Terpsichorean

Up, and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and home to dinner, and then to the office again, being pretty good friends with my wife again, no angry words passed; but she finding fault with Mercer, suspecting that it was she that must have told Mary, that must have told her mistresse of my wife’s saying that she was crooked. But the truth is, she is jealous of my kindnesse to her. After dinner, to the office, and did a great deale of business. In the evening comes Mr. Reeves, with a twelve-foote glasse, so I left the office and home, where I met Mr. Batelier with my wife, in order to our going to-morrow, by agreement, to Bow to see a dancing meeting. But, Lord! to see how soon I could conceive evil fears and thoughts concerning them; so Reeves and I and they up to the top of the house, and there we endeavoured to see the moon, and Saturne and Jupiter; but the heavens proved cloudy, and so we lost our labour, having taken pains to get things together, in order to the managing of our long glasse. So down to supper and then to bed, Reeves lying at my house, but good discourse I had from him: in his own trade, concerning glasses, and so all of us late to bed.
I receive fresh intelligence that Deptford and Greenwich are now afresh exceedingly afflicted with the sickness more than ever.

angry at my crooked foot
the dancing moon
in my glass


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 7 August 1666.

Give a little whistle

Up betimes, and forced to go to my Lord Mayor’s, about the business of the pressed men; and indeed I find him a mean man of understanding and dispatch of any publique business. Thence out of curiosity to Bridewell to see the pressed men, where there are about 300; but so unruly that I durst not go among them: and they have reason to be so, having been kept these three days prisoners, with little or no victuals, and pressed out, and, contrary to all course of law, without press-money, and men that are not liable to it.
Here I met with prating Colonel Cox, one of the City collonells heretofore a great presbyter: but to hear how the fellow did commend himself, and the service he do the King; and, like an asse, at Paul’s did take me out of my way on purpose to show me the gate (the little north gate) where he had two men shot close by him on each hand, and his own hair burnt by a bullet-shot in the insurrection of Venner, and himself escaped. Thence home and to the Tower to see the men from Bridewell shipped.
Being rid of him I home to dinner, and thence to the Excise office by appointment to meet my Lord Bellasses and the Commissioners, which we did and soon dispatched, and so I home, and there was called by Pegg Pen to her house, where her father and mother, and Mrs. Norton, the second Roxalana, a fine woman, indifferent handsome, good body and hand, and good mine, and pretends to sing, but do it not excellently. However I took pleasure there, and my wife was sent for, and Creed come in to us, and so there we spent the most of the afternoon. Thence weary of losing so much time I to the office, and thence presently down to Deptford; but to see what a consternation there is upon the water by reason of this great press, that nothing is able to get a waterman to appear almost. Here I meant to have spoke with Bagwell’s mother, but her face was sore, and so I did not, but returned and upon the water found one of the vessels loaden with the Bridewell birds in a great mutiny, and they would not sail, not they; but with good words, and cajoling the ringleader into the Tower (where, when he was come, he was clapped up in the hole), they were got very quietly; but I think it is much if they do not run the vessel on ground. But away they went, and I to the Lieutenant of the Tower, and having talked with him a little, then home to supper very late and to bed weary.

a shot bullet
pretends to sing

a consternation of birds


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 July 1666.

Old Oak Common

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Yes, Virginia, there is a hellmouth. Old Oak Common is where the planned (and entirely unnecessary) High Speed 2 line will link up with Crossrail and the Great Western mainline to form the busiest station in the UK, in the process building one of the largest underground structures in the world. Currently it’s a massive plot of destroyed earth adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs, a rather bucolic conservation area less than two miles from where I live in northwest London. For more on the deconstruction, see this article in the Londonist. Anyway, enjoy the nice haiku.

British Museum

In the British Museum, we dead have so many grave goods now! But even in the afterlife, there’s a closing time.

(Seriously, why is it so acceptable to desecrate graves in our culture? Older portions of British cemeteries are routinely dug up and the old burials disposed of to make way for new tenants. No wonder it’s considered acceptable to plunder graves for archaeological purposes and publicly display the finds in perpetuity.)

midnight snail

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The process for making this videohaiku was a bit more convoluted than most. It started with my shooting a pretty good video of a snail descending a dead vine in the garden and continued with several days of adequate but not amazing haiku drafts. Then a long and varied open-mike reading (36 readers!) at London’s Poetry Cafe last night kind of re-set my thinking on the train ride home, and the haiku had taken a dramatically different direction by the time I started the short walk home. Then I encountered the snail in the video above, crossing the sidewalk of our residential street. The iPhone isn’t brilliant at shooting video in low light, but when I looked at the footage on my laptop this morning, I really liked all the glisteny bits. A bit of web research and a short walk later, I had the haiku I ended up using.

I mention all this in part to make the point that haiku are rarely easy to write, despite—or because—they are so short. (And I’m grateful to the host of the open mike reading, Niall O’Sullivan, for making that point at last night’s reading as well, in response to my sharing a couple of haibun. He then launched into a mini rant against 5-7-5 folk haiku, which was quite amusing. I see from his website that this is a regular theme of his.)

The snail is Cornu aspersum, the garden snail or Mediterranean land snail—the same species prized for escargots. It’s considered native here, though I suspect the Romans introduced it for culinary purposes.

dog walking

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The first draft of this haiku was considerably cleverer, complete with a self-reflexive pun, but ultimately simpler was better, I thought. Especially if the video is black and white.

Flies on the table

Waked very betimes in the morning by extraordinary thunder and rain, which did keep me sleeping and waking till very late, and it being a holiday and my eye very sore, and myself having had very little sleep for a good while till nine o’clock, and so up, and so saw all my family up, and my father and sister, who is a pretty good-bodied woman, and not over thicke, as I thought she would have been, but full of freckles, and not handsome in face. And so I out by water among the ships, and to Deptford and Blackewall about business, and so home and to dinner with my father and sister and family, mighty pleasant all of us; and, among other things, with a sparrow that our Mercer hath brought up now for three weeks, which is so tame that it flies up and down, and upon the table, and eats and pecks, and do everything so pleasantly, that we are mightily pleased with it.
After dinner I to my papers and accounts of this month to sett all straight, it being a publique Fastday appointed to pray for the good successe of the fleete. But it is a pretty thing to consider how little a matter they make of this keeping of a Fast, that it was not so much as declared time enough to be read in the churches the last Sunday; but ordered by proclamation since: I suppose upon some sudden newes of the Dutch being come out.
To my accounts and settled them clear; but to my grief find myself poorer than I was the last by near 20l., by reason of my being forced to return 50l. to Downing, the smith, which he had presented me with. However, I am well contented, finding myself yet to be worth 5,200l..
Having done, to supper with my wife, and then to finish the writing fair of my accounts, and so to bed.
This day come to town Mr. Homewood, and I took him home in the evening to my chamber, and discoursed with him about my business of the Victualling, which I have a mind to employ him in, and he is desirous of also, but do very ingenuously declare he understands it not so well as other things, and desires to be informed in the nature of it before he attempts it, which I like well, and so I carried him to Mr. Gibson to discourse with him about it, and so home again to my accounts.
Thus ends this month, with my mind oppressed by my defect in my duty of the Victualling, which lies upon me as a burden, till I get myself into a better posture therein, and hinders me and casts down my courage in every thing else that belongs to me, and the jealousy I have of Sir W. Coventry’s being displeased with me about it; but I hope in a little time to remedy all.
As to publique business; by late tidings of the French fleete being come to Rochelle (how true, though, I know not) our fleete is divided; Prince Rupert being gone with about thirty ships to the Westward as is conceived to meet the French, to hinder their coming to join with the Dutch.
My Lord Duke of Albemarle lies in the Downes with the rest, and intends presently to sail to the Gunfleete.

flies on the table
this fast day
pray for us


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 May 1666.

Eid in the park

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Yesterday was Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, and I found myself in a north London park as public prayers were being offered. You can hear that faintly in the background. (This is shorter than my usual one-minute haiku videos because I decided to cut out much of an Islamophobic rant from a man behind me.)