Thursday, December 30, 2010







Once again the Reading Oxfam bookshop comes up trumps. I went in looking for John Wyndham volumes and came out with these plus The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids. And as a bonus, H.D.'s Tribute to Freud. OK, they didn't have a single Patricia Highsmith (strange - or are they so good people snap them up quickly or simply hang on to them?) so I'll have to resort to Amazon - I could have sworn I had the first Ripley novel but I can't find it anywhere.

However, what really makes the Wyndhams such finds are the copies - the old Penguins from the early/mid-70s. I'm back in the Crosfields school library, the smell of polish on the wooden floors, days when 10 year-old boys judged books by their covers (and is this so bad when the covers as good as these?*). In fact, the covers were too good - they put the willies up me and so I never dared check them out. Not so much the pictures, more the reverse image engraving. And why did the mere title Chocky make me feel uneasy?

I see the copy of The Midwich Cuckoos comes from Chiltern Edge School, Chocky is inscribed in black biro 'Hugh Smith Christmas '74', and The Seeds of Time has been nibbled around the edges (cat? hamster?). At 2.49 per volume I reckon that's pretty good value - especially with all the added detail thrown in for free.

Will they be saying the same of Kindle downloads in 30 years time ...?

__

* Cover design by Harry Willock it says on the back cover. (And United Kingdom 25p 5/-).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Q: What did the cold hand say to the warm mitten?

A: I think I'm in glove.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010



a

very

happy

christmas

to

all

our

readers

*

been & done ...

Tuesday

... was frittered away consulting every available news & weather source before making a decision whether to go to the UK or not. One thing's clear, BBC News thrives on scaremongering - phrases such as 'travel chaos' are bandied around when, in fact, large parts of the country and networks are functioning much as usual (I kept looking at updates of the M3, M25, M20, etc ... no problems). They're selective, too - massive coverage of Eurostar and the airports but no mention of Eurotunnel or the ferries. Wouldn't it be helpful to explain what is working, take the edge off the panic? Or am I missing the point and this is the purpose of the news media in Britain - to keep the population in a permanent state of fear & paranoia. (Another option: doorstep an MP and tape the conversation - if Vince Cable can be sacked for unguarded comments, why can't reporters be sacked for unethical behaviour? Anyone smell an all too convenient set-up - what with the Murdoch deal and bankers' bonuses on the table?)

Wednesday

Up at 5 am & on the road by 6 am. I make it to the Calais terminal in just over two hours. Not a pleasant journey in the dark and that type of fog that leaves a filmy mucus over your windscreen. The shuttle leaves on time (how come the French side of the operation can get it right?) and I'm around the M25 by 11:15 UK time. Relief. Now the worry begins for tomorrow's return journey.

Thursday

A later start but we're at the Folkestone terminal in an hour and a half. None of the forecast snow in the Maidstone area, little evidence of the 'traffic chaos', 'mass exodus' or 'Christmas shopping rush' predicted on the television. And only the beginnings of sleety rain as we're checking in.

Then the problems start: the dreary three-hour wait for information about departures surrounded by fellow sufferers. Screen updates are simply repeats - I get fed up seeing the letters S, T, U, A, and the long awaited B. With every passing half hour I'm thinking about the snow that's been predicted heading for Belgium. That peculiarly modern existential cocktail of boredom, irritation, helplessness and anxiety. Terminal condition: life reduced to eating, shopping, waiting, screen-gazing. Announcements come over the tannoy - ear splitting feedback followed by an annoyingly cheerful female voice calling for a coach party or a male voice so close to the mic the messages are virtually indecipherable. Which letter was that? everyone looks at each other & shrug.

Finally, we're across to Calais by 3:45 pm with a two-hour drive in prospect. The traffic is quite busy, the roads are dry but for squalls of wind and rain. By Oostende the weather has settled and I'm feeling a lot happier. Sit back, enjoy the ride. It's only as we arrive at the outskirts of Brussels that the thin snow begins. Turning down towards the house the car is beginning to struggle, tyre grip going. It's just before 6 pm & we're home. We made it. Park, lights off, open the front door, unload. Phew. Christmas begins.



Sunday, December 19, 2010



Today no.1




Today no. 2

(I'm the one with the fez
- "juzz like that! ha-ha-ha")


Watched this last night - the first time, to my knowledge, that the star of a film is a ...


t y p e f a c e


___

(before the pedants rush in, I know that isn't Helvetica - Blogger's Arial is pretty close)





Neuromancer, William Gibson
The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
The Opening of the Field, Robert Duncan
LRB, (16 Dec 2010)
Essays in Idleness, Kenko, trans. Keene
The Poetics of the New American Poetry, ed. Allen & Tallman
Dining on Stones, Iain Sinclair
The Total Library & Fictions, Borges
The Iliad, Homer, trans. Fagles
Selected Poems, James Schuyler
nothing doing, Cid Corman
Days Shadows Pass, Paul Vangelisti
Sorry, Tree; Skies; Not Me, Eileen Myles
Selected Stories & Speaking to the Rose, Robert Walser
Verse and Worse & Seven Pages Missing, Steve McCaffery
Praeterita, John Ruskin
A Potter's Book, Bernard Leach
Occult Images (The Pepin Press)
the library of last resort
Oeillets
3 vols. of visual poems by Satu Kaikkonen
Threads, Jill Magi

... in three piles on my bedside table - the accumulated reading & dipping into of the past month (or so): gifts, finds, cross-referencings, research, whims, opened-then-put-downs, not-the-right-moment-fors, in-the-middle-ofs, my own efforts, forgottens ... . It would be flattering to think that this list reflected work in progress or scholarship - scattered energy & accidie would be closer to the mark.

We press on regardless ...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



I've never met Stephen Nelson but I imagine he writes high up in a tall building. Perhaps it's something to do with the format of this volume and his tendency to place a poem in the top left hand corner. The page acquires a verticality. Or is it some subliminal word association ... Nelson ... column ... Maybe.

FLYLYGHT arrived recently (note the slightly distressed typewriter font of the title). Inside there are poems working with severity and restraint: modulations of colour inks, spacings, punctuations. I need to look at these carefully - it would be an injustice to respond too quickly. Suggestions of paths to follow and explore.

*



Another surprise in the post was a pack of postcards from 'Bristol Rob' - what looks like an ongoing project: 'Lost & Found'. Mislaid items 'found' by his camera lens. Is there a bit of judicious arranging for the benefit of the composition? Once a pro always a pro ... .

*

An experiment. Sit quietly doing nothing (other than reflecting about the time of day, the changing sky or how you might solve a problem). Within five minutes someone will pass by and ask whether you're feeling OK or - with a dismissive sniff - say it must be nice to have time to do nothing.

Another experiment. Sit quietly with a book open on your lap. You might be intent on the page or pausing to think about a phrase. Within five minutes the same person will pass by, sniff dismissively and say it must be nice to have time to read a book (the word "book" said with just a hint of mockery).

Then try this: sit with your laptop open in front of you. You are bored out of your mind and simply flipping through sites. The person is about to walk by when they pause, consider, then apologize for interrupting you're obviously busy but ... .

The Origins of The Sticky Pages Press


Hanway Street* ... just the name is enough to send me reeling back to 1977 ... 78 ... 79? Afternoons out of school, on to a 24 or 29 red Routemaster double decker and up Charing Cross Road then Tottenham Court Road. Collett's & Foyles for books, Virgin & secondhand stores for records (no CDs then). I was in search of The Holy Grail - Zappa's Joe's Garage. Paul Cavacuiti had given me a ropey C90 cassette with a tantalizing 5 minutes of Watermelon in Easter Hay right at the end. I'd never heard anyone play a guitar like that. And what were those strange insidious whisperings at the start?


As I remember, there was a tiny cramped record store on Hanway Street. Here - I felt sure - I'd find Zappa. And I did - not Joe's Garage but Filmore East with its grubby all-white cover and cruddy writing housed in a transparent sleeve. Oh, and a price sticker with an amount that seemed astronomical. That much for this? I'd been told not to judge a book by its cover but records were different (remember those were the days of Roger Dean, Hipgnosis ... plenty of gloss & shine on). I hadn't listened to enough Zappa, hadn't opened my ears and eyes enough to appreciate what the cover implied and what the music embodied: the sneer, the critique, the black pepper, the other way of going about things.


Ten years later it all made a lot more sense & I'd spent a week up in Leeds with Out to Lunch the Professor of Zappology. I came home buzzing. Suddenly EVERYTHING was possible (poetry ... music ... living ... thinking ... Zappa ... Prynne ... Adorno ... Debord ... Punk ... William Blake ... ) and I sat down and made my first 'book' The Shabbiness of Intent with its grubby cover and cruddy writing**. And looking at the Pritt-sticky pages adhering to my fingers what else could I do but devise The Sticky Pages Press? And so, boys and girls, that's how it all began ...


___

* thanks to a new Blog Follower for (indirectly) jogging my memory


** where did it go? OTL sent the volume around The Loop & it eventually found its way to Iain Sinclair (whose title The Shamanism of Intent I'd stolen & warped). Did Sinclair bin it, offended by the irreverence? Or did he then send it on? To whom? Is it still orbiting? Who knows ...

Saturday, December 11, 2010



(notebook 1)





(notebook 2)



*


The modem has been playing up of late* and so I haven't been able to link to Geof Huth's recent post (http://dbqp.blogspot.com/) for 9th December. No one's written me a song before - but then this isn't/wasn't written. So, no one's sung me a song before - and again, 'singing' isn't quite the right word. A hum? A chant? An incantation? A brew-brooding? A see-chant-tea? Go to Geof's site & see/hear for yourself.

___

* this is the third attempt at posting - twice I've seen the page disappear & had to go back to the saved draft





Thursday, December 09, 2010



"To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind." (Agnes Martin)

Spend today when not invigilating exams etc. trying to track down books on/by Agnes Martin including the elusive (and eye-wateringly expensive) Writings. By all accounts it is fantastic. If anyone knows of an affordable copy &/or has one to sell please let me know. For now I'm dependent on quotations (often, I suspect, unreliable) via Blogs and other sites.

*




Threads by Jill Magi arrives today after weeks of waiting & disappointed mornings in the post room. The combination of texts and worked on papers is absolutely what I'm after at the moment. Beautiful. Put that in your Kindle & stroke it.

*

I'M NOT
WASTED
THE DAY IS


(slogan on the back of a student's T-shirt during this afternoon's exam)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Not that I think I really sound like him, but in the sense that one has a voice in the head the one I hear recently resembles Bill Nighy.

At least on his outings on radio such as A Charles Paris Mystery: Murder in the Title.

If you've not been listening to the current series, check it out at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w5fgv

and click on the iPlayer Listen Again option. Episode three tomorrow.
"... it looks like spinach pizza ..."

(E.'s description of the lawn with its patches of melting snow)



Mme Waffle doesn't drop by very often, I suspect. Nevertheless, here's wishing her many happy returns.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The phone call came at 6:20 so I'd already got up to feed the cats.

Still ... I'm not complaining. The luxury of a whole day!

Let it snow ... Let it snow ... Let it snow ...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

From the bedroom window this morning I see a car has slid out of control rounding the corner. It's right headlight rammed into a car parked in the street - exactly the space I normally choose.

*

Interesting to discover that Bugge Wesseltoft was born four days before me. He looked even older - although who am I to say?

*

I decide to start a new notebook in honour of the first of the month. Also due to the feeling that the old one had gone stale. (Or is this the proverbial bad workman blaming his tools?).

*

Go down to the library in search of novels by Robert Harris - I'd heard him being interviewed & thought I ought to see what the hype was about. Surprisingly there are only a couple of volumes & not the obvious ones at that. Strange. I must have passed over hundreds of copies of Fatherland and Enigma in book sales. Now I want a copy nothing to be found.

I end up reading the first page of Fatherland using the Look Inside feature on Amazon. I'm immediately struck by the clunky prose. Two pages of such stuff satisfies my curiosity. I'll stick with Iain Sinclair.

*

Driving back from E's piano lesson the snow starts again - enough to make me glad to get home. A really heavy fall during the night & who knows ... the early morning phone call ...?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010



Last night was one of my rare ventures out after dark to hear Bugge Wesseltoft the Norwegian jazz pianist/electronic experimentalist. My ticket stated 'A20' but the seats in the front row at the Bozar were unnumbered. An impromptu game of musical chairs ensued as everyone swapped seats. (It's always fascinating to see how really petty some people can be).

Bugge entered bang on time and explained he wasn't sure what to play - the Christmas carols he's touring Germany with or more 'out' electronic stuff. After a few minutes of effects he realised the microphones weren't working and took this as a sign to play 'straight'. The carols - all suitably reinterpreted - were just about recognisable, 'Greensleeves' being the most faithful to the original. From where I was sitting I had a terrific view of his hands - left hand mostly vamping, right hand doing the exploratory soloing. However, Bugge seems to rarely go up tempo and - for the most part - remains central to the keyboard (two octaves more or less). The result is a sense of calm and restraint, this is meditative music ... . None of the mounting ecstatics of a Jarrett (although there are evident echoes).

After about 40 minutes Bugge went back to his effects - the pick-ups working now - and it was fascinating to see him build his compositions in real time: a simple one-hand melody is made into a loop; hand claps within the body of the grand piano establish a percussive beat (which he then tweezes); further parts are added by mini keyboards. His body starts to jerk and flex to the rhythms - his hands constantly on the move tweaking knobs, adjusting levels. He picks up what might have been an iPad and starts poking at the screen, tipping it this way and that (was he in fact playing a game?). Then the piece seems to run its course - perhaps a final fragment at the piano, an unresolved chord, gets up, nods, a brief 'Thank you'. Norwegian modesty, of course.

There are the predictable two encores, the first being his Dave Brubeck reinterpretation from 'Playing'. I'm chuffed to be sitting hearing it live. The second encore is more daring - lots of knocking and slapping on the woodwork - literally 'playing the piano'. More effects and deliberately silly noises (he mimes surprise). Another abrupt ending. He picks up his effects pedal. Applause. End of concert.

I walk up the stairs and out into the bitterly cold night - only to find it's been snowing. Well how appropriate ...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Out this morning to buy pistolets & there's snow like sifted sugar upon the trees. A strange light, too.

Feeling better - a six-day flu/cold finally deciding to call it a day.

Next week copies of The Library will go out - here's the set of six:



Thursday brought the first suggestion of snow and an envelope from Finland containing ...



Lovely stuff from Satu Kaikkonen. Very limited editions and spot-on execution. The perfect medicine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feeling lousy.

Shut down.

Reboot system.

(& snow forecast for Thursday ...)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Listening to Live at the Annandale (Life Without Buildings) in the kitchen with one of my nephews. Tonight. Thinking again. Thinking again this has to be one of the great live albums. Of all. Of all. Of all time. Wide-eyed excitement & breathlessness. Mesh of guitar & drums. Rhythm & knowledge. Regrets never to have been alert to the sound in its time. That energy. Impossible to listen without a smile, a quickening, a heightened sense of life. Life with or without. Buildings. Ah.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


THE TOOLS OF POETRY

1. A goatskin notebook for writing down dreams
2. Mont Blanc fountain pen (extra credit if it belonged to Mme Blavatsky)
3. A Chinese coin or a stone in your pocket for rubbing
4. Frequenting places where you can overhear things
5. Tiny recorders, spyglasses, microscopic listening devices
6. A little man at the back of your head
7. The Ghost-Companion
8. Susceptibility to hypnosis
9. Large sheets of homemade paper, a stack a foot thick
10. A subscription to cable TV

(from The Poetry Lesson, Andrei Codrescu)

*

Additions to the Eileen Myles section of the bookshelf
  • Not Me
  • Skies
(Maxfield Parrish seems to be delayed for some reason)


*

That general sense of dissatisfaction at not having written anything this week. And then I think that I have been writing - working with students' creative texts (editing, suggesting, tinkering, enthusing). Nevertheless it's not the same. Dilutes ... depletes ... drains ... . Plus the daily talking oneself out blah blah blah blah ... .

*

Out this morning to the art shop. It would be easy to spend the entire day browsing the shelves of exquisite Japanese papers. I select one only to find it's 11 euros the sheet - flecks of gold leaf within the weave. I ask if they have any papers with tea leaves in them (I think they think I'm joking - I'm not).

*

The remaining copies of The Library are stitched together. Now the problem of who to send them to.


*

sthealth


(pwoermd for the slow onset of this cold?)

*

moules & frites

(tonight's menu)

*

encyclipidea


(title for another fullcrumb volume?)

*

"You're so above average, Frank"

(Hotlips to Major Burns)







Saturday, November 13, 2010

Keeping It Moving




... thoughts about/after The Library of Last Resort


I’ve been thinking about the past two months and the little energy or inclination I’ve felt to write or make anything. Then, on Thursday afternoon, something gels, I go upstairs and I’m back in it ... How to account for this?

The day before I’d chanced upon Jill Magi’s site* and I was immediately taken by the papery quality of her writing: how it asserted its physical existence. I was also struck by her admission of working with no purpose, simply seeing what will happen. I felt a lifting – weeks of self-crippling faded away. Yes! Why not make a few little books to while away a rain-drenched afternoon and send them out afterwards? It didn’t have to be A Big Deal.

Then, the question: what to use? Another potential source of panic and block. The answer: just use what’s to hand. For text I decided to use phrases I’d culled from earlier reading intending at the time to work them into a text. (That had been one of the ideas for the mid-term break – and hadn’t materialised – compounding my sense of frustration). I had the sheets typed from last week – which goes to show: nothing goes to waste. Now, with a different project in mind, the very same phrases started to become more suggestive. And the title declared itself – The Library of Last Resort. I liked the ironic grandeur (this a volume of shards); “last resort” in the sense of nothing else to do that afternoon and the very words and papers being recycled scraps. Another moral: just start sit down and start and things will start to happen.

I wanted papers that would be physically engaging but not ‘beautiful’ as such. Pushing it further, I thought of deliberately untypical papers for printing – the flimsiest possible. Thus: tracing paper, sandwich paper, brown backing paper, shoebox lining paper and a more ‘mousse’-feel packing material which nearly wrecked my printer (I had to chuck that one).

Print format was determined by the binding – I wanted to try my hand at Japanese-style side-stitching. So, a longer horizontal than vertical page.

Watching as the text sheets printed, I began to imagine a series of interleaved pages of calligraphy. Nice idea – but save it for next time. This book had to be done in the few hours available. Instead, I opted for ink straight onto tracing paper – at least, to see what would happen. However, tracing paper is not absorbent: the ink simply pooled and would take a day to dry. I dabbed at it and then used the inky tissue as a tampon: these marks were suggestive. Another sheet with a few fingerprints led to another design (and woke up a latent possibility in the unattributed quotation-of-a-quotation – originally Melville – “the human integral”). And as I’m working on the sheets I’m starting to think of the implications of working with tracing paper (copying, transparency, fragility ...) the support for the words now starting to work with the text itself – meaning emerges out of material process. Had it been there all along, somewhere tucked in the back of mind, Don Delilo’s question:

Does poetry need paper?

This volume starting to take shape using so few words and such thin surfaces ... perhaps unconsciously posing the question in reverse: does paper need poetry?

As for the cover, it decided itself: leftovers (tracing paper remnants, the holes punched to give an added sense of removal and unattachment (“abstract zero”)). The title is a rip off – a sticky tape ‘lift’ glued down and given another layer of pseudo-transparency. The threads in the weave of the torn Japanese paper reinforce the sense of distress and give a useful 3-D effect.

Of course, there’s a risk in writing all this – making more of it than the actual book deserves. In another way, though, the volume becomes a monument (however clumsy) to a moment in time. A way of focusing energies which would otherwise have been profitless. There’ll be six volumes – five to go out – and I hope they’ll give pleasure. Better still, provoke a response. And it’s the sort of thing I’d like to receive (wasn’t that one of Tom Raworth’s rationales for his work: – write the poems you’d like to read).

I’m already thinking of ways I could improve on this one – you learn in the process of doing. And new ideas suggest themselves (what about sandwiching text?).

With so much talk these days about the useful, the profitable, what goes on in the ‘real world’ (sic) maybe it’s ever more important to produce something ‘useless’. So evidently there (not virtual) while also questioning in its flimsy incompetence what is there ... On to the next! Keep it moving!


___

* http://sites.google.com/site/jillmagi/

Thursday, November 11, 2010



The Library of Last Resort (Cover)





This appeared today. More details on the Sticky Pages site.

Monday, November 08, 2010


(Clementine the Elephant)


One of those oh! moments.

I realise that alternative titles are possible ...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Appointment (for Nelly)




Antwerp seems designed to thwart the visitor. In the car, the streets lead you a dance and suddenly you’re back on the road heading out. Come in by train and there’s always the nagging uncertainty of which station you’re after – a moment’s indecision and it’s only another few hours until Amsterdam.

Once you’re in, there’s the diamond district: men with wide-brimmed hats, beards, walking with unfathomable purpose. They disappear down side roads or through pincoded doorways. Invisibility and CCTV go hand in hand – you’re being watched (by whom?). A stone’s throw away and it’s porn stores and peep shows. Here you pay to go in and watch other people. It’s a different system of exchange, the body as commodity. The girls in the windows have fake tans and fake skin. An effect of the light? It seems plastified, they’re real living dolls. There are prices in the windows on cheap boards, the type you get in tacky restaurants or downmarket barbers.

But we weren’t here for diamonds or girls – it was Art we were after. A different racket entirely (forgetting Damien Hirst). We traipsed around trying to read the map as well as the odd landmark looming over the rooftops. As so often it was not quite where we thought it was or the map suggested.

Up some stairs and there’s a woman in a lurid cardigan left holding the baby. Not what we’d expected either. After a little misunderstanding she realised we were among the ‘Invited’. A green stamp applied to the hand. Suitably stigmatized we prepared to enter.

A thread of lights led the way downstairs. Obviously the disused cellars of some municipal building. Grand once upon a time but now down on its luck. We find ourselves in a circular rooom with corridors and rooms leading off. I follow my nose – perhaps unwise in such surroundings: rat space, urinous corners, and what other horrors were lurking in wait? Another corridor with pipes and cables running its length – it felt like entering a flayed limb. And, finally, there it is: the purpose of our visit.

He was lying in a bed, propped up on pillows, as I recall only part of the torso was visible above the sheet. It didn’t seem appropriate to take pictures. Were we meant to be here? Had we ignored visiting hours? A thin cable plugged into the wall ran along the floor and disappeared (worryingly) under the sheet. The face was disturbing, too. An uncanny mixture of gaunt messiah and child molester. The skin seemed familiar – that unreal quality – not sex trade here but jaundiced corpse.

Then the voice started on an endless monologue. I leant against the door jamb appalled and amused by turns. Pinter, Beckett, graveyard humour plus that old uncle who bores you stiff. Didn’t he go on? That deadpan voice – I tried to place the accent – could it even be someone I recognised? Alan Bennett on a bad day, Robert Wyatt ... one of the voices between tracks on Dark Side of the Moon. Flat, lifeless, passionless. A has-been knowing it had all been said before and was going to be said all over again. Molloy in his mother’s room. The womb:tomb. My end is in my beginning. To kingdom come. Amen. I began to be aware of a slight movement under the sheets. A pump I supposed. Not the life support machine of a hospital but a mechanical parody of lungs. Creepy stuff.

I left before he finished (he was finished anyway). Walking away I looked back. Still there. Good bye. Come again. It was like exiting a burial chamber in a pyramid or an NHS ward savaged by cuts. Too raw for me, perhaps, the memories of a cremation just the week before. I’m squeamish, truth be told, dislike doctors’ surgeries, dentists - even taking the cats to the vet gives me the jitters.

We made it back to street level, up into thin grey Flemish light. We talked about the show – seventeeth century anatomy lessons, public executions, morgues, memento mori, old-fashioned Chamber of Horrors and the ghost train. I’m glad such art exists and that someone’s doing it – but I wouldn’t want it in the living room, dear. And thank God I didn’t take the kids.

Riddles of Form: Eileen Myles issue

In the circumstances what better to do than post another in the series Riddles of Form? I spent yesterday morning looking at the few poems by Eileen Myles I could track down in anthologies. Here, then, is a reading of ‘New England Wind’ – I’m getting it out of Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry but the poem was originally published in the volume Not Me. At least I think so.

Here’s the first verse:

Remember me this summer
under the eaves again
stretched out against
the sky again
like Orion’s moon


Relatively short lines (not as short, though, I see compared to what she’s using in Sorry, Tree). I notice the soft closing syllables of “remember” and “summer”, written yet hardly spoken, as if already in danger of being forgotten. There’s a visual ‘echo’ of a ‘me’, glimpsed like a figure in long grass playing hide and seek with the reader:

Re/me/mber me this sum/me/r

Such an effect is - I suspect - alien to Myles’ intentions (in interviews she argues for a reading that gets more the onward movement of the phrasing rather than staying on the printed page) but it’s there all the same. More certain – in its uncertainty – is the role of “remember”. Is that an imperative voice – to remember for a future occasion? Or is that the nostalgic voice of reminiscence? I like the way “under” then echoes “summer” as the poem starts to work its own internal sound logics of remembrance. And the long vowel of “eaves” suggesting perhaps the lazy ‘ease’ of elongated hours.

stretched out against
the sky again

It’s “against” that’s the key word here. How it evicts the predictable “below”. “Against” suggests some opposition, defiance even? The lines don’t so much allude to as tempt Eliot’s Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky ...

or Auden’s

Out on the lawn I lie in bed,
Vega conspicuous overhead

which finishes its first verse with the poet’s feet pointing “to the rising moon”. Such academic truffling feels, though, like a distraction from the ongoing movement of the poem.

I’m more interested in the inner dynamics of Myles’ poem, the “again” – “against” – “again” repetition, closing lines 2, 3 and 4. It’s an effect similar to knocking your head against something hard – a low beam perhaps, the type you’d find up in an attic room. I don’t want to cheapen the poem by such comparisons. Rather to suggest the physicality of Myles’ writing – finding in poetic terms tangible feelings.

As for “Orion's moon” I’m not sure he – or it – has one. A visual reading would notice the rising ‘O’ working typographically (and still a presence in verses 3 and 4). Or is it simply the moon coinciding with the constellation raising, in turn, questions of belonging and possessing that are pertinent to the poem. The moment of perception, too, such vast distances (which are also times) telescoped by Myles’s eye. The human ephemeral set against the stellar eternal.

On to verse two:

When a breeze crawls
down a screen, pip, zing
or is that a cat
crawling up


The act of remembering (repetition) and now another logic to the poem: up/down. Eileen lying down/Eileen looking up. Now a breeze “crawls/down” or it’s “a cat/crawling up”.

Abrasive s/z consonants suggest the scraping and scratching involved. And ‘or’ (to my ear) threads “crawls” ... “or” ... “crawling”. Against this there’s the almost comical drumming effect of “is that a cat”. Originally I typed the line “or is it a cat” only to notice that you’d lose the rat-a-tat-tat rhythm. Comical, too, the “pip, zing” and it’s something I like about Myles’ poems – being unashamed to include such ‘stoopid’ effects (“Mm-err” in ‘Dear Andrea’, “spea/spep/spe” ‘For Jordana’,‘Ooh’ as a title – all in Sorry, Tree). That said, “pip, zing” is pretty damned close to the sound I hear tugging a roller blind on a velux. The catch gives then there’s the quick whip as the blind coils up. Not so stupid at all. And all along we’re shifting ground – is the initial simile carried over from verse one or are we into a new line of thought? Needless to say, this is the kind of fun you get reading Myles’ poems.

Next, the strange verse three.

Oh was I alone in the
first room I ever
had or who would’ve
writ this then? Me too
when I am mad

More indecisions. A first room (a womb, even?) by implication a sense of Self and individuality. It’s hard to keep out Woolf’s famous formulation for the woman writer – a room of one’s own – despite Myles’ hip disregard for such limits. In The Importance of Being Iceland I like the defiant attitude:

It’s a little like the way I think of my own “studio”. Where I do my work. It’s no place and everyplace and it’s made out of language and goes where it goes. ‘The Time of Craft’ (315)

The Self estranged – shown in the weird grammatical warp and what seems to be a sudden interruption by another voice (“Me too/when I am mad”). The effect is complex and suggests the poem/poet has company – rather like a Berrigan sonnet slamming another’s words or lines into his own (who do words belong to anyway?). Or to invite in another poet – Ashbery – it’s that effect of voice tone: the questioning sigh cut by the crazed rejoinder. And what about “writ” – yanking the poem into a different period and register of language. Disorientating and deliberately so.

Verse three:

O leave me alone with
my aching head,
panicky panicky
no where to go
pretty north & silly


From the regret sighful (“Oh”) to the more overtly poetic “O”. The suggestion of a pose? However, it’s a hangover rather than Keatsian weltschmerz. I like the scuttle of the repeated “panicky” (again, again) in contrast to the sorrowful long ‘o’s that resound through lines one and four. But what about “pretty north & silly”? More Icelandic antics? An insider phrase (à la Gertrude Stein) or a Barabara Guest-type gesture all New York quirky? Or are we back in the library with our copy of Hamlet – “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is / southerly ...”. This for a poem entitled, ‘New England Wind’. Hmmm. And also the deliberation about whether or not to be ... alone. Hmmm again.

Finally, the long closing verse (the anthology breaks at line 9 but I sense it all comes as one).

The other night
under the eaves
in a rain at 4 o’clock
I woke up it was
so sexy; listened so
careful in the world
the next day
for who also heard it
dreamy-eyed, who could’ve
come up or I come down
for once from
the sky
to be what
fell


A sudden access to energy, the core memory, what the other verses have been preliminary to. How a poem can negotiate an opening.

It’s the “remember” of line one with “other” replacing “under”. There are the long ‘o’s of arousal working with the threading long ‘e’s: “eaves” ... “sexy” ... “dreamy”. A palpable erotic excitement, risk, dare, frisson. There’s the possibility of shared aloneness – who, together-apart, heard that rain and might have ...? – and of the miraculous declaring itself in the everyday:

And we, who think of ascending
happiness, then would feel
the emotion that almost startles
when happiness
falls.

Rilke, of course, bringing to a close his Tenth Elegy. Did Myles have this in mind? I wonder. The language does. Possibly, too, Guest’s confusions of love’s ups and downs –

Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher.

Parachutes? No matter, what counts is Myles’ teasing apart of ‘befell’ in the senses of to fall to, to happen, to occur. Luck, chance, Fate ... embodied in oneself or another. And the rhythm of the last four lines – dwelling in the expansive sounds of “sky” and “be” right as the poem narrows down to deliver: “fell”.

And believe it or not, right at this moment – yesterday – as I was finishing these notes the copy of Sorry, Tree fell through the letter box.

A book may befall, too.
Desert Island Discs isn't known for its political incisiveness but it was fun listening to Nick Clegg squirm in response to Kirsty Wark's deceptively affable questions.* He's an Old Wet (like myself) and thus knows the value of good education. How, then, to wriggle out of the coalition plans concerning university funding? Even that famous Public School savoir-faire and ability to bullshit seemed to fail him. You could imagine him thinking what a fool he'd been in agreeing to go on - what was this? - worse than bloody Paxman on Newsnight ...

___

* Was Wark showing some Caledonian solidarity with the humiliated and departed Brown?


°

More politics ... I'm starting to grade essays on Gulliver's Travels. I turn to page 139 of the cheap Penguin edition. It's worth giving in full - the Brobdingnag King is addressing Gulliver:

"... My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness, and vice, may be sometimes the only ingredients for qualifying a legislator; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them. I observe among you some lines of an institution, which in its original might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions. It doth not appear from all you have said, how any one virtue is required towards the procurement of any one station among you; much less that men are ennobled on account of their virtue, that priests are advanced for their piety or learning, soldiers for their conduct or valour, judges for their integrity, senators for the love of their country, or counsellors for their wisdom. As for yourself (continued the King) who have spent the greatest part of your life in travelling, I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have escaped many vices of your country. But by what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains wringed and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."

Cup of tea anyone?





Monday, November 01, 2010



















(diary of a walk 31/x/10)

Notes while watching Rivers and Tides

(DVD)

Goldsworthy is instructive – “if I don’t make a work I don’t know myself”.

On first hearing I thought he said “mould” for “know”. The mishearing is revealing. For Goldsworthy working with materials is also a process of self-fashioning and discovery. Speaking of the rock he’s struggling with on the beach in Nova Scotia: “it grew in proportion to my understanding of the stone ... obviously I don’t understand it well enough.” It takes at least four attempts.

The camera in close-up shows his hands at work. Chipped and bruised fingernails, sticking plasters, fingers that are testament to the work.

One thinks of the smallness of human hands, of how soon they weary and of how little time is granted to their activity ... One asks about the owner of these hands. Who is this man? (1)

As Goldsworthy says of the strange landscape in which he finds himself “I am so out of touch with it” – that word “touch” – and as he sets to work “I have shook hands with the place” – that word “hands”. The obligation to refuse gloves (loss of ‘feel’ for the materials at hand at the risk of numbness from the cold). “You never shake someone’s hand with a glove”. In any case, “good art keeps you warm”.

Two axes at work. Horizontal: the physical space of the landscape (hillside, moor, forest, beach); vertical: the time of the making. He gets up early, keeps looking over his shoulder at the inevitable return of the tide, feels against his cheek slight breezes that will jeopardise the fabric of twigs.

Space is time. The landscape Goldsworthy walks across is sedimented meaning. Centuries of sheep farming have sculpted the moors. Goldsworthy is suspicious of stability, undermines idioms, nothing is “set in stone”. Stone is fluid. He pounds pebbles for their red iron pigment before moulding it into a ball that’s lobbed into the river. Particles disperse. Blood red veins marble the skin of the water.

Hence, it is impossible for you to take up the most insignificant pebble at your feet, without being able to read, if you like, this curious lesson in it. You look upon it at first as if it were earth only. Nay, it answers, ‘I am not earth – I am earth and air in one; part of that blue heaven which you love, and long for, is already in me: it is all my life – without it I should be nothing, and able for nothing ... but, because there is, according to my need and place in creation, a kind of soul in me, I have become capable of good, and helpful in the circles of vitality’. (2)

Although Nature has no need of Goldsworthy, he needs Nature. He denies the “woolly” thinking of pastoralism preferring the “darker side”. The gaping mouth / hole / vagina in a tree trunk is a way to come to terms with underlying rhythms of change and loss. Here he runs out of words.

Much of Goldsworthy’s work is a way of fusing writing and drawing. His walls, ribbons and garlands are writhing lines of Blakean delight in energy. River meanders, serpent coils, twirls of micro-organisms, tendrils. String theories sounding through the universe.

From another angle he’s rooted in an English folk tradition. Ophelia gathering flowers to strew for rituals that seem to have been forgotten but continue to haunt buried in collective memory. Goldsworthy gives his works as “gifts” but on the understanding that they will be returned, otherwise:

Those are pearls that were his eyes;/Nothing of him that doth fade/But doth suffer a sea change/Into something rich and strange (3)

The rock cone disappears to the eye beneath the waves only to allow a more profound sense of things to surface. The driftwood dome circles with the incoming tide becoming something ‘other’ rather than merely broken. The work initiates the unforeseen. “The very thing that brings the work to life is that which causes its death” – yet the unmaking shapes anew.

The work is not pre-existent, a conception awaiting execution. It emerges only in the hands-on engagement with landscape, materials, physical ‘know-how’ and improvisation. Even with the most resilient material there is an inherent fragility and risk. Goldsworthy takes a work to the “very edge of collapse”. From the start, the invigorating uncertainties of the open air were preferred to the stuffy studios of art college orthodoxy.

But what – exactly – is the work? The cones, for instance, left like “guardians”, markers confirming a connection with place. Wordsworth left poems on stones. Richard Skelton records in charged locations to return and leave his sounds to decompose.

I perceived decay had made progress ... – many a window showed black gaps deprived of glass; and slates jutted off, here and there, beyond the right line of the roof, to be gradually worked off in coming autumn storms. (4)

A poem, a song, a sculpture - just so many empty snail shells? Fashioned then abandoned. A leaving behind.

Yet the vital role of the photograph or film as documentation. Goldsworthy’s slide archive dates back to art school. It’s his way of understanding his work (the gap between the making and the “return of the images”). Also, one assumes, a way to quantify and assure gallery value. At what point does Land Art fall back into Sunday afternoon strolls? Impromptu stick tents for the kids, beachcombing, drawing in the sand? His wife’s question as he leaves the house and his mock pompous retort: “I am an intuitive artist ...”.

Economy of means: Goldsworthy lies prone in the falling rain. Is he thinking of a new work? Resting? A sequence spliced in from Tarkovsky's Mirror? He gets up and there it is – a shadow of himself left on the unmoistened ground. Another: he casts a huge snowball up into the air so the crystals form a cloud and disperse as a glittering mist. The camera does not simply record but becomes the medium – the possibility – for such work. I’m reminded of Anna Theresa de Keersmaker dancing a mandala in the forest. Art as choreography. One more: the stone wall running from the motorway to the river and then into the woods. The tracking bird’s eye view offers another dimension to the ground level work.

Another way of looking ... a cone standing immobile within the walls of the gallery. How different to the one being seen coming into being. The decisions, indecisions, chippings, refittings ... 'It' is a sum of its failures. Is. Is not.

Another way of looking ... a cone seen at a distance as against close up. Suddenly entirety gives way to discrete fragments and the spaces within. The whole is punctuated with holes. By extension, Goldsworthy’s works are so often not things-in-themselves but take place in participation with their surroundings. The stonewall circle, its ‘O’ reframing the undulating line of the horizon. The hollowed ‘O’s of intense red pigment depend upon the grey rocks and the mottlings of moss and fungi.

°°°

ice rock petal dust snow twig wool branch

sun wind tide

°°°

“The stone is speaking” (Goldsworthy)

“Clay is earth’s mouth” (Eileen Myles, quoting)


°°°


The “seed in the stone” – Goldsworthy’s art is as big (and as little) as this. The ground opens under our feet as the spirit: matter opposition – upon which so much rests for ‘our’ culture – is placed in question.

°°°



1. Rilke, The Rodin Book
2. Ruskin, The Work of Iron
3. Shakespeare, The Tempest
4. E. Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Two quotations from Eileen Myles by way of a postscript ...

"As I walked I was recording the details, I was the details, I was the poem."

(Not Me)

.

"It's the jazz of the American language ... the way we keep the body in - the way the English don't."

(in conversation with Charles Bernstein, Penn Sound)





Today's Soundtrack:

Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen - ".......... for the ghosts within"

Bugge Wesseltoft - Playing

Just Chipping Away


The past week (and a bit) I’ve been reading Eileen Myles (The Importance of Being Iceland) enjoying the exhiliration of her voice and rhythm of her thinking. That’s a phrase: as is the phrase in the phrasing. A stance and a way of coming in at it.

So many lines come off the page, make you raise your eyes, pause, lift the lid off the can of life. Such as? Poetry and the window. And she’s so right – who wouldn’t want to write in their right/wrong mind? And her way of seizing an occasion – accident, vomiting, life crisis etc. – it all feeds in. And why it’s imperative I read some of her poems (Sorry, Tree might arrive tomorrow).

Knowing I am not – or so I’d assume – her ‘intended’ audience. (Male, 46, GSOH, straight, square, unhip). Or perhaps that’s the point. Why I need ‘my’ Iceland. To see what it feels to be glacial, volcanic, in the making, out on the northern margins of the maps. The trope of frozen wastes in 19thC fiction as the female landscape. Ms. Mary Shelley Godwin Wollstonecraft Frankenstein Creature frozen out, on thin ice, cold shouldered by the patriarchal Big Society. Slippery when wet. Here are new temperature logics: hot (erotic) with cold not as its opposite. ‘Cool’ won’t do either (too 50’s jazz-jism & birth) but ‘cold’ as positive CHILL. Degree zero. Think. Begin again.

The Importance of Being ... invites Wildean earnestness. However, Myles is also going-a-Bunburying: off to Iceland (in the footsteps of Mr W.H.) writing poetry. Each of these essays are excuses to be elsewhere, become-another only to find out who you ‘really’ are all along.

In the absence of an index, I offer my own fingering through the pages – those places where I paused:

On Robert Walser (17) his work’s “permeable borders” and “sudden shifts of mood”. On writers not being “smart” (18). On Iceland where “all languages were other languages”. On having work to do and being thankful for “the focus” (32). On libraries not being too beautiful. On an “ecology of sound” and what English does to languages. On Robert Smithson and what she notes in his work – “the earth is a dot, he wrote” (87). On the “very soul of poetry” being the list (97). On Ted Berrigan and Jimmy Schuyler and Alice Notley and Ann Lauterbach. On How To Write An Avant-Garde Poem and knowing when to let poems alone and windows and her “whirligig mind” and using what you’ve got and learning to bear silence. On Bjork and Bob Dylan and writing when you’re moving and how your mother can spoil a sunset (169). On the sincerity of the touch of a foot in the night (180). On writing by hand and poetry being “an opportunity to change the locks continually” (193). On the difficulty of even having a thought these days. On craft and her studio. On quilts. On giving a month or a day. On clay being “mud’s mouth” (323). On browser art and living in the throat and not being able to do everything and ...

“the impossibility of that choice, of the everything when I was young, that choice made me a poet because I could have some purchase on everything and do a little bit of it all the day. Just chipping away...” (255).

Out at 7:30, the streets fogged. Parked cars invisible after 100 yards. It’s still. A Day After feeling. A pinch and a punch for the first of the month. Walking past houses that are still asleep. The bright pots of flowers on the concrete steps – in memoriam. Past the house of the woman who’s lost her mind (she calls out to passersby to remind her it’s Monday). Voices within. A luminous green skeleton hangs in the door one down.

Last night there were only two calls. Each time a small gang of kids in sheets and make-up. In the shadows a group of parents just making sure. “Hallowe’en!” ... “Trick or treat!”. I distribute sweets and close the door. It’s a ritual that has nothing to do with Belgian society or culture. The masks, witch hats and other paraphenalia confirm encroaching Americanisation and cynical consumerism. Even in England I don’t remember it being much of an occasion – Guy Fawkes and fireworks, yes. Then again, that’s an unlikely tradition to take root here.

No one is queuing in the bread shop. I ask for“un six cereales et deux pistolets”. The woman behind the counter is puzzled and I explain – “je suis seul ce weekend ... les filles sont à Paris”. “Ah – c’est comme ça pour vous artistes” is her reply – disconcerting or inaccurate or perhaps she’s confusing me with someone else? Two cents change.

And so today. Just me and the two cats.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

pp II III ano

(for Bugge Wesseltoft)

STICKY PAGES IN THE UK!

ONE DAY EXHIBITION AT SIDESHOW, NOTTINGHAM, OCT 30:

WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS KEEPING IT MOVING

Follow this link for more information:

http://verysmallkitchen.com/

Sunday, October 24, 2010




A New Leaf Press is launched today.

More details on The Sticky Pages site.

Friday, October 22, 2010

HMS Astute ran aground on a shingle bank near the Isle of Skye, where it was stuck for 10 hours.

(From the Independent website. You can't invent headlines like this).


(birthday dinner 21/x/2010)

Library Acquisitions (II)







""The principles of the Way of Tea are directed toward all of one's existence, not just the part that takes place in the tearoom. In practice, the test lies in meeting each occurrence of the day with a clear mind, in a composed state. In a sense, even one's smallest action is the Way of Tea."

Library Acquisitions (I)







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