And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

torsdag 31. august 2017

Blackberry-picking, a poem by Seamus Heaney

As a brief farewell to August, here is a seasonal poem by Seamus Heaney which was published in his debut poetry collection, Death of a naturalist in 1966. It is a beautiful and atmospheric invocation of one of the hallmarks of a childhood in the district, berry-picking, and one of the typical features of summer. (Text is taken from this website.)

 Blackberry picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.


tirsdag 29. august 2017

Intermesso in the last weeks of the PhD thesis, part 3 - out of doors

The thesis is still progressing and I have not lost my optimism yet. In order to keep things that way, I tend to escape from the office walls for shorter periods and make use of the little courtyard we have beside the common room. It is a good way to get some fresh air, some sun, and most importantly a change of scenery.

In the past weeks there has been a lot of writing going on, either writing things from scratch or editing things that I wrote months ago, or reformulating things I wrote months ago by writing sections from scratch. I'm now at the point where I need to write a chapter that ties the case studies together, and this will be the last major step towards finishing. Today, however, I found that I was so tired of writing on a computer that I decided instead to put things on paper, writing coherent prose by pen rather than by keyboard. It was a welcome change, and a good reminder of the need for such change lest the final stages just wither away into stagnant routine.

søndag 27. august 2017

Intermesso in the last weeks of of the PhD thesis, part 2 - dismantling the office library

Ever since beginning my work as a PhD candidate at the University of Southern Denmark, I have surrounded myself with books. The office shelves have consistently been filled with volumes that I have read, and even more volumes that I have not and probably will never read. To me it is a matter of comfort to have books on hand for a quick reference, and to feel that if I need to read up on something I won't have to have the book brought to my pigeon-hole, I can simply turn around and fetch what I need. In many cases, the books I have kept in my office on and off these past three years have not provided me with any references, but I have nonetheless been happy to have them nearby just in case.

I had envisioned that when the thesis was handed in, I would deliver all the books that I had borrowed and then have a fresh start for the period between handing in the thesis and defending it. Not so. Recently, I received a rather serious not from one of the poor librarians whose patience I have tested repeatedly in my time here, and I came to realize that I would have to hand in some of the books already or pay for the consequences. As another window into the final days of the thesis process, therefore, I send you this snapshot from out common room. The red box is the one allotted to us from the library, and this is the one in which our books are brought. Its capacity is vastly insufficient for the present status. It should be noted, however, that not all of the books in these stacks are from my office, I am not the only one to dismantle their office library. But in this particular haul, I take responsibility for about eigthy percent of it.

fredag 25. august 2017

Intermesso in the last weeks of the PhD thesis

So these are the spires in which he does his dreaming
- Inspector Robert Lewis, Lewis, Pilot Episode, 2006

My days as a PhD candidate are running out, and they are running out fast. I have only mere weeks left before I am supposed to hand in my thesis, and the days are filled with writing, editing, reading, and thinking about how I want my work to come together. Because of all these things that have to be done, I have little time and little strength for writing beyond what is necessary for the thesis. So in the coming days, my blogging will consist mostly of things like the image below, small intermessoes amidst a scramble towards the finish line. This time around, a snapshot of how my office has looked in the recent bouts of editing, a kingdom of precarious towers that have now largely been built down in an effort to cleanse the mind a bit.

And that sweet City with her dreaming spires
- Matthew Arnold, Thyrsis