Wednesday, December 31, 2008

are you sure?
torch light
three zero three
do it
car (fx: doors closing)
same excuse
“just doing my job”
walk up the walls
or float in the air
are you sure this line is clean?
you can make it.
Go –


Listening to the reissue of David Byrne's Music for the Knee Plays.

My liking for Talking Heads has waned but I still like the stripped down sound of this music.

It's a shame, though, that they didn't retain the original cover art. Somewhere upstairs I have the original album and the beautiful Robert Wilson drawing. However, I did find another one on the Knee Play site.

(walking 31.xii.08)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the lexicon
marconi. hertz. maxwell. edison.
a violin a tree a body
14 to 18
the thought that forms
scale of relations
“we are poets” says pythagoras
the ocean teaches
the pulse of language
model a universe
death of the monument
birth of the moment


Monday, December 29, 2008

* yawn *

& now to bed.
& if you're interested in following up on Keri Smith ...

... then go here:

& keep clicking.
& now I'm back & blogging again, who - or what? - is The Princess of Pastiche?

I happened upon this book in Blackwells' Art Bookshop. It's quite a find - kind of Bernadette Mayer's Poetry Experiments List for visual artists. Individual ideas are good but it's more the overall approach that grabs me. Basically: start looking and drawing and assembling and living. A book to take you through into 2009.

Highlights of nearly a week in the U.K.?

1. The Jack Spicer 'My Vocabulary Did This To Me' volume arrived the day after Boxing Day just as we were having breakfast before leaving.

2. Jonathan Black's 'The Secret History of the World' which I'd never heard of and found by accident in Waterstone's.

3. Jack & The Beanstalk at the Camberley Theatre (Simple Simon: "The Giant's so big he has people bicycling up and down his back - he's a cycle path" - geddit?)

4. Getting through the whole Christmas Thing without a major row involving all concerned and the Wafflettes being just Outstanding with Grandma & Grandpa.

5. Two or three really great bottles of wine.

6. My Dad looking - given the circ's - pretty good.

And the lows?

1. The sense that the U.K. is up for sale, everything at 50 or 75 per cent off which confirms that we've been ripped off all along.

2. A copy of The Independent costing one pound. What? A quid for a newspaper?

3. Motor way stupidity & arrogance & hogging the middle lane for no reason at all.

4. Blackwells' 'Poets' Corner' poetry section which has to be one of the most uninspired collections of volumes I've seen (at least since last time).

5. The little tosser who hurled abuse at my wife as he cut in front of us on his bike on the pavement.

6. The sense of a culture utterly in thrall to 'Celebrity' - there's now an entire magazine devoted to Jamie Oliver? What?

O Albion ...

To come: New Year Resolutions.

Monday, December 22, 2008

the seven hours

of the sun        a nothing
of the flood         a word
of the beast            a lust
of the shadow      a body
of the hour          a grave
of the stone          a light
of the epitaph       an art

all some properties invest

ours the essence in quintessence
ours the sense in absence

were I that I were


Sunday, December 21, 2008


(first throwings ...)

it is precisely because
it is drawing a circle
or it is precisely
because the material presence of
yes it is
precisely having to hand
isn’t it that
a crystallization
is it not
this putting you through
it is


a gum to commit matter
a bubble of exceptions
a grave dug in the map
a means of transporting a sentence
an example found lying in the street
a tree full of Oedipal fruit
a new calculus for arousal
a particle lost under the piano
a non-stop turmoil of attics
a light colourless guess
thereof we speak
in silence


the word in the form of the hawk
the word in the name of the raven
the word in the breath of the moth
the word in ash of the basilisk
the word in the verse of the retriever
the word in soul of the sparrow



More 'product' to follow when I can get at the other computer.

For the time being ... what I'm experiencing is an odd mixture of excitement and bewilderment. I thought I knew what I was doing. Or, rather, how these poems would develop. Instead, they seem to be pulling in different directions. Is this sheer incompetence? Or how the materials can work if you allow them? I don't know. Furthermore, they get more demanding - the first ones were quick. The more recent ones are half-finished, won't gel, won't co-operate. And they seem to be aware of each other in odd ways.

As such, it seemed to be a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E inspired procedure: deliberate setting of rules, a method, 'anti-expressive' stance. Then, on working with what is on the page, a very different kind of text emerges. I'm finding how one direction of abstraction starts to touch on ritualistic patternings of language: spellings (pun intended).

I suppose - thinking in terms of the visual arts - it's similar to the work of painters such as Klee, Kandinsky and Ben Nicholson. Does Formalism always tend to magic?

Those texts I started back in March & April - the 'Elaboratory' ideas etc. - seem to relate.

I'm thinking, too, of that great statement by Fanny Howe about her approach to her writing in the Daniel Kane volume - "I think of them as days more than anything else, days in the ancient sense of an act or a feeling that begins and completes itself. How many times the sun sets in that kind of day is of no importance. All that matters is knowing when it ended, and, more mysteriously, when it began."

So maybe I should just accept that work from 9 months ago has decided to resurface in what I thought was something 'new'.

What do I know?

Friday, December 19, 2008

no pretence to 'finished product' - these are the first so many of what seems to be a new series. The rules? Twelve lines. Whatever comes to hand. Every day. Or, better, several times a day. Thinking on the spur of the moment: what occurs in a line, across a line, from poem to poem. I'm going to write ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred (?) (!) ... and pick the best. Golden rule: just keep going. ( - what happens the moment things free up at work).

morse solids

now culminates
the atmospheric cryptogram
true theory of outré
a punctured has been
whatever remains
cobbling the improbable
a shrill call drops from the flaw
significant lifting
the speciousness of origin
pinned to a plan in a pen
the nest is flown and empty
sob cut short incense


cherubic boy
in chapbook tones
cropped below the crotch
comic strip relic
from the chapel of moths
how to move
from love to aesthetics
physics spins specifics
in a circular humdrum
can facts soften
the rough edges of life


start from scratch
seed for second sowing
if a man’s hoe breaks
borrow another one
osiris says
vulture signifies mother
osiris says
culture dignifies murder
solar and lunar
ox fish bird star
a handful of dates
and the word for life is the word for arrow


as the azaleas
in visible antithesis
lube blues
why not just middle in
signature style
thought inverted commas
feeling smudged
rhythmic into surface flux
hard-edged extremes
colour in existence
this dance which is inductive of this
scribble in minimum


Saturday, December 13, 2008

marking marking marking marking marking marking

On the plus side - an extract from one of the exam papers has sent me back to Don Delillo's White Noise. Reading the first few chapters I see a lot of Peter Gizzi in there. Something to do with the shift between cold factual banality and a sense of unspecific menace.

And now and again a sentence such as "Rain is a noun".


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"A poetry painted with every jarring color and juxtaposition, every simultaneous order and disorder, every deliberate working, every movement toward one thing deformed into another. Painted with every erosion and scraping away, every blurring, every showing through, every wiping out and every replacement, with every dismemberment of the figure and assault on creation, every menace and response, every transformation of the color and reforming of the parts, necessary to express the world. ...

"... For writing is a graphic art, and a word projects either stroke or color. As it is born, a poem is drawn. It can begin with a figure or a line. It can begin to clothe a cartoon or about the idea of anything. It begins to paint itself. It can be made with a pencil or a knife, with a pen or a recorder, or with a keyboard contraption that strikes the paper. It requires patience, approach, observation, technique, impulse, intent, alternation, energy, and obsession. ...

"I consider the enterprise of poetry therefore to be musical and graphic at once, more than literary. For how much more illuminating and amusing it is (MUSIC/MOSAIC, belonging to the muses) to compose language, or to paint poetry, than to simply write it.

As should a book be as deep as a museum and as wide as the world."

(Stephen Rodefer, 'Preface' in Four Lectures, 1982)

In parliamentary terms: "hear! hear!"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One reason for the hiatus in posting is the arrival (yesterday) of Stephen Rodefer's Selected Poems. The extracts from 'Four Lectures' are terrific - and make me hungry for the entire volume. I see it used to be available as an online pdf but seems to have been deleted. Anyone know to the contrary?

I'm sad to hear that Oliver Postgate has died. To him I owe a childhood haunted by Pippin and Tog, the Pogles, the strange Plant, the Pipe Cleaner People and low budget animation which continues to enchant. The Clangers were good too, of course.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I've been doing a little bit of research and discovered that the voice of Life Without Buildings belongs to Sue Tompkins who - post LWB - has been working as a 'sound artist' (wouldn't 'poet' do just as well?).

Above is a YouTube link. Go to
for a much longer dose.

It all makes sense - those lyrics (wouldn't 'poems' do?) for LWB were just too good to have come out of nowhere and then disappear for good. Does she need the music, though? That's a good question. I'm listening to Live at the Annandale as I type and find it astonishing how she veers around, dives within, glides over the rhythms working between drums, bass and guitar. Phrases are like flicks of paint - fully gestural - sense but one component of what the language is doing. You catch onto a sense unit (what did she say?) at the risk of losing another collision of half syllable stutterings or a lullaby cadence. The same phrase but different intonations seems to open up words within words, adjacent vowel sounds, slurrings, a sudden discovery and another direction. She stalls on a line - as if the needle's stuck - but it sets up a counter rhythm to the band. Really exciting stuff. I've read a lot about Schoenberg's sprechstimme and failed to get through Pierrot Lunaire several times. It sounds just too damn cerebral for my ears. Whereas LWB - why not say it? - rock. Here's spittle cheekiness pazazz - the style's catching. 

Watching her perform in a more 'art' context I'm reminded of my daughters: pure uninhibited vocal play. Hums, half-remembered song lines, little jigs, the body and voice working before poise and self-image set in. Glossolalia.

The 'visual' work looks interesting too: kind of Bob Cobbing meets Eva Hesse's notebooks.

One of Belgianwaffle's 2008 highlights. For sure.

"If I - if I - if I - do - do - do - do - gee - gee - gee ... " 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Just to prove we're still here amid all the last-few-please-read-my-personal-statement-have -you-marked-my-essay-we-have-a-meeting-at-lunchtime-can you-pick-up-the-girls-and-we've-run-out-of-bread weeks of early December hassle, a quotation from Jack Spicer:

"Even the subconscious is not patient enough for poetry."


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Looking into work by Eva Hesse again. Here's a drawing - not sure whether she did it 'from life' or not.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The received wisdom - as I remember it during tutorials - was that Swinburne was 'unsound'. To put it another way: too much sound and too little thought. Which sounds to me as though what was meant by 'thought' in a poem might be worth rethinking?

'Poems and Ballads' arrived yesterday. It will interesting to see (& hear) what's actually going on in the poems. Zounds!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Watching the BBC4 interview with Quentin Blake just now, I discover that he met and drew Frank Zappa.

Two gods collide.
and here's another (the last one in the book):

The Complete Introductory Lectures on Poetry

To Ted Berrigan

It was when the words on the covers of books,
titles as true as false leaves led me to believe
in inviting the ultimate speculation of love –
that I could learn all of the subject –
that I first began to entertain what is sublime

Like a moth I thought by reading Jokes and
Their Relation to the Unconscious
or Beyond
the Pleasure Principle
or Eat the Weeds or
The Origin of the Species or even a book on
Coup d’Etats or The Problem of Anxiety I
could accomplish all the knowledge the titles implied

Science that there is often more
in the notes on the back of a discarded envelope,
grammar in the shadows slanted on the wall
of the too bright night to verify the city light

and then awakening, babies, to turn and make notes
on the dream’s public epigrams and one’s own
weaknesses, self that’s prone to epigrammatic ridicule

and to meditate on fears of all the animal dangers
plus memories of reptilian appellations for all
our stages of learning to swim at a past day camp

It is to think this or that might include all
or enough to entertain all those who already know
that in this century of private apartments
though knowledge might be coveted hardly anything
is shared except penurious poetry, she or he
who still tends to titles as if all of us
are reading a new book called The New Life.

(Bernadette Mayer)

another version of this poem prints a full stop after "implied". I prefer the slippage of sense allowed here by the absence of punctuation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This arrived today - and I wasn't even aware that it had been published yet. A great start to the week.

This one caught my eye - as it would any pedantic English teacher:

I used to write "alot" until I learned
It was properly "a lot", do we care if it's
A lot or alot? I always thought a lot
Meant a lot & alot alot, apparently my mistake
I send you a lot of love, a lot of love!
I allot to you my allotment of love totally

My pet theory (sorry) used to be dog food. However, I don't think they sell it over here in Belgium and still I see A LOT of ALOTs in essays.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I've listened to this song over and over again today.

The kind of jolt Annabella Lwin and Bow Wow Wow delivered when I first heard them at Ben's house in Leeds. Like plugging into the mains. That kind of energy. It's great!

days like television, days like television ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I can't remember when I last took out a CD from the Mediatheque (a double at that) and loved EVERY single track - 44 in all.

Highlights: LilPUT, Pigbag, Life Without Buildings, Flying Lizards, Liquid Liquid (yum yum!), Bush Tetras, James White, 23 Skidoo (oh yes!).

Sheer joy, bounce, edge, in yer face, happening ...

My ears were elsewhere late 70s & early 80s. More's the pity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


eleven eleven


not sure about the title, though.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The mysterious A. C. Marias (aka Angela Conway) who sings on track 2 'Cruel When Complete' (Dome 1).


Rolling upon my day
With weakness in my vision
The separate event
The growing up to reason
Convinces me that
Something very special
Something rather fine
Something all together
Is totally divine
I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
I feel it in my breakfast
And even in my clothes
I feel it in my sofa
I feel it in my chair
I feel it in my toothbrush
And sometimes
Sometimes in my hair
Sometimes in my hair

I heard this first on a poor quality BASF C90 cassette one autumn evening in 1985. No track listing. Just a scrawled 'DOME' down the cassette card spine.

I bought this album - yes, vinyl - thinking it was the one:

It wasn't. 

But I quite liked it all the same. Certainly it impressed a few people at parties. "You've got this ... wow!" (Actually, I think it was the cover that I liked most).

So, getting the CD containing Dome 1 & 2 in the post today was a 'These You Have Loved' moment. And I still think 'Rolling Upon My Day' is damn good.

(this post's for Lawrence - if you're out there)


Other news: a malingering insidious cold which has sapped energy & the will to Blog. Frustrating.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wake up with the name Ban-ki Moon in my head.


The woods are misty this morning, the colours duller. A new routine has established itself this week - an hour's walk between 8:30 and 9:30 after dropping the girls off.

The first morning phrases kept forming and fading. I did my best on getting home to scribble them down. Tuesday morning I deliberately took pen and notebook. Inevitably, little came - far too self conscious.

Yesterday I took the girls and a one-hour walk turned into two hours (time for hide and seek, stick finding, stitches, cold noses, groans and moans).

Yet, I've got a new idea based upon an old notebook. And other things are taking shape. I'm rethinking what this Blog is for as against the value of working more between the covers of a notebook. I'm even thinking about handwriting, looking at pages by Philip Whalen in particular. The discipline of shaping letters with the pen and hand rather than the keyboard.

So while it's hard to specify how - or why - but I think these walks have been doing me good.


Watched this yesterday afternoon with the girls. The central message seems to be: you wait for the wave and then ride it. And you do it because you love it.

Always good to keep this in mind.


Reading Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier between times.


A method:

Take an old notebook (one that seems dull or especially distant from your current interests). Go through page by page taking phrases that catch your eye. Give some phrases their own space. Others place in proximity. Number the sections. When the book is exhausted, read through the sections/phrases. Listen to what they say - at different times of day and from different perspectives - and the directions they suggest. Try to read as someone else. Then work back into them: shaping, extending, rearranging, interpolating other material.

I'll see what comes out of this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wot a pranker ...

The other evening I found myself watching a televised football match and finding it unusually exciting. The players seemed to be genuinely competitive, there was a sense of urgency, the very ground seemed more 'present', the grass - well, grassier. Turns out, it was a minor Irish league match - one of the joys of freeview satellite TV.

The current Ross-Brand-Sachs-BBC scandal makes me think of this. There's the BBC's apologetic use of the word "prank". For me, "prank" covers such things as childish behaviour: the old bag of flour over the door routine as the teacher walks in. Even by university the term starts to wear thin. (I once sat through an Oxford local magistrate's court session in which a vagrant was given six months for stealing sandwiches from a local Boots, while a group of undergraduates were given a warning for having caused damages to college and public property to the tune of a several thousand pounds. Her Honour was reminded that they were due to leave for a skiing holiday the next day ...).

I've contributed to the BBC 'Have Your Say' and I see the comment is yet to be approved for appropriate language use and absence of sexual or racist content (there's an irony!). I express the opinion that Ross and Brand are - as many so-called celebrities - grossly overpaid in comparison with others working for the BBC (e.g. good old journalists) and in Britain as a whole. Pranks are fine - but not when you're on 18 million pound contracts. We're no longer talking pocket money.

However, I think it goes deeper. There's a strange twist: that the 'appeal' of Ross and Brand is (apparently) due to their common touch. The same is being said for Sarah Palin. It's a thoroughly fraudulent claim and insincere, too. As we all know (or should) Ross and Brand will be heavily supported by agents, promoters, scriptwriters etc.. They move within a highly privileged world of media insiderism. Contracts, book deals, movie projects will be organized for them way beyond the dreams of 'average' folk. No one will be more protective of their 'professional' rights (invasion of privacy issues, deals with magazines for photo shoots, negotiations for expected earnings and compensatory fees, star listing prerogatives). We're so gullible: dear old Jonathan - he's one of us ... .

And the funny thing is - the average bloke down the pub is more amusing than Ross or Brand. Just as there are "hockey moms" who are more vicious and politically astute than Palin but lack the promotional team (or self delusion). Smell a rat when someone in politics claims to be just like you. Who are they kidding? And why? 

Might the current credit crunch usher in a new 'realism'? That inflation in its widest sense - market values, political claims, footballers' salaries, media hype - has been revealed for the confidence trick it always was? That just because it's on a screen, talked up or blessed by 'the Media' doesn't automatically confer value. 

So why not give 18 million people across the nation one pound to make a funnier telephone call and broadcast the results? It might be money well spent. And perhaps more in tune with the BBC's remit. 

(anyone reading remember Saturday evenings and Simon Dee?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two further albums by Vashti Bunyan.

This one from 1970 ...

and this one from 2007 ...

They're about as close to Folk as I can manage and I'm not at all sure why I like them so much. Whatever. There is something persuasive about the voice - so closely miked the words keep their breath. Listening to Just Another Diamond Day it's Blake and nursery rhymes that come to mind - plus the kind of dark intimations behind Feste's songs. Lookaftering is unnerving for the emotional directness and sweetness of the couple of songs I've heard so far. (Somehow 'tracks' isn't the word - too digitalised. Unless the 'spoor' sense can be unearthed beneath).

You could make comparisons with Joni Mitchell (the early pre-jazz albums especially) and Kate Bush (minus the volume and histrionics) although neither would do her justice. Syd Barrett (the vulnerability), Viv Stanshall (the melancholy string settings), perhaps the more recent stripped-down P.J. Harvey (the step back from The Biz) ... a bit closer yet still not really hitting the essential quality.

Fascinating music - that's for sure.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Four 'Thank you' cards by Lara Belgianwaffle.

One proud Dad.

Riddles of Form

“that that”

Simon Perrill’s tautologies


I resume where I left off. The hiatus is due to the usual distractions entailed by school. I make good resolutions and then find the energy has dissipated: grading, planning, day-to-day issues take their toll.

Which is a reason in itself to find Simon Perrill’s volume ‘Hearing is Itself Suddenly a Kind of Singing’ impressive. It’s there. He seems to be able to juggle academic and family life and get the writing done (as well as some visual work I gather). I have nothing but admiration and respect.

I’m increasingly aware as to how Riddles of Form is a not so subtle act of appropriation ("hypocrite lecteur ...") . A way of mapping out the territory, taking bearings on writers, trying to see where to go. And, in a sense, I feel close to Simon Perrill without ever having met him. I opened ‘Hearing’ with a mixture of excitement and trepidation: wanting it to be good but not that good. Leave a little room! (If you follow me).

I’m going to look at the first poem in the collection – ‘i was cut out for this’ - which appears as part of ‘An Address Book’ knowing that this must be a relatively early text (1996?) and that later work might go in other directions.

My reason for choosing it is that on first reading I was left feeling decidedly lukewarm: the poem felt like a set of procedures and too evidently informed by Perrill’s reading. The poem moves fairly clearly from text and memory to linguistics and music to textual copying to text and textile to nautical metaphorics closing with linguistics and fashion. Or, to put it another way, Derrida, Barthes, Saussure, Freud, Lacan taking in J.H. Prynne and Tom Raworth on the way.

However, if the first question forming in my mind was: is this poetry anything but an illustration of theory? The second question that occurs me is: how can writing occur in the knowledge of such theory, embody it by taking it further, or somewhere else? Rather than the “score ... printed on the finest tracing paper”, it’s the challenge of a mapping as outlined by Deleuze: “plug the tracings back into the map, connect the roots or trees back up with a rhizome”.

You can find the entire poem at:,M1


The title of the poem is instructive: ‘i was cut out for this’. Note the lower case ‘i’, of course. The personal pronoun – the index finger of identity - is problematic right from the start. Perrill plays with identity and typography in subsequent poems too: “tough on the type”, “to cap it all” (‘A Manifest O’) as just one set of examples. He seems drawn to idioms, particularly those that see-saw meaning. Thus, the title: ‘cut out for’ in the sense of chosen or excluded? Then there’s the knowing nod at collage and the construction of the Self as a process of editing. And there’s an equally knowing postmodern flattening of linguistic reference: as if – literally – a letter ‘i’ was cut out to make the word ‘this’ in some simulation of a crime novel message. (Alternatively there’s that Iain Sinclair poem ‘The Moon Rises Like The Dot On An ‘i’’). Perrill is also preparing for his final flourish – the tmesis on ‘address’ in the final line.


Collage processes seem to inform the poem in other ways. I’m not sure that the very composition owes something to excised lines which are then reassembled. However, it’s more the way Perrill works syntax and grammar. Verses 3 and 4 work by parallelism: “laughing ...” and “exhibiting ...”. Verses 6 and 7 seem intially separate sense units and then the “is” refers back to “the score”. The eye travels across the edge between the phrases and glues them together. A similar effect is achieved moving from the title to verse 1 and on to verse 2. Sense is anticipatory and delayed.

Then there’s Perrill’s love of a phrase – in fact, I get the impression that this is the driving force of the early poems I’ve read (more than, say, sound or rhythm*). Line one is a good example of his jamming of two phrases together:

“as an unpublished article of faith”

The scholarly (“unpublished article”) and the religious (“Article of faith”) are grafted together and produce a catchy third sense which is at once throwaway and knowing. We’re meant to get the jivey almost ad-man wit while appreciating graduate student reading in ideology, linguistics and language philosophy.

It’s worth for a second citing a few lines from Out to Lunch (aka Ben Watson) taken pretty much at random from ‘Nine to Zero’:

tremor of the lower lip, the spittle-
bedecked parting of the flesh-ways:
throttled beavers brook an absence

Yes, Lunch’s line is more visceral and physical – those syllabic juices set running by the assonantal odours – but the third line is recognizably Perrill. Nature, genitalia and lyricism collide although – for me at least – the effect is less ‘knowing’ more at the mercy of the language drive.

Both Perrill and Lunch seem to be indebted to Joyce (then again, who isn’t?) and – I’d say – early Prynne. Verses 3, 4 and 5 of Perrill’s poem are pretty much a statement of poetics:

laughing like a good sound
wrapped around the ears

exhibiting an emblem
of a hardly held idea

you figure it out
of all available proportions

It’s knowing linguistic play, the signifier given its head at the expense of the signified. And it’s the “you figure it out” which sounds the Prynne note for me (the opening of ‘The Numbers’ comes to mind: “The whole thing it is, the difficult/ matter: to shrink the confines/ down”). There’s that surprising directness of address simultaneous to a literal and figurative uncertainty. Vocabularies compete and coexist.

I am also interested in the way Perrill works off phrases – what you could call an ‘allusive idiomatics’. Look at verse 3 again. The two lines seem to depend on a set of unstated but ‘heard’ phrases: ‘a box on the ears’, ‘a sound telling off’, ‘a scarf wrapped about your ears’ and the punning ‘wrapped’/’rapped’. And, as often happens in his poems, there’s the street-wise use of music styles and technology. Here, Rap and – given it’s the mid-90s – headphones and Discman.


I had assumed that this was most of what was going on and not much for the ear. However, Perrill’s poems are working in some interesting acoustic ways beyond the more ‘conceptual’ sonic play of puns (one example: notice how he assumes an equally knowing reader as he slides from the “cut out” of the title to editorial excision “unpublished” to “curates” with its shadow sound ‘curettes’ which is the activity of removing morbid matter with a scoop to the final cut of “a dress”).

In this particular poem he seems to be drawn to nasal sounds – ‘m’ and ‘n’s: “unpublished”, “mnemonic”, “museum” ... “relation”, “sunnier”. This pattern declares itself also in syllabic resemblances which also play for the eye:

mne / mon + ic

mu / se / um **

em / bl / em

pro / por / tions

As well as echoic movements: “call” to “all” which occurs twice; “hardly held”; the “skin” to “tracing” to “skein” development.

However, it’s this line which is of most interest:

like that that accumulates on milk

I’ll admit that it’s not a pretty line and - in some ways – you could even say ‘bad’? Yet the clumsiness seems justified. As I see it, the whole poem risks tautology – a saying the same thing: “knowing the score/ is printed on the finest tracing paper”. Just how thin a layer separates? How far can Perrill milk it before everything sours? 

Stale cheese or creme fraiche?

That. That "that". 

That’s the risk. And why I’ll read on in ‘Hearing’ with interest.


* whereas Lisa Jarnot's poems - see recent post - work by wave-like cadences. Ear-led thought with a much more evident sense of lines as 'voiced'. Perrill's line movement, by contrast, seems much more intellectualized and page bound. 

** and the two placed together on the line:

mnemonic museum

form a little visual poem of cloistered arches and columns the eye walks through

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Then ...

and now ...

I happened on this one in the Mediatheque. From the (dodgy?) cover image I assumed it was a soundtrack from some rare Godard/Anna Karin film of the sixties. The name conjured up hippy-India-psychedelic trippiness meets English folk traditions (and she is - it seems - a descendant of the John Bunyan). Then the title suggested an 80's art school-punkette collection. All rather confusing really. Is the music any good? I've only listened to a few songs and they're interesting for not quite being there. Rather like Syd Barrett's solo work - or Kevin Ayers: rough round the edges but speaking from somewhere else. Worth pursuing, I think.

Another find, this time from the art bookshop down the Rue du Bailli. One of a series of books - 10 cm x 10 cm - 'petites histoires' combining words and images. I love the determinedly handmade feel: scribbles, doodles, sticky tape & sketchbook stuff. There's a site at

Monday, October 20, 2008

Today's class:

You, Armadillo

You, armadillo, the dark and stately shape of armadillo, the street the shape of armadillo, the arm of armadillo in the cask of snow, the cask of snow in armadillo in the taxi in the snow, the taxi cab of armadillo, the shape of texas like an armadillo, the snow that falls in texas in the armadillo snow, the armadillo running through the street to zoos in arm's length near the snow, the there you are where I am not an armadillo that does not light the way, who likes to draw the armadillo in the foothills of the stars, the stars of armadillo flesh on grills and acrobats who eat them, the eaten armadillos and the circus freaks and jerks of stars, the casks of snow on stars in flames, the bus boy armadillo, the snow storm armadillo, exploding armadillo in the tent of night where stars are poles of armadillos lacking fur and walking through the galleries like pansies in the rain, the simple bird of armadillo, the armadillo armadillo in the blades of grass that drift inside the armadillo dressed like stars inside the blades of night.

(Lisa Jarnot)


Let Moses, the Man of God, bless with a Lizard, in the sweet majesty of good-nature, and the magnanimity of meekness.

Let Joshua praise God with an Unicorn - the swiftness of the Lord, and the strength of the Lord, and the spear of the Lord mighty in battle.

Let Caleb with an Ounce praise the Lord of the Land of beauty and rejoice in the blessing of his good Report.

Let Othniel praise God with the Rhinoceros, who put on his armour for the reward of beauty in the Lord.

Let Tola bless with the Toad, which is the good creature of God, tho' his virtue is in the secret, and his mention is not made.

Let Barak praise with the Pard - and great is the might of the faithful and great is the Lord in the nail of Jael and in the sword of the Son of Abinoam.

Let Gideon bless with the Panther - the Word of the Lord is invincible by him that lappeth from the brook.

Let Jotham praise with the Urchin, who took up his parable and provided himself for the adversary to kick against the pricks.

Let Boaz, the Builder of Judah, bless with the Rat, which dwelleth in hardship and peril, that they may look to themselves and keep their houses in order.

Let Obed-Edom with a Dormouse praise the Name of the Lord God his Guest for increase of his store and for peace.

Let Abishai bless with the Hyaena - the terror of the Lord, and the fierceness, of his wrath against the foes of the King and of Israel.

Let Ethan praise with the Flea, his coat of mail, his piercer, and his vigour, which wisdom and providence have contrived to attract observation and to escape it.

Let Heman bless with the Spider, his warp and his woof, his subtlety and industry, which are good.

Let Chalcol praise with the Beetle, whose life is precious in the sight of God, tho his appearance is against him.

Let Darda with a Leech bless the Name of the Physician of body and soul.

(from Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart)
"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."

(The Book of James)

Caught this on the radio this morning while shaving.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I've noticed a tendency - call it a trend - amongst various Bloggers I keep up with to set a reading target. One hundred, one thousand - name the figure - volumes of poetry or novels or a combination of the two.

I find myself asking why?

There's the Woody Allen joke about taking a speed reading course and getting through 'War and Peace' in record time. "It's about Russia".

I find myself - there I am, again - walking in the opposite direction. Reading fewer books but (I hope) better.

What's the rush? What's the prize? Who's counting? A (self) justification of tenure? A peculiar sense of reading as capital?*

As, today, I reread some poems in Lisa Jarnot's 'Black Dog Songs' - the Early & Uncollected first section items. They're the right words for the one hour I have free.

put all the tea cups and the things
still left I never cannot name.

(from 'Altered States')


* or: - as I noticed a colleague say over lunch - she was "embarrassed" not to have read Great Expectations. Why? Who can read everything that is worth reading? (And how insufferable such a person would be?)

I remember Derrida's insistence upon having read only a few books. After all, there's reading - and there's reading.
After having read Glenn Gould's essay on his 'Desert Island Discs' (Orlando Gibbons' Hymns & Anthems, Sibelius' 5th Symphony, Schnabel playing Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto) I drag Emma around Fnac & find the first two.

I've just listened to the Sibelius all the way through and admit to being utterly underwhelmed.

Is it due to Gould's recommendation which somehow creates false expectations? Nothing short of an epiphany will do?

Is there some kind of 'contagion' expectation - that if Person I Admire likes This then This must automatically be Good? Perhaps.

Is it something about my ears and symphonic music? Probably.

Which set me thinking about a list of orchestral music which does do something for me. In no particular order:

1. Beethoven's Symphonies: 3, 5, 7 & 9 plus the Piano Concertos

2. Stravinsky's Ballets: Firebird, Petrushka & The Rite of Spring plus Symphony In Three Movements

3. Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony & plenty more

4. Mahler: no.s 1,2,3 & 5 especially

5. Bartok: Piano Concertos, the Concerto for Orchestra

6. Britten: Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes

7. Webern: in small doses (no joke intended)

8. Schoenberg & Berg: the lush stuff

9. Ravel: Piano Concertos & plenty more

10. Debussy: Jeux (otherwise it's more the solo piano & string pieces)

11. Wagner: opening of Rheingold plus the Siegfrid Idyll (i.e. without voices!)

12. Varese: what else do you expect from a Zappaphile?

Is there any sense to the list? A predilection for colour & texture? Rhythm? Fragmentation of form?

And why Sibelius - like Brahms - leaves me cold?

If anyone could enlighten me, I'd be very grateful. What am I missing?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Belgianwaffle & friend caught in conversation at the University Library of Leuven.


I took pictures of a tiny fragment of Homer's Odyssey and a letter in Thomas More's handwriting. Sadly, they just don't transfer well enough. (More's calligraphy is especially beautiful - the sense of the page, line spacing and the letter shapes (those 'g's'!)).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Standing in Blackwell's Oxford browsing along the poetry shelves. Except it is not at all like the current shop. There are bare wooden floorboards, an airier feel, pale blue-grey decor. I realise that it is, in fact, the French seaside hotel in Picardy we go to once a year - Les Tourelles.

I want to buy a little City Lights volume of Sonnets - but can't identify the name on the cover. I take it to the till for gift wrapping. There's a rather precious sales assistant, he has the typical Oxford dither and mannerisms of a Bodleian librarian I vaguely remember. He's irritated by the squat format which won't fit the gift wrap sheet. He turns the book this way and that. Exasperated, I take the book and clumsily bundle it up. Then I go upstairs to pay - they're operating the old Foyles style of getting a chit.

Upstairs, the sales assistants are gorging themselves on thick slices of chocolate cake, flapjacks, jam sponges. The English bookshop cafe craze taken to an extreme. The cash point is both coffee shop and the old British Library book collection desk. It seems to be their daily routine - one endless tea party. I'm appalled at the health consequences yet tempted all the same as one assistant sinks his teeth into a wedge of cake.

(Some delayed unconscious reaction to last week's announcement about library proposals? Or darker motives ...?)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

'The Cow'

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.


I'm working with one class on some Ogden Nash poems. My belief - hope? - is that by looking at comic writing many of the essentials of poetic language (diction, rhythm, sound, etc.) stand out in greater relief.

A seemingly inconsequential poem such as 'The Cow' opens up the power of rhyme as Nash rhymes "ilk" with "milk". For me, it's the juxtaposition of the abstract noun with such an ordinary, daily, unremarkable concrete noun. Two separate orders of language and experience are suddenly brought into adjacency simply through a chance resemblance of sound. And the texture of "ilk" - spiky, awkward, still dragging on its Anglo Saxon roots - at odds with its conceptual, categorical sense.

Another example, perhaps, of the humour latent within L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Apparently it's Paddington's 50th birthday today. 

I grew up with him & the Wafflettes are big fans. So - Happy Birthday & marmalade sandwiches.

... reading back that post I'm not sure it really makes sense. I 'am' no longer a schoolboy and so - technically - 'am' remembering as an embittered forty-four-year-old. Perhaps the grammatical-temporal error is revealing. I'll leave the post as is. 

Am I also starting to sound like Alan Bennett? 


Old School Ties

As an acne-ridden little swot in Upper Shell, I remember an afternoon English class with clarity & shame. The teacher (who I revered with something approaching utter worship)* had been ill for some weeks. As he entered the class, someone asked whether he had marked our essays. He made some apology. I, in turn, muttered sotto voce : "excuses". It must have been loud enough for him to hear.

Unsurprisingly, I was shown the door and told to "learn some manners".

I stood outside on the stairwell cringing with embarrassment.

It just so happened that the Headmaster happened to pass by on one of his infrequent rounds. Why was I standing outside the classroom? I explained. He nodded. "See that you do" - and passed on.

The lesson went deep.

I've been thinking about this incident today and wondering how times have changed.


* strangely, interviewing in my previous job, I met a candidate who'd been taught by the very same teacher. I heard again that intonation and certain turns of phrase and inflections which she'd absorbed.

What, I shudder to think, will my students take away from our classes? My recurrent tic of "to be honest"? Or a series of unconsciously inherited gestures and prejudices from my generations of teachers? Just how much do we owe? 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Interesting use of "distressed" in this morning's religious programme. The BBC clearly believe that it would be unseemly to describe bishops as being angry (or worse).


The move from Deleuze's philosophy to Ballard's fictions not - in retrospect - so strange. Predictable, in fact?


12th October & it's warm enough to sit on the terrace reading in the sun.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Just listened to this to rinse the (increasingly dull) Hooverphonic stuff out of my ears.

'Slightly All The Time' is a key track.

Pretty ghastly group photo, not very good sound quality - but who cares? The music is wonderful.

In the pool by 8 am (the first swim this week due to the nagging cold). Haircut. Immediately feel better - does the massaging & fingering of the scalp trigger neuronal activity below the bone?

Get out a selection of Hooverphonic CDs & - listening to them later - realise I am famiiar with several songs. They're all BBC documentary backing track material. Ideal for a solo driving. Life as TV. Etcetera.

Dig out J.G. Ballard's 'The Atrocity Exhibition' - one of many volumes that have been sulking on the shelves for a year or two. I'm immediately captured by the fragmentary narrative and short paragraph 'chapters'. Where's this book been? Why haven't I read it before? Ballard's later annotations are as good as (even better than?) the original text. ("Deep assignments run through all our lives; there are no coincidences.")

Tonight: moules & frites. 

Friday, October 10, 2008


In bewilderment
Telling bewilderment

(This is my 'contribution' to 'Issue 1' - the fake anthology mentioned in Ron Silliman's Blog. I'm not sure it's so far from the truth).

"Poetry which liberates certain forces in language, permits them to emerge upon the void of silence, not poetry which seeks merely to express most effectively or most beautifully or most musically some preconceived idea or perception."

(Frank O'Hara, in a talk - cited by Edward Mendelson in his review, NYRB, 25 September 2008)

I'd never come across this statement before. 

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"People would be able to chat, drink coffee and watch videos in English libraries under a new government proposal, The Independent has learnt. Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, will today launch a consultation on changing the face of libraries which he believes are out of touch.

Under the proposals, libraries could install coffee franchises, book shops and film centres. Noise bans will also be reviewed. Mr Burnham will tell the Public Library Authorities conference in Liverpool that libraries must "look beyond the bookcase and not sleepwalk into the era of the e-book"."

You can read more in today's Independent:

How can people get it so wrong? Don't they realise that there are already so many voices in the library - and that is why you have to be so quiet to hear them speaking on the page.

That scene in Wenders' 'Wings of Desire' comes to mind.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Specimens of cases, specimens of scenes or views (scenes, shows, or sights). Sometimes the specimens are in cases, in which coexistent parts are separated by intervals of space ... and sometimes they are specimens of views, in which the successive phases of a movement are separated by intervals of time ... In both instances, the law is that of fragmentation. The fragments are grains, "granulations". Selecting singular cases and minor scenes is more important than any consideration of the whole. It is in the fragments that the hidden background appears, be it celestial or demonic."

A description of the Joseph Cornell's boxes?

In fact, Deleuze on Whitman.



o so late ocelot oscillate o soleil



o zoo o so ozu owes who



thin in the theremin therein


I think I am starting a cold.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

... on page 152 of 'Anti-Oedipus' ... amazing what clarity current circumstances bring ... 

"If one wants to understand how desire is induced, managed and channelled into socially sanctioned avenues, then one needs to know how banking works, for it is banks that orchestrate this new arrangement of filiation and alliance." (Ian Buchanan, p 108, Deleuze & Guattari's 'Anti-Oedipus')

Thursday, October 02, 2008

... despite the best of intentions the familiar malaise descended - as the absence of Blog posts attests.

I've been reading 'Towards a Minor Literature' and picking up (and putting down) various short stories. Kafka's novels beckon, too. 

I've started in on 'Human, Too Human' & find all sorts of new thoughts triggered by Deleuze's text. 

One shelf is stacked with a month's - a year's - five year's worth of reading. 

Meanwhile the essays and personal statements and tests accumulate in plastic files. 

I write comments in the margin.

Energy is sapped. The momentum goes. A slow drip. 

Listlessness. Self-loathing. September of the Soul.

It'll pass. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

When I was growing up there was a man who lived up the road. Brigadier Something-or-Other was his name. He wore a bowler hat, read the Telegraph, took the same train every morning from Farnborough to Waterloo and sat in the same first class compartment. He was - as they say - something in the City. 

Then it all changed. Being something in the City meant something else. I remember Viv Stanshall in an interview lamenting the disappearance of 'insouciance'. 

Thatcher. Reagan. There are other names.

And now.

This week. Last week. And the week before that. A feeling of having watched something developing in slow motion. Each headline seems to have been written years ago yet only now coming to fruition. It's tempting to say "I told you so" but are my hands clean?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

spend this evening listening to Ghedalia Tazartes' CD 'Diasporas'.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tomorrow I'm heading back for Brussels.

It's been a strange week but - fingers crossed - everything's looking good.

An enormous thank you to the surgeons and nurses at the Atkinson Morley wing of St. George's for looking after my Dad. In a week when the stockmarket has been seesawing up and down I know to whom I'd award six figure bonuses.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm packing the laptop & so who knows - I might squeeze in a post or two.

If all goes to plan, normal service will be resumed in a week's time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

change of plan: ferry from Calais then drive! ETA mid-afternoon Sunday.
& now the Eurostar is out of action. It just gets better. Will things be up and running by Sunday morning? I hope so ...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dear old England ... trying to arrange car insurance for next week and discovering all the obstacles that have been created if you live abroad, don't have a UK licence, etc. And car rental isn't much easier - and costs an arm and a leg.

Dear old England ... where hospitals rearrange operations at the last minute and throw all your plans awry.

If you're around the St Pancras area 9am on Sunday morning let me know.


Starting to teach 'Heart of Darkness' (how many times now?) and a colleague lends me 'Deconstruction in a Nutshell' a series of conversations with Jacques Derrida. Years ago these kinds of coincidences were commonplace - today I found that funny tingling down the spine again.


Radio 4 early morning while shaving: the bee problem. Due to the bad weather bees are suffering. The expert explains the effect of a large raindrop on the bee's flight. Sudden sense of Deleuzeian becoming.


"So I think we have to read them again and again and I feel that, however old I am, I am on the threshold of reading Plato and Aristotle. I love them and I feel I have to start again and again and again. It is a task which is in front of me, before me." (Derrida, The Villanova Roundtable, p.9)

This kind of statement cheers me enormously.
keep it to yourself

write it down


language being only social

banks with the most branches are shadiest


you're so alienated you don't even know it

of course i took it as a compliment


(from 'Lines', in David Bromige's The Harbormaster of Hong Kong)

Once again, it's the discovery of a little form that allows something to happen. Bernadette Mayer pulls this off again and again.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Reading Claire Colebrook's 'Deleuze' (Routledge Critical Thinkers) on and off throughout the week. The chapter on 'Minor Literature' makes me realise I have to do a complete rethink of 'Riddles of Form'. So much she touches on is relevant and suggests ways of developing ideas. e.g. my reiteration that I do not know how to read Ray DiPalma.

The good news: that I can now see ways to explore.

The bad news: five classes to teach Monday-Friday. And that's before marking.


Tomorrow: 'Jabberwocky'. (Which, I see, forms a key part of 'The Logic of Sense').

Il était Roparant, et les Vliqueux tarands
Allaient en gibroyant et en brimbulkdriquant
Jusque-là où la rourghe est à rouarghe à ramgmbde et rangmbde à rouarghambde:
Tous les falomitards étaient les chats-huants
Et les Ghoré Uk'hatis dans le Grabugeument

(Antonin Artaud)


Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

«Prends garde au Jabberwock, mon fils!
A sa gueule qui mord, à ses griffes qui happent!
Gare l'oiseau Jubjube, et laisse
En paix le frumieux Bandersnatch!»

Le jeune homme, ayant pris sa vorpaline épée,
Cherchait longtemps l'ennemi manziquais...
Puis, arrivé près de l'Arbre Tépé,
Pour réfléchir un instant s'arrêtait.

Or, comme il ruminait de suffêches pensées,
Le Jabberwock, l'oeil flamboyant,
Ruginiflant par le bois touffeté,
Arrivait en barigoulant.

Une, deux! Une, deux! D'outre en outre!
Le glaive vorpalin virevolte, flac-vlan!
Il terrasse le monstre, et, brandissant sa tête,
Il s'en retourne galomphant.

«Tu as donc tué le Jabberwock!
Dans mes bras, mon fils rayonnois!
O jour frabieux! Callouh! Callock!»
Le vieux glouffait de joie.

Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

(Henri Parisot)


Thursday, September 04, 2008

lined up for tomorrow's class: 'What the Chairman told Tom' (Bunting), 'Constantly risking absurdity' (Ferlinghetti) and 'The Poet' (Stewart Home). An introductory series of classes to sound out preconceptions about what poetry 'is'.

I'll be interested to see what they make of these texts. What would I have made of them - aged 16 - for that matter?


looks like I'll be in the UK next week


Deleuze & time - plenty to think about here

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sonnet (in One Line)

I am anxious too to see the Author of the Sonnet to the Sun


first day back at the chalk face and this arrives unexpectedly. Strange.

First taste last night ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The satellite reception back in operation means we get BBC TV in its full glory. 

This evening I had the misfortune to tune into the Proms coverage which has been given a - what's the word? - make-over. Vaughan Williams is the unfortunate being given the treatment.

Appalled, I switch to ITV and find Simon Cowell giving his professional opinion on a performer singing in Hindi. 

It's at moments like this you reach for your copy of Minima Moralia. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Halfway through the Peppiatt biography of Francis Bacon.

Buchner's Complete Plays, Lenz and Other Writings arrived in the post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just watched this - and enjoyed it. Plenty of mirrors and self-conscious reframings so it's impossible to accuse 'Jacky' (how odd that sounds to English ears) of narcissism without entering into a whole labyrinth of traps and tropes and ironies. The old trickster!

What stands out for me? First, the scene in his personal library where the interviewer suggests he's read every volume. No, replies JD, only thirty four (volumes or per cent I couldn't quite make it out) - and he insists he's not exaggerating. A point well made: there's reading and then there's reading.

Second, the anecdote about differance appearing for the first time in the French dictionary and his mother's appalled response. To think, after all that education, he couldn't spell properly!

Finally, as I prepare myself for the school year ahead, Derrida's thoughts on biography and philosophy. How someone simply reading a page of philosophy - critically, reflectively - will know far more, will be truer to the thought of the philosopher than the person who has read the biographies, the overviews, the History of Western Thought. A salutary lesson - and one I'll be trying to instill (and live by) through to next June.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Big news. Frank came and installed a new satellite box and so all is right with the world for the two Wafflettes.

To celebrate, here is an anthology of Ed & Oucho's best moments.

Advice, please!

Anyone know of any good bookshops in San Diego?

My wife is there on a conference and so far hasn't struck lucky with my list of books.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

(Use the Comments or my e-mail: - notice not the one supplied by Blogger profile).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Apparently discussions are under way for the successor to Humphrey Lyttelton as chair for 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue'. I'm divided on this one: call it a day or - maybe in the spirit of the man himself - keep going regardless?

Rumour has it Jarvis Cocker is tipped as a 'wild card' nomination. Now that would be inspired - especially if he really didn't have a clue as to what was going on.

(If he can be tempted back from Paris, that is).

Belgianwaffle's rank outsider: Mark E. Smith.
"Each project I work on develops differently. I mostly work in series of some sort, in groups of related poems that become something like serial poems, though they’re not arranged in, say, a chronological sequence. Sometimes I’ll write a whole poem all at once but that’s fairly unusual. Mostly it’s a constellation of different elements, sometimes written with big gaps (like days or even weeks) in between. I reread these pieces to figure out what they belong with, what other ideas they’re related to, how one thought answers or complicates another. So writing and rewriting are continuous and almost simultaneous. Often I get the momentum and feeling of a poem before all the pieces are there and then it’s a matter of finding the piece that fits the place I’ve made for it. I reread and circle around it and try out changes in punctuation and that sort of thing. When I revise it’s often to satisfy something about the sound of it—more often than it would be a gesture of fulfilling the content. I’m more drawn to the formal and sound elements of a poem—and sometimes in getting it to sound right, there will be a complication or opening up of the content rather than the more traditional closure of content, and I welcome that. It keeps me from thinking of the poem as a soapbox in the wilderness."

(Elizabeth Willis, interviewed by Mark Tursi -

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loose vowels

Quality Dad time with the girls this afternoon watching 'Nanny McPhee' - yet another vehicle for Emma Thompson & Colin Firth (what, no Judi Dench this time?) and yet more English whimsy with which to market Britain PLC and pass the hours on long-haul flights.

Yes, yes, it's 'nice' and even funny in places and the girls lap it up. However, the ingrained class snobbery shows through and makes me wince - it's really 'Pygmalion' all over again. Scrape away the frocks and Dickensian pastiche and it's all about pronunciation: you are what (or, rather how) you speak.

"Behave" or "bee hive" - there you have it.

... another of those voices you're not quite sure about and yet ...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Abstain from beans. Eat only the flesh of animals that may be sacrificed. Do not step over the beam of a balance. On rising, straighten the bedclothes and smooth out the place where you lay. Spit on your hair clippings and nail parings. Destroy the marks of a pot in the ashes. Do not piss towards the sun. Do not use a pine-torch to wipe a chair clean. Do not look in a mirror by lamplight. On a journey do not turn around at the border, for the Furies are following you. Do not make a detour on your way to the temple, for the god should not come second. Do not help a person to unload, only to load up. Do not dip your hand into holy water. Do not kill a louse in the temple. Do not stir the fire with a knife. One should not have children by a woman who wears gold jewellery. One should put on the right shoe first, but when washing do the left foot first. One should not pass by where an ass is lying.


What are the isles of the blest? Sun and Moon. Pythagoras is the Hyperborean Apollo. An earthquake is a mass meeting of the dead. The purpose of thunder is to threaten those in Tartarus, so that they will be afraid. The sea is the tears of Cronus. The Pleiades are the lyre of the Muses, and the planets are Persephone’s dogs. The ring of bronze when it is struck is the voice of a daemon trapped within it.

(From M.F. Burnyeat’s review in the LRB (26 April 2007) of Pythagoras: His Life, Teaching and Influence by Christoph Riedweg, translated by Steven Rendall and Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History by Charles Kahn)






Thursday, August 21, 2008

For completion's sake ...

Monday night's episode of 'New Tricks'* was fascinating in terms of DI Pullman's bright red jacket. A decision by the costume department or deliberately built into the script? The case needing to be cleared up concerned a man's body that had been covered with red paint, mutilated and wrapped in film. Red started to pervade the narrative - a form, I suppose, of Deleuzian intensity? And, it just so happens, that Sandra Pullman is played by ... Amanda Redman (a name with its own rather strange symmetries and dislocative possibilities).

Just thought I'd mention it. That's all.


* - if you're in the UK you can still watch it (I can't!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Riddles of Form – Twelve

Week Nine – Questions and Considerations

It dawned on me over the weekend that the presiding spirit over this whole ‘project’ has been Gilles Deleuze. And there’s a kind of logic at work – it was reading Anti-Oedipus and Thousand Plateaus in the mid-80s which played a large part in me abandoning a thesis. Twenty or so years on, I’m returning to ideas that had been shelved and finding ways that make them breathe.

Thinking aloud then ...

i. There is no Big Theory to impart. It’s really a matter of turning on to poetry – and finding you’re turned on by poetry. Ignition. Brake off. Drive. Go some place. Discover.

ii. Despite appearances, there is no Hidden Truth to be revealed. (I accept that the general development of my readings so far has had an Indiana Jones in the crypt feel. Bad habit.)

iii. What point is there in writing yet another student handbook, a key facts, a Cheat’s Guide to Poetry? Worse still, something that packages poetry as something cosy, ressuring, user-friendly. ‘John Ashbery for Beginners’. ‘L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry for Dummies’. No.

iv. Poetry doesn’t make you a ‘better person’ (if that means all the class-based, moral-finger wagging, preening narcissism, Sensitive Soulism that accompanies such a phrase). But I do believe poetry has the capacity to transform your life.

v. Even while using the words ‘Poetry’ and ‘Poem’ I’ll admit to not knowing what it/they is/are. Perhaps that is a key dimension of the project: to discover what a poem could be?

vi. Blake (William, this time – but Quentin is good, too!) as another presiding spirit. The Holiness of the Imagination. And all that implies – and transforms.

vii. Reading the poem is itself a creative act. The ultimate reading of a poem is another poem. (Bloom). A basic premise of the project: sooner or later you start writing yourself. Writing informs the reading.

viii. Poem as constellation (Zukofsky). We receive the light that has been travelling but which will continue to travel making all the time new conjunctions. The implications of this for any ‘definitive’ reading.

ix. Likewise, the reader – the so-called ‘I’ – in a perpetual state of transformation. Reading changes you. (And yet the poem remains there on the page. A mystery).

x. The Eternal Return (Nietzsche) as a way of conceiving the creative act and a possible (im-possible?) way of living. The most difficult lesson?

xi. As a necessary consequence, the literature we most value has ENERGY. (Which is not to say it has to be violent, rabble-rousing, screaming. Think H.D.’s early poems. Emily Dickinson).

xii. To be ‘true’ to this writing seems – implicitly – to come into conflict with professional academic institutions and approaches. The English Department of the Soul (Spicer). How to resolve this? If this project is to be a book - how to conceive of a book which embodies its own ideas? Would anyone read it? Would anyone publish it? 

xiii. Poems are not written for examination purposes.

xiv. The fundamental poetry of the everyday. Of the everyday word. Of every word. (Nietzsche. Emerson. Duncan). The very move to language is a move towards metaphor.

xv. Haunted by all the old systems of thought. Ghosts, Sefiroth, angels, White Goddess, The Word, Logos.

xvi. If photography is to painting, then what is the ‘X’ to poetry? And that poetry has to struggle against?

xvii. The power of language to affect. Intensities. (Deleuze)

xviii. Poetry forces us to rethink Time and the Line (Derrida)

xix. Difficulty. The Opaque. The poem as a challenge – what we cannot predict, have not learned how to read, dis-locates. Reading then becomes. Reading as becoming.

xx. How to then transfer this to actual teaching practice?

xxi. How to break with ingrained attitudes of ‘elitism’, ‘cleverness’, ‘nerdy’, ‘weird’, ‘good grades’?

xxii. What is at work in the poem? What works in the poem? What can the poem do? Poem as machine (W.C. Williams).

All this. And more.

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...