Sunday, 26 June 2011

Laurie Lee

A quiet Sunday after a busy week I decided to settle down with my favourite book, Poem For the Day. The Twitterworld is agog with people busting their guts trying to get tickets for the Edinburgh Festival or Olympics or even 'Take That' Concerts. I am browsing this book of 366 poems one for every day of the year including leap years. I keep it near my computer and when I feel like a break from the screen or just when my fancy takes me to dip into a poem, I grab the book and read and re-read the same poem. The wonderful thing about this book is that each poem is placed on a day of significance - either the poet's birth or death day or another relevant date - and is complemented by a footnote full of amusing anecdotes and interesting facts to expand on the poem and the poet's life.June 26th has 'Home From Abroad' a poem by Laurie Lee. He was born on this day in 1914.I am familiar with his world famous novel 'Cider with Rosie' but not of his poems. This is what I love about this book. I get to read poems and anecdotes of poets I've not come across before. In the footnote it mentions that at age 19 Laurie left Kent and walked to London and worked as a labourer. His travels through Spain is recounted in his later novels.

This poem begins with the verse

"Far-fetched with tales of other worlds and ways,
My skin well-oiled with wines of the Levant,
I set my face into filial smile
To greet the pale, domestic kiss of Kent."

Most of us can relate to his feeling of yearning for home, so beautifully expressed. In 1936 he wrote " June came in full blast, with the heat bouncing off the sea as from a buckled sheet of tin".
Of course that has happened in Glasgow. I look out at the grey skies and laugh at the image of "heat bouncing off the sea". I think that reading words in verse the best way of relaxing on a quiet afternoon.
I also noticed that there is a Book Two of the same 'Poem for the Day'. Another book to buy, read and treasure.A poem a day what more could one ask for?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Milngavie the gentle suburb

I travelled by train to town this morning and bought a newspaper from the tiny porta cabin coffee shop/ newsagent/ sweetie shop. I found a stack of books at the side and I enquired what it was for.'It's for reading on the train,' said the nice gentleman. 'You can borrow one and bring it back or replace it with your own,' he added with a smile. Now where else in the world would you have such a wonderfully thoughtful service? I have seen a lending library in Indian trains where people spend over a couple of days travelling from one part of India to the other, but they are a captive audience, can't run away with the copies. My little suburb has these touches that I hope will always be cherished.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Cloud Messenger- A gem of a book

This is a short 195 page book, a novella. I read it in a few hours, in one sitting. Aamer Hussein's (its title from Kalidasa's great Sanskrit poem 'Meghduta') "The Cloud Messenger". Lyrical, poetic, stunning in its narration of the author's own experiences. The autobiographical facts have been fictionalised.It is the story of Mehran a middle aged man living in London and looking back on his life. The three cities of Karachi, Indore and London, the three languages Urdu, English and Farsi, the love/relationship triangles all take centre stage. I thoroughly recommend this book and I'll re read it for sure.

A quote from the opening pages of the book: "My friend said: Sometimes I feel you write my words. As if you stole them from me. Or you took them from the sea or city of our birth.
And I tell you then : The heart is a bird. An unwritten letter in its cry. It's not a perfect falcon. Nor even a swan diving for pearls. No I t'a a gull, in search of sustenance. Or rain."

I also found a wonderful review of the book on this blog, 'The Middle Stage'by author Chandrahas Choudhury. His blog is superb.

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