Tag Archives: Shakespeare

The Social Difficulties Of Glaswegians Reading Poetry In Anything Other Than Splendid Isolation……….

……….I was listening to Today on Radio 4 yesterday, and there was a story about the Royal Academy’s Diamond Jubilee which took place last night. At the end of the piece James Naughtie was interviewing Dame Judi Dench and she was talking about Shakespeare and how her feelings towards acting in Shakespeare’s plays had changed over the years. She described a shift from getting goosebumps in delivering the lines to increasingly becoming emotional and even tearful as she got older. She ended by saying that she tries to read a Sonnet every day! It made me think of a few lines of Wordsworth:

“Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,

Mindless of its just honours;with this key

Shake-speare unlocked his heart”

If I had a hundredth of the talent and voice for Shakespeare that Judi Dench has,I guess I might read a Sonnet everyday myself – but whether with a gloriously intoned and hushed Shakespearean accent like Dame Judi Dench, or with the sharp, harsh, glottal-stopping Glaswegian accent I carry around with me, I’d still have one quandary in my head which I’ve had for many years – how should you read a play script or more commonly for me anyway, poetry. How would Shakespeare have wanted me, a Glaswegian, to read his heart unlocked?!

You see I love poetry, but when I read it I need to enunciate the words and hear their sound and flow – so I have to read it out loud. I’m one of those people who struggles to get into a poem unless I read it out loud. At the moment I’m reading the Carol Ann Duffy edited anthology “Jubilee Lines” (it’s very good, by the way!) and I usually dip into one of the Nicholas Albery, Stephanie Weinrich edited anthologies “Poem For The Day” several times each week. And I always read them out loud.

Or rather I do eventually read them out loud! First I scan them, then I read them to myself in my head and usually there’s very little change in my voice tone or stress. And when I’ve thought about that, THEN I read them out loud. The “voice” I use becomes deeper than normal and I like to linger over some words and phrases or leap suddenly on a different word. It all comes out like I’m a really bad ham-actor (If I ever act, I will assuredly be that really bad ham-actor!)  - the voice is a kind of Billy Connelly-Mark McManus aka Taggart-Rab C Nesbitt-all-together-reading-the-news type of thing!!!!

It must sound awful – it does sound awful – and hence the social dilemma. I need to read poetry out loud to get it – but with the hybrid-voice of the Glaswegian Holy Trinity I just mentioned – it just isn’t possible to do that in public – at least not without a paper bag over my head!

So my poetry can only be enjoyed in isolation – and that kind of complete isolation is not that easy to find. At the moment I’m guiltily snatching time to read poetry in the early hours after dawn when only the dog and the birds are awake – and even then the dog looks at me a bit funny and the birds seem to chatter ever-louder as if trying to drown me out!

I wonder how other people read poetry. Is everyone like me? Is there a knack or technique to mastering reading it in your head which I might learn? Can I learn some clever trick to ditch the dulcid tones of Billy-Taggart-Rab and sound like Judi Dench instead? I’d love to know whether or not others read poetry, and if you do, how do you read it?

And to close, here’s one I made earlier – it’s yesterday’s ‘Poem For The Day’ (I’m not keen on today’s!!!!) – I’ll leave you to read it in whatever way and in whatever voice you like! Me, I’ve already stretched my Billy-Taggart-Rab tonsils all over it and despite the racket – I enjoyed it!

This is from ‘Poem For The Day Two’, edited by Retta Bowen, Nick Temple, Stephanie Weinrich and Nicholas Albery, published by Chatto and Windus. This is by Michael Donaghy and is the poem for yesterday, May 24th, 2012.

The Present

For the present there is just one moon

though every level pond gives back another.

But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,

perceived by astrophysicist and lover,

is milliseconds old. And even that light’s 

seven minutes older than its source.

And the stars we think we see on moonless nights

are long extinguished. And, of course,

this very moment, as you read this line,

is literally gone before you know it.

Forget the here-and-now. We have no time

but this device of wantonness and wit.

Make me this present then: your hand in mine,

And we’ll live out our lives in it.

Michael Donaghy

Capture

I Wonder If My Favourite Albums And My Favourite Books Would Talk To Each Other If They Met At A Party?……….

……….I got this odd, fanciful notion years ago when I read something similar in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. In the book they had a discussion about the idea of vetting potential girlfriends through a questionnaire focused mainly on their record collections – it was a very funny dig in the ribs for musical snobbery which, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve indulged in myself in the past.  I mean there’s no way that a man who loves Ryan Adams and The Cardinals could go on a date, never mind spend their life, with a woman who enjoys listening to Gloria Gaynor screeching about survival!!! (This is as you might imagine a far from random example – my love for all things Ryan Adams can only speak its name when she who loves Gloria Gaynor is not at home!)

Anyway I’ve often wondered if my record collections and book collections are well matched – or if they signify some deep-rooted, sub-conscious, split personality on my part! One of the ways I’ve reassured myself on their compatibility over the years has been the frequent references to music I’ve got on my shelves, in either books I’ve read, or in comments by authors I like. I’ll give you an example. I know from listening to Radio 6 and from his Twitter feed that Ian Rankin likes Teenage Fanclub. So in my mind I then perform the following psychological equation:-

I Think Ian Rankin Is Great + Ian Rankin Thinks Teenage Fanclub Are Great + I Think Teenage Fanclub Are Great = My Book and Record Collections Must Be Compatible!

Obviously, authors use musical tastes and preferences as part of the development of characters in their books and from these I make connections like the one above! In addition there are books, like High Fidelity, or Salman Rushdie’s “the ground beneath her feet” with popular / indie music as the setting or context for their novels. Since I loved both of those books and they focus on much of the kind of music I like, it is of course further evidence of the compatibility of my music and book collections! (Of course when evidence occurs to the contrary – such as some of the country music that DI Thorne likes in the Mark Billingham crime novels – well……I ignore that!)

However as I was listening to the radio this morning I heard Lloyd Cole and The Commotions singing “Rattlesnakes”, with it’s name-check for Simone de Beauvoir in the lyrics, and it suddenly struck me that while I can think of several references to music in my books, the number of references to books in my music are few and far between. So I tried to compile a list and this is what I came up with!

First up is that Lloyd Cole song ‘Rattlesnakes’, which has the wonderful lines “She looks like Eve Marie Saint in On The Waterfront, She reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance!” Secondly, The Police song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” makes a reference to Lolita with the line “just like in that old book by Nabokov!

Next up is a Green Day track called “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” (Personally my sharp intellectual guess is that Billie Joe Armstrong already knows the literal answer to this question!). Most influentially of all for me, the genius that is Ryan Adams wrote a song called “Sylvia Plath”. I love it ( in fact I may have written this post just so I can encourage anybody who reads this to listen to the song!). It goes:-

I wish I had a Sylvia Plath
Busted tooth and a smile
And cigarette ashes in her drink
The kind that goes out and then sleeps for a week
The kind that goes out on her
To give me a reason, for well, I dunno

And maybe she’d take me to France
Or maybe to Spain and she’d ask me to dance
In a mansion on the top of a hill
She’d ash on the carpets
And slip me a pill
Then she’d get pretty loaded on gin
And maybe she’d give me a bath
How I wish I had a Sylvia Plath

Beyond those it starts to get a bit tenuous I think. I know the Beatles made a reference to Edgar Allan Poe in I Am The Walrus and I know that while the lyrics to Aqualung’s “Strange and Beautiful” don’t specifically mention Shakespeare, the song is based on the story of A Midsummer Nights Dream –  at least I’ve always thought it was! Even more tenuously, I’ve got a Sheryl Crow album in which one of the songs makes a reference to Aldous Huxley, but as I have never read anything by Huxley and as I hardly ever play the album this isn’t one that’s big with me!)

And, for a final two suggestions, both linked to classics, I’ll first offer Kate Bush going all “out on the wild, windy moors” with Wuthering Heights and lastly the lyrics to Don’t Tell Me To Do The Maths by Los Campesinos refers to Jane Eyre – but not perhaps in the way I’d like. They wail out ” We know that we could sell your magazines, if only you would give your life to literature just
DON’T READ JANE EYRE!!!”

So as I’ve reached the point where I’m struggling so much to list references to literature in my record collection that I am reduced to quoting a song slating one of my favourite books I think it’s time to give in!

Though of course, if you can think of any other songs which make references to great books or authors, let me know! (And let me know if you like Ryan Adams! – I might use the weight of popular opinion to try to re-introduce him at home! Then again, on second thoughts…………………………..)

Monday Morning Blog World Tour Sponsored By My iTunes Shuffle……….May 14th 2012

………..I’d originally planned to do this on Sunday mornings – alas following a great wedding we went to in Manchester at the weekend the alcohol flow of the Saturday meant that my Sunday started seriously under the affluence of said incohol and therefore all I wanted yesterday morning was Nurofen and darkness.

However, having come back last night, I’m now fully recovered and so this week, for this week only(unless alcohol gets in the way again, which is very likely) , my easy Sunday morning is actually a Monday!

So this morning with my partner at work and my daughter at school,  it’s again a perfect time to visit the innumerable good blogs out there, most of which are about books, with the odd “mmmmmmmmmmmm I wonder what that’s like?” thrown in for good measure.

I usually like to listen to music while I’m reading or writing but on Sunday mornings (or Monday this week), I listen with my headphones to my iTunes library and I let my iTunes shuffle do the choosing for me.

As I read and wrote this morning, my iTunes shuffle served up the following musical breakfast (or perhaps dogs dinner as my family might call it!). If you read this I hope you find something you like or perhaps a prompt to dust off the cobwebs from some corner of your own music that you’ve not visited in a while!

The Music

1.On The Wing by Owl City (I love this album but I can only play it when I’m alone otherwise it gets shouted down as irritating electro-pop by my family – but if you like jolly, happy, tingly pop with the vocals oft-fed though vocoders then you might like this – reading that description back makes me think it might be a niche market!)

2. Satisfied by Hal (again all lovely harmonies and twanging country pedal guitars – some of the chorus sounds like lush West Coast US Beach Boys stuff before going into a kind of cacophony at the end – I love this album and the lyrics on this are good. I think they went into a bit of a fallow period after this album but I’m pretty sure Hal have made a follow-up lately and it got a decent review through Q – of course I may have imagined that last bit!)

3. Jocasta by Noah And The Whale (My family really dislike NATW – they call it music to get depressed to – but this is more upbeat – ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!)

4. In My Room by The Last Shadow Puppets (Least favourite track on the album – sorry Alex/Miles but this isn’t doing it for me – heave ho!)

5. Hurry Up And Wait (Live) by Stereophonics (Now this will do – although live I thought they were a bit flat – mind you it was in the bloody cavernous Millenium Stadium in Cardiff I saw them – think it needed a bigger and more outgoing personality than Kelly Jones to fill that great chasm)

6. Nothing In My Way by Keane (From the Iron Sea which I think is a bit underrated – think they have new album out today and it’s on the list!)

7. You’ll Never Walk Alone by Frank Sinatra (My partner and daughter are lifetime fully paid-up members of the Liverpool FC Club so they would have this! – as a Man U fan this is NOT FOR ME IN CAPITAL LETTERS! Heave ho!)

8. House Where We All Live by The Veils – (I got this years ago as a present through a friends recommendation. I’d never heard of the Veils at that point but I love this – very Gallic shrug and a bit of a ‘torch’ song!)

9. Birds Flew Backwards by Doves (Doves are one of my favourite bands but this is from Kingdom of Rust which is their most disappointing album for me – however good old iTunes has at least picked out one of the tracks on it that I really like!)

10. Sean by The Proclaimers (The lads from Leith!!!!! I love The Proclaimers. Went to see them in the tent at one of festivals few years ago – place was rammed full of sweaty exiled Jocks all screaming out every word – they are right up there for me with Sir Alex Ferguson, Glenmorangie, Irn Bru, Scottish Pies and Ian Rankin as truly great things to come out of Scotland!)

11. I Saw The Dead by Villagers (Great song, great singer, great band. Saw them support Elbow last year and thought they were fantastic)

12. Try And Love Again by The Eagles (What’s not to love about the Eagles! So it ages me! So I’m old – who cares!)

13. One Light In A Dark Valley by Harry Chapin (It comes from the wonderful Dance Band On The Titanic. I think he’s so under-rated – this is a blast from my hairy, hippy student days!)

14. Sonnet by The Verve (Another song I love musically and lyrically. Heard Richard Ashcroft being interviewed about Urban Hymns on Steve Lamacq’s show a couple of weeks ago – he sounded really proud of this song and the whole album and so he should be – great stuff!)

15. She Speaks by Paul Weller (I’ve gotten more and more into Paul Weller as the years go by – I tend to prefer the more recent stuff like this from the ‘Wake Up The Nation’ album. Mind you I still love singing along with Walls Come Tumbling Down or Headstart For Happiness as well!)

16. Green Gloves by The National. (The National are one of those bands who always seem to get great reviews but a slightly underwhelming response from music fans in the UK. Which is a shame if you ask me. I think they write great songs and this is one!)

17. Jack, You Dead by Joe Jackson (I bought this in the 80′s. Most of my mates at the time thought I’d finally lost the plot – but for a small group of us, the songs from Jumpin Jive became theme tunes to our drunken evenings, of which we had many! God knows how many times I’ve stumbled the streets of Glasgow bawling out “What’s The Use Of Getting Sober If You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again”!)

18. A Scanner Darkly by Primal Scream (Another of my favourite bands but I’m not blind to their inconsistency – occasionally they throw up a stinker – this is one of them!)

19. Cool Cool River by Paul Simon (Lovely rhythms on this as there is on everything on Rhythm Of The Saints – I’d get up and dance but my knees have gone – fortunately!)

And to finish…..

20. Jumpin Jive by Joe Jackson (My iTunes obviously realised how much I loved “Jack You Dead!” so it’s come back to Jumpin Jive album for the title track! It’s great and allows me to sing one of my favourite lyrics of all time ” the jim-jam-jump is the jumpin jive, makes you nine foot tall when you’re four foot five!” – if only it could for a short-arse like me!)

Blog Stuff

This morning I found a reference to a bookmark listing 50 books to read before you die on the Reading Matters blog. I’d already gone through the tome 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die which a friend bought for me last year, to see how many I had read!!! So, anal-retentive that I am, I went through the 50 books listed on the book mark to see how many I had read (I’d read 33 of them) and as I read the list, which was supposed to be a mix of classics by great writers, I was surprised to read that things like Mark Haddon’s “Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime” and Phillip Pulman’s “Dark Materials” trilogy had been included. They wouldn’t have struck me as classics in the same vein as some of the others (The Bible, Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, works by Shakespeare and by Chaucer and a fair smattering of Austen’s and Bronte’s and Dickens etc). However even though I didn’t really get their fit to classics, I’d read them so happily included them in my tally of 33! 33 out of 50 – satisfied smirks all round then!!!!