Friday, 21 June 2019

Alice Oswald elected Oxford Professor of Poetry

Alice Oswald has been elected Oxford's first female Professor of Poetry, and a jolly good thing too. Andrew McMillan would also have been a good choice, and I'm sure he'll be in the reckoning in the future. Slightly staggered that 58 people still voted for Todd Swift, but there you go...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Places Of Poetry

The Places Of Poetry blog is a terrific idea – basically you can pin your own poems of place on the map of the UK, as well as enjoying browsing the map and discovering a lot of excellent new poems by other people.

I haven't posted anything up there yet, although I notice there's something a gap around where I live in Warwickshire, as well as around my hometown of Coalville in Leicestershire. Time to get busy, perhaps.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Have Moicy!

I've been a huge fan of American indie stalwarts Yo La Tengo for a long time now, and one of their most consistently enjoyable albums is Fakebook, from way back in 1990.  It's far from typical of their output, being made up of semi-acoustic cover versions of various obscurities (as well as retreads of a few of their own songs), but it's got a lovely, laid-back vibe.

Anyway, one of the songs on there, Griselda, comes from an album called Have Moicy!, by Michael Hurley, The Unholy Modal Rounders, Jeffery Frederick, and The Clamtones. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to looking it up on Spotify and having a listen, and it's great. It's folk music, but not as we know it. Robbin' Banks is a particular favourite of mine on there.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Life after cricket: Robin Smith

I'm sorry the link has to be to the Daily Mail, but this interview with Robin Smith about the mental health problems he suffered after retiring from cricket is excellent, both moving and, ultimately, uplifting.

Back in the dark days of the late 80s and early 90s (for English cricket), he was one of my favourite players – combative and positive, as well as a terrific batsman. I remember watching his 167 in a one-day international (an extraordinary score in those days) – it was absolutely brutal.

But he also always came across as modest and unselfish, and there's a hint of that in the interview. Look at his stats, and his test average is really pretty impressive, again when you consider that in those days batting averages were generally lower. I thought he was ultimately rather shabbily treated by England – they suddenly decided that he was hopeless against spin bowling, just because he'd struggled against Shane Warne, but then who didn't?

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Springsteen albums, ranked

The other day, ahead of the release of his new album Western Stars, The Guardian ran this piece ranking all Springsteen's albums.

First thing to say is that, much as I love Springsteen, I think there are absolute stinkers on pretty much all his albums. Great as Darkness On The Edge Of Town is, for example, it contains the almost unlistenable Streets Of Fire, and the not much better Something In The Night.

I'd have Devils and Dust and Magic higher on my list, Born To Run would be ahead of Born In The USA on the strength of Thunder Road and the title track alone, and I'd have The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle at No1, even though it's hardly one of his more typical albums. But yes, I'd have to have Darkness... very high on the list too.

But I'm glad the writer put Tunnel Of Love well up there. Springsteen rarely seems to play much from it these days, presumably because it was born out of the break-up of his first marriage, but I love it. Subtle country and Orbison influences, and some great songs, not least Brilliant Disguise.

I haven't listened to it much for a few years, mainly because I went on a press trip to Croatia during which the driver of the minibus played it on a continuous loop for five days. You can have too much of a good thing, as it turns out.