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Friday, May 25, 2018

Twentieth Century Blues published ten years ago!

But not 10 years ago TODAY! I forgot the date, last month, the 15th. It was published by Salt on the day of the launch in 2008 at Bluecoat, of which two recordings may be seen here. What is not recorded is the panic earlier in the day, tracking the books as they moved across England, towards Liverpool! But arrive they did, too late for me to learn to read from the volume itself, to navigate its 400+ pages, but soon enough to be able to sell (a lot of) them. Ade Jackson filmed these two extracts from the Poetry in the City event he organised. The first clip contains 'Smokestack Lightning', using some of the dying technology I had used for a London performance in 1990 or so; the second is 'A Dark Study for Lee Harwood', a quiet affair, in lineated prose, a form of the late 1990s. I write about the event here. (And give the text of 'Smokestack' too. It is not easy to hear what I'm saying at times, since I move around and manipulate tapes. I think the audience could hear.) 

The book, now available in a paperback edition, can be purchased here.

There are some more details of this massive project there too, though the publication date given is wrong! It was April 15th 2008. I hope if you haven't got it you will consider playing a decade-long worth of catch up!
Twentieth Century Blues was written  between 1989-2000, and incorporated earlier texts when it needed to. I think of the book now as the first volume of a collected poems. In fact, the book in full is called Complete Twentieth Century Blues.
Twentieth Century Blues is a network (or ‘net/(k)not- work(s)’ as I called it) of texts that are interrelated by 75 multilinear ‘strands’. That the project would seem open to the technology of hyperlinks did not pass me by, and I would like to utilise this in future presentations, although I conceived of the network’s design before this possibility, or its now apposite metaphor, became available. Imagine the strands as links. ('Links in Ink' was actually the title of the evolving index that I published serially throughout the project's writing. Or it was the title by its end.)

One POETICS of Twentieth Century Blues may be read here
Another, 'Linking the Unlinkable' (poetics of Twentieth Century Blues) here.

I can be seen reading some poems from Twentieth Century Blues here as part of the Other Room Readings in 2008. (On the first clip I read ‘A Dirty Poem and Clean Poem for Roy Fisher’, ‘From a Stolen Book’ followed by a selection from ‘Empty Diaries’, the sequence with which I continue on the second video, if there is one through this link.)

The BIG book (I didn’t think there would ever be a big book) collects some previous publications, like

Logos on Kimonos

and some materials were displayed at the Ship of Fools Exhibition last year, in this case, relating to the long poem ‘Schrage Musik’.

There was also this display at the Bluecoat reading in 2008 on top of the piano!

Todd Thorpe’s review of Twentieth Century Blues may be read here.

Mark Scroggins’ book chapter on it may be read about here

Edward Larrissy's The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry, 1945-2010, includes Simon Perril's compressed piece ‘High Late-Modernists or Postmodernists? Vanguard and Linguistically Innovative British Poetries since 1960’, which mentions Twentieth Century Blues in terms of the problems of the long poem.

Not everybody liked Twentieth Century Blues. Here’s account of a negative take by Andrew Duncan.

The accusation of being 'overheated' (the poem, not me; I can regulate my body temperature), probably relates to the sequence of 'Empty Diaries' (1900-2000) that runs through the project, and which is read from on the Other Room video. Here's one:

Flesh Mates on Dirty Errands

Empty Diary 1993
Fucking Time 3
Twentieth Century Blues 25 

Her garters hook his
bullseye adorned for exposures
less human than her
latex condom mouth a
porn starlet with a
strap-on sexing her
second skin bruised with
verbs that frig their
nouns (his anus flinches
at my invasive breath

Gender collusion, uneasy meat

October 1993

I clearly haven't learnt my lesson because I've extended the sequence out of Twentieth Century Blues (the only permitted extension of the strands noted in the multiple sub-titles, as above), as a sequence 2001-14, a corona of sonnets, but not part of the 100 sonnet book I'm thinking of calling Hap Hazard.  

The first eight appeared in The Literateur. Find them here or here.  The final six appeared in an edition of Blackbox Manifold. See here. Here's part of one sonnet:

Fabulously fierce in Givenchy and Gucci guide women
transform technology yet at the age of 35 Zoë is in the best shape
of her life she’s the faith healer who beat six neophytes
to death during exorcism rituals Plunderhead’s
bundles of women’s hair (his aggregate trophy) wriggle towards
daylight to look at business life with a female gaze to see their
bodies break down Fuckeye’s things flip out and up free gifts
red legs cut from dancers perform mid-step across
the Extended Mind he conducts along the entire length of his length

The 2015 one was published in India by Ranjit Hoskote at Poetry at Seagam. Empty Diary 2015

The 2016 Empty Diary was published in the special 50th issue of Erbacce. See here. Empty Diary 2017 is as yet unfinished, still tweaking it; I haven’t written 2018 yet (though I have written 2055, and 1327 for that matter!) So Twentieth Century Blues possesses this extensive pod.

The title of the book Twentieth Century Blues refers not to the kind of blues I have sung (and do, again, briefly, on the 'mythology of the blues poem, 'Smokestack Lightning', above), but to a kitschy Noel Coward song from 'Cavalcade'. Have a listen... Three versions: Noel Coward in a version from the 1950s; the song as featured in the 1933 - was it? - film; Marianne Faithfull in a Weimar version...