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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Index to Pages third series

(Just click onto the appropriate month under Archive on the right; an index for that month will appear at the top of each)

April 2005 (a busy – if not Bury – month)

I’ve now a number of contributors lined up at last for next month and beyond: Adrian Clarke, Marianne Morris, Scott Thurston, Ken Edwards, and others.

463: Robert Sheppard: TEXTintoTEXT
462: Robert Sheppard: A History of the Other: Part three
461: Neon Highway Interview with Robert Sheppard
460: Alice Lenkiewicz: Poems from Maxine


March 2005

459: Robert Sheppard: Cobbing: Two Sequences
458: Robert Sheppard: Bob Cobbing and Concrete Poetry
457: Bob Cobbing: Exhibition, Performances and Links
456: Robert Sheppard: You Need Hands: Iain Sinclair’s Dining on Stones
455: Tony Trehy: Coprophilia
454: Ian Davidson: Too Long
453: Robert Sheppard: A History of the Other: Part two.


February 2005

446: Robert Sheppard: Editorial to the Third Series/Afterword to Pages, the Second Series (moved out of sequence)
452: John Seed: from Pictures from Mayhew
451: Dee McMahon: Three Poems
450: Robert Sheppard: New Memories: Allen Fisher’s Gravity as a Consequence of Shape
449: Allen Fisher: Mezz Merround
448 Rupert Loydell: ‘Entangled’ (for Allen Fisher)
447: Robert Sheppard: A History of the Other: Part one.

© the authors, 2005

Friday, April 29, 2005

Robert Sheppard: TEXTintoTEXT

TEXT intoTEXT

As an accompaniment to my reading - just back from it - at Bury Art Gallery on the evening of 28th April, I offer (via links) some examples of the class of work I dub ‘text and commentary’, mostly written between 2001-3. (Most of them will be published as Hymns to the God in Which my Typewriter Believes.) By this I mean that, although such works are responses to, writings through, alongside, against, out of, other works of art (on the whole), they are intended to be read independently as well as in relation to. They are as textual as much as they are intertextual.

TEXT intoTEXT One

I read ‘Parody and Pastoral’ which makes use of Veronica Forrest-Thomson’s poem ‘Pastoral’, in On the Periphery (Street Editions, Cambridge, 1976); see also her Poetic Artifice (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1978), Chapter Five, ‘Pastoral and parody’, pp. 112-63, which reprints the poem on page 125.

TEXTintoTEXT Two

I read the third part of ‘Reading The Reader of Bernard Schlink’ attempts exactly that, one of my paragraphs for each of its chapters (excepting the independent ‘Prologue’). It is published in English, the edition I used, by Phœnix, London, 1997.


I read with Mark Novak and Carolyn Thompson.

Mark is a poet, political activist, and trade union militant, organiser of the Union of Radical Writers and Workers (URWW) and editor of the poetry journal 'Cross Cultural Poetics' (Xcp). He has recently published Shut Up Shut Down with Coffee House Books (2004), a collection of poetic sequences focussing on US union struggles and the effects of their defeat on local communities as well as other labour issues. Jolly good it is too. I read it on the train back. Patricia helped him read some of it.

Carolyn Thompson is a text artist, no, she said she wasn't a text artist. Check out the Text Festival site.


Page 463

Monday, April 25, 2005

Robert Sheppard: A History of the Other, part three

The Seventies: What the Chairman Really Told Tom

In 1966 the Association of Little Presses was formed as a self-help organization for those involved in non-commercial publication, usually of poetry. Until his retirement as chairman in 1985, Bob Cobbing was a key figure in the organization. Founder members included both large and small presses, for example, Fulcrum and Writers Forum. The AGMs held discussions on practical matters, such as grant aid. At the 1968 AGM there were still only 14 members, but this doubled within a year. Other activities included book-fairs, regular catalogues, for which members printed their own pages, and in 1973 ALP published its guide, Getting Your Poetry Published, written by poet Peter Finch, for the assistance of aspiring writers in submitting work to magazines and presses. By 1996 its fifteenth edition had sold 37,500 copies; Finch has expanded it into several handbooks. By 1980 ALP had 122 paid-up members, all of whom were receiving a regular magazine, plus a newsletter containing information, contacts, press profiles and practical advice on everything from sources of cheap ink to bookshop outlets. Underground magazines, known again as little magazines, were more drawn to regular deadlines, standardized formats and quality production standards. A little of the spontaneity of these anti-commodities was lost in the process but the sense of community remained. Allen Fisher has written that part of the desire to run a press is ‘to engage with the “communities” of artists similarly involved’; most of the presses were run by practising poets.

The importance of poetry readings – particularly when the poetry demands performance – continued; the smaller venues ran regular readings above pubs. Yet there was also a move in the 1970s toward large-scale conferences, such as those organized by poet Paul Evans at the Polytechnic of Central London in 1974 on the British Poetry Revival and followed by the 1977 one on Place; and the biennial Cambridge Poetry Festivals, begun in 1975, and organized by Peter Robinson and others. Funding of poetry readings was assisted by the establishment of the London, and National, Poetry Secretariats, thus ensuring the poet received a reasonable fee. These schemes had been one of the principal aims of a short-lived organization convened in 1970, Poets Conference, a ‘trade union’ for poets.

Another of Poets Conference’s demands, for a radical poetry centre, and ALP’s desire for a permanent base, were both realized, then abruptly forfeited, in the 1970s. During the late sixties, the Poetry Society, and its sizeable Victorian property in Earls Court, were in decline. Its general council consisted largely of non-poets, and Stuart Montgomery was invited to stand on the council – though as a doctor. He was successful and, after he had secured a position for Cobbing, one nomination followed another until, by 1975, British Poetry Revival poets were in the majority: Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Jeff Nuttall, Barry MacSweeney, Tom Pickard, as well as emerging writers, such as Bill Griffiths, Allen Fisher and Elaine Randell. There were plans for reform: to open the building to the public, to establish a print-room, to run both conventional and experimental poetry workshops, and to open a viable bookshop. Among the events there were readings, performances and lectures. Bob Cobbing encouraged younger performers such as Lawrence Upton, cris cheek and Clive Fencott, who formed their group jgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjggjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjg (etc) about this time; and Eric Mottram’s Poetry Information evenings, public interviews with Roy Fisher, Harwood, MacSweeney, Pickard, Cobbing, Ken Smith, and others, some of which were published in Peter Hodgkiss’ critical review magazine, which took Poetry Information as its title. Harwood lectured on ‘Surrealist Poetry Today’, insisting that Dada and Surrealism offered an energy and an attitude of mind, rather than a set of techniques; he pointed to the work of Raworth and Roy Fisher. Fisher’s own lecture praises the ‘sheer closeness of linguistic activity’ in the work of Bunting, and refers generally to the Cambridge poets as having exceeded narrative and anecdote, and particularly to the work of Andrew Crozier (see below) for demonstrating how ‘consciousness is charted’ – a concern of his own work at this time.

Between 1971 and 1977 Eric Mottram, then Reader in American Studies at King’s College, London, edited the society’s journal, The Poetry Review, and in his 17 issues featured over 200 poets, ranging from well-known Americans, such as Oppen and Ashbery, to senior British poets, such as MacDiarmid and Bunting (both of whom had been elected President of the society). The magazine was largely an ongoing anthology of the work of the British Poetry Revival. He generously published long works, such as Tom Pickard’s Dancing Under Fire, which weaves dream imagery into a texture of post-industrial realism and Northumberland folk tradition.

However, these vital activities were threatened by literary politics. There was tension between the new general council members and some others, ‘who can only be called reactionary and narrow’, in the words of MacSweeney. These members disliked the work Mottram was publishing and pressured the Arts Council Literature Panel to commission the Witt Report, which recommended more direct Arts Council control over the Society, including the appointment of one Arts Council representative onto the general council. There was the promise of increased funding ‘and solid approval of the magazine’, The Poetry Review, ‘so long as Mottram was ousted’, according to MacSweeney. Accounts vary, but many members of the council resigned in protest in 1977. (That last sentence formed a part of my PhD years ago; Eric Mottram, who was my external examiner, responded: 'Accounts don't vary!', but I don't think he'd spoken to some of the people I had.) Roy Fisher and Lee Harwood, for example, remained on the council for some time, hoping to effect some compromises, but were eventually made to feel uncomfortable by the new regime and resigned. Whether or not mass resignation or negotiation was the correct strategy – and the vilification on both sides lasted decades – the British Poetry Revival lost an essential power-base that has not been replaced. While the Poetry Society has become an active organization with a popular poetry magazine, it only has occasional links with British Poetry Revival or linguistically innovative writings (as proved by the recently curtailed incumbency of David Herd and Robert Potts, which some hailed as the breakthrough we’d all been waiting for since the 1970s!). Following this incident many poets and publishers boycotted the organization; many of those previously associated with the Poetry Society were frequently and repeatedly refused Arts Council grant-aid, as the now homeless ALP was quick to document conclusively via its newsletter. Meetings would have to switch again to individually organized events, which at least decentred activity from London: Durham and Newcastle were vibrant again, thanks largely to Richard Caddel, as was Cambridge with its Poetry Festivals. Perhaps the British Poetry Revival escaped a stultifying institutionalization, but at the time it demoralized many of the participants, with lasting effects.

Blake Morrison, in the essay ‘Young Poets in the 1970s’, offers a view of contemporary poetry which, while it carefully prepared the way for the retrogressive Penguin anthology he would edit with Andrew Motion in the 1980s, does acknowledge non-mainstream poetries (and the Poetry Society must have at least made these alternatives visible for a while); he documents the so-called London-Cambridge split, to which I shall return in future months, for the first time and lists, as catalysts, Eric Mottram and JH Prynne.

'One vociferous set of opponents has been associated with and promoted by Eric Mottram, who as deposed editor of Poetry Review knows to his cost the ‘establishment’ line.'

However, Morrison’s contention that ‘there is little sign yet of an important new poet emerging from under’ Mottram’s ‘wing’ can be refuted by examining the work of two young writers, Allen Fisher and Bill Griffiths, who shared the Poetry Society’s Alice Hunt Bartlett Award for 1974. Morrison, with his sense of the poem as a small-scale crafted artefact, could not be expected to value their extensive intermedial and avant-garde practices. In 1975, Fisher listed involvement in 34 such projects, including collages, found texts, mail art, experiments in process music and conceptual art, as well as performances. Such works were often generated by fixed procedures and evolving processes, and interactions between the two, as well as often humorous interventions in his systems with personal ‘impositions and invitations’.

Bill Griffiths’ exemplary use of disruptive technique, which re-shapes his particular concerns with prison as a representative repressive institution and with urban deprivation, as well as his interests and expertise in Anglo-Saxon and Romany literatures, were demonstrated in Cycles, Griffiths’ first sustained sequence, published in 1976. It opens, appropriately, with ‘Dover Borstal’. As Nuttall points out: ‘Syntax and experience are so manifested as to compel the poem to be read as poetry (as art) – not as a news report’. Its heteroglossic nature is unsettling and unstable. The juxtaposition of the Latin and the demotic with which it opens is a characteristic procedure to avoid transparency, to break through limitations of discourse which are implicitly as real as the prison which is the poem’s apparent focus.

Ictus!
as I ain’t like ever to be still but
kalieidoscope,
lock and knock my sleeping

The poet’s measure of time – the beat of ‘Ictus!’ – complements the prisoner’s rhymed rhythm of incarceration, as he ‘does time’. The commitment to kaleidoscopic experience pitches dream against reality.

Do you know it’s sea?
the speaking sound
and I wake like a dragon’s dream
taut-limb around and my teeth were avid
in wonder

This almost heroic self prefers alertness and action to meditation as the dream dissolves a social reality that is pervasively sadistic and repressive:

The ships, turquoise,
cutting open the sea
smiling killing
OK


It is a landscape and seascape of cuts. Dover, ‘kinging the blue’, is replete with imperial war-histories and the modern ironies of the borstal: ‘the barbwire is German/it is made with razorblades’; the modern prisoners are defined, like their lives, by repetition and inescapably by the ‘screws’: ‘thief you’re a thief you/hey you thief come on’.

Redemption is figured in a discontinuous statement that suggests, at least that financial or verbal exchanges can be altered by re-stamping, by violence: ‘I think on the pattern of an action/till the gold of the answer I can beat anyway’. This meditation on theft in a violent poetry – a ‘beat’ – of stolen discourses is neither ‘news’ nor revolutionary tract. Its open syntax re-forms the world as text; it both refers to, and evades, social reality.

Blake Morrison, dismisses the Poetry Review poets by noting, ‘alongside Mottram’s polemical theorizing – poetry as revolution and poetry as research – the poems themselves look wan’; and conjectures:

'A more feasible alternative may come from the work and teaching of JH Prynne, who in Cambridge at any rate has a considerable reputation; but again there is no clear sign of what his following amounts to’.

That the editors of the Ferry Press and Grosseteste Press, Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville, later edited the Carcanet anthology A Various Art to document this period, confirms the existence, and strength, of this group, although one of its members, Peter Riley, emphasizes that Prynne and Crozier were merely the originators of an ‘impulse’, and that ‘certain people worked together to a greater or lesser extent from about 1966 to 1970’. Perhaps the most typical work belongs to the 1970s, when the influence of American projectivist verse, largely derived from Charles Olson, fused with the resources of the English lyric.

The work of Andrew Crozier in the 1970s is a clear example of this mixture. The Veil Poem, published in 1974, opens with a deliberately unfinished fragment; it is the record of perception in language, not a description, and is indebted to the commitment to process found in Olson’s work:

and the storm I hear wind and rain
raging is an effect of bathwater
emptying into the drain.


The philosophic ease, which owes equally to Wordsworth, is trenchantly domestic, even when determining ‘What hides in darkness and what truths/it veils’. The world reveals itself, not as a given, but through acts of slow perception; a garden tree is ‘flowing smoothly through its changes’ and the shadowy narrator realizes, ‘I cannot dominate it’, an attitude of reverence towards the autonomy of the world, unlike the Movement Orthodoxy’s use of empirical details (and Crozier was one of the first to criticize them as such). One of the sections quotes, without irony, Wordsworth’s invocation to the ‘Wisdom and Spirit of the Universe’ which ‘giv’st to forms and images a breath/and everlasting motion’, and this traditional Romantic theme is elsewhere restated in terms derived from A N Whitehead, the twentieth century philosopher who rescued and redefined a holistic cosmology that Wordsworth might have applauded. Whitehead’s critique of the bifurcation of mind and nature – which Olson had drawn on before – is elaborated in perceptual and phenomenological terms, not too distant, as one might expect from Roy Fisher’s Poetry Society lecture, from the terms of Fisher around this time:

This is
the ordinary world, naturally incomplete and
is no wise to be verbally separated
from your picture of it.

The punning on ‘wise’ and ‘naturally’ introduces the question of language as a mode of thinking, hence the echo of Wittgenstein in the passage. A household fireplace provides a domestic image of process; stasis engenders collapse, as coals

settle slowly
into themselves and something slips ...
You should never stop.

The poem ends with a description of the careful building of this fire to preserve it; this action is emblematic of the wisdom that nurtures process and which returns the narrator to human relationships:

The dust beneath my
fingernails is all the wisdom I have
to take with me upstairs to my wife.

Both Griffiths and Crozier offer inclusive discourses and ambitiously emphasize the role of language in mediating, and acting upon, the world. While Crozier absorbs literary tradition, Griffiths is a writer who takes an anarchist stance towards a received past, including literature itself. In a later text he rhetorically overstates the case: ‘What better disguise for evil/than sonnets?’ Yet Griffiths’ involvement with Anglo-Saxon sources – his translations and dictionaries, often self-published, away from the world of academic scholarship – suggests an openness to the past, not mediated by the repressive mechanisms of a selective history; he possesses an ability to juxtapose a remarkable range of materials. I agree with Clive Bush: ‘Griffiths’s greatest ability is to combine the severest of ethical judgements without losing a sense of open intellectual, social and historical curiosity.’

Page 462

Coming up next month, part four : The 1970s Continued: Poetry of Place/Poetry of Autonomy. Read more on 'The British Poetry Revival' here.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Neon Highway interview with Robert Sheppard

This interview first appeared in Neon Highway, and was conducted by Jane March (an electronic emanation of the editor Alice Lenkiewicz (see Page 460)). Strictly speaking, it wasn’t an interview, but a questionnaire, but the fiction of dialogic communication was preserved. It was undertaken during 2003, and some of the projects described in answer to the penultimate question have been either realised, abandoned, or are in progress still (and I’ve added links here to some of the works or their sources). Thanks to Alice for permission to republish. RS


'Jane' began by speech-bubbling me the following:

Hi there Robert, can I ask you a few questions? Thank you.

Before beginning her bold questioning, thus:


Could you describe the kind of poetry that interests you and why this is? Where do you situate yourself in terms of contemporary poetry?

If you mean ‘kinds’ of poetry, not kind, then let’s say that I am interested in all kinds of poetry. Poetry’s delight is its variety across space and through time, rather than its supposed universality. Its particularity: Ovid to Ulli Freer, Basho to Pope, Petrarch to Klebnikov, Herbert to Celan. (Which is why I am so antagonistic towards the Movement Orthodoxy in Britain, and its narrow notions of what poetry might be.) One is adrift in the imaginary museum as a reader, while one is still positioned in terms of the current field of literary production as a writer, to borrow the terminology of Bourdieu. For example, I appear in the Tuma Twentieth Century British and Irish Poetry as a representative of British ‘linguistically innovative poetry’, which I suppose will suffice, although I’ve been as much responsible (as a commentator and publisher) for that cumbersome term’s currency as I have been its passive recipient. But then in certain moods, I feel I don’t fit this or that label, or that there are qualities in the work that are simply not recognised or recognisable by the act of being situated in such a field. Is that another way of saying that it is not entirely in the writer’s control where he or she is pigeonholed? Don’t my Empty Diaries have more in common with Tom Paulin’s The Invasion Handbook than with many books in ‘our’ corner of the field?


Why do you think it is that innovative poetry has not caught on with the education system? Why do some children study Simon Armitage and not Allen Fisher for instance?

That children – or adults, for that matter – are allowed to study poetry (or literature) at all in an increasingly instrumentalist education system is semi-miraculous. Though perhaps it is best not to enquire too deeply about what good it is supposed to do. Why some poets are taught, while others aren’t, has to do with the inherent ‘teachability’ of certain writing practices, and I suspect that some writers actively produce work in collusion with the way it is consumed in the classroom and examination hall. Other writing practices (those you dub ‘innovative’) do not fit so well in this paradigm, indeed actively counter commonly taught reading practices. As such they do not appeal to over-worked teachers who are often themselves not readers of poetry in any sense other than the classroom. That some of us who teach take on those writers is a different issue, of course. And the teaching of writing adds another dimension, one where I think innovative practice needs defining and defending.


What are your views on the contemporary education of poetry? How would you define the difference between experimental and non experimental poetry?

Teachers are scared of poetry and they all too often pass this fear on to their students. I can’t answer your unrelated question about the difference you perceive, because your terms are partly not ones I would use. I would counter a poetry of saying, which attempts to avoid thematisation and stasis, and achieve something like ethical openness, with a poetry of the said, which risks inertia and immediate naturalisation (which is the demand of every exam question, of course). At most, it is an ethical issue about making a text maximally open to the reader, while recognising the impossibility of the act, because the saying as an ethical gesture must always be concretised in an actual fixed text. Raworth’s Eternal Sections seem about as near as we’ll get to it. It is also to recognise, with Vološinov and Bakhtin, that language use, even in heavily distanciated and defamiliarised forms, remains dialogic. But that’s a book length argument in a couple of sentences: bits of Levinas rubbing shoulders with Veronica Forrest-Thomson.

The techniques that one uses to achieve this aim may vary. It certainly isn’t a question of pursuing stylistic brinkpersonship (‘experiment’, if you like) for its own sake. Some ‘experimental’ work can be bogged down in the said.


How do you think these differences are portrayed to and perceived by the public?

Since I partly refute your premise, this is difficult to answer. What the public perceives at all about poetry I couldn’t say. The ‘Romantic’ paradigm of self-expression prevails, it seems to me. While a small minority will recognise Armitage from their schooldays, nearly nobody would recognise Allen Fisher as a name, or even necessarily recognise what Fisher produces as poetry. Which is, to come back to an earlier question from a different angle, why education is crucial here. And I do my bit as a poet, academic, teacher and big-mouth.


What would you say to someone who said, “I can’t understand ‘experimental’ poetry. It doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

‘Sign up for private tutorials at £38 an hour!?’ You would then get that person to analyse every noun and verb in his or her statement (especially ‘experimental’). If he or she did say ‘seem’, by the way, you’d be in with a chance, wouldn’t you? You are more likely to hear something completely dismissive, i.e., ‘It doesn’t make sense’. So: what does ‘making sense’ mean? And who makes sense in the aesthetic relations between text and reader? All these questions open up the issues. Then you can go back to particular poems.


6. How would you describe your own process of writing poetry?

I don’t think I have a single process. I have used various techniques of accelerated collage, which I call ‘creative linkage’, at certain times. More recently I’ve been writing kinds of shadow ‘texts or commentaries’ based on other texts, in an act of intertextual critique. I have written strictly neo-formalist works (using word count) as well as writing a kind of free prose, or lineated prose. I’m playing a lot with sentence boundaries at the moment, stretching or collapsing syntax. I seem to swing from one extreme to the other, but the common factor is to generate works that are different. That was almost a working principle of ‘Twentieth Century Blues’, but is less so now. There is no separation of acts of writing and editing for me.

It’s probably not for me to decide whether I achieve a poetry of saying, but that’s the aim.


What would you say to the budding writer/poet to encourage and inspire them with their work? What books would you recommend them to read?

Read. A writer is a reader who writes. Reflect. Develop a poetics.


Can you list five poets before the 20th century that you admire?
Can you list five poets during the 20th and 21st century that you admire?

Milton Marvell Rochester Byron Blake. George Oppen, Roy Fisher, William Carlos Williams, Bob Cobbing, Robert Creeley. Whoops, I’ve run out of names.


How would you define ‘good’ poetry versus ‘bad’ poetry.

These are morally inflected terms, aren’t they? Better to think in terms of adequacy to the perceived necessary poetics of the time. So Williams was adequate to his age, whilst WE Henley wasn’t, we could say (or not, depending on our standards of adequacy).


You are well known for your interest in writings on poetics. Why do you feel poetics are important? How would you define poetics in your own words?

Whether or not I’m well-known for this interest or not, I define poetics, quite precisely, as: the products of the process of reflection upon writings, and upon the act of writing, gathering from the past and from others, speculatively casting into the future. Poetics is a discipline, though a flexible one, but more importantly it is a discourse, though an intermittent mercurial one. (The unwritten history of the discourse suggests this.) In the pedagogic sense, poetics is a writer-centred, student-centred, self-organising activity. It is a way of letting writers question what they think they know, a way of allowing creative writing dialogue with itself, beyond the monologic of commentary or reflection. Poetics exists for oneself and for others, to produce, to quote Rachel Blau DuPlessis, in the best definition: “a permission to continue”.



Do you have any forthcoming publications?

Yes: Tin Pan Arcadia from Salt, a large collection from my long time-based project ‘Twentieth Century Blues’ which spans the years of its composition from December 1989 to 2000, from its ‘Preface’, ‘Melting Borders’, through various other strands – some ‘Empty Diaries’, some ‘Killing Boxes’ – through to the final ‘The Push Up Combat Bikini’, which is also the last ‘Empty Diary’. Creative work produced since then, the ‘texts or commentaries’ that take on a set of deliberately distant materials – Anne Sexton’s drafts, Bernhard Schlink’s novel, Charlotte Saloman’s visual opera, Jiri Kolar, Marvell, Sephardic songs, none of these particularly associated with ‘me’ – will appear from Stride as Hymns to the God in which my Typewriter Believes. That book also contains a writing through of my own journals written in the aftermath of September 11, the September 12 we are all living through. That suggests another collection, unwritten as yet, just a few poems that follow on from the ‘Killing Boxes’ strand of ‘Twentieth Century Blues’, and a free prose essay that answers Adrian Clarke’s reading of my poetics, ‘Rattling the Bones’. (Soon to appear in Softblow.) I teeter on the precipice of launching into a pre-determined sequence of 96 poems to accompany them, the sort of mad formalism I’ve avoided since completing ‘Twentieth Century Blues’.

Recently I’ve been doing some writing as visiting researcher to Sudley House in Liverpool, and that should see the light of day as both performance and text. Then there’s a short story about the Esperanto writer F Tropp. I’d like to write something connected with jazz. I’m fascinated by the close connection between poetry and jazz. Weird things: like Charlie Parker carrying a copy of the Rubáiyát around with him! I had plans to write a critical work on this relation but I’m not sure I’ve got the musicological knowledge to pursue it as an academic study, but I’ve amassed all this material and perhaps will extend the ‘text or commentary’ technique of Hymns to these materials: texts, recordings, anecdotes.

Critical works forthcoming include The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its Discontents 1950-2000 – its title is self-explanatory, and its thesis I’ve outlined above. Indeed, your oppositional pair, Armitage and Fisher, are both treated in that work, Armitage appearing as a soft version of the persistence of the Movement Orthodoxy, and Fisher being one of the discontents, who approximates the poetry of saying in his work Gravity as a Consequence of Shape. See February Page 450) And at the moment I’m working on a short monograph on the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of Iain Sinclair. (See March: Page 456) Articles on Sinclair and Maggie O’Sullivan. I need to write something extended on poetics. And probably publish or make available a rather different kind of creative writing manual, working with Scott Thurston.
But my primary focus is on the creative work.


Finally, Are there any questions you feel I should have asked you and didn’t?

Yes.

Thank you for your time Robert.


Page 461

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Alice Lenkiewicz: Poems from Maxine

Floating 1


pale ovals are rotating storms shaped by powerful jet her hand waves although she sees nothing a fine tube of glass floats outside her cubicle like some kind of shuttle a fine ocean greenish blue maxine’s cubicle floats above a free and easy petal fish touch the silver surface with their tails icarus falling maxine sleeping as he plunges through the air he floats outside her window like a man whose parachute never opened twirls somersaults and drops to his death skeletal torn wings leaving a residue of gold upon water maxine awakes the people are silent




Floating 2

She has been sailing the blackness of space now for a decade: a silent sentinel, watching near light speed collide with fluorescent blue wave light, the afterglow from the silent song. The floating is nothing on the wayside where nothing flies. Particles rotate the slip-sliding of re-floating igniting those that reunite. A nothing is a something inside glass thoughts rotating on a thought, thought to be nothing on the wayside. The thought that says it is nothing reunites the something to create floating.



Floating 3
No time scheduled to the time. I have no time visually. Don’t ask me in my head because I’m somewhere else where it is. Nor female scheduled to the time. I have no time in which I live. It doesn’t matter. Don’t ask me in my head. Don’t ask me where it is. Because, Besides. I’m somewhere else. It doesn’t matter




Floating 4
eyes open eyes shut
in space (someone i once knew)
darkness empty void
head rotates
mechanism of distant tears

key floats away towards
shimmering wet pavement

casting remains of blindness departed the empty room gliding an area base towards the emptiness to store things precious to cast and bury the surface a clear stone of greyness covered all six through doors the greying sleeps through spades greying further in-between myself falling frames avoiding edges gliding an area base un-watered mutilated flow seeks kindness since walking to store things burns the cast mixture with sadness since that is the red of it so it furthers itself placed inside the tide within the inner pulling the edges beyond the darkness




Maybe I can float now
There inside blue waves of wonder
Though knowing it was all about to
Happen. Within the silent paintings of
Spring another time or schedule floats
Through the window yelling stethoscopes!
Maxine on a bridge reaches for the newest
Dress suspended from shopping trolleys on
Wire hooks. Jealousy of friendship hopes the
Meteorite hits the right person clasping a red rose
Belonging to the checkout girl.

It’s yours if you really want it
Fluid mental spaces. Nothing to yell about
except the blindfolding beneath
Bludgeoned Bigots. Flatter the nightclub
Girls and wear fire arms for deep relaxation.
Pull out the light sockets and mask the Venus
Of hatred in her underwear.
Very suitable today you are.

Bosses mug us. For a bit more yelling time
Except the cubicle floats away.
On a dying tapestry made for astronauts dropping
Feathers in space. Geared to make trust-funds. Forget
Mumsy whimsical; much too bedridden.
Float the bypass on the motorway escape
Route heading for Texas. Beep the mind
Worriers forgetful on sunny afternoons
Sleeping with maids of honour who trust the
Untrusting. Make room for the squires who
Want to own the artists pretending they are
No longer real.

Meet the Mona prima sleuth.
She’s in a raincoat designed by rain on top
Of inky papers. Never before suggested towards
The capital fashions of love brands. She knows the
Masterpiece hidden in the closet.
Slash it before the queen on Sunday after the
Meeting. There is nothing left except oranges in a fruit
Bowl. Take a deep breath and prepare for the upset
Towards the red lipstick on
The side of the packet.
It’s easy when you don’t think about.
Keep going.
You are floating…



Alice Lenkiewicz is editor of Neon Highway poetry magazine, and she organises readings under the same name in Liverpool, where she lives. She is a former student of the MA Writing Studies at Edge Hill College of Higher Education. Maxine is her first novella (containing prose and poetry) and is due for publication by Bluechrome.

Alice writes of the book:

The novella explores a brief lapse in the life of Maxine, a bored housewife living in the 1950s. Realising that her life is uninteresting and lacking in meaning she strives to astral travel back in time where she encounters the muses from famous ancient masterpieces.

While her life tends to parallel that of the past she realises she is faced with perplexing and challenging adjustments in her life. Unable to come to terms with these changes, she seeks help from Poets A-F who encourage and inspire her to travel beyond her own conformist boundaries.

Maxine’s journey aims to look beyond the traditional western value system. She is a person who refuses to align herself with reason and truth. Instead she is seeking something interchangeable. In this way she seems to exist neither in the past nor in the present. The book is concerned with challenging notions of reality as well as traditional notions of what a person must do to achieve happiness.

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