Jack Kerouac’s essentials for prose

I just picked up Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones and was struck by the four essentials that she quotes from Jack Kerouac’s ‘Essentials for Prose,’: 1. Accept loss forever 2. Be submissive to everything, open, listening 3. No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language, and knowledge 4. Be in love with […]


Jahrhunderttalent. Another beautiful German word to follow on from ‘Heimweh’ (see Primo Levi below). In her long article for Intelligent Life magazine Clemency Burton-Hill quotes the music executive Deborah Borda on first seeing Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel in performance – “The Germans have a word for it: Jahrhunderttalent. Once in a hundred years. That was my […]

Just Do It

Loved this from Matthew Kimberley’s Get A Grip: action is the difference between ‘screw it, let’s do it’ and ‘fuck it, let’s have a kebab.’ Also loved this from Jeanette Winterson’s latest, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal: Manchester spun riches beyond anybody’s wildest dreams, and wove despair and degradation into the human […]

The intricate web of love

I’ve been reading the Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner, a Virago paperback I picked up in the Oxfam bookshop a while back. On the strength of her writing here, she is much underrated and deserves a wider readership. For example, this wonderful entry for 16 Feb 1950  on the cremation of her mother: … Nora’s small […]

The Corrections

A week in bed ill at least provided an opportunity to finish Jonathan Franzen’s breakthrough book. I know, only a decade behind the curve and I should be reading Freedom, ideally the uncorrected version. The quality of his writing is exceptional, but I found the book easier to respect than to love. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have […]

The merry merry month of May

I have been meaning to write about the merry merry month of May, and its derivation, since April. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t written about it, not simply because I’ve been massively busy with new work, but because it’s just not a question that interests me enough. Look around you is […]

Spring in the rain

This month’s poem celebrates the beginning of spring and the clocks going forward (in the UK). A hugely influential poem, which I never tire of reading and thinking about, and which is very easy to memorise due to its brevity. Language at its most controlled, charged with meaning. Click to read The Red Wheelbarrow by William […]

Kisses on the bottom

English is such a rich language for ambiguities that you can have almost as much fun trying to write a sentence that cannot be misunderstood, as writing lines that deliberately exploit a play on words. And characteristically, the way we most commonly describe a play on words is ‘double entendre’ which, of course, is not […]


By chance caught a wonderful programme on the radio today, on the way back from a seminar on LinkedIn given by Paul Tansey of Intergage (who, incidentally, has a neat way of lodging his name in your brain – he tells an anecdote about transposing the initial letters, which gives you: Taul Pansey). This digression, […]


The British poet and novelist Richard Aldington is probably best known as one of the three ‘original Imagists’, with Ezra Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle, but always known as H.D. At this time she and Aldington were married). In late spring 1916 Aldington was conscripted and on June 24th left London for Dorset, where he […]

The beauty of good design

… is that it ages gracefully. And stylishly. Because it has integrity. This sign, alongside the Stour at lower Bryanston, says what it needs to say in a plain, simple, appropriate font, and just keeps on geting better as the years pass. Photograph taken during a morning walk with the dog in the present cold […]