There are a number of types of entry I would usually make in a notebook, as opposed to the various other books and devices in and on which I record my adrenaline-driven ramblings. By listing first these types, and then those instances of these I can remember, even just as headings beneath headings, I will then try to recall the few fragments I can of the lost entries. Realistically, of course, I can only hope for a tiny rate of recovery, but then I have rarely been realistic about any creative goal I've set myself, and it would clearly be counterproductive to start now. Each heading will eventually be expanded into an entry, however tiny, however, to adapt the terminology of Wikipedia, stubby.
(The beginnings or constituent parts of actual poems. Here I'm fortunate, in that I'd recently gone through the notebook and extracted these up to about the middle of August. Including these will be a propaganda victory in the war upon oblivion.)
(From books, newspapers, films, radio and television. Many of these are of course permanently lost, but, as I often respond directly to my reading, it may be possible, through the simple agency of speed-reading everything I looked at over the last eighteen months, to recover some of these.)
I was very struck by a review, probably in the THES, of a book by Paul Ricoeur which had a concluding chapter on the ethics of translation. This was probably Reflections On The Just. I've since picked up if not waded through a few of Ricoeur's works, and could no doubt retrieve the very review from our senior common room.
A subsection of this would be notes on overheard conversations:
I can for instance remember sitting in S-bux listening to a young woman expostulating on how extraordinary she found umbrellas (as sentiment I heartily agree with), and how grossed out she was by 'elderly' mothers (don't concur with her on this.
Then there was the ex-serviceman in the Tynemouth Lodge who delivered a few insights into the actions of the Paratroopers on Bloody Sunday. The worst part of the loss here is, of course, the particular phrasing, which had a lot to do with me copying a statement down in the first place. I remember him remarking on his age and health, 'I'm clinging to the gutter by my fingernails.'
(One of these will be easy to construct, as Debbie bought me almost everything on it for my birthday. The last such I can probably remember with a trip to the bookshop where I made it. It was focussed, like much of my recent reading, on Mediterranean and Eastern European history, and there was definitely one book about The Siege of Vienna in the wake of reading Lords of the Horizon and talking to Austrian poet Bernhard Widder.)
(These are entries I should have made in my journal, but which, for convenience's sake, I jotted down in my notebook. These go to the heart of the project, as I was having a torrid time in relation my workload/creativity balance, and made lots of plans and observations I would dearly like to remember.)
At present I can remember one reflection on the flaws in our definitions of nothingness that has an ironic tang now. It was made by the light of my mobile phone as we were driven through the countryside between Shanghai and Anhui Province. Then there was a puzzled entry on what a 'world poet' might be at the present time.
Plots and plans
(I frequently note down ideas that are meant to get me into some project or other that has stalled or that I have stalled before starting.)
Foremost amongst the stalled would be the McGonagall book, a novel which I have written plenty of fragments for without really getting stuck into: two ideas were outlined in the notebook. The Sleeper and the Twelve Tasks. I'll go into these in more depth in separate entries. One subtitle I happened upon thanks to the Goodwin book was The Autohagiography.
The other main area I'd welcome total recall in relation to would be the long poem I was contemplating as a sequel to the (not very successful) Laurelude. This languished under the under-inspiring title The Discursion, and apart from deciding that every poem would have a definite article in its title, I also went on at length about the various combinations of stanzas that made up the mystical unit 28. (Why 28 is at all relevant to the process is another enigma I wish I could remember.)
(This is the best title I can come up with for the sort of doodling and play with languge which was one of the notebook's principle purposes. I'd play with a phrase, sometimes a mishearing, or list odd rhymes I rarely got round to using, or produced parodies, or just sketched with language, an action halfway between recording and drafting.)
Likely to be far and few because of the nature of these beasts.
Projects and places
(Because I am very much a poet of passive response, often to place, projects and places are pretty much indistinguishable -- if I went somewhere, I usually wanted to write about it. And I went somewhere a lot during this period, too much in fact and therefore was in the midst of various projects, including the central loss this project is about, the Moscow trip. These will have to become separate headings)
Gurnards Head (Cornwall) - early 07
Copied out quite a lot from two texts there: Bruce Chatwin's magisterial What Am I Doing Here? and Tom Baker's dippy 'Who Is Tom Baker?' The questioning seemed very appropriate to the place I found myself in. The first was an extract about Herzog and walking, the second about ironing. I slightly prefer the second activity to the first.
Athens, Georgia (and Asheville, NC)
One of my favourite clippings came from this short stay: an account of a mobster shot in the head but saved by his hatband, 'I din't do/feel nuthin,' he mumbles, and must be retrieved.
Crete at Easter
Jerusalem in May
Rome in June
- I remember copying down the name of the 'rampa' near our hotel, called after a linguist or 'glottologico'? And the remark of an old man on the bus when the air condition started 'raining' on us: 'In Roma, null e impossibile.' (Though of course my Italian will be out for both of these.
Crete in the Summer
Guangzhou in September
- I remember one phrase in relation to a jade-clad figure recovered from a royal tomb: 'green lobster man'
Yellow Mountain in October
Poland in March 08
This was Lodj, which we (a group including Kate Clanchy and Christopher Reid) were driven to from Warsaw. I remember writing down 'komputery' because I was fascinated by the way a Polish plural became, homophonically, an English adjective. And the word for 'beware.' And some details from a setting of Auden by the daughter of the architect Lutyens that I can probably research without difficulty. There was probably quite a lot about borshch, the 'Jewish' restaurant and statuary -- their much-polished noses in particular being echoed/reflected in Ploshchad Revolutsiy metro the following month.
Moscow in April/May
South Wales in June
Crete in the Summer
Novi Sad (Serbia) in August