Monday, 20 October 2014

Hallowe'en 2014 Countdown - 11 days to go

Hallowe'en is coming. There are only 11 days to go.

Would you like me to do something special for you, my lovely readers?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

VIDEO Poetry reading at SpeakEasy, Worcester, April 2014

I'm happy to share now a new video with you, a short film of me reading at SpeakEasy, Worcester, back in April, 2014. Many thanks to Andrew Owens for filming it. I read four poems there:

  • How to Obtain a PhD from Harvard (about Boris Sidis)
  • You Can Have Everything
  • Lines dedicated to the traditional food-harvesting methods of the Inuits of Western Greenland, and the conflicts arising therefrom with modern Western opinion of the aforementioned cultural acts
  • Nine out of Twelve (about William James Sidis)


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Damon's Dutch Diary 1

Welcome to Damon's Dutch Diary.

I have been often asked by people how do I learn languages, particularly when they see I speak numerous languages, and I have regularly given the answer that learning Esperanto at age sixteen was a springboard to other languages, but I personally feel that was not always a satisfactory answer. I have decided to therefore apply myself to a new language, namely Dutch, for a number of reasons, and analyse my learning while I learn. It will be an exciting exploration for me, not only of the Dutch language, but also of the language learning process.

Why Dutch? Firstly it is a very useful language as the firm I work for does a lot of business in the Netherlands. Also, it is a Germanic language, and I have a love for Germanic languages, so I actually could be considered to be cheating a little as I already have a feel for Germanic languages. But the thing is, I have often travelled through Schiphol Airport, I love travelling by KLM when the opportunity arises to do so and one day would like to step outside the airport into the Netherlands itself. (As an aside, dear KLM bosses, if you read this, please restart flying the Amsterdam - Manila route, as it was my favourite way to travel to the Philippines).

Let's firstly analyse what I know of the Dutch language. I studied a few pages of a book of Dutch last November, but gave up because of exhaustion as I was doing NaNoWriMo at the same time. I also, as mentioned, have a good grounding in other Germanic languages, particularly German. I've also sat listening to numerous announcements in Dutch on numerous KLM flights.

It's time to get in deeper, take Dutch seriously, so I signed up for a class at the Brasshouse in Birmingham.

So this week was my first class. I quite enjoyed it. Personally, I feel we didn't progress too far, but understandably, as would be expected, a lot of it was a "getting to know you" session, with a lot of "Hallo, mijn naam is Damon" (My name is Damon) conversations to get our confidence up. It is also worth noting that I may be impatient due to having a lot of knowledge of similar languages, and the mechanics of language, whereas the other learners in the class may not, so I think on reflection it was pitched at the right level, to include those learners who are not accustomed to learning languages. It is best to walk before you can run, of course. We were given a vocabulary sheet to go through, then tasked to go home to learn it, and it's worth just mentioning that I think a lot of the vocabulary may have been chosen to build confidence, as most of the words have similar English cognates, making vocabulary learning a lot easier: arm (arm), vinger (finger), deur (door). It's worth mentioning a few words which may take the initial learner outside the comfort zone, and techniques to try to make them easier.

keuken = kitchen
What's cookin' in the kitchen?

kleding = clothes
The cladding is like the clothes of the house.

You have to find your own keywords perhaps, words that mean something to you. I watched the film "Troy" a few years ago, so I'll hopefully be forgiven for putting a picture of Brad Pitt here from promotional materials from that film.

Brad Pitt played Achilles, known for the legend of Achilles' heel. Geel is the Dutch word for yellow. Achilles (in the film) had yellow hair. Achilles heel, geel, yellow. Brad Pitt as Achilles (and his HEEL) with his yellow hair therefore is cognate in my head with GEEL (yellow in Dutch). It makes sense to me, anyway.

In the classes we also will be focussing on the culture of the Netherlands, so it's not all linguistics. We had a general overview of the Netherlands this week, which was useful for exploring our current knowledge about the Dutch world.

So, I have a bit of revision to do before class this week. Good luck to all studying languages, not only Dutch, and I hope you enjoy my analysis of my language learning process.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

About me

Damon Lord performing poetry at 42 Worcester
My name's Damon Lord, I'm a poet, writer, linguist, and I'm also interested in history. When you type my name into Google, it likes to ask: “did you mean Demon Lord?” No, I didn't! I've decided to update my bio here, so here's a bit about me. If you want to read the old version of my bio, then click here.

Originally from south Wales, I have lived and thrived in Worcester. England, since I started coming here in 2002, before finally making it my home in 2008. I now live here with my wife and son.

I have numerous and varied interests.

Poetry: I have been writing poetry now and then for years, but hardly ever did. In 2012, I decided to take it seriously, and it's become something I've become known for locally in Worcestershire. My first independently published book, “Enigma in the Darkness”, followed in 2013, making the top 15 in the poetry bestsellers on Amazon. It will be followed in late 2014 by my next book of poetry. I am also working on a series of poems dedicated to a late academic I admire from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

In addition, I have been a finalist three years in a row for the Worcestershire Poet Laureate contest, 2012-4.

Speculative Fiction: I adore reading and writing horror, science fiction, fantasy, and all the various other nuances that come under the spec-fic umbrella, and have loved it since forever. There's nothing better than sitting down to watch a good sci-fi series, read a fun fantasy, or get embroiled in the terror of a creepy book. I enjoy all of these, and furthermore I love writing them too. I have written numerous dark short stories, I have a fantasy novel completed (but not yet published), and currently have a sci-fi novel on the back-burner, with plans to complete it next year, which has the potential to progress into a series.

I am a great admirer of the works of Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, as well as modern masters, such as Adam Millard, Tim Lebbon, Stephen King, Lesley Smith, and George R. R. Martin. I am an active performer of both poetry and prose at 42Worcester, the region's premier monthly venue for genre fiction and poetry.

History: History has always been one of my greatest loves. I currently live in a house built on the site of the Battle of Worcester in 1651, particularly where Hamilton's forces fought against the Parliamentarians below Perry Wood, to the east of the city. No reported ghosts, for those who are curious. What's even more curious is that so many locals seem unaware of the historical significance of the land beneath their very feet.

Of great interest to me are the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, especially in the later stages with the rise of the Godwin family. This culminated of course in the events of 1066 and the fall of King Harold II. I am a member of Ða Engliscan Gesiðas (The English Companions), I have plans for a creative writing project for this period, which is in progress.

I am very keen on the period of the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion of 1400 – 1415, in which Owain was the last true native prince of Wales. I am driven to study what inspired him, and what ultimately destroyed him and his rebellion. It is a fascinating period of history, and I am currently actively working on a creative writing project set it this time.

The cultures of pre-Columbian North America are also highly attractive and complex. I absolutely love the novels of the prolific, educational and entertaining Zoe Saadia, who focuses on these (primary the Mexica valley), and she is a great inspiration for my historical writing, although I focus on different periods and geography. Sue Harrison's The Ivory Carver Trilogy lends great insight into ancient culture in what is now Alaska, and are also firm favourites.

Languages: I am truly a language enthusiast. I absolutely love exploring linguistics and languages. I speak numerous languages, to varying levels, from strongest to very weak:

Mandarin Chinese
toki pona
British Sign Language
Old English (Anglo-Saxon)

I have a smattering of Scandinavian languages,but not enough to have much of a conversation.

(I'll write a page about my relationship with each of these language later.)

As a linguistic challenge, I intend to keep a weekly diary of my blossoming relationship with the Dutch language, as I have now begun to formally study it, beginning October 2014.

I'd love to learn ALL the languages in the world. My personal goal is to be able to speak at least 86 languages before I die.

I want to improve:

Chinese (汉语) I lived in Beijing for 6 months. I used to be able to speak good Chinese, but I have forgotten a lot of it.
German (Deutsch) Ich verbessere zur Zeit mein Deutsch.

I want to learn:

Dutch (Nederlands) Ik leer sinds september 2014.
Welsh (Cymraeg) I suppose I should learn it, after all, as I'm from Wales.
Cornish (Kernowek) The language is seriously endangered and deserves great support, having been brought back from extinction, endured a virulent 20-year long orthographic civil war amongst its speakers, and now is finally being taken forward seriously. I have a great respect for this language.
Spanish (español) I learned some summer 2013 for a trip to Spain
Korean (한국어) I tried before, but didn't get far, only working on hangeul - it's a wonderful language with an amazing history and culture.
Hebrew (עִבְרִית) a beautiful, proud language and strong and tenacious culture, I've always wanted to learn it! עם ישראל חי
Icelandic (íslenska) (I have a GREAT interest in this language; I have ALWAYS wanted to learn it!)
Swedish (svenska) and Danish (dansk) I love Scandinavia, and want to visit Denmark too!
Anglo-Saxon/Old English (Englisc) It's a fascinating language, and much neglected for study, highly worthy of study, to understand the modern English language in greater depth.
Kazakh (Қазақ тілі) An interesting land and language, regretfully often overlooked by people in Europe. It would be interesting to learn all about it!
Russian (if life had turned out differently when I was 19, I would be speaking Russian already!)

Monday, 15 September 2014

On Scottish (and Welsh) independence

Scotland goes to the polls for an historic referendum on independence in just a few days and an important question arises: What will the future of the UNITED Kingdom be?

I've mostly avoided politics on this website and keep this focused on writing, which was always my passion. I used to run a politics blog for five years, After leaving politics in 2005/6, I now try to avoid politics, particualry as I was foolish enough to support a mainstream UK political party at the time, but from time political issues still creep into our lives, and it's time to comment on it, for which I apologise for getting political.

I should state for the record that I am currently a unionist. Currently.

I'm going to post some text from 2007, when I outlined my ideal vision for a future of the UK.

Please note: these are my personal opinions only, and are not and may not be representative of any organisation, entity or body I am or have been associated with.
Firstly, I believe that more powers to the Welsh Assembly would be a good thing, on a par with the Scottish Executive.
Secondly, I believe wholeheartedly in the Monarchy and the Union. It is a United Kingdom in which we live, long may it remain so. Welsh independence is a folly that as a Unionist, I do not entertain.
I believe that England should also have an English Parliament, all with equal powers in line with Stormont, Edinburgh and Cardiff. The devolution experiment has worked, apart from the neglect of including England in the experiment. Placing the English Parliament in one of the heptarchies outside the SE England region may also help generate (or where needed, regenerate) the economy for the region. Furthermore, if regionalisation is to occur in England, let it occur along the lines of the old traditional heptarchies, not along imposed European regional lines such as the disastrous Labour campaign for a NE England Assembly (although though I don't forsee much call for a Wessex Parliament, or a Mercian Assembly).
Each of the respective nations would have their patron saint's day off as a Bank Holiday.
All of the United Kingdom would have God Save the Queen as the first anthem, followed by their relevant regional anthems, such as in Wales Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. As England doesn't have an anthem itself, the traditional hymn Jerusalem could be implemented as such.
Now the devolution experiment is firmly entrenched in the society of the UK, the constitution needs a rethink. As outlined above, I would propose four regional governmental bodies, that of N. Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, each with their own respective First Ministers (or whatever fancy title they'd get). Westminster would take on a new identity, that as the supra-governing body of a Federated and United Kingdom, under a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, under the monarch. Perhaps it would be going too far to call it a United States of the British Isles, but I'm sure you get a clearer idea if I said that.
And that was my viewpoint in 2007. My idealistic goal would be to keep things like that, but things may desperately change, however, as Scotland goes to the polls in the next few days, on 18 September 2014, precisely 700 years after the independence-ensuring Battle of Bannockburn.

In just a few days, we are faced with the very real prospect of the break-up of the United Kingdom. I live in England, so I don't get a vote, but I have been following the debate closely. I personally am not seeing a strong enough argument put forward from the camp I support, the No to independence camp, and strong nationalistic tub-thumping from the Yes camp, There are talks of greater devolution being proposed by the No camp, the so-called "Devo Max" as a sweetener to persuade people to vote no, but still there is not enough clarity. There is great uncertainty in choosing independence, but the No campaign should be throuoghly ashamed of themselves in not actually presenting the positive arguemnts in preserving the Union, and instead focusing on scaremongering about the prospect of having independence.

I have given up trying to keep track of opinion polls, Yes up here, No up there, No down here, Yes down there, everywhere undecided. The result will come and it will be what it will be. If  on the morning of the 19 the choice is no, then talks have to begin to publicly clarify what the reward/sweetener of Devo Max will be. This will have drastic consequences, as the Cornish (a protected and recognised minority) will rightfully demand greater autonomy, just like Scotland and Wales, and Wales itself inevitably will want to follow in Scotland's footsteps.

But without Scotland, I feel, the Union is finished. I am sensible enough to recognise that if Scotland goes, there is no point in continuing to support the Union. In the scenario where Scotland has says yes, we can look at how it may affect Wales. Wales currently has an overwhelming majority of those polled who would say no to Welsh independence, but in the event of Scottish independence, a role model would be created for Welsh nationalists to base their Welsh independence model upon. I would hope the Scottish independence model would be successful; I would not wish any ill or Scotland or bear a grudge should Scotland vote yes. It would allow nationalist movements such as Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Socialist Nationalists) or Plaid Glyndŵr (the anti-EU Welsh Nationalists, a bit like UKIP but with dragons, I suppose) to gain ground across Wales. Sentiment amongst the mainstream three parties (Welsh Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) could also change. There are noted Labour Party members in Scotland joining the Yes camp at the moment.

Where Scotland goes, Wales inevitably follows, so without some fantastic deal (Devo Max Wales?) given to Wales to persuade the Welsh electorate to stay part of the union, Wales will likely also become independent,

As for Northern Ireland, that's a hot potato that would be a whole different story. How a potential break-up of the Union would affect Northern Ireland would be an extremely difficult thing to analyse in a short time, but I fear further violence and more "Troubles" could be involved if the Union were to break up.

What does this mean for me personally? Let me firstly qualify my current situation. I am Welsh, and I live in England. I should say that when I first wrote that sentence a few minutes ago, I wrote instead "but I live in England". That "but" may suggest I should apologise for leaving my homeland. I shouldn't and won't apologise, because I am happy living here, and I moved here for love and work. I should hope I am an integral part of the community and economy here in Worcester, England.

I have come to the firm decision that until the results are announced, my ideal for the United Kingdom would be a Federated United Kingdom (FUK; unfortunate initials, I know, but never mind) as outlined above. Should the result be No, I will continue to support the ideal of a FUK.

If the voters of Scotland destroy this dream on September 18, I am sensible enough to know that the dream of a FUK is dead.

Therefore, if Scotland votes yes, I will pledge support greater autonomy for Wales (I'd support greater Welsh autonomy anyway, regardless of the Scotland result), support the free movements of the peoples around the British Isles (I'm happy here in Worcester; I don't want to be ejected on the grounds of the place of my birth), abandon support of a United Kingdom, and should a Welsh independence movement become popular, it would gain my support. I of course remain loyal to whichever land I call my home, which would be England, and to my native land of Wales.

So vote NO to Scottish independence, or I'll have to eat humble pie and start campaigning for Welsh independence.