Unearthing Buried Treasure

Wit and WisdomI read. A lot. To be truthful, these days I read a lot of beginnings of books, get distracted and then start another one. I’ve developed a short literary attention span.

I keep telling myself that I should stop buying until I catch up with my to-read pile but I can’t help myself. It’s in my DNA – I’m a book hoarder, or collector if I’m trying to sound distinguished. They’ll come in handy for that library I’m going to have one day. Or so I keep telling myself.

I found the latest addition to my ever-expanding collection last week. On Friday past, Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter was transformed into a buzzing hive of cultural activity for Culture Night. We saw lots of impromptu arty and cultural stuff, including a fencing match on the side of the street, children painting chalk drawings on roads, a Beat Carnival interpretation of Tusk, drum circles, community choirs and much more besides.

My most exciting Culture Night find, however, was stumbling upon a little bookshop I’d never noticed before. Located on Lower North Street in the heart of the city centre is a true treasure trove. Simply named, The Bookstore, it’s jam-packed with books of all genres, with shelves and additional stacks piled high, from floor to ceiling.

In the poetry section, I uncovered a copy of Hood’s Poems of Wit and Wisdom, published in 1856 and still bearing its W.H. Smith & Sons subscription library  sticker on the front cover, which, if my research serves me correctly, was an early venture by well-known known newsagents chain, W.H.Smith.

I paid £5 for it and I doubt it’s worth much more; it’s bruised and battered but still beautiful. It also provides an interesting opportunity to look back at poetry of yore.

If you’re to judge a book by its name, Hood’s work delivers both wit and wisdom, as well as a chance to examine the language used by poets in the 1800s.

I’ve dipped in and out of it since last week and have enjoyed the journey thus far. I’ve scanned in a few of the shorter poems, so you can have a read for yourself. Would love to hear your thoughts.


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Grammar Watch

Eats-shoots-and-leaves-book-coverNo one’s perfect. I say that as a disclaimer – there’s no doubt that within this blog and in past examples of my writing, you will find mistakes – we’re all human. However, there is no excuse for flagrant misuse of grammar and punctuation, particularly if you’re a business.

When I was studying Journalism at Dublin City University, one of our lecturers insisted that we all read Eat, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss at the beginning of our first year. It was sound advice.

The book’s very title is a lesson in the importance of punctuation – how the placement of punctuation can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Is the Panda a hungry, gun-wielding psychopath, or simply a vegetarian with a penchant for shoots and leaves? Depending on where you place the comma, it’s entirely up to you.

To this day, when I see a stray apostrophe, comma or semicolon, I feel like taking one of the trusty Panda Says No stickers from the back of the book and slapping it over the glaring mistake in front of me.

the-panda-says-noInstead of doing that, I am adding this Grammar Watch feature to this blog. The Panda Says No and so does this writer. It’s time to name and shame.

Please feel free to comment and share your own examples – it’s the only way they’ll learn.

Bedtime Reading

To give myself a little kick-start, I’m revisiting one of the best self-help books I’ve read about writing* – Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ This time round, I’m going to read it from cover to cover – the man clearly knows what he’s talking about.


* The best book I’ve read on writing aside from Eats, Shoots & Leaves – we’ll come back to that – I’m obsessed.