Natalie Goldberg and the Uncertain World of Notebooks


I’m just the same. It has to be Moleskine. And I imagine my notebooks being pored over by literary scholars who are trying to plumb my genius.

Originally posted on 20 Minutes on Writing:

Spiral-Bound NotebooksFor a long time I did what Natalie Goldebrg told me to do. Cheap notebooks were the best, she said, not the fancy ones that make you feel precious about your writing. Keep it simple. So for many years I wrote in spiral-bound A5 notebooks. I wrote with a blue biro, and only blue would do. I met people who wrote in other colours: black, green, someone’s husband used a brown pen, and there were those who’d write with whatever was at hand. Some people weren’t picky. I was picky, and pickiness is a form of superstition, a way to ward off dread. For years I wrote like this in notebooks with 80 sheets, ruled lines, some were perforated, but it was bad luck to tear pages out of a notebook. I’m not sure where I got that superstition from. Many of my superstition are of my own making.


View original 759 more words

There will now be a short intermission


A sudden increase in Life Generally and Day to Day Stuff means that I do not have time to write, and post, as frequently as I would like. I don’t want to put up pieces that are there as place fillers. Better not to write at all, than bore.

So I shall not be posting for an indeterminate, but hopefully short, period. I simply want to thank all those of you who have followed, and commented on, The Top Banana. Please keep me on your follow list, and I hope to be back again soon.

I shall, however, still scour the blogosphere for poetry and oddities, so I will not be entirely absent.

Not goodbye, just au revoir.

Thank you.

Winter morning


before daybreak.
The cold wind holds its breath.
The shadowed river hesitates.

in the darkness.
Like breath blown on embers
a cold morning glimmers with bright

Light leaks
into the air.
Trees coalesce and clouds
take substance from the twilight

Like smoke
the early mist
blurs the river bank,drapes
threadbare trees in folds of frosted

dangerous liaisons between the living and the dead


The last of three posts about metaphor. If you’ve missed the other two then you can find them here:

and here:

And here is the the summing up – the last word:


Opens the door to doubt,
pricks logic’s tight balloon,
lets light in, darkness out,
confuses silver pennies with the moon,
turns on lights in empty buildings
rips the covers from every bed,
offers dangerous liaisons
between the living and the dead,

treads the wires of contradiction,
turns lead to gold, makes truth of fiction.

If you have any comments on this three- stage post, then, as always, they are very welcome.

The compasses revealed…..


As I was saying….the compasses…you weren’t there ? You missed it ? Don’t worry….you can see it here.. I’ll wait till you come back.

There’s this young man, good looking, blazingly clever at everything, and he’s sent on a diplomatic mission to France. He doesn’t want to go, because it means leaving the girl he loves behind. It’s a wild, passionate affair conducted in secret because her father doesn’t approve. So he sends her a letter.
This is part of it:

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Don’t worry, he says, trying to comfort himself as well as her, our love is not torn apart. It’s like gold beaten out into gold leaf, still there, still shining, still whole.

How’s that for a wonderful metaphor ? Love- an abstract, an invisible, is compared with gold, a precious substance which is beaten out into something as near invisible as possible. The whole image hangs on that wonderful phrase- “aery thinness.”

And then the compasses. Notice they are stiff compasses, hard to pull apart ( as are the lovers). Her soul is the fixed point and his the sweeping hand which describes a circle. She leans towards him as he orbits around her, and then stands tall when he comes home. Her firmness ( point planted on the paper- and also loyalty) controls his wanderings. And his physical journey ends where it begun ( in London) as well as his spiritual journey, which ends with her.

She completes him.

The poet is, of course, John Donne and you can find out more about him here:

So- I hope you can see that metaphor is the poet’s most powerful tool. It can work miracles, turn two into three, the abstract into the concrete.It can start a chain reaction.

There will be one more post in this series of three. Look out for it.