Thursday, November 30, 2006

a bibliography of sorts

The last day of November & postings have been decidedly infrequent. Thanks to Metodi for upbraiding me.

Old Year Resolutions exist too - I will try to resume more frequent entries. Honest.

Anyway, this list of books & CDs describes a trajectory of sorts for the past two months.

* Nietzsche – Birth of Tragedy & All Too Human

(to which we return, and return, and return ...)

* Tanner – Nietzsche, A Short Introduction

(pulled it off the shelf 'on the off chance')

* Deleuze – Nietzsche & Philosophy

(the book I should have read 15 years ago - makes Anti-Oedipus & Thousand Plateaus make a lot more sense)

* Holderlin – Essays & Letters on Theory; Poems

(mad poet-tower-fragment obsessions)

* O’Leary – Gnostic Contagion, Robert Duncan & The Poetry of Illness

(fascinated by accounts of Duncan's effect on students - strange unaccountable illnesses - (force fields/radiation?))

* Robert Duncan – Letters to Denise Levertov & Caesar’s Gate & Roots & Branches

(inexhaustible)

* Schiller – On The Aesthetic Education Of Man

(unopened, to be honest)

* W.B. Yeats – A Vision

(memories of a lecture series by Frances Warner. Was I really listening?)

* Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)

(the light fading in Worcester gardens ... )

* Hans Christian Andersen tales etc.

(how he is misrepresented)

* Gibson – Neuromancer

(I can take about a chapter at one sitting - but more interesting than I remember)

* McGregor – if nobody speaks of remarkable things

(started it & liked it & but ultimately remain unconvinced)

* Bonney – Blade Pitch Control Unit

(wish I still had his reading on Resonance FM on minidisc)

* Graham Foust – both volumes

(wow!)

* Pound – Selected Prose

(going cheap in the Reading Oxfam bookshop)


* David Toop – Haunted Weather & Ocean of Sound

(he has generous ears)

* Mondo 2000 A User’s Guide

(dodgy & fascinating)

* Berlioz – Memoirs

(Nelly was right)

* Arthur Machen – The Great God Pan

(finally I get to know the books behind the name)

* The Gnostic Bible & The Gnostic Gospels (Pagels)

(like a whisper in the ear)

* Echoes of the Ancient Skies (Krupp)
* The Monthly Sky Guide (Ridpath & Tirion)
* Philip’s Guide to the Stars (Moore)
* Pi in the Sky (Poynder)
* The Mapping of the Heavens (Whitfield)

(so that's what's going on in the sky)

* Celtic Mysteries (Sharkey)

(what has been erased - or nearly)

* The Amazing Brain (Macaulay)
* The Human Brain (Corrick)

(attempt at getting medical verification for poetic hunches)

* Jakob Boehme writings

(good enough for Duncan so good enough for me)

* The Mystery of Numbers (Schimmel)

(coincidentally watching CBeebies & a show in which numbers have magic powers)

• Aphex Twin

(especially the prepared piano-sounding stuff)

• Boards of Canada

(womb radio documentaries)

• Ivor Cutler

(Peel nostalgia & English Dada)

• Joanna Newsom

(I see Ron Silliman listens to her too)

• Gravenhurst

(one lovely track - the rest 'close but no cigar')

• Glenn Gould (the Wagner transcriptions for piano)

(yes!)

• Jimi Tenor

(Finnish sleaze - some great brass parts)

• The Fall

(Mark E. Smith is a media detergent)

• Mark Wastell

(sadly the concepts sound more interesting than the CDs - maybe recording just doesn't do him justice?)

• Jon Hassell

(undecided)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am not a library

Finally decide what to do with some two decades of the London Review of Books. It's just too unbearable to simply pile them into yellow sacks and send them for recycling. Instead, I will go through the Contents page & fillet out whatever catches my eye right now.

As I'm going through them it's like reliving my past - certain covers set off immediate associations, articles trigger what are now lost enthusiasms. Dare I admit it but the one edition with a young Ian McEwan on the cover had a near iconic status - a kind of projected self back in the 1980s? So much for that.

On the positive side there are compensatory discoveries - Iain Sinclair's long review of Blake in '96 which coincides perfectly with current interests; articles on Iraq and Saddam which have an uncanny prescience. But I have to be honest: I am not going to write the great novel of the 80s - or the 90s - or, probably, the first decade of the 21st Century. And so all those articles on the Falklands and the Miners' strike, and Dennis Healey, and Margaret Thatcher can go - bye bye - and if I suddenly do find myself needing them, well, there are online archives or nicely bound back issues in the Bodleian. I've finally realised - it only took twenty years or more - I am not a library.

"Slightly Inperfect"


"The poetry that most moved us moved us to a need for poetry".

(Robert Duncan, Preface (1972) to 'Caesar's Gate')

Spot on.

*

Yesterday afternoon I read 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' & - as I go on my daily walk round the neighbourhood - start thinking of the relationship between the pairs of characters in terms of Deleuze's reading of Nietschean forces. Shakespearean Comedy working as a presentation of Becoming. Maybe.

*

BBC 4's bio-documentary on Ivor Cutler took a familiar path: the later work 'diagnosed' in terms of the early childhood-mother-son trauma with seasonings of Jewish immigrant memory & military service. Then the soundbites from family, friends and showbiz people (Robert Wyatt in bowler hat, Paul MacCartney in 'just a friend of his' mode, and Billy Connelly who could easily pass for the older Zappa if anyone was thinking of making such a film).

Nevertheless a few things stood out: Cutler's refusal of 'celebrity' bonhomie - "Mr Cutler, to you"; his years as a teacher of Summerhill (now that makes sense); his rolls of stickers - 'Slightly Inperfect' - ; a song about Cosmic Love revolving about a cup of tea; the bulldog clip and string method of getting his post up to his thirdfloor flat.

Syd Barrett, Viv Stanshall, Ivor Cutler ... what beautiful music they must be making somewhere.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The secret & life of organic line

"For you the cover of a book - even when it is as closely allied as the cover of a paper book is /.../ to be integral to the whole - is a question of attractive packaging of a commodity. I have had occasion before and shall always have to attack at its roots what art becomes when it becomes a commodity. ... I do not live in New York, I live in a little town on the Pacific coast; my household is not modern; it thrives, as the imagination thrives, upon images. So I had a cover in a mode close to my work, where words and scene, image and experience have something like the exchage I seek in my own medium."
(Letter from Robert Duncan to Denise Levertov, citing his own letter to Grove Press concerning their sugested cover for 'The Opening of the Field').

I read this the night before last only to receive 'Caesar's Gate' in the post from Alan Halsey yesterday morning. It's hard to convey the exhiliration I feel on getting a book such as this first thing. Partly the pleasure of acquisition, of course. More importantly it's a sense of possibility - from the cover by Jess on into the volume itself (paste-ups, typewriter fonts, handwritten pages ...) everything oozes the 'alternative'. A defiance. I'm reminded of my delight at first seeing Raworth original editions - 'The Relation Ship', 'The Big Green Day', 'Log Book' - Harwood's 'HMS Little Fox' - Jonathan Williams' 'The Loco Logo-Daedalist In Situ' - the list goes on. Why can't ALL books of poetry be like this? Or even: Why can't all books be like this? (How lifeless on the page seem the recent 'Collected' Raworth & Harwoods).

Teaching my current 10th Grades, now that they are actually engaging with Blake's original plates, I sense a dawning realisation for some of them as to what his work was really all about. This for a generation so accustomed to the 'professional' look, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, a hundred available fonts with one click of the mouse. It's an important lesson, surely.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Gucci & Godot


Leafing through a copy of 'Le Figaro' a couple of days ago we happened upon this photo of Samuel Beckett. So, now we know ... Didi, Gogo, Pozzo ... and Gucci.

P.S. Apologies to our regular readers (are there any?) for the rather long silence. All will be explained ... .

It seems my crystal ball was not so grubby ... ... resisting the temptation to say "told you so".