Welcome to my first Monthly Miscellany for 2020 – my monthly post where I round up all the non-746 books that I’ve read over the preceding weeks.
I’m going to change things up a bit this year and talk a bit about not just what I’ve been reading, but what I’ve been watching and listening to as well. My cultural highlights if you will!
Along with a commitment to listen to more podcasts, this year I decided to try to read some more poetry. Given the nature of my job, it’s a bit ironic that I don’t read as much poetry as I’d like to, but I find I need quiet and solitude to concentrate on poetry in a way that I don’t for fiction. So, I’ve set aside some time and read these beauties this month.
Vertigo and Ghost by Fiona Benson
This collection is as stunning as they all say. Seriously. Read it. Now. It made me rage, gasp and cry in recognition and in awe of the beauty and visceral impact of Benson’s words.
but it’s never all right now – Christ have mercy –
my daughter in my arms can’t steady me –
always some woman is running to catch up her children,
we dig them out of the rubble in parts like plaster dolls –
Mary Mother of God have mercy, mercy on us all.
When All the World and Love Was Young by Stephen Sexton
Stephen has been nominated for ALL the awards lately, and has recently won the Forward Prize for Best New Collection. In this collection, Sexton uses the narrative structure of the levels in the video game Mario World to explore his grief after the death of his mother. By doing so, he creates a playful, poignant and incredibly moving portait of love and loss.
Every other day I see her passing by the window
or crossing a bridge or walking ahead of me in the village
but this is the wring universe among all universes
Kingdomland by Rachael Allen
This one didn’t entirely work for me. While Kingdomland contains some striking images, I couldn’t find a coherent through line to make sense of what I was reading. Some of the poems are impactful, particularly Promenade but overall I found this a very mixed collection.
If I were walking around
with you, arm in arm, along some
iron promenade, you could fill me up
with chocolate, you could push back
my cuticles with want. I’ll just lie down,
my ribs opened up in the old town square
and let the pigs root through my chest.
Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott
Suffused with the imagery of water and permeability, Jo Shapcott’s Of Mutability explores illness, the body and mortality without being at all sombre or depressing. It is also a love letter to London, Shapcott’s home and to the power of nature. Again, this was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with some of the poems feeling a bit underwhelming, but the good poems are incredibly good.
I’m trying to keep this simple
in the time left to me:
luckily, it’s a slow
and selective degeneration.
I’m hoping mainly to stay present
and straight up despite
the wrong urge that’s taken hold
to say everything, all
at once, to everyone, which
is what I’d like if only
I could stay beyond this moment.
This month our limited viewing time was mostly taken up with Watchmen, which I thought I would enjoy (at most) but ended up loving. Unlike any of the other Watchmen iterations that have gone before, this was a clever look at racism through the prism of the superhero. It featured a fantastically hilarious turn by Jeremy Irons, plus three of the strongest most interesting female characters I have seen on screen.
The day we finished watching it was also the day that it was announced that there would not be another season and I think that is the right decision. Many shows (I am looking at you Big Little Lies and Handmaid’s Tale) could benefit from stopping after one perfectly formed season.
Film-wise, we watched The Irishman over three nights (the joys of having kids!) and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I didn’t find the anti-aging digitisation as annoying as I thought I would and I thought Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro gave career-best roles. Joker was another Oscar-nominated watch and this was one I enjoyed slightly less that I thought I would. It looks stunning and Joaquin Phoenix is astonishing, but for me the nods to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy were just too on the nose.
This month I am planning to watch Parasite as I love Boon Jong-Un’s work and we have started the German drama Dark, which so far seems to be Stranger Things for grown-ups!
My bookish podcasts have been cast aside this week as I started to listen to West Cork, the acclaimed and addictive podcast about the murder of Sophie Toscan DuPlantier in 1996. I remember the story at the time – it was hard not to hear about it in Ireland- and have followed its twists and turns, but this podcast really is eye opening and well worth a listen.
I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of the top ten tracks I’ve been listening to this month which features an 80s classic I have only discovered and some of the contemporary classical music I like to listen to when I’m reading.
So, that’s my round-up for the month, have you been watching or listening anything interesting?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!