Ruth Padel and the presentation of intelligent pulchritude in everyday life

Ruth Padel

Something missing in the hullabaloo about a great poet, Derek Walcott, apparently having trouble leashing his libido on university campuses, is that Ruth Padel — the good poet who won* the coveted post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford last Saturday — has had one of the most strikingly sexy personae in literature. I only refrain from using the present tense because recent press photographs, like the last one in the Independent, show her looking irreproachably demure and even tweedy.

I came across the portrait on this page accidentally, about six years ago, looking for a writer with whom she once shared a platform at a reading — and was enthralled by it long before I’d ever heard of her or read a line of her work. Call it the picture that launched a thousand questions in me about the new images of themselves that confident, intelligent women feel entitled to project.

They couldn’t be more different from the old style deemed permissible, that a female a bit behind the times blogging on a newspaper site prescribed only last week for young women on university campuses – the sartorial equivalent of waving garlic bulbs under the noses of putative sexual vampires like Walcott. Though she took his side in the fight for the Oxford post with a ‘men will be men’ argument, in that comment, she allowed her own sex no particle of latitude to be sexual beings expressing their sexuality:

females entering onto campuses should dress properly and behave with decorum, only then can they expect to be taken seriously re male behaviour. like mutual respect and not one-sided shenanigans.

Peace be with you, Sister Nouvelle-Puritan. Today, a woman as accomplished as Padel — who, as the photograph shows, respects herself and can convey this in her expression, posture, dress, and above all, work — has no need to get tricked out as an insipid bluestocking squinting out of heavy tortoiseshell frames to earn anyone else’s regard. No more than good-looking men in the same circles need to hide their magnetism under a carrel, so to speak.

An unusually powerful sculpture (see slide no: 3) I found on a recent surfing expedition struck me as a watershed in the portrayal of women. The sculptor is, amazingly, a man. All the other human figures by this Harold Francis Bell are so keenly alive that you could say that their joints are jumping. In this one, Pauline, a piece I think of as Thinking Woman, he’s captured something we’ve hardly ever seen in the history of art – a depiction of a radiantly intelligent nude; a woman adorned only by extraordinary intellectual intensity and the physical grace of someone fit and almost too slender, in perhaps late middle age. No trinkets, no costume, no paint. The first time I studied her, I imagined her as the cross between a scientist and ballerina that a real-life friend of mine – a dancer with the Harkness Ballet and daughter of a research physicist – once longed to be.

I find this sculpture far more impressive than Rodin’s Le Penseur. He looks like a hunk of beefcake acting a part – or taking a day off from weight-lifting ‘to see what this thinking stuff’s all about, y’know?’ whereas Bell’s belle, La Penseuse, gives us a being who might conceivably be living almost exclusively to think, and for art’s sake.

I’ll concede that those are subjective impressions, but what equally compelling equivalents of her are there in painting and sculpture – apart from the works that Gertrude Stein inspired by portraitists in several media, and Frieda Kahlo’s tortured, wrenching self-portraits? Being no art historian – not even an amateur one — I’m actually asking for suggestions in any visual medium except for photography, which is (relatively) too easy.

Thinking Woman instantly struck me as iconic — for an age in which western society has begun to value intelligence in women as much as in men. Of course, what’s considered attractive by the majority grows out of the delicate and imperceptible negotiations between individuals and society that shape social trends. Erving Goffman, in his wonderfully named classic of sociology, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), theorised that

the social actor has the ability to choose his stage and props, as well as the costume he would put on in front of a specific audience. The actor’s main goal is to keep his coherence, and adjust to the different settings offered him. This is done mainly through interaction with other actors.

On doublex, a companion site for women that the online magazine Slate has just launched, an article on changing gender expectations records that whereas girls of the mid-20th century thought that they had to pretend to be stupid to get married,

Today the cultural consensus is very different. At this April’s conference of the Council on Contemporary Families, [a report on a recent study…] of middle school boys and girls [showed that although ] the girls were deeply preoccupied with their appearance, the kind of feminine mystique that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s was virtually dead.

Not a single girl who was interviewed thought she had to play dumb …

And whereas once, clever women were catnip for only the cleverest men, Luisa Dillner has noted with quiet delight that

Surveys show that men still rate attractiveness highly, but a study in Sex Roles, of 199 people in Amsterdam, showed men and women rated the importance of intelligence equally.

Still, a mystery remains. It’s one thrown up by women bloggers themselves. In Sex in the Literary Blogosphere , I mentioned that far from using the net to escape the social expectations that unequally weigh down women in places where they might be free to discuss ideas without those burdens of gender, many females blatantly or subtly draw attention to their looks and femininity. They don’t seem to mind being handicapped by what John Berger analysed so penetratingly in Ways of Seeing, a book that the ballerina friend I mentioned left behind after one of her visits:

One might say that men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines most relationships between men and women, but also in relation to women to themselves. The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

These bloggers give themselves screen identities like @allheart or @ickyinpink or @AirHedda or @angelica – which I’m modelling closely on actual names. Some – by far the most baffling — go out of their way to alternate references to academic texts with posts oozing girly gush.

‘You’ve come a long way, baby,’ was once an advertising slogan that a big bad tobacco company deployed to flatter actual and aspiring feminists. . . Not far enough, on the evidence.

But Berger and others who have shown just how deeply images can re-shape perceptions would surely agree that a vamping professor of poetry at one of our oldest universities and a female rival for Le Penseur will make their mark – are doing so even as I type.

[ * On Monday the 25th, Ruth Padel resigned – a week after her pyrrhic victory. See: good thing that the Battle of the Bards wasn’t the subject of this post. ]


Filed under Poetry, Psychology, Social trends, The blogosphere, Visual art & artists

137 responses to “Ruth Padel and the presentation of intelligent pulchritude in everyday life

  1. ISA

    I am reading Le Carre at the moment. The Constant Gardener.

    There is a portrayal of a woman in the book. A young activist which is almost salacious in it’s approval for young female activism and idealism. But I have met aid workers in Africa like her and unlike her they worked in Africa for several years and regarded immolatory, brave sacrificial gestures as self serving.

    The hero in the book comes from a rich family and goes to Cambridge and she is so sharp that she could cut you or me up an out at a whim. Oh yes, and she is whimsical and charming. Ce Carre has come to have a touch of the Robert Harris about him and vica versa. The novel begins with the discovery of the heroines putrid, decapitated, bloated body.

    And then Le Carre puts her back together. My father liked the book because of its political thrust and because we share the references of the cetting. Nairobi was one of my family’s citys.

    It is somehow painful to read Le Carre’s accurate single line drawings of Kenyan society, but like his morals his descriptions are one dimensional.

    There is a sort of overlapping tension plot effect which has worked like chocolate to keep me reading.

    But I am unconvinced by his ability to use character. Dad would come to his defence, I know, he is, after all, better than any other spy writer in quality and his politics.

    But I also have / had a close friend very much like the main character. She was as you portray Padel. But she went through Cambridge and did this and that and is now the head of a visionary NGO. And yet, between you and me, I don’t think I respect her or what motivates her.

    There are women I know who you wouldn’t mess with verbally, but this confidence and ability doesn’t always come with a value system I trust. In fact I do not trust it.

    I don’t want to write about the story of one of my mothers bosses who had the philosophy that anything that frightened her she would have to do. So she went night scuba diving of the Hawai coast.

    Just imagine. In the dark. In the middle of the Pacific, with that vast monstrous mountain of an island coming out from the invisible ocean floor and reaching high to the surface

    Well, of course she went into panic. This is our human condition and swam down into the depths to escape rather than upwards and so she died.

    And I don’t want to talk about the gentle man who was at my parents wedding in 1958, who the met up with again at the nineties and who, after having been to a party with him in the countryside they saw, together with his family dead under sheets, side swiped by a truck.

    There was nothing my father could say to explain that. And there was nothing my mother could say about Gretchen.

    I don’t admire the imperious Ruth Padel. I know plenty of imperious people with far more right to be imperious. My mother’s closest friends. But for the most part those ladies are deeply courteous and democratic and I love most of them.

    And if I feel no need to defer then I do not and no unbroken spirit should to anyone, male or female, poet glorying in praise or cast off of society. We are equal.

    And anyone who expects or demands, by their position or merit to have automatic respect will be my blogged and breathing enemy for a while.

    Man or woman.

  2. === I don’t admire the imperious Ruth Padel. ===

    Interesting. Didn’t know that she’s imperious; haven’t even listened to her read poetry, her own or anyone else’s.

    I stumbled on a link Google coughs up for which the summary says that she’s rare for reading not just her own work but other people’s superbly. . . If she is that generous, I wouldn’t object to her being a _bit_ imperious — which is what shyness can sometimes be mistaken for.

    In any case, I’m not discussing her flesh-and-blood personality, character or the quality of her work in the post, … just what the photograph I’ve pasted in could be telling us about her image; about changing ideas of acceptable images and personae for women.

    I actually wanted to link to your post about your little girls spending more time looking in mirrors than you or your brothers did as boys. But I couldn’t find it. Was sure it was on some recent thread here, but the search software in this machine failed to produce it, and Google couldn’t help. . . What’s the connection? See the John Berger quotation in my post. . . We haven’t completely got away from girls and women looking at themselves with the kind of objectivity that’s more diminishing than constructive. We might never. But there have unquestionably been some profound changes.

    The sculpture to which I’ve linked — Pauline la Penseuse (my apologies to the sculptor for all the liberties I’ve been taking with her name) — shows someone completely unconcerned with image, surely the ultimate emancipation. She is completely absorbed by her thoughts. . . And it’s rare to see intelligence captured so brilliantly, in any of the visual arts, except for still or moving photography.

    @ISA, I’ll have to post again about the character in TCG — about whom I couldn’t possibly agree more. Like you, I’ve known a woman or two who could perfectly match her biographical outline. Remembering these rather confused people, JLC’s irritatingly sketchy characterisation and rambling plot, meant that I stopped reading the book altogether for months at a time and only persisted to the end because of his meticulously researched, utterly damning expose of Big Pharma in Africa.

  3. ISA

    I am reacting to a pose Padel is striking and I read her pose as I would read anyone’s.

    The point is that there are lots of spoilt, class ridden, arrogant women in this world, just as there are lots of men like that.

    You would have got just such an imperious stare from a plantation owner’s wife. Scarlet O’Hara was pretty imperious.

    That she shows pride in herself is neither here nor there. Who is she? That’s the question.

  4. 3p4

    That she shows pride in herself is neither here nor there. Who is she? That’s the question.

    in this instance the model,,i would think this is an Annie Liebowitz photo,, more a picture “by” rather than “of”

  5. === Who is she? That’s the question.===

    Exactly right. – that’s something entirely separate from one _image_.

    If image = identity, then @ISA, you’d have to rate her as modest, charming and agreeable, overall. That’s the woman who appears in recent pictures on several newspaper sites. Only by the sheerest fluke did I happen to know of the picture I’ve pasted in, into which you’ve read arrogance, … and which is at least five years old.

    … I agree, @3p4, that she could have been asked to pose and strike that particular attitude by the photographer, with whom she could have been larking about. Think of the saucy photography session in the film version of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

    My question is, what does circulating a photograph of herself in this pose rather than another pose tell us?

    You know, hauteur and extreme arrogance were part of the Nabokovian persona – and he was born into the Russian aristocracy. . . Yet he chose to marry a Jewish woman, despite fierce opposition from his family – when anti-Semitism was heavily institutionalised in his country. Both he and Vera – equally haughty – were fierce defenders of liberal causes all their lives. . . So — ? … I’m sure you see the problem.

  6. Hazlitt

    The photo of Ruth in full obstreperous stropp is in complete contrast to her modest Independent snap.As 3p4 suggests she was probably being directed by a professional photographer,although we are assuming she approved this one from the many shots taken.This could of been 20 years ago?
    I don’t agree with smear campaigns.If those involved have been assaulted they should have gone to the police.Perhaps they did?The “men will be men”remark, is surely a sly assertion that Walcott’s accusers have a case.
    The election should have been cancelled.

  7. The second picture down on this link (not the ghastly first one!) I remember seeing in Brugge two years ago. It’s not the greatest painting but the myth it show is interesting.

    Also, don’t think you can do much better than the cover of Patti Smith’s first LP, Horses, by her great friend Mapplethorpe.

  8. I agree with 3p4 that a photo like that is as much about the photographer as the model. If Martin Parr had photographed her we’d have a far more down-beat, less composed image. As with paintings these sorts of pictures can be a battle of wills between model and photographer. Aren’t there also swathes of dissertations about that relationship? Isn’t it dangerous to assume character from one image?

  9. Hazlitt

    Hello EB.
    Yes that’s a great story explaining that “drawing originated in love”when, in Pliny the Elder’s account a maiden draws the shadow of her lover on the wall before his departure:
    “Drawing like photography,is seen to originate in the ‘art of fixing’ shadow.The silhouette drawing,then, expresses the wish to deny death or departure,to hold onto the loved one,to keep him/her present and permanently alive.”

  10. ISA

    Take a look at my brother’s photographic portraits. I love the way he humanises everyone and gives them their style back.

  11. ISA

    BTW I have a portrait picture my brother made of Patti Smith. Looking grey and blue and interesting. Andy told her I was a great fan by way of chat. I don’t think he gave the portrait to anyone else.

    But she would only pose for a minute. When Andy complained she said:

    “Well I only gave Mapplethorpe ten minutes.

    But this doesn’t wash with other half who doesn’t want to see a blow up photo of a strange grey haired biddy on any wall.

  12. ISA

    On second thoughts – poor Ruth padel, she looks fine. The corners of her mouth drooping.

  13. i have no problem with Padel getting the gig, just the way in which her freinds supported her.

    Does John Walsh really care about the so called issue he was raising?

    I do not think so, because if he does, why only flag it up when his old freind was going head to head against him

    Then her freind, the phd student Paddon, who sent an e mail circular to Oxo academics making them aware of Walcott’s *history*, and on foot of an interview with Oxo weekly student rag Cherwell, gets in touch with the mag to explain how she thought it was in the general interest to send her e mails.

    But Padel, says she was *shattered* that Walcott had pulled out and thought it *terrible* their was an anonymous campaign, but when i head her on radio giving the interview, it sounded limp, that really she wasn’t bothered and worse, may even be hiding summat.

    There is one very simple way to solve the taint, and it is for her to take a lie detector test, asking one simple question:

    Did you know of the anonymous campaing directed against Walcott?

    Who knows the truth, but she showed her ambition, by not pulling out whilst claiming it was terrible the tricks pulled, but then agreeing that it was only correct Walcott’s history be known, regretting it didn’t happen earlier before the nominations closed.

    If it had, she would probably be standing against more prestigious candidates, so unfortunately for her now, like Walcott, she is dogged by rumour.

    But beyond all this, as isa says, what has she ever done that is so deserving of the warrior for women award.

    Being a figurehead is easy, kings and queens do that, fly round the world, spend millions, and not for themselves you know, oh no, but as a figurehead for the british people.

  14. Hazlitt

    “females entering onto campuses should dress properly and behave with decorum, only then can they expect to be taken seriously re male behaviour. like mutual respect and not one-sided shenanigans.”
    Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” (still have my beer stained, grubby 70s original) rightly describes the problems for women being born into a man’s world:”She has to survey everything she is and everything she does….how she appears to others and ultimately how she appears to men….women watch themselves being looked at.”
    Berger then goes on to elucidate the role of the female nude in western culture especially painting since the renaissance,emphasing the primary role of the exploitive male spectator.
    “The absurdity of this male flattery reached it’s peek in the public academic art of the nineteenth century.”I know some of those Bourguereau’s are a real turn o……er…. cough…..hmmm…
    Is it perhaps safe to assume,that against this onslaught of gender stereotyping in western culture since the renaissance,Ruth Padel could be forgiven for sending a message,in the above photo,to the modern male?.
    In the above pose,she represents Olympia, who tired of offering a questioning gaze,has leapt fully clothed from Manet’s chaise longue shouting ,”On yer bike.”
    And now twenty/thirty years later Ruth has stormed the almost exclusively male bastion, Professor of Poetry at Oxford and as the Independent picture shows is purring like the proverbial ………..more cream Ruth?

  15. === Is it perhaps safe to assume,that against this onslaught of gender stereotyping in western culture since the renaissance,Ruth Padel could be forgiven for sending a message,in the above photo,to the modern male?. ===

    Ah, at last, proof of _perfect_ communication to at least one reader … that’s exactly what I was trying to say.

    And now … [gasp…!] … I’m afraid I must take a break from howling over this …

    === In the above pose,she represents Olympia, who tired of offering a questioning gaze,has leapt fully clothed from Manet’s chaise longue shouting ,”On yer bike.” ===

  16. @Des, …

    === what has she ever done that is so deserving of the warrior for women award. ===

    … funny that only you and @ISA — who so cleverly got this discussion going — think I’m trying to discuss Padel’s merits as a poet, or indeed anything she’s actually done. . .instead of trying to decode the message in an image, my actual aim.

    Might that have something to do with you two being the only bloggers here who write poetry seriously?. . . I’d be thrilled if one of you put up a poem of hers for us and told us exactly what you don’t like about it — even if that would take us on a wildly divergent tangent.

  17. @ISA, you astonish me:

    === On second thoughts – poor Ruth padel, she looks fine. The corners of her mouth drooping. ===

    … that remark almost merits a certain word that rhymes with witchy …. ahem ….

    What if some of us have droopy corners when we get to sixty … or long before, in certain moods … and are yours always straight or uptilted?

    What _has_ got into you? …… 🙂

  18. @exitbarnadine, … much obliged for the link to the Suvee … I’m not the greatest admirer of western classical painting, but that one’s completely beguiling, … and thanks to you and @Hazlitt, I now have a legend and a lovely image to offset any gloomy thoughts today. . . : )

    Isn’t it odd, though, that even with @Alarming‘s and @Hazlitt‘s encyclopaedic knowledge of western art on tap, there’ve been no responses to my plea for equivalents of Pauline – Thinking Woman? (see slide no: 3)

    Can it be that asexuality, no matter how interesting the thinker, is of absolutely no interest to most artists ….and men?

    Consider what @Hazlitt has correctly extracted from Berger:

    === Berger then goes on to elucidate the role of the female nude in western culture especially painting since the renaissance,emphasing the primary role of the exploitive male spectator. ===

    … Yes I do see why you and @ISA like Patti Smith … but I could almost swear that Padel copied her pose from covers of the even more stunning Emmylou Harris. . . I’ve admired Andy Hall’s portfolio before, and will return for a look at new additions soon. But as for,

    === When Andy complained she said:

    “Well I only gave Mapplethorpe ten minutes. ===

    Now she actually _is_ what you’re only assuming of Padel: arrogant — innit. Yet you don’t mind — you adore her. [nerd retires, frowning in bafflement, corners of mouth drooping prematurely]

    … There is someone missing from this discussion, though. @Sean Murray has consistently been one of the most enlightening conversationalists about gender matters, here and on other blogs … and I say this even though we usually disagree. We last fought about one of his heroes, Norman Mailer, over on @ISA’s blog.

  19. ISA

    Not witchy.

    Doris Lessing said to me once: Do you know that one of the problems for people when they get older is that the corners of their mouths droop and so people think they are sad. So I make an effort. I told that to my mother and she remembered it to. That extra effort you have to communicate with your mouth. Make sure the corners of your mouth don’t droop. But the corners of Padel’s mouth do droop and what does this tell me. It tells me she is sad and doesn’t care and that is what a poet should be.

    Sarah Crowne affair – she claims she never read my review of her review which WAS witchy.

    Andy telling me about the photographer who took pictures of che on the slab.

    drove through the locked gate and insisted and richard gott was there and the question is what the hell was he doing there?

  20. ISA

    mary ellen mark is the best portrait photographer, according to andz because they are in their environment.

  21. Did you ever have a phase of being young and very mad and playing with oracles?

    This fits your Lesson of the Droopy Corners:


    Nine at the beginning means:
    You let your magic tortoise go,
    And look at me with the corners of the mouth drooping.

    The magic tortoise is a creature possessed of such supernatural powers that it lives on air and needs no earthly nourishment. The image means that a man fitted by nature and position to live freely and independently renounces this self-reliance and instead looks with envy and discontent at others who are outwardly in better circumstances. But such base envy only arouses derision and contempt in those others. This has bad results.


  22. ISA

    My deep apologies to Ruth Padel, who is a person of great quality.

  23. ISA

    I asked the I Ching about reaching out through blogging and this is what it said:

    T’ai / Peace


    The Receptive, which moves downward, stands above; the Creative, which moves upward, is below. Hence their influences meet and are in harmony, so that all living things bloom and prosper. This hexagram belongs to the first month (February-March), at which time the forces of nature prepare the new spring.

    THE JUDGMENT PEACE. The small departs, The great approaches. Good fortune. Success. This hexagram denotes a time in nature when heaven seems to be on earth. Heaven has placed itself beneath the earth, and so their powers unite in deep harmony. Then peace and blessing descend upon all living things. In the world of man it is a time of social harmony; those in high places show favor to the lowly, and the lowly and inferior is an end to all feuds. Inside, at the center, in the key position, is the light principle; the dark principle is outside. Thus the light has a powerful influence, while the dark is submissive. In this way each receives its due. When the good elements of society occupy a central position and are in control, the evil elements come under their influence and change for the better. When the spirit of heaven rules in man, his animal nature also comes under its influence and takes its appropriate place. The individual lines enter the hexagram from below and leave it again at the top. Here the small, weak, and evil elements are about to take their departure, while the great, strong, and good elements are moving up. This brings good fortune and success.

  24. ISA

    I ching our blogging Wordy: What does it say?

  25. ISA

    Question: Is Ruth Padel a good poet?

    Same answer came up twice:

    Hexagram 21

    This hexagram represents an open mouth with an obstruction (in the fourth place) between the teeth. As a result the lips cannot meet. To bring them together one must bite energetically through the obstacle. Since the hexagram is made up of the trigrams for thunder and for lightning, it indicates how obstacles are forcibly removed in nature. Energetic biting through overcomes the obstacle that prevents joining the lips; the storm with its thunder and lightning overcomes the disturbing tension in nature. Recourse to law and penalties overcomes the disturbances of harmonious social life caused by criminals and slanderers. The theme of this hexagram is a criminal lawsuit, in a contradistinction to that of Sun, CONFLICT (6), which refers to civil suits.


    BITING THROUGH has success.
    It is favorable to let justice be administered.

    When an obstacle to union arises, energetic biting through brings success. This is true in all situations. Whenever unity cannot be established, the obstruction is due to a talebearer and traitor who is interfering and blocking the way. To prevent permanent injury, vigorous measures must be taken at once. Deliberate obstruction of this sort does not vanish of its own accord. Judgment an punishment are required to deter or obviate it.

    However, it is important to proceed in the right way. The hexagram combines Li, clarity, and Chen, excitement. Li is yielding, Chen is hard. Unqualified hardness and excitement would be too violent in meting out punishment; unqualified clarity and gentleness would be too weak. The two together create the just measure. It is of moment that the man who makes the decisions (represented by the fifth line) is gentle by nature, while he commands respect by his conduct in his position.

    I think these lines are particularly interesting:

    “the obstruction is due to a talebearer and traitor who is interfering and blocking the way. To prevent permanent injury, vigorous measures must be taken at once. Deliberate obstruction of this sort does not vanish of its own accord. Judgment an punishment are required to deter or obviate it.”

    My intuition tells me that Ruth Padel is a very powerful woman indeed and that bad things happen to people like Derek Walcott, who stand in her way.

    @Des refers to Paddon

    Obviously a demon she has conjoured up with her wand, enslaved to her commands.

    And that’s all anyone should say for fear of dark retribution.

  26. @Wordn

    I’m not sure I adore Patti Smith, although she’s made some great music. She speaks as if her words are self-evident truth and takes herself very seriously. But I think the ‘ten minutes’ comes more an understanding of the importance of spontanaeity than arrogance – get out of the room before things have become safe and familiar. I can imagine she’d use the same techniques in the studio. Miles and Dylan were famous for recording when no one knew, or releasing first takes, mistakes and all.


    Amazing photos, I recognise several of them. Very gifted.


    Glad you like the story, if not the painting; as I said, I don’t think it’s a great picture – but the image is singular.

  27. Paula Rego’s women in her recent work ( 2000 onwards ) are unmistakeably women but she’s not afraid of likening them to dogs or animals.

    So you get an Iberian image of femininity – big dresses, lots of lace and black hair – mixed with a savageness that is a bit intimidating. There’s something odd looking at a painting of a woman whose fashionably dressed but crawling on the floor or posed as if she’s about to jump on you and bite.

    These aren’t my Robert Crumb fantasies of big women taking over btw!

  28. @ISA, I gave up I-Chinging long ago. I’m not temperamentally suited to oracles or mystical predictions of any kind — not just because I can’t take any of the systems seriously, but because fortune-telling interferes with the free play of my own imagination. . .Still, I’ve never lost my delight in the simplicity and directness of that particular system’s poetry, imagery — clouds, lakes, earth, sky, horses, pigs, fishes, … wells, cauldrons — and folk wisdom. . . My sessions with the oracle — the effort of trying to apply readings to the petty events of my own life, gave me a visceral sense of how the Chinese have applied Taoist and Confucian philosophies to living … and especially of the differences between them … that I don’t think I could have got any other way.

    So. odd phrases from the book have a way of popping up in my head unexpectedly … and how could anyone fail to be enchanted by these as consecutive lines, however they got put together — since the language of the hexagrams has come down through so many centuries, losing and gaining ideas, words and meaning, even in Chinese:

    You let your magic tortoise go,
    And look at me with the corners of the mouth drooping.

    … Excellent entertainment, reading your RP answers … I think she should come here and reply.

  29. @exitbarnadine, that wasn’t you but @ISA I saw as adoring Patti Smith in spite of her arrogance. And he’s contradicting himself, and I enjoyed pointing that out …:) … Still don’t understand this fierce dislike of Padel … Can you imagine just how many social climbers and other creepy-crawlies you’d have to fend off as the great-great-grand-daughter of Charles Darwin? Enough to force anyone to develop a touch of hauteur — if that’s true of her.

    Anyway … ten minutes to photograph Patti S, okay, I see your point about spontaneity. But one minute for Andy Hall — ? That’s ridiculous.

    Any painting that makes me smile as much as that one has must be a great painting in its way, @eb. . . Thank you — again — for posting the link.

  30. Dear @Alarming, Paula Rego’s women are indeed some strange cross between hilarious and — inventively — appalling. But I was asking you about equivalents in the history of art of Pauline/Thinking Woman … innit …

    So with no help at all from you art historian comrades … why do I always have to do everything around here … grumblegrumble … I remembered a portrait of Voltaire’s great love, Mme du Chatelet, who translated Newton’s Prinicipia from his formidably complex Latin, etc. — and looked it up on the net. I’m going to try pasting it in here — for a comparison. It’s by Maurice Quentin de la Tour (there were two de la Tour portraitists, I believe) — who seems to have specialised in intellectually distinguished women.

    Now, I’d say that although he’s captured the intelligence in her face, he — and she — are far more concerned with showing off her prettiness. . . Nothing like the impression the Bell sculpture gives of ferocious thought in private — something I’ve never seen in a work of art before.

    Well — here’s the link … can’t get WP to paste in the image, for some reason, even when it claims to have done the job:

  31. wn I’m obviously missing something here but Rego’s women with their lack of emphasis on conventional beauty, their foregrounding of an emotional life which isn’t dependent on the male gaze for validation seem to me to be exactly what you are looking for.

  32. === Rego’s women with their lack of emphasis on conventional beauty, their foregrounding of an emotional life which isn’t dependent on the male gaze for validation ===

    oops! … not using smiley faces enough, yet again… Sorry, @Alarming, I was only being as horrible as ever …

    My interest is narrow, in this case — is just in portraits emphasising a woman’s intellectual life, above all. . . A La Penseuse equivalent for Le Penseur, if you like.

    Here’s another de la Tour — funny that his interest is even narrower … his clever women have to have a thing about Newton, apparently … : )

    Maurice Quentin de la Tour, Mademoiselle Ferrand méditant sur Newton (1753)

  33. ISA

    No. You are wrong to ignore divination, it’s like ignoring the unconscious. I do not dislike Ruth Padel, I just think she is an ill omen. She augers badly.

  34. ISA


    Really, you remember some of Andy’s pictures? He says for him good portraiture is about the people in their context and not about the photographer using people. But I think he has an eye for style.

    I posed for a picture for him once. We passed a geyser. Strong smell of sulpher. Most of it shot high into the air, but some fired out from the side and I stood in front, arms akimbo as it blasted my belly, spraying out to the sides.

    Now if Ruth Padel had tattoos down her arms, then I think we could take her a little more seriously.

  35. @ISA

    I’m sure I’ve seen them in magazines, colour supplements? They’re very striking; let’s say he has an eye for the style that will best reveal the people’s context…

    I’m itching to get involved with this debate on divination. I believe these systems can work well to draw out decisions or thoughts we have already arrived at. I’m with Wordn, also, in that even when one has intellectually abandoned a belief system, it rarely abandons you.

    As I’ve said before, I worked in a ‘new age’ shop for several years where I practiced astrology. I’m lapsed – I feel we tend to identify any patterns that support a system we’re partial to – but that doesn’t stop me knowing, as soon as i hear a date of birth, what someone’s chart may be. My brain then begins to whirr and assemble a profile and – the weird thing – it’s often right. It’s probably more down to my extraordinary intuition and prescience that some Jungian arrangement in the heavens (although it’s a toss-up as to which of those is less likely).

  36. ISA

    Well I have used the Tarot a lot. It was a childish thing to do and then I picked them up again and they were not childish. Of course, in a way it is like seeing shapes in clouds. But there is more too it than that.

    And divination is not just channeling, either. It is a sort of hyperlinked gestalt.

  37. === No. You are wrong to ignore divination, it’s like ignoring the unconscious. ===

    Quite right, @ISA, to connect interpretations in so-called divination … === “to be inspired by a god”, related to divine, diva and deus ...(wiki) === … to the unconscious mind. … I’d have to dig into my own, looking for signs of bias or wishful thinking. How else to evaluate a range of possible interpretations? But that would all be too personal to discuss in public.

    Conclusion? I have a hopelessly introverted unconscious.

    … I wonder what old Jung, who invented both terms, would make of that sentence.

  38. @exitbarnadine,

    === even when one has intellectually abandoned a belief system, it rarely abandons you. ===

    It was never a ‘belief system’ of mine — more an enthralling collection of symbols and ideas in which I could half-believe when I needed to . .. Was just saying that much of the imagery and language have stayed with me.

    What about showing off your powers as an astrologer in reverse? … guessing each of our signs? 😉 … But you of course would be precisely the sort of person who would have made astrology so suspicious … from what we’ve gleaned from your posts: 1. very good-looking. 2. a smooth talker. 3. deeply involved in theatre — the world of make-believe … Do you see what I mean? … Here, we’ve discovered you to be a person of exceptional integrity, … have had a chance to get to know you a bit. But meeting you in a ‘new age shop’ …. ? Fuhgeddaboutit — as Glenda Slag used to say. : )

  39. ISA

    I listened to Horses when it came out, but I think my favourite album of Smith’s was radio Ethiopia. There was some music on that album that got down to the level of a great unconscious flow of feeling and meaning that was so vivid it was like seeing. At some point she calls out “Land!” in one of her songs. And the guitar work by her husband was completely unique – ear popping.

    So I went to see her at the Roundhouse in the late seventies and without a doubt that was the best concert I have been to. When she jammed with the guitarist.

    She moved gracefully and dramatically on stage – Ruth Padel looks very graceful too – frail and strong at the same time.

    I think the only criticism you could make about Smith is that she aspired to write. Some of her lyrics are quite pretentious. But put to the music they sounded just right.

  40. Ah yes, grand merci for that link, @Hazlitt, but where were all these fans of Derek Walcott before the fight over the Oxford PoP job, is what I’d like to know.

    I’m pasting in below a poem of his and some comments of mine about him on another blog last autumn. There, a modernist writer of something like verse who believes that poetry is best without any meaning, and that the arrangement of lines on a page means far more than their sounds … failed to react at all to Walcott’s magnificent A Sea Change… And almost no one else on the blog did …

    When I checked a certain newspaper’s archives, I found that scarcely anything had been written about this poet who really did deserve his Nobel Prize — though an interview (extracts below) appeared just after my first post about him… I don’t seem to remember a single piece dedicated to praise or a discussion of his work appearing on the bibilioblog where we all met. … Was there ever a Potw on anything by him? I think not, but will willingly stand correction.

    … Suddenly, there’s a scandal about him and the literary community’s pontiffs wake up and notice how good he is — ? Maybe he owes Ruth Padel a gigantic thank-you — whether or not she, personally, had anything to do with the smear campaign. . . Where is the proof that she did, btw? People’s friends can be aggressive and scheming on their behalf without their permission — can’t they? … I don’t know her, but that doesn’t seem impossible to me.

    October 3rd, 2008 at 10:00 am

    A sea-change

    Derek Walcott

    With a change of government the permanent cobalt,
    the promises we take with a pinch of salt,
    with a change of government the permanent aquamarine,
    with a reorganized cabinet the permanent violet,
    the permanent lilac over the reef, the permanent flux
    of ocher shallows, the torn bunting of the currents
    and the receding banners of the breakers.
    With a change in government no change in the cricket’s chirrup,
    the low, comical bellow of the bull, or
    the astonishing symmetry of tossing horses.
    With a change in government the haze of wide rain
    which you begin to hear as the ruler hears the crowd
    gathering under the balcony, the leader who has promised
    the permanent cobalt of a change of government
    with the lilac and violet of his cabinet change.


    A genuine rarity, for me, a modern poem whose rhythms are so compelling that lines from it are already engraved on my mind, and with such a tremendous inevitability and elegance about them that I can easily imagine it becoming a classic. Anyone literal-minded would be driven mad by it, and yet what it says couldn’t be clearer. As you see, it’s being used by Harper’s to lure new subscribers, so I don’t believe you’ll be violating Derek Walcott’s copyright by letting it stay here,

    wordnerd7 Says:
    October 5th, 2008 at 8:01 am

    […] See […] these extracts from an interview with none other than . . . Derek Walcott! . . .

    His own experience in universities allowed him to witness “the terrible devastation to young minds caused by people who are poets themselves, who believe there are all sorts of horrible things about technique”.
    As a teacher, Walcott insisted on “the importance of the shape that you make out of a poem. That makes me a dinosaur, an old fogey. And why should I care? I always cite something that Pasternak said: ‘Great poets have no time to be original.’” [He means gimmicky, I believe, not that they renounce creativity.]
    Walcott is eager to forge a link between the damage done by “bad teachers” who urge students to throw out poetic technique – “to beware of melody” – and what he calls “the totalitarian view of anything, the callous view, the indifference to beauty. […]”

    [Is it really indifference or that they are incapable of melody and beauty, I always wonder.]



    wordnerd7 Says:
    October 5th, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    A matter of balance, surely; of perfect judgement about where to set the dial between old and new – between the classic and refreshingly experimental.

    ‘A Sea Change,’ for instance, reads like the Bard crossed with Rothko. . .

    …. absolutely no comments on those comments from anyone, as I said. : ) …… !

  41. === Ruth Padel looks very graceful too – frail and strong at the same time. ===

    Yes, that’s how she looks to me, too, @ISA … but on the related theme, Pauline la Penseuse, I’m reaching the conclusion that either (a) most thinking faces border on ugly … or (b) artists and sculptors through the ages have thought that showing women thinking in painting or sculpture is ugly. . . (why?)

    Which makes Pauline (slide no: 3) unique, as far as I can tell – not least because I think Harold Francis Bell has made her beautiful — … Until some expert shows up to contradict me on the uniqueness question, anyway.

    … Must say that I’ve frightened myself, catching glimpses of me cogitating – corners of mouth unquestionably drooping all the way to the South Pole and beyond; a look of ferocious concentration …

    Maybe it’s like eating and talking. Only rarely are we shown pictures of glamour-puss celebrities doing either.

  42. @Wordn

    You flatter…

    Actually, you’re right to question my use of the term ‘belief system’. This –

    ‘an enthralling collection of symbols and ideas in which I could half-believe when I needed to’

    is a better description of my attitude back then. But, when I tried to move on to more rigourous philsophical territory, the symbols and ideas scampered behind; they still do.

    I couldn’t guess anyone’s sun sign (for that’s what it’s called), never could. Anyhow, you’ve implied before that you’re a fire sign, giving me a one in three chance; not challenging odds.

  43. Couldn’t be flattering you, @eb, not just because I’m not much good at that but because I haven’t the faintest clue about what @BaronCharlus looks like … unless it’s the inspiration for the mask with those fine pointy teeth in the doorway at hyagog … everything I’ve said is just a deduction from your posts.

    === implied ===

    Must learn to be more careful about what I say … still think it would be wonderful entertainment if you were to guess about all of us …. here or at Revenants and Rigmaroles (excellent name).

  44. Let no one complain that this blog lacks currency … In yesterday’s NY Times, senior judges and lawyers in the US were debating the question of whether women in their profession were entitled to present themselves as they wish:

    At a Symposium of Judges, a Debate on the Laws of Fashion

    … Judge A. Benjamin Goldgar of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, joined the minicolloquy, saying that titillating attire was “a huge problem” and a distraction in the courtroom and that “you don’t dress in court as if it’s Saturday night and you’re going out to a party.” In the spirit of sexual equity, Judge Goldgar added that he was also unhappy with lawyers who sported loud ties, some with designs like smiley faces. 🙂


    At the Web site of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal, one woman parodied the male judges’ comments: “I’m sorry, Sugar, I’d love to listen to what you’re saying, but I have a penis. As such, I am only able to use one sense at a time.”

    She added: “What garbage! Poor men can’t control themselves, so women have to respond.”


    Law professors who deal with issues of feminism expressed scorn over the talk. In an interview, Susan J. Koniak, a law professor at Boston University, said she found the discussion about revealing clothing absurd. If clothing in court is such a distraction, she said, “we should just have a bag when we walk in, a burqa.”

    “Men, women, everybody.”

    Exactly the right conclusion, I thought … why not let each legal eagle make up her own mind about her presentation of herself — and suffer the consequences of any misjudgment?

    This participant made the most important point:

    Judge Virginia M. Kendall […] got a supportive laugh from the audience when she said that giving clothing advice to young women in a law firm might not be as big an issue if the firms had more women as partners in the first place.

  45. Hazlitt

    “THE new Oxford professor of poetry is facing high-profile demands for her resignation after it emerged that she alerted journalists to sexual allegations against her main rival during her campaign for the post.

    Ruth Padel had previously denied mentioning the claims of sexual harassment against Derek Walcott, the St Lucia-born Nobel laureate. She said she had “nothing to do with any behind-doors operation”.

    It has now emerged, however, that Padel sent e-mails to at least two newspapers, drawing attention to Walcott’s past. He was her strongest challenger for the 300-year-old post. Days later, the harassment allegations appeared in the press and Walcott withdrew.”

    “Men will be men”…..(Ruth Padel)

  46. A strange one – men can’t control their thoughts once a woman in a short skirt is in their vicinity therefore the woman is to blame. It is certainly the case but it’s odd that a high ranking institution seeks to prolong those incontinent thoughts rather than encourage a more adult approach.

    I would suggest a giant judicial version of those boards you get at seasides where you put your head through a hole and find out you have the painted body of a life-saver or bathing beauty. In the court version every figure is nude and thus everyone is in the same vulnerable position.

  47. Hmm, … substantiation, at last, and it would appear that the new prof plays fast-and-loose with the truth. Regrettable indeed. How curious that these newspapers withheld the tale of just _who_ the email warnings came from until after the election … A good journalist always substantiates any accusation or criticism. Was very wrong that this wasn’t done earlier.

    @Hazlitt, we’re all indebted to you, again … I traced the secret source of your quotation 😉 to the Independent,

    … and this is surely a headline for the ages: ‘Padel ‘acted as Walcott sex mole’

    . . . Imagine a Martian – or even someone merely Polish, say – learning English and trying to make sense of that.

    … But the end of your excerpt, … that’s not Padel but Hazzy editorialising, yes? …the

    === “men will be men” === bit?

    I say,

    If we let men be men …

    Then we must let women be women …

    And gender neutrals … the identity for those who wish to be burden-free, where it’s an option … well, neutral.

    @Alarming, I’m coming back to answer soon …within the hour, with luck.

  48. @Alarming, you certainly have my vote here, and if I were into stuffing ballot boxes, you’d have many more:

    === I would suggest a giant judicial version of those boards you get at seasides […] In the court version every figure is nude and thus everyone is in the same vulnerable position. ===

    I’ve just discovered intelligent pulchritude at the other end of the female looks spectrum — yes, her jacket runneth over … and she looks like someone stepping out of Renoir’s Boating Party (yes?) and into the pages of Playboy …. But did that stop Heather Brooke, obviously a superb journalist, from getting the scoop of the century? … Think of how many millions — billions? — of our tax money she’s going to save us, now that we know exactly what those MPs were doing with it:

  49. Wrong newspaper, sorry …. @Hazlitt’s quotation came from the Sunday Times, not the Indy … but I still can’t find her saying, ‘Men will be men.’ 🙂 ! :

    Another — er, notable … photograph. . .

  50. Hazlitt

    Yes wordy,I was quoting Ruth Padel when she was asked to comment during the election…anyway the professors may soon be up the Isis without a Padel………

  51. === the professors may soon be up the Isis without a Padel……… ===

    : )

    Tant pis. [shrugs]

    She should have answered the question about her part in spreading the rumours honestly. . . She would even have had supporters. A self-appointed pome pontiff in another place said that the rumour about Walcott was reason enough for _him_ to deny DW the PoP job …

    I’d give the posteriors of those journos and eds who failed to spill the beans in time a good warming with a padel, if I could …

  52. 3p4

    she quit,,aussie news 6 am

  53. === ,aussie news 6 am ===

    WOW, @3p4 … our own comrade-in-Oz? … Say it’s true ………… : )

    Thank you — a treat to get the news this way.

  54. What a frankly unbelievable Truckup-for-the-Ages … now I expect that the spotlight will fall on the Indian poet no one has ever heard of and there’ll be whingeing about … [querulous voice] ‘Why do we have to have another of these dreadful multi-culti people?’ … ‘Surely we have more than enough poets to choose from in this country?’ … etc. etc.

    Well, I hope Walcott can be persuaded to step back into the ring and gets the job, this time.

  55. 3p4

    i am still in canada ,, but i read aussie papers cos they are always the first,,

    take another look at the photo now you have the new information,,

    profound how invisible the minds machinations can be is it not ?

  56. === but i read aussie papers cos they are always the first,, ===

    Hmm, … I wonder just _which_ lovely blogger comrade of ours might have given you that excellent idea, @3p4 … Though I suppose you could have had friends from Oz or even Brisbane long before @Iant … 😉

    === take another look at the photo now you have the new information,, ===

    No need to look at the pic again, since this blog isn’t a study of her character or veracity … only about the image she’s been putting across to the world. (She and Heather Brooke — whom I’d have included in the main post, not just the thread, had I seen a photo of her in time).

    … Would consider it an act of true generosity if you spelt out your point about the pic … just this once … please?

  57. 3p4

    no i cant spell it out,,either my words had a resonance or they didnt,,

    that was it verbatim,,
    not between the lines,,
    in your face
    upfront and personal
    sorry no iz more translatz,,ahh that was the one

  58. === no i cant spell it out,,either my words had a resonance or they didnt,, ===

    We-ell..l ..l .. l …. whatever will our haughty, multivalent, deep-fried pomme-de-terre be saying next, I wonder?

    ‘Bloggah, peel me a grape.’ [ a la façon de Mae West …. oo la la! ]


    ‘Frankly, you nerd, I don’t give a damn.’ [ a la façon de Scarlett O’Hara … updated and suitably neutralised ]

    …. or …….?


  59. 3p4

    you translated resonance into haughty

    hard to write to those who read between the lines

    look at photo
    make judgements
    get new info
    look again
    revise judgement
    locate mental process responsible for
    judgement revision

    mine seems invisible,,i assumed others might find it so,,this seemed a good workbench to dissemble that widget,,

    haughty speaks to you wordy not me,, i have said several times i am a child ,,i am a peasant,,i truly believe that,,it took a long journey to get back there from the sophisticated urbanity of legend in my own mind,,

    hard to be haughty when you mumble a lot,,

  60. Will have to return to watch that clip, @3p4, but thanks for the url … my next break …

    Now, how could I possibly have been serious, accusing someone called 3potato4 — originally — of hauteur?. . . [ sigh ] .. .

    one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four;
    five potatoes, six potatoes seven potatoes, … roar … 🙂

    I followed your instructions the first time. Read piece in Brisbane Times. Looked at pic again. No change in conclusion. . . Asked you how you think my mind should have been changed, but you won’t say. . . Okay, I accept that explanation can sometimes be too difficult, or seem pointless — or that you don’t want to hurt RP’s feelings by spelling out what you mean.

    … A shame that we won’t get either Padel or Walcott for top ivory tower bard — a woman cross-breeding evolution theory with pomery; … a man-poet (as @cynicalsteve suggested we say) whose verses are among the exceedingly few that we beasts of the 21st c. can offer our ancestors as echoes of the greatness of theirs.

  61. Just took a running glance at the new offerings on the Grindau biblioblog … now Jonathon Jones is telling people why Walcott is great — the first piece about this poet’s work for the two years I’ve been reading there. . .

    So at the risk of being a repetitious bore (see earlier post in this thread), I must ask again:

    Why were there so few articles about him or his poetry in that newspaper or any other in the UK before the PoP battle?

    Why hasn’t a single poem by DW been featured as a PotW — though one of RP’s was?

  62. 3p4

    No change in conclusion

    so no workbench for you,,i didnt not say there “should” be a change,, i said its “likely” there will be and its an opportunity to observe the inner self,,

    but you won’t say

    didnt or
    havent or
    wont ,, your call

    there are workbenchs everywhere

  63. @3p4:

    so no workbench for you,,

    a sturdy table at which an artisan works.
    1775–85; work + bench


  64. wordnerd7

    Yesterday the story of RP’s resignation made the front page of the NY Times. Think of that: a scandal about the appointment of a poet in a foreign country to a post at just one university. It’s rare to find any story from the UK there – the last one far more understandably, since it was about the MPs’ grand larceny.

    RP’s great lie quite rightly sealed her fate … but I still can’t comprehend why no one is fingering the journalists and editors at those two newspapers she emailed about Walcott for failing to report that she did this … I mean, report it _before_ the PoP election. They are just as culpable.

    So the NYT, I think, comes to entirely the wrong conclusion in blaming infighting and nastiness at Oxford – hardly anything remotely new:

    Just as much, it has scandalized the ivy-walled cloisters of Oxford, exposing a culture of jealousy and mean-spirited connivance at sharp odds with the university’s public posture of academic tolerance and reason.

    … It’s a London Establishment and media story – a case of a badly-run trial-by-media.

    @ISA, thanks to you, who got this thread going, … Google suggests that you’re also proving your point about the power of these blogs.

    The Battling Bards story seems to been covered by virtually every newspaper of any significance in the world (see @3p4’s link to the Brisbane Times above) … yet this pathetic little blog ranked 51st (of 254,000 search results) on Google about two hours ago for the search terms ‘ruth padel’ … or higher than the Griandau’s Ruth Padel lecture at Hay and something about her at The New Yorker; also above and the LA Times. See:

    To anyone thinking that there must be something terribly wrong with that picture, I can only agree heartily … makes absolutely no sense … the explanation might partly lie in the power of the WordPress platform. WP chose this as one of its ‘featured blogs’ the day I posted it. . . Just dunno. . . Anyone who understands how these things work – I mean, Google rankings – … I’d enjoy being enlightened.

  65. wordnerd7

    … okay, it’s slipped to 52nd , since I last checked …

  66. ISA


    If there ever was a cultural revolution in the UK it would be lead by college lecturers and not university lecturers. I straddle both camps, so I know.

    In one place English and in the other place English but I tell you this.

    College lecturers are sharp. The college I am at some of the time is the largest in Briatin and sends the most students to university every year. Now the catchment area is from all over London and the motto is access.

    I agree with that. And so we have a vast population of students of all cultures and classes: a microcosm.

    I am FAR more interested in what college lecturers have to say about Padel and Walcott than University lecturers.

    Because I have this problem with high culture. I don’t think it should just serve as clan rituals for the establishment.

    Now I asked an experimental poet, who pees on all the rhymers and the word chimers from a height, and perhaps he’s right (thwo of our collegues became successful published authors last year) and he calls Carol Anne Duffy an extremely conventional female poet for all her bluster about abuse. And so it proved to be the case. We have our new poet laureate: CAD.

    Just goes to show that if you mouth the right words you could be anyone. The point is the mouthing. The call of bankruptcraftsmans working to produce the best double barrelled brace of pheasant shooters the world over: Just admire the craftsmanship.

    Watching a programme about John Donne who because he was,, literaly,, at the risk of being eviscerated took up arms against the Spanish to prove that he was a Catholic turncoat and that he could be trusted to support Queen Elizabeth.

    So what would the college lecturers have to say? Walcott is a good poet and well known. So is Padel. Walcott more so. I think the debate is about personal ambition. If you aspire to being the professor of poetry at Oxford what does that say about you and your closeness to the establishment.

    When you apply to Oxbridge you are making a statement about your identity and class. About what you are comfortable with. It’s not about meritocracy in Britain, its about dreaming spires and class betrayal.

  67. ISA

    BTW Have you seen Susan’s new blog? It’s a multiblogger format. Perhaps she will accept the occasional blog from all of us.

  68. 3p4

    hi susan ,,from the comment point of view your new blog format sucks,,i would rather tell you on your own pages but i would have to use the comment facility,,which sucks,,

    there is no logic to my p.o.v.,,like and dislike are not questions of logic

    i just dont like the new format,,three
    articles side by side is distracting to a small and fragile mental capacity such as mine,, new blog looks like a magazine,,a glossie magazine,,this is not a good thing,, a thread is not a thread when its woven into a rope
    ps have you seen this dubanay posters stuff ?
    1775–85; work + bench


    sorry,,one posters !!!!! is another posters ????,,again ,,if ya dont get it i cant explain,,

    i sometime feel as if i offer something and get a response as if i had demanded something,,cant help being ‘gnomic’,, i am not a writer,,
    no hostility aggravation or contempt expressed or implied,,all words relate to on the line meanings,,parsed,fisked and suspected interpretations at operators own risk,,do not change batteries with out disconnecting,,do not fold spindle or mutilate unless for recycling purposes,,return for deposit where valid (not in quebec)

  69. A typically engaging and elegant but unexpected reply, @ISA … I’d have thought that, as Tony Hall’s son, you’d have been far more interested in the shocking editorial and journalistic delinquency. . . hmm …

    Can’t agree with this, not even for five seconds …

    === When you apply to Oxbridge you are making a statement about your identity and class. About what you are comfortable with. It’s not about meritocracy in Britain, its about dreaming spires and class betrayal.===

    … because it’s deeply untrue. Of two of my most beloved friends, one spent a night in gaol for kicking the tyres of the South African ambassador’s car … an official visit: the visitor had been trying to justify apartheid ……………… Another has fought harder for more democratic admissions policies there than anyone I’ve even read about. . . I could continue on this theme for pages … write a small book, even. . . The Brideshead sort of twit has mostly vanished from the place.

    Thanks for posting the url for @Suzan’s new look — like it, but she’s been changing it roughly once a week, lately, so I don’t dare get attached to it. Why can’t people be boring like me and stick with the same design — so that the look of the site becomes like comfortable old slippers?

    Grand merci, @3p4, this must be the explanation:

    === return for deposit where valid (not in quebec) ===

    … Quebec being a state of mind (or the lack thereof), oui?. . . [ small cough ]

  70. Hi Isa

    My new layout is a magazine format and not a multi-blogger one. It allows just 3 entries by the same person. There is no allowance for another poster to blog. Everything else appears by default including size and colours.

    Ahh 3P4
    Makes a change. I thought it was I who sucked with all of you. If you press on the red heading, each post opens up to the usual solitary feature. But you have a free will.

    I am not ‘people’. On the contrary, I am one of those dreadfully multi-cultural types; maybe that’s why, I can’t think of comfortable old slippers with the exception of a Mrs. Gaskell classic.

  71. Oh Wordy, I forgot to add Hi when I addressed you. Sorry about that, especially that I meant my words in goodwill.

  72. 3P4

    I’m sorry if I come across as arrogant which I don’t mean to be. I am not an arrogant person.
    What I meant is that it is still me, the subjects and the writings are still mine…only the format has changed. I don’t feel good that you don’t care for the format but this is where I need to be right now.

    Anyway, thanks for the party.:)

  73. === I am one of those dreadfully multi-cultural types; maybe that’s why, I can’t think of comfortable old slippers ===

    Dear @Suzan, we are all multi-culti here. .. And I should have said, ratty old comfortable slippers to describe this place.

  74. Just a bit of devilment on my part, Wordy.

  75. No, no , sorry @Suzan. I’m afraid we can’t have you carrying on like that. This is a respectable blog. If comrades start turning into devils, we’re going to have to start hiring exorcists — who I gather aren’t offering discounts, not even in this economy. Also — not in the budget.

    I find reading your blog most compulsive when you write about your adjustment to Dublin — your exchanges with the inhabitants and reports of the way they say things are a particular treat. . . And your travel diaries are also a great read — still haven’t forgotten the drama of the gigantic female customs official, or the suitcase cliffhanger on your last morning in Dar es Salaam.

    … On our topic, I wonder whether these lists of Google search terms — what people have been typing in to find this blog — could be telling us something important about the curious atmosphere surrounding some discussions of Ruth Padel:


    is ruth padel jewish


    nude photos of ruth padel
    ”john walsh” ”ruth padel”
    “john walsh” “ruth padel”
    ruth padel jewish
    ruth padel + evil
    dilbert on tradition in corporate life
    padel second e-mail
    john walsh ruth padel
    ministers, sinisters, bannisters, cannis

  76. Thank you dear-sweet-love you so very-much-even-if-I-go-away-sometimes, Wordy.

  77. Dear @Suzan, most people – though not you, I think – know that nerds have no feelings at all, … must on no account ruin my image, so am hiding in a cupboard as I send you a top-secret mm-WAH-mm-WAH … !

  78. You HAVE a heart,Wordy-Nerdy.
    So once more, thank you. 🙂

  79. ISA


    I seem to be an initiator. Well sobeit. Nice word that: Sobeit.

    Dan Pearce is happy to do a comic strip. I am happy to contribute. A very accomplished editor is happy to sub, top and tail.

    So what I need now is contributors in a free for all multi-blog to launch in a month or so. So what do you reckon? I know you are busy, so am I. But it’s the next step I think.

    I’ve done this before.

    Love Phil

  80. ISA

    God, we are all very effusive these days.

  81. ISA


    Can you be gnomic for us?
    Susan can you do some travel writing?

    Or simply write whatever you feel.

  82. Phil, sorry for the delay.
    Slept late, woke up at noon.
    The answer is yes.
    And thanks.

  83. Phil, won’t you ask Des.
    He doesn’t know I’m writing this but he’s an expert on the science of Irish poetry and is great with mimics, audio recordings and such.
    Anytime Frances is brilliant all around and what about Wordy? This is Wordy’s site.

  84. ISA

    I would love Des to join the bloggers cooperative. A REAL poet. Imagine that. Could he, please.


  85. ISA

    I would love Des to join the bloggers cooperative. A REAL poet. Imagine that. Could he, please.


    Any ideas for names.

    Any other of our friends interested? Baron?

    The idea is a very free and easy bloggers’ cooperative roughly in the format of a magazine. So everyone can blog about what they feel like but they have an area they generally focus on.

    So far we have an Editor.

    A cartoonist

    A philosopher

    Travel writer


    Political guy (me)

    The principle would be to submit what you want to the editor and the editor will kindly sub your stuff a bit, give it a title and proof it.

    Of course this is a cooperative and so we are all equal and masters of our patches. You can call your patch whatever you like.

    Any names. I think Baron had one. Baron was the most enthusiastic. Perhaps he should decide design. Art director, to give it a loose title.


  86. atf

    hi sweetest suzi, sweetest of the summer birds
    that sings so….sweetly! ….blah blah blah

    thanks for mentioning me re the ‘big time’ blog. i’m all for it, and was dismayed at its (temporary?) founding. i hope it will be possible to post images, small ones maybe but something. weather is unbelievable here but how long will it last. cheers, roll on the big blog!

  87. Oh Phil are you the political guy?
    I thought you were the philosopher. 🙂

    Des said yes.

    Atf, I had never seen Dublin rejoice in its party mood like it did today. The Hari Rama Hari Krishna procession were at their most ecstatic. At first, they were on O’Connell St outside Eason’s, holding a concert performance. Then like magic, they were suddenly on Grafton’s dancing in their sarees and their robes. In the heatwave was Nirwana. On Grafton St. was also a harp player, Romanian gypsies with their accordians, an Italian operatic novice, a Peruvian jazz band, clowns, bongo drum players; all performing at once but it appeared a happy collision. There were protestors fighting against the Lisbon 2 treaty, abortions and Christian Science. There was also a passionate group of students, outside the fur shop near Trinity’s screaming “Down with Bernado’s”, followed by a barrage of nasty words. The gardai were kept busy, trying to look stern with arms akimbo but it was very hard in the afternoon’s summer sun.

    I was thinking of how Wordy would have loved it all.

  88. ISA

    Wecome to in in atf

    I’ll keep everyone informed about this cooperative. It shouldn’t take up too much time. A couple of blog posts a week, maybe one. Up to you. It’s important to be loose and free.




  89. … have to turn my back for a day or two, and what do I find on my return? … hmm … such excitement as was never seen on this blog before.

    You’ve done a good thing in floating the idea with all those new details, Phil, and for the moment, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the discussion.

    … You’re right, @Suzan, I enjoyed every line of that account of Dublin going mad — very much the kind of thing I prefer to experience vicariously (crowds! noise! …. 😉 )

  90. ISA

    More details Wordy,

    It’s quite lonely to blog on your own and you end up with you and your circle of like minded chaps and chapesses. Multiblogger plaforms are taking off at the moment in magazine formats.

    The idea is to kind of focus on one area, but in fact you are free to write what you like. It’s no big deal so long as you contribute with one article of your own a week – around 500 words, with or without a pictures.

    Basically, I – I would prefer Baron to do this – set up a page. Eveyone gets a log in. There is an editor involved so it is preferable that everything gets sent to him to be subbed and topped and tailed.

    But if you are very precious, in a good way of course, about conserving your words, then you can just upload it.

    Your articles can be prefaced by the title of your own blog and linked to it. Or you could just use your by-line.

    You can also comission (no money involved) other people to write articles for you and give them a by line.

    The point would be to generate interesting content.

    I think we could make quite a splash and even get the Guardian to do a story on it or link to it or something.

    And it wouldn’t be so lonely or cliquey

    Of course if someone else wants to set it up then I will follow as a contributor.

    In this arrangement noone would be privileged.

    So Pollyanna, have your shoes.


  91. ISA

    Now is the time for all good bloggers to come to the aid of free and open writing.

    Allow me to make you a decorous proposition, my fellow bloggers, with a view to a marriage of minds. And if not a marriage, then let us at least gather on the same pages,despite our differences.

  92. ISA thanks for asking but I don’t have a blog to accomodate you or any of the others – my web-site is the online version of an A5 flyer designed to let promoters/interested parties know what the company is doing so not really appropriate. Having seen the energy wn needs to keep a blog going I’m not sure I have what it takes.

    But keep me posted as to any further flash-blog-mob-blog postings and I’ll participate if I’m at the computer and suitably enraged/stimulated/stuck for something to do! But good luck with it – we had a jolly game of ping-pong with wonder and its meanings a week or so ago. You can’t go wrong with that as a discussion point and we could all paste in previous comments so the debate has an opportunity to develop beyond the usual set positions even if it will no doubt coalesce ( spelling?) back to them!

  93. ISA


    The idea is simply that you contribute, not that we use your blog.

    I’ll set up a blog. All you would have to do is write on an area of your interest: at least 500 words once a week and either post it up on this magazine blog or send it to an editor who has lined up to do it.

    More power to you, so to speak. An you would really add something good to it.


  94. 500 words a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  95. ISA

    500 words would be the MINIMUM- if you are very, very busy.

    (I am thinking of Wordy, here.)

    Or 500 words a day. Or more. It’s up to you. You could write more, you could write less.

    Conserve anonymity, but you ARE responsible for what you say.

    Plus you can commission anyone else you know who you think is up to it to write as part of your patch.

    Using a blogging Magazine format. I have one in the pipeline, but would prefer someone technical to take over managing it.

    An self moderated honour system.

    Easy, peasy.


  96. ISA


    500 words is only the minimum weekly committment.

    You can do as many blogs as you want. But need to choose a general area to focus on in a magazine format.

    In an open source honour system way, you could also ask anyone you think up to it to blog too.

  97. ISA I’m afraid I can’t commit – a few words adding to or commenting on someone else’s efforts is the best I can manage at the moment.

    I occasionally write for an obscure theatre mag in the UK ( unpaid ) and I can only manage about 2 articles a year for them so I’d only let the side down.

  98. @ISA, we’ve all got some version of @Alarming’s problem … couldn’t justify spending so much time on unpaid labour. . . I don’t post twice or even once a week on my own blog …

    Perhaps you and others raring to go can show us what a co-op blog can do?

    I’d only suggest starting modestly, not like the Alexander the Great of the Blogosphere … ahem … so giving myself away as a nerd who can only think small, I’d suggest a test of collaboration before you go sweeping off to Central Asia …

    It’s called The Groucho Blog … and there’s a blog roll in which all sites of interest are listed, not just Grinadau breakaways … Then, …

    .. every Monday, someone writes a lead post under Prose of the Week (something I’d have suggested to the eds of the site where we all met, if they’d only treated us with more respect) — … an introduction to a 300-word passage that could be …

    … an extract from …

    … a work of fiction that has a special meaning for/appeal to the blogger that s/he explains …

    … or that s/he finds execrable and/or emetic, and dissects entertainingly …

    … or …

    non-fiction — could be anything, from a funny few paragraphs in the manual for an appliance or car to a specially well- or badly-written news report …. an editorial …

    … a love letter, someone else’s or the blogger’s own …

    … a passage from the blogger’s own work-in-progress or — with permission — a friend’s …

    … pornography …

    … a travelogue …

    … even something on someone else’s blog, again — with permission …

    Lead Prose–o-t-w bloggers would rotate, in alphabetical order — so @atf, making a Moaning Minnie of herself about the lack of a co-op blog, would go first. . . (@Alarming, I know, would want to sit out the first round — and this will be an option for everyone — to take our turn or wait …) Next, I think @Des … Then @exit-b …

    No word limit for the intro to each 300-word extract; each in his or her own style (hence no work for the sub — who should write his own contributions) . . . This would allow for a range from a gnomic few hieroglyphic scratchings by @3p4 to long screeds of formal criticism by @atf …

    What do you think?

    @wd7 comes a long way down in the alphabet, and that’s the greatest part of this proposal’s appeal. .. : )

  99. ISA


    OK. That sounds very workable and very realistic. A rotating blog, rather than a magazine format.

    But I do think the idea must be grown into a magazine format.

    No reason why there shouldn’t be several blogs a week. With increasing frequency you would jumpt to the other format. But if the frequency was limited then you would stay with the rotating blog.

    Makes good sense.

    What do other people think? A half way step?


  100. ISA

    If it works then a magazine format by the autumn.

  101. atf

    forget me!

  102. rotating blog idea seems possible.

  103. ISA

    Good that you think so. exitbarnadine, I seem to remember, as the Baron, that you had some very good suggestions.

    One of mine is that we use an editor.

  104. My penny’s-worth, @ISA …. is that subs are passé, except for rare ‘showcase’ prose, … a good sub is becoming the equivalent of a custom cabinet-maker in today’s age of affordable furniture.

    Don’t have time to dig out the links — I’ve been travelling off and on since Friday — but in earlier posts here I’ve mentioned that blogging demonstrates oral culture making a comeback (and wasn’t the first to think of that idea). None of us would dream of telling someone to say something differently, if this were an embodied conversation and we were all talking in the same room … yes? … Blogging as I see it is the equivalent of that unimpeded individuality, even if the medium is text.

    Let’s shake off the last influences of the scriptorium on communications in text. Why shouldn’t the works of wordsmiths be as distinctive and unfiltered as a jazz musician’s or a painter’s or collage artist’s?

    And I don’t believe in the magazine format for blogs It has a homogenising effect, ….– again — is the opposite of what blogging’s about. How many online zines do you check regularly? … The answer would be just one, for me, and I usually read the work of just one blogger/contributor there. . . Magazines seem stale and the format seems to encourage stale thinking and styles of (shock! horror! startle!) presentation. … yawn

    Does no one like Prose of the Week for our experiment in collaborating?

    … @atf, if you play the role of the whip-cracker — as you tend to (humorously?) — you can surely take a bit of teasing in your stride?

  105. Btw @ISA, I’d have no interest at all in reading comrades with no established expertise in a subject they choose as their patch – or even as engaging generalists — as the sole (lead) blogger on that subject …. Whatever flaws Prose of the Week might have as an idea, it would be a baggy and generous frame allowing anyone to write on anything. . .

    And on the sub question, how _would_ a sub edit @3p4? And would you want his posts to appear in any way other than the way he designs them? … I’d say, of course not, even if some of them having me scratching my noddle like the victim of a severe infestation of lice.

    This announcement by WordPress should be of general interest:

    Comment Search
    by Joseph Scott

    You guys are generating an amazing amount of feedback on your blogs. Matt mentioned in the April Wrap-Up that there were 8.6 million comments! Comments are flying in every second of the day.

    And have you ever had one of those blog posts that was good, but the real action was in the comments? The blog post is only half the story, it’s the feedback from everyone else that fills in the rest. To make it easier to find the second half of these stories we’ve added comment search to search.

    Select the comments options from the search page and we’ll hunt through the millions of comments that have been added to blogs to find what you are looking for. To reduce the comment inferiority complex you get many of the same features and options as post search: sorting by relevance (the default) or most recent, limit results by blog (like and an easy way to subscribe to new matches via an RSS feed ( the Follow this search via RSS link at the bottom of the sidebar).

  106. ISA


    But I am not sure I agree. Some people need subbing, others do not. I think I do. I think subbing can teach you about the writing – rewriting process. If you say that blogging has one tone or one style of writing – you say oral – then that is obviously not the case, unless, in fact, that is the tone you want to CHOOSE to adopt.

    When it’s about self expression and me-ness, then of course, why edit.

    “Fais ce que voudras”

    I hate that vapid New Age slogan with a passion.

    But if you have a clear point to make and you want to make it more clearly, then either you edit yourself (without self-censoring) if you are capable of it, or you ask someone who is capable to do it for you.

    There is an embarrassing richness in text. Was it Derrida who said that? Of course it is entertaining to read all that is not said, to watch it efflouresce on the page – very post modern and an ironic commentary on New Age ideas.

    And as I enjoy contradiction:

    The other point is expertise. To have people write about what they are experts on. For example, is Pollyanna an expert on shoes? I would say that s/he definitely is. I am a great believer in self selection.

    People are so down on themselves for most of the time. They don’t give themselves permission to think or write or explore. They should be encouraged.

    That’s the whole point about blogging: people seize what’s rightfully theirs and they grow with it.

    I don’t believe in the fetishisation of the aesthetic of crafsmanship, (Do you?) though I believe in the proper value of craftsmanship.

    A last point.

    Blogging on your own is LONELY. The point is to gather, not a coterie of like minded people together, but opposites who have the possibility of sparkling and sparking off each other – just as they did on the poem of the week.

    Then things crackle along.

    My thoughts.

  107. @ISA,

    === If you say that blogging has one tone or one style of writing – you say oral – then that is obviously not the case, unless, in fact, that is the tone you want to CHOOSE to adopt. ===

    Haven’t said that there’s only one kind of blogging. … I’ve said that the move to the blogosphere, texting, and e-everything else has been encouraging individual, casual, relatively unmediated, quirky and spontaneous styles of expression more like oral than written communication … even for ‘published’ communications meant to be taken seriously and read by thousands.

    I hope I can be forgiven for not wanting to repeat all my reasons for saying that, … since I’ve already set them down in these earlier posts:

    How oral culture is turning editors into pterodactyls

    Thoughts about where the print editing tradition and ideas about eg., the indispensability of subs, were born:

    Editors begone

    Signs in both newspaper and book publishing of editing’s declining importance and editors losing status … includes a complaint by an editor of a major British newspaper about the impossibility of retaining good subs:

    Editors, editing and infant mortality

    More literal examples of the rise of oral culture:

    Printed books r.i.p.

    … No, I don’t find blogging lonely. Quite the opposite. It all depends on what your life was like before you went online, I suppose … And then, you’re an extrovert and I’m not.

    _Wonderful_ company here – amazingly often. . . I love the feeling of visiting and being visited in these individual houses in the ether — and would enjoy gathering from time to time (even once a week) in a shared house, as on a holiday.

    I think that the ‘magazine format’ — with its ‘top-down’ style of organisation can’t work except for a group with a common subject or shared interest. Our dear, disorderly comrades have nothing of the kind. . . Hence ‘Groucho’ in my tentative suggestion for a name … ‘I don’t want to join a club that will accept me as a member.’. Just as you’ve said here:

    === The point is to gather, not a coterie of like minded people together, but opposites who have the possibility of sparkling and sparking off each other – just as they did[nt]*** on the poem of the week. ===

    [ *** insertion by wd7 }

  108. ISA

    I’ve read what you have written on the trend towards informality and oral culture.

    Not sure if I agree.

    “Groucho” is very American and sounds a bit like grumpy.

    My suggestion for a collective blogging site is “Ars Notoria”

    Because there is always the risk, isn’t there.

  109. === a bit like grumpy. ===

    hmm … fits, innit … 🙂 …when we have huffy posts saying ‘I’m out’ after the gentlest tease.

    … Also don’t understand why something has to be ruled out just for being American.

  110. @Wordy

    I think that the ‘magazine format’ — with its ‘top-down’ style of organisation can’t work except for a group with a common subject or shared interest

    Does that mean you’ve done a 3P4 on my blog as well, Wordy?

  111. I think sue’s blog is amazing, and her readership has shot up since she changed the format and got those two well executed interviews up.

  112. ISA

    No, but the word works differently here.

  113. ISA

    BTW I’ve had enough of our angry and entitled Gulf poet. I’ve defended him in the past, but he’s just too snide – his own words.

  114. @Isa

    No, but the word works differently here.

    I was talking to Wordy directly; if Wordy would continue to read me. It’s a simple plea as I would be sad at losing Wordy’s readership.
    My question has nothing at all to do with what goes on here.

  115. @Suzan, …. @3p4 was referring to style — eg., sophisticated layout, when he referred to magazines. . . ‘Top-down’ linked to ‘magazine’ — as in my conversation with @ISA — means something else altogether. . . refers to a group of bloggers collaborating to publish an online version of print magazines . . They blog in a set framework; work in a common style or set of styles; and the content of a top-down blog is decided either by a top editor or panel of managing editors.

    The opposite of that approach is collaborative blogging through aggregation — with few if any centralised decisions about content or style. . . Each individual blogger acts independently — but they gather – or are gathered, eg., by investors — to share a common marquee.

    So I wasn’t referring to your blog at all. Sorry I haven’t had a chance to go there. Travel and other excitements — and worry about a friend dealing with a crisis who’s gone silent — have got in the way of leisure reading … But I’ll continue to be one of your regular readers and am curious to see what @Des means about interviews. . . From a quick read at your place before anything like that went up, I’d only say that while three parallel columns look sharp, they are tiring to read on these screens in a way that their print equivalent isn’t. . . I find that I need lots of white space around text to cut down on eye strain from e-reading. . . But that’s just one reader. See what the others have to say.

  116. Hi Wordy,
    Thanks.very much for the reply and I hope sincrely that your friend’s alright.
    If you click on the red header (topic) on any of those 3 sharp columns, it opens immediately into a solitary blog post like any other. So that just takes a couple of ticks really.
    The interviews aren’t anything. Des exaggerates sometimes.
    I don’t want to let go of this site as I’m writing quite well on books and cinema.
    But I’m opening another blog for my own personal experiences – the travel that you talked about – I’ll be on flights again soon – so that would be a good place to write about the things you said you used to enjoy reading.
    Thanks once more, Wordy.

  117. @ISA, thank you, … that was gallant in the extreme to defend some of us blogging in this space from the neverending tirade on the dyspeptic Kuwaiti’s site. . . But had I known in advance that you planned to do any such thing, I’d have suggested saving the keystrokes for your book. The Kuwaiti blogger — Mishari al Adwani/@ mishari ***— violates the most basic rules for civilised debate in more ways than I can count.

    The most obvious of these is failing to substantiate nasty and hostile adjectives he uses about other bloggers — or the very opposite of what I’ve done in mentioning the roots of his hatred of me.

    Anyone interested should search with the terms ‘Suzan Abrams’ here: … ..

    A post or two there documents his own admission that his animosity stems from my failure to support him in a petty fight he got into with @Suzan and @atf in the spring of last year on a newspaper site. I apparently offended him by remaining completely silent. Why he thought I owed him any allegiance when, (i) as @Alarming says, none of us really know each other except as debating and chatting companions, … and (ii) like most of the rest of us blogging together in the good old days at GU, I ‘knew’ and liked @Suzan long before I ever ‘met’ him … is beyond me.

    Every disgusted word I’ve used about _him_ is explained in those posts in Marginalia. Nothing he’s ever said about me is – ever.

    But in checking his blog to keep track of the thoughts of our likeable and engaging comrades elsewhere, I find proof that we must be doing something right . . . His latest post, on powerful women, is inspired by the last two blog entries in this space — . . . . not the first instance of the sincerest form of flattery from that quarter, … and whereas I usually ignore what’s said about me there, I find that the most trivial mention of me or my blog triggers a long discussion in his threads — as any good search engine shows.

    [ *** I wasn’t going to do a source of such consistent triviality the honour of being mentioned here, but in checking this comment for errors, it occurred to me that it would useful to let Google bring people to a record of the points I’ve made. ]

  118. ISA

    Actually, Wordy, I’ve taught a lot of rich Arab students in my life – academic potty training. I’ve taught academic potty training to Saudi hanging judges and heads of oil companies and publishers and professors in Sharia law.

    Most of them are pretty nice, in fact all of them have been. Perhaps it is the tradition of respect in Islam for knowledge and lecturers/teachers.

    But there is a certain type of student, usually from a small gulf state, that throws his shoes at teachers and sees them as his servants.

    Mishari strikes me as one of them.

    I remember in 1989 I was teaching at an American University and I used to bicycle across Teddington Lock to the campus and wave to a Qatari (actually Tere is off to Qatar at 4.30am this morning) merrily as he drove past me in his Rolls Royce. Except the bugger didn’t turn up to his Principles of Composition class 101.

    So I failed him.

    Subsequently this entitled lump of meat with eyes (a Mexican insult) sent his lawyers to the university and threatened to sue them. Of course the university gave him another chance to sit the exam and he passed. Much to the disgust of the assistant coordinator at the time.

    There is a certain attitude in the ramshackle backwoods of Gulf society that it little credit.

    When Mishari was one of the first to offer me commiserations on the death of my parents, I was very grateful and for this reason have defended him constantly. (Read back to my last posts on acciaccatura.

    But to be patronised and commented by such a one. One so shallow and entitled is a bit much.

    He’s alienated me now. All he has left is Steve Augustine and his sidekick, who I am sure is someone he knows outside these blogging sites.

    As for my religiosity. Well I am an agnostic. But facile, fatuous, shallow minded, cheap souled, arrogant, disrespectful, ambitious little twats like Misha deserve a ducking.

    They need to be taught a little respect. An I am willing to teach it to him in a debate. On this blog or any other, or face to face – whatever.

    What a superficial little rich bully with no real depth.

  119. … Except the bugger didn’t turn up to his Principles of Composition class 101.

    So I failed him.

    Well done, @ISA! 🙂 …

    Subsequently this entitled lump of meat with eyes (a Mexican insult)

    … what imagination … another excuse for a chuckle on a day on which I really need one (nothing to do with anyone’s blog)

    There is a certain attitude in the ramshackle backwoods of Gulf society that it little credit.

    Long ago, @Suzan also wrote about something like this on the biblioblog — in, I think, a thread about the Girls of Riyadh or some such title. . . And like you, she made the point along with many a post lavishing praise on Arab culture, particularly the poetry.

    When Mishari was one of the first to offer me commiserations on the death of my parents, I was very grateful and for this reason have defended him constantly. (Read back to my last posts on acciaccatura.

    Ah, at long last, I understand … I said nothing, then, I’m afraid, never having blogged with you before. . . But you aren’t a grudge-bearer and nor am I. In spite of what I’ve documented in Marginalia (referred to upthread), I gave the latest version of his WordPress blog a plug here, when he started it … but he’s never done this one any such favour — except in the indirect way I’ve mentioned. 😉

    … In the tradition in which I was brought up, he owes all of us — you, @Suzan, @Des and me — an apology.

  120. ISA

    Don’t hold your breath, Wordy.

    But one thing for sure: His poems a little cream puffs, candy floss. He mistakes anger for depth and sincerity and thinks swelling up like a little bullfrog will get him some respect. He called me infantile. A word I think that defines him and his arrested development.


    And actually, having said all that there is nothing left for me to say. People are so disappointing, aren’t they?

    BTW Ars Notoria has several connotations which recommends it as a joint blogging site.

    1. The key to mysteries
    2. The art of the noteable
    3. Notorious art
    4. and the obvious: notrorious arse

    So I have taken that name on wordpress and blogger for the joint – yet to be finalised – blog.


  121. Hi Wordy,

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve always liked and respected you as well. And yes, we had a good camaraderie going before these people came on the scene where when the whole clique latched on tightly was December 2007 on Carol Rumens thread, just before Christmas. Whereas Wordy, we were already talking to each other as far back as April 2007 🙂

    Btw, I’ve gone to have a look at the Kuwaiti’s thread to read what’s been going on. Now I understand what the fuss is about.

    I’d just like to clarify something.

    The Kuwaiti lies twice where I’m concerned. I don’t know how many times he’s mentioned my name and don’t care but it’s untrue when he says he’s only referred to me once in 5 months.

    One night late not too long ago a while after I had opened WordPress and placed my play on one of its pages, he linked my play and made fun of it…the usual insults in accompanying comments with similar support from St.Pollyanna who had zoomed in… he said, “words failed him” to describe it and such…some other rude stuff. St. Pollyanna made fun of my words…she asked if I was foreign…when it so clearly said on my site that I am Indian. Well, the insults went on a little way down.

    I only knew about it because about 1.00am I saw the link to my play on my dashboard. He had done this late at night, midnight…and about 6 or 7 people from England, had already come in.

    My play is precious, it’s a good play – I have had radio plays aired on Radio Malaysia before – so I’m not an amateur. I have also acted on stage for the British Council in Kuala Lumpur under the wing of a large expatriate community called the Liberal Arts Society. This was before I was offered a job I loved in magazine journalism.

    Now years later, I had started to write again and pursued a play only to have it torn down by someone who is probably right – as he admitted to being incapable of comprehending it – I removed the play at once. It was still incomplete.

    The next morning about 9am when the Kuwaiti sees, the play gone, he gamely removes the link and a few other comments.

    So that part of what he says, I confirm to be untrue.

    Also, I saw that the sidekick MM, had denied bullying me. Wordy, am I glad I’ve saved those trolling comments before they were appropriately removed by a moderator. In fact, it shows the sidekick in his element following a bungling sleuth but to no avail. 🙂

    @Wordy: … In the tradition in which I was brought up, he owes all of us — you, @Suzan, @Des and me — an apology.

    And don’t forget that he also owes atf
    an apology for jumping on the ridiculous notion that we had made a pact, as if the both of us had nothing better to do.


  122. My God, Wordy,

    The Kuwaiti’s done it again!
    He’s taken a big chunk of my prose from Nomadic Madness and placed it in the comments section of the same thread we were talking about. He did this about 20 minutes before I placed mine above…I’ve just seen!


    But the comment below it where he places the email from one of his ‘friends’ with some nasty stuff…I just need to let you and Phil know that
    the 8th April 2008, from when that ’email’ was dated was the same day/week when the Kuwaiti opened a special website for all those attacks you’ve seen Wordy. His name was banned from the Guardian just a few days before.

    So that proved a high-flying time of accusations against anytime frances and myself. The Kuwaiti deleted the website roundabout April 16th of that same month. The trolling remarks by a few of his other poster acquaintances, not just the sidekick; continued on the books blog under names like Peter Beard and so forth… until I left for Africa at the start of June last year and it continued when I started posting again at the end of July.

    I’ve come a long long way since then…travelled halfway round the world twice over. It changes you. How can anyone be the same after that?

    Just felt that it was essential to let you know the correct info.

  123. And Wordy,
    I will add too, that it was for this precise reason that the Kuwaiti in question, found himself banned from the Guardian.
    It was for stealing my copyright…for taking portions of my work without my consent and placing it on the Books Blog. And now of course, once again, another theft on his site. It’s stealing because I’ve registered the story and he didn’t ask my permission to use it.

  124. ISA


    You must have really got to him if he is still trawling for your stuff in order to quote it. I think people do have a legal right to quote extracts of other people’s work and so long as they criticise the work and not the person their is no legal way of getting at them.

    We could always have a flame war. That would be dangerous, but it could be fun. The problem with that all rubbish is that it is a bit of a distraction isn’t it, and beneath us?


  125. Dear @Suzan,

    The Kuwaiti’s done it again!
    He’s taken a big chunk of my prose from Nomadic Madness and placed it in the comments section of the same thread we were talking about […] it was for this precise reason that the Kuwaiti in question, found himself banned from the Guardian.

    Pit bull strains on chain with choke collar barksbarksbarks; … eyes bulge, nearly pop out of their sockets. .. pit bull keeps straining … pit bull barksbarksbarks … and so on …

    [ wd7 who doesn’t snore in real life does so in the ether … and _noisily_, at these sights and sounds ]

    So predictable … at this point, we’d have to be dim seven year-old boys with no computers or other toys to find this behaviour interesting. . .

    … So I suggest that we move the discussion about him to Marginalia if he we have to discuss him at all … if he continues to attack any other innocent comrades. . . I’ve only let our chatter on this idiotic subject continue in this thread because it’s a weird parallel to the almost equally silly Oxford PoP fiasco.

    … Must be desperate for ideas, don’t you think, to have to stoop to stealing your prose yet again?

    Now @ISA and @Suzan, do you realise that we’ve acquired magical powers? Can cause what particle physicists call ‘spooky action at a distance’ from thousands of miles away? … It’s only been a few hours since I pointed out that the Kuwaiti’s June 3 post about women and power was un hommage to the last two posts on this site and … hey presto! … he’s had to rush out an anorexic little plea for sonnets, overnight … Weren’t poems supposed to be on his new poetry site? …. ahem … ; )

  126. @ISA,

    I can hardly type for laughing … perhaps we’re all having the same trouble … I’ve just liberated your 8.02 am comment from the holding pen. Got in there because you’d left the ‘d’ out of your middle name, entering your email address . . . Hadn’t seen what you told Suzan before I posted at 8.19 am … Anyway, let’s move this to Marginalia soon …

  127. Pingback: book of acts » Ruth Padel

  128. Hi Wordy

    Thought of your post on Ruth Padel this evening when I watched an interview between Elizabeth Day, a journalist at The Observer and Sky News.

    Day talked about Caroline Flint whom she had recently interviewed for Observer Women. Flint resigned yesterday from Brown’s Cabinet and enormous publicity has already been attributed to this.

    Several women ministers have also given up their positions of power as you would know, and today, this led to the question of Brown’s conservative attitude towards women in particular. There has been suggestions that he is sexist and in this aspect, Day had sized it up by observing him to be somewhat distrustful as an individual and preferring to confide only his coterie of advisers, most of whom are men.

    With reference to the photography shoot, Day said that the Observer pair were faced with the same tricky question that turned up when interviewing intelligent, attractive women. Day described Flint as a “glamorous and beautiful Minister” and wondered how the Observer team should portray her.

    Should she be deliberately shot as dowdy or tending towards seriousness, considering the view of the Cabinet or should she be portrayed as highly glamorous – which she is – so as to inspire and earn the admiration of other women? I think they opted for the latter but Day remarked that she still hasn’t found the answer to what she supposed to be a difficult question.

    I immediately remembered your comments on Ruth Padel. What appears most evident in this photograph of Padel is her charisma which may be considered slightly bewitching and a distant beauty, traced from her personality. That’s how I would have seen it.


    When I worked in magazine journalism, the journalist and the photographer worked as a team. The journalist recognises the ‘inner personality’ of the subject – whoever this may be, either artist, actress, teacher, executive etc – the journalist would then identify the ‘model’ with a certain favourite pose – maybe from magazines and other portraitures.
    The journalist and a photographer would then hold a short meeting beforehand to discuss the subject and possible poses. The photographer would later, take it from there. Basically, the journalist would have to be present at the shoot.

    Say, a model expressed nervousness about a pose; then she would have the choice of refusing it, although she would often be cajoled to ‘engage with it’…
    In this way, I was able to identify easily with what Day was saying.

  129. Oh Wordy, my post got mixed up a bit. Don’t know how the word ‘regards’ got so far up the ladder.
    Pressed the Click knob too quickly, I think.

  130. Hi Wordy

    Found you a relevant Caroline Flint link.

  131. @Suzan, yes, Caroline Flint certainly appears to confirm the trend that occurred to me when I first saw that Ruth Padel picture, all those years ago. . . CF (in other picture spreads I’ve seen in recent weeks) goes almost as far as Arnold Schwarznegger with if-you’ve-got-it-flaunt-it … but unlike his, her face shows real intelligence. (He must be clever, to have got where he is against such long odds — just doesn’t look it — and he is the most appalling plastic surgery/Botox/hair dye victim, poor man.)

    Fascinating, I had no idea of any of this:

    === The journalist recognises the ‘inner personality’ of the subject –[…]then identify the ‘model’ with a certain favourite pose – maybe from magazines and other portraitures.
    The journalist and a photographer would then hold a short meeting beforehand to discuss the subject and possible poses. ===

    … but then I did read the other day that People magazine has a ‘body editor’ specialising in stories of celebrities who have lost weight .. oh, the triviality, …

  132. Pingback: Blogger-hatred – Indie journalists über alles – A beauty in love with blood-and-gore « acciaccature

  133. Pingback: Editors, editing and infant mortality … (part 2) « acciaccature

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