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Thursday, November 14, 2019

'Poet, 24'. The first part of Tombland written 40 years ago today

Forty years ago today I was writing a long poem, ‘Tombland’, a topological poem about Norwich, where I was living, just outside the medieval city walls. I seemed to have found my ‘place’ material (as Roy Fisher had Birmingham, Allen Fisher had London, Lee Harwood had the South Coast, I felt. I was also thinking about, and reading, Williams and Olson, my diaries suggest).

Norwich 1979 (photo (c) Heywood Hadfield)
Since I am currently blogging my 1969 diary (see here for general intro, here for 50 years ago today).

Let’s see what I wrote 40 years ago today: 

During the afternoon I went for a walk. En route I made notes for a poem now in Winter Walks/House Journal : I walked along St Benedicts, looked up at the church of that name, over the ground covered in leaves. Wet, golden-leaved pathways. I stopped in Plough Yard and wrote ‘past the agency, the pub, the coinshop’ (Note 2019: I had a Roman coin for my birthday from the shop, which eventually features in my Micro Event Space of this year! See here.) ‘the new community bookshop. 24th birthday. Poet under umbrella, sheltering in yards. I thought how [illegible] it was, now autumn is here that the Churchscape is altered: St Margaret’s (!) added to it, already formerly by trees. Past Talbots Café. And I met the old gaffer from the pubs/Talbots. He said, ‘Are you alright?’ I said ‘Yep!’ His eyes stared. I stopped to write in St. Gregory’s doorway.
            I past {sic} the market, a watery back-of-the-Inns, and visited Tombland (wet leaves – cobbles). And walked to the City Hall.
            ‘A Look at Macedonia’: photograph exhibition. It’s probably warmer in Macedonia now. [There’s a connection between this exhibition and the reading of Macedonian poets I had to read translations at a few days later, a significant pre-history to the fictional poets of the EUOIA. See here. ]
            Home. Genesis of the poem, written as note walking, notes in the City Hall, and once at home….

The first part of Tombland resembled these notes and I may also have written the diary after the poem, perhaps from the notes to the poem.

Read Tombland in its revised state. HERE. I've fiddled around with it over the years, and I'm happy with it (at last!).

It didn’t appear in my Selected Poems, History or Sleep, (see here) but I could see it at the head of a Collected Poems. Which is mostly why it's coming to mind. Parts of the poems also appear in 'Words' in Words Out of Time (see here) but I think they can bear re-arrangement. After all, at some point I thought to 'remode' the first part of 'Tombland' as a Miltonic sonnet.   

Friday 14th November 1969: Prince of Wales born, 1948

Friday 14th November 1969: Prince of Wales born, 1948

My Birthday (and his [arrow to ‘Prince of Wales’]) had another tape recorder mike, and tapes, plus money. Bad cough, cold, and sore throat.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Wednesday 12th November 1969:

Paul Plumb gave a lecture at school on tape recorders. There is a tape competition.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Latest Drayton write-through Another cosmology Brexit poem (temporary post)

You know what’s happened, if you’ve been following my posts. I’ve run out of the sonnets of Michael Drayton from his 1619 Idea, which I have been using to write my sonnet sequence Bad Idea, the latest part of The English Strain. I thought Brexit would be over before I’d written all of its 64 poems! I write about it extensively (with lots of explanation, the odd photo, and links) in the hub post HERE:

Despite the various schemes outlined, I’m continuing this Brexit work with Idea’s Mirror, using selected Drayton sonnets jettisoned on his way to the definitive 1619 edition. The narrator is Idea herself, Drayton’s shadowy muse. Politics is moving too fast (even as I compose) to keep up, to limit myself to one a week (the previous periodicity) at the moment! I’m returning to one a week but it might not be that easy. But with an election called, with a Flexibrexnextension accepted, it’s not clear how long this work will be. I’ve been trying to think that through. Does this finish with the election, with Brexit, with a referendum, or revocation? It depends who wins the election, I suppose. I turn to the possibilities at the end of this post.  

Here’s number 8. A poem using an outdated cosmology (again, like last week’s). But I got it to work. Patricia was washing her hair, had dropped something down the plughole. I went out to her to check that word for a mechanical cosmos: orrery. And she ended up in the poem, as Idea’s analogue. The wrinkled patches belong to Idea (and to Saturn in the original poem, of course)! There has been much about Bo’s upside down wreath. Of course it was an error (but imagine the furore if Corbyn had done that). BUT it speaks to the lack of ‘care’ in the man. He literally ‘couldn’t care less’. The foot on the table with Macron.  


motor of this globalised world
in its entropic cosmos
human orrery I
drop down the plughole
dye my hair with a plastic bag
on my head pour
unguents for my wrinkled patches
my mirrored dark eyes blur
starry fantasy
Corbyn scorches among
his prime movers
praised in his idea’s orbit
sunny Bo bursts from the PM’s car
to lay a wreath upside down

11th November 2019

As I say, I have selected these poems so that they move (backwards) through the various editions of Drayton’s poems. The originals are pretty rare, which I why I’m posting each here. Here’s today’s model: Sonet 23



To the Spheares

Thou which do'st guide this little world of loue,
Thy planets mansions heere thou mayst behold,
My brow the spheare where Saturne still doth moue,
Wrinkled with cares: and withered, dry, and cold;
Mine eyes the Orbe where Iupiter doth trace,
Which gently smile because they looke on thee,
Mars in my swarty visage takes his place,
Made leane with loue, where furious conflicts bee.
Sol in my breast with his hote scorching flame,
And in my hart alone doth Venus raigne:
Mercury my hands the Organs of thy fame,
And Luna glides in my fantastick braine;
The starry heauen thy prayse by me exprest,
Thou the first moouer, guiding all the rest.


The poems are to be found in MINOR POEMS OF MICHAEL DRAYTON


The first epigraph derives from, ‘To Idea’, in E N D I M I O N and   Phœbe , IDEAS LATMVS. This is drawn from the Renascence Editions text, which was transcribed by Risa S. Bear, November 2000, from the edition of 1595.‘Endymion and Phœbe,’ n.d., 4to, entered in the Stationers' Register, 12th April 1594.

The issue for this on-going work now, which I have been making public (as I have not been with other projects, it is worth noting), is what do I do with it after the election? So far I have written the following poems:

(Dates of composition and sources in the editions of Michael Drayton’s sonnets)

1: 8th October 2019; 1605: Sonnet 57
2: 15th October 2019; 1605: To Sir Walter Aston, Knight of the honourable order of the Bath, and my most worthy Patron
3: 17th October 2019: 1602: Sonnet 63 (To the high and mighty Prince, James, King of Scots)
4: 20th October 2019: 1599: Sonet 1
5: 24th October 2019: 1599: Sonet 3
6: 30th October (one day short of Brexit Day 2, Halloween) 2019: 1599: Sonet 9
7: 5th November 2019: 1599: Sonet 11 (To the Moone)
8: 11th November 2019: 1599: Sonet 23 (To the Spheares)

As you can see this has not advanced isotemporally, if there’s such a word, and I will hit the election date (also Idea’s birthday, as one of the poems declares, in horror) in a number of weeks’ time. There are only 4 possible outcomes of the election (although Jo Swinson, not a very bright button, Idea thinks, has other plans; I was going to say ‘other Ideas’!) They suggest 4 outcomes for both ‘Bad Idea/Idea’s Mirror’ and for the whole of ‘The English Strain’ project (again, see the hubpost for that in its full glory). They are:

1.A Bo Majority. Brexit will happen quickly and Idea’s mirror will be shattered, as would she be. The poems would stop. At 14 maybe? At one a week from now on that would be Christmas, so probably a few more. Maybe time to move on to the Wordsworth poems mentioned in the hubpost? Even take a short break. I admitted to Brexit-fatigue the other day, in my diary. Yes, even me, and possibly Idea too!

2. A Corbyn Majority. Re-negotiation and a further referendum. Idea would be much more hopeful under this scenario: perhaps she could carry on with her Braidottiesque deleuzoguattarianism (i.e., her unfashionably utopic politics). More poems (or the same number of more hopeful poems might be written then). But her ‘mirror’ would not be shattered. The Wordsworth poems could only be transposed if the referendum vote was to Leave.

3 A Bo Minority administration. Could Brexit be delivered? If not, what poems by Idea (or another?) could track the chaos? And for how long, or for how many could I carry on? But mirth would be possible, although it would be ‘deja vu all over again’!

4. A Corbyn Minority administration. Could Brexit or a referendum be delivered? If not, what poems by Idea (or another) could track the chaos, the breakdown, the compromises? Best to vacate the little room (stanza) quickly.

What would Idea do under these two last conditions? At the moment, I have to admit, I don’t know, quite.

I am left in the odd position that politically I really want the outcome to be 2, but that 1 or 3 suits the poetry better. I need to put country before party … I mean: poetry!

There is a fifth outcome for the poems, of course. Which is: ‘The English Strain’ will end at the end of ‘Idea’s Mirror’. But then, just as the ‘Brexit’ theme developed out of the poems (it appears towards the end of ‘It’s Nothing’, when I made a joke about the word ‘Brexit’, which I thought might need explaining like ‘stagflation’ or other temporary and ex-contemporary expressions), ‘The English Strain’, in its versioning of canonical (and not so canonical) sonnets, need not be completely stuck on the Brexit theme. It is as much a formal exercise as a thematic one. And an historical one. I still feel the lack of transpositions of Romantic sonnets. Then I’d be through. 

As I recently wrote to Clark Allison, who has been following these temporary posts in a comradely (and comforting, to me) way: ‘Drayton could run out again if I carry on at this rate! The 'jump' to Wordsworth would only be so if Brexit arrives with all its nationalistic pomp (and 50 pence pieces!). That would constitute The English Strain Book Three. But I might ditch all that. I had plans to move onto Christina Rossetti after the Barret Browning poems. But I cut it short. That Miles Davis advice: 'End your solo before you're done'!’

Tuesday 11th November 1969:

Talked about dreams in English. Was my usual talkative self during it.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Pete Clarke and Robert Sheppard: 'Black Panels' in John Lennon School of Art Exhibition

Pete Clarke is currently Artist in Residence in Printmaking at the John Lennon School of Art, Liverpool JMU.

This Residency coincides with the series of three printmaking exhibitions 'Printed Matter' October 1 - November 13 curated by Hannah Fray, Paul Davidson and Neil Morris.

The last of the three exhibitions 'Deep Black' includes artists from Liverpool, Germany, Serbia and Morocco. Clarke's  print triptych 'Wasteland' was part of the Krakow Triennial Exhibition and the second 'Black Panels' is a collaboration with the poet Robert Sheppard.

I like seeing my work in these contexts.

Black Panels

Monday 10th November 1969:

Duke of Edinburgh today told us the Queen was in the red!!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Sunday 9th November 1969:

Reading: George Bernard Shaw: Everybody’s Political What’s What.

John came up. Listened to Radio 260.

Friday, November 08, 2019