Self Portrait at Twenty Years



“Me dejé ir, lo tomé en marcha y no supe nunca
hacia dónde hubiera podido llevarme. Iba lleno de miedo,
se me aflojó el estómago y me zumbaba la cabeza:
yo creo que era el aire frío de los muertos.
No sé. Me dejé ir, pensé que era una pena
acabar tan pronto, pero por otra parte
escuché aquella llamada misteriosa y convincente.
O la escuchas o no la escuchas, y yo la escuché
y casi me eché a llorar: un sonido terrible,
nacido en el aire y en el mar.
Un escudo y una espada. Entonces,
pese al miedo, me dejé ir, puse mi mejilla
junto a la mejilla de la muerte.
Y me fue imposible cerrar los ojos y no ver
aquel espectáculo extraño, lento y extraño,
aunque empotrado en una realidad velocísima:
miles de muchachos como yo, lampiños
o barbudos, pero latinoamericanos todos,
juntando sus mejillas con la muerte.”

Roberto Bolaño




“I set off, I took up the march and never knew
where it might take me. I went full of fear,
my stomach dropped, my head was buzzing:
I think it was the icy wind of the dead.
I don’t know. I set off, I thought it was a shame
to leave so soon, but at the same time
I heard that mysterious and convincing call.
You either listen or you don’t, and I listened
and almost burst out crying: a terrible sound,
born on the air and in the sea.
A sword and shield. And then,
despite the fear, I set off, I put my cheek
against death’s cheek.
And it was impossible to close my eyes and miss seeing
that strange spectacle, slow and strange,
though fixed in such a swift reality:
thousands of guys like me, baby-faced
or bearded, but Latin American, all of us,
brushing cheeks with death.”

English translation by Laura Healy

Dirty, Poorly Dressed

Roberto Bolaño’s Chair. Photo by Patti Smith, 2010



“En el camino de los perros mi alma encontró
a mi corazón. Destrozado, pero vivo,
sucio, mal vestido y lleno de amor.
En el camino de los perros, allí donde no quiere ir nadie.
Un camino que sólo recorren los poetas
cuando ya no les queda nada por hacer.
¡Pero yo tenía tantas cosas que hacer todavía!
Y sin embargo allí estaba: haciéndome matar
por las hormigas rojas y también
por las hormigas negras, recorriendo las aldeas
vacías: el espanto que se elevaba
hasta tocar las estrellas.
Un chileno educado en México lo puede soportar todo,
pensaba, pero no era verdad.
Por las noches mi corazón lloraba. El río del ser, decían
unos labios afiebrados que luego descubrí eran los míos,
el río del ser, el río del ser, el éxtasis
que se pliega en la ribera de estas aldeas abandonadas.
Sumulistas y teólogos, adivinadores
y salteadores de caminos emergieron
como realidades acuáticas en medio de una realidad metálica.
Sólo la fiebre y la poesía provocan visiones.
Sólo el amor y la memoria.
No estos caminos ni estas llanuras.
No estos laberintos.
Hasta que por fin mi alma encontró a mi corazón.
Estaba enfermo, es cierto, pero estaba vivo”.

Roberto Bolaño




“On the dogs’ path, my soul came upon
my heart. Shattered, but alive,
dirty, poorly dressed, and filled with love.
On the dogs’ path, there where no one wants to go.
A path that only poets travel
when they have nothing left to do.
But I still had so many things to do!
And nevertheless, there I was: sentencing myself to death
by red ants and also
by black ants, traveling through the empty villages:
fear that grew
until it touched the stars.
A Chilean educated in Mexico can withstand everything,
I thought, but it wasn’t true.
At night, my heart cried. The river of being, chanted
some feverish lips I later discovered to be my own,
the river of being, the river of being, the ecstasy
that folds itself into the bank of these abandoned villages.
Mathematicians and theologians, diviners
and bandits emerged
like aquatic realities in the midst of a metallic reality.
Only fever and poetry provoke visions.
Only love and memory.
Not these paths or these plains.
Not these labyrinths.
Until at last my soul came upon my heart.
It was sick, it’s true, but it was alive.”

English translation by Laura Healy

More Than Them


The band that would become Travis was formed by brothers Chris and Geoff Martyn. Andy Dunlop, a school friend at Lenzie Academy, was drafted in on guitar, along with Andy Dunlop on drums, although the latter was replaced soon after by Neil Primrose. The line-up was completed by a female vocalist, Catherine Maxwell, and the band’s name became Glass Onion, after The Beatles song of the same name. Parting company with their singer in the spring of 1991, they auditioned for a new vocalist. Having met each other through Primrose pouring him a pint, an untrained art student, Fran Healy, then joined after being invited to audition by Primrose. Healy joined the band on the day he enrolled at The Glasgow School of Art, in the autumn of 1991. Two years later, with the option of music holding more appeal, Healy dropped out of art school, and inspired by song writers such as Joni Mitchell, assumed songwriting responsibilities. With brothers Chris and Geoff Martyn on bass and keyboards, in 1993, the fivesome released a privately made CD, The Glass Onion EP, featuring the tracks Dream On, The Day Before, Free Soul and Whenever She Comes Round. 500 copies of the EP were made and were recently valued at £1000 each. Other songs they recorded but were left off are She’s So Strange and Not About to Change.

The band named themselves after the Harry Dean Stanton character Travis Henderson from the film Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984).

Travis have twice been awarded best band at the BRIT Awards, and are often credited for having paved the way for bands such as Coldplay and Keane (Coldplay’s Chris Martin has called himself “a poor man’s Fran Healy”, while saying that Travis “invented” Coldplay “and lots of others”).

The band won a talent contest organised by the Music in Scotland Trust, who promised £2,000 so that Travis could deal-hunt at a new music seminar in New York. Two weeks before they were due to leave, however, the prize was instead given to the Music in Scotland Trust Directory. When sent a copy of the directory, the band noticed that it seemed to feature every single band in Scotland—except for them.
The band showed promise but had yet to evolve into a decent line-up capable of fulfilling it and spent several years treading water. According to their publisher Charlie Pinder: “They were a band that everyone in the A&R community knew about and would go and see every now and then. But they weren’t very good. They had quite good songs; Fran always did write good songs.” While on a visit to Scotland, American engineer and producer Niko Bolas, a long-time Neil Young and Rolling Stones associate, tuned into a Travis session on Radio Scotland, and heard something in the band’s music which instantly made him travel to Perth to see them. Healy: “He told us we were shit, took us in the studio for four days, and taught us how to play properly, like a band. He was ballsy, rude, and New York pushy. He didn’t believe my lyrics and told me to write what I believed in and not tell lies. He was Mary Poppins, he sorted us out.” The band recorded a five-song demo, which included the song All I Want to Do Is Rock.

With the sudden death of his grandfather, a grief-stricken Healy shut himself away, refusing to talk to anyone. Emerging a week later, and with a clear vision of where he now wanted Travis and their music to go, Healy dispensed with the band’s management and publicity agent. Having been repeatedly knocked back by the British record industry, the band couldn’t afford to stay around the country for another few years and so decided to move to New York, feeling that the U.S. might be more suited to their style of music. However, before leaving Healy told the band that they should send the demo to Charlie Pinder of Sony Music Publishing, who they had known for a few years and regularly sent songs to, saying: “If he’s not into it, then we’ll go.” Pinder was immediately impressed by the song All I Want to Do is Rock, which he felt was a dramatic change for the band: “It was harder, more exciting, sexy; all things that they never really were. They turned a corner.” After performing a secret gig for Pinder and his boss at Sony, Blair McDonald, they were signed to Sony Music Publishing. The immediate impact of what was a very secret deal was that the line-up was changed – keyboard player Geoff Martyn was removed, and the bassist, Geoff’s brother Chris, was replaced with Healy’s best friend Dougie Payne – and the band was moved to London, where they were given a rehearsal room and a house

Produced by Steve Lillywhite of U2 fame, Travis’ first studio album, 1997’s Good Feeling, is a rockier, more upbeat record than the band’s others to date. Recorded at the legendary Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, the place where Travis favourite The Band recorded, the album contained singles such as All I Want to Do Is Rock, U16 Girls, the Beatle’esque Tied to the 90s, Happy and More Than Us.

Kafka and Oasis in a Same Song

“You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart; imagine my heartbeat when you are in this state.”

“Each of us has his own way of emerging from the underworld, mine is by writing. That’s why the only way I can keep going, if at all, is by writing, not through rest and sleep. I am far more likely to achieve peace of mind through writing than the capacity to write through peace.”

Franz Kafka
Letters to Felice



Every day I wake up and it’s Sunday
Whatever’s in my eye won’t go away
The radio is playing all the usual
And what’s a Wonderwall anyway

Because my inside is outside
My right side’s on the left side
‘Cause I’m writing to reach you now but
I might never reach you, only want to teach you
About you but that’s not you

It’s good to know that you are home for Christmas
It’s good to know that you are doing well
It’s good to know that you all know I’m hurting
It’s good to know I’m feeling not so well

Because my inside is outside
My right side’s on the left side
‘Cause I’m writing to reach you now but
I might never reach you, only want to teach you
About you but that’s not you
Do you know it’s true but that won’t do

Maybe then tomorrow will be Monday
And whatever’s in my eye should go away
But still the radio keeps playing all the usual
And what’s a Wonderwall anyway

Because my inside is outside
My right side’s on the left side
‘Cause I’m writing to reach you now but
I might never reach you, only want to teach you
About you but that’s not you
Do you know it’s true but that won’t do
And you know it’s you I’m talking to


The song was written by Fran Healy, who admitted that he took the guitar chords from OasisWonderwall; as an overt acknowledgement of this, the song contains the lyric “and what’s a wonderwall, anyway?”. In 2004, both Writing to Reach You and Wonderwall were mixed with Green Day‘s Boulevard of Broken Dreams in the popular mash up, Boulevard of Broken Songs,Boulevard of Broken Songs by San Francisco, California DJ and producer Party Ben.

As Fran Healy stated:

Writing To Reach You was actually inspired by Franz Kafka’s Letters To Felice. He wrote to this woman he was in love with hundreds of times, yet never met her. None of her replies are in the book, so you have to piece together their relationship. I was reading that one day, and Wonderwall came on the radio. I nicked the chords, then changed the rhythm and the melody. I’m pleased we managed to draw on Kafka and Oasis in the same song.”

Pillars Turn to Butter

Everything is open
Nothing is set in stone
Rivers turn to oceans
Oceans tide you home
Home is where the heart is
But your heart had to roam
Drifting over bridges
Never to return
Watching bridges burn

You’re driftwood floating underwater
Breaking into pieces, pieces, pieces
Just driftwood hollow and of no use
Waterfalls will find you, bind you, grind you

Nobody is an island
Everyone has to go
Pillars turn to butter
Butterflying low
Low is where your heart is
But your heart has to grow
Drifting under bridges
Never with the flow
And you really didn’t think it would happen
But it really is the end of the line

So i’m sorry that you turned to driftwood
But you’ve been drifting for a long, long time

Everywhere there’s trouble
Nowhere’s safe to go
Pushes turn to shovels
Shoveling the snow
Frozen you have chosen
The path you wish to go
Drifting now forever
And forever more
Until you reach your shore

You’re driftwood floating under water
Breaking into pieces, pieces, pieces
Just driftwood hollow and of no use

Waterfalls will find you, bind you, grind you
And you really didn’t think it could happen
But it really is the end of the live

So i’m sorry that you turned to driftwood
But you’ve been drifting for a long, long time


Driftwood is the second single taken from Indie band Travis’ second studio album, The Man Who (1999)


In an interview for NME, Fran Healy revealed that, “The title reputedly comes from the advice of one of my close friends. He advised me not to leave college to concentrate on the band. The lyrics focus on a character who has abandoned all his connections and is now like driftwood – “breaking into pieces… hollow and of no use, waterfalls will find you, bind you, grind you”. Driftwood is a song for the person in your life who has so much potential and, yet, doesn’t use it, because they’re afraid of falling on their backside, you know, they’re afraid of making a fool of themselves. But, yet, if they put their minds to it and just threw their plate out the window, they would actually do a lot with it and make themselves happy and other people happy. The chorus came about while I was watching an episode of Cheers. The episode involved an employee overhearing their boss stating that he was going to get rid of the “driftwood” in the company. I then went to do the washing up, and the first line in the chorus just came to me. Also, our original idea was to include the lyrics “caterpillars turn to butterflies”, but it was too long to fit with the tune, so we shaved off syllables, changing it to “pillars turn to butter.”



The music video was filmed by Garth Jennings in St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls, located in Carshalton, Surrey. Travis later reprised the teaching roles portrayed in the video for a cameo role in the 2007 Comedy-Drama film Son of Rambow.

Song to Self

“…Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
millions of suns left,)…”

Walt Whitman

Song to Myself


Third and final single from Indie band Travis’ sixth studio album, Ode to J. Smith (2009)

The Cow is Where You Stand

Where You Stand is the upcoming, seventh studio album from Scottish rock band Travis, set to be released in August 19, 2013, on their own record label, Red Telephone Box via Kobalt Label Services. Speaking about the band’s departure from the spotlight, bassist Dougie Payne said of the release:

“You stay away as long as it takes, so you feel that hunger and desire to get back to it same as you did at the start.”

Where You Stand (2013)


The Longest Journey.
By E.M. Forster


“The cow is there,” said Ansell, lighting a match and holding it out over the carpet. No one spoke. He waited till the end of the match fell off. Then he said again, “She is there, the cow. There, now.”
“You have not proved it,” said a voice.
“I have proved it to myself.”
“I have proved to myself that she isn’t,” said the voice. “The cow is not there.” Ansell frowned and lit another match.
“She’s there for me,” he declared. “I don’t care whether she’s there for you or not. Whether I’m in Cambridge or Iceland or dead, the cow will be there.”
It was philosophy. They were discussing the existence of objects. Do they exist only when there is some one to look at them? Or have they a real existence of their own? It is all very interesting, but at the same time it is difficult. Hence the cow. She seemed to make things easier. She was so familiar, so solid, that surely the truths that she illustrated would in time become familiar and solid also. Is the cow there or not? This was better than deciding between objectivity and subjectivity. So at Oxford, just at the same time, one was asking, “What do our rooms look like in the vac.?”
“Look here, Ansell. I’m there—in the meadow—the cow’s there. You’re there—the cow’s there. Do you agree so far?” “Well?”
“Well, if you go, the cow stops; but if I go, the cow goes. Then what will happen if you stop and I go?”
Several voices cried out that this was quibbling.
“I know it is,” said the speaker brightly, and silence descended again, while they tried honestly to think the matter out.
Rickie, on whose carpet the matches were being dropped, did not like to join in the discussion. It was too difficult for him. He could not even quibble. If he spoke, he should simply make himself a fool. He preferred to listen, and to watch the tobacco-smoke stealing out past the window-seat into the tranquil October air. He could see the court too, and the college cat teasing the college tortoise, and the kitchen-men with supper-trays upon their heads. Hot food for one—that must be for the geographical don, who never came in for Hall; cold food for three, apparently at half-a-crown a head, for some one he did not know; hot food, a la carte—obviously for the ladies haunting the next staircase; cold food for two, at two shillings—going to Ansell’s rooms for himself and Ansell, and as it passed under the lamp he saw that it was meringues again. Then the bedmakers began to arrive, chatting to each other pleasantly, and he could hear Ansell’s bedmaker say, “Oh dang!” when she found she had to lay Ansell’s tablecloth; for there was not a breath stirring. The great elms were motionless, and seemed still in the glory of midsummer, for the darkness hid the yellow blotches on their leaves, and their outlines were still rounded against the tender sky. Those elms were Dryads—so Rickie believed or pretended, and the line between the two is subtler than we admit. At all events they were lady trees, and had for generations fooled the college statutes by their residence in the haunts of youth.
But what about the cow? He returned to her with a start, for this would never do. He also would try to think the matter out. Was she there or not? The cow. There or not. He strained his eyes into the night.
Either way it was attractive. If she was there, other cows were there too. The darkness of Europe was dotted with them, and in the far East their flanks were shining in the rising sun. Great herds of them stood browsing in pastures where no man came nor need ever come, or plashed knee-deep by the brink of impassable rivers. And this, moreover, was the view of Ansell. Yet Tilliard’s view had a good deal in it. One might do worse than follow Tilliard, and suppose the cow not to be there unless oneself was there to see her. A cowless world, then, stretched round him on every side. Yet he had only to peep into a field, and, click! it would at once become radiant with bovine life.
Suddenly he realized that this, again, would never do. As usual, he had missed the whole point, and was overlaying philosophy with gross and senseless details. For if the cow was not there, the world and the fields were not there either. And what would Ansell care about sunlit flanks or impassable streams? Rickie rebuked his own groveling soul, and turned his eyes away from the night, which had led him to such absurd conclusions…”


Arkansas (titles aren’t David Leavitt‘s strong suit; this one alludes to a quotation from Oscar Wilde that doesn’t have much to do with anything) is dotted with references to E. M. Forster, who is clearly one of the author’s cynosures.


The Wooden Anniversary continues the story of two recurrent Leavitt characters, fat, hopeless Celia and handsome Nathan, the gay cad she’s always been in love with. Celia has now moved to Italy, married well, dropped 75 pounds and opened a cooking school in a glorious Tuscan farmhouse; Nathan is a widow and a mess. But the changes are only superficial: Celia, remembering the insults she once had to endure — ”Oh, men used to call me a cow all the time” — maintains that a formerly fat person, ”in her mind at least, will always be fat,” and Mr. Leavitt goes out of his way to second her. By the end of the story, Nathan has stolen her handsome Italian lover, and Celia has run away and been reincarnated as a cow. (Seriously.) The nakedness of the gay wish-fulfillment fantasy, even the extravagant misogyny, might carry a malicious charge if Mr. Leavitt were having some fun with his characters — if he had the nerve to mock them as coldly and tranquilly as, in the first story, he mocks himself. The impulse is certainly there (a cow?), but instead, for the most part, we have to suffer with them.