November 2013

In the morning seeing a great deal of foul water come into my parlour from under the partition between me and Mr. Davis, I did step thither to him and tell him of it, and he did seem very ready to have it stopt, and did also tell me how thieves did attempt to rob his house last night, which do make us all afraid.
This noon I being troubled that the workmen that I have to do my door were called to Mr. Davis’s away, I sent for them, when Mr. Davis sent to inquire a reason of, and I did give him a good one, that they were come on purpose to do some work with me that they had already begun, with which he was well pleased, and I glad, being unwilling to anger them.
In the afternoon Sir W. Batten and I met and did sell the ship Church for 440l.; and we asked 391l., and that being done, I went home, and Dr. Petty came to me about Mr. Barlow’s money, and I being a little troubled to be so importuned before I had received it, and that they would have it stopt in Mr. Fenn’s hands, I did force the Doctor to go fetch the letter of attorney that he had to receive it only to make him same labour, which he did bring, and Mr. Hater came along with him from the Treasury with my money for the first quarter (Michaelmas last) that ever I received for this employment. So I paid the Dr. 25l. and had 62l. 10s. for myself, and 7l. 10s. to myself also for Will’s salary, which I do intend yet to keep for myself.
With this my heart is much rejoiced, and do bless Almighty God that he is pleased to send so sudden and unexpected payment of my salary so soon after my great disbursements. So that now I am worth 200l. again.
In a great ease of mind and spirit I fell about the auditing of Mr. Shepley’s last accounts with my Lord by my Lord’s desire, and about that I sat till 12 o’clock at night, till I began to doze, and so to bed, with my heart praising God for his mercy to us.

Foul water in my house—
a ship on a fen.
I force the doctor to fetch
for his salary
my heart.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 29 November 1660.

This month I’ve tried hard to post something else every day in addition to the usual erasure poem, both to liven up the place with a bit of variety, and to return this blog to its roots as a melange of poetry and prose, photos and links, especially with Via Negativa’s tenth birthday coming up in just a couple of weeks. I haven’t done as good a job of linking to other bloggers as I should, but let me try and make up for lost time by reviewing four sites that are among my favorites in the literary/personal genre of blogging. All four are included in the last and longest category on my links page, “Poets, writers, and other uncategorizable personal bloggers.”

Each of these four bloggers is based in Germany, and they share a certain multicultural focus. The first three could just as easily be categorized as photobloggers, were it not for the fact that some of their posts don’t contain photos, and others are more about the writing than the illustrations.

  • I was not born in English
  • Magda Kapa is from Greece, and is a master of the epigram.

    Love: the biggest truths are tunes.

    Love: the unspoken leaves one broken.

    Love: the saddest fates are now graves.

    Love: and yet.

    Last month, she reflected on the turmoil in Greece:

    In the early ’80s, when we were still confident that historical awareness would prevail and have a cathartic effect on the Greek society, I interviewed as part of a school project people in my village who had been at enmity ever since the Civil War, when they’d lost family members in the fighting and atrocities between Communist and right-wing forces. I was in the first year of Gymnasium (middle school), and I remember how shocked I was to face indomitable hatred for the first time in my life. I wish I’d kept my transcripts of those interview tapes so I could reread and use them now. Unfortunately, the good years that followed lulled all of us into a sense of complacency, and I was no exception.

    There’s so much I want to write about all this…. I also visited one of the most beautiful Cyclades island, Sifnos, after a long time of not having done so. It was a real homecoming for me, for body and spirit. A superb feeling.

    On November 13, she posted a photo travelogue from that homecoming.

  • life as a journey
  • Dorothee Lang is the editor of BluePrintReview, a long-running webzine that pairs poetry and prose submissions with photos. In her personal blog, she writes about “roads, moments, encounters, etc.” Currently, she’s blogging from Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands.

    After all the work, this journey still feels slightly unreal. The way a shift of place changes the own view of things. The way that something that seemed so important now can wait another day. The way memories pop up, in unexpected places. Like in the island supermarket, when I picked a pot of Cup Noodles, and the memory of my first Cup Noodles flashed with it: Ireland that was. English summer school in Cork. Which also was my first trip by plane. And my first trip alone to another country.

    Another memory that returned today: while driving across the island, I listened to the battered CD I brought, “The Human Condition” by Richard Ashcroft. Bought in India. Played there, on a road through Rajasthan. Which didn’t look that different, seen like that: dusty fields. A white sun above. All this road, going.

  • Parmanu
  • Unlike many sites (including Via Negativa these days), Parmanu actually has a helpful and descriptive About page:

    This site is a growing collection of memories dating back to 2003. Its author is an Indian living in Germany.

    And he follows that with a selection of links to some of his best posts, arranged by topic (Living in Germany, Visits to India, Train journeys, Visiting places, Books and movies, Rare experiments with fiction, Art and photography). As this list suggests, Parmanu is unusual among the personal bloggers I read in the care and selectivity he brings to the presentation of his material — sort of the way I fantasize about blogging, were I a different and more organized person. His travel essays are as good as any you’ll ever find. His most recent posts are about a trip to Istanbul.

    We picked up, after a few days, some rhythms of the street. In the mornings, at the intersection where Mis Sokak meets Istiklal Caddesi, an elderly shoe-shine man set up his equipment and sat down to wait for customers. I saw him polishing shoes only once through that week, but he had other tricks up his sleeve. On a rainy morning when umbrella vendors sprung up here and there (offering transparent plastic umbrellas for 5 Turkish Liras), this old man went up to one of them, borrowed a few umbrellas, and stood in a corner selling them to passersby. Then there was the father-son pair that stood at different parts of the street on each day, playing the accordion and collecting money. They were a happy pair, always smiling at each other or at people walking past. P. was enchanted (charmed by father or son I still do not know), and clicked pictures sufficient to fill an album. I also had fleeting but recurrent glimpses of a budding romance between two security guards stationed a few meters apart at the entrance to a mall. The dark-haired young woman at one end appeared to send silent messages (I’d forgotten how much can be conveyed without saying a word) to the shy young man opposite her, who responded with smiles and blushes. Except one afternoon, when he looked distracted; the reason became clear when I looked to the other side: in place of the woman was a man, staring blankly at the shoppers crossing into and out of the mall.

  • the rain in my purse
  • Sarah Sloat is an American journalist who writes kick-ass poetry in her spare time. And though she’s widely published in paper and online journals, she still shares plenty of poems on her personal blog as well, along with book reviews, amusing lists, and other evidence of a fierce intellect and sharp wit. Back on October 29, she blogged about Voices of Chernobyl: The Oral History of the Nuclear Disaster simply by compiling all the author’s parenthetical inserts from the book’s monologues, creating a kind of found poem, “Red, not orange.” It begins like this:

    [Silence.] [A week later the village was evacuated.] [She starts crying.] [She is silent.] [Silent.] [Silent.] [Long silence.] [She is silent for a long time.] [She is silent.] [She becomes incomprehensible.] [She has trouble breathing.] [She is silent for a long time.] [She stands up, goes over to the window.]

    [Starts crying.] [Cheers up suddenly.] [Starts crying.] [Starts crying.]

    Sloat’s latest post is a more straightforward poem, “In Late November,” which contains these lines:

    Seven winds delivered in one gust
    on the afternoon cut short by dark.

    Isn’t the lack of distinction sometimes too much?
    And then the craze for being grateful.

This entry is part 20 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2013

do not be disheartened by the appearance
of yet another detour: that there is road work
suggests this path has not been abandoned yet,
or that it is time to look more closely
at the establishments that line this section
of the map— Not everyone perhaps is an hija
de puta
, a heartless bruja, a bitch only waiting
to trip you up or put you in what she assumes
is your place. So she was born with a silver
spoon in her mouth, a blingety-bling in her nose
ring, her father’s stocks to cover her precious
behind? Ya qué? Remember what your grand-
father used to say about their kind: just close
your eyes and think about all the ugly and unkind,
all the beautiful, snooty ones who live in their cold,
drafty mansions with no one to love, no one who loves
them back except for the miserly crumb of a saltine
cracker beside their bag of tea; and think about
how everyone on this earth is reduced to that common
denominator of skin beneath these artificial layers,
how the fat around the waist dimples then folds
as the body strains on the pot to expel its daily
load of crap— Take a look around and see who else
is on this pilgrimage: you’d be surprised at how many
are inching along, making clearings, hefting their dollar-
store supplies, their thrift store finds, their non-
designer bags filled with an assortment of viable dreams.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This morning went to Whitehall to my Lord’s, where Major Hart did pay me; 23l. 14s. 9d., due to me upon my pay in my Lord’s troop at the time of our disbanding, which is a great blessing to have without taking any law in the world for. But now I must put an end to any hopes of getting any more, so that I bless God for this.
From thence with Mr. Shepley and Pinkney to the Sun, and did give them a glass of wine and a peck of oysters for joy of my getting this money.
So home, where I found that Mr. Creed had sent me the 11l. 5s. that is due to me upon the remains of account for my sea business, which is also so much clear money to me, and my bill of impresse for 30l. is also cleared, so that I am wholly clear as to the sea in all respects. To the office, and was there till late at night, and among the officers do hear that they may have our salaries allowed by the Treasurer, which do make me very glad, and praise God for it.
Home to supper, and Mr. Hater supped with me, whom I did give order to take up my money of the Treasurer to-morrow if it can be had.
So to bed.

A great blessing
to put an end to hopes
of getting more.
The sea is clear—
and I am clear
to the sea.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 November 1660.

To Whitehall, where I found my Lord gone abroad to the Wardrobe, whither he do now go every other morning, and do seem to resolve to understand and look after the business himself.
From thence to Westminster Hall, and in King Street there being a great stop of coaches, there was a falling out between a drayman and my Lord Chesterfield’s coachman, and one of his footmen killed. At the Hall I met with Mr. Creed, and he and I to Hell to drink our morning draught, and so to my Lord’s again, where I found my wife, and she and I dined with him and my Lady, and great company of my Lord’s friends, and my Lord did show us great respect.
Soon as dinner was done my wife took her leave, and went with Mr. Blackburne and his wife to London to a christening of a Brothers child of his on Tower Hill.
And I to a play, “The Scorn-full Lady.”
And that being done, I went homewards, and met Mr. Moore, who had been at my house, and took him to my father’s, and we three to Standing’s to drink. Here Mr. Moore told me how the House had this day voted the King to have all the Excise for ever.
This day I do also hear that the Queen’s going to France is stopt, which do like me well, because then the King will be in town the next month, which is my month again at the Privy Seal. From thence home, where when I come I do remember that I did leave my boy Waineman at Whitehall with order to stay there for me in the court, at which I was much troubled, but about 11 o’clock at night the boy came home well, and so we all to bed.

I found a war
every morning,
a falling out, a field
men killed
friends and brothers for,
stopped like a seal
in a well.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 November 1660.

Happy Thanksgiving! Though I did spend plenty of time with the family today, I tend to feel that holidays are a good time to make major changes to a website. That’s because I’m too lazy to set up a separate testing environment and instead do all the tinkering live on the site while people might be trying to read, so I feel it’s best to do it when the majority of the readership isn’t online. (Sorry if anyone was discombobulated. I hope you can recombobulate without too much trouble.)

This is a new WordPress theme, Stargazer, and it’s by one of the most tech-savvy themers out there, Justin Tadlock. He modestly calls Stargazer

the most advanced theme ever created for WordPress without compromising standards. This is the only theme in the world that you’ll find that extends WordPress’ built-in theme features so robustly but naturally. The theme is built on the rock-solid Hybrid Core theme framework.

It’s built with search-engine optimization (SEO) in mind by utilizing the most current HTML5 conventions and Schema.org microdata.

It did almost everything I wanted out of the box, but I have had to make a few changes (via the approved method, creating a child theme), such as including full content rather than excerpts on most pages and doing away with the garish blockquote styling. There are a couple more things I intend to tweak if I can figure out how. But the point is that I can make changes if y’all have criticisms or suggestions.

There are a few differences from the previous theme (Twenty Ten). The site should seamlessly adapt to whatever device you’re viewing it on, and there’s a lot more hyphenating as a result. Individual posts now have a breadcrumb navigation at the top, obviating the need for a redundant Home link on the navigation bar opposite the blog title. The comments link is now after the date at the top of the post, and the category and tag links are at the bottom after the sharing buttons. I’ve left the extra search button in the very top right corner for now — that’s the default, crappy search function provided by WordPress. The Google Custom Search button near the top of the sidebar should work better most of the time, presuming Google has correctly indexed the site.

For WordPress geeks, there’s a lot more about the Stargazer theme at WordPress Tavern. I especially liked this part:

With Stargazer, Tadlock is aiming to keep the barrier for entry low so that DIY users/future theme developers are encouraged to experiment. All of the complex aspects of the theme are kept out of site in sub-folders of the parent theme. You don’t have to know a ton of PHP code to get started.

Very true. The complexity of the code of many contemporary WordPress themes is discouraging to a hobbyist like me. Tinkering with Stargazer is actually fun — the way all WordPress tinkering used to be.