Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Mick Imlah (1956-2009)

Mick Imlah died on 12 January, aged just 52. His first collection of poetry in 20 years, The Lost Leader (Faber, 2008) had recently been published and had won the Forward Prize. He had also been shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize. His death is a terrible loss to contemporary poetry. The Lost Leader is a huge and powerful poetic history of Scotland. I print one poem from the collection:


Love moves the family, but hate
makes the better soldier;
why would the boxer scatter his purse,
sell up his soul, be Ugolino evermore,
for the soft-hard piece of his rival’s ear—
were it not for the lovely taste of hate;
if it didn’t award him a pleasant pillow
of hate to soften the stone of his cell?
Dante, who loved well because he hated,
Hated the wickedness that hinders loving

Read reviews here, here, here, and here. Read obits here, here, here, and here. And this.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Gone Cuckoo

I have been remiss here in leaving it so long to post. One thing happened, then another. And then it was now.

Last evening I watched The Natural World on BBC iPlayer, which talked about the Cuckoo. Prof. Nick Davies, an expert and fellow of my college, talked about the bird and its pretty awful behaviour. I know that it is silly to think in moral terms about the behaviour of birds but I found it all rather...well chilling actually. The cuckoo doesn't build a nest of its own. I had known this. It was the rest that I was a bit sketchy for me.

The cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds' nests, making room for it by eating the eggs it finds there. When this is done, and it manages to get the shape and colour to match, the egg hatches and the reed warbler begins to look after the cuckoo as its own chick. Then, the blind and featherless monster chick senses the other eggs in the nest and throws them out of the nest. In one piece of footage, David Attenborough cooly talks us through the chick pushing another hatched reed warbler chick out of the nest. All this while Prof. Davies walks around College and the Fens during a beautiful summer's day. One scene has him looking around rivers and trees, spectacularly shot, then he's in the College Library looking up learned books about egg-collecting (now illegal). And then you realize you are watching a kind of cuckoo snuff movie.

I'll never look at a cuckoo clock in the same way again. Ruined, I am.


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