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Saturday, 8 March 2008

Written in granite

that, of course, was the last we ever heard of it. Still, we climbed the tree and looked out over the churchyard. The graves stretched down as far as the cliffs facing grimly out onto the North Sea. "Best not eat the berries," said a voice in an ear, inner or outer, "but, whatever you do, don't eat the leaves, they're the most poisonous part..."

The Granite Shore. Everything is linked, if you know where to look for the nexus – or even if you don't. The name comes from section VI of T.S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday. Eliot is sometimes seen as a "difficult" poet, although I've never really understood why. Actually there's a piece written by Sean O'Brien in the Review section of today's Guardian about how kids are struggling with poetry because they're losing their connection with their own cultural heritage, so they no longer "get" references that even those of us who didn't get particularly classical educations would have grasped. At least, I suppose it depends on your frame of reference: if your poetical poison chalice of choice happens to be, I don't know, the collected lyrics of Robbie Williams then yes, I suppose you might find The Wasteland a tad tricky. Or if you happened to come across Eliot after spending your life in a cultural vacuum and having read no other poetry. But for anyone approaching his work with even a very sketchy knowledge of the previous couple of thousand years' worth of human artistic endeavour there are plenty of familiar landmarks. Dante, Shakespeare, the Bible – not exactly obscure stuff, surely? There are far, far more difficult poets. Eliot never loses the thread, no matter what bull (or, indeed, minotaur) may be snorting and pawing the ground around the labyrinth. My own education was an incredibly haphazard affair, almost all of the bits that have stuck were self-prescribed and administered and although there was a modicum of rhyme, there was little reason. There may have been madness but there wasn't a lot of method in it. You get my drift.

The thing I find fascinating about Eliot is the way his poetry often conjures up a sense of the English landscape. Or at least, it brings to my mind images of the period of my childhood when we lived on the Norfolk coast. The landscape by the artist Ged Quinn, a photograph of which appears on the forthcoming Granite Shore website (left), also seems to pick up on this. Did I mention that everything is linked? Well, Ged also played keyboards with the greatest of all great lost Liverpool groups The Wild Swans for whose Incandescent and Magnitude albums I wrote the sleevenotes. Incandescent is still available from the excellent Renascent Records and I'm sure we'll have plenty more to say about the Wild Swans anon. I fervently hope that Ged will be performing on the Granite Shore album. Eliot, of course, was born an American, although he later took British citizenship and even converted to the Church of England. Indeed Ash Wednesday is often referred to as his "conversion poem"; again, given my own background, perhaps this accounts for some of the imagery his words evoke. In these journals we'll be looking at a number of things which have (and have not) fed into the writing of the Granite Shore album and certainly these songs, like Eliot's poems, frequently reference the work of other artists of many persuasions and of many ages. i.e. neither of us are afraid of worried about nicking ideas from other people, especially if they happen to be no longer shuffling along the mortal deck.

I've been reading The Letters Of Ted Hughes over the last couple of weeks and I laughed out loud when I got to the letter he wrote to Eliot in the late fifties. At the time Hughes was an aspiring young poet writing to a man recognised as one of the greatest poets of his century, and he had the sheer effrontery to end "I hope you are enjoying April"! As jokes go it's precisely the kind of thing around which I've been known to build whole songs (see Elsewhere); it's referential and yet silly. Nice one, Ted. Mind you, the bloke's spelling was atrocious, which never ceases to surprise me in someone who clearly has such mastery of language. I expect spelling will come up again at some point too.

More to follow. At the moment work is underway on the main TGS website, a very rough draft of which is now online, although it still needs a lot of work. The idea of this log (oh, is the "b" not silent then?) is to get a bit of a dialogue going... Probably only with myself for the moment but who knows, from tiny acorns come... squirrel shit, presumably. With which profound meditation I shall post this. Back soon.

Oh and happy birthday Ged!

1 comment:

Glória said...


GED QUINN! THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!

I bread your paintings.

(I discouver GED QUINN Arco Madrid .......)
my web site have his cat

Happy birthday!
Beijo! From Portugal!

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