Back in 1992 my mother bought me a glorious two-part set of the ‘Oxford Shorter English Dictionary’ and the Roget’s Thesaurus that a ‘bookclub’ was offering at that time. I think the books were free, but were very very much less than the hundred pounds Amazon currently offers the two part ‘Oxford Shorter English Dictionary’ and Thesaurus. At university they were the most significant book shelf items I would ponder other than the Riverside Chaucer and Norton Anthology of English Literature. I recall that there was a much annotated The Wasteland – Ezra Pound or somebody’s scratchings in the university library and I had much fun here (The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound).
When I wrote my pitiful poetry I was trying to mimic Eliot in style if not in contents. Most of the 1992 to 1995 era and then the post-university scribblings leave me feeling I am incapable of forming clear metaphors, similes, hyperbole, iambic pentameter, etc., but I spent a great deal of time on the thoughts composed on the page even if then I was immature and repeated stylistically without knowing or creating the hidden mystery that makes all great poetry.
My mind recalls a number of traditional 14 line sonnets I attempted to write after studying Elizabethan and Jacobin Literature with Dr Richard Prior. A girl Rosie came off well in one: the Northern Irish girl who I saw regularly around campus, in the Lonsdale, Harpers, Trent House, the Greenmarket, Jesmond Library and elsewhere: I still have that verse somewhere. Something in Marlowe moved me more than Shakespeare and John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s Whore was a firm favourite I saw performed once.
The lecturers and tutors made little of me and I once got accused of plagiarism in Nineteenth Century Fiction because I got a my first ‘1st’ in an essay…which I think surprised my tutor! I do really dig Charles Dickens and specifically “Sketches by Boz” (Sketches by “Boz,” Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People) so much that I felt sure when a question arose for that ‘text’ I was well suited to write a powerful piece; I still pick up that volume and purchased Sketches of Young Gentlemen (1838)
Sketches of Young Couples (1840) in Lower Marsh, Waterloo to follow more of the emotive caricatures written by ‘Boz’ .
Allan Ingram, head of our department, once told me I would have to start reading and quoting criticisms if I was ever to achieve better marks than high 50’s. I found it so boring and tried to understand the text my own way quoting no one else and leaving a very short fragmented bibilography, I skipped the whole of Theories and Methods from the 2nd year onwards! My concepts were sometimes half baked, badly argued or down right wrong (I wish Allan well, wherever or whatever he is currently doing, as he made me feel adequate in a very insecure and indifferent time in my life). Hey I hated the concept of canon in literature by F.R Leavis, The Great Tradition (1948), to fire that pompous know it all out of a howitzer would have been fun! I left the concept of criticism firmly by the Library door circa 1992 to 1995.
It seems I need to keep a Thesaurus close by when I run out of words!
We are almost three weeks into 2013; times passage is relative to the age and preoccupation of the individual I am sure, but who knows where the time goes? Sat in another Starbucks I have applied for another half dozen jobs today. I think I will return to Wetherby for a Snoops cuddle as funds run low until Tuesday and work still feels far away.