No, I Don’t Believe We’ve Met Before

We are bound by ribbon, gently so, but I feel the tug when I wander too far and would be rid of it and your Kerouac nonsense. Hedonism blows great smoke rings but doesn’t pay bills. Everyone’s a forgotten genius, why are you special? We all had a dream crushed under cowskin boots at one time or other, so what? Dreams are plenty, all great things are borne of dreams. So chase a new one. Some heady mix of possible and improbable and metaphysical and unthinkable. Gritted teeth and too much realness disguised as theatre. Society laps up the illusion cause it’s so pretty. Don’t we love the psyche unravelling when it looks pretty? What about the bad, what about the ugly?

And then there are smells, oh, so many smells. Not always peachy girl-sweet Pear’s soap smells, but metallic blood smells, earthy animal smells, rotten fruit smells. What are you going to do about the smells, damn it? The traces left in history’s streets and Victorian by-gonism. The drunken louts, men’s territorial markings. Viennese streets wear it all. Sometimes everything looks the same backwards and forwards. The sumptuous and macabre residing as neighbours in the annals of time and spiral staircases. The photo-negatives of what was, what still is.

And now I’ve wandered too far again and the ribbon has pulled me back. I came from this place, went to that one, found myself other than sought to scrabble out again. Out into the light. The bleaching blinding light.

Give me a shard of glass to cut the cord, so delicate but so finely wrought. Give me a midday sun, a phoenix wing beating thing, burning clean my tea-coloured skin. Give me a newness of moon and long-forgotten ashes, crumbling in the wilding wind.

© N Nazir 2023

Written for Shay’s Word Garden, where Shay brings us inspiration with a word list from the works of poet and musician, Janis Ian. Words used: ribbon, Kerouac, smoke, genius, boots, mix, society, soap. The word list is still up for anyone who wishes to take part.

Written also for Poets and Storytellers United, where Magaly inspires us to write a piece based on a book we’re reading, or have read, or love. I always have my nose in any number of books at any one time, so am currently reading a combination of poetry, supernatural horror, mystical and arthouse, by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Ben Okri, Stephen King and Mohsin Hamid, all of whom I recommend.

Written also for The Sunday Muse, image as shown.

Streamers & Fairy Lights

It creeps up from the back of your head to the forefront of your mind, the idea.  You try and pin it down on paper but it scarpers.  You try again, it evades.  Again, and it vamooses.  

You manage a semblance of thing plucked from a stray cloud of silver lining but it is far removed from what you glimpsed.  An abstract configuring, an ink-bleed, paint-scraped, notion of the thing.  A sister thing, a cousin thing of the original platonic idea.  Tis a two-dimensional face of the dodecahedron.  Just one angle of the tetrahedron.  It’s Pythagoras hiding behind a curtain, for he was rumoured to be so good-looking, he didn’t want to distract anyone, wanted to be appreciated for his brains only.  And he was.  Go, Pythagoras.

Sometimes devils wear an angel’s face.  Cause they’re tricksters, see.  They would turn it all round on you in a jiffy.  Don’t be fooled by cherubs, they’re full of it.  Stick them on the tree and forget about them.  Fairy lights make it all look pretty anyway.

But you’re right, of course, the reverse is also true.  Some fiends are angels hidden.  To smoke out the legit devils.  Traitorous in a good way.  Just look what happened to Snape.  Some revelations are posthumous.  It’s the riddler’s dark joke.  

And isn’t it true that humdrum is happiness after a Kansas whirlwind of upside-down?  You couldn’t write a typical verse after that ever again.  Then some days, you’d release firecrackers into the open air of the yawning plains just to add some freak normal to your humdrum, cause twisters were your normal for so long.

© N Nazir 2022

Written for Shay’s Word Garden, where we are given inspiration with a word list taken from lyrics of songs by The Smiths. Words used: devil, joke, humdrum, typical, verse.

There are so many Smiths and Morrissey songs I love but I’ve listened to them a bit too much over the years that I can’t any more. But here’s one I enjoyed revisiting today. I’m Not Sorry from Morrissey’s 2005 You are the Quarry album. It’s a great live version, I just love it. May you lend it your ears awhile.

Bibliophilia (i) Book Reviews & Recommendations (A Very Different Post)

Of course, I love books, as we all do. Writers are generally bibliophiles. Non-writers too. I can’t go past a bookshop without popping in.  If I don’t buy a book, I’ll take a bunch of front cover photos to remind me to get it later on. Lately, I’ve been lucky, the library near me is constantly selling piles of books for next to nothing, as so many people donated reads they bought over lockdown.  Really good books too, classics, prize winners, shortlisted reads.  And how cool that our lockdowns have got more people reading?

So, like you, I’ve been reading more than usual. Choice picks and old favourites (though I’ve always got a book on the go, to be honest) and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve consumed. I do have a terrible habit of reading about three books at once then flitting from one to the other. It keeps my interest in all of them ensuring I do eventually finish them. Sometimes, I even have to start a book all over again because I abandoned it too long and lost the thread.  No doubt that says a lot about me.

I won’t review everything I’ve read because, well, a lot of them aren’t worth recommending, they were just okay.

I must say, I do prefer tales set in modern times and struggle with those of a bygone era, as women don’t often get to play a great role or enact deeds of derring-do. Instead, they are often supporting characters, the meek wife, witches burned at the stake, damsels won as prizes, prostitutes or bar wenches.  Actually, that’s made their roles sound more interesting now and my argument seems to have failed. But you get my point. (Cue here for someone to suggest plenty of books with wonderful lead female characters set in all manner of historical periods and debunk my comment and make me look dumb.  Feel free, I welcome it 🙂 For the record, yes, I’ve read Jane Eyre and yes, it was good).

Here are a few I happen to think are utterly wonderful…

The Apologist by Jay Rayner

This book is so funny, I recommend it to everyone in the world. In short, it’s about a guy, a very sour and cutting restaurant critic, who upsets someone so spectacularly with his review one day, that the ensuing repercussions of this leave him filled with remorse. He then makes great efforts to make it up to the chef’s family, which is a novel exhilarating experience for him as he’s not used to having empathy or caring about people much at all.

From this point on, he decides to repent and do penance for every hurt he has ever caused anyone. With entertaining consequences. Kind of a My Name is Earl scenario but very British. In fact, it came before that. I wonder if the writer of My Name is Earl got inspiration from this…? It also pokes fun at the snobbery of the London restaurant scene. A great read. Especially if you fancy something light. Although it deals with the idea of karma in such an intelligent way, a reminder that everything you do has consequences.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I found this book pretty awe-inspiring despite its mixed reviews. Simply put, Cheryl Strayed tells her own true story of how, as a young woman in the mid-90s, she decided to trek the then fairly unventured Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Canada to Mexico, where she hiked through California, Oregon, and Washington. She completes this whole trek over three months and does so with profound bravery considering she is somewhat ill-prepared for some of the mishaps along the way. Doing the trip is her solution to work through the searing grief she carries from recent events which include the loss of her mother. With no one left in the world, she feels she has nothing to lose and begins her literal and emotional journey of healing, through walking, for endless hours, for endless days, in the wilderness. We, the reader, are tortured right alongside her as she struggles to find water and has to escape hair-raising situations.

I was moved and inspired in equal measure. It’s one of the few instances I’d say I enjoyed the film just as much as the book though for different reasons. The film is a beaut mainly because it’s such an honest reflection of the book, but I always recommend reading the book first. It also captured that exquisite sense of 90s nostalgia that never fails to seduce me.

Halfway up the Mountain by Kiran Khalap

Every sentence of this book is crafted like poetry. I almost want to describe it as poetic prose rather than a novel. It’s also written entirely in the second person which makes it more compelling to read. Poets will love this book as every other line can be used as a writing prompt. And though it deals with painful themes, it’s somehow such a soothing read.

In short, it’s about a young village girl in India who has to endure and somehow overcome the unfairness of opportunity that comes with having a traditional upbringing, and being a woman in a time and culture which does not always prize women. She does what she can to resolve her predicament, through spiritually elevating herself, and through forgiveness, themes which are threaded throughout the story. You follow her journey as she overcomes her obstacles and deals with her fate, overall. Really, it’s about the power of forgiveness, the heartache of motherhood, the valuable lessons pain has to offer, and how there is beauty to be found in almost anything.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I have just finished reading this diamond of a book.  It wowed me. The author is a narrator of huge skill, her plot centring around twelve women’s individual lives powerfully, authentically told, in this moving tale about trying to navigate your racial identity when faced with so many obstacles.  A much-needed voice in literature, Evaristo explores the politics of race, identity and class and takes us through each character’s path with such an informed understanding of what it means to be living in modern day Britain as a woman and specifically, as a woman of colour or mixed heritage.

She voices the black female experience, the gay black female experience, the mixed heritage transgender experience, the many ways, subtle and dark, that abuse and racism manifest, the hilarious side of dating across different generations, mixed race relationships and the fetishism of only dating a particular racial type, polyamorism and the politics of modern dating being swipe left and meet. Not to mention the politics of being a theatre-maker who can’t get a playhouse to produce your play because your work is considered too black, too real or too radical. Yet being tenacious nonetheless because like it or not, you’re an artist. It’s about how who you are is partly made up of how you’re seen by others and how you respond to those stereotypes or prejudices, how you deal with the cards you’ve been given.

Evaristo is witty, sharp, eye-opening and heart-wrenching. I was impressed not only with the depth and familiarity I experienced with each story but how deftly she weaves her characters’ paths together.  Absolutely deserving of the Booker prize.  I simply LOVE this book.  It is an utter joy to read. Anyway, did I mention it was good? Okay, I’ll stop now.


I’ll leave it there for now and do another post with more recommendations once I’ve finished the three I have my nose in at the moment.

Have you read any riveting / life-affirming / mind-blowing / rib-tickling books lately? Or indeed any of the above? Do you have some wonderful gems to share? I’d love to know your thoughts! If there is a book you consider an absolute must-read, I’ll add it to my list.

But just so you know, War and Peace is probably never going to happen. Unless you can persuade me otherwise 🙂

© N. Nazir 2021