I think it’s time we built a new annex for The Churchyard; perhaps in that area overgrown with blackthorn; that area where no one goes; somewhere to entomb that other passion of mine, poetry. I shall be including a selection of the old and the new, from dead poets and the not yet dead.
Of course, only a certain type will be suitable for When Churchyards Yawn. I’m looking for the drear, the dark, the dismal and the disconsolate. I’m looking for the Gothic, the Weird, the Folkloric, the Esoteric and, to quote Conrad, . . . The horror! The horror!
If you’d like to send me your own work for consideration then please do, either through the contact form on this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Previously published work is welcome, but do let me know so that I can give credit where credit’s due.
And the title of this endeavour, ‘This be the verse’?
Perhaps it has become best known as the title of Larkin’s wonderfully misanthropic poem, but he borrowed it from Robert Louis Stevenson’s self-composed epitaph which now adorns his tomb:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me: Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea, And the hunter home from the hill.
As I’ve said before, I rarely purchase new books and, when I do, they tend to be old. How can I even make a start on the 21st Century publications when there are still books from the 19th and 20th Centuries which I still haven’t read? I have no idea how anyone manages to keep up to date with the new stuff so my very brief forays into modern literature usually come to me in the form of presents.
This Christmas I received Alan Moore’s new novel, Jerusalem (a signed copy, no less!). Here’s the cover:
Obviously, having only had it for a couple of days and what with it being rather epic in scale (by the looks of it, coming in at around 3/4 million words?!), I haven’t read it yet, so this blog post is merely to serve as an introduction.
It seems that this novel is an experimental hymn to Alan Moore’s hometown of Northampton, so it’s a fascinating one for me. Like Moore, I was born, raised, and still live in the peculiar town of Northampton. Like Moore, I was born in a poor part of the town to a working class family. Like Moore, I’ve had a long-standing interest in the occult, folklore and local history. I even met Moore several times back in the early 1990s, we moved in the same circles and had mutual acquaintances.
So, this book should be right up my particular Northampton side-street.
As we open the cover to the front endpapers, we’re treated to a map of the area where the novel is set (and where Alan Moore was born).
As I’m sitting here writing this in my house I am just outside of this map, to the west, in an area of town called St. James End. Locally, it’s known as Jimmy’s End and, interestingly, Alan Moore wrote a short film called Jimmy’s End which was filmed at the local Working Man’s Club a stone’s throw from my house. A dark and Lynchian piece, you can see the trailer here:
Back to the novel, I’ve dipped into the first few pages and it is a strange thing indeed to follow the characters around streets that I know intimately and to hear them speaking in a broad Northamptonian dialect. With Moore being such a widely read author it’s odd to think that our small corner has been given an international audience.
So, when will I write a full post about this novel? That’s a difficult one. I really am very much looking forward to reading it but I have pile of other books I currently have on the go which I’m promising myself to finish first, leaving me clear to enjoy this one. I find that I have less time to read than I would like these days (self-employed bookbinder, it takes up the majority of my time) and, when I do get the time, I tend to be quite a slow reader. I take notes as I go; if there’s a particular passage I like I will read it several times (sometimes out loud); I indulge myself and luxuriate over the words. It purportedly took Moore ten years to write this novel and it might take me just as long to read it and write the blog post about it.
Typical, isn’t it? Everything’s rolling along nicely, you’re reading; writing about what you’re reading; you’re four books into a forty-five book blog series and it’s all going swimmingly and then you turn round and three months have disappeared. A quarter of a year, flown by without you even considering writing an entry on the blog.
In fairness, I have been extremely busy in the day job (which is, weirdly enough, making custom leather-bound books for other people to write in!).
But the main thing which has been keeping me busy is . . . errr, how do I put this?
Well, for my birthday last year my wife presented me with a large box with a head in it. This is what greeted me when I opened it:
This is a life-sized, Victorian/Edwardian, fully working ventriloquist dummy head of a character called Ally Sloper. Naturally, we couldn’t let this old gent live out the rest of his days as a head so we set to building him a body.
And we now have a 6′ 6″ Whitechapel born, ne’er-do-well living in the house. He’s over there now, in the corner, watching me write this. Just look at him sitting there!
The problem is that Sloper was hugely (in)famous in his day. Massively popular for fifty years or so, he even had his own top-selling weekly comic journal entitled Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday. Now though, he’s faded into obscurity and no one has heard of him. So, he’s set out to rectify that by starting his own blog and the fact that I’ve been helping him out with that has meant that I’ve been neglecting my own work here at When Churchyards Yawn.
I do have a sneaky suspicion that, in the great tradition of Maxwell and Hugo from ‘Dead of Night’ and Corky and Fats from ‘Magic’, I’m sure the old sod Sloper is trying to take over.
This post is definitely going in the Oddities & Ephemera category!
Anyway, click on this link or the picture and it will take you to Sloper’s very own blog: