Friday, February 27, 2009

Poesy is the flower of the Sun, and disdains to open to the eye of a candle

Unlimited free visits to Litter for anyone who can identify the source of this quote. It's been bugging me for some time. Come on, you erudite bunch! Is it a real quotation, or have I invented it? (In which case, is it any less real...?)

Quote now corrected, thanks to Sam Ward (see comments)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alexander Hutchison at the Flying Goose

Went to an excellent reading at a crowded Flying Goose last night. Readers were Australian (tho British-born) Adrian Caesar, and Scottish Alexander Hutchison. Caesar's reading was fine, in fact quite entertaining. I don't know his work, but I suspect it falls into the 'anecdotal' category; at least most of it did, though I liked the last poem he read, about coal miners (sorry, can't be more specific, never having read the man's work, I'm going from what I heard two 15-minute listenings).

Alexander Hutchison was an excellent reader, with a somewhat bardic persona which he pulled off well, helped by his sing-song voice. He broke into song on two occasions, and the unaccompanied singing to folk-style tunes was very effective. I don't know his work well, having only read his book 'Carbon Atom'; that book struck me at first as well-crafted, literary verse (I've mentioned before the kinship with Gael Turnbull, who was a friend of Hutchison's). The reading brought out the lyrical aspect, and on the bus home I re-read some of the poems and seeing them in this new light gave them added force. One passage which stood out for me during the reading:

Warty newts and fire-bellied toads
continue your aquatic and sociable ways.
Natterjacks of heathland and dunes (your loud
rolling call like a ratchet). Corncrake
of bogland and grasses; fugitive, invisible.

It's certainly made me want to read more of Hutchison's work.

The audience was full of poets, publishers and literatii. I went for a pint afterwards with Sam Ward, who showed me a mock up of the next Skysill pamphlet, which happens to be by Yours Truly. I met printer/publisher Ian Collinson, who agreed to review the new Martin Stannard book for Litter, and I met Andrew Duncan, whom I petitioned for some poetry for said e-zine. I also met... and talked to... etc...

Anyway, a worthwhile way to spend an evening. Next Tuesday it's the Shearsman reading in London with Robert Sheppard and Philip Kuhn.

Friday, February 20, 2009

This is amazing. Take a look at David M James's blog, which is "... a book of pictures, the subject being readings of poetry in the North-East of England from 1969 to 1987".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some sections of 'The Book of Random Access' have appeared in issue 17 of The Hamilton Stone Review. Many thanks to editor Halvard Johnson.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

‘suckling poets should be fed on Darwin till they are filled with the elegance of things seen or heard or touched'

Basil Bunting

Born on this day, 200 years ago. He wasn't an old man with a white beard all his life. Here he is just after he'd circumnavigated the globe in a sailing ship.

"It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life..."

from "The Origin of Species" (1859)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My ersthwile poetry buddy Martin Stannard has brought out a new book. I haven't seen it yet, but it contains the poems in the Leafe Press pamphlet 'Coral', and I'm looking forward to getting a copy. Martin has jumped ship from Nottingham and now lives in China, so our days of meeting for a pint in The Lincolnshire Poacher on Mansfied Road are sadly, long over. Martin now has a blog on which he posts his current output - apparently throw-away pieces, humorous, casual, slightly surreal. At least he makes them look throw-away. But try writing stuff like this and you'll find it's anything but easy to do. Here' a couple of samples:


diary poems are so dull
like there is nothing
else to write about

I just saw 21 nuns a-walking


If we pump the lake into a balloon and cast it to the sky it will burn
Fall at all these feet and these wheels there is not room enough look down
Sudden onset of herds of thinkings of flocks of distractions of what
Is heading for the instant your smile explodes so the world can vanish

The new book (these poems are not from it) is £8.95 (incl. postage). ISBN: 978-0-905127-14-9 from Shadowtrain.
For more information, email

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Last year I put together a sequence of prose-poems, 64 in total, called "The Book of Random Access". It's got precisely 16,384 words in it (64 x 256). Not long after writing it, I decided that I'd wasted my time, that the piece wasn't up to much, and almost hit the delete key. I didn't, and now some sections have been accepted for Great Works and the Hamilton Stone Review, and I've had positive responses from friends who've seen it. So naturally, I feel more well-disposed towards it now. What's interesting about this is that it's an experience that keeps happening; work that I really want people to like and publish, usually doesn't turn people on. Work that I feel indifferent to, sometimes I even feel slightly hostile to, is often the stuff that people like. And after time, I come to agree. That's why the sense of a readership, however small, is so important. For myself, I find it very hard to gauge the quality of my own work until someone else has seen it; then, sometimes even before I know their reaction, I seem to be able to evaluate it more objectively, as if I can now see it through their eyes.

As to why work I'm indifferent to is often the stuff that works for others, it's hard to say. I think it must be something to do with the 'willed' quality of work - the less willed, or consciously directed, the better. I don't think it matters what type of work it is; whether it's nature-poetry, witty aphorism, cut-up, flarf - the state of mind required to produce good work seems to be the same. The artist doodles on a scrap of paper while mulling over a masterwork, then finds the doodles are far more interesting than the painting. Maybe that's what poets meant when they talked about being visited by the muse. Jack Spicer's poet as radio, receiving transmissions from outer space. Or in Buddhist terms, "emptiness" - the state of mind in which we don't identify with the products of the ego.

All of which is a complicated way of advertising my prose-poem. Or passing the time on this winter's night. Snow and ice outside, a glass of mulled wine in my hand.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I've just bought a batch of pamphlets from Peter Hughes' Oystercatcher Press. They are

When blue light falls - Carol Watts

Making Nothing Happen - Rufo Quintavalle

Blanchot's Ghost - David Rushmer

The Sardine Tree - Peter Hughes

At the Emptying of Dustbins - Alistair Noon (aforementioned)

Work - Maurice Scully

I've just read the Maurice Scully - an Irish poet, who for a long time has been associated with the Irish and British "avant-garde". The poems are about the creative process, the craft and mental activity involved in making poems. That may sound rather dry, but in fact, it fizzes and sparkles with wit and verbal energy. These poems are fun to read. They make astute comments on the pretensions and difficulties of poets, and manage to make me laugh while doing it. How come I haven't read this man before? What have I been doing?

Here's one of the shorter poems:


They take a poem of yours
& put it in a book called Other.

They always knew this, Father & Mother,
a bit of genius, sure,
but what'll become of him?

That future is here now,
& it's no poem.

To read more, buy the pamphlet - it's less than the price of two pints and will last a lot longer.
The Mother of Democracies

Here's a list of politicians, all senior members of the British government. Not one of them has been elected. Their anachronistic titles are a cover for for their corrupt evasion of the democratic process. Their only redeeming feature is their titles, which at least provide us with some amusement:

The Baroness Scotland of Asthal

The Lord Malloch-Brown

Lord Mandelson

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

And they're just the ones in the Cabinet. There are plenty of others in more junior, but still powerful positions - not second-chamber, but members of the executive - such as:

Lord Carter of Barnes

Baroness Vadera

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

Baroness Taylor of Bolton

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Lord Darzi of Denham

Lord West of Spithead

Lord Young of Norwood Green

and more, I just got bored looking for them. One last one I'll mention, as I it thought amusing, at least if you been to this lord's domain:

Lord MacKenzie of Luton