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The Pitch Drips…

I was very taken with the piece on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme earlier this week about the pitch drop experiment that has been underway in Australia since 1927. Pitch at room temperature appears to be solid matter; you can even smash with a hammer should you have both to hand.

In fact, given enough time, pitch shows the properties of a fluid and will eventually form a drip. As I write, the blog (and the world) waits for the ninth drop, since 1927, to drip.

For the live drip cam click through to the University of Queensland website here. For what it all means, ask Einstein. Oh, he’s dead you say? Well, given enough time, perhaps anything is possible.

In the meantime, here’s a time lapse video, taken over the last year, as the pitch gets ready to drip and… drop!

Disembowelling poetry

Mine, you understand, not other people’s, that would just be rude.

For me trying to edit poetry is the most messy process. I start off with what I think are some respectable enough poems, that might be built upon somewhat, or improved.

I go back with fresh eyes and consider rhythm, metre and form.
I look at the words and imagery and see whether it works.
I speak aloud and see how it sounds and feels.

Then what I do is awful. After a few hours, or days, I end up with sentences pulled apart, words all over the floor, ideas stuffed into forms that don’t suit and generally get to the point where I have most certainly lost the itness of the original; that elusive essence of anything that makes us what we are, life what is and a simple poem work, or not. Don’t ask me what that essence is though, because if I knew, perhaps I wouldn’t lose it in the first place.

The whole process becomes a traumatic incident in my head. Instead of a couple of poems I end up having a whole heap of tangled thoughts and words in all the wrong places, and I have only two choices. One is to go further into the torture of the poor poem, the other is to shove the pile under the carpet and pretend it never happened. I have done the former before. Today I did the latter. It was like being a butcher.

I hung, drew and quartered, I disembowelled. I burnt whole sentences on the stake and pressed others to a slow and painful death. I dragged verbs through the street until they cried out in pain. I walled up sonnets and I stuck the heads of villanelles on stakes on the bridge. It was a bloody and brutal exercise and nothing like the one I expected which would have been something like a neat little back and sides and a bit of a trim up.

All this bloodshed and torture only goes to show me that I have probably never done the job properly before. Living and learning I suppose, for now.

Here’s someone who has done a proper job.

The cats of Greece

The cats of Greece have
eyes grey as plague.
Their voices are limpid,
all hunger.
As they dodge in the gutters
Their bones clack.
Dogs run from them.
In tavernas they sit
at tableside and
watch you eat.
Their moonpale cries
hurl themselves
against your full spoon.
If you touch one gently
it goes crazy.
Its eyes turn up.
It wraps itself
around your ankle
and purrs a rusty millenium,
you liar,
you tourist.

by Marge Piercy, from Eight Chambers of the Heart

The trouble with form…

…is that its basic precept is founded on the notion that horses will repeat themselves performance-wise each time they hit the track, which of course is completely impossible.

The way to read a race in my view is to assess the governing factors of each race and how that may or may not permit the horse to replicate its average (not best) form. There are also other factors to take into consideration: the paddock inspection, the trainer’s recent success, the market, the jockey’s state of mind and breakfast, and the undefinable quality of whether the horse has got out of bed on the going side.

Then you have to take into account any likely improvement, or any previous decline that has resulted in a relenting from from the handicapper, or that mysterious thing of running into form with older horses. There are those out there that like to win in August only, so watch out for those fellas in the coming weeks. Exhausting innit? No wonder so many casual punters simply pick grey horses, or follow jockeys or trainers, and back the one whose name has special resonance for them.

And I suppose this why I really prefer to back in maiden races. You can put a line through much of that previous selection criteria for a start and make a judgement based on potential. These yute don’t usually have non going days yet either, not yet being wise to the older tricks of the trade. Some might throw their chance away with a slow start, or by getting too gee ed up in the parade ring, but the downside of those possibilities is far outweighed by the joy of a race where I don’t have to puzzle through mounds of form on top of everything else.

So stuff yesterday’s racing with its feature Group Ones and races all over the country all day long; today with three cards and six maidens to choose from is my idea of an easy Sunday morning. It stops just short of perfection though – that would be when the going is soft all over the land.

Bucking the trend: always the best horse in the race