shape us into what we are today.

Oh how those Victorians didn’t know what they had!

How can one person write with such elegance and beauty as Wilde? In fact the writing is so brilliant that to quote Wilde is seen by all as not only erudite but as providing an unchallengeable truth. How often have we all ended a debate with Oscar Wilde says……
The inference being that if your opponent disagrees then clearly they are idiots because you can’t go against his genius.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every differing cloud that went
With silver sails by.

This stanza illustrates the ease with which Wilde can project you to a place by a flick of his pen. Who amongst us could do justice to the melancholic view that a prisoner holds, and so romantically. 
If you ever want to read a perfect love letter then look no further than the first couple of chapters of The Picture of Dorain Gray. Basil Hallward’s love for Dorian Gray is often over looked and very rarely surpassed in literature. The tragic echoes of Wilde’s own love for Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) seem too obvious to discuss. Or try not to view the world differently after reading The Happy Prince – Wilde’s flamboyance contrasted in the moral deficit of material wealth here.

He is often seen as the epitome of hedonism and class yet he wrote ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’ where he wishes to ‘reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.’ People believe that he is arrogant and self-assured yet he sees his own flaws and addictions in De Profundis and is humble enough to try and exorcise them.  Complex and irresistible as he is.

Oscar Wilde matters to me because he is mine. He changed the world but more importantly he continues to change me.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Sometimes it’s enough knowing that it’s difficult.
Sometimes it’s not enough to cry
Sometimes it’s  easy to go along
Sometimes it’s hard to ask why

Sometimes I forget to tell you
Sometimes I know I don’t know
Sometimes I open the gates
Sometimes I don’t think I can show

Sometimes I’m scared of the darkness
Sometimes I’m glad that it’s there
Sometimes I’m two steps behind you
Sometimes I’m honest and bare

Sometimes I’ll say that I love you
Sometimes I’ll whisper it low
Sometimes I'll hold you forever
Sometimes I'll never let go

Friday, 5 February 2016

They Matter to Me - Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Edgar Allan Poe.
Let me explain…
Fact: Poe is the master of rhythm and rhyme. His writing cuts through the perceived difficulties associated with poetry by grabbing the reader and giving them no option but to read exactly how he intended. This doesn’t happen with a lot of poets’ work. After reading a poem from Poe you feel like you have just been his puppet for the duration of the piece.
I love this. It makes him, all at once, a great introduction to poetry for anyone struggling with the genre and also a master of the demons of the mind.
I hate this. Because every time I read his work it makes me want to rip mine up – I have a very acute (and justifiable) inferiority complex with Poe.

Obviously when my Mum reads this she will tell me that my poems are better than his ever were and I’m her special little writer.  Usually I’m happy to believe this from my Mum – but regretfully not when it comes to Poe.

Let’s have a look at the start of his greatest work.

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door - 
Only this and nothing more."

See what I mean about rhythm and rhyme? It’s astounding isn’t it?

Imagine having the talent to write like that. His work seems natural and not to have any of the forced rhymes that creep into the poetry of us mere mortals.

Over the last 150 years he has become a beacon of damaged genius. Tragedy followed him throughout his life and he died far too young. The mystery surrounding his death has only served to enhance his reputation and provide an eerie context to his most tormented lines.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

God, that’s a great line! I never get tired of reading it.

It not just his poetry that is incredible either – without his character Auguste Dupin we would never have had Sherlock Holmes.

There is a common misconception that great writers can only be interesting on the page and not in their real life. Edgar Allan Poe disproves this as he lived many of the nightmares that he left us in print. I for one, will never get tired having a glimpse of the tortured mind that was able to fight through the darkness to stain his notebook with works like ‘The Raven’

Edgar Allan Poe matters to me because heroes should be out of reach.

I hope he matters to you (please feel free just to enjoy him and not have him damage your confidence though)