biscuits and other ambiguities

coffee and ginger biscuits
When I’ve quoted Sandburg – “poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits” – in the past, I have always felt the biscuits were there to represent the everyday, functional side of life: I’ve always assumed he meant Rich Tea, not Hobnobs.

But apparently yesterday was National Biscuit Day, which set me thinking: as I am not really sure which nation was celebrating, I don’t know whether the biscuits in question are the ones you eat with morning coffee or with gravy. And even if it were definitely a British celebration, they might be cheesy biscuits rather than gingersnaps.

Now I am wondering whether Sandberg was thinking of American biscuits – the plain scones eaten with thick sausage gravy – with all the social and regional connotations that they bring to bear. Suddenly hyacinths have become the clear and unambiguous aspect of the quote: a natural Truth alongside the unnecessarily complex human view of things.
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just for fun

It doesn’t matter how good your writing is if no one reads it, so one of the skills of journalism must be composing attention-catching headlines. Whoever realised they were in a position to use the phrase Most dangerous alien species in a story title today must have been sure they were on to a winner.

The words certainly caught my attention and I clicked through to an article in the Independent about Quagga mussels.

Not only did I read the story, but I clicked on the gallery of Alien attacks: The invasive species damaging the UK, past the grey squirrels, through the Japanese knotweed and the Giant hogweed, all the way to the end, where I found this innocuous-looking creature:

killer shrimp
image from http://www.independent.co.uk gallery link above
Of course appearances are deceptive and the accompanying text tells us it is a killer shrimp:
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permission granted

pink poppy
I had an email early this week asking for permission to include three of my limericks in an English school workbook, which is to be published in September ready for the new academic year. This wasn’t really a surprise as I’d agreed with the author back in February that she could use them. Even so, I had half forgotten our conversation and wasn’t sure when the book was due out or when I might hear.
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yet more weather

reindeer plush and daffodils
Looks like rain, dear
No one who lives in the UK needs to be told that the weather continues unabated, and I can’t be the only one who’s thinking that surely now February is here we might expect some proper winter weather rather than all this wind and rain.

The phrase February fill dike came to mind. Googling it I found this article from the Guardian two years ago, which reports that “southern, central and eastern regions […] are teetering on the brink of drought”. It also says, somewhat surprisingly, that February tends to be one of the driest months of the year.

Not wanting to get political, I’ll just mention that I was told as a child that “bad governments bring bad weather.”

Well, whether drought or flood, we seem to have been having bad weather for years. The poem below was written in January 2001:
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make it fresh: pizzas and poetry

Pub sign "Pizza's made fresh"
The publican’s apostrophe in the picture caught my attention.

Closer inspection suggested that it wasn’t the only problem: my friend wondered what would happen if he turned up with a pizza that had seen better days and ordered them to “make it fresh.”

I was reminded of telling another friend about a poetry competition on the theme “Fresh voices” and her suggestion made that “fresh” ought to be reserved to describe bread, milk, eggs, etc. That discussion might have been pedantic, but it inspired me to write a winning poem.

Hunting around for it in the archives, I am amazed to discover that it was written in the year 2000. It also surprises me that I have never posted it on the blog. Here it is:
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