Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Compendium of Wildean Delights

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “I summed up all systems in a phrase and all existences in an epigram.” A bold claim to make, some may argue, yet when one dips into the magical kingdom of Wilde’s writings, what is impossible not to notice is how “right” he often is. Words for Wilde, were like pearls, to be played with, sparkling in their wit and pregnant with meaning in their durability.

Perhaps this is the most distinguishing facet of Wilde’s oeuvre – the manner in which it has lasted and will continue to endure, seemingly ageless in its appeal to each new generation. A large part of Wilde the legend is due to the fact that he had a more than eventful personal life: he defied traditional Victorian conventions, dared others to follow him, and bestrode the world like the “flamboyant high priest of aestheticism” he professed himself to be. Yet he also wrote in a variety of genres, dazzling his peers and astonishing his audiences with his fierce intellect, playful paradox and sheer love for the English language.

Wilde’s love of language for language’s sake shines through in this collection. Arranged in four chapters: Ironies & Paradoxes, A Duel Between the Sexes, Art for Art’s Sake & Beyond and The Artist as Philosopher, this is a compendium to treasure and chew upon, morsels of wisdom that provoke, entertain and enlighten in equal measure. Some of Wilde’s more famous sayings have entered the lexicon of the English language; there are several here which make you think, “nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul” and “women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them they forgive us everything, even our intellects” – to highlight just a couple. Whether it is poking fun at class, subverting gender stereotypes, mocking man’s vanities or exploring the sheer mystery of life, Wilde always proffers a gem, which makes us think afresh.

Once you have imbibed or perhaps devoured this exquisite potpourri of a book, you will want more. Get your hands on anything he wrote – plays, essays, poems, letters, novel, and children’s stories. He is one of the greatest writers who ever lived, constantly enchanting and forever illuminating. Wilde was not only blessed with that most precious of qualities – kindness – but also a piercing insight, who, through his sundry characters and essays, understood acutely the wellsprings from which laughter and unhappiness, joy and misery, altruism and selfishness sprang. He really did put genius into his work and not just his talent.

 

 

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What does Leonard Cohen mean to me?

This is a question that I have been thinking about a lot recently.

Perhaps, it’s to do with a burning excitement that is building up as I await to see him play London on his latest tour? Maybe it’s to do with the fact that Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre has had a huge impact on my thinking since I became acquainted with it a little over 10 years ago?

Either way, I think that it is an important question. It is a question we ask of everyone at some point, who has had an impact on our lives – friend, lover, stranger or, in this case, artistic and cultural heroes.

I love the fact that Leonard has addressed the fundamental themes of existence – love, desire, betrayal, redemption, connection – right from the beginning of his musical and writing career. The way in which he draws upon various philosophies, religions and cultural ideas, forever exploring and mining what it is to be human. His songs and writings can be listened to and read over and over; they yield so much, yet always offer new meanings. The blend of the earthy and ethereal, the sensuality and the serious, the comedy and the tragedy never ceases to charm.

We can dip in and out of his work at various times of our lives, whether we are 15 or 55, and still discover new truths. Maybe, this is what Leonard means to me. He is timeless. His writings stand apart from time but help me make sense of time. Leonard helps me appreciate that life – while it may be baffling at times – is blazingly beautiful. The wry humour and learned wisdom, etched in his lyrics, enchant the heart and sing in one’s mind.

Thank you Leonard for enriching my existence and thank you to an old friend who introduced me to this incomparable “Troubadour Sans Pareil” on the threshold of my adult life.

Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.” (The Favourite Game)

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A Book For All Seasons

If you love the Brecon Beacons, Brecon Beacons by Adam Burton is a must buy. If you have never visited, I would still argue that this is an essential read and even if you never have any intention of visiting one of the most spectacular national parks in Great Britain, I would urge you to dip into this marvel of a book. The photos are simply glorious, capturing the perennial beauty of the Brecon Beacons in a variety of moods and settings. Your senses will be whetted and having devoured the stunning photographs, you will champing at the bit to head to the Beacons and taste its magic for yourself.

Photography like this makes you want to dive into the pictures and become a part of the scene. Whether it is capturing a verdant spring scene, a shimmering summer morning, an autumnal vista or a winter wonderland, Burton’s pictures evoke the magnificent beauty of the landscape with profound affection and striking clarity. The National Park encompasses 520 square miles of wild, rugged, serene and earthy grandeur. Good photography is all about the perfect blend of lighting, composition and being in the right place at the right time. Burton’s photography is sumptuous.

This is a book that captures the ever-changing moods of this most spectacular of landscapes with great love and fidelity. You will marvel at the magical moorlands, the astonishing vistas, the towering mountains, the secluded valleys, the mystical waterfalls, the mythical lakes, the sparkling rivers and the man-made dramas etched on the landscape. Burton’s photography dazzles the senses and captivates the mind. I defy you to read this and not to feel the urge to head out to the hills and embrace the joy of walking. Or, to quote Michel de Montaigne, who always has a thing or two to say about how to live, “one should always have one’s boots on, and be ready to leave.”

 

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Two Short Poems

Angel of Peace

An angel of peace

Flies by at night,

With crumbs of joy

For the shivering beasts.

 

Knowing full well,

That kindness is right

For the wretched few,

Craving for a feast.

 

 

An Offering

This orange I give you

Bursting with colour

Its flesh so fresh

Stunning the tongue

 

What’s left?

Fingers outstretched.

 

 

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Streets Alive to the Joy of Jazz

A few months ago, there was some doubt as to whether Brecon Jazz 2012 would go ahead. Thankfully it has and what a success it has been. A huge sense of gratitude must be paid not only to the Arts Council of Wales and Powys County Council for securing the funding but to Orchard, the main operator of the festival, who came in at a relatively late stage and were responsible for organising an exciting and eclectic line up of Jazz, Swing and Soul. On the welcome page in this year’s programme, Pablo Janczar, director of Orchard, wrote “we aim to recapture some of that magic” (that people often equate with the festival) and “bring some colour and atmosphere back to the streets of Brecon”.

Strolling around the streets, frequenting official and fringe events, it was impossible not to feel that this twin-aim had been achieved. Of course, in recent times, the nation has been basking in Olympic fever; it was equally refreshing to sense Brecon pulsing with a vibrant joie de vivre. Festivals should exude with happy memories and I’m sure that many people who attended this year’s jamboree will have positive ones. A few stick out for me: seeing young children jive with wanton abandon at The Clarence Inn (a great sight to behold, surely what festivals are all about); second, overhearing someone quip, “Brecon is heaven”, whilst taking a breather on the promenade. If there is a God, I’m sure that he would approve. Third, seeing the Stan Tracey Quartet pay homage to Thelonious Monk in the sublime setting of Brecon Cathedral. A magical experience.

This year’s chapter of the Brecon Jazz story has been transitional but everyone involved has done such a tremendous job in highlighting what a beautiful and special place Brecon is. It is oh so easy to take for granted what one has on one’s doorstep, but it is amazing how many people I know who don’t live in the area say Brecon (and its environs) is a bit of an “undiscovered jewel”. Modest but blessed with beauty could be a just description. As thoughts turn towards the 30th instalment of this most “jazztastic” of festivals, a big thank you must go to all involved for ensuring that the myriad venues in Brecon town and around were beating in the affirmative. The ebullient synergy on the streets was eminently palpable. It is heart-warming to conclude that Brecon Jazz Festival is alive and kicking.

 

Jazz is about being in the moment.” (Herbie Hancock)

If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” (Louis Armstrong)

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I Loved You

I loved you in the mornings

I loved you in the evenings

I loved you in the sunshine

I loved you in the darkness.

 

I loved you like its pouring

I loved you by the seaside

I loved you by the moonlight

I loved you without warning.

 

I loved you for the laughter

I loved you in our tears

I loved you when we tumbled

I loved you, truth is dawning.

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Tea

It lifts you up, makes you feel good

That’s the wonder of a cuppa

Feeling sad, thinking if I could

It lifts you up, makes you feel good.

Stirring the soul as great things should

Marvel how tea perfects supper

It lifts you up, makes you feel good

That’s the wonder of a cuppa.

 

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