parenthetical pedantry

The more I read on-line, the more I think the mathematicians have it right. The meaning of 4+3*6 is perfectly well defined. You have to do the multiplication first.

If you want to force the addition to be be done first, you just slip in some parentheses: (4+3)*6.

Sadly, text isn’t like that. And with the internet encouraging writing by all and sundry, and forcing hurried writing by those who should know better, it’s easy to produce potentially ambiguous statements like this, from a piece about the need to encourage social inclusion by reading, on the London Book Fair site:

Not only are those who read less likely to be divorced, but they are less likely to smoke and be unemployed

My original reading of the first phrase parsed “those who read less” as a unit, and the phrase apparently claimed members of this group were “likely to be divorced”.
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competitions, compensation and closure

I had a friend who used to say that until a poem was published, it wasn’t complete.

I’m not sure whether he felt that once the poem had been accepted and approved by an editor it was fixed and he could stop tinkering with it, or whether the purpose of a poem was to reach a readership which only publication would provide. Whatever the reason, in some way, publication of the poem gave him ‘closure’.
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listening and reading

As well as the poetry course at Swanwick, I was also asked to lead the two showcase events. These were essentially poetry readarounds – a rather more restrained atmosphere than a normal open mike, but along those lines.

There were other showcase sessions on at the same time, in fiction and non-fiction, but we had a good turn out and it looked as if there would be far more people reading than there was time for.
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moving experiences I

It’s a while since I posted any poetry, so, since I’m in the process of moving things from the city to the village, this seems appropriate:


The rip and fart of parcel tape; the tangle,
stick and cuss; the smell of dust,
mothballs and corrugated cardboard.
Drugstore detergent cartons
stuffed and trussed
and stacked in the spare room.
Both cats in heat and looking
for a mate, a nest, a fond caress…
They play at pigs in pokes, scrabble,
scratch and snag at boxes, plastic bags
and bundles, wail and waul.

When finally I move, I’ll leave
fixtures and fittings
and two grown kittens.

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quis custodiet…?

We all know that it’s just about impossible to make a living from being a poet. So poets try and do other poetry-associated activities, such as workshops, readings and talks, to eke out a living.

Sometimes they get to visit schools and talk to the children about poetry and about being a writer.
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other people’s projects

Reading a friend’s book proposal ready to contribute my two penn’orth, I was startled to find my name appear in one of the sample chapters. (Amused, too, to find myself described as “the Welsh poet” as if I were the only one!)

People who know me will probably find it as bizarre as I do that I am being quoted in a parenting book aimed at new fathers.
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books and their covers & a glimpse of fame

I was down in Seville at the weekend, at the Feria del Libro, for a cuentacuentos session and book signing.

Opposite Casa Pilatos, Seville
Seville: cool and green in the morning
The story-telling was on the Saturday morning and the guys from the bookshop who had invited me warned me not to expect a big audience; apparently 11:30 is considered early in Seville.

Of course, people go to bed very late – the women in the next room to me in the hotel clearly didn’t go out till after 11:00 on the Friday night and came back at about 4:30am. It seems odd, though, that the best part of the day – first thing after the sun gets up and while it’s all still fresh and cool – should be wasted. Particularly as, by lunch time, Seville heat can be suffocating.
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