Sunday, November 21

Being Alive: Yes, I Know It's Christmas

It’s late November, and people are starting to say things to me like “Only 34 shopping days left!”, and “Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?” And I looked out of my window a couple of evenings ago and it had begun to snow. The first snow of the Winter. When I walk to work early in the mornings, I sometimes disturb reindeer at the edge of The Forest. They graze there until the Council opens the gates for the Park & Ride. This year, when someone asks me if I’ve started my Christmas shopping, I feel a warm glow surge through me. I have it sussed, absolutely. I have a One-Present-Fits-All solution. Here is my List of What I’m Getting and Who I’m Getting It For.

For my Mum:

My mum is a cook. By which I mean, she cooks. What she can do with a chunk of boil-in-the-bag ham and a packet of frozen peas beggars belief. There are some funny stories about my mum and exotic foods. She used to think a kumquat was a small furry mammal. (But then, so did I until I studied English Literature at night school.) She is very good with potatoes if they are in the shape of chips, too. But lately, as she has gotten older (she is 94) she seems to have lost a little of her culinary ambition and so, to kind of liven things up a bit and in an endeavour to whet a tired and jaded appetite, I’m hoping she will read some poems with titles like “Peaches” and “Crab Apple Jelly” and “A Jar of Honey”. I think my mum needs to be reminded about the world and its fruits, and the great hunger of our souls. So, I’m getting her the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”, and pointing her especially to the “Taste and See” section. But no doubt she will read the rest, too. That will do her good.

For my Dad:

When he was younger my dad travelled around a lot. He was a sales rep for a company that designed bottle labels. If you’ve ever sat in a pub chatting with friends and absentmindedly picked away at the label on a bottle of beer there’s a good chance you’ve connected, in some rather distant way, to my dad. Or to someone who used to work for the company he used to work for before they were bought out by the Americans. Anyway, my dad travelled a lot, but since his retirement he has stayed indoors mainly, or in his back garden if my mum is indoors. But I think he still wanders the countryside in his head. If I could talk to him, I’m sure there’s lots he could tell me about familiarity and unfamiliarity, and how paths can cross with other lives. And how if you explore the world you can open yourself up to otherness, which is good for you. I’m not sure my dad reads much these days, because they’ve just had Sky TV installed, but if he could read a few poems, like “Mappa Mundi” and “What If This Road” and “The Appointment” it might rekindle the little travelly spark in him, and so I’m getting him the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”, and pointing him especially to the “Exploring the World” section. But no doubt he will read the rest, too. That will do him good.

For my sister Kirsty:

Kirsty has been in and out of love more than I have, which is saying something. I usually buy her some cosmetics; once I bought her some underwear for a joke, but it was a joke that misfired and she didn’t talk to me for months and looked at me very strangely for even longer. We are okay now, but I don’t want to buy her cosmetics again. She’s had a very up and down year of love, even more than usual. Don’t mention the name Brett anywhere near her. Kirsty read a book once, and I think it’s time to see if she can open another one. She needs to broaden her outlook, and poems are pretty short so they would match her attention span. So if she could maybe read “Love at First Sight” and “Story of a Hotel Room”….. well, I don’t know what she would think. She might come to the conclusion that a sense of oneness between two people goes hand in hand with a sense of inner peace and communion with the world. Or she might wish I’d bought her some lippy. But never mind, I’m going to be strong and I’m getting her the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”, and pointing her especially to the “Love Life” section. She might read some other bits, too. That will do her good, if she does. I guess she might not.

For my brother Adam:

Adam has just officially left The Labour Party. He said he was going to do it last year but he had trouble cancelling his subscription he paid by standing order with his Bank, and he was paid up again for another year “by accident”, he says. Anyway, Adam is the activist of the family. He is very happy that hunting with dogs is being outlawed, and is one of the few people I know who can be very serious and very funny about politics all at the same time. He just told me the first Yasser Arafat joke to do the rounds, but I’d best not repeat it here. Adam always says he quite likes poetry, but he never reads it. He says it has no relevance to the lives we live in this mad world. Oh boy! Does that irk my goat!! He is going to have to read some poems even if I have to hold him down, fix back his eyelids with gaffer tape, and prop the book open six inches in front of his stupid face. I’m going to get him the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”, and make him read especially the “Mad World” section. If I can hold him down for long enough I might make him read some poems from other parts of the book, too. I hold out hope for Adam. I hope he won’t resist too much.

For my niece Daisy Faye:

Seriously, that’s her name. And she lives up to it. The only things she seems to know anything about at all are fairies at the bottom of the garden, and snowdrops. All she ever wants for Christmas is a pony, but she is 22 and is soon going to have to get a job in a call centre like everybody else. To prepare her for this (and it’s coming: I know her parents want her to start paying reasonable rent) I figure she should read something about how people live and get by in the ordinary world. Poets often write about degradation and urban squalor, about destruction and demolition, alienation and loss of community, and so I’m buying Daisy Faye the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”, and pointing her especially to the “Daily Round” section. She doesn’t like me much anyway, so I have nothing to lose.

For my boy-pal Gunter:

Gunter went to a very good University. Or do I mean a very famous University? Anyway, he went to University, and he understands some very complicated things. He once explained Derrida and Foucault to me, but I’ve forgotten what he said. I think he has all Martin Heidegger’s LPs. Gunter is a lovely bloke, but he could do with lightening up a little. (I once introduced him to Daisy Faye, but that was a lighten up step way too far.) Whatever, I want him to chill out a bit and read some stuff that won’t tax him too much. Chill. He is always going on about text, and decoding, and foregrounding, and stuff like that. I say: Chill! Just because you’re highly intelligent doesn’t mean you can’t climb down a rung or two on the evolutionary chain and read some highly enjoyable writings that ordinary folk can understand, too. So I’m giving Gunter the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”. I hope he doesn’t find it beneath him. I have the best of intentions, I really do.

For my girl-pal Caitlin:

Caitlin is one of the most beautiful women I know. I know she knows I think that, but she likes me anyway. She runs a local Womens’ Group, and drives a brand new Volkswagen Beetle, one of those that has a little flower in a vase on the dashboard. I don’t know where she gets her money, and I don’t care. Caitlin is the sort of woman who would love modern poetry if she knew what it was really like. But she’s told me loads of times it’s boring and dull or plain incomprehensible. And she’s no idiot! How can anybody that gorgeous be an idiot? So, as part of my private campaign to see Caitlin more often, I’m going to buy her for Christmas the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive”. She will like the “Men and Women” section, I know, and I will suggest she perhaps, if she feels like it, and has the time, read that one first. I think she has heard of Carol Ann Duffy already.

That’s it. That’s my Christmas present list. The really good thing about giving a book to someone is that someone else might read it too, and then that trickle down effect kicks in and before you know it half the world has read the book you gave to one person for Christmas! And, because this Christmas I’m giving people the Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Being Alive” then by this time next year I will have done my bit to help in the Bloodaxe campaign to introduce thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry by giving them access to an international gathering of poems of emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. That makes me feel good, and it will make them feel good, too. I don’t know about you, but since the previous Bloodaxe poetry anthology “Staying Alive” came out a couple of years ago I’m always bumping into people who weren’t poetry readers but who now are, and all because of that book. And so it goes on. Bravo, I say. Bravo.

Powered by Blogger

British Blogs. Listed on Blogwise Subscribe with Bloglines

Song Lyrics

Search Engine Submission and Optimization Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Get Firefox!