from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday 14 October 2011

dogs, negative capability & neolithic capitalism

I wake at about 6am bleary-eyed and with a headache dogging (that word used advisedly – see below) me, as it has been all week, to the piteous whine of the hound, She Who Wears her Grey Matter on the Outside. She's needing company and attention and water – the neurological disorder means she can't drink (though she tries over and over) as she can't close her mouth. Until I can get into town later today the only aid I have is a tiny syringe, so it takes forever to get a few mls in, and without choking her.

The good news is it might just clear up spontaneously in a few weeks. The bad news is the handfeeding and -watering in a very full life, and her distress (not to mention mine). The worse news is that there might be an underlying more serious issue. I'm trying not to go down that route, simply staying with how things are moment by moment.

This is Keats' 'negative capability' – being able to stay with an uncertain situation without forcing a resolution before its time. Quite sussed psychologically and philosophically, that thinking.


As I ponder whether I absolutely have to get up (I do) and what to do first, The Man comes in. He's been checking The Guardian online. 'You'll be glad to know,' he says, 'that Roy Harper agrees with you.' (Remember him? Singer/songwriter?) 'In what way?' 'He too feels that our downfall came with agriculture in the neolithic.'

I could get on a rant on this one. I'll try to contain it, a bit, but it has long seemed to me that capitalism as an ethos began in the late neolithic and early Bronze Age, in Europe. The nomadic hunter-gatherer started to settle down, make enclosures, keep livestock, call land 'mine'.

I'd say that it's our need to acquire territory, to possess land, to increase that territory, to keep others off, to turn it into a 'resource' and a 'commodity', to make it produce as much as possible as fast as possible, that is not only the basis of our capitalist economy but is also of course the reason why we find ourselves on a completely unsustainable trajectory, especially with population explosion and a changing climate.

One of the big problems with capitalism is that it's entirely predicated on limitless resources for limitless growth – and that's simply not how it is on our little planet. (Another big problem of course is that it cannot support an equal and fair economy – it works on exploitation of the have-nots – human or non-human – by the haves. A third, related, is that on the whole the system requires acquiring and taking, and the giving-back doesn't get a look-in.)


Last night I was guest reader at The Language Club in Plymouth. I did my first-ever public poetry reading – all five minutes of it! – on the open mike at The Language Club's predecessor, maybe 24 years ago, so it was great to be back. One or two friends who attended my last guest reading there several years ago now came, which was warming (thank you; you know who you are). It was good to air my recent collection of largely prose-poems, Bardo (Shearsman), in public; and to try out poems from next year's All the Missing Names of Love (IDP). Good too to hear some old friends on the open mike.


  1. Sorry to read about your beautiful hound's difficulties. Fingers crossed that it does clear up spontaneously.

    On another note, Rima and I were on the coast almost a month ago and saw a pebble heart on the beach near Slapton Ley just before the sun began to set. How strange it was to then see it on your blog. Must have missed you by just a few hours!

  2. Tom it was lovely to receive your wishes - thank you.

    How strange that you saw the heart! I'll email my friend in Switzerland to tell her that the two of you saw the heart the students made – that's so lovely! These connections are very affirming and warming.

  3. Roselle - so sorry to hear about your beautiful dog.
    And I agree with you and Roy Harper.

  4. Hello Belinda! Thank you for both phrases, above...


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