Monday, June 29, 2009

Niedecker - reading into the 'For Paul' poems and thinking what must have fuelled the writing despite all efforts to keep the biographical Self out of the picture (poems ostensibly 'addressed' to Zukofsky's legitimate son after Niedecker herself had aborted the child she was to have with LZ).


Ed Baker's correspondence with Cid Corman in a series of web files - a tip off from Ed himself:

Yes, also, quiet is good. Don’t overstate. Let a certain bareness enrich the whole. Let the sun enter. The contingencies others provide inevitably. Space in which to breathe – or from which. Another (empty) center. (Corman to Baker)


Ikea - to buy a mattress and a basic table top. There's a fire alarm and so I spend half an hour out in the car park with everyone else wondering what's going on.


Begin a new notebook - the larger one has gone stale and is proving too cumbersome; the smaller black one has become too precious (i.e. self conscious). I need something to flex the muscles in, not caring. Easier said than done, of course.


Someone sends me pictures of their three dogs on the bed. Is this Junk mail? A Blog follower showing solidarity with the kitten pics?


I write to Geof Huth. His post on Nico Vassilakis - coming after a week of my plundering his Blogs for various leads and ideas - makes me think I really ought to make contact. It's so difficult, though, to strike the right note in an e-mail between a friendly nod and weirdo intrusion.


The swing two gardens away makes a noise like a mule being strangled. It's hard to believe no one else's nerves are being set on edge.


One strawberry - red and slightly damaged - from the plants we just stuck in the ground a month or so ago. Evidence that Nature finds a way against all odds.


Looks like we're in for a hot & sunny week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday & not one minute of Wimbledon watched so far.


"The world" according to the BBC "mourns Michael Jackson".


Niedecker, apparently, slept "with a pencil under her pillow so as not to miss any dreams" (Dahlberg).

A rare sighting of Rosie at the window.

A Poem is first of all an amulet, an OBJECT bearing energy (c.f. the objectivist poem as object and Olson's poem as "at every point a high-energy discharge"). The poem is first of all a charm, relic, medicine, compass, key.

In between grading I was trawling through Geof Huth's many Blogs. I hit upon his posts about John Martone and he's been a real find (Huth too!).

Martone's poems are perhaps just too austere for me to get a handle on (right now anyway) but the collage work is really electrifying.

We are not talking about the poem sitting on a page like a jewel in a ring but the two inseparable, Eshleman’s THE ONE ART given its place. In this context, to “reproduce” (i.e. publish) a poem widely is to pass on as little of it as the “reproduction” of a painting or sculpture. We would speak instead of instances of a poem – think of the poet as writing down the poem again and again. The signed book carries a weak, memorial suggestion of this; those priceless books handmade by the poet in editions of twenty-six (Bob Arnold, Cid Corman, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Jeremy Seligson, Emily Dickinson) come closer, almost close enough. The next step would be to take up Vietnamese tu phap or find an American equivalent to Japanese sosho. We must learn how to write again, from the beginning.[*] Inscribed by hand preferably on stone, wood, paper, that which bears an organic relation to the world wherein its power resides, a poem is an act of sympathetic magic. Here we see Levertov’s organicism brought to the medium itself. Crude, yes brut, an arte povera, WITHOUT ILLUSION of being “above” anything (much less “it all”). The poem as medicine. And life today is nothing if not in need of healing.

Hitting upon Martone is sending me back to Niedecker (this time for real), Lew Welch, Kenneth Patchen and - to find out about - Eshleman & Cid Corman.

And the timing's great: as of midday today it's the holiday! Eight weeks in which to explore.


(quotations from John Martone, sourced from

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

By way of time out from the annual slog of summer exam grading, I managed to hear an episode of the new format 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue'.

Humph has been replaced by Stephen Fry - a predictable and safe choice (I'd have prefered the rumoured-to-be and riskier Chairman Jarvis Cocker).

It's still funny and Fry is - as always - good. However, the script retains the previous style and that's the problem. Lewd jokes are not necessarily funny - especially when they're so in your face. The magic of ISIHAC was lewd jokes being said by Humph - that establishment Etonian voice, that avuncular manner, that air of innocent bewilderment. Humph's great talent was to seem to be in the wrong place for the entire thirty years or so, biding his time until a real presenter came along. The problem with Fry is that he is so eminently good at chairing. The jokes are executed too knowingly, they're the kind of cracks he'd say. Fry is - of all things - too straight.

The solution? Drop it altogether? Maybe. Or alter the style - let Fry evolve his own mannerisms, his own 'take', play off being so utterly well known and omnicompetent - not ape The Inimitable Humph.

Like Tommy Cooper - the skill is in getting it wrong so well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Birthday (for yesterday) to my Aunt - she'll know who.

K, kids and kittens all say "Congratulations".






















I saw this scribbled in the grouting between the tiles in the men's toilet cubicle.

It occurs to me why would anyone take such pains or think it even worth communicating such a message (a redundant one, at that, surely?). Why, too, would anyone want to reply? (A difference in hand is just discernible). And then - most intriguing - the lower case 'u' and 'r', evidence of texting mannerisms - but the (almost poetic) doubled upper case 'H'.*

Perhaps I shouldn't be so judgmental. What, after all, is Blogging? And, going further still, what lies behind the urge to write anything at all? Maybe we are all in our separate cubicles leaving messages for future occupants?**


* Fascinating, too, the care required to write in such a narrow space. A whisper down the crack. Rebellion and timidity conjoined.

** I don't have to hand that Ashbery poem in Houseboat Days with something along the lines of "and leaving behind us our shit and our sperm/ up creeks for the landscape to make what it would of us". (A whole new genre announces itself: poems composed out of misrememberings).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on the Allforabit

"and for your writing and reading, let that appear when there is no need of such vanity" (Dogberry, Much Ado About Nothing, III.iii. 20-21)

(image sourced from the interview with Nico Vassilakis conducted by Tom Beckett -

Thinking the orientation of the page and the order of reading of the page. Left to right. Right to left. Top to bottom. Bottom to top. Might it even be looking down ‘upon’ the page (as a carpet). Up at (as a ceiling)? Multi-angular reading.

Thinking the scale of typography. The impact of larger font but how spacing and orientation can disperse reading – the letter looms, the sense fades. Smaller fonts acquire an occult quality – the small print – a significant whisper.

Thinking visual structure. Chanced upon material (guitar chord boxes) is integrated and offers a visual compositional logic: a rectangle composed of rectangles (a Sol LeWitt series). Thus 18 mini texts integrate into a larger text. Also the grid connotes structure, order, arranged information but also games, possible moves, strategy, play. Power’s alliance with the Ludic. And this is Language: grammar rules to be (AB)used. A life sentence in sentences.

Thinking chord boxes: sound given visual form; note values and terminology – EGBDF … ACE

Thinking the use of coherent sentence with discrete lexical items. How do they integrate? Lexical items are split apart by syllable or juxtaposed as if to create meaning. Whereas a statement is heavily enjambed allowing syllables to trigger the eye into multiple possible readings: en/dl/es/sl/y/th/e/lif … . Thus the sound and visual dimensions of writing are dissected.

Thinking the levels of reading – how the eye(s) move across the page. Where does it/they hold? At what point do letters surrender their inky printed shadow and ‘vanish’ sublimed into The Word? (And subsequently into the phrase, the sentence?).

Thinking the need to make sense. The central band of letters: B H O A M D E K R C T U. Always this compulsion to normalize, make sense of. Extends beyond the page: the World as Anagram. Francisco: “Stand and unfold yourself” (demand of the password in anticipation of the low ghost of The Father). Identity as anonymity – the excerpted Go game commentary where players are identified by letters of the alphabet.

meanwhile …

9:00-12:00 Exam invigilation. The premise of examinations: that Knowledge can be expressed, assessed through the written word. One hundred and eighty bodies writing. Millions of hand & finger movements. The flows of ink taking shape as words. Strings of thought. How will they be read? Which examiner reads every word of a script? As the saying goes: following the criteria to the letter.

The varieties of physical posture. Writing as a kinaesthetics. Cross legs, lotus position, the angles of elbow and head. The different rhythms – a constant movement left to right or sporadic fits and starts. The dip and lift of the head.

Authoritarian Silence cannot mute the tap of pen tops, scratchings of nib on paper, the shuffling of sheets. Sequence from Wenders’ Wings of Desire: the hubbub of voices the Angels overhear.

Around the walls the magnified letters of the alphabet, rows A … B … C … D … . Desks in a grid: 10 x 18. Beneath our feet the floor of the gym is an elaborate (for me arcane) geometry of lines and boxes. I distribute ruled sheets from blocks of A4 paper. A student's T-shirt reads: You Are Here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sun is in the sky
Oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else?
Sun is in the sky
Oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else?

One of the great joys this week - Lily Allen in the car to and from work.

Anyone who'd rhyme Tesco with al fresco can't be bad.


(to Nico Vassilakis)


recently heard news perhaps myself going how really it was easy to reach and it will be curious to observe to sound a million gestures a never the less we hear and myself if one hears I mean not just paper how can one not be seduced by that when pursued we find that world that there when this world leaves off noise is travel on distant seas where as experience granite is physical


a foregrounding of the actual the phone rings she asks questions could be about yet could in other ways registers merge the domestic poetic aesthetic as poem is as mother so instinct does its work half listening feldman morton born gently insisted upon thematic jan twelve living in being in writing within kitchen nineteen twenty six kitchen cooking television poem from below chunky intersperse with and again full stop and why not not just the sounds but the slippage of sense to senses seasons word split by comma shine of vowel light in night and day for the time being


as paintings are as music so poetry explosion of break through codes a slowing which allows idea of value hence delight spokes inwardly in voices the assumption thought on high hearing voices not we to say not to be able money is just so much subject matter word blocks pipe or neck of bottle so obviously pressing buttons open it push you pull you know I like to walk around in poems words in different corners creating thoughts


and inevitably I lose which means inevitably temper purpose gone kaput thank you again dead september parallel to within outside third nine top off thumb rim teen of nail gone eighty raw and quick eighty seven and what is immunity according to you soup and fruit a chord disconcerting near melodies die

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Thoughts of Lily (I)

Once upon a time when I had begun to think about the things that are ...

... my thoughts soared high aloft ...

... my senses had been put under restraint by sleep, yet not such sleep as that of men ...

... methought there came to me ...

... a Being of vast and boundless magnitude ...

... who called me by name and said to me ...

You'll find more images such as this in the volume Protracted Type at

It's by Nico Vassilakis.

It's terrific.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hugh Hopper's died. That's sad news.

His bass playing on Soft Machine 'Third' is worth hearing again and again.

I'll play it tonight.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Apparently the lily and the rose symbolize the moon and the sun in alchemical texts (the white and red tinctures).

O my alchemical kittens ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Three quotations


if you’re not writing narratively or argumentatively, the whole question of beginning and ending and how to proceed are by no means trivial questions.


I sought a means of revealing how even the clearest of sentences, the most ‘inevitable’ of logics, was no less a Frankenstein construction.


looking very hard at an individual sentence or phrase or word, examining what it might be saying, how it might be saying it, considering its social implications, its place in the text, the prosody, what other sentences and phrases might lead into it, even the physical shape and colour of the individual letters, or how the ink dries into the grain of the paper. For me, the pleasure of writing is absolutely fixed within the localness of context. I want the reader to share that aspect of this experience.


(Ron Silliman in an interview)


I wrote these in a notebook 2001/2 - just what I need right now.

typical about and finally. this is it. why. this is much about. could have been. or only the vaguest through and those. mostly by also. to find so. in the past didn’t even rise to an advent. so this might be. a way of and a developing. a little more. to the days a home. little but for a sporadic around. admittedly. also only too ready to use. those as the other. should continue


this as the place. for what. ought to go on there. but may be wrong and of course by next and resumes. the whole will be will see. it also isn’t a place or a tree not aiming to be. here posting some through or very simply it’s a did this. did that. but one which will or what are doing. enough. preambles today which is and fidgeting. gives in. the lapse back. who really gets things. started


a that until the light is over. indoors and mention how so around. from obviously just the moment. returns loose all gone. then go off. but by way of not having finding after. and if were to follow with a sense of. this but also and other perpetually and over. maintain that about essentially about carrying the sun. within


therefore on about. or count the time to the next. rather find what is within. this time from the day. that is. or not at all. to accept it but last. night follows of having gone. seems. as though expecting. through in fact. about were elsewhere


and for the first time. as if some things. along in the then which think. no doubt. along for again. done at last. another to another is an occasional. allusion as yesterday about the who no doubt. but none. the less there is but no more. show


another but earlier. throws with the other. another. for what didn’t to unfinished. down to out of the feel of a last. grades into some. sound. send to avoid rather than around. now asks for at least for the moment. the last ever when. also an other. entry on to be. hesitating and then. will now not figure once again. round off marking a real. not to become. remember to complete. then will remain. yet. may be able to. to remember. why


three or more each day without. pure almost muscular. fingers leading the wrist the arm the eye the mind. to what end. to see what comes. indigenously. and then lo and behold. then work on the words written without. do a thing. try to do this behind. thinking of these. just as when the other. when that never. over on and opened up. and started to thought was something touched was nothing and it was. something such


not what is but relation. that’s it what the and that perhaps. to do other. or this. decided for one just to do it as so this arrives. see what arrives. what’s going always going some. where always in and go. and to like there’s always new. as there’s always before which as for the first time. so to looking for the instead of simply. going with the no how is surrendering to. letting it and happen and go its own. so different as says whoever it was. it was that’s what. and how was always by one. out of for trying or it’s that. and it means. and it also means. letting what means by a little. always the other


not so much. stuff about yes and then. perhaps this. too much and turning over and that’s it. happening. get up and do what. yet. prompting the inevitable. rather than but when. not even an idea of. the very fact of every thing. else it could also be


other always. the little by. letting what means. also means and. that or it’s trying for. of one by always was. how. that’s what. it was. whoever says so different own. and happens and letting it. surrendering is how. no. the going. simply instead for looking. so time first for which before. always as there. as new always like there. to and go. in always where. going always going. what arrives. see what arrives. this. so this as do. just one for decided. or this other. perhaps that. the what. that’s it. relations but what not is


such thing was and nothing. touched. thing was thought. started to and up. opened and over. never that. when other the when as these. of thinking of this behind. to try thing. a without of the words. then and what comes. see to end what to mind the eye fingers. almost pure without each. or more


it is that this then and yes. be could else of even. not when rather yet. and happening and turning. this yes. not so and else. the over. so this. an idea of. than what and not when even. the fact. over and about not so. haps

8 June 09

This has been coming in fits and starts the past week or so. Comments welcome.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Great! It happened! Just when I thought I was beginning to lose hope of feeling excited again. Ron Silliman’s post a week or so ago alerted me to Carol Watts’ alphabetise -(

Why do I like it so much? Here are ten reasons:

One. The slim volume format (did she make and bind it herself?). Writing in longhand (recto) paralleled by a typed up a ‘clean’ version (verso) with what looks to be SOED headword and definitions. A feeling of immediacy, a work in progress, something ‘raw’ and exciting.

Two. The structure. The alphabet – one word per letter as an anchor or starting point for the texts. Clever idea! Did she pluck the words at random and then write? The relationship between headword and text is not always clear (none the worse for this).
I’m reminded of Christine Stewart’s Taxonomy (using encyclopedic/Linnaean species structure). Scientific rigour and seemingly anti-imaginative categorization allows fantasy to take flight.

Three. The diaristic method giving a freshness and improvisatory quality. Encounters, anecdotes ... I’m thinking of O’Hara’s ‘I do this’ style & other New Yorkers. Even Laurie Anderson’s dead pan lyrics – the quirky, the slant, the life into art effect*.
However, it’s far from ‘offhand’. The choice of entry, the movement from sentence to sentence, the brevity and arrangement of the apparently banal are artful. (Here I’m reminded of Lyn Hejinian, Ron S himself – although, for me, Watts feels closer to home).

Four. What she lets in: restaurants, geographical place names, current events, sense impressions, commuting, her reading ... . This I find especially helpful and what has preoccupied me reading Keith Waldrop’s early poems. Finding a form for a poem to accommodate just about anything. And, inevitably, what she (and he) notices, includes, bothers about, delineates a ‘self’ a personality – but as a byproduct of writing.

Five. What a last line can do. Here, dislocating the preceding event or topic into a new context. Or what her phrasing does – a choice of word – a deliberate awkwardness (even malapropism). Not all of them work – and perhaps that’s number ...

Six. Just enough roughness, places where the seams show to make it approachable and not too forbidding?

The inclusion of deletions and corrections even in the typed up copy. Thus the printed text remains provisional, in movement, awaiting a further reading. (And who’s to say print is necessarily superior to the handwritten?).
And that has to be one of Watts’ concerns here: language’s dubious and duplicitous relation to fixity. How words seem to pin down time, experience, the Self ... and it is embodied within the very form of her book: its written-but-typed status. Not at all a precious Artist’s Book For The Sake of Artist’s Book.

Eight. The sense of a writing exercise – was it, in fact, inspired by one of Bernadette Meyer’s Writing Experiments? I wonder. The idea of persisting with a particular rule or set of constraints. She dates the book and entries quite clearly (although who’s to say these dates hold true – no coincidence, surely, that one of Watts’ official academic publications seems to be on Sterne’s unreliable autobiographer Tristram Shandy).

Related to which, for all her evident reading in Theory & Poetics (there's the day job and notice the just discernible quote from Badiou in the back cover), she wears her learning lightly. (Contrast, say, Barrett Watten in Frame).

Ten. A feeling of looseness, limber writing. I’m not sure she’s so hung up on sound here (although there are logics and patternings suggesting the ear is thinking). She seems to prefer the poetry to declare itself in the shifts of idea and syntax. (Maybe that should be the shifts of idea in syntax? And that, of course, brings in Stein). Might too self-conscious an acoustic structure spoil the text – too crafted, lyrical, shapely?

Anyway, I love it. And best of all it’s sent me back to the notebooks.


* I remember seeing Anderson’s own little notebooks (covered in brown paper) at the ICA back in the 80s. Similar to Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit, they contained Conceptual texts and instructions. Has she ever published these?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Just met Gordon Hopkins at the Brussels Accessible Art Fair. I like his work a lot - it screamed St. Ives to me (& he agreed).

It's a pity that what with the expense of 16 litre sacks of cat litter there's not really the money left over for Art.

(This image comes for his site at

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Either we're very stupid or very clever - time will tell. Here are the new kittens - note the plural.

Rosie (left) & Lily (right)


Lily (about to get up to something)

Rosie (posing)

Enough anthropomorphicism.

The main thing is they seem happy & healthy & full of energy.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Damn! Seems I missed a BBC Radio 4 programme about Rosemary Tonks - 4 April 2009.

Did anyone record it by any chance?

Monday, June 01, 2009

The kitten debate continues. One? Or two? Two. Or one? Then again ... .


However, back in Poetry Land ...

... reading Stein & books about Stein.

I'm working on a theory that Carol Watts = Gertrude Stein + Christine Stewart (Taxonomy).

Which is intended as no sleight to anyone. Merely a tracing of threads.


A kitten is a kitchen is an itching is an I Ching