Added on Wednesday 17 Mar 2010
Maggie Graham - November, 2008.
Hi. Yes, yet again, it's been a long time. In my defence I have to say that it's taken a lot longer than I thought to recover from my illness. It's only recently that I've managed to write any prose at all, although, strangely enough, poetry isn't a problem. I wasn't getting out and about for a while, either. Big change from the days of the diary and all that jet setting and socialising. However, with the return of the writing, I've been out seeking diversions again!
I've just written a short piece: 'Oh, Gene Vincent', for the Scottish Book Trust's 'Days Like This' project http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/node/20540. And today I went over to the BBC to record a reading of it which, I'm told, will be broadcast on radio Scotland in January.
Last week I even made it out in the evening. We went to Tchai Ovna in Otago lane to hear our friend Jim Byrne singing and playing acoustic sounds. I was with my partner Douglas and our neighbour Linda and met up with Pat and her friend Anne. Jim was in great form, the music was really good and the tea house has a nice relaxed atmosphere. Never thought I'd live to see the day when Maggie Graham drank nothing but spiced apple tea at a gig, but it tasted lovely. Jim will be launching his new CD at the Hidden Lane cafe on Dec 12th and we'll definitely be going along to that too. You can read about and hear Jim's music on www.songsbyjimbyrne.com/
And find the Hidden Lane Cafe on www.thehiddenlane.co.uk
I also went to Otago lane in October with my friend Peter Manson and Swiss writer and performance artist Sandra Kunzi. We spent a Friday afternoon in second-hand bookshops, starting with Voltaire and Rousseau, where there are piles of books, many of them in no particular order and every now and again you hear them tumbling to the floor as a customer tries to extract one. It's a fascinating place and in the porch, in no order whatsoever, there are piles of books for 50p and £1. I like the resident cat, or cats. Hard to tell, as I've never seen them together but I'm sure there's two of them. We found quite a few bargains and Sandra loved it. Peter was buying so many books that he begged me to take his wallet off him but that would've been a daft idea! We moved on to Great Western Road and the much neater but equally fascinating Caledonia Books, where I introduced Sandra to owner Maureen Smillie. I often have a browse in there and talk to Maureen if she's not too busy. See www.caledoniabooks.co.uk/index.html
Eventually we collapsed with coffee and cakes in Costa next door before Peter lugged his books home and Sandra and I walked up University Avenue in a downpour to see the wonderful Hannah Frank exhibition in the university Chapel. Sadly, the exhibition's over now but you can find out about Frank and her work at www.hannahfrank.org.uk
Sandra is here on the Glasgow/Berne Writers Exchange and will be reading with Simon Hari, Donny O'Rourke and Donal McLaughlin at the Goethe Institute, Glasgow on Friday the 28th November at 7pm. More details and photos at www.goethe.de/ins/gb/gla/ver/en3858308v.htm
I'll definitely be going along to say goodbye to Sandra whom I've really enjoyed meeting and to welcome Donny O'Rourke back from Berne and Donal McLaughlin back from France.
Otherwise I'll be trying (extremely, some of the jokers among you will say) to write and making wee escapes to Byres road and its environs. I particularly like nipping round the corner to Patisserie Francoise for coffee and the best cakes for miles. They even have madelines; very Proustian. They do really good breakfasts and lunches too. Their children's menu isn't expensive and includes scrambled eggs and fruit juice. My grandson Michael, who's nearly five, is a big fan, especially of pizza followed by cream cakes.
From there I like to go down Byres road to 'Lost in Fiction' our new bookshop where you can have good browse, something you can't get online. They have a series of writer's events on the go, including Janice Galloway on the 16th of December. Further details at www.lostinfiction.co.uk. Right now I'm in love with a new series of Virago classics with fabulous covers designed by prominent designers including Orla Keilty and Cath Kidson.
On the home front we've had two new additions to the family: Christopher Shankly was born on the 23rd of April to Cara and Kevin and has now joined Michael and Daniel as the youngest of the Bedlam Brothers. And Jack Bruce arrived on the 24th October, a son for Lauren and Tom and a wee brother for Aimie who's nine. She thinks he's boring because he sleeps all the time. I bet he's not boring in a couple of years when he's wrecking her stuff. However, we won't worry her with that for now. So, five grandchildren, four of them under five. Aint I lucky? And Christmas should be a hoot.
Hope you all have a merry and bright festive season. And I'll try not to leave it so long next time.
Writer's Diary 27th March 08
Hi Apologies (again) for taking so long between updates. My new neighbour, Janet reminded me the other day after finding me on the West end site. Yes, as you may have read in Pat's dairy, I'm now a real west ender. We moved at the end of October last year to a beautiful flat on University Avenue, overlooking Byres Road at the front and the new medical school buildings at the back. Our neighbours, Janet and Davie and May and Norrie couldn't have been more kind and welcoming and it's just been the best move!
After we moved in there was all the fuss of Christmas and New Year and then my son Steven and his girlfriend Kia arrived from Melbourne for a holiday. They were only here for three weeks and had a lot of places to go and people to see. We did have some great times together, though. We made it to Celtic Connections, had a fantastic dinner at the Chip, and spent an afternoon at the Hunterian Museum, which I hadn't seen since its revamp. Kia's degree is in Sports Science and she enjoyed all the anatomical models. They took nephews Michael and Daniel swimming at Scotstoun Leisure Centre a few times; the ideal way to tire out lively four and two-year-olds, for which their mother Cara was extremely grateful. And when they were down in Saltcoats, Kia went ice skating with Steven's other sister Lauren and niece Aimie who had her ninth birthday party while they were there. Steven couldn't skate had to sit on the sidelines rather than risk damaging his broken collar bone again. Such a shame, at the age of six he was a great wee speed skater and we had to buy him ice hockey skates he was that fast.
Bet you love reading this, son!
They left on the 7th of March and although sad to see them go, we're all happy for them, looking forward to their new life together. The next day I tripped coming out of Tinderbox on Byres Rd. A very kind man who knew first aid came out of the cafe and checked out my ankle. Anyway, an ambulance was called and I spent the rest of the day at the Western. I had a sprained ankle and torn ligaments, and even now my foot is still painful. I didn't leave the flat for three weeks. Serves me right for being such a west end poser.
Between the sprained foot and another set of ailments (too boring to recount) I didn't make it along to any of the Aye Write events. I had been looking forward in particular to seeing Janice Galloway and Meaghan Delahunt, whose new novel; The Red Book is published by Granta this month. I heard Meaghan discussing the book on Woman's Hour the other day and can't wait to read it. I did make it just over the hill to the University with my friend Peter Manson to hear local poet Hazel Frew and famous poet, Simon Armitage. The reading was held in the Anatomy building in the old part of the University and it did feel a bit spooky, sitting surrounded by body parts in jars, while the wind howled and rain lashed the high mullioned windows. The event was part of a series organised by new poetry organisation Vital Synz which is developing some exciting new events, including the Edwin Morgan poetry competition, deadline June 2nd. www.vitalsynz.co.uk
Accidents and illness aside, I am loving living in the heart of everything. On a stroll up Byres Road the other day I bumped into John Coyle, who was my tutor long ago at Glasgow Uni and who has recently and deservedly been promoted to head of the English department. Then I met local journalist Graeme Spiers with his brand new baby son Robbie and actor/musician Alan Tall pushing baby granddaughter Charlotte in her pram. I don't even need to venture out to see interesting sights. It can be almost hypnotising, watching hordes of students passing up and down the avenue. We're on the first floor and just the right height for passengers on the upper deck of busses to see in. The ones on the Glasgow Tours have been known to take photos of our cat, Tallulah, who really enjoys sitting at the window, making faces at them.
There are plenty of cafes, but as Chris Dolan once wrote in an article, there are no quiet ones where a writer can sit with a pen and a notebook, people watching and noting ideas and snippets of overheard conversation. The sounds of coffee machines, loud music, screeching juicers, baristas shouting and banging metal implements on metal counters has put paid to all that. If anyone out there knows a real 'writers' cafe, let me know and I'll buy you a coffee.
The only thing I really do miss from my previous flat is my patio garden. I had to leave all my pots behind as there are only small landscaped back gardens here, already planted with evergreen bushes. There is the Botanics but it really hasn't been the weather for strolling through them. In saying that, the wild weather didn't stop local poet Gerry Loose from observing and recording nature in his recent residency in the west coast of Scotland. See www.gerryloose.com and follow the link to an Ardnamurchan journal or go straight to www.gerrloose.blogspot.com
I'm a great fan of the blog. Gerry's nature writing is definitely on a par with that of my favourite naturalists, Richard Mabey and Annie Dillard. I spoke to Gerry last week; he's back in Glasgow but assured me he'll be regularly updating the blog.
As for my own work, it's going, slow but sure. With a project in mind I've been researching the effect of strokes on creativity. At first everything I found was on painters and visual artists. But recently a medical contact told me about Julien Bogousslavsky, who has published widely on the subject, including quite a bit on writers. Unfortunately, all the articles I'm finding are abstracts only and you have to pay or be a member of academic libraries to access them in their entirety. I also found references to his book, Neurological Disorders in famous Artists but it's way beyond my budget. And although I live right next door to the medical school, I can't see them letting me into the library. Maybe I could bribe a medical student, with a few pints instead of a coffee
I've also been reading short stories by some of the best writers in the genre: Katherine Mansfield, Grace Paley, Janette Turner Hospital and Alice Munro. Munro's story The Bear Who Went over The Mountain was recently adapted as the beautifully moving film, Away From Her, for which Julie Christie was nominated for an Oscar. This reading 'splurge' was provoked by choreographer Twyla Tharp's (wonderful name) self-help book, The Creative Habit; Learn It and Use It For Life. Although Tharp's own creativity is dance-based, the book will be useful for anyone hoping to express their creativity. My next venture will be to read James Joyce backwards from Finnegan's Wake to the Dubliners. No, I don't mean to read the books backwards, just start with his last book first. That should be a hoot; good job I'm a fan anyway.
That's about all for now. I will slip back into my proud mammy persona again, though. When they got back to Melbourne Kia was a bridesmaid at her friends wedding and I've included a photo of her and Steven smiling in the sunshine, which is how I love to think of them.
This afternoon I'm meeting another writer Donal McLaughlin in Tinderbox. Mind that step!
Hello. Sunshine the last couple of days and I actually strolled down Byres Road yesterday instead of sticking close to home, which I've been prone to doing since my stroke. I bumped into Gaynor McFarlane, and old friend from Edinburgh who is BBC radio producer, drama director and an avid reader I used to swap books with. She lives in Glasgow now with her husband and beautiful baby boy. It was really good to see her again.
I went to the Oxfam bookshop, Napiers and Roots & Fruits. Like many a woman my age I've taken up gardening and haunt Anniesland Garden Centre, Roots & Fruits for pepper and chilli plants, Napiers for herbs and the garden department of Morrison's. I have a feeling I'm becoming like the writer Elizabeth Smart, author of By Grand Central Station I sat down and Wept and The Assumption of The Rogues and Rascal. In her fifties and haunted by the writer's block that tormented her for long periods, she created a garden at Dell Cottage, her Suffolk home.
I'm a big fan of Smart's work and have also read her diaries, 'Necessary Secrets' and 'On the Side of The Angels' and Rosemary Sullivan's biography 'By Heart' A Life of Elizabeth Smart'. Smart started out as a Canadian debutante and became a true bohemian, living with the collage artist Yanko Varda then having four children to the poet George Barker but never marrying. At one point her nannies were the painters Robert Calhoun and Robert McBride who were prone to throwing glasses at each other out of windows when they'd been drinking. Smart also had another side - the top class journalist who wrote perfect first time copy for Vanity Fair. Later in life, with her children grown but caring for two of her grandchildren,she retired to the Dell to try to write again after a long gap.
Writing proved to be intensely difficult and gardening hard work but still creative and a salve for the spirit, but she still sometimes saw it as just another duty, a labour of love, which kept her away from her desk. Here's a quote from 'By Heart': 'Even the garden proved both a delight and an agony, the plants wanted constant attention, sometimes whole days' and she felt guilty if she neglected them: 'Has it come to this? I must choose between a thought and the life of a plant?'. I may not have a huge garden in Suffolk but I know exactly what she meant.
One day in early spring I gave up attempting to read or write and, close to tears, walked out into the back court of our flats. The back wall boasted a lovely mature ivy, which someone had taken great care shaping and pruning in the past, but that was all. The rest of the wall was lined with rusting barbecues and dried up planters and pots, filled with weeds. With nothing better to do and as alternative to retiring to bed before lunchtime, I started to clear up and forgot to stop. I hid the barbecues beside a huge shrub which sticks out of the concrete, cleared out and cleaned the pots, rescued a poor wee lemon tree which someone had started from seed in 2004, and felt better than I had in a long time.
Up till now I'd been growing herbs in our tiny front garden but they were covered in black smears from traffic and didn't look very appetising. I consulted Jekka McVicar's books and website and that was the start of it. That back wall is now a patio garden filled with pots, pretty tins and whatever other containers I could fine. Including an bamboo rocking chair with Nemesia growing over the seat and trailing to the ground. My upstairs neighbour says he looks out at it every morning when he pulls his curtains and says it reminds him of France. I must admit, sometimes I wish it were; I envied two recent Robert Louis Stevenson award winners, friends David Kinlock and Donal McLaughlin who had the pleasure of sitting in Bernadette's courtyard garden admiring her 'fleurs' and looking down at the River Grez.
Germaine Greer states in 'The Change' that gardening is the best alternative therapy for menopausal misery. I'm not sure about that but it's fair cheered me up. Although, I had a birthday last month and was very peeved that nobody bought be a Gertrude Jekyll style trug.
On the subject of birthdays, a few days before my fifty-fourth, I was reading the writer Jenny Diski's blog. For her sixtieth birthday, her partner, a poet, had composed a poem made up of sixty lines taken from sixty books opened at page sixty but all containing the word windows. I decided to do the same. I opened fifty-four books at page fifty-four and selected the line I liked best. I then put them all into the order I thought summed up my life so far. My dear friend, poet Peter Manson informed me that it is called a cento and has published it on his site Freebase Accordion. If you wish to read it then go to the site and 'guest poets' or this direct link: http://www.petermanson.com/54.htm.
So, first publication for quite a while, which even led me to printing out the manuscript of Precious Little and beginning, at least, to redraft it.
That's when I'm not on instant messenger to my son Steven and his Australian girlfriend, Kia. They're in New Zealand, atop a mountain at a ski resort, Mount Dobson. They email the weather reports down to the ski resort, operate chair lifts and then have a whole mountain to themselves. They won't be back in Scotland till January so messaging is a godsend. I'm even able to see them on their webcam. Steven's sunburned and has what he refers to as a dodgy (receding) hairline, but I think they both look wonderful. The other day (night their time) it was 7 degrees below zero, with 83mph winds. Makes me glad for once to be in Anniesland and just about to plant some cute little white Gerberas out the back.
My other nature cure takes me to Bingham's Pond on Great Western Road. It's a real wee oasis away from traffic with lovely plants (again) including yellow flag Iris which is a beauty. Recently there have been newly hatched ducklings and signets; cute wee balls of fluff. The signets are getting bigger now but their parents are still very protective. Pat Byrne and I were walking round the pond a couple of weeks ago and a swan in our path turned and hissed. I nearly had a nanny rooney and so did Pat, laughing we headed for some coffee in the Pond hotel and watched the tourists. Funny how the French are so immaculate, even on holiday; not a pair of hiking boots nor a baseball cap between them.
I intend to go further afield next week, to the Edinburgh Book Festival. I'll be meeting up with some friends and hopefully, getting some inspiration. I'll let you know what transpires next time.
In the early hours of 8th September 2006, coincidentally my daughter Lauren's birthday, I woke up with cramp in my calf. My partner Douglas awoke to see me jumping round the bedroom but when he spoke to me my reply came out as garbled rubbish. I think we both thought that I was still asleep and I got back into bed and thought no more of it. Every day that week I had a recurrence of the garbled speech, together with double and blurred vision. Twice I tried to rise from my bed and couldn't so had to roll on to the floor and crawl to the phone. That week I saw two doctors who insisted that I was simply experiencing a more serious form of the migraines which had plauged me for years.
I find writing in papagraphs very difficult to do these days (explanation coming up) so from here on in. I'll write in fragments and hope they're decipherable.
This is what appeared when I tried to write that week.
Thinking about setting about setting about setting about setting about setting about about writers' centre centre All the help I'll need not need need. what the help I'm doing all doing I'm doing
I'd have you change
I would you would you
Would you have you
Would have to choose
You wood have
My attempts at verbal communication went like this.
Hello Mathew-(his name is Daniel)
Help me Dougras (Douglas)
One two two two four seven seven seven seven nine
Two cups on the table where there was only one. Room spinning. Swear I was drunk but I haven't had a drink for at least a fortnight.
Daughter: That's it, I'm phoning an ambulance
Me: There's nothing wrong with me with me with me help me me me
'This 53-year-old woman with a background of smoking and migraines was admitted directly from the cerebrovascular clinic with recurrent episodes of right sensorimotordisturbance with agraphia, dysphasia and visual disturbance. MRI brain confirmed recent infarct and she was commenced on Aspirin and Simvastatin, there is a residual visual field defect but is otherwise asymptomatic'
(On finding me outside smoking in pyjamas and a raincoat) "We have the results of your MRI, you have had a stroke. And that is your last cigarette" And so it was.
I gave up smoking and took up knitting Twenty-four scarves by Christmas. Couldn't write at all. The same consultant told me that the infarct had affected the left side of my brain, the side that deals with reading, writing and numbers. I was the first writer he's encountered with it. But I'm in good company. The novelists Carson McCullers and Jane Bowles both had several strokes, but both died in their fifties; Bowles was blinded by then and her husband Paul Bowles went on to become the famous novelist. The poet William Carlos Williams invented a new poetic form after his stroke to compensate for his visual field defect. Mine means that I have to turn mu head to see anything in my right line of vision and have to be very very careful crossing the street. And I read reports of Seamus Heaney's recent stroke.
I suffered anxiety attacks and depression but refused Prozac. I used to have a cat phobia but decided I wanted a kitten. We named her Tallulah and she is adorable. I can no longer read fiction but my list of non-fiction is remarkable, The Virago Book of Women Gardners, Zen and the Art of Knitting, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Diiard, Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman, approaching eye leve-essays by Vivian Gornick, poetry by Diane De Prima, Anne Walden, Peter Manson and Denise Riley and Robert McCrum's My Year Off-Rediscovering Life after a Stroke, a harrowing and hopeful account of his own massive right brain stroke which left him paralysed.
I have been very lucky. I'm not physically disabled, I can communicate with others, I can rise from my bed and go about my days. But as Robert McCrum says physicians still refer to strokes as brain attacks and that is what it feels like, an attack by some maniac who sliced and slashed at my brain and my sense of myself as a woman and as a writer.
This is the most I have written in over a year and I only started it at the urging of my dear friend Pat Byrne. Now I'm glad I did.
And I'll try not to leave it as long next time.
It has never surprised me that none of my children have so far shown any signs of following me into the precarious business of writing. However, I do have high hopes for my grandchildren. On her last visit, six-year-old Aimie went for a walk along the canal bank with her parents. When they got back she sat at the kitchen table and told me "I saw a woman who was going oh oh oh (contorted body and groans) as if she was saying goodbye to the entire planet" Lauren and Tom hadn't a clue what she was talking about but I liked it. Michael, who's nineteen months has a language all of his own. Douglas says it's Latvian but I'm more inclined to say Arabic. With the exception of Hi, Bye and Thank you (pronounced Haiku) he blethers away quite happily in whatever-it-is. Last week, though, he came out of his room whistling and when given something he really liked said "Oh, cool". I was so proud. Particularly since I've been reading ?When I Was Cool' by Sam Kashner. Subtitled ?My Life at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics' it's a memoir of Kashner's time as the first and only pupil at the school in the 70s. His teachers were Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gregory Corso, fathers and founders of the Beats. Kashner, a nice Jewish boy from Long Island, went to meet his idols and found them older but no wiser. Kerouac was long dead by that time but his memory haunts the poets and the place. The book is a wonderful read and achingly funny. I laughed so loud that my neighbour Desmond could hear me next door. I was absolutely enthralled by the antics of Gregory Corso, who, as a young man, was so beautiful that women (and men) stopped to stare at him on the streets of Greenwich Village. Although by the time Kashner met him, his beauty was slightly ravaged, he was still surrounded by beautiful women and starting every pronouncement with "Dig it". I looked up his poetry and loved this from ?Marriage'
?Yet if I should get married and it's Connecticut and snow
and she gives birth to a child and I am sleepless, worn,
up for nights, head bowed against a quiet window, the past behind me,
finding myself in the most common of situations a trembling man
knowledged with responsibility not twig-smear not Roman coin soup--
O what would that be like!
Surely I'd give it for a nipple a rubber Tacitus
For a rattle bag of broken Bach records
Tack Della Francesca all over its crib
Sew the Greek alphabet on its bib
And build for its playpen a roofless Parthenon'
I may just do all of that for my next grandchild, due in October. My friend from Greenwich Village, Judi, was here last week, stopping over on her way back from a trip to Skye. On the Saturday night we went to the launch of 60/60 an anthology of 60 pages from Scottish poets and writers to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The readers at the Glasgow launch included Janet Paisley, Brian Whittingham, Ewan McVicar and Aiad Aihiatly. MSP Tommy Sheridan was one of the speakers. The anthology includes work by AL Kennedy, Tom Leonard, Dilys Rose, Valerie Thornton and a Hashizume Bun. There are also footnotes quoting facts, statistics and direct quotes from survivors. Published by Survivors' Press in conjunction with Scottish CND this anthology is an important and heart-rending book. Copies are available, priced £4, from Survivors' Press, 2/R West Bank Quadrant, Glasgow G12 8NT. Cheques should be made payable to Survivors' Press. SCND is at www.banthebomb.org
I bumped into old friends Larry Butler, Brian Whittingham, Joe Murray and Allan Tall at the launch and was inspired to get out and about a bit more. Douglas and I met Robin Purves and Peter Manson in Caf? Cherubini, with Peter's friend Rebecca Barr who was visiting from Cambridge. Another day Peter and I met in Cherubini then had a long browse in Caledonian Books, just the kind of afternoon I love. I've also discovered Caf? Mambo in Partick. I go from there to Partick Library, which is spacious and high-ceilinged, very different from the small modern Anniesland branch. And yesterday I went to Gallery of Modern art with Saltcoats artist Harry Donachy and then off for lunch at the Tron, where I managed to wind up the waiter by telling him that my Moroccan chicken was better than theirs. I noticed that GOMA has some writer events on the go, including a poetry workshop by Magi Gibson.
All of my jaunts have been a way of letting my thoughts soar. And soar they have. I've just completed a sequence of poems and I'm working hard at my novel. Next I'm off to the Edinburgh Book Festival before it closes on the 29th It's all happening.
Once again it's taken me months to update this diary. And once again my thanks to Pat Byrne for her patience.
It's the time of the Summer solstice and last week I came upon a profile of my star sign Cancer 'the summer solstice sign'. I'm supposed to be home-loving and domesticated, which is strange, considering I'm desperate to be off travelling again, anywhere. Does anyone know of a wee hoose I could rent for a week in the summer? Somewhere beautiful but not too remote because I don't have a car.
My New York trip in April was fabulous. I stayed with my friend Judi in Greenwich Village, on West 12th Street, overlooking Abington Square. I was awake with the dawn every day and went to a different caf? each morning to drink coffee and watch the real Villagers beginning their days with bagels to go or leisurely coffees and newspapers. I loved being close to all the places I?d read about for years and I spent a lot of time just wandering and exploring. Union Square, Waverly Place, Christopher Street, all places where poets, writers and artists lived and worked. I saw the tiny house at 75 &1/2 Bedford St where the poet Edna St Vincent Millay lived in the 1920s, and the apartments in Patchen Place with a blue plaque stating that the poet e e cummings lived there, but not a word about poor Djuna Barnes who spent thirty years living in the apartment across the way until her death in 1982 at the age of ninety-one.
There's also a plaque on the wall of the White Horse Tavern on the corner of West 11th and Hudson, commemorating the 9th of November 1953, the night that Dylan Thomas downed a last scotch, staggered outside and collapsed. He died that night in the St Vincent?s Hospital. The Tavern was a well-known literary hang out. Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin and Norman Mailer all drank there and one of the few female regulars was the diarist and novelist Anais Nin. In homage to her I went in and had a drink, but couldn't tell whether there were any other writers in that night.
On a beautiful sunny Sunday morning Judi and I took the A train subway to Broad Channel which is part of the island of Jamaica Bay. I couldn?t believe I was still in New York. Painted clapboard houses, some built on stilts at the edge of the water, tiny churches and a school; it looked more like a fishing village in Maine. Broad Channel occupies the southern part of the island and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge the north. We walked the 1.75 mile West Pond Trail, stopping to gaze at sea birds and other wildlife of all descriptions. Even though I got sunburned, it really enjoyed the day. See http://gorp.away.com/gorp/publishers/countryman/nyisland.htmand if you're ever in New York in spring or summer, be sure to take that A train.
We spent another full day in MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art which reopened earlier this year after refurbishment. It was a wonderful experience, from the beautiful outdoor sculpture garden to seven floors filled with modern art. I walked into one room containing three Jackson Pollock ?drip? paintings. I thought I wasn't that keen on Pollock?s work but when I saw those huge canvases up close I was instantly converted. The only thing was, there was so much to see that I knew I wouldn?t remember half of it. I spent a fortune on postcards to bring home. On the way back we took a bus down 5th Avenue just so that I could say I'd seen the Empire State building and the Rockefeller Centre.
On the Saturday morning we shopped at the green market in Abington Square with her friends Howard Plantzer and his partner Pam. Howard is a playwright who had been to India on a Fulbright fellowship and Pam is a scientist, so the conversation was wide and varied. Judi will be stopping over in Glasgow in August on her way back from a trip to Skye and I'm really looking forward to seeing her again.
Since I got back I've been busy teaching and trying to get on my writing. On the 16th of June I went to the launch of my friend Peter Manson?s new collection of poems Before and After Mallarme at the Alliance Francaise in Park Circus. Here's a quote from the back cover:
"Never simply translations from Mallarm?'s French, Manson's versions bring a hundred years of Mallarm?'s influence on modern poetry to bear on the originals: now finding room inside Mallarm?'s funeral poem for Th?ophile Gautier to mourn the great soundtext poet Bob Cobbing (1920-2002), now discovering a homage to the typography of Mallarm?'s visual poem Un coup de d?s jamais n'abolira le hasard in an original poem built on Mallarm?an armature."
The book is available from Survivors' Press, 2/R 5 West Bank Quadrant, Glasgow G12 8NT. 20pp A5, June 2005. £2.50 (including UK postage; cheques payable to "Survivors' Press").
Peter's reading was quite simply brilliant and it was good to be back among the poets, including old friends Gerry Loose and Robin Purves. I must also congratulate Peter on the Judith E Wilson Fellowship at Cambridge University. He?s promised to invite me down to give a reading which means I definitely have to write something. As well as the books (I?m working on a new novel but am reluctant to give up on Precious Little completely) I?ve also been writing poetry; a collection called Tough Love which I began in 1992 but then laid aside. Yes, one of these days I'll finish something and as soon as I do I'll let you know.Archived pages Maggie Graham writer's diary 2003 - 05