Cosmic Treat

December 21, 2011

Thanks to the nice folks at Snag Films, I learn that yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death. You can watch the first episode of the famous COSMOS series here. It starts with an advert, but thats why its free folks.

Carl Sagan ain’t as pretty as Brian Cox, and I would say Brian is actually better at making abstract things simple and concrete; but no-one can beat Sagan at the cosmic poetry.

Beat Pilgrimage

March 3, 2009

I love the way history soaks into the streets of a town. Most of the time it leaves nothing more than a slightly coloured stain and you walk past, unknowing. Sometimes there is a hidden plaque.  Sometimes you know there were shattering events, but the traces are lost. I used to walk round the streets of East London trying to imagine the Cable Street riots.

We came back from a Sunday stroll to find two men on the kerb, clutching a battered red paperback, staring at our anonymous rented house. Oh, they said, do you live here ? Do you know who lived here in the sixties ? Lew Welch.

It turns out they were on a kind of Beat Poet pilgrimage. Lew Welch was part of the 1960s “San Francisco Renaissance”, was friends with Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and was apparently “Dave Swain” in Kerouac’s “On the Road”. He finished high school in Palo Alto and lived for many years in our house. He had success for a few years, and then one day he walked out of Gary Snyders’ house and never came back.

So we showed them round the house and we all tried to catch the vibrations for ten or fifteen minutes. Then they left to find the next station of the cross.

You can read about Welch here, here and here, and about the San Francisco Renaissance here. A collection of Welch’s poems, Ring of Bone, is on Amazon. Here is the title poem.

I Saw Myself

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does