Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year In Review

Belgianwaffle’s Highlights 2009

Reading ...

... Stephen Rodefer, Tim Atkins, John Godfrey (Private Lemonade), Kit Robinson (Messianic Trees), Keith Waldrop (Transcendental Studies, The Real Subject, The Opposite of Letting the Mind Wander, Several Gravities – everything, really), Alfred Bester, John Martone, Carol Watts (alphabetise), Ray diPalma (The Ancient Use of Stone), David Jones ( Anathemata & The Sleeping Lord especially), Rebekka Baumann (lemon ink), Giles Goodland (Littoral), the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton, The Famous Five, Paddington, (these three with the girls at bedtime), Bernadette Mayer (Midwinter Day – which I read on the 21, 22, 23 and 24 December in snowy Brussels), Zippy comic strips.

Listening to ...

... Duffy, P.J Harvey & John Parish, John Adams, Henry Cow, Yes, Radio 4 & Radio 3 anywhere in the house via Wi-fi.

Meeting ... (by handshake or e-mail or exchange of stuff) ...

... Luc Fierens, Ed Baker, Geof Huth, Nico Vassilakis, Gordon Hopkins, Andres Topel, Michael Lally, John & James and ... the Walrus (finally revealed!).

Writing or making ...

... collages (January, February), life drawing (March), collaborations with Wolf, Hampton Armpit Chapters One & Two, Material Comforts, Earful Symmetries.

As well as ...

... seeing Martin Clunes as Reggie Perrin, Ray Johnson in How to Draw a Bunny, Wonderwall ... discovering I do like lentils and pumpkins ... that I also do like cats (Rosie & Lily, anyway) ... Emma winning the poetry recital with Alice ... being invited to exhibit my collages ... Jack Dee replacing Humph on ISIHAC – and it working! ... the Mariemont Artist’s Book Fair ... that Saturday afternoon with Alan, John and James ... moving into this fabulous office space (April) and the house being (more or less) finished (December).

And lots of other things, too.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas comes early. A 6 a.m. phone call to confirm that it is a Snow Day. The holidays properly begin tomorrow but today feels like a bonus.

I drop the girls off. Go to buy bread and vegetables. Make (another) pumpkin soup. Resume Lady Chatterley's Lover (stalled since early November). Listen to Lark's Tongue in Aspic right through for the first time - Easy Money a particular favourite. Then a walk in the woods ...

And the book fell open at this page:


By stress and syllable
by change-rhyme and contour
we let the long line pace even awkward to its period.

The short line
we refine
and keep for candor.

This we remember:
ember of the fire
catches the word if we but hear
("We must understand what is happening")
and springs to desire,
a bird-right light

This is the Yule-log that warms December.
This is new grass that springs from the ground.

(Robert Duncan, The Opening of the Field)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hampton Armpit Chapter Two out now!

See The Sticky Pages Press site (link to the right).

Here's an excerpt to whet the appetite:

"Miss Doggit was in her bedroom putting on rouge. She was experimenting far out on the cheek bones. Smoothed roundness with flurries of agitation. The chin was another trick. No hard line to say what gave. Incredulous dabs echoed in her face. All lips and indelible..."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

This morning out to the supermarket early. At the fish counter I congratulate the 'poissonnier' on his fine display. He's obviously flattered - and perhaps a little surprised that anyone would make such a comment. (Perhaps it's just my clumsy French). I buy a thick fillet of cod and a good handful of prawns. Turning to push the trolley on around the aisles the muzak track changes - a Christmas carol (O Come All Ye Faithful?) almost unrecognisable with heavily souped-up strings. And it's as though something breaks inside me - a little warmth spreads - a sense of possibility again, after all these stale and miserable weeks. Uncanny. By the time I'm in the soft drinks section there's Abba's I Have A Dream playing (original version) and I find I'm singing along under my breath. Then, at the check out some ten minutes later, I notice that the woman scanning the items through is humming the chorus over and over. She picks up the articles and passes them on in time with the song.

It's something I remember reading in a Jack Trevor Storey article: that it's not the masterpieces that move us most or get under our skin. More often than not it's the cheesy tune, the sentimental, the banal. As, indeed, it seems to be today.


This afternoon I resume Hampton Armpit after a three month lay off. Chapter Two by Christmas? Watch this space!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


bw: Previous ... Next ... Space ... Return ...
BW: Working on some new philosophical conundrum?
bw: No. Just looking at this Touch keyboard.

... . , ? ! ' ...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


BW: And anyway, you never know what might crop up.

bw: Like this, for instance? "... poetry isn't about succeeding or finding anything, it's an ongoing state of quest. The book/poem continues, the search for answers is full of trapdoors, questions that accrue in ornate frenzy to the point we can no longer follow them - but we continue on, people and clues looming out of the darkness ... ". Dodie Bellamy in the recent Chicago Review.

BW: Ex ACT ly.

bw: Mince pie? (Notice the way they're smaller these days?)

BW: Mmm ...


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

the conversation continues ...

BW: So, go on, give me 10 reasons why you write a Blog.

bw: OK ...

One - at the very beginning - as a kind of 'out-building'. A way of allowing light into the notebooks. Someone could look in, find something of interest, take something away with them. Greenhouse effect - warm the cerebral hemispheres.

Two - a learning to have the courage to 'go public'. Stand by your words! Deliver! Not quite reciting in front of an audience but at least in a small way chancing yourself. But don't shoot the pianist!

Three - making some kind of a commitment to Poetry. Anne Waldman's contract (sort of). A way of saying it matters, it's worth talking about, participating in a wider community of interest. Hey! I'm here, too. In Brussels (of all places!).

Four - an extension of the day job. Actions speak louder than words. Put it another way: make your words active. Literature as something of greater value than simply fodder for examinations, IBO-gradeable matter, directives from the stale old cheesy Chalkface. The 'Teacher' resumes his rightful position as the Eternal Student. There Are No Answers. "Avoid the authorities" (Kerouac).

Five - a course in self-education. I didn't 'get' so much. Forcing myself to articulate puzzlement led to revelations (partial and otherwise).

Six - a way of spilling the beans, sharing the sweets round, an overflow of happiness. I like this - I think - I want - I need you to like this too!

Seven - making up for lost time. Writing back to myself aged 18 ... 21 ... 25 ... if only someone had mentioned certain names or placed that volume in my hands! What time I might have saved!

Eight - learning how to write or at least maneuvering myself into a position to know what I needed to do and glean a few clues as to how it might be achieved.

Nine - laying a few ghosts to rest, resurrecting others, discovering some were just hobbled goblins of my own imagining. Learning that Poetry is - above all - learning how to con-verse with ghosts. Spicer's Low Ghost. Blanchot's space. The Cryptic echo within the Script. Know this? Gnosis.

Ten - rhizome making. Rhyme with and without reason. Why not? Just do it! "You keep a Blog? What on earth for?" "No idea. Just do." A need. A flow. Outside the cash nexus. And to make friends along the way. Him ... and her ... and you ... and you ... and you, too. And the risk that there's no one out there, that it's all for nothing, words out into the void. Have you the courage for that? And that you can lose friends, too. Who's dropped by never to return? And the constant risk of sounding pretentious, presumptuous, ignorant, dull, misguided, big-headed, pompous, arrogant, narcissistic, self-serving, careerist, deluded and you'd be better off doing something more constructive with your time. (Earn some money, paint the house, dig the garden, correct some papers, write the novel ...).

Eleven -

BW: Eleven? We agreed ten!

bw: Eleven: that Life and Art are One (or should be). The challenge to write your own days (Koch). To respond to the roll of the dice as they fall. To make soup - alphabet and toothsome. To guard the hearth and heart (Duncan). To learn from cats the time to sleep and the time to act. To see the light in the afternoon. To know no weekend (Beuys). To be an archaeologist of morning.

BW: And you really believe all that?

bw: (hesitates) -

Monday, December 07, 2009

BW: So, why the silence? The cat got your tongue? Run out of things to say? Finally decided that your Blog is the virtual equivalent of navel gazing?

bw: Yes. No. Maybe. Then again.

BW: Come on, don't be shy.

bw: We've been having a lot of rain.

BW: What's happened to all those projects? Riddles of Form ... the collages ... the sonnet series ... the little apercus ... the kitschy kitten stuff?

bw: People have been falling over, falling ill, nasty life stuff. Puts things in perspective.

BW: But isn't that the function of Art - to transform, transcend, translate suffering into that which does not decay? Those are pearls that were his eyes ... you know the jingle ... And that other one: farm the verse/blessing of the curse. Double you aitch whatsisname.

bw: Yeah. Another of my ex-students, are you?

BW: Well, what about the new books, the DVDs, the trips to the mediatheque? Stopped reading? Wax in your ears? Housebound?

bw: Do we need another Ikea catalogue? It's all out there, anyway. Go and look for yourself. Just tap a name into Google. Who bothers browsing along a library shelf nowadays? Books are 'passe' (can't be bothered to insert the accent). Listen to a librarian. Search engines are the name of the game. Who cares about the feel of the page, the smell, the physical act of reading?

BW: Cut the act. I know you don't believe that. I've seen you visiting the post room and those little brown packages. Spill the beans,

bw: OK, if you insist ... 'How to Draw a Bunny' (DVD about the life and work of Ray Johnson); 'Antoine's Alphabet' by Jed Perl (collage study of Watteau); Scott McCloud's books on comics; Bill Griffiths' 'Zippy' strip; various albums by Yes ...

BW: I knew it! A waffle doesn't change his spots!

bw: But shouldn't all this reading and listening lead to something? What's emerged over the past month or so? Wasn't that the agreement: stop the blogging to focus upon the writing. To make objects. And what is there to show for it all?

BW: There've been distractions ... the house ... kids ... work ... problems back in the UK ... 4 a.m. arguments in your head ... Life (with a capital 'L') inotherwords.

bw: And you're saying Ron and Geof and John and Jonathan and (name of another intimidatingly regular and copious Blogger poet) don't suffer from similar distractions? Get a life! Oh ... sorry, that's what you're complaining about. C'mon. Chill out. Where's the famous en-thoos-iazam? The evangelical gleam in the eye? The I-gotta-tell-you-about-this compulsion? Where's the belief in being part of a Community of Discussion? Of standing by your words? Of carrying on the teaching beyond the stifling walls of the classroom?

BW: Spam merchants. Prying eyes. The silent minority. Um ... somehow I feel I'm arguing the other side now ...

bw: I? Side? Who's speaking? And where's the Carpenter gone? Wasn't there a Walrus once upon a time?

Zebedee: Time for bed everyone! (Music)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Read the Comments and you'll see I'm being spammed in Chinese.

I've deleted the most recent and reported the problem.

If it continues, I suppose I'll simply shut down the Blog.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Photo Poem





went into town with E. & had lunch at Mappa Mundo (surely the best deal for a beer & a sandwich in central Brussels?). Took these pictures on the way to the bus stop.

BBC radio for iPod Touch outside UK

Knowing that I get - now and again - some accidental (baffled?) visitors to the Blog hoping for ex-pat type info on living here in Belgium, here's a tip for those of you who (like me) want to get BBC radio on your iPod Touch but can't use iPlayer.

It's simple. Go on the App Store and search for Wunder Radio. It'll cost you a few euros but then you have the luxury of interference-free BBC radio. Your Touch becomes a tranny. How cutting edge technology can reinvent the old.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A trial post using this iPod Touch. A fabulous little gadget - even if the BBC block access to iPlayer for us Radio 4 listeners over here in Belgium.

There had to be a catch ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

With the coming of autumn a new routine has established itself - a cup of tea and toast with the girls after school. A discovery: toast tastes different in the late afternoon than at breakfast time.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recipe for Pumpkin Soup

Cut the pumpkin or onion squash into slices. De-seed. Brush segments with oil and garlic. Place in the oven at 200 degrees for about 25 minutes. (The smell is fantastic).

Remove and dice - skin included.

Then fry onion and chilli. Add the diced pumpkin plus dried sage, plum tomatoes (whole), tinned tomatoes, chick peas and enough water to make it a soup. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Then, to serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle handfuls of grated parmesan, flat-leaved parsley and smoked bacon bits. Season according to taste.


Autumn in a bowl, I promise you.


"the kin at the hearth, the continual cauldron that feeds forth the earth, the heart that comes into being through the blood, the householder among his familiar animals, the beloved turning to his beloved in the dark ..."

('The Structure of Rime IV', Robert Duncan)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A day off here and so we go into town to nose around. I find myself upstairs in the children's section of Tropismes in amongst the bande dessines (there's an 'e' acute needed there). I'm following a hunch that this is where some interesting crossovers are happening between word and image - going into much more interesting territory than the ubiquitous Tintin et al.

And I strike lucky - Rebekka Baumann's Lemon Ink. Or, as she seems to prefer lower case: rebekka baumann's lemon ink.

What is it exactly? Part sketchbook, part day-in-the-life of the artist, part poem, part discursion (i.e. a discussion as excursion) upon the idea of lemon yellow. Her use of papers, positive & negative space, sense of line and omission, traced and retraced images ... wow! I had to buy it.

The images here are taken from her site:

Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

No, not the Oasis track. One of those films that would only have been possible in the sixties. None the worse for that, of course.

Joseph Cornell as Peeping Tom with patchouli.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

It's raining. Pouring. The plan was for us all to go for a walk but discretion is the better part of valour (or something like that). So in the end I was the only one to struggle out against the elements. Half an hour later, my boots, coat and jeans are drying down in the basement.

Went swimming this morning - at least I got as far as the car park which was suspiciously - significantly - empty. Closed. One of the very few days of the year. I drove up to the woods and went for a jog-run-walk. Then sat watching the leaves fall onto the ponds. Right now it seems important to make such efforts.

It's meant to be pretty lousy weather for the coming week. I'll be crossing over to England early on Wednesday staying on until Sunday. Simply being there will probably be a help.

The challenge these days is to find periods in which to settle. Various things keep nagging away in the background. Plus work starts next door tomorrow - which entails yet more sorting, chucking, lugging, arranging. So not so much a holiday then rather a different type of activity.

And I trod on one of the cats.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And while we're in the mood - here's David Jones. (One for The Walrus of course!)

"... the bards of an earlier Wales referred to themselves as 'carpenters of song'. Carpentry suggests a fitting together and as you know the English word 'artist' means, at root, someone concerned with a fitting of some sort ... Perhaps all we can say is that the 'carpentries of song' in whatever medium, or by whomsoever joinered, must be anathemata of one sort or another." ('Autobiographical Talk', collected in Epoch and Artist, pp 30-31)

Rene Hague's Press, 1930

The printing press ... the making of The Book as Object ... labour and function combined with decoration imperial and occult. A Wellsian Time Machine? An ark or other ritualistic apparatus? A desiring-machine (is that a fleece or dirty rag depending from the coffer, how exactly do energies transfer to the page ... )? And as with so much of Jones' pictures (and poetry for that matter) a showing forth and a showing through. Time and space - layers of semi-transparency.

How little attention I've given his work in the past. Much to address here.

... and talking about Zappa ... I've just raced through this - John Adams' auto(music)biography. I had it beside me at lunchtime on Friday and I'm sure it was mistaken for some born-again tract. A title like that plus Adams' fresh-faced grin - well, you could be fooled into thinking I'd seen The Light.

It's quite illuminating about Adams' compositional methods and reading (a nice anecdote of him asking Ginsberg for Burroughs' address). Adams is pretty tough on Boulez (accusations of arid prescriptivism) and cautiously complimentary about FZ (one might even risk 'condescending' at times ...). I'm less convinced of my Adams-Zappa association the more of I hear of his music - but who cares? Each has his own musical world and I'm not taking sides.

"We composers often are at a loss to explain how we made something ... I suspect that most composers work in a stste of semi-trance, a creative state that is precariously balanced between conscious, logical decision-making and the unknowable instinctual workings of the freely associating brain. I have a deep respect for my own subconscious apparatus, for the part of me that is unknowable ...

... A compositional idea may come from any source. The composer's mind is like flypaper, ready at any moment to attract and trap an idea, a single sound or a complex of sounds. It may be the rhythms of a group of people chattering in a restaurant, or the Doppler effect of a passing train, or three notes from someone else's song, be it Mahler's or Otis Redding's. Or an inspiration might arise from half-consciously diddling with some piece of technology. We need to foster and jealously protect the 'what if' mode of creative play, taking delight in moving sounds around just for the pleasure of seeing and hearing what might happen. The point is to maintain a childlike openness, not to foreclose on a possibility because it does not immediately fit your preconceived notions of what the piece you wish to compose ought to sound like." (pp 192-3)

These paragraphs alone are worth the price of admission.

Listening as I type to this - the first CD in the 40th Anniversary box of Henry Cow, The Road (Volumes 1-5). Super stuff: Pre-Teenbeat ... Rapt in a Blanket ... Amygdala ... . I love the optimism of the sound. Cutler's drumming, Frith's guitar parts, the woodwinds, lyrics about ordinary things - an irresistible marriage of precision and ramshackle. Had Zappa been born in England and brought up on mugs of Typhoo tea and tins of beans this would have been his music.

A pretty good 'map' of what's been going on the past week or so.

The rather incongruous 'Kate Bush' bubble is for her 80s album Hounds of Love. I took it out of the Mediatheque on an oh-well-why-not basis. As chance would have it, she quotes Tennyson's 'The Holy Grail' ("Wave after wave, each mightier than the last ... "). I haven't brought myself to listen to the record for - twenty? - years let alone read the sleeve notes. So did some obscure part of me remember this ... ?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Go to The Sticky Pages Press site for details of a new release ...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Check out too ...
These are good, too ...
Two images taken from Francoise Vandenwouwer's blog at -

Beautiful books - grimoires, miniature odysseys and dream journeys ...

Some months ago I posted a dream in which I found a bookstore with shelf after shelf of small press poetry and home-made editions. Perhaps it's a version (vision?) of heaven. (Another being a busy French brasserie where the angels are waiters dashing through revolving doors carrying seafood platters, cassoulet, steak du patron et frites.)

So it's been a bit like going to Paradise & back - or the suburbs at least - the past two days.

The Marché du Livre de Mariemont - Salon de la petite édition et de la création littéraire.

In other words, a festival of Artist's Books just down the motor way from Brussels. Table after table of the most fascinating works - word-based, image-based, xerox-basic through to luxurious thousand euro limited editions.

Fingers trembling, I'm left with the question: Why do anything else?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Blog resumes.

I placed an embargo upon posts for more or less a month.

Over the next week or so I'll work on the residue that's accumulated in the notebooks & see what I can do with it.

Working title: (Ana)thema - a nod to David Jones.*


(The Welsh one - not the guy in The Monkees).

Prejudice is a terrible thing. And I'm guilty of it more times than I'd like to admit.

In this instance, Zappa's widespread contempt for 'minimalism' has led me to dismiss several composers without even bothering to listen to them. And John Adams was one of these.

However, due to Alan (& Robert's) recent recommendations, I've started to explore Adams' oeuvre - and it's well worth it.

So far: Shaker Loops, Grand Pianola Music, Chamber Symphony. Soon to come: Naive and Sentimental Music and the Violin Concerto.

It's generous music - not at all the cloying unimaginative repetitions of you-know-who and the other one.* I go for the jamming together of textures, the 'ill-breeding' Adams has been - it seems - accused of by the Music Establishment. These compositions strike me as painterly. As they unfold in time spaces are created, gestures (those ascending & descending lines), motifs (stabs of brass or shrill woodwind), pulses (tapped percussion suddenly breaking into jazz rhythms). Plus some genuinely weird sounds which appear and disappear - in the Concerto something that sounds like factory pipe being hit - certainly not some Feldman asiatic gong).

In fact - strange as it is to say - I'm reminded of Zappa. The lumpy gravy-ness. The sprawl. The Americanness, I suppose.

And the joke's on me - back in the early 90s I had the chance to have dinner with John Adams when his opera was opening in Brussels. I had "a prior engagement". Silly me.


* Glass & Nyman - in case you were wondering.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Watercolour, letter stamps, ink pad and tape collaboration between Lara & Belgianwaffle

My goddaughter's first birthday.

Happy Birthday, Tsilla!

Monday, September 21, 2009

This weekend's reading ...

i) The Anathemata, David Jones
ii) The Works, Thomas Malory (dipped in & out)
iii) The Holy Grail, Jack Spicer
iv) The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
v) Some Other Kind of Mission, Lisa Jarnot

there's some kind of a thread through it all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Just renewed my subs to the LRB and The Wire - two of my lifelines to the world of Kulchur.

After a jolly chat with Wire Subscriptions via Skype I mention that this Blog makes occasional references to the magazine. "In that case I'll add on a couple of issues".

What a decent bloke.

Now, I wonder, is product placement the way forward for Belgianwaffle?

Only yesterday I was enjoying a refreshing sip of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc while perusing my volumes of poetry from Flood Editions, New Directions and Wesleyan Press pausing for a moment to consider buying the new iPod Touch...

I await deliveries ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

News broke yesterday of the death of Keith Floyd. Despite current policy on Book vs. Blog it seems only right to mark the passing of a favourite chef.

Here are belgianwaffle's 8 plus reasons for admiring Keith Floyd:

1. For being politically incorrect before the term was even conceived
2. For upsetting an entire casserole while wearing rugby boots
3. For trying to cook on a yacht while rounding Cape Horn
4. For baking a fish in salt only to discover the entire thing had disintegrated and then - note - keeping the cameras running and doing something even better instead
5. For giving Rick Stein his break on television
6. For using The Stranglers' 'Peaches' as his signature tune
7. For cooking an ostrich egg in the bush while surrounded by - yes - ostriches
8. For opening a restaurant in France (an Englishman?)

What's the word - brio ... gusto ... elan ... nonchalance ... insouciance - probably all five (and others I can't think of right now). Basically, Floyd was a good egg (an expression he's probably approve of) and no doubt a nightmare to live with, work with, etc.

Belgianwaffle celebrates all such mavericks - the Jack Trevor Story effect: watching a car go over a cliff in slow motion.

I take my toque off to him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Third Week


You must have your notebook!

The purpose of our visit …

To take writing out of the classroom. More specifically, to see how your writing might respond to the visual work of Magritte and the exhibitions at the African Museum. There is no specific goal – rather the challenge is in allowing yourself to respond.

During the day …

We will follow the guides with the Art class students. However, there will – I hope – be occasions where you will be free to wander around the exhibitions. It is during these periods I would like you to be writing, assembling material from which to work on our next project.

Some suggestions …

As always, I do not want to be too prescriptive. However, as this is your ‘first go’ at this kind of exercise, here are a few writing suggestions:

• Questions. Select a work and write down as many questions you can think of relating to the picture/object. It might be to do with subject matter, how it came to be, things you are puzzled by.

• Description. Select a work and write as exhaustively as possible about the picture/object. In a way, let the pen be your eye.

• Narrative. Select a work and daydream about it. Allow a story to take suggest itself. This might be easier with a figurative work – but not necessarily.

• Spontaneous writing. Stand in a room. Then going from work to work jot down your immediate impressions. These might relate to the works or be phrases you overhear. (Remember our class exercises).

• Listening exercise. Find a secluded spot. Then, using your pen like a microphone, try to pick up the voices, sounds, atmospheres around you. Alternatively, work more visually – your pen like a camera. Note down what and who passes around you.

• Collaborative. Pass your notebook around. Ask friends to write their own impressions in your book. You can specify a topic.

• Creative thinking. While looking at the works go beyond subject matter. Ask yourself about ways you might adapt the painter’s way of working to writing. What would a Magritte poem be? A Magritte story? Think how he constructs his paintings. How could this be translated to verbal expression?

Try to write as much as possible – don’t worry about perfectly shaped sentences or acurate spelling. This is raw material. Obviously, you can buy postcards to work from later. However, see what you can do on the day, in the hour, in the minute.
Second Week Exercise

An Abstract Sonnet


The American poet Ted Berrigan decided that a sonnet did not have to follow all the rules that school teachers like to insist on.

Berrigan had been reading lots of Shakespeare’s sonnets and suddenly had an idea. He went home and cut up some of his old poems and arranged them into fourteen-line poems. These were the beginnings of his ‘sonnet’ series.

The Shakespearean sonnet tends to contain the following:

• fourteen lines
• an interlaced rhyme scheme
• a rhyming couplet
• a speaker ‘I’ addressing a ‘you’ (a handsome youth or unattainable lady)
• an argument concerning love and the passing of time

An Abstract Sonnet need not observe all these rules.


Take your piece of writing and cut it up into one-line sections.
Look at your lines. Read then attentively and with fresh eyes and ears – what do they suggest not only in terms of ‘meaning’ but also in terms of sounds, textures of words, registers of language, phrase structure?

Start arranging your lines with a view to composing a fourteen-line poem.
Do not think that it has to have a ‘normal’ meaning or ‘deep’ symbolism.
Work intuitively – go on instinct, what grabs you, what amuses you.

Allow sound patterns to lead your composition. Rhyme does not only exist at the end of a line. You can exploit internal rhymes which will allow your lines to ‘sound’ right. Don’t be limited by end rhymes.

Play with different arrangements – write them down as they emerge. If some lines just don’t seem to fit or sound right, put them to one side. They might be useful for another composition. Or you might find you have a set of variations!

Keep in mind that you are collaging – in a way this is using language more like a painter uses colour. You are ‘painting-writing’. Your final poem might lack ‘normal’ meaning but be full of sense(s).
First Week Exercise

Creative Writing Class

Text (i) with names & nouns deleted

what shall i_____ begin with? what shall i______ begin with? is t_____ a good ________? the t________ passing in the s________. a d________ clicks shut down the c____________. near the l___________. I__________ wonder how L______ & E_______ are doing? did the v_______ finish too early? will E_________ be worried? in 15 m__________ K___________ should come to pick t__________ up. the p________ of l__________ on the c___________ f_________. y_______don’t want to know what’s on the f_________: n________, p______, g_________, all sorts of t_________ left behind the y_________. w_________ too. those s_________ who want to walk b___________. and under the t___________, too. when y_______ turn d___________ over to take to the e___________, the stale dry g___________. yuck! should e________ t__________ write w_____________ like “yuck”? why not? it – i_____________ losing momentum – two m___________ to go. w________ is in the c__________ now? a w__________. sounds like a w_________’s s______________. the eternal q__________: what is a s____________ and what is a f_________ f__________? w_______ knows? do y_________? do I_________ care? f__________ f________ get between your t__________. not up your n__________. the b_____________ pinned to the n_____________.

Original text with nouns replaced

what shall ibis begin with? what shall ichthyosaurus begin with? is theft a good idiom? the train passing in the streptococcus. a dope clicks shut down the corset. near the lychee. idiot wonder how labials & ears are doing? did the viewpoint finish too early? will earth be worried? in 15 mirrors Kafka should come to pick Theodosius up. the patent of liking on the clavicle floribunda. youth don’t want to know what’s on the flounce: names, pique, gunge, all sorts of thirsts left behind the yonks. worms too. those stumblers who want to walk baritone. and under the taboo, too. when yuck turns despondent over to take to the excuse, the stale dry guillemot. yuck! should enigmatic tears write worms like “yuck”? why not? it – if losing momentum – two mirrors to go. whorl is in the cortex now? a wick. sounds like a wig. sanguine. the eternal quiche: what is a saprophyte and what is a flocculence? wryneck knows? do Yucatan? do I care? future gets between your toilet. not up your nostalgia. the bow wow pinned to the noun.
For anyone out there that's interested, this is the pilot Creative Writing Class I'm running this year. I'll post as and when ...

First Week


Aims of the class

To enable students to develop their creative writing in the widest sense possible. It is not intended to be an ‘academic’ literary critical class. Instead, the emphasis will be placed much more upon the craft of writing.

The class has to be flexible although – at the same time – structured enough to give a sense of purpose.

While the class will receive credit, the hope is to create a more informal atmosphere than the main English classes to allow students to experiment and take risks with their work without the fear of poor grades.

How the class will be structured:

Each class will meet four times per two-week cycle. The plan is to divide the time accordingly:

• a stimulus class – examples of writing for discussion and analysis
• an exercise class – students to do guided short writing experiments
• a free writing class – students write and develop projects
• a discussion class – students show and talk about their work


Each class will put together an anthology of work produced during the semester. Weeks 11 & 12 will be finalizing and collecting work. Week 13 will be for printing.

In addition, students will be expected to:

• read and prepare stimulus materials
• comply with the exercises and to develop their work
• attend all classes and use the ‘free writing’ class
• show and share their work and display consideration for other people’s efforts
• produce FOUR pieces of work (or equivalent) by the end of week 11 to be able to select for the anthology
• obtain and maintain a ‘Writer’s Notebook’ which should be brought to all classes.

The notebook will be a key resource and tool for the class. It will be handed in at the end of week 12 and assessed as part of the overall semester grade for the class.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

... and then came the day when the Carpenter realised he'd known the Walrus all along.

Now bring on the oysters.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm invited onto Facebook & dutifully sign on.

Two things.

i) I'd not anticipated the subsequent deluge of invitations
ii) my inviter doesn't seem to be in contact (so why ... ?)



Back to the Chalkface - or at least the series of meetings, preparations, etc.

This year - more than ever - the holidays seem to have evaporated. This year - more than ever - the year ahead seems to fall into clearly defined fortnightly segments. Is this an effect of age?


The Gallagher brothers split.

Hard to conceal feelings of complete & utter indifference.


Reading American Psycho. Not a novel that I enjoy. It's too obviously having its cake & eating it. Too obviously written (from my UK perspective) in thrall to the generation of GQ, The Face, Thatcherism, and Easy Money. I remember having dinner with an old university friend who'd gone into the City. Not surprisingly he offered to pick up the tab. As he explained. his bonus was equivalent to my year's salary in publishing.


Last night; moules frites. One of the reasons to continue living in Belgium.


This arrives ...

... The Ancient Use of Stone by Ray DiPalma. Elsewhere on this Blog I've written of not being able to know how to read DiPalma (which I take to be a virtue of his work). This latest volume is no exception. Since its arrival on my desk on Wednesday, I've gone through the following reactions:

voyeuristic joy

One thing it has done is to convince me that this Blog had reached an impasse. Why continue writing about when the challenge - as seen in these pages - is writing itself?

So ... for the next few months (I'll see how it goes) this Blog operates weekly. I'll post like today. Meanwhile, I'll focus my time & energies into more little volumes: further chapters of Hampton Armpit, more poetry, as well as poetical-collage-assemblages (distillations of the kinds of stuff that went into the earlier Blogging). Again, the same offer applies: send your name & address & I'll mail you a copy.

That's the deal from now on.


Oh. And I've deleted my Facebook account. Just not my scene.


A chill in the air. Autumn's on its way ...

Sunday, August 23, 2009





Yes! Our Rosie's back!

Our reporter on the ground states that at 3:55 EST the runaway kitten (4 months old) was heard miaowing plaintively just the other side of the garden wall. Rescue teams were quick to respond with a bowl of Royal Canin Kitten Food which was rattled enticingly.

Reunited with her owners, the tearaway kitten elected to remain quiet about how the intervening 5 hours had been spent. However, detectives are puzzled by her identity capsule having been unscrewed and the contact details removed. Suspicious to say the least - particularly after the earlier door-to-door enquiries.

(Middle pages: Is Our Neighbourhood Safe For A Kitten With Itchy Paws And Wanderlust?)
All hell's broken loose here: Rosie's done a runner.

There we were having a late breakfast, thinking both cats were cautiously finding their way around the garden, when - hey presto! - she'd vanished.

Tears, recriminations, 'you said ...', etc. etc. Lily is looking rather forlorn, too.

Anyway, Rosie was last seen near the strawberry plants at 10 a.m. Belgium time.

So, if you see a black kitten with white paws strolling down the road - you know what to do ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Further additions to the library found in the UK ... I'm beginning to think Blackwells isn't so bad these days ...

but, best of all, this arrived while I was away ...

"I have no sky. Sometimes the ground seems tenuous. But composition remains an enjoyment." (Keith Waldrop, 'A Matter of Collage')


A morning spent pottering about, catching up on Blogs, leafing through books, making coffee, talking to the cats, making more coffee ... What astronauts used to call decompression, I suppose.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back in Brussels. Phew ...

Credit: old History textbooks I flogged at Blackwells in Oxford for 18 quid.

Debit: these three chanced upon in the Reading Oxfam bookshop (for more or less the same amount).

The Law of Book Buying: what comes in goes out.


Sweltering heat predicted for tomorrow.

I'm working on The Shabbiness of Intent. Lots to catch up.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Back in 1993 the first volume was published by The Sticky Pages Press: The Shabbiness of Intent. Dedicated to Otto Lunchimus is was a one-and-only. The 'original' (given it was a pretty crude parody of Iain Sinclair's The Shamanism of Intent) was circulated and then 'disappeared'. All that remains is my very poor office xerox copy. And I've mislaid that a few times. 

Looking at it again after all these years (mmmmm! that questionable odour of nostalgia), I'm thinking i) maybe I could work something more interesting with that text; ii) the marginal decorations were - without my knowing - what these days goes under the name of Vispo. 

So here - with a nod to Geof Huth (& others) - are some 1990s Glyph poems. 

Glyph poem no. 8

Glyph poem no. 7

Glyph poem no. 6

Glyph poem no. 5

Glyph poem no. 4

Glyph poem no. 3

Glyph poem no. 2

Glyph poem no. 1

Polyvalent. Polymorphic. Polly sings.

I like this CD. I like it a lot.
Summer Reading Update:

Mina Loy - The Lost Lunar Baedeker

Started in on this one again - I bought it a long time ago & never got beyond the introduction. I hadn't realized that Joseph Cornell knew & admired her.

Larry McCaffery - After Yesterday's Crash & Storming the Reality Studios

Hatching a plan to read seriously into Cyberpunk through to Christmas.

Cid Corman - Nothing Doing

It arrived while we were away & I've still to give it the attention it deserves.

Ron Padgett - Creative Reading

Everything I've found by Padgett is good & this one suggests plenty of class-friendly ideas for next year. Hampton Armpit acknowledges a debt.

Stephen Ratcliffe - Listening to Reading

Uncanny timing what with Material Comforts coming to an end. So many sentences seem to ring in my ears or shadow lines I was writing a week ago. In some ways he's covering similar territory as my Riddles of Form (and with the same missionary zeal). Sadly, I keep hitting proofing errors which are risky in books such as this depending upon writings which are challenging 'accepted' standards of typography/spelling/grammar etc.. This aside, loads of valuable stuff.

Not much in a way. However. you writes or you reads.

Or, then again, writing IS reading ... etc. etc.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The latest off the production line.

Go to for more details.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Um ... I think that's it. 

This morning I got up at 6 & worked on what I thought was IX. That took me through to 7.30. 

Then it seemed more like a final piece - outside of the series - and now requiring an introductory piece for balance. 

This seems to be in place as of 5 pm. 

So, a series of poems I-VIII framed by an introduction and coda. 


Friday, July 31, 2009

"Allen Grossman says that art is about its subject in the same way that a cat indoors is about the house. If the poems are “about” me, I hope there’s room enough in me for language to make its necessary rounds; I also hope it finds its way outside once in a while."

(Graham Foust in an interview at

Without any intention of being 'cute' (perish the thought!) I am thinking seriously about the effect two kittens have on what & how I'm currently writing.

Cat rhythms are intriguing. The shifting phases during the day of curiosity, activity and dozing. The way they move around a house & establish 'places' (my chair ... L's bed ... a window ledge ...) - creating zones of comfort & warmth (if I remember rightly there's those passages in William Wharton's The Scumbler where he seeks ideal places to write). The way a cat transforms a room it's in - finds fascination in and new uses for things dulled by routine (a bath plug chain! crumpled paper! his sock!). How it imposes itself on you, nibbles your pen - you're distracted from your thinking - only to then be absorbed again with this purring going on as an accompaniment.

I gag at volumes of Cat Poetry - you know the kind of exploitative dross these volumes represent. However ... Christopher Smart & his cat Jeffrey ... Robert Duncan had cats ... I remember O'Hara being filmed with a cat or two near his typewriter ... James Shuyler adopted one ... .

Is there some connection? (Whereas ... poets & their dogs? Aren't dogs for novelists - those long walks in which to plan out plots and chapters?).

Or is this just total nonsense? Probably.


If you would like to receive a copy of the first chapter of Hampton Armpit by Myrna Barp (B.A.) send me your name and address and I'll bung an edition in the post. (Europe, U.K., U.S.A. - wherever you are). ABSOLUTELY FREE & No Strings Attached. Call it summer madness.

Lacking the Amazon 'Look Inside' option, here's the opening sequence to whet your appetite:

It was North October in the quaint village of Hampton Armpit. The sun advanced. Years continued.

Inside the house, last century Gothic stained the staircase, an ecclesiastical effect of lace curtains. Mustiness struggled heavily about the rooms.

An implication had been found among the laundry.

Upstairs Miss Doggit was struggling with the tin hooks of her Balmoral dress.


While, with the other hand, Texts VII & VIII are now in place. I'm not sure whether the sequence will go to X or have the energy to for XII. 

In any case, I'm not really the one who decides.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday's experiment ... we're still on speaking terms.

Texts I-VI are now in place.


The composure of the poem. Entering by a different door. Collaboration with not knowing.

A Negative Capability Brown.

(Brown's "grammatical" landscapes. At Hampton Court, Brown encountered Hannah More in 1782 and described his manner in her terms: "'Now there' said he, pointing his finger, 'I make a comma, and there' pointing to another spot, 'where a more decided turn is proper, I make a colon; at another part, where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject'".)
A Thomas Pynchon gallery...

It was Paul Cavacuiti who first turned me on to Pynchon. (Oddly enough he also lent me the ropey C90 with a tantalizing fragment of Zappa's 'Watermelon in Easter Hay' and so ever since Pynchon and Zappa have been linked in my mind).

How to convey the frisson of reading these first stories? The cover art, dodgy printing, small limited issue format - this was the late 70s before Amazon, Abebooks, eBay where nowadays you can find just about anything if you've the time, patience and Visa card. Where did I find these volumes? Maybe amid the ramshackle shelving of Foyles Fiction department, Collets down the road, or was it Compendium? I never tracked down 'Entropy' to make the collection complete. For that I had to call it up from the bowels of the Bodleian. It arrived in a brown wallet, tied around with string - I was still adolescent enough to feel that this was like dipping into some arcane pornography.* Would MI5 get my number? Conspiracies shadowed me as I left the Reading Room ...

Then Picador spoiled it all by bringing out The Slow Learner including Pynchon's introduction where he was even brazen enough to mention Zappa. What! But that was our secret! Only I had made this connection!

Maybe this was the thrill of Pynchon - a sense of active paranoia in the very acquisition and furtive reading of the texts. We were all Oedipas on the quest of our personal Pierce Inverarities. Pynchon made library burrowing and footnote trawling sexy, hush-hush, a nod and a wink. We were all onto something (no idea what - but who cared?). Why, probably, I can't get remotely excited about Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. I didn't even find Eco's Name of the Rose that compelling (too much like research being rehashed into fiction).

The last book I read by Pynchon was Vineland and that badly. It came out at the wrong time for me and since then I've not found the time or inclination to get back in The Zone. Mason Dixon stands like a massive slab on the bookcase - when will I find the time, though? I don't even dare buy the more recent stuff.

I'd love to recover that excitement - the crazy sense of urgency that sent me round London bookstores at the rumour that a new Pynchon novel had been published (only to discover it was an April Fool in Time Out); the wide-eyed wow factor of seeing an actual photo of The Man. (And was that Him - my Dark Angelo - hiding his face on the cover of 'Mortality and Mercy in Vienna'?).

Those were the days ...


* Reading early Iain Sinclair volumes of poetry in the Poetry Library - the original editions - had something of a similar effect some years later. The Paladin reprints have none of the nastiness, insinuations, occult menace. Mass paperbacks really can kill the visceral charge of some writing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday's experiment ... is moving ahead.

Four texts so far. The routine is : work with the fragments. Then type up. Then work back into the new text i) for sound - what sound logic is threading the poem? ii) for thematic logics. Then individual fragments are worked into - often digging back into etymologies. Then to stand back and see what is pulling on the previous pieces and what is now suggested for the next text.

I'm deliberately pacing this - the rhythm of one a day seems right. Time for all sorts of unconscious work to do its business. I'm astonished at what declares itself. Things I really hadn't foreseen. Begging the question: Who's writing this? 

I notice one of Robert Duncan's questions to students for the Poetry as Magic workshop was how they saw their writing oriented to the sun (i.e. looking into it, or with your back to it). Currently I feel I'm in the pitch dark with a small box of matches not knowing when my supply will run out. Exciting - but scary. 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday's experiment ... has far to go

Text I now speaks the way for Text II. 

Things are taking shape. 

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday's experiment ... is full of indecision.

Having assembled 100 or so phrases/fragments I've printed them off and cut them up into small slips. I've laid them out on the table and started to see which fragments pull each other. It's deliberately 'hands on'. A bit like piecing together an old broken pot. Or a jigsaw without a picture - and any guarantee you've all the pieces or the ones that were in this box. As little sequences suggest themselves I'm noting them down - aware that these might be separated later. It's really strange - and disconcerting - to be working like this. It's the words that are dictating the direction. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday's experiment ... is full of joy.

Having been absorbed in Keith Waldrop's Selected poems - The Opposite of Letting the Mind Wander - I thought I'd try to see how he's working poems such as 'A Hatful of Flood' or 'Watermarks'. Extended numbered sequences each made up of short phrases or fragments.

So, this morning I'm taking a bundle of failed pieces and scrutinizing sentences and lines for what they suggest - cutting in, splicing together, resequencing syntax. Anything to shake the 'dead' words into life. Sometimes keeping within the original texts word world, sometimes working across texts. I don't think it matters - the rules are made up as you go along.

What's for sure, it's a great way of getting closer to KW's writing - although I make no claims that he writes in this way (if that makes sense). I notice the kinds of line length he employs, where he tends to turn. Also the framing devices - working two question phrases, for instance - to top and tail a section. But most of all it's his skill 'in between' phrases. I'm so bad at this - always overstating, making explicit, ironing things out. Working this way I see how the gap resonates and the two phrases come into a new accord. Sound-wise, it allows you greater freedom as the individual phrase can possess its own logic but you can leave openings for what could come before or after to resolve a vowel or consonant pattern.

Sequential (rational) logic is muted. As KW says in an interview "what I am after is closer to music than to philosophy or information or sense". Or as Rosmarie says a bit later citing Jabes: "the writer is nothing but a catalyst, he brings words together on a page. It's like luring people into a park where the lovers find each other".

As Ray DiPalma said: it's the FOCUS THAT GENERATES.

Great way to use up old scraps, too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


lift lid


if the sock fits its pocket


more is more or


why hair




o thoth though thou thumb through oath


bad back


                                                            Fay says:

Teresa’s eraser effaced [her]


sofa knee


nose simper fee


annexe the excess of Francesca's vest


Emilie’s Miles smiles similes similarly 



A way of getting back into the groove. Took an old piece & thought of ways to revise it. Suddenly things veered off into these micro poems. Not at all what I had intended. 

Bit like practicing scales.

Kitten Update: in fine fettle.

2.25 kg & 2.05 kg. Teeth coming at the appointed time.

Everything's sleek & purry.

It's just like going through having babies all over again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Belgium Day here - which means most things are closed but not (thankfully) the pool.


La Meteo: clammy & wet. Armpit weather.


Insanely, a day spent tidying.

I go through a cupboard and dust off so many blank notebooks it leaves me feeling a) embarrassed, b) utterly worthless, c) ridiculously profligate.

Question: who - in their right mind - would buy so many?
Answer: an Eternal Optimist.

The Tantalizing Promise of Writing.


This said, the sheer process of sorting through old files - that's actual card & plastic ones - unearthing aborted projects, scraps of paper with forgotten scribbles, notebooks with the first few pages filled, lists of To Dos ... is oddly therapeutic. Stirring things up from the silt of years gone by. The same principle as composting, I suppose.


My black cat/is in the living room
with a motorbike

I seed it
I sawed it

apple bleeding

(When, where... why ... did I write this?)


Tomorrow we're back to what passes for 'normal' in this house.

So, no more excuses.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We went for lunch in a little village called Thizy. Menu (11 euros a head) lentils & lardons as a first course, rabbit as the main, a plate of cheese to finish off. Coffee. Views out over the Burgundian countryside. Simple & stunning. And to round it off, just before leaving ...

Fans of Keith Waldrop will know why this delivers such a buzz.

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