Missing

Up, lying a little long in bed, and by water to White Hall, and there find the Duke of York gone out, he being in haste to go to the Parliament, and so all my Brethren were gone to the office too. So I to Sir Ph. Warwicke’s about my Tangier business, and then to Westminster Hall, and walked up and down, and hear that the Prince do still rest well by day and night, and out of pain; so as great hopes are conceived of him: though I did meet Dr. Clerke and Mr. Pierce, and they do say they believe he will not recover it, they supposing that his whole head within is eaten by this corruption, which appeared in this piece of the inner table. Up to the Parliament door, and there discoursed with Roger Pepys, who goes out of town this week, the Parliament rising this week also. So down to the Hall and there spied Betty Michell, and so I sent for burnt wine to Mrs. Michell’s, and there did drink with the two mothers, and by that means with Betty, poor girle, whom I love with all my heart. And God forgive me, it did make me stay longer and hover all the morning up and down the Hall to ‘busquer occasions para ambulare con elle. But ego ne pouvoir’. So home by water and to dinner, and then to the office, where we sat upon Denis Gawden’s accounts, and before night I rose and by water to White Hall, to attend the Council; but they sat not to-day. So to Sir W. Coventry’s chamber, and find him within, and with a letter from the Downes in his hands, telling the loss of the St. Patricke coming from Harwich in her way to Portsmouth; and would needs chase two ships (she having the Malago fire-ship in company) which from English colours put up Dutch, and he would clap on board the Vice-Admirall; and after long dispute the Admirall comes on the other side of him, and both together took him. Our fire-ship (Seely) not coming in to fire all three, but come away, leaving her in their possession, and carried away by them: a ship built at Bristoll the last year, of fifty guns and upwards, and a most excellent good ship. This made him very melancholy. I to talk of our wants of money, but I do find that he is not pleased with that discourse, but grieves to hear it, and do seem to think that Sir G. Carteret do not mind the getting of money with the same good cheer that he did heretofore, nor do I think he hath the same reason. Thence to Westminster Hall, thinking to see Betty Michell, she staying there all night, and had hopes to get her out alone, but missed, and so away by coach home, and to Sir W. Batten’s, to tell him my bad news, and then to the office, and home to supper, where Mrs. Hewer was, and after supper and she gone, W. Hewer talking with me very late of the ill manner of Sir G. Carteret’s accounts being kept, and in what a sad condition he would be if either Fenn or Wayth should break or die, and am resolved to take some time to tell Sir G. Carteret or my Lady of it, I do love them so well and their family. So to bed, my pain pretty well gone.

all my hopes
are eaten
by a moth with no mouth

but guns do not grieve
or think
to miss


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 6 February 1667.

Moleish

Up, and to the office, where all the morning doing business, and then home to dinner. Heard this morning that the Prince is much better, and hath good rest. All the talk is that my Lord Sandwich hath perfected the peace with Spayne, which is very good, if true. Sir H. Cholmly was with me this morning, and told me of my Lord Bellasses’s base dealings with him by getting him to give him great gratuities to near 2000l. for his friendship in the business of the Mole, and hath been lately underhand endeavouring to bring another man into his place as Governor, so as to receive his money of Sir H. Cholmly for nothing. Dined at home, and after dinner come Mrs. Daniel and her sister and staid and talked a little, and then I to the office, and after setting my things in order at the office I abroad with my wife and little Betty Michell, and took them against my vowes, but I will make good my forfeit, to the King’s house, to show them a play, “The Chances.” A good play I find it, and the actors most good in it; and pretty to hear Knipp sing in the play very properly, “All night I weepe;” and sung it admirably. The whole play pleases me well: and most of all, the sight of many fine ladies — among others, my Lady Castlemayne and Mrs. Middleton: the latter of the two hath also a very excellent face and body, I think. Thence by coach to the New Exchange, and there laid out money, and I did give Betty Michell two pair of gloves and a dressing-box; and so home in the dark, over the ruins, with a link. I was troubled with my pain, having got a bruise on my right testicle, I know not how. But this I did make good use of to make my wife shift sides with me, and I did come to sit ‘avec’ Betty Michell, and there had her ‘main’, which ‘elle’ did give me very frankly now, and did hazer whatever I ‘voudrais avec la’, which did ‘plaisir’ me ‘grandement’, and so set her at home with my mind mighty glad of what I have prevailed for so far; and so home, and to the office, and did my business there, and then home to supper, and after to set some things right in my chamber, and so to bed. This morning, before I went to the office, there come to me Mr. Young and Whistler, flaggmakers, and with mighty earnestness did present me with, and press me to take a box, wherein I could not guess there was less than 100l. in gold: but I do wholly refuse it, and did not at last take it. The truth is, not thinking them safe men to receive such a gratuity from, nor knowing any considerable courtesy that ever I did do them, but desirous to keep myself free from their reports, and to have it in my power to say I had refused their offer.

the business of the mole
is to face the dark
bruise of home
and not take wing


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 5 February 1667.

Writing life

I up, with my head troubled to think of the issue of this morning, so made ready and to the office, where Mr. Gawden comes, and he and I discoursed the business well, and thinks I shall get off well enough; but I do by Sir W. Coventry’s silence conclude that he is not satisfied in my management of my place and the charge it puts the King to, which I confess I am not in present condition through my late laziness to give any good answer to. But here do D. Gawden give me a good cordiall this morning, by telling me that he do give me five of the eight hundred pounds on his account remaining in my hands to myself, for the service I do him in my victualling business, and 100l. for my particular share of the profits of my Tangier imployment as Treasurer. This do begin to make my heart glad, and I did dissemble it the better, so when Sir W. Coventry did come, and the rest met, I did appear unconcerned, and did give him answer pretty satisfactory what he asked me; so that I did get off this meeting without any ground lost, but rather a great deal gained by interposing that which did belong to my duty to do, and neither [Sir] W. Coventry nor (Sir) W. Pen did oppose anything thereunto, which did make my heart very glad. All the morning at this work, Sir W. Pen making a great deal of do for the fitting him in his setting out in his employment, and I do yield to any trouble that he gives me without any contradiction. Sir W. Coventry being gone, we at noon to dinner to Sir W. Pen’s, he inviting me and my wife, and there a pretty good dinner, intended indeed for Sir W. Coventry, but he would not stay. So here I was mighty merry and all our differences seemingly blown over, though he knows, if he be not a fool, that I love him not, and I do the like that he hates me. Soon as dined, my wife and I out to the Duke’s playhouse, and there saw “Heraclius,” an excellent play, to my extraordinary content; and the more from the house being very full, and great company; among others, Mrs. Steward, very fine, with her locks done up with puffes, as my wife calls them: and several other great ladies had their hair so, though I do not like it; but my wife do mightily — but it is only because she sees it is the fashion. Here I saw my Lord Rochester and his lady, Mrs. Mallet, who hath after all this ado married him; and, as I hear some say in the pit, it is a great act of charity, for he hath no estate. But it was pleasant to see how every body rose up when my Lord John Butler, the Duke of Ormond’s son, come into the pit towards the end of the play, who was a servant to Mrs. Mallet, and now smiled upon her, and she on him. I had sitting next to me a woman, the likest my Lady Castlemayne that ever I saw anybody like another; but she is a whore, I believe, for she is acquainted with every fine fellow, and called them by their name, Jacke, and Tom, and before the end of the play frisked to another place. Mightily pleased with the play, we home by coach, and there a little to the office, and then to my chamber, and there finished my Catalogue of my books with my own hand, and so to supper and to bed, and had a good night’s rest, the last night’s being troublesome, but now my heart light and full of resolution of standing close to my business.

my head is ready but I am not
give me a morning

give me five hundred hands
and one pen like a mallet

so I like a whore might finish
my book and rest


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 February 1667.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 7

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. This week’s theme: time. Plus a bit of advice on how to better spend it.


For years I have held February
answerable to many sorrows
as though the month itself
were responsible for its appearance:
the dour days too short, long nights
steeped in frosty bitterness.
Resigned to hibernation,
February made me sleepy.
Dulled my skin, sucked dream
into a cold vacuum
like a vacant acre of outer space,
a stone of ice upon my chest.

Ann E. Michael, Apology

I am profoundly lucky to do work I enjoy. It’s been a long haul to get here and I’m grateful to write, edit, and teach for a living. I don’t have much time for my own projects but know if I possessed greater focus I’d be making some progress on them.

I meant to write a paragraph or two here about getting beyond self-criticism and telling myself a more positive story. But you know that skittering mind I mentioned? Yeah, it’s skittering off in another direction.

Because it seems time has gotten more slippery of late. Morning somehow slides into afternoon’s lap or what feels like Thursday is actually Tuesday. A week takes forever but suddenly a month is gone. Time falls into a jumbled stew of our own crises heated up by the shock of each day’s news. It’s not just me. Friends and colleagues complain about this same problem.

On top of work and home pressures, I suspect the era we’re living in is so unexpected that it’s just too hard to concentrate on our own daily minutiae. Things like getting the laundry folded or the next big project done make less sense when each day overflows with startling political changes and new environmental outrages. Perhaps this swings our sense of time toward an altered trajectory.

Laura Grace Weldon, Overwhelmed

I’ve been doing a small project with a novella called Sleepless Night over the past week or two. As with Misery, the recto pages have the title at the top and I’m sticking with those for now. It is a good recurring title for a poem, I must say. The author’s writing is not particularly interesting linguistically and it’s short on good nouns. But I’m making the poems small, like aquariums, or dark little rooms where your thoughts or your grave concerns or all the things you are looking forward to keep you awake.

I’ve also been doing the Februllage collage-a-day challenge on Instagram, as I did last year. I’m not striving to do every day, though. I go back and forth on so many things . . . poetry, collage, myself. Some days we’re all ok and other days I think there is no reason to continue to engage with those three.

Sarah J Sloat, Those Three

My reading includes twelve finalist mss I’m musing over for a poetry prize as well as assignments for a course on documentary poetry: first Rukeyser’s sequence “The Book of the Dead,” then Forché’s The Country Between Us, then a sampling of poetic responses to Hurricane Katrina including some by Cynthia Hogue (interview poems), Raymond McDaniel (ethically problematic collage), and Patricia Smith (often persona poems). Most recently we finished Nicole Cooley’s Breach, a rewarding book to teach not least because it’s so various in forms and approaches. It was a student favorite and when I asked why, they said “authenticity.” When I asked what the signs or markers of authenticity were, the answers seem to boil down to vulnerability. Self-interrogation; courage; generosity; getting to the heart of things, even when exposure makes you look bad. In Cooley’s return to post-hurricane New Orleans, her childhood home, with her daughters, this sometimes means longing to be mothered rather than to mother, a taboo emotion for a woman to admit.

Extracurricularly, I just read Molly Spencer‘s recent If the House too, and it’s an open-hearted missive from the interior of a body, a marriage, and multiple houses. I love the porosity of Spencer’s containers, the flow of information inward and outward. You could call it circulation.

I’m in a receptive mode; I’m not writing much, except for an occasional blog post or tweet (and a bazillion emails). I often write little poetry in winter and then things turn in spring, partly because of the academic calendar and partly the natural one. My sweetheart and I just took a walk in the woods–every Saturday, we try to get out of our neighborhood, walk elsewhere, this time on trails a bit of a drive away–and it was so bright, cold, and still. Wild onions had sent up curling leaves and the moss was green, but otherwise it was just gray boles, brown mud, fallen branches, leaf duff. Inner and outer weather match.

Lesley Wheeler, Poetry and heart

He tells me snow
is a product of the air’s
despair.  Perhaps

he’s right: seedheads
of the tall grass are weighed
down, shawled in white.

Ellen Roberts Young, February Snow Times 2

We will soon leave the time of epiphany. We will trade the star and the angel messengers for ashes on our foreheads.

We may not have realized that the time of epiphany stretched on beyond January 6. We might not have recognized the wise ones and the gifts they would give us.

We may have already been living in the land of ash. We may feel that our frozen surfaces will never thaw.

We cannot fathom how we will stitch the fabric of society back together again. Our arthritic fingers throb with pain even before we have started.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Returning to Resurrection

There are life’s grinding engines driving us to madness:

fracked lands and hacked computers, illness and unwillingness, death too soon and freedom too late, the homeless and hopeless, crosstown traffic and trafficked humans.

Still, there’s the green grass beneath our feet bright as child laughter. Dependable cars and well-tuned guitars. Feasts and flowers. Warm bellies filled with luck. Pets that know us better than we know ourselves. Fresh curiosities making out in the backseat of our brain. The puzzles of our lives put back together after a hard come-apart.

The rise and fall and the rise again.

Rich Ferguson, What Doesn’t Kill Us Cures Us

While making dinner — or reflecting excitedly on the importance of making dinner while sipping wine — I began to shape ideas that have been pressing on me during the week.  What had been expected and feared to happen in bad faith presidential action was happening.  Many of us could see the vindictiveness coming; now it almost felt posthumous.  

My anger had been simmering into something else: into a rich, bittersweet sorrow for the “we” of country. How distant we are from our “exceptional” goals (hardly the first time, hardly the last).  What poor flawed creatures!  In my wash of compassion, I felt that old-style pity. Recognizing my pivot, my poetic turn and dance move, I saw, again, that we can open to the other, be medicine to counteract the poison.

So here’s to pounding the garlic cloves with thyme with mortar and pestle!  To sizzling onions in a pan over the flame, to share.  Here’s to winding up to the big question: Can everyday life be a moral response to political failure? 

Jill Pearlman, Everyday Life: Antidote to Political Poisons

One morning last week, as I was gathering my things for the day, there was something about the clutter on my kitchen table that stopped me. It struck me as beautiful, the arrangement of things I did not arrange. The unposed mix of textures, colors, and shapes so pleased me I reached for the camera, trying to capture how it looked for me.

Of course, I didn’t really.

The 17th century Dutch assigned layers of meanings to the objects in their still life paintings, which functioned almost like a code (mostly of judgement, it seems), but there’s nothing like that going on here. Each object is simply what it is: a beleaguered basil in a dull clay pot; an empty Ikea vase; a $3.00 bunch of chamomile from Trader Joe’s; a bowl of common fruit; a chipped Franciscan ware lid sitting on its matching bowl, protecting the salt within it. Apparently, still life paintings rank low on the painting hierarchy–or at least they did in 17th century France. Ordinary, inanimate subjects were deemed less worthy than living ones, but I rather like these things on my table that talk to me without words or movement.

I couldn’t quite catch through the camera how it felt to me, the cluster of objects in late winter’s early morning light, but I can look at the image and hear something of what they are saying: Here is a life with flavor. Some simplicity. Healthy sweetness, and a touch of ordinary pretty.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Late winter still life

You and your friends celebrated everything you could find. Not just birthdays and anniversaries and Jewish holidays, but Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Fiesta, Susan B. Anthony’s birthday… Once, before I was born, you and Dad held a campaign party celebrating an imaginary candidate. You made up the most ridiculous name you could think of. You printed elaborately designed invitations, and hung red, white, and blue bunting everywhere. There was always an excuse for a party, and I used to roll my eyes at that. It seemed over-the-top, even frivolous. I’m sorry about that now, Mom. Now that you’re gone, I understand your parties in a new way. No matter what we do, life will hand us sorrow. It’s life-affirming to choose to seek joy and togetherness in the face of that truth.  I don’t own a red Chanel suit, and I’m not attending a ladies’ lunch on February 14. But I’m wearing a string of your garnet beads, and my dress today is burgundy — a cousin to red, if you squint. And on this day of red and pink paper doilies, and flower arrangements, and boxes of chocolate, I am remembering you.

Rachel Barenblat, A reason to celebrate

Light up a cigarette
and watch

the smoke write
your thoughts in the air,

this valentine,
inhale     exhale.

Claudia Serea, V-Day

The time has come to stop keeping up appearances.
Let others mourn; I did my crying as a child.
I felt the sting & dreamed of death
both given & received.
I hid a mountain of dirt beneath my clothes.
Those who knew them less well
can toss handfuls into their darkness.

Jason Crane, POEM: Abstention

— It took me a long time to let all that go. I am in my sixties now, and only just beginning to write about it all, to tell the stories. 
— I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. At first I wrote in secret notebooks, by my late teens I was going to open mic poetry readings, but I didn’t tell my family. It would just caused me new abuse; mockery.
— I went outside just before sunrise today. It was windy, and the moon was setting in the west just as the first light of the dawn was glowing in the east. Very lovely. I went inside and wrote a prose poem about it.

James Lee Jobe, 10 Things. Journal notes. 10 Feb. 2020

in the downing days of heavy time
cadillac was as strange a meme
as winsome as the movie toffees
and the longing for the other side
of any walled hillside
or the veneered panelled walls
behind which the cockroaches slept
until the fire died and we were abed
and then they came over the coal-grit
floor to eat the crumbs of the crumbs
that our meagre dinners had left ledgered
here in this corner of a neglected village
in wales
a people tipped under slag tips and
toil so numbing that the sinews of life
crystallised in grime and death that never died
in relief of times best forgotten now
for when you think of it
we cried enough dryness
to last a lifetime

Jim Young, hearth and tired

I have a cough which entered my body the way a bird or small animal would enter it flew or crawled into my mouth and inside my chest when I was standing at the beach during a windstorm my head is happy maybe the cough is a diorama in the medicine chest of my imagined illness

I’m going to go stand in the garden and yell at my tulip bulbs for a bit

Rebecca Loudon, Waking up in spite of it all which feels like spring

Besides my group this week, sketching out the beginning of a poem in one of my breaks and submitting to one journal I haven’t managed much poetry related. Besides Twitter. I have filled my Twitter feed with a mix of magazines, established and emergent writers. Some just comment on the world, many promote their books and readings, some post snippets of their writing, some post poems written by others that they love. I enjoy the latter most. I don’t buy as many poetry collections as I should and getting them in the local libraries here is almost impossible if they were written after Shakespeare. So reading online journals and poems selected by other writers is my way of keeping in touch with the poetry world and the writers I enjoy. I can fit it into small pockets of time or scroll by if I don’t want to head down a specific rabbit hole. 

Gerry Stewart, Stepping Up

When I wrote PR for Poets,  I was grappling with a terminal cancer diagnosis (my tumors have since been classified as “stable” but I still have to get them scanned every six months). I was about to get a diagnosis of MS. These things have changed how I view book promotion in my own life and also how I might write about it next time.

Since I started promoting poetry books in 2006 (I’ve had five books published since), things have changed – the technology, the realities of travel, and in my case, my health has become a constraining factor. Last year, for instance, I was invited to read at a college for money – but ended up not being able to go for health reasons. I was also invited to be a featured speaker at a lovely-looking conference in Colorado – but given how difficult travel has been with a wheelchair, and the impact on my immune system, I had to turn it down. In both cases, I offered to appear virtually, but that offer was declined. AWP is coming up, and one reason (well, besides the money AND persistent accessibility problems at the conference itself) is that the travel is so hard on my system and the rewards don’t seem like enough to balance that out. The book addresses ways to reach new audiences that don’t involve physical travel – blog book tours, for instance, or virtual appearances at book groups or colleges, as well as social media outreach – but it could have gone further.

If you, as a healthy able-bodied writer in the world – an editor or a professor or someone who runs a conference –  want to support disabled or chronically ill writers, teach their books. Encourage your students to buy books, or request their books from libraries. Give disabled or chronically ill writers chances to do phone interviews, Skype sessions, radio appearances.

The reality is, my health and disability can limit my ability to have a writer’s life – the way traditionally the writers make money from books is being invited out to speak at colleges or at readings at conferences, so if you limit your travel to, for instance, locations you can drive to because the last two times you flew you caught pneumonia or the airlines lost your wheelchair (yup, both happened to me) – you’re also limiting how much you get paid, how many audiences you reach, how many copies of the book you sell.

Or…is that still true? I started thinking harder about this. When I started promoting my first poetry book, the number one way to sell copies was to travel to readings and people would buy books there. For my second book, the best way to sell was to send out paper postcards with buying information on them. By the time my last book came out, yes, I sold books through readings and postcards, but I sold the most copies through my blog and Facebook/Twitter announcements. If the world is really getting more technology oriented – working from home, virtual meetings – then maybe the way you sell poetry books has changed, too. I think about Instagram poets, who have a million followers and sell a million books – all without even making a personal appearance.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Valentine’s Day (and Day After) and a Discussion of Book Promotion and Maintaining the Writer’s Life with a Disability or Chronic Illness

Let’s get something out of the way right from the beginning. The odds of your winning a poetry competition are dramatically increased if you enter. Simultaneously, so are the chances of losing, but not by the same amount. And I guess most of us don’t buy a Lottery ticket expecting to win. If you’re like me, you buy yourself a dream.

In earlier posts on the cobweb, I’ve riffed on my own reasons for entering competitions. First comes the dream. What next? I look out for competitions run by small publishers, because when you pay for your entry, you’re in a win-win situation. Your entry fee is going to keep these small concerns alive…I’m thinking of ones like Prole and The interpreter’s house And, of course, Yaffle, and The Red Shed . Or you may be helping to promote a small festival, like Havant. The point is, you’re not wasting your money.

Next thing is: who’ll be judging the competition. With the small presses, I don’t mind, but when it comes to medium and high-profile affairs then what’s important to me is whether I like that poet’s work. Why? Because part of the dream is not anything to do with money (and there’s often not a lot of that involved) but the thought that my work is going to be read by someone I admire and from whom I’ve learned. If the judge’s work is not the sort of thing that floats my boat, then I don’t enter, because I guess it’s more likely than not to be mutual. For example, if Pascale Petit were to judge a competition I’d enter like a shot, but not if it was someone who went in for avant-garde shapes on the page. It’s just how I am. I certainly think twice about competitions where the work is filtered by a selection committee before it reaches the star judge….The Bridport comes to mind….but they’re likely to be the ones with big prize money. Take your choice.

Is there anything else? I’m personally attracted to competitions which offer publication of your work as a prize. Some will guarantee that runners-up will appear in their magazine (as in The Rialto/ RSPB), but I’m thinking particularly of Indigo Dreams, where the prize is publication of a full collection.

Finally, some poets I know will tell me they would rather submit to magazines. My answer is always that it’s not an either/or choice. I do both. But I know I’m always less disappointed by not winning a competition than getting ‘sorry, but no thank-you’ emails from magazine editors. I get a lot of those. I suppose it’s because I don’t expect to win a competition, but I’m absolutely convinced that Magma, The Rialto and the rest would be mad not to jump at the chance of publishing my poems.

John Foggin, Poetry competitions and small presses: it’s a win-win situation

But it did get me thinking about the half life of these popular culture references. How much distance is too much distance? Is it too obscure? Does that matter if it works for the poem? Can you cover it all off with notes? Should you need to use notes?

Is a reference to a Jewson’s ad from the 80s any better or worse than say a reference to an obscure character from The Iliad? I don’t know the answer here, I’m more thinking out loud. My degree taught me that a text was a text was a text and that a text could be anything really – a Britney Spears song, The Wasteland, a painting, a chocolate bar wrapper, and so on…

I came back to these questions when I had my first initial scan of the latest issue of Rialto. I found a reference to Dr Martens in the first poem, Hannah Lowe’s ‘Pink Hummingbird’ and old school rave events like “Rain Dance, World Party, Fantasia” in ‘ ’89’, and “Marlborough (SIC??) Lights” in ‘Love’.

Each of these references work as a way of dating the time they are evoking, elsewhere in the mag Tom Paine’s excellent ‘Harmonium’ contains the line

‘Give everyone an orange popsicle, an iPhone, a garden,
and let’s go shoot some hoops? You won monopoly, okay?’

You couldn’t ask for a more contemporary set of references…well, you could, but hopefully you see what I mean. While I’m still trying to work out what’s going on in the poem, the iPhone dates it to within the last decade or so and therefore gives me some frame of reference.

What am I saying here? I don’t think I’m saying anything, I’m asking something.

I guess I’m asking what we, as writers, are thinking when we include these contemporary references in poems? Do we have half an eye on the now and half an eye on the future—both near and more distant? What will readers in eg 2120 make of a reference to iPhones or Jewsons? Should we even care?

Mat Riches, The Jewson Lot

I must spend
more time
standing in
wind learning

to fly like
sky, grasses,
leaves, learning
to let go,

to go.

Tom Montag, I MUST SPEND

Retirement

(Lord’s day). Up, and with Sir W. Batten and [Sir] W. Pen to White Hall, and there to Sir W. Coventry’s chamber, and there staid till he was ready, talking, and among other things of the Prince’s being trepanned, which was in doing just as we passed through the Stone Gallery, we asking at the door of his lodgings, and were told so. We are all full of wishes for the good success; though I dare say but few do really concern ourselves for him in our hearts. Up to the Duke of York, and with him did our business we come about, and among other things resolve upon a meeting at the office to-morrow morning, Sir W. Coventry to be there to determine of all things necessary for the setting of Sir W. Pen to work in his Victualling business. This did awake in me some thoughts of what might in discourse fall out touching my imployment, and did give me some apprehension of trouble. Having done here, and after our laying our necessities for money open to the Duke of York, but nothing obtained concerning it, we parted, and I with others into the House, and there hear that the work is done to the Prince in a few minutes without any pain at all to him, he not knowing when it was done. It was performed by Moulins. Having cut the outward table, as they call it, they find the inner all corrupted, so as it come out without any force; and their fear is, that the whole inside of his head is corrupted like that, which do yet make them afeard of him; but no ill accident appeared in the doing of the thing, but all with all imaginable success, as Sir Alexander Frazier did tell me himself, I asking him, who is very kind to me. I to the Chapel a little, but hearing nothing did take a turn into the Park, and then back to Chapel and heard a very good Anthem to my heart’s delight, and then to Sir G. Carteret’s to dinner, and before dinner did walk with him alone a good while, and from him hear our case likely for all these acts to be bad for money, which troubles me, the year speeding so fast, and he tells me that he believes the Duke of York will go to sea with the fleete, which I am sorry for in respect to his person, but yet there is no person in condition to command the fleete, now the Captains are grown so great, but him, it being impossible for anybody else but him to command any order or discipline among them. He tells me there is nothing at all in the late discourse about my Lord Sandwich and the French Embassador meeting and contending for the way, which I wonder at, to see the confidence of report without any ground. By and by to dinner, where very good company. Among other discourse, we talked much of Nostradamus his prophecy of these times, and the burning of the City of London, some of whose verses are put into Booker’s Almanack this year; and Sir G. Carteret did tell a story, how at his death he did make the town swear that he should never be dug up, or his tomb opened, after he was buried; but they did after sixty years do it, and upon his breast they found a plate of brasse, saying what a wicked and unfaithful people the people of that place were, who after so many vows should disturb and open him such a day and year and hour; which, if true, is very strange. Then we fell to talking of the burning of the City; and my Lady Carteret herself did tell us how abundance of pieces of burnt papers were cast by the wind as far as Cranborne; and among others she took up one, or had one brought her to see, which was a little bit of paper that had been printed, whereon there remained no more nor less than these words: “Time is, it is done.” After dinner I went and took a turn into the Park, and then took boat and away home, and there to my chamber and to read, but did receive some letters from Sir W. Coventry, touching the want of victuals to Kempthorne’s fleete going to the Streights and now in the Downes: which did trouble me, he saying that this disappointment might prove fatal; and the more, because Sir W. Coventry do intend to come to the office upon business to-morrow morning, and I shall not know what answer to give him. This did mightily trouble my mind; however, I fell to read a little in Hakewill’s Apology, and did satisfy myself mighty fair in the truth of the saying that the world do not grow old at all, but is in as good condition in all respects as ever it was as to nature. I continued reading this book with great pleasure till supper, and then to bed sooner than ordinary, for rising betimes in the morning to-morrow. So after reading my usual vows to bed, my mind full of trouble against to-morrow, and did not sleep any good time of the night for thoughts of to-morrow morning’s trouble.

we pass through stone
asking for things to touch

employment done
our work is on the wing

the hole inside is like a tomb
opened after years of faith

and there remained no more
than these words

let me not grow old


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 3 February 1667.

Book lovers

Up, and to the office. This day I hear that Prince Rupert is to be trepanned. God give good issue to it. Sir W. Pen looks upon me, and I on him, and speak about business together at the table well enough, but no friendship or intimacy since our late difference about his closet, nor do I desire to have any. At noon dined well, and my brother and I to write over once more with my own hand my catalogue of books, while he reads to me. After something of that done, and dined, I to the office, where all the afternoon till night busy. At night, having done all my office matters, I home, and my brother and I to go on with my catalogue, and so to supper. Mrs. Turner come to me this night again to condole her condition and the ill usage she receives from my Lord Bruncker, which I could never have expected from him, and shall be a good caution to me while I live. She gone, I to supper, and then to read a little, and to bed. This night comes home my new silver snuffe-dish, which I do give myself for my closet, which is all I purpose to bestow in plate of myself, or shall need, many a day, if I can keep what I have. So to bed. I am very well pleased this night with reading a poem I brought home with me last night from Westminster Hall, of Dryden’s upon the present war; a very good poem.

this intimacy
is with books

I read to her
and she to me

she gone
I read to myself in bed

reading a poem
I brought home with me

last night
from the war


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 February 1667.

Inspiration

Up, and to the office, where I was all the morning doing business, at noon home to dinner, and after dinner down by water, though it was a thick misty and rainy day, and walked to Deptford from Redriffe, and there to Bagwell’s by appointment, where the moher erat within expecting mi venida. And did sensa alguna difficulty monter los degres and lie, comme jo desired it, upon lo lectum; and there I did la cosa con much voluptas. Je besa also her venter and cons and saw the poyle thereof. She would seem alguns veces very religious, but yet did permit me to hazer todo esto et quicquid amplius volebam. By and by ‘su marido’ come in, and there without any notice taken by him we discoursed of our business of getting him the new ship building by Mr. Deane, which I shall do for him. Thence by and by after a little talk I to the yard, and spoke with some of the officers, but staid but little, and the new clerk of the ‘Chequer, Fownes, did walk to Redriffe back with me. I perceive he is a very child, and is led by the nose by Cowly and his kinsman that was his clerk, but I did make him understand his duty, and put both understanding and spirit into him, so that I hope he will do well. Much surprised to hear this day at Deptford that Mrs. Batters is going already to be married to him, that is now the Captain of her husband’s ship. She seemed the most passionate mourner in the world. But I believe it cannot be true. Thence by water to Billingsgate; thence to the Old Swan, and there took boat, it being now night, to Westminster Hall, there to the Hall, and find Doll Lane, and ‘con elle’ I went to the Bell Taverne, and ‘ibi je’ did do what I would ‘con elle’ as well as I could, she ‘sedendo sobre’ thus far and making some little resistance. But all with much content, and ‘je tenai’ much pleasure ‘cum ista’. There parted, and I by coach home, and to the office, where pretty late doing business, and then home, and merry with my wife, and to supper. My brother and I did play with the base, and I upon my viallin, which I have not seen out of the case now I think these three years, or more, having lost the key, and now forced to find an expedient to open it. Then to bed.

thick mist and rain

a child is led by the owl-spirit
into the night to find
a lost key


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 February 1667.

Late riser

Up, and to the office, where we met and sat all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and by and by Mr. Osborne comes from Mr. Gawden, and takes money and notes for 4000l., and leaves me acknowledgment for 4000l. and odd; implying as if D. Gawden would give the 800l. between Povy and myself, but how he will divide it I know-not, till I speak with him, so that my content is not yet full in the business. In the evening stept out to Sir Robert Viner’s to get the money ready upon my notes to D. Gawden, and there hear that Mr. Temple is very ill. I met on the ‘Change with Captain Cocke, who tells me that he hears new certainty of the business of Madrid, how our Embassador and the French met, and says that two or three of my Lord’s men, and twenty one of the French men are killed, but nothing at Court of it. He fears the next year’s service through the badness of our counsels at White Hall, but that if they were wise, and the King would mind his business, he might do what he would yet. The Parliament is not yet up, being finishing some bills. So home and to the office, and late home to supper, and to talk with my wife, with pleasure, and to bed. I met this evening at Sir R. Viner’s our Mr. Turner, who I find in a melancholy condition about his being removed out of his house, but I find him so silly and so false that I dare not tell how to trust any advice to him, and therefore did speak only generally to him, but I doubt his condition is very miserable, and do pity his family. Thus the month ends: myself in very good health and content of mind in my family. All our heads full in the office at this dividing of the Comptroller’s duty, so that I am in some doubt how it may prove to intrench upon my benefits, but it cannot be much. The Parliament, upon breaking up, having given the King money with much ado, and great heats, and neither side pleased, neither King nor them. The imperfection of the Poll Bill, which must be mended before they rise, there being several horrible oversights to the prejudice of the King, is a certain sign of the care anybody hath of the King’s business. Prince Rupert very ill, and to be trepanned on Saturday next. Nobody knows who commands the fleete next year, or, indeed, whether we shall have a fleete or no. Great preparations in Holland and France, and the French have lately taken Antego from us, which vexes us. I am in a little care through my at last putting a great deal of money out of my hands again into the King’s upon tallies for Tangier, but the interest which I wholly lost while in my trunk is a temptation while things look safe, as they do in some measure for six months, I think, and I would venture but little longer.

a morning born in the evening
I am not yet up and out
of my mind I am in doubt
how to rise
in or over the body
of land I am lost in


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 January 1667.

Forward planning

Fast-day for the King’s death. I all the morning at my chamber making up my month’s accounts, which I did before dinner to my thorough content, and find myself but a small gainer this month, having no manner of profits, but just my salary, but, blessed be God! that I am able to save out of that, living as I do. So to dinner, then to my chamber all the afternoon, and in the evening my wife and I and Mercer and Barker to little Michell’s, walked, with some neats’ tongues and cake and wine, and there sat with the little couple with great pleasure, and talked and eat and drank, and saw their little house, which is very pretty; and I much pleased therewith, and so walked home, about eight at night, it being a little moonshine and fair weather, and so into the garden, and, with Mercer, sang till my wife put me in mind of its being a fast day; and so I was sorry for it, and stopped, and home to cards awhile, and had opportunity ‘para baiser’ Mercer several times, and so to bed.

for death I am making
up my accounts

having just my little tongue
and a little talk

a little house very pretty
and a little moon

and in the cards
an opportunity to be


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 January 1667.

Divisiveness

Up to the office all the morning, where Sir W. Pen and I look much askewe one upon another, though afterward business made us speak friendly enough, but yet we hate one another. At noon home to dinner, and then to the office, where all the afternoon expecting Mr. Gawden to come for some money I am to pay him, but he comes not, which makes me think he is considering whether it be necessary to make the present he hath promised, it being possible this alteration in the Controller’s duty may make my place in the Victualling unnecessary, so that I am a little troubled at it. Busy till late at night at the office, and Sir W. Batten come to me, and tells me that there is newes upon the Exchange to-day, that my Lord Sandwich’s coach and the French Embassador’s at Madrid, meeting and contending for the way, they shot my Lord’s postilion and another man dead; and that we have killed 25 of theirs, and that my Lord is well. How true this is I cannot tell, there being no newes of it at all at Court, as I am told late by one come thence, so that I hope it is not so.
By and by comes Mrs. Turner to me, to make her complaint of her sad usage she receives from my Lord Bruncker, that he thinks much she hath not already got another house, though he himself hath employed her night and day ever since his first mention of the matter, to make part of her house ready for him, as he ordered, and promised she should stay till she had fitted herself; by which and what discourse I do remember he had of the business before Sir W. Coventry on Sunday last I perceive he is a rotten-hearted, false man as any else I know, even as Sir W. Pen himself, and, therefore, I must beware of him accordingly, and I hope I shall. I did pity the woman with all my heart, and gave her the best council I could; and so, falling to other discourse, I made her laugh and merry, as sad as she came to me; so that I perceive no passion in a woman can be lasting long; and so parted and I home, and there teaching my girle Barker part of my song “It is decreed,” which she will sing prettily, and so after supper to bed.

the morning askew
we hate one another
for being possible

in the news
they shot a dead man

and I must beware of falling
that lasting art


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 January 1667.