Saturday 20 December 2014


In Gap yesterday there were some OK jumpers, except that were so many of them they were nothing. Second-hand shops and charity shops, on the other hand: there’s only one of each item, and often that’s one too many but one is exactly the number I’m looking for.

Portobello Road, this afternoon. Paprika from Garcia, and then the stall with those disposable plastic black pepper (& pepper-&-chilli, & ‘Himalayan salt’) grinders, a quid each. (Why, other than those, do you have spend an avalanche of money to get a pepper grinder that actually carries on working after a refill or two? Or am I doing something wrong?) Then the Oxfam bookshop. A Gerald Murnane novel (previous owner, a library in Massachusetts). A 1957 New Directions edition of Kenneth Patchen selected poems. Above, one of the poems. Previous owner, according to the fly-leaf: ‘George Buchanan, September 1959’. This was surely the Irish-born poet, 1904–89. His daughter lives opposite me; she and her husband host excellent parties.

£4 for both. Here’s another from the Patchen:

Back to Buchanan. The opening lines of his book Minute-Book of a City (Carcanet, 1972), pure shopping: ‘Does multiplicity undermine / the story? Does an overbreeding / in fiction make cardboard figures?’ Much of it is angry, and brilliant. ‘Absence of ideas in the Cabinet. Dust fell / from the ceiling in slow shower. They rang and sent / for another basket of statistics. Could no one find / the document which would increase the amount of hope?’

‘The number of the killed / was a minor consideration. They were thoughts / in the thinking of a High Command / accustomed to shoots on the moors.’

‘No doffing of the cap and saying “sir” to the universe. / The state of mind in which we pray is both / the prayer and the answer to the prayer.’

‘A suitable marriage. They speak about problems / of the State at breakfast. He does well at the office, / is sure of promotion. They laugh at the wit / of a neighbour who comes to dine. Afterwards / they lie asleep in twin beds. Occasionally / flushed with wine they speak of a thing / called “personal relationship”.’

‘The animals are herded slowly from green fields / to be eaten by gentlemen in restaurants.’ Here’s a last Kenneth Patchen scan, a vegetarian gentleman one (but not before remarking that Rosemary Tonks is not the only good poet from the 60s, 70s who went AWOL; she managed her own disappearance, others have had that done to them):

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