we’ve moved to baroqueinhackney.com

… and with that, she packed her bags and was gone. The old house remained much as it had been, for she could never bear to dismantle the scene of so many happy times, and indeed visitors in months to come would wander through its empty halls, wondering about the parties and glittering company they had seen… but for her part, she departed, with her bags and boxes as she could carry, and took up the new place.

And so it is. I am now holding court at a new professional poetry-n-literature website which includes this blog as its landing page. This site will remain up for the time being, certainly until such time as I can sort out whatever the issue is which is not letting me import my archive files to the new one. But all activity is now going on at the new  site.

And what activity it is!

Do please have a look and subscribe, and help make the new Halls of Baroque as happy as the old.

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PLEASE NOTE… & Elizabeth Jane Howard

This is the OLD Baroque in Hackney blog, As of this week, for some reason the domain is defaulting again to this site, and I need to get it sorted out. so if you are looking for my site and land here, just rest assured that it is supposed to have finished in 2011 and that we’ll be back to business at the current site before (I hope) too long.

In the meantime let me just inform you that I am currently reading the novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard, one after another, on the advice of Hilary Mantel in the Guardian – she has written the introduction to a new edition of The Long View, but she also mentioned After Julius in this article, with the reasons why she gets her students to read them, so I bought both immediately from Abe. (I know I shouldn’t.) The upshot is that I cannot imagine why it’s taken me so long to get to her, unless it’s the mimsy covers. (Mantel deals with that.) So let me tell you this: Elizabeth Jane Howard is terrifying. She says things you thought no one could say , and shows you things you thought no one even knew – anatomising marriage and love and loneliness, and ageing, and youth, and self-delusion, and even time. Here’s a paragraph from one of them, After Julius:

She followed him upstairs, thinking: ‘This is the last time I ever do anything like this again. In my life. The last time. Never again.’ The stairs were very steep and covered with linoleum designed to look like marble chips. The landing lights were as dim as electric lights could possibly be. Felix was carrying their luggage, and had given her the key, but when they came to the room she resented being the one to open the door, and handed the key to him. The room was adequate. There was a wash basin and a small double bed covered by a maize-coloured slippery counterpane. The walls were porridge with a frieze of what looked like tinned fruit. The curtains were not drawn; he drew them, and a curtain hook fell down. There were two chairs and a dressing table with some face powder spilled on it.There was a gas fire that needed shillings in a meter. There was a picture of two puppies tugging a ball of wool over the mantelpiece. She cold no longer avoid looking at him.

And here is some of what Mantel says about Howard – the bit that really brings it out for me:

In her novels Howard described delusion and self-delusion. She totted up the price of lies and the price of truth. She saw damage inflicted, damage reflected or absorbed. She had learned more from Austen than from her mother. Comedy is not generated by a writer who sails to her desk saying, “Now I will be funny”. It comes from someone who crawls to her desk, leaking shame and despair, and begins to describe faithfully how things are. In that fidelity to the details of misery, one feels relish. The grimmer it is, the better it is: slowly, reluctantly, comedy seeps through.


The anxiety is about resources. Have I enough? Enough money in my purse? Enough credit with the world? … money flows in from mysterious sources. But her characters do not command those sources, nor comprehend them. Emotionally, financially, her vulnerable heroines live from hand to mouth. Even if they have enough, they do not know enough.


Jane wanted love, sexual and every kind; she said so all her life, and she was bold in saying so, because it is always taken as a confession of weakness.

This illuminates her characters – many of them it seems either lack the courage she herself had, or lack her self-knowledge, or they married men who also lack the courage or self-knowledge. Howard earned her self-knowledge the hard way, by leaving her first husband and her daughter and going to live alone and write. In the end she had to leave Kingsley Amis too. It’s not easy.

The end of After Julius is profoundly disturbing – the fugue of stories comes to a close on one after another of them and one after another they send a chill – but a chill with a ray of hope – if only she can learn… listen to herself.. figure it out… Why was everyone talking about Martin Amis all those years and not about this glorious writer who was married to – and under the shadow of – and then, in the end, never forgiven by – his father?

Aside from anything else, her prose style is wonderful. She is direct, powerful, aphoristic – not in a bad way, but in the sense of a sudden moment of realisation. She puts some realisations into the minds of her characters at frankly eviscerating moments, and withholds others completely. Her sentences are almost perfect. You can really see that Mantel has been reading her. And, you know, Martin Amis says nice things about her prose style but when he calls her an ‘instinctivist’ (in direct relation to being a woman!) he shows himself up: it’s faint praise.

The great critic Northrop Frye, in a discussion of Milton’s elegy Lycidas, made the distinction between real sincerity and literary sincerity. When told of the death of a friend, the poet can burst into tears, but he cannot burst into song. I would very cautiously suggest that there is more ‘song’ in women’s fiction – more real sincerity, and less tradition-conscious artifice. This is certainly true of Elizabeth Jane Howard. She was an instinctivist, with a freakishly metaphorical eye and a sure ear for rhythmically fast-moving prose.

While we’re on the subject there’s this quote from an interview Howard did with the books blog, Bookanista. The book she refers to obliquely is The Long View, her second (I think) novel, which begins killingly in 1951 at a catastrophic moment in a woman’s life, and section by section works painfully back to 1926, and her first love affair:

“Everybody told me I couldn’t write a book backwards. Many years later Martin writes a book called Time’s Arrow and everybody says ‘Goodness, a book written backwards – it’s a new idea!’”

Anyway, there’s a lot going on. And in the middle of it all I’m having my year of reading novels. I’ve got the Cazalet series to go yet (her best-known work, I’m told, the latest, but I’d not even heard of them) – and I really feel I’m interested in all the others… and she wrote a memoir…

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Have you seen the big, new, improved Baroque?

Here’s a little refresher on the glories that await the reader at our new, self-hosted site at http://baroqueinhackney.com.

The new Baroque is a bigger and, I think, more beautiful site. In true steampunk-Baroque fashion, I made it myself.

It encompasses my writing life, with details of my publications and readings and where you can find my work – both poetry and prose – online. More importantly perhaps, it also gives details about my services for writers.

As well as running a course on technique – called ‘Making Poetry’ – at the Poetry School, I also run other tutorial activities:

  • several Saturday workshops a year
  • one-to-one tutorials, either in person or by email
  • more ongoing mentoring, where I work with you to pull out the best in your writing and develop all aspects of your writing life.

I also provide editing services. That is, I can:

  • Proofread your manuscript
  • Line-edit your manuscript
  • Help you shape your poetry collection
  • Work with you to develop a book out of the poems you have

As well as all this, good old Baroque in Hackney itself is still on top form. Recent posts include:

I’ll be thrilled if you’ll have a look and sign up to get email updates of the new website. And I’ll be really grateful if you’ll recommend (or hire!) me as a tutor, mentor, or editor.

Here’s to a vibrant and very Baroque 2012.

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My new website’s down! (but at least we are all black)

Okay, well I have made a beautiful new website, populated it with many wonderful things, and begun to sort out some mysterious problem with the page links. But the database is going weird, refusing permissions etc, something about .htaccess, and I don’t understand all that. According to the two young computer whizzes who are doing the techie end (one of whom is my own progeny and not as techie as he looks, being more front-end development), it is “strange.”

So where I expected to be writing today to say Don’t come here! Go there! I am now writing to say Stay! At least till we get it sorted out! It’s been a week or two of frustration and now this is doing my head in. Frankly.

I had thought in my initial planning daydreaming stage that I might take this three-week hiatus from life and write a quick little book, or anyway a book proposal, as well as knocking together my couple of websites, doing some freelance work, sorting out the aged aunt, doing all my mountainous ruinous scary paperwork, not minding everyone being away, and basically being productive and perfect and needing nothing and nobody. Instead, what do I find! Alas. Quel drag. Merely human. Living on peanut butter, blueberries and a few crispbreads, playing Radio 3 all night for company, life frustrating and inconclusive, people elusive and the outside world like treacle, and not achieving very much from the list at all.

But I was really pleased to have at least done my websites…!

The riots didn’t help at all, but the recuperation has been greatly assisted by the remix videos of David Starkey rapping on Newsnight… Check it out, blud, innit. I am not an archetypal successful black man.

Also, today, this by Mark Steel:

The riots were caused, apparently, by black culture, and we can get round the fact some rioters were white by saying they’d turned black, and get round the fact most black people don’t riot by saying they’ve turned white. You could use that logic to prove that being Welsh causes boats to capsize, or that everything alive is a penguin.

So I have emailed my young men, who may or may not be up yet, being penguins. I’m going to try and do some work, and get a haircut, and give Mlle B some money for her trip to Berlin, and do more work, and go meet a friend in Shoreditch, for I have got bare cheap tickets to see Much Ado About Nothing, bruv. (I’m sure that Shakespeare was secretly black. Ahead of his time.)

I will let you know as soon as my web situation is resolved.


Filed under Shakespeare, the end of the worr-uld

The meaning of life 2

The great James Thurber. This was one of my very favourite cartoons when I was but a child; and I had a lot of favourite cartoons. I particularly loved that Thurber allowed the disenchantment to belong to a little girl… And no, here in Baroque Towers we’ve still never shaken the innocent’s belief that someone might be able to do something about it…

Right now, Mercury is retrograde. I know; it’s silly; but at the moment everything they say about Mercury being retrograde seems to be true x10. Mock not; I only found out it was thus after I’d noticed that everything was going pear-shaped. If I were Ted Hughes I’d be writing lots of letters to senior poets telling them all about it – essentially, something like this: “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Then again, as Mercury is retrograde, it’s likely that the letters would get lost and arrive late, or I’d find myself unable to find a new typewriter ribbon, or to say quite what I meant… Or they wouldn’t pay any attention, they’d write back going, “Ted, mate, you just need to calm down.”

And they’d be right.

Anyway, this is my last post on wordpress.com. Sometime tonight (it’s so exciting!), my baroqueinhackney.com domain will turn, like a compass, to point to a glorious new splendour that I have been making in the past two weeks. For I have worked out my disenchantment on a brace of new websites,  which together will show you all, I am come to tell you all, everything I can do. Especially if there’s money involved. The copywriting and corporate communications one is katyevansbush.com, and it’s already live. The poetry and cultural one is baroqueinhackney.com, and it will contain all the old content – so you’ll lose nothing by following it – and there is a kind of hush all over the word as we wait for it to move forward…

If you’ve got baroqueinhackney.com already  bookmarked – as I know some of you have – you’ll go straight to the new site. If not, just go and remove “.wordpress” from your bookmark and then it will take you to the new site. And if you’re a subscriber here, I’ll love it if you click the subscribe button on the new site. Yes!

I’ll still be disenchanted, though. We’re all disenchanted.

We look everywhere for the meaning of life. Sometimes it’s right in front of our nose. This weekly series brings you the meaning of life in a bite-sized nugget, every Sunday.

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The week that was

Sorry to do this to you. It will be testified, and possibly even in the comments by the person who made me watch it, that I can’t stand Alien. Least of all this ridiculous, boys’-own, gross, grotesque, horrific, silly, genre, and yet quite terrifying scene. It even put me off John Hurt for a bit, after years of liking him in things.

But yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that it’s the best description I can think of for what this past week’s been like.

It occurs to me also that I’m using my ‘end of the worr-uld’ category rather a lot…

But here’s something:

You can help Siva. Utterly destroyed, his shop doesn’t even have walls now. The picture of the lootersransacking his shop was one of the most upsetting ones of the whole episode; they even took  his crappy microwave. And all the cigarettes and alcohol they stole? Not insured. Not all people with shops are rich, kids.

Keep Aaron cutting. Born in Cable Street. 89 years old, widowed last year, and now his barber shop is trashed – also without insurance. You have to hand it to him for chutzpah: “They’re meshuggenahs,” he said.

Do something nice for Ashraf. Ashraf Haziq was the boy in the film being beaten and robbed – a Malaysian student who only arrived in Britain last month. I didn’t watch the video but this is lovely, and he wants the money to bring his mum over from Malaysia because she’s so worried about him.

Rebuild Reeves. The furniture store in Croydon was built in 1864 (as ‘Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe’) and has been in five generations of the same family. The current Chairman is 80 years old and carried his bride over its threshhold. Burning, it looked like the Great Fire of London.

You can help musician Leni White. Firebombed out of her flat above a supermarket in Ealing – she and her boyfriend watched the petrol bomb being thrown into the store, grabbed what they could, ran outside, and watched their home and studio burn down.

I’m sent a message that says:
News from Leni is sporadic, as she’s v traumatised, but I’ll be speaking to her on Saturday to get the latest. Please, in your blog, emphasise that we are overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and kindness; Leni is feeling guilty that strangers care so much, but I think the unique circumstances of this event, and her obvious shock, are clouding her mind.

Leni has said she wishes people to pledge to her putative album, as her creativity is all she has now. If anyone wishes to make a direct donation, her Paypal account is leniwhite@gmail.com.

Sonny Malhotra in Camden, North London, is offering free family photographs for people who lost all their photographs in the riots.

To find out how else you can help, read Riots Cleanup, and/or follow them on twitter @riotscleanup.


Filed under the end of the worr-uld

You have to live with the common people

I think it might be time to bring this one back out again. It started as a bit of banter on Facebook, as everything seems to do now, about this 19-year-old daughter of a millionaire businessman, who’s been arrested for looting… someone went, “I took her to the supermarket…” and you know, we egged each other on a little bit, and the next thing you know I found myself taking this bit of code and pasting it in here… but it was supposed to be free, it didn’t have a price on it or anything…

Too horrified to have very much to say. Tuesday night was not something I ever want to repeat: I ended up bringing a duvet in and falling asleep on the couch at about 3am – and paid my dues for that, by waking to the sound of Theresa May’s ugly voice at 8am… Every time that lot open their mouths they make it worse.

The things I want to think through about all this are legion, the garbage that’s getting spouted is already so numerous and big and scary, we have to get our thoughts lined up in rows… but I have nothing coherent yet. I posted a couple of early responses; and I think Suzanne Moore is going to write something for Saturday morning.

Some wag on Twitter summed it up: “I know who I want to vote for in the next election: the Norwegian Prime Minister.”

I will say this, though: we are going to have to get to grips with the fact that you can’t slice a slice of people off the bottom without consequences. And even aside from that, this looting frenzy – now we’ve got named individuals appearing in court – appears to be a frighteningly disparate group of people, except that they weren’t a group. They were just people – people like the people we know – surfing on the wave of the moment. Our moment, this current present moment that we have all, somehow, each of us, contributed in some small way to creating. That’s what the Zeitgeist is.

It’s not an ‘entitled underclass’, but it is the sense of entitlement that the consumer culture exists solely to create; the dream we’ve fed ourselves on; it isn’t the cuts, but it is, kind of; it’s the fear and uncertainty of people who’ve lost, or will lose, or won’t even get, their jobs – or benefits, or home help, or education, or health care. In our common moment, when common space and common purpose have been given over to shop after shop, where the other activities have dies away, and if you want to go out you pretty much have to go out and consume – shop – well, it very much looks as if even rioting has literally become another way of… shopping. Or something. They emptied Debenham’s, and walked out in the streets carrying Debenham’s bags. There was the teenager who went in and looted a supermarket while her mum waited in the car. There was the woman who took her toddler in with her and came out with two bags of shopping. People were trying things on.

But the destruction? The firebombs, the trashing, the reduction of people’s corner shops to rubble, the torching of homes, the killing of three young men?? Nobody understands that, and the politicians certainly don’t. It’s almost criminal of them to claim they do. They’re about to wreak even more harm upon us, you watch. They’re talking about controlling text messaging now.

So many things are emerging from the rubble, stories and facts and new angles – and old angles – there are sights burned into my brain: those three guys jumping on the countertop in Labrokes in Clapham Junction, using all their strength to rip the flatscreen from the wall – and then they just threw it. It was terrifying.

The thing is, we can’t understand it, because we’re in the middle of it. That’s why it’s been so terrifying this week, it was an unstoppable force – like one of those whooshy incorporeal evil things in Harry Potter… and you can’t run, you can’t hide, and because it’s not Harry Potter, there’s no magic spell.


Filed under the end of the worr-uld