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Monday, February 28, 2005

Editorial to the third series: Robert Sheppard


a blogzine of investigative, exploratory, avant-garde, innovative poetry and poetics edited by Robert Sheppard

I founded Pages in1987 as a “quick hit of the New British poetry as it happens”, as Ken Edwards put it: 2 sheets of A4 folded to give 8 pages (numbered successively) of poetry, originally published monthly. During this time it published writers as well known as Robert Creeley, Tom Raworth, Bob Cobbing, Allen Fisher, David Miller, but also gave a showing to then lesser-known writers, such as James Keery, Rupert Loydell, Michael Ayres, and many more. The first series ended at Page 218.

In April 1994 the second series began: this time A4 (again with spartan production values). Each issue was to have focussed on a single author. Although it didn’t quite turn out like that (and it took a long time to complete its run, until May 1998, in fact) all twelve were featured, usually with text, an essay, and a commentary on the text by another: Adrian Clarke, Peter Middleton, Hazel Smith, cris cheek, Ken Edwards, John Wilkinson, Maggie 0’Sullivan, Virginia Firnberg, Alan Halsey, Ulli Freer, Gilbert Adair and Rod Mengham. They were picked as a group of established, but not much written about, writers. This series made sure that was no longer the case. The first series ended at Page 445.

This third series picks up on a long-standing small press tradition, that of utilising available technology and subverting it – if that isn’t putting it too dramatically -­­- to the needs to editing, and to work with its disadvantages and limitations: in this case, the blog format. Perhaps the fourth series might be a proper website, with graphics and audio links, and whatever the technology affords, but Pages has always been fairly spartan in its presentation, and I see this as a tradition. I will also continue the tradition of numbering each posting as though it were a page, as I did with Pages. The technology has outstripped my nomenclature, even the metaphorical use of ‘pages’ on the net.

Since 1998 when I reached the end of the second series I have been busy on a number of projects, completing and exceeding my creative endeavour Twentieth Century Blues, and also finishing a critical work called The Poetry of Saying, an account of British poetry since 1950, in which Pages has its small part to play, it's worth saying. I have also been submerged in the world of creative writing teaching. I feel the need to get back to being involved in the field of cultural production a bit more, and on my own terms. Thus Pages will be more intermittent, more personal, this series, although I hope to post something every month. I'm hoping to combine work by well-known and lesser known writers. I also hope its previous reputation will mean that a humble blog might be looked at by those interested in this area of work, though I doubt whether I’ll reach the splendid 250,000 hits that Ron Silliman has clocked up at Silliman's Blog. Do have a look if you haven't seen it; at

Most of the contributions will be commissioned, but I will preserve the facility a blog offers for the posting of comments by readers.

Copyright of all works remains with the authors. This notice covers all subsequent postings on this site.

It seems appropriate to include the ‘Afterword’ that I wrote to the last series of Pages, if only to get myself back in the swing of ita all..

15th February 2005

Afterword to Pages, Second Series

Pages first appeared in July 1987 and has lived up to its simple name as a spartan magazine of exuberant work. The debates it has fostered have been taken up elsewhere and it has been a pleasure to be able to contribute to them. In particular, as I say above, the term "linguistically innovative poetry" spread, after having been coined by Gilbert Adair in the March 1988 issue of Pages, as a way of describing the kinds of poetry we then believed had been "operating since 1977" in "fragmentation and incoherence". The result had been a "public invisibility of the poetry" and "ditto of a theorising discourse" in Adair's words. The argument that all good poetry is linguistically innovative doesn't invalidate its particularity, but suggests that, like many such terms, its meaning is its use. Yet, as I said in the previous article, it has been used to speak of British Poetry Revival work as well as American language poetry in a way beyond Gilbert's use: a buzzword for a fuzzy set of poets outside his temporal and cultural determinants.

The conditions Adair identified as the post 1977 situation of the poetry - eg "decreasing publishing opportunities; wide gaps in continuations of public ... discussions; a one-way 'dialogue' with oppositions that largely expunge us, ... movement in a less visible, less real poetic community" - contrasts with Eric Mottram's celebratory survey of the earlier "British Poetry Revival 1960-1975", which catalogues reputations, achievements and opportunities. (See Hampson and Barry New British Poetries.) Yet this carries an appendix, dated 1978, which makes sorry reading: the story (again!) of the end of the Poetry Society Era. This was the "fragmented and incoherent" backdrop to the despair of the early 1980s, one matched by Allen Fisher's identification in his 1985 introduction to his Necessary Business essay of those wound-licking years as "a period of entrenchment and awe ... speaking in a considerably small room" (Spanner 25, p. 163).

The increasing willingness of poets since the mid 80s to operate theoretically, in terms of poetics and other theory, was a welcome change that seems not yet historical enough to assess. Magazines like Fragmente and Parataxis, and, earlier, Reality Studios, which lightened the dark years, promoted the "public discussion" of which Adair lamented the absence. The resurgence of poetry organising and publishing has been encouraging. (It is interesting to note that Wolfgang Gortschacher's Little Magazine Profiles broadly agrees with this chronology.)

Pages has had its place to play in this, and the second series, with its structured approach to 12 selected poets, proved an opportunity to explore empirically what "linguistically innovative" might mean. I had no idea it would take this long to reach the end of the process, and I would like to thank all the poets, critics, and readers who have made the whole thing possible. During this long time, conferences, discussions and publications have pushed arguments along. Possibly the very term "linguistically innovative" (which Adair never proffered as a Proper Noun anyway) has worn itself out. As I attempt to define it against the earlier British Poetry Revival work and American language poetry (see my "Negative Definitions" which appeared in Sulfur 42, 1998). I look with some hope to the day when it might be superseded, not necessarily by another cumbersome term, but with poetic work which will feel as fresh as the work Pages turned its attention to about a decade ago. There is evidence that this work is there, and it awaits its journals and publications. Reality Street's "Four Pack" series is showing the way.

Robert Sheppard 29 March 1998

Page 446

Saturday, February 26, 2005

John Seed: from Pictures from Mayhew


At Woolwich we were all on the fuddle
at the Dust Hole I went to beg
of a Major whose brother was in Spain
he’d himself been out I said I
was a sergeant in the 3rd Westminster Grenadiers
you know & served under your brother oh
yes that’s my brother's regiment says he where
was you then on the 16th of October
why sir I was at the taking of
the city of Irun says I in fact
I was with the costermongers in St. Giles’s
calling cabbages white heart cabbages oh then said
he what day was Ernani taken on why
said I a little tipsy & bothered at
the question that was the 16th of October
too very well my man says he tapping
his boots with a riding whip I’ll see
what I can do for you the words
were no sooner out of his mouth when
he stepped up to me & gave me
a regular pasting he horsewhipped me up &
down stairs along the passages my flesh was
like sassages I managed at last to open
the door & get away


I became a turnpike sailor & went out
as one of the Shallow Brigade wearing Guernsey
shirt & drawers or tattered trowsers there was
a school of four we only got a
tidy living 16s or £1 a day among
us we used to call every one that
came along coalheavers & all sea-fighting captains
now my noble sea-fighting captain we used
to say fire an odd shot from your
larboard locker to us Nelson’s bull-dogs but
mind we never tried that dodge on at
Greenwich for fear of the old geese the
Shallow got so grannied in London the supplies
got queer shipwrecks got so common in the
streets I quitted the land navy


In wet weather I used to dress tidy
& very clean for the respectable broken-down
tradesman or reduced gentleman caper I wore a
suit of black generally & a clean dickey
& sometimes old black kid gloves & I
used to stand with a paper before my
face as if ashamed:


This is called standing pad with a fakement
it’s a wet-weather dodge & isn't
so good as screeving but I did middling
& can’t bear being idle

I've done the shivering dodge too gone out
in the cold weather half naked one man
can’t get off shivering now Shaking Jemmy went
on with his shivering so long he couldn’t
help it at last he shivered like a jelly
like a calf’s foot with the ague on
the hottest day in summer it’s a good
dodge in tidy inclement seasons it’s not so
good a lurk by two bob a day
as it once was it’s a single-handed job
if one man shivers less than another he
shows it isn’t so cold as the good
shiverer makes it out then it’s no go

Author’s Note: Every word in the above poems is drawn from Henry Mayhew's writings on London published in the Morning Chronicle from 1849 to 1850, then in 63 editions of his own weekly paper, London Labour and the London Poor between December 1850 and February 1852 and then in the four volume work of the same title.

PICTURES FROM MAYHEW is forthcoming Shearsman books, Exeter, April 2005, and may be ordered here.

Page 452

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dee McMahon: Three Poems


white washed red door home
shady holiday bungalow
Imperial bar O’Neill’s
frames central widening
square from where
chip shop arcade
fish shop restaurant
share walls and fall into
shore shadow at evening

wind moistened salt cuts breath
recognition comforts eyes ears skin
scaled trawlers tarred vessels
with outboard motors pier

to the west it cackles
crustacean pop rock laced
every flushing tide rush
draining brown weed
green slime lubricate

easy summer basks
all colours blue and white
surface sparkle high dive
to opaque bisque below

hardier winter annual
of local resistance
tenacious toe crotch shoulder
gulls watch

jigsawed together
river ocean wave
sea pierced through with craving

He said it left a fluidness
a saltiness

in me


milky faced kid by the newsagents
cola bottles and gummy bears
bus driver’s pay and view
a fixed stutter
in spasms

Our hero takes a dive
there’s nothing natural about this lack of drowning
a blue flower in full detail
floats recessive
frayed by its texture at the edge of reason

his terse words grip
a character in disarray
tabloid radio heightens
each red letter day
converges dot into film
wave into synthetic
hazy gender wrappings

Our hero says ‘matey’
sweats manliness and false touch
rises above the crowd
after negatives

body porridge
breeds orange in the dead sea

hot milk in a flask



just you and i
drawing orange
engrossed in your self contained colour
she is not herself right now

microwaves buzz
the air is conditioned
and fanned to the limits
how can i know you?

it is yesterday, and silver icicles shear
gold bars textured for effect
against all absorbing dullness
papier mached
here i see you clearly, twice

streaked with time
your tiny spotlight lolls in shadowland
at your feet, asleep
defying gravity
and sucking in the light
lacking lustre
used and abused
for ten, or fifty years

it is later than the last time i looked
it is later than the last time i looked
it is later than the last time i looked

capitulation in bskyb and black box reality
opacity with the capacity for a lifetimes viewing
at a fraction of its true cost
a wilderness of carefully exposed construction
religious in its reality

it had happened
i had written
you were drawn with intent

how rigid is the night

Dee McMahon is currently working on a collection of poems and prose that will investigate the use of space in the north Liverpool Docks. She is completing an MA in Writing Studies at Edge Hill College of Higher Education, in Ormskirk.

Page 451

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Robert Sheppard: New Memories: Allen Fisher's Gravity as a Consequence of Shape

The two recently published books from Fisher’s Gravity as a Consequence of Shape (Gravity, Salt Modern Poets, 2004; and Entanglement, The Gig, 2004) give us the chance to assess about two thirds of the whole project. The performance text, ‘Mezz Merround’, on a previous posting/page of Pages, comes from the remaining third.

A ‘pertinent’ poetry, for Fisher, demands that it ‘deconstruct(s) consistent and chreodic memory’. The term ‘chreod’ – also spelt ‘chreode’ - comes from Waddington, in whose ‘biological terminology’, Fisher tells us, it means a ‘“necessary path”, whose charge is canalized once started in a certain direction’. Fisher both describes and enacts this process in the text Philly Dog, part of Gravity as a Consequence of Shape, published in 1995, but republished in Entanglement (p. 80) :

I am a homeorhetic system
of attractor surfaces of chreods, necessary pathways,
located in multi-dimensional spacetimes
in which crossovers correspond to catatrophes
Folds on the surface that suspend descriptive
referential functions and any temporal character
of my experience and lead into a world unfolded
by every narrative

Through techniques of textual rupture and jumps, Fisher’s texts ‘intuitively invent new memories’; reading is seen as a revolutionary act to divert consciousness along these new canals. Memory becomes a reinvigorated invention of perception. The techniques of creative linkage involve the reader in constructing otherness, from the different times and places of the text, along with a resultant polyphony of voices, or ‘plurivocity’ as Fisher puts it. Both of these things disturb the impertinent desire for consistency or a single referent in a discourse. The pathways of chroedic memory are disturbed by catastrophic crossovers. The world Fisher constructs for his reader in his own poetry is clearly modelled upon this poetics, as can be experienced in the discourses, times and places collaged in ‘Around the World’, republished in Gravity (p.15):

This gravitational song meted against displacement
The slow movement of holding you
By the lake, deep amid fir and silver poplar
Dream sleep’s energetic function
During meditation each finger rayed in cactus spikes
Blake crossed out sweet desire, wrote iron wire
It was the discovery of human electromagnetism
made a sign, opened curtains, revealed the garden
Mouth perpendicular to mouth energized desire

In this poetry intertextuality becomes an image of experiential multidimensionality and plurivocity (as in Blake’s deleted ‘desire’ which hints at contemporary usages of that concept, such as Kristeva’s). As another of Fisher’s poems says, though in ironically painless lines:

The quantum leap
between some lines
so wide
it hurts.

The effect of the disruptive flow of many poems in Gravity as a Consequence of Shape is to foreground textual ‘cleavage’ as both the division and holding together of materials in the very metaphor of Fisher’s title: gravity. Without this textural energy or dynamic, everything flies apart. The speed of the shifts determines the pace. He calls Mottram’s technique of breaking syntax to produce rhythm in ‘phrasic positioning’ a ‘quantum-jump methodology’; in Prynne’s work, ‘the aesthetic of his selection tensioned in collisions of the same set (or line)’ in Down where changed, has a similar effect. These are precisely analogous to the flickering aces, the hinged lines, of Raworth’s characteristic practice, as well as Fisher’s own.

In a note on poetics, written in 1995, and published in West Coast Line, Fisher is particularly candid about his method of text-construction in Gravity as a Consequence of Shape. He describes the three overlapping stages of composition as ‘research, selection, and presentation’. I shall examine a short part of a particularly effective poem, ‘Birdland’, from the first, 1985, showing of the project, Brixton Fractals and republished in Gravity (p. 80). The volume’s title is almost an index of creative linkage. On the one hand, it denotes the troubled London borough that has furnished Fisher with much of his poetry of place. On the other hand, a fractal is an irregular action or shape, such as a cloud or a coastline, which is complex, though not now impossible to measure mathematically, and to establish the laws which govern its shaping. Fisher’s point is that the place in London where he lived through its years of deprivation and riots is traceable only by his irregular technique, particularly in ‘Birdland’, where he tries to connect the place in its sexual, ideological and linguistic shapings:

Endless destruction
makes Brixton
Call it coexistence of prohibitions and
their transgression
Call it carnival and spell out jouissance and horror,
a nexus of life and description, the child’s
game and dream plus discourse and spectacle.
On the edge
of death High Road, the Busker
starts up a reel, it begins as dance interlaced
with anger. I guess at the ridiculous partners
that perform. The busker dances with
her saxophone
‘Ideas of Good and Evil’ are subsumed into this nexus,
production knots and
unknots paranoia
Blake stands his ground
on the Common asks, Are
Her knees and elbows only
glewed together.

Shadowy traces of selected ‘research’ are perceptible: quotations from Kristeva as Fisher’s Mottram-like ‘resources’ confirm, and also the remark of William Blake, a notebook jest about marriage and sex. But the quotations are not isolated, as in the spatial collage of The Cantos or even of Fisher’s earlier open field Place. Indeed, ‘research is adumbrated and imbricated with personal research from an accumulation of notes from living experiences’ - in other words, the two kinds of discourse, the found and the ‘autobiographical’, overshadow and overlap one another. This mode of creative linkage is visible in the opening four lines, where notes on Brixton catch the faint echo of the choral lines ‘Call it ... Call it’, with their unannounced capitals and their authoritative academic identification of contradiction. The reader’s impulse towards syntactical cohesion allows the imbrication to occur, although this is only slenderly satisfied. Fisher is careful, in this creation of ‘new memories’ by creative linkage, to hold off the gratifications of seamlessly conventional syntax. In the best of these poems the linkage holds traces of its disjoining, the illusion complete enough for the creation of ‘new memories’ but never descending into the illusory; they are precisely ‘jumps from tensioned collisions’.

The Busker (one of the many ‘characters’ that haunt this almost-narrative) takes Blake into her strangely ambivalent performance, is questioned cheekily by him, even, and is positioned precariously ‘On the edge/of death High Road’, where the line-break (one of the decisions of the presentation stage) minimizes the obvious disjoining link whilst preserving its visibility. The edge of death is a moment not a place; on the edge of the High Road is geographically locatable. Time collapses into space. Throughout the poem contradictory actions, or contraries, such as Blake’s Good and Evil, ‘discourse and spectacle’, dancing and anger, all ‘ridiculous partners’, are situated, through creative linkage, in their ethical relations, in the paranoiac productivity that is Brixton. Busking itself is semi-legal, a literal ‘coexistence of prohibitions/and their transgression’. The ‘disruption of autobiographical voice through the use of many voices, aspiration to multiple and collage form through the pasting of many sources,’ is clearly visible, to create new, but artificial, memories of ‘many spacetimes’.

The reader witnesses a constantly interrupted narrative, yet sees text as textual, and sees the links which are simultaneously joining and disjoining, ‘process-showing’ as Fisher had earlier called it. Indeed, the whole process of the project Gravity as a Consequence of Shape has been shown to the reader. William Blake also provides one of the project’s structural homologies. Gravity as a Consequence of Shape is modelled on Blake’s Notebooks, which are mapped across the project; quotations from it (as in ‘Around the World’ and ‘Birdland’) are sometimes juxtaposed at the selection stage with other materials. The titles of the poems (and the order of the project) derive from an alphabetical list of 188 dances, drawn up in 1982. First published in Ideas on the Culture Dreamed Of, the list of titles runs from ‘Accretion’ and ‘Acuity’ to the recently completed ‘Zeitgeist’, ‘Zig Zag’ and ‘Zip’. Across this necessary path the project dances its variations; one thing is certain: the large scale self-interruptions necessitate that Fisher will not write them alphabetically. Thus ‘Mezz Merround’ is near the end of the writerly process, but not the project’s XYZ. The chreods’ pathways pointed towards complexity.

Page 450

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Mezz Merround: Allen Fisher


The Teacher speaks about
an art of siege
skin and hair
Read slowly
delivered surprise at length
everyplace unknown desired
young rough cuts
surprised, oblivious
Generalised feeling for everything
scattered endeavour
Dropped into nonchalance
the dull thud of indeterminacy
given a freedom to dismiss property
counted individually
Recordings of what happened
jumbled as one
loose in a bag
dropped to the floor
from the same tablet
over extended periods.
do What we do
to avoid it.
His precious records of human product
of the looters’ strike
the cosmetics countries lose
the expensive the relics of their past
package you robbers
the cherished waste
.Many disappear, perhaps
I deal the arc of an artist
incomprehensible when
much of stolen
Art is always
to attract and the ravages of time havoc
in eroded the Sphinx civilizations to rubble.
Pandemic of criminal as the biggest thief
of Art lovers are still
spectacular robbery of
.thieves disguised the premises, trussed
up made off with a king's ransom, bandits
include the impact on wallets
work, aging, we consider
prime importance
packaging, within
is appropriate and
obviously more
.from the days of the early
distinguishable elements, civilization,
where it occurs,
manners arranged
and sought-after War Chant
is formed. The physical dexterity and
skill it displays
electronic or mechanical; indiscernible
speck in the sky economic systems also
earthwards at speeds in excess
discuss the properties strikes its
unfortunate prey, to develop a notation
retrieve its crumpled bodice
might be encountered
Although the illegal
system can be expressed
wild has affected the relating variables.
The pesticides whore alley
reduced back loop as well as of
the low level in the early l960 equations;
that for a single
points of connection of the elements
in the closed loop of dependencies,
Disproved empirical measure
restricted to a breath
in the photograph
presuming repetition and repetition
transparent sounds
spoken through vocoders
a parody of preferences
accidental hesitation
scribed in neon on the doorway
merged into everything
belonging to nothing at all
without pragmatic function
as if proposed as nutrition
a parody of preference
at a once removed from awareness
damned if he is damned or not
watched by silent exhaustion
now without balance.
Disproved empirical measure
restricted to a breath
in the photograph
presuming repetition and repetition
transparent sounds
spoken through vocoders
a parody of preferences
accidental hesitation
scribed in neon on the doorway
merged into everything
belonging to nothing at all
without pragmatic function
as if proposed as nutrition
a parody of preference
at a once removed from awareness
damned if he is damned or not
watched by silent exhaustion
now without balance.
such characteristics the purpose of receptors
or difference detect valves, electric and
effectors or motors. Some of the trains
and bearings
like the electric motor, in which these
linkages. These discernible or which,
in the absence of feedback in nature,
these systems will be said to linear
characteristics is
.The applications of negative feedback
shaft of the type
going back to the seventeenth century
Light bell cranks which
survey is given by controlling engine speed
earliest applications the "digester" invest is
at rest the masses
Denis Papin in 1680.
This was an earned the spring is under
the steam pressure was controlled by
.The eighteenth century saw the
informed by the dependence governor
James Watt in 1788 and, in turn, depends
on sails of windmills to control the speed
governor as an element beginnings
engineering applications position to engine
speed; a great rate.
In the present drive automatic processes
we see rapid acts on each mass and
At the same time it is as well to remend
.their social and biological aspects them
more compact and highly developed have yet
managed to conceive of time,
In the subsequent pages the emphasis pivots
feedback system behaviour. Particular
response stability which is an essential
system and the achievement of which
engineer. Examples of feedback
feedback amplifier and control
aspects of the theory.


One U.S. critic used as a world order
manufacture of many Caesar War Chant
foams. These may amidst a burning huge
of different hurled by aphasia Though
many liberal as fast food condiments,
this torture-produce
A Philosopher stands
forward of where we are
eats toast and proposes
truth as distinct from
speaks of toughness as distinct
from pragmatics
or historical truth
dependent on what is taken
to be truly stolen
factures a need for
trays but up in the new issued
polystyrene used by the right-wing
electrical goods
demise of the insulation - see
other superpower escalated debate
as furniture, car foreign-domes
soles all along the rigid foam used for
political spacetime insulation.
While a broad, cooled for this purpose
.review of U.S. irritant and a good in is
vital, much of important now that
glows with solving paid to energy sentiment
more regulations. Some stoke passion
than used for things
window frames
also mist last week
markets and fast end of all U.S.
.suppliers no
because it "buys us to produce
their almost or a hydrocarbon works."
Though East often used.
views are eigngated
id foam building conservatives
have progressively
monopoly on question and introducing
Bush's offshore pitch should be
compassion. Virginia G Douglas Wilder,
.facturers are switch themes for the to
War Chant presidential alternative CFCs
proposes a "Put-A , first initiative."
generally says
little foreign affairs, carbons should
be wins warm applause CFC
which does he argues that
all extent must be address
poses, alternatives spending money
a flystyrene or mineral tin officials
Tellus others are being
Iowa Senator often more expended
hear sing for naught in their other prop
bashed Bush for, heat insulation or
This discovery isn't generally
Apparently positive relations
between political freedom
and scientific truth
beyond the everyday,
a true means of surpasses
the real in enchainment.
When the Teacher evolved
non-genetic learning,
he could not grip the floor
with his feet and sat heavily
at his desk, opening one
of his books at random
bill to transfer among the amount used,
national security to reduce escape
Ur programs "We do sing alternative gases,
of sugar daddy or it's possible for allies,
Harkin says. up the process of isolationist
sent specification of the "America first"
the 1930s crusade European
conflict War Chant from Bush's left
.A new range of hydrogen instances.
His sugar can produce between
200 experiments features have been built
his warnings of pressures from 1 to 4 bar.
to be unfound all operating conditions
and of his views in
Reader TV heightened
frenetic research.
however, the sin science,
and the lack of The Ambit radio anal
.War Chant to sharp focus in allows
the simultaneous imagine physicist of
radio is War Chant
including elected president selected
resolutions from American Association
applications ranging from bin of Science,
is tissue sections, while user-frier of
alarm." displayed with subtlety in easily
quantitated from two head of Fermi provided
by a high-quality synergy physics the
.Reader sealed conducted
scientists in nearly 250 Chants from
amoral claims that researchers who
for use Taxol reagent, isolated from the bar
seen any to promote assembly of nuclear
in science disassembly. Taxol has at least
the receptors and TNF release, in very
polyploidization in he warned, Long-term
effects of single;
mouth every nerve axons have also been
Reader Solutions inflation
funding in applied scientific lumber
new schools Vector Laboratories for use.
In other primary antibodies Each
researchers are biotinylated antibody
to excess of a slight
Poring over it,
beyond the everyday pictures
and hieroglyphic stress
where clarities condemn
him to a reductionist
commonplace, interested
only in happiness for others,
through the wish to be
excluded from it. This
conception of a self-sufficient
restless capitalism in preference
for tomorrow’s certainties.
goat War Chant for financing
normal serum for blocking fund-raising
tissue and the preformed complex
Mixing kind of work
dispensers and compels also forced
Each kit provides sufficient projects with
working solution,
sections, smears Reader
detrimental research that great.
.spending l968 scientific has
War Chant
comfortable working. she silence
viewing with even illuminate
that in a durable white epoxy
include opal perspex or glass
serve switching available on all
realities in fact, for domes
effect making. This meant
War Chant Culture
.likes and verbal, codes of polis
here is lute use
snuff until Gloria
The speaker is Decadence travesty
Press is academe in quit things—
paganism practical but what
not hesitated a three-minute
to discuss the three years,
been as worried other victim of that if
output is just
.Along with nukes scattered out many
people republics could days. To them
hands—a local
they like Person terrorist gang.
have done the unwelcome an excuse
to most of its glory. Many of the generals
choate forces cough against such a rage
are history missed in the wake of
Such among proposals at the State
caught spending but the crippled
civilian lives to politicise of shows,
talking In fairness


MOST are classified as world
Is under waters, yet all from ancient
A Prisoner plans
toward a share free far
east coast antipodes
fruit has distant farm
streaks of roughness as distant
shorn fanatics
or tropical fruit
splendent or watery elation
shove fruity molten
matches a screed shore
fruitiness the
transparently festive elation
seen policed weeding
and pyretic fruit
fond of merry way
a fruit beans of purchases
then steals in derangement.
'low' or 'very low’ most don't
expect these in Amsterdam,
to your mineral culture
you're unlikely to be near impurity.
you eat a varied diet and painted
San Pellegrino had total mineral content,
town to be classified a finance a drug
salts average glass career
becomes would provide about
.central work is recommended daily
blackened calcium and about
reduced whole for magnesium
catching up culture. NITRATE IN
about the Some brands of bottle
Isabella noticeably more nitrate
20 months ago and sparkling
War Chant entered
50mg on the tap-water
by Edgar set for bottled and Nitrates
.themselves converted to harmful
mines in the body. known carcinogens
proved a connection drinking water
and can litre limit on nitrate in to avoid
baby syndrome which can bottle
MOSTLY LOW IN Five of the brands
their low we've looked at selves
spring do they spring from?
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February 2005

Allen Fisher has two large volumes out: Gravity (Salt, 2004) and Entangelment (The Gig, 2004). See Rupert Loydell's poetic review. See also material on

This poem is from Gravity as a Consequence of Shape, and is intended for audial performance.

Page 449

Friday, February 18, 2005

Entangled (for Allen Fisher) : Rupert Loydell


for Allen Fisher

nomad skulk and undercover
different models of oblivion
optional song and science

note held nerve-end high
street curve and circuit twitter
chaotic short-change signal

desire to feel everywhere
devoted future threshold
ultimate form of healing

virtuous noise asymmetry
dark sedimentary layer
assumed grammar's sludge

lured into data theory
imagination and memory
many levels of found text

translation's mistakes manifest
never our mother tongue
paradise not located here

in gravity's orbit I met my match
and fell in to expression trap
one version of the event

several days out to explore
temperature and storm damage
making so much of right now

explanation lost in consideration
shifting attraction of language
a few paper petals in the gutter

This text originally appeared as a review of Fisher's Entanglement on Do have a look.

Recent poetry by Rupert Loydell: A CONFERENCE OF VOICES [Shearsman, 2004], FAMILIAR TERRITORY [bluechrome, 2004], ENDLESSLY DIVISIBLE [Driftwood, 2003], THE MUSEUM OF LIGHT [Arc, 2003] all available to buy online at

Page 448

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A History of the Other: Part One: Robert Sheppard

Over the next few months I will be posting excerpts from a history I have written of the kinds of poetry Pages feels itself to be part of. We begin in the 1950s and 1960s. It will end at 2000.

1. The British Poetry Revival

... the ‘British poetry revival’: an exciting growth and flowering that encompasses an immense variety of forms and procedures and that has gone largely unheeded by the British literary establishment... and it may be that one day (probably when we’re all long gone, or our work lapsed into repetition and genre...) some bright critic, as usual too late, will discover this to have been a kind of golden age.
- Ken Edwards, 1979

While some conventional accounts of British poetry have colluded with Morrison and Motion’s contention that the 1960s and 1970s formed a ‘stretch ... when very little – in England at any rate – seemed to be happening’, 2 these postings offer the counter-view, presented by Ken Edwards above, and spelt out in oppositional terms by another poet-critic, Gavin Selerie:

'As various reviewers have pointed out, the 1960s and 1970s actually witnessed an explosion of poetic activity, which was in itself a reaction against the full common-sense politeness of the ‘Movement’ poets of the 1950s. After a period dominated by such figures as Philip Larkin, qualities of inventiveness, passion, ­intelligence entered once again into British verse. Poets as
diverse as Lee Harwood, Tom Raworth, Roy Fisher, and Tom Pickard exhibited a toughness and also a splendour that were entirely absent from the writing collected in the Movement anthology New Lines (1956).'

This posting will define this serious, but heterogeneous literary movement. The term I use to describe it, the British Poetry Revival, was first proposed by Tina Morris and Dave Cunliffe in the eighth issue of their underground magazine Poetmeat around 1965, which presented an anthology of such work. It was subsequently used as the title of a 1974 Polytechnic of Central London conference: ‘The British Poetry Revival (1960-1974)’, and of its conference essay, by Eric Mottram. Ken Edwards and Barry MacSweeney have both adopted this term. Mottram also used the term in his revised essay ‘The British Poetry Revival, 1960-75’, an important survey, published in 1993. Significantly, it proposes a limit to the years of ‘revival’, to which I shall return. Given the dominance of the Movement Orthodoxy during the period 1955-2000, the Revival can be seen as a counter-movement. Yet it looks less of a ‘reaction’ than Selerie suggests, when it is set in its own, still largely uncharted, context, to emphasize its own positive qualities. But first, we return to the early 1950s.

* * *
Although Roy Fisher began to write seriously at 23, in 1953, some of his first attempts, other than a spoof sonnet, which he submitted to the BBC, were the pieces published as Three Early Pieces in 1971. Fisher has described them as ‘verbally automatic’, and there is a general debt to surrealism, although the images strain for a cosmic significance, which suggests the influence of Thomas and the New Apocalypse:

As laden slaves sweat upwards
lash hums like a fly about
God in his
ebony ark.

Although it was a style Fisher was quick to reject, it avoided the empirical lyricism of the Movement, which Fisher regarded as exhibiting ‘all sorts of misanthropy and resignation, both social and artistic’. By this time he had found a viable avenue to European modernism, which he knew he ‘strangely wanted to re-visit’, via the new American writers of the time to whom he had been introduced by fellow poet Gael Turnbull (who was himself an influence). These writers – Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, the Black Mountain school – were ‘still showing allegiance to the claims of early twentieth century modernism, claims which to my mind had been far too hastily abandoned’, particularly by the stridently anti-modernist Movement.

Turnbull was an important publisher of British and American work. Between July 1959 and September 1960, he and Michael Shayer edited eight issues of Migrant magazine; design and production were spartan: stencil and mimeograph. The print run was 250 and the distribution uneven. A note inserted in the first issue gives a telling summary of its ethos:

Dear Reader, MIGRANT will be published irregularly.... For it to pretend to be a ‘magazine’ with a ‘public’ would be absurd. There is no such public.... What subscription rate could there be? And so, it will be sent to anyone who wishes to receive it. That is, to anyone interested to read it. Thus our ambition will be to have a minimal number of readers; but for those readers to be maximally interested.

Additionally, Turnbull published an impressive list of booklets between 1957 and the mid 1960s, including books by Creeley and Edward Dorn, Ian Hamilton Finlay’s pre-concrete poetry collection, The Dancers Inherit the Party, and in 1961, Fisher’s City, with a foreword by Shayer, and later Turnbull’s own impressive improvisation Twenty Words, Twenty Days, the title of which describes its time-based form and the lexical nature of the starting material. In 1965, by which time Fisher was helping to run the press, Migrant published Basil Bunting’s The Spoils, in association with Modern Tower in Newcastle. By 1965 Migrant was no longer an isolated venture, and the Americans Turnbull had introduced were more generally well-known within the larger alternative network.

In that year an issue of a university magazine, Cambridge Opinion, was dedicated to the subject of ‘Carlos Williams in England’ – that is, the influence the work of Williams and the Black Mountain poets were having. Bunting’s example of influence, ‘The Oratova Road’ dated back to 1935, but Fisher’s ‘Seven Attempted Moves’ is described as having evolved from a recent experiment with Williams’ famous triple line. ‘A Gesture to be Clean’, in which Turnbull praises Williams for his Objectivist presentation of ‘the things themselves, however absurd, however limited’, for avoiding the impulse to ‘symbolize’ found in the dominant modes of modernism, accompanied his own poems. This magazine was also one of the earliest gatherings of what has come to be called ‘Cambridge’ poetry which derives as much from the example of JH Prynne, then, as now, a fellow of Caius College, as it does from American influences, particularly the projective theories of Olson. This group’s own journals included the English Intelligencer, a privately distributed poetry and discussion sheet, which was issued to a mailing list of around 30 between February 1967 and April 1968, edited by poets Peter Riley and Andrew Crozier, with Prynne’s assistance. Simon Perril has recently described the open exchange of The English Intelligencer as ‘the constitution of trust through the establishment of a “community of risk”‘. 14 Crozier’s magazine The Park, moved from the University of Essex to Keele where Crozier became a teaching colleague of Roy Fisher. In 1968 a further two poets, John Riley and Tim Longville, founded the Grosseteste Review, and the largely ‘Cambridge’ oriented Grosseteste Press.

The sudden but confusing profusion of networks of little magazines and presses, and the spontaneity of this community of exchange for writer-editors, is noted by Jeff Nuttall in his valuable account of the 1960s, Bomb Culture. When he and his friends, including Bob Cobbing, were 'swinging the duplicator handle throughout the long Saturday afternoons of 1963 we had no idea that the same thing was happening all over the world.'

Bob Cobbing, an indefatigable arts and workshop organizer and publisher, had intermittently operated under the name Writers Forum since 1954. From 1963 the press became a model of radical consistency, tirelessly producing cheap mimeo pamphlets of concrete and experimental poetry, much of it his own. Often he presented young talent, as in the case of Lee Harwood’s title illegible in 1965, which contained beat and surrealist work that had been first aired at Cobbing’s workshops, which, like the press, continued running throughout subsequent decades. Cobbing became manager of Better Books, an important venue for London readings and happenings, and an unofficial resource centre.

These sorts of personal contact were vital in order to sustain a poetry different from established forms and unwelcome at conventional institutions: from performances at Better Books in London through to those at Tom Pickard’s Morden Tower bookshop and venue in Newcastle, where Basil Bunting first read to his new young audience, an experience which encouraged him to pen Briggflatts. Visiting Americans, whether Robert Creeley talking to a teenage Barry MacSweeney in Newcastle, or Edward Dorn resident at the University of Essex for a number of years, where he befriended writers as various as JH Prynne and Tom Raworth, broadened horizons by their presence, readings, information, and (in the above two cases) their poetry written out of their experiences of visiting Britain. Lee Harwood went further, and visited the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, whose work he would translate throughout the 1960s, in Paris in 1963. 19 This was a visit to modernism at its source; Tzara’s rooms, decorated with Picassos, Miros and Klees, must have made an appropriate backdrop for Harwood’s first translations to be approved. In 1966 Harwood made his first trip to experimental modernism’s second home, New York, where he mixed with John Ashbery and other New York writers, who had adapted surrealist imagery to a discursive mode. Harwood’s own adaptation of this style led to his second book, The Man with Blue Eyes, being published in New York and receiving the prestigious Poets’ Foundation Award. The United States was equally receptive to Tom Raworth, who has been an intermittent resident and visitor to this day.

Throughout the 1960s, Harwood was also the publisher of an irregular magazine. Like Turnbull, in a refusal to produce monuments and to negate the consistency of a subscription list or bookshop distribution (other than at outlets like Better Books), each issue had a different title: one was, predictably, Tzarad. It introduced a small nexus of readers that Harwood had built up through correspondence to new English, American and French work. Tom Raworth’s Outburst, and hundreds of other fugitive magazines, were organized on the same vital, evanescent principle, in this time of relatively easy and cheap mimeo and litho printing. The ethos is perhaps neatly summed up by the title of Jeff Nuttall’s magazine: My Own Mag (and one which perfectly describes my attitude to this blogzine).

At the other end of the scale were publishers such as Fulcrum Press and Cape Goliard. Fulcrum was founded in 1965 by Stuart and Deirdre Montgomery, and published quality hardbacks and paperbacks of both British and American writers; neither group was then well-known, despite names like Oppen and Dorn amongst the Americans. Editions of Fisher, Harwood, Raworth, materially assisted their reputations, but Fulcrum was set up to publish Bunting, and his late-flowering of modernism, Briggflatts, was their first publication. Goliard, run by Raworth and Barry Hall, received the backing of the major publisher Cape, and published Olson as well as Turnbull and Prynne. Both ceased operations by the mid 1970s, reflecting the end of economic expansion and the withdrawl of vital patronage. But since poetry publishing is as much a passion as the writing of it, small presses have been resilient in surviving, sometimes with Arts Council funding, often without. Much of the activity of the underground, and particularly the small presses, lies outside of the cash nexus. As Ken Edwards wrote in 1985: 'The products of the presses... are not commodities. In fact, insofar as the labour which made them retains its visibility... they may be designated anti-commodities.'

The best of the little presses (which may be very little indeed) have often published work that breaks the conventional paradigms of what poetry has been, by publishing work which, to the eyes of commercial poetry editors, appears not be poetry at all.

Page 447... more to follow.... Next month: The Underground.