Poets Day


Poets Day I learned last week has nothing to do with poetry, poets or poems.

P.O.E.T.S. Day

Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.

Traditional Friyay office greeting it seems.



W.J. Smith 100 years young.


On the centenary of this poet laureate I think it worth noting that those who write poetry for children have a special place in the world.  Generation after generation they are forever young.  Smith also wrote for old fogies.  A long lived man who reached 97 years of age, born 100 years ago, this day, 1918.


Winter Morning; by William Jay Smith

All night the wind swept over the house
and through our dream
swirling the snow up through the pines,
ruffling the white, ice-capped clapboards,
rattling the windows,
rustling around and below our bed
so that we rode
over wild water
in a white ship breasting the waves.
We rode through the night
on green, marbled
water, and, half-waking, watched
the white, eroded peaks of icebergs
sail past our windows;
rode out the night in that north country,
and awoke, the house buried in snow,
perched on a
chill promontory, a
giant’s tooth
in the mouth of the cold valley,
its white tongue looped frozen around us,
the trunks of tall birches
revealing the rib cage of a whale
stranded by a still stream;
and saw, through the motionless baleen of their branches,
as if through time,
light that shone
on a landscape of ivory,
a harbor of bone.


Happy Birthday George Herbert


Portrait by Robert White of Herbert painted 40 years after the death of the poet.

Born this day 1593, Herbert is one of the Metaphysical poets.  This poem is considered symbolic of his struggle with holy orders, which he ducked in University for a career in Parliament, only to return to the cloth later in life.

The Collar : by George Herbert

I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
to let me blood, and not restore
what I have lost with cordial fruit?

Sure there was wine
before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it,
no flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
and thou hast hands.

Recover all thy sigh-blown age
on double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
thy rope of sands,
which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
good cable, to enforce and draw,
and be thy law,
while thou didst wink and wouldst not see.

Away! take heed;
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
He that forbears
to suit and serve his need
deserves his load.”

But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
at every word,
methought I heard one calling, Child!
And I replied My Lord.

Chimurenga name.


Sketch of an Ndebele Warrior by Robert Baden Powell founder of the Scouting Movement.

Chimurenga is a Shona word which translates as “revolutionary struggle”.  The first Chimurenga was a revolt by the Ndebele (Matabele) and Shona peoples of Matabeleland (now Zimbabwe).  The revolt failed after initial successes, and Matabeleland became Rhodesia.

In the 1960’s and ’70’s the revolt of the Ndebele (PF) and Shona (Zanu) against white rule became the Second Chimurenga.  This one succeeded.  Robert Mugabe, leader of Zanu then united the Shona and Ndebele factions into the Zanu-PF party which has ruled independent Zimbabwe ever since.

Leaders in the brutal guerrilla bush war often adopted war names to enhance their ferocity.  Gentle intellectuals went through over a year of tough bush training at the hands of North Korean and Chinese instructors.  They hardened up and so did their names.  They took cues from movies such as James Bond, Cowboy films, from music icons like Bob Marley, from sportsmen like Muhammad Ali, political leaders like Hitler, Stalin and even Indira Gandhi.

“What’s in a name?” asks Juliette from the Shakespeare play.  “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Bart Simpson suggests “Not if you call it a stink blossom or a crap weed”.

Nominative determinism, the theory that our actions or career tend to fit our names, will see a job as a mechanic go to John Wright instead of Fred Taylor.  Do Chimurenga names work?

Who would you fear more?  Someone called John Oboyo or the guy beside him called Commander Comrade Mao?  Would you prefer to be interrogated by Ariston Ford or by Machete Footchopper?

More to follow on this theme.

Enter a Pilgrim


On this day, Dec 11th, 100 years ago, 1917, General Allenby entered Jerusalem.  In doing so he became the first Christian to take effective control of the city since Bailan of Ibelin surrendered the city to Saladin  in 1187.  (Excluding a limited negotiated return by Frederick II in the 6th crusade 1229-1244).

Allenby clearly understood the deep significance of his arrival in the holy city.  For this reason he elected not to enter in triumph as a conqueror.  Instead he entered as a pilgrim.  He walked in via the Jaffa gate in what was a low key affair, as depicted by the photo above.

I contrast this with the recent decision by Donald Trump to overturn decades of US foreign policy and order the removal of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Trump has done exactly what Allenby sought to avoid.  He made a clear political statement favouring one community over all others.

The result of Donald Trump’s announcement is widespread rioting in the Middle East, not only in Palestine but also extending into neighbouring countries.  The usual flag burning is taking place outside US embassies all over the muslim world.

This manic and destructive act neatly focuses US media attention away from his tax bill, which rewards the super-rich at the expense of the middle class and poor Americans.  So what if a few muslim youths are shot, buildings torched and the people of Israel face a violent backlash?  The important thing is that US Oligarchs can look forward to even greater expansion of their wealth.  And let’s not forget, Trump is one of them.