Monday, December 04, 2006

Dee MacMahon : Three Texts

Wind a Dead Tired No More

Rushed in flesh stretched tubes before the word was known, before the actual canal was mine in my mother’s reality. The fluidity of pulsing plasma, bloody composition in it’s growing groaning vessels, whistling ore the rim to sound an eeriness that sings of hairy animal strangeness, ever changing

Wind in double u’s and dees but alone as if there existed only one ebbing and flowing in a turmoil of molecules lowing over Venice, France, the Veldt, Innisowen, Benbulbin, Paraggi, but never Birmingham

It is light. I am in a space in-between. Standing up. The woman I know floats by baby pink doll material movement, then back again. That is all

Outside is different. I listen to the suck and furl dragging from somewhere to toss a wholeness of all air holding sway in the whorlground. A million tinsel ties on branches taped out to the thinnest tinness in flurries of perfect pitch. A metallurgist injecting leaves with liquid elements to solidify in the airy presence of others

Scudding grey edge trimmed white flesh behind three layers before the sky

Heard and recognised, modulation in constant stream of sentence, the sense of intention imagined in their pitch pull depth scale rising hang, then hung

The swirl around some vortex of shuddering skylight, roof and room a distant rush mellowing to whooshing circular motion. Three sides open, two glassed the loudness the pitch increased decreased in inches of frame pushed pulled. What change a circle square or cube? Break down these walls my castle

A volley of half filled bean bags soft breaking on barren moor, landscape fuelled no bush tree windbreak, snatching and twisting in non determination. Snatched crinkle sheeting, cracked and set down, cracked and set down, cracked down, crack dow lulled in the thickness of billowing deflation, warmed in the energy of changing crystals forever opaqued to weaker clacking less crisp

Overtowering Atlantic rush

To the Power of Signs

Waiting in wood fast hare or hounds sandwiching the earth in pincer movement, elusive dicers of death. The numbers ringing in ear torn ripped nose gashed worsted skin, skin hanging returned to the ringhome standing still, relating memories of future fili[1] castings. Not pict not norse adorned with ores these puck and slither mincers of men sucked of bloodling kings

Your father’s ashes, stiff

Childhood’s lost language in natural ascendancy rehearses arise regroups in head the flash of gathering tribes see sawing the fierce and loyal actors and doers, pull pushed in the finest fiery words which pacify pump plump pacify pump plump consensus of a warless or warring force that will be still or will be fast fearless in active bloodlines of the Queen

Your mother’s foreword

The bard winds his tail through master warrior runner server in halls of fire praise to the God of Trees, boar dripping spit fuel swelling the flames to spiral conspire twist and curl in mellow burnt orange on the famish feast, feeling the words snuff nose picture this rich in the history of ash carbon dust hurling down green roads of connection


One whiff a six year old idyll damp rotting blackberry leaves. Red fruit the size of little finger painted nails surrounded by glistening bottle green

Exotic, it is not. Nor absent from the impact. In that Ambre Solaire moment, the blue chlorine pooled tinkle laughter shrieked on a summer’s day, resonant and rightfully owning all the airwaves. Tobacco juiced brown on my finger sister skin, rolled to break down what it offers, tracing the experience of tweedy aromas, clinging peat smokiness rack tacked to nerve ends in diminishing sense until one day a passer by retrieved

Expectation of taste

Turkish delighted or body shopped tea citrussy fresh with a colour that lies of lemon connections, and black velvelteen deep. Assulted outside my door purpled and bushy scenting the way. Scrambled on Ligurian hills boar family thicket in autumnal pursuit of fear. Perugia materialising in you, your young on a hillside in seasoned wilderness and sage. A sudden drop to be fodder forgotten

The panic attack stench of a Cologne train station high summer heat flies. Lies between friends ride on expectations directionless alien cities sense loss in the break down rip up tear of redundant maps. You oblivious wanting to be found. Finding you at that pissed up place exhausted out of all. Waiting to be told. What to grow to

Minerals on air iodine laced and braced to it through humid fresh flesh skin hair laying down salty elemental tissue. Nourishing slime rubbered sun dried stands a tangle of washed hair on rocky heads. Blankness tinged to white grey blue mirrored in my delivery of this always home always

A barrier for some

This is important. Hot sand on white slabs dried dune blue air grasses distant wash throughrush

[1] Fili is the Irish word for ‘Poet’

Dee MacMahon is an Irish poet living and working in Ormskir. A former student of the MA in Writing Studies at Edge Hill University, she is currenly a member of the universitiy's Poetry and Poetics Research Group.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Robert Sheppard: Smokestack Lightning

This is what happened to me. Tony thrust a copy of Tin Pan Arcadia into my hands and made me get up on stage and not sing, which I might have predicted, but read a passage from 'Smokestack Lightning' (printed below), which is something he always does when they play 'Motherless Child Blues'. Written about 1930 by Barbecue Bob, this song was one that Tony and I used to do, but which he now plays as an electric up-tempo number. However when I read it, the band softened to a Bob Diddley shuffle and I read these words:

Kid Bailey's the name I travel with, kidding
around: the name on the only phonograph;
walked up to the shop window, the glitter
of the diamond-fretted Dobro a death squad
tuning up. My handkerchief shields
the chord shapes from
your thieving eyes. Just pull the razor
and shave him. The gun in the guitar case was
no use - jealous man stepped up to Charley
as if to ask for Pony, retuned. Bill-
boards tell women what
to be: a circle of music-stands
dreaming thrills, dancing the Shimmy-She-Wobble -
some guy called it a dry fuck -
the guitar dances too, spins
above Charley's head. I could see
my own rapt reflection in the shine,
an invisible piano whose pedals are moody
bendings. Love my suitcase and the road.

(You can see a very different performance of the poem from 2008, here.) 

Page 524

The Blind Lemons live

This is the rest of The Blind Lemons (Tony is behind the amp.)

Tony Parsons at Fifty July 2006

This is my friend Tony Parsons, to whom I dedicated my poem 'Smokestack Lightning', and with whom I used to sing in Little Albert Fly, playing in his new T-shirt at his own 50th birthday party with his band The Blind Lemons. A glutton for punishment, he also played with another band he plays in, The Ant Hill Mob. The event took place in the Duke of Wellington, Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, on 7th July 2006. The guitar's called Nellie.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Moralis: George Oppen Interview 1973

George Oppen talks of his tireless ear; that he believes he has it and then looks for the words for it, through hundreds of drafts (think about that!) and then the interviewer asks whether this quality of "ear" is the reason why, when we read early and later Oppen, we don't hear 'influence'. We then enter the interview, though we would have liked to have heard the earlier parts (which we may never).

George Oppen: I think the thing's said it to me. My secret belief is that the thing finally says it to me. As if it's shone out - that's what 'phenomena' means: a shining out. What I'm talking about is consciousness.... But I have this point to make about consciousness, that, like Descartes' proof about the cogito, you know your own consciousness exists, and your own consciousness is actual and therefore consciousness in itself and by itself creates, affirms, the fact of actualness. And we are plunging into this miracle of actualness. That's why the little objects mean so much to me. I'm not playing with little objects....

‘The primary elements can only be named.’ [Plato's Theaetetus.] I'm not naive about the object and I think they (the artists of The Art of the Real exhibition, about whom Oppen had been asked) are. What I'm talking about is consciousness.

Interviewer: But we had a long conversation before about George Eliot, the way that she uses consciousness, ethics, sympathy, to work upon her readers in a very didactic way. She's got an ideal of human behaviour in mind, doesn't she? Do you?

George Oppen (answering two questions at once): Her's - yes, I do, - her's is (an art of the real). It tests morals against what really happens to people and what people really want. That girl in the flood runs back to her brother. There is no popular moral point in that. She's just telling what - (smiling) you'll excuse me - a heart (says). And she thinks an ethic in society must be, you know, based on what you want. It's nice once in a while for somebody ever to mention that, aside from theories.

Interviewer: But George Eliot wanted sympathy. She wanted her readers to break down the barriers of class and consciousness and the barriers of selfishness, and to feel with other people. I think that, for her, was the highest state of consciousness.

George Oppen: I do too. Her morality can be attacked, and will be attacked now by a great many people, and it's absolutely non-political. It doesn't put forward a programme. And as to women, it seems to accept how women are at the moment.... The point about this ... this. This is a little bit difficult.... There's a metaphysic of morality, and I don't know if George Eliot covered that. I mentioned it somewhere. You see, this is a question ‘of being numerous’, that is, of the concept of mankind. Now, again, I'm not moralising, I didn't invent this; I just say it exists and we can't be happy without it. I pointed out, people of a certain age (a certain age I might well say!): the length of time we might possibly live is not an unimaginable length of time, in terms of one's memory. It's less than one has experienced.

If they had, say, twenty years before the world was going to end, they would probably not bother to live it out. The end of one's own life is by no means equivalent to the end of the world. There is something called humanity which makes it possible for us to live. It's a metaphysical concept. The old men in the Indian tribe in my poem were dancing for the return of the sun. They're not going to be alive very long. They care.

There's a metaphysic of morality which absolutely must be taken - and I'm talking about a pure hedonism: what we want. But the metaphysic is there; it's in us. We can't disregard this little factor. Socrates tried to, you know. It's a tragic and touching scene....

Interviewer: But so much contemporary writing ...

George Oppen: Oh, indeed it does!

Interveiwer: ... does totally ...

George Oppen: Oh, indeed it does!

Interveiwer: ... ignore the fundamental humanism of what you're describing.

George Oppen: This metaphysical humanism: there's something we believe. There's something we want mankind to be or to become, and that's all we care about, actually. And where we use the word ‘moral’, it's one of those funny words. It 's very hard, and I believe particularly, it's hard to make a word mean what it didn't mean to start with. We think we did and we don't. Moralis means the common practice around us, the manners. We find we use the word morality where we think something involves the destiny of mankind. I'm sorry for the pretensions... but that's where we use the word ‘moral’.

(Interview transcribed and made available by Andrew and Natalia Brighton during the Norwich years)

Page 523

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rupert Loydell and Robert Sheppard: Risk Assessment

Rupert Loydell and I wrote this 26 part sequence together and it is now published by Damaged Goods, apress you might never heard of, and of which you may never hear again. Email me for details.

See also further excerpts on Stride and on Neon Highway .

There's also a review of it here:


A mutual mirroring of egos under the influence of
conjunctions and conversations where desires clash tinged
with contrived contempt adopted posture adopted pleasures
where the words work well re-inventing a tongue twisting

current lost in breathy intonations let it percolate through
this new dream of mine energy flows where it will
soft palm offered to itself self-embrace for each
a reliable comfort zone fantasy pushing against ignorance

glove-puppet her into ‘situations’ hand up her back
back up against the wall strokes her to pleasure
in athletic manoeuvres dissolves not dissolved
nipples should be plural desire drips from each

metaphor leavens language’s expected rise and fall
attending to that in the other which is deeply strange
enclosures and the assumed narrative of mumbled prayers
held between them extensive incorporeal perverse


Coins glued to pavement systems we devise unstuck
a world of permanent echo tapping its way across the
flesh of the city the last night bus growls
at the next morning’s light cluster of balloons

caught on telephone cables collapsed whirligig
strings of sad jewels listing rubbish by the railway
a waste of time a taste of sour wine
and cider on the wind fresh pint clearing mist rises

limitless sky clouds of science thunder heavy weather
storms upset my little world heavy on the seat I’m
about to shit on silence shout out loud and listen
to myself in the distance pierced by sound a ritornello

sporadic orchestration before we steadily sink
my hand-held recorder coils my wordless haiku
into dislocated syllables of syntactic collusion
unwinding winking eye of lorry reversing no way back


Drawn face in misted mirror masked marvel in
a tobacco dream superhero’s alibi crumbles
as water seeps down and Britannia’s boiled clean on
the gables of the Bank income for the coming year

looks likely to be down an axeblow of wit debits
weasel words upon the block submits accounts too late
tender disabled returns gold crosses stolen to be
melted up to human value faith sold for scrap

a belief in basic matter drips its guilty fat
in front of the fire greasing the sleepy relief
as last cigarette burns out three bigwigs in a fog
well up to accuse us where is our interlocutor now?

he’ll wear his rage like medals sheered to scale
anger shearing silvered memories of redemption
monsters warming themselves on a furnace of repealed statutes
endless amendments ring fence of fudge selfish concern


Empire like a fist shooting like a sniper
blind in one eye we’ll bite the bullet
and torch the dummies tongues seared metal
minds alight with plans humid Disney jungles

shed light on people’s whys look the other way
turning the hand over morse fingers tickertape
a skull in Irish peat warring bleach and brown
in cartoon apathy encoded in this pot bellied

wood carving the glue of the world
is coming unstuck fake shirt bursting like Europe‘s
MultiKulti castaway cargo cults tight jeans
already patched and worn roots uncommonly exposed

how truth changes as it travels across language
as democratic eyes ‘like’ a millionfold column of gas
glow unseeing in the night that never ends
a multi-dimensional setting across the playing fields of Europe


Personas conjoin and dissolve imagine sweaty fat men
tugging their penises stretch and rise fall away
endless and breath taking a mid-point arrest
tickles their fanciful restlessness premature to think ahead

damp patch of memory beating out to hairy thinness
the skin I love too much hands stuffed between his knees
too much humble virgin pie flat on the tiger rug
turned inside out and spitting sabre-toothed desire

mired in marital memories she breathes to his pump
he eases for her rump sniggering among uncertainties
smokes his last cigarette an experiment with an apple
a vigorous gentleman's vicious grace demanded but not given

the sprouting of wings brushed from a dusty shoulder
whispered, breathless song of lisping choristers and boys
tasty orgasms juice their tongues licking leopard lips
a fanaticism for fetish inside each other’s heads


Unsituation of the unprison unsurprising freedom
unhurt by time not passing she piles the archive high
in her cell unseen and unattended unsure memorial
by the unmade bed resident magistrate in the nursery

Untested pulse of history usurped by ur-traditions
intent on uncalled-for change the uncalled call in perfect
recall an Odyssey of reading an undecided homer pigeon
miles off course catalogued as the body’s culture

Ulysses stretched on the slab a corpse undone by unkindness
unwired cables and skin a dead face watches her
as it walks away unseen not the usual suspects nor
an unusual case it seems but untrained out of love

it is unclear how unlikely umbrage is given here
taken that her unreliable face is under consideration
her ulterior memory and unopened eyes are full of it
epic images released from successive un-imagining


Violence is a wasting disease with headbanging flesh-meets
with wigs like Pharoahs’ stones and paper cut fingerprints
with bruised shadow sightlines snatching from yourself what's
given as little unforgiveables human life’s distilled from it

Violet is a burning light with scorched splinters
with swallows from tilted microphones and cut glass senses
with heavy blue shadows fossils lifted like kippers
onto smoking walls humane files dictated for it

Viola is a wooden mask with antidotes to vision
with scratched veneers of bones a voice that scars
with highly-strung fractures humming the epic ballad
all the way to China where man directed: fire it

Violate each pile of chaos once it’s stopped smouldering
Vindicate each other once you have hit the concrete
Vitiate bimbo men with suntan streaks firing plastic guns
Votive offering to war and power voracious need

Page 522

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rupert Loydell: Four Poems


I'll find you one day raiding a brighter silence
or hugging the darker place you left for dead
- 'Containment', Peter Dent

Each morning the ship leaves harbour;
the past is here again.

In sunshine the village seems different:
acorns and oyster shells after the rain,

wet gardens and windblown leaves,
mudflats and mudlarks,

charred pumpkins and abandoned brooms,
smell of fireworks in the air.

I am on the isle of the dead,
a ghost among the living.

Friends moving too
share worries and wonders,

scars of recent removal.
I really don't want to go,

have lived here as long
as almost anywhere else.

Thank you for sending the image,
it looks like a still from a film.

Cuckoos in my nest delight.
Light ripples on the creek.


random sample jukebox alarm
foregrounded word acquisition

born into language remembering
songs only the male birds sing

lightning flash destabilizing text
tone ghosting all the things we are

carnival folklore below the branches
when the going gets dark light the star

other true self multiple variations
we speak in each other's words

animating lists: the hat, the chair,
the smoke, the bones, the fact

a twilight coalition of the unwilling
story without end until the sun dies

a few incidents in the stillhouse
gold resonator night wearing feathers


Honey trap, word trap, angel trap,
baited with diagrams and glyphs:
pictures to seduce the æther,
glue language to the page.

Standing still in a sea of words
I sense a pleasant corrosion.
Confusion is rusting away, I
am drowning in possibility.

The sheer strength of the interface
disrupts the link. Each gesture is
deliberate, designed to assassinate
meaning, keep the magic working.

Everything is rumour, everything
is up for grabs. The blank sheet
of paper glows white, appears
to be illuminated from within.

I told no-one about the candles
or the light in the glass of milk.
The body remembers even when
the mind forgets. Which in my case

is quite often. Words have a history,
they come to us from former words,
other worlds. The only way to effect
a rescue is personal participation.

All connections have been severed.


inherited gesture
possible hesitation
surface appearance
question of degree


stumbling block
pause or hesitation
painting the painting
half the story

The launch of Shadowtrain books is also the launch of Ex Catalogue, the most recent book by Rupert Loydell. To find out more, follow the link:

Page 521

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Introducing Professor Robert Sheppard

On Tuesday I was ‘conferred’ as a professor at Edge Hill University, and I shall probably take on the title Professor of Poetry and Poetics. I celebrated this in the usual ways, but I thought here I’d explain the basis of my application, how I see it, why the title I intend to choose is apposite.

What follows are the ‘introductory remarks’ to my application, which I shall use in other contexts, hence the square brackets and final elision.

In a brief citation of my book Far Language, in her essay on contemporary poetic innovation, Professor Marjorie Perloff refers to me as a ‘poet-critic’, the hyphen appearing to announce an uneasy hybrid that dangerously looks as though it is trying to yoke by violence together two opposites. It suggests that unity is achieved by pressurised co-habitation, force of will. And yet, it is unity of purpose and project I would like to emphasise in [this presentation of] my academic career, a unity that is achieved by introducing a third term, ‘poetics’, not just as a mediator between the scholarly research of the ‘critic’ and the practice led research creative writing activities of the ‘poet’, although it is also that.

Poetics suggests a higher equivalence between the two activities, and relates these concerns to my own double-headed research, my supervision of research students, my designing and stewardship of the MA Writing Studies, my day-to-day teaching of undergraduates, my pedagogic innovations, and my current leadership role as Co-ordinator for Creative Writing at Edge Hill. It is at the centre of my proposed academic leadership role as a Professor….

... and read more stuff here.

Page 520

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Babylon Burning


Nearly 90 poets from around the world have contributed to Babylon Burning: 9/11 five years on, an anthology of poems on the Twin Towers atrocity and its consequences. But they aim for more than pious hand-wringing: the anthology will be free, but there will be a request to donate to the Red Cross.

nthposition, the site behind the anthology, wants to maximise the money raised by listing it on iTunes as a PDF. A print-on-demand paperback of the anthology will also be available from, with all profits going to the Red Cross.

Contributors to Babylon Burning are: Ros Barber, Jim Bennett, Rachel Bentham, Charles Bernstein, bill bissett, Yvonne Blomer, Stephanie Bolster, Jenna Butler, Jason Camlot, J R Carpenter, Jared Carter, Patrick Chapman, Sampurna Chattarji, Maxine Chernoff, Tom Chivers, Alfred Corn, Tim Cumming, Margot Douaihy, Ken Edwards, Adam Elgar, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Finch, Philip Fried, Leah Fritz, Richard Garcia, Sandra M Gilbert, Nathan Hamilton, Richard Harrison, Kevin Higgins, Will Holloway, Bob Holman, Paul Hoover, Ray Hsu, Halvard Johnson, Chris Jones, Jill Jones, Kavita Joshi, Jonathan Kaplansky, Wednesday Kennedy, Sonnet L'Abbé, Kasandra Larsen, Tony Lewis-Jones, Dave Lordan, Alexis Lykiard, Jeffrey Mackie, Mike Marqusee, Chris McCabe, Nigel McLoughlin, Pauline Michel, Peter Middleton, Adrian Mitchell, John Mole, David Morley, George Murray, Alistair Noon, D Nurkse, John Oughton, Ruth Padel, Richard Peabody, Tom Phillips, David Prater, Lisa Pasold, Victoria Ramsay, Harold Rhenisch, Noel Rooney, Joe Ross, Myra Schneider, Robert Sheppard, Zaid Shlah, Henry Shukman, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique, Goran Simic, Hal Sirowitz, Heather Grace Stewart, Andrew Steinmetz, John Stiles, William E Stobb, jordan stone, Sean Street, Todd Swift, Joel Tan, Nathaniel Tarn, Mark Terrill, Helên Thomas, Vincent Tinguely, Rodrigo Toscano, John Tranter and John Welch.

Babylon Burning will be available from 6 September from nthposition.
_ _
Todd Swift
Poetry Editor - Nthposition

Monday, August 28, 2006

Simon Perril: Two Poems


there's a new headline in the land of silver rain:
celestial body swallows train. Consider

how celluloid grain swells and rabbits
quest for hats to pass through

into the land of incoherent geography. They are pursued
these creatures of the cut. Louche luminaries of the painted set

plan a jaunt through inky space-time, perched
on the proverbial shoestring. Terrible telescoping

takes the new craft to the surface of the sun;
grease paint and gaseous mane greet the nauseous pill

a century of thrill and illusion
spills to the bottom of the seen

standard life crisis

I have no scream
yet must mouth at times
not altogether certain

mean little things
thick with obliquity
and the casual antiquity of the very small.

They lap, graze neural crest
fend, sate; matriculate in mind-phosphate, tho’
so little is known of their habitat.

All those things the head holds
without ever having them
chunks of mental masonry

from which to build life’s annex.
And “mean” seems
somehow underwritten to phase us

labouring under perpetual insistence
to fill out a form. Paper
breaks the fall

of this unstable incendiary device.
Scramble a life in ticking boxes. Write
a hand that might contemplate the wiring

this alien brain of ill-compute.
For chrissakes little book:

These poeems are from Simon’s next collection, which concerns itself with the history of cinema. Do catch his Salt volume Hearing is Itself Suddenly a Kind of Singing, or his earlier anthology appearance in the Reality Street anthology New Tonal Language. Simon works at De Montford University, Leicester.

Page 518

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Patricia Farrell: On 'A Space Completely Filled with Matter'

Jennifer Pike Cobbing performing A Space Completely Filled with Matter at The Ivy, 16th December 2005

A Space Completely Filled with Matter was developed in 2003 as a visual dance score for Jennifer Pike Cobbing. I had for some time wanted to produce a series of pieces which Jennifer could freely adapt as the basis of a dance performance.

A Space comprises a strand of twelve images selected from an original set of thirty-one. All the images were produced by the computer manipulation of an original pen and ink landscape drawing. A Space remains essentially a landscape drawing.

I sent the piece to Jennifer with the proviso that it was now entirely hers to do with as she wanted – performing it how and with whom she thought appropriate. I need not even know about it. However, Jennifer, ever generous, decided that she would perform it where I could be involved in its preparation, as part of the Celebration for Bob Cobbing evening (19.3.05) situated in the excellent exhibition of Bob’s work she curated with Phil Davenport for Bury Art Gallery. This exhibition was itself part of the gallery’s Text Festival, a series of exhibitions and performances which ran for nine months in 2005 (See Pages archive for March 2005 for more details).

As Jennifer had conceived the piece, she would dance in front of slide projections of the images. She had devised a simple costume of a voile shroud with a set of hinged sticks and hoops inside, which she could manipulate: rather like an Indonesian shadow-puppet turned inside out. This costume depersonalised the dancer and allowed her to articulate and emphasise both her movements and the projected images. The effect in rehearsal was stunning – pulling the images across her body and out into the space in front of the screen – simultaneously powerful, economical and elegant. The intention was to perform the piece with musical improvisation by David Toop. However, Bury Art Gallery’s slide projector packed up at the crucial moment and this first performance became something more impromptu, considerably noisier and less ‘elegant’, with Jennifer improvising from the printed images and with vocal interpretations from Phil Davenport, Robert Sheppard and myself in addition to David Toop’s music: something more in the spirit of Bob Cobbing’s own creative responses to unforeseen circumstances.

In the hope of letting people see the work as she had intended it, Jennifer arranged two performances at the ‘Klinker’ organised by Hugh Metcalfe. The first was again as part of a Celebration of Bob Cobbing evening – to celebrate Hugh’s birthday - on 15.12.05 at the ‘Klinker’s’ venue at The Ivy in Nunhead in south London and the second on the following evening at The Sussex Pub in East London. In spite of another temperamental slide projector – (which became a case of refusing to take nonsense from a mere machine) – Jennifer’s performances were both individual and consistently wonderful. The second performance included piano accompaniment by Veryan Weston – something I had secretly wanted when I devised the piece but hardly thought possible.

Page 516

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mark Mendoza: Four Poems

between a rock & the deep blue sea
for s.v

between fifteen & twenty-five words at one time
between dip & caress
between ear & remote
between mock dress between despising

between the enhanced & the soupless
between the exclusive & the uncut
between Plymouth & black soda
between shadow & Stalin’s tomb
between grief & updated policy

between accident & coincidence
between emergence & occurrence
between equivalence & action (a hinge
between frogs & blue whales

between angelic scripts & the shit
between their own lives & our pocketbooks
between amor fati & amor dei intellectualis
between scarecrow & prayer

[untitled] for h.r.h

buying : cut laxation
shingle of flying jackets
sweet bells! the princely
nose “enjoys buildings
enjoys looking at them”

enemy lines envied
wads of soft incantation
lingering ives swimmers
locked in disrobbed eve
embugger the white bill

dang as five edges put it
the harsher pace of B
MR scanned all-the-way
back to gold-lit cells
turned caps in victory

energy enslav’d : TLC crusade
cokes barely fit the instant
to unwrap T
exas cutting boards
in these & several ways

relations grasp him
by the right hand paper
expiring extraterrestrial
spy compost i’ll walk
noblesse b/o : mute wade

“the exercise book was green”
for l.h.

earth a beautiful blue
clouds in the morning red
as it was a single orbit
n’est pas the tents tangl’d
rolling pins in pinked evening
excess not opposed to being
under cover of truck starkness
the trash strata baggage
claim teens temping their first
spree when control plus
zed fails EUREKA
red cedars to return things just-so
rigged tip shawls whetted want
well structure floral lens faltering
obedient sows of so-so danger
we were taught to walk
Adur Arun from sibylline shackles
flood as cold signal brawl

where there’s a till there’s
a weigh as in aureate
matter the yahoo dot co
dot UK worde package
customery brood pressure
contrast standing ceremony
Snowdon’s histrionic café

stepping out from the pyramyth
golden arches secure first sight
so steal hospital colouring
books false weekend starts
obtuse sharp-shooter jinx prize transmitter
rabbit epidemic shoo first utterance
dharma Damocles ampoule ampelopsis
solar tea dough machine-fun
office marks ex-centric drift tensity
walk a little further
an atomic line regurgitated
tax privilege sworn to
harvest blue-gray of atmospheric haze

white lilies to Lee’s windowsill
answer for Schwitters’s green blood
man utters her best man
tasting iodised salt mango St
Elmo’s fire sunspot activity green
tea-water medium AURORA
green is fluid
particles of the night serpent fire

friends pass phrases seaspent
spraying ochre buildings commanding Church
or Western Road sites complaining
exoneration green graphic count
less desires to come into day very
very dark & some
space covered by dense cumulus
home here indefinitely
& green
a degree of infinite infelicity

relief to Klein’s equal blue
stunned by live oak sunning
swimmers generic pus slow
thesis strand
haunches for slow hut
shackles cognate strata but
this is only an excuse

Run It

for j.w

Brisk between corkscrews, meat dumpling & droll
build up to irascible optics, then leave them to this

Cobalting, my rock & snatched book, oversize pearl
Cowling meant for prefect navigation &

their blouse lengths, shocks to be parsed, undernecks
then fronts as grout in the hole-in-this-wall

A wheelchair wet with choco drool, to spun-out
losing roll like vapor rents on Hogbacks high

Larger facts at the two snare drums & wily
house scarves. Nay-saying nil will outlive tarns;

floss with assenting hubby gulps, carpeted territories
tail a wide clamp & smoked hams, its gimme

darts due fashion cobalt on cobalt, thatch
censurably at handles to dependable spokes

As though the get-go was let go before the rat wife
As though flames of stumps were to crack achromatic

unremembered rides to the hash mark media kites
Arms locked across paraphernalia. Wait up, donate

A struggling whale chokes above the landing strip
Penalize a squeegee girl in the lane pit. Where,

at least. Certified-same-tissue leaves the pops well,
alone to be hummed-out soon, tuck & tuckered in

the bare racking blame awaits a hearty spool, brittle
with dew — tough on the clause of grime,

overcoats flash a lip-stiff EZ-pass. The Handy Plan
can but hound no pint-size gum by notation


Mark Mendoza is a British writer currently researching in Oxford, Ohio. He’s also one of the few poets I’ve met who comes from my neck of the woods. He hails from Shoreham-by-Sea, next town along from my Southwick. The poem for Lee Harwood here cites a few familiar sights and sites.

Page 503

Django Reinhardt: His Guitar

Monday, June 05, 2006

Robert Sheppard: Some Recent Work on the Web

I have been conducting a long interview with Edmund Hardy of Intercapillary Space, which has just appeared, entitled 'Signature and Ethics'.
This is accompanied by some poems, a sequence called ‘The War Had Ended; It Had Not Ended’ which is a preface to ‘September 12’, which is also excerpted here, and which I describe in the interview as .my best work to date’.

There is also a section of my prose fiction Thelma, which attempts to do for Liverpool what Breton did for Paris with Nadja.

(Other parts of Thelma appear in Tears in the Fence; the first half of ‘September 12’ appears in the print version of Shearsman.)

Edmund Hardy’s review of my The Poetry of Saying, about whch we converse quite a lot, also appears on Intercapillary Space.

A further sequence of poems, 'Berlin Bursts', appeared recently on Shadow Train.

I admit to be going rather slowly on Pages at the moment, but I have poems from Mark Mendoza and Simon Perril to post soon.

Page 501

Friday, May 19, 2006

Robert Sheppard: Everything Connects: The Social Poetics of Iain Sinclair

part of a draft paper delivered to the Edge Hill University English Department’s Research Day on 15 May 2006
(photo of Iain Sinclair at Edge Hill, copyright Tim Power)

Iain Sinclair’s predilection for drawing divinatory lines on maps, in part, dictates his approach towards cultural formation and its poetics. In his 1975 poem Lud Heat, willed ley lines supposedly generate a wealth of supposedly occult materials for Sinclair to carefully counterpoint with local realist accounts. While he is careful to emphasize that his materials – including his map - act only as provisional confirmation of one another, of patterns of connection, the reader is marshalled by a relentless rhetoric of assimilation to accept that his chosen geographical sites are funnels of power for the gods, diffusing their influence through the ‘heat’ of named writers who once dwelt there. In later documentary, such as Lights Out for the Territory (1997) Sinclair’s walks across London are partly quests for the ‘reforgotten’ cultural workers of the capital – neglected London novelists as well as avant-garde poets. The pedestrian circumnavigation of the M25 that is the narrative occasion of London Orbital (2002) has not just the disappearance of the Millennium Dome as its miraculous aim, but the re-appearance of artists it finds along its route, such as the impoverished ‘visionary’ poet Bill Griffiths in his houseboat at Uxbridge, or Barry MacSweeney, who is presented as a modern ‘ranter’. Sinclair trudges the sites of the English Revolution and asks, ‘Was it legitimate to read that decade of samizdat publication (1965-75), poetry wars, readings above pubs or in disestablished chapels, as in any way analogous to the outpourings of the Dissenters (Levellers, Diggers, Ranters) in the years of the English Civil War …?’ (Answers on a postcard, please.)

Such authority Sinclair claims here derives from the connections he makes between the poets, between eras, and – crucially – between places (Uxbridge and the Diggers’ St George’s Hill are both visited in London Orbital). The disestablished chapels rhetorically function as the temporary location for the appearance of the British Poetry Revival’s festivities, but suggest a physically existing continuity with radical non-conformism. Peter Barry recognizes the danger, even in Lud Heat, of this rampant associationism, but also acknowledges Sinclair’s scepticism toward his own systems: ‘This overdetermined universe would quickly become unbearably claustrophobic, and perhaps ultimately silly, in the hands of any other writer.’

Sinclair ‘inscribing his own mental biro-lines on the tarmac, and then excavating and linking up the marked spots’, as Barry puts it, is the unifying activity of his intratextual oeuvre, in its multiple intertextuality. However, those wishing to create an exclusively avant-garde ‘tradition’ – say, a blostered-up version of the British Poetry Revival from which Sinclair emerged into the mainstream - will be disappointed to discover the stalking ground of Winston Churchill as well as JG Ballard’s bolthole en route in London Orbital, and in Edge of the Orison (2005) such artists are ignored in favour of John Clare and the family tree of Sinclair’s wife, which had fortuitously taken root in the vicinity of Clare’s long incarceration. The lines Sinclair draws explicitly complicate or refute existing lines of ‘influence’; they scribble over the maps of affiliations and allegiances, official and unofficial. They delete as well as connect.

The novel Landor’s Tower (2001) evokes the central metaphor for these eclectic acts of creative linkage. Alfred Watkins’ theory of the ley line, as outlined in his 1925 book The Old Straight Track, was popular in the 1970s when Sinclair appropriated its method in Lud Heat. Watkins argues (falsely) that the ancient sites of England and Wales are aligned with one another in a network of straight routes of communication called ley lines, which are also aligned with the movement of the sun. Watkins’ evidence, however dubious, is archaeological, and is suggestively presented in the form of maps with the straight tracks drawn upon them, not unlike the hieratic London map of Lud Heat. Sinclair’s description of the invention of ley lines is crucial to understanding his psychogeological and cultural poetics: Watkins ‘original revelation', is that 'everything connects and, in making those connections, streams of energy are activated’.

The poetics of modernist juxtaposition has been approvingly evoked, and utilized, by Sinclair: ‘Multi-voiced, lyric seizures countered by drifts of unadorned fact, naked source material spliced into domesticated trivia, anecdotes, borrowings, found footage.' This checklist, voiced by Sinclair’s avatar Norton, in Landor’s Tower, is describing a work like Ezra Pound's Cantos, but it would serve as well as a thumbnail sketch of Sinclair's own collage Lud Heat. Pound's technique of modernist juxtaposition and the ideogrammic method of the Cantos can be read as a literary equivalent of the ley line. Pound states that the juxtaposition of elements without syntactic linkage, by simple contiguous arrangement (if you like, by drawing lines between them) creates new combinations. However, the basis for this emerged from philology as suggestive but as suspect as Watkins’ archaeology. The alignment of the four Chinese ideograms for ‘rose’, ‘iron rust’, ‘cherry’ and ‘flamingo’, Pound attempts to demonstrate, combine to create the single ideogram for ‘red’. New meaning, like montage in film, is constructed from the juxtaposition of previously discrete concrete elements.

Sinclair’s cultural poetics operates on the premise that ‘the official map of the culture, at any time, would always fail to include vital features. Too many good writers are left out of the canon’. If the cultural explorer cannot trust received cultural mappings, the only way to establish a working map is empirically, to walk out into the culture (literally in Sinclair’s case) and gather what the walking reveals, to go beyond the official map to find the cultural operators who are off the radar, either because the radar is faulty, or the cultural mandarins are lazy and dismissive. The narratives of the walks in Lights Out for the Territory or London Orbital become bejewelled with significance, and spark with potential cultural connections, like Pound’s ideogrammic nodes, dotted ley lines for the reader to follow outwards. If enough connecting lines are ruled across what the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls the field of literary and cultural production (in his own spatial metaphor), and if the work can make connections between these vital nodes of local or repressed cultural activity, then the ghostly template of an alternative culture may become visible. This attempt to connect areas of the restricted economy of the literary field disrupts what Bourdieu calls the position-taking of artists within the field, in order to align their dispositions in a new way, by force as it were. ‘The space of literary or artistic position-takings … is inseparable from the space of literary or artistic positions defined by possession of a determinate quantity of specific capital (recognition) and, at the same time, by occupation of a determinate position in the structure of the distribution of this specific capital.’ Sinclair tries to ignore the larger forces at play in the field of culture as a whole. The (relative) autonomy of the literary field is high in avant-garde practice, replete as it is with inwardly-regarding accumulation of cultural capital, as Bourdeiu explains.

The more autonomous the field becomes, the more favourable the symbolic power balance is to the most autonomous producers and the more clear-cut is the division between the field of restricted production, in which the producers produce for other producers, and the field of large-scale production, which is symbolically excluded and discredited.

Sinclair’s elevation - or consecration, to use Bourdieu’s vocabulary - of Derek Raymond as the epitome of extreme and mesmerising pulp fiction, as well as Bill Griffiths as exemplar of the consecrated avant-garde, attempts to negate the dominant world of Booker Prize- sustained literary fiction and the culturally validated Sunday paper reviewing poet. Robert Bond argues that ‘Sinclair represents the contemporary poet or artist working without regard for his own self-preservation.’ Outside the field of large-scale social power, Raymond and Griffiths are sustained in different parts of the field of restricted production, both supported only by the cultural capital of their cultic energies, their ‘heat’, in Sinclair’s persistent metaphor, and constellated with one another, in a Poundian node, only by the ironic consecration of Sinclair’s prose.

It is fascinating to hear Sinclair operating occasionally within Bourdieu’s field of large scale production, rather than at the interface between larger scale and restricted, which is where I surmise his critique to be currently positioned (if I were to succumb to the charm of one of Bourdieu’s diagrams). His attempt on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme in February 2004 to change the positioning of the work of the British Poetry Revival poet JH Prynne in the larger culture by de-consecrating the work of the canonised Philip Larkin was a peculiar failure of effect, even though he ‘played his advocacy pretty straight’ in my public email estimation of the time. The interviewer, operating as the normative cultural evaluator, the voice of commonsense, simply poohed-poohed his expression of the unthinkable. (Bourdieu theorises such acts of de-consecration as part of the normal shifting power-games of the literary fields, but has no theoretical machinery to deal with the intractability of the Movement Orthodoxy.)
Sinclair’s cultural poetics reveal a brave but risky strategy. Like all empiricism it is the slave of what is discoverable, and what Sinclair finds first are his artist-friends and immediate associates, and JH Prynne was one of the earliest and most extraordinary. Prynne has had the bitter-sweet distinction of appearing twice, as Skofeld in Suicide Bridge (1979), and as Simon Undark in Radon Daughters (1994) and Landor’s Tower. When the connections are forced – David Rodinsky, the Whitechapel hermit pushed hard against Harold Pinter the apostle of silence, for example, in Rodinsky’s Room (1999) – the results can become wilful, even desperate. In Edge of the Orison, where the bourgeois distraction of genealogy intertwines with a search for traces of Samuel Beckett and for his unfortunate lover, Lucia Joyce, incarcerated like John Clare, the revealed linkage does not repay the effort (although Sinclair does avoid some of his more repetitive tropes). For Sinclair, though, there can be no alternative method; the risks of being wrong or irrelevant are outweighed by the almost utopian connectivity of the imagination.
concurring with its constructions.

When Sinclair, in 2002 or 3, was asked by Kevin Jackson, ‘Are you a materialist or not?’ Sinclair replied, ‘Not. Not at all, no. Far from….I’m absolutely one of those mad Welsh preachers who believes that … deliver the speech and you’ll change someone’s life.’ This hesitant refusal, with its affirmation of a divinatory power of utterance, does remind us that to read Sinclair sympathetically, to respond to his magnetic notions, one must often maintain a critical resistance to its pull. As in reading Blake or Yeats, it is important to take the unpalatable with the palatable, since it is arguably through such strange perspectives that we can judge ourselves, and our values, as we engage with the powerful otherness of these texts. ‘While affirming the other as other … I encounter the limits of my own powers to think and to judge, my capacities as a rational agent,’ as Derek Attridge puts it in his brilliant The Singularity of Literature. Additionally, Sinclair’s texts, to use one of his own metaphors, operate as windows for readers’ imaginations rather than as mirrors for their self-regard. Robert Bond recovers a distant, even desperate, socio-economic politics from this, despite Sinclair’s evident resistance to materialist formulations, and one which reinforces Sinclair’s focus on the restricted field of culture. Sinclair, he says, ‘needs to assert the imagination as a force which, if exercised freely, creates products that are not easily assimilable within an economy organized around interested exchange. He also wants to assert the potential of the imagination … to stand in an oppositional relationship to the political status quo.’

Nevertheless it is important to balance the weaknesses and strengths of Sinclair’s unique perspectives, particularly as they relate to the cultural poetics that is at its most explicit in the non-fiction, but is everywhere in Sinclair’s vast intratextual project. The strengths lie in the way the cultural scene is charted first hand, as far as that is humanly possible, which may not be very far, as Sinclair’s Radio 4 appearance suggests. It is the unofficial guide, with as few of the pre-existent social valuations inherent in any field of cultural production, as possible.

The weaknesses lie in the project’s reliance upon such contingency, personal experience, the mystical and the numinous, and its eschewal of (overt) theoretical or sociological positions. One of the few riches of cultural capital that avant-gardists exchange is their writerly poetics. When, in the introduction to Conductors of Chaos, Sinclair celebrates the sheer facticity of small press publications – ‘you don’t need to read them, just handle them: feel the sticky heat creep up through your fingers’ – it is difficult not to believe that we are in the presence of a fetishist, reconciled at last with his diminished materialism, but he pays little attention to that other materiality, of literary practice itself on the treasured pages, other than the remark that ‘If these things are “difficult”, they have earned that right’. Sinclair is aware of the irony of his own fame as a writer publishing in the literary mainstream being the generous vehicle of consecration for more marginal figures. However much Sinclair’s cultural poetics can attempt to rescue the re-forgotten from obscurity, he is not adept as an interpreter of the technical poetics of textual obscurity, of that work of the British Poetry Revival. In a real way he could be described as an enthusiast. Bond identifies the centre of ‘Sinclair’s notion of enthusiasm as the compulsion to exercise the imagination without regard for the exigency of self-preservation’. Yet this is an economy Sinclair himself is partly liberated from, by his mainstream status as the chronicler of these others, as Bond also suggests. Despite this positioning, Sinclair’s critique often operates at the interface of the fields of restricted production and large-scale production. As he registers the avant-garde cultural capital of what Bourdieu calls ‘a generalised game of “loser wins”, on a systematic inversion’ of mainstream values, and projects that image against (or onto) the mainstream, the strategy risks the danger of reversing the inversion, as it were, of de-consecrating his chosen elect. Bereft of aesthetic value – their textual poetics unexplained – but replete with mythological potential, they can be dismissed simply as interesting people – characters - Sinclair has met along the way, rather than as exemplary artist figures who also ‘stand in oppositional relationship to the political status quo’.

Page 500

One of the reasons I’ve been slow with posting pages on Pages is that I thought I should emit an editorial to celebrate Page 500, but I haven’t.

Other pieces on Sinclair may be found through the archive 489: Robert Sheppard: Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat, (access that here

Lud Heat is once again available here

My book Iain Sinclair may be bought here. Or Here: Iain Sinclair | Liverpool University Press

My account of Dining on Stones is featured here

My critical volume When Bad Times made for Good Poetry has some further thoughts on Iain Sinclair's work. 

Suicide Bridge is also back in print and may be bought here:  Suicide Bridge – Skylight Press This reprints my 1980 review of the book as an afterword!

Here is an account of Iain Sinclair celebrating Malcolm Lowry in Liverpool in 2014.

Here is Iain Sinclair's poem 'Patrick Hamilton' on Pages.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Robert Sheppard: Hymns to the God in which My Typewriter Believes

My latest volume Hymns to the God in which my Typewriter Believes is
out now from Stride. It may be ordered direct from Stride or from Salt (where other books of mine may be purchased). (2018: long out of print, some of the poems are reprinted in History or Sleep: Selected Poems: see here:

These poems – the first to appear after Twentieth Century Blues was completed - riff on and off other works of art. They mostly fall into a category of work I dubbed ‘text and commentary’ during their composition, mostly between 2001-3. By this I meant that, although such works were responses to, writings through, alongside, against, out of, other works of art (on the whole), they were intended to be read independently as well as in relation to. They were as textual as much as they were intertextual. (See Pages 463: Robert Sheppard: TEXTintoTEXT for an account of this process.)

The materials selected – many of them by European artists – are unexpected new cultural referents: from the visual works of Charlotte Saloman to Hugo Dachinger, from particular drafts and poems by Anne Sexton and Veronica Forrest-Thomson. For example, ‘Parody and Pastoral’ (which was first published in Jacket) 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.

The technique continues with surreal ‘translations’ of Sephardic songs to investigations of the ode and the anti-poem. Familiar themes emerge in these borrowed contexts, from the Holocaust to September 11. The voice is quieter, but, serious or jocular, the visual opportunities of page-space part of the poems’ exacting design. My favourite quote about my work is this one, from John Muckle: ‘Sheppard is a rhizomiste. This means he has found a form for his epic Twentieth Century Blues project that could sprout off in any direction without warning, like a potato; and it does. ‘Like a Potato’ (review of Nuttall, Loydell, Sheppard, Welch, Hawkins) Poetry Review, Volume 94, No. 4, Winter 2004/5, pp. 93-99, at 93-6.

I’ve recently launched this book at three readings. The first, shown in the photographs, was a joint launch in Liverpool with Scott Thurston (of his Hold published by Shearsman Books ) on 16th March (See also Pages 471: Scott Thurston: Sounding Scheme for texts and links.) The photographs feature Scott and I conferring by the windows; me waiting to read, and a picture of the audience, with Stephen Farrell Sheppard, Alice Lenkiewicz and Andrew Taylor clearly visible.

The second was with Ailsa Cox (my Creative Writing colleague at Edge Hill (soon to be) University) on 22nd March, at which she launched her short fiction Like Ice, Like Fire, available from Leaf Press . (See also Peggy’s Blue Skylight, our blogzine, and news of the previous Edge Hill launch we both launched books at.)

The third was with Peter Manson on 7th April as part of the Crossing the Line series in London. See his website, "Freebase Accordion".

The photographs are by Peter Griffiths, whose work may also be seen online at including further images of our reading, and images of other readings, including those by Allen Fisher and Alan Halsey (who I would also like to thank for the excellent cover image for Hymns to the God).

And thanks, too, to Rupert Loydell for publishing this book.

Page 499

Sunday, March 26, 2006

498: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 6): The Law-Speaker


Law and order was being talked up into quite an issue about this time. Unemployment was up, and robberies, cheating, drinking and sundry crimes flourished. The apparent impudence of some of the offences, and the slowness of response from the police only made it worse. The determination to do something grew. In fact, it was the ideal opportunity to canvas for increased police powers, increased police independence, increased police pay and pensions. Accountability was a concept from the past. Action was needed, and people were being telled as much, in the most unlikely ways, and in the most unexpected contexts. And by almost any political party you cared to name.


For example, that autumn, I attended, by chance, a local residents meeting that featured (unbeknownst to me) a talk on crime from a police officer. Myself, I had wanted to ask questions about homes being demolished, but that, I was telled, would have to wait: there was more important business first, before it would be decided if I could speak or not. Setting the agenda is the privilege of elected officers, after all. And on this occasion the main item was going to be something special, the show-piece of the local force, etc.

A policeman was addressing the meeting. Friendly his tone, but his matter (I could not help noticing) seemed aimed to play on the apprehension and even the fear of crime, as something he (a professional) was willing to admit he shared with them (the public, the victims, the generally law-abiding though not necessarily without their own little foibles that he would neither condone nor regard as serious). (I guess he meant little foibles like domestic violence, double-parking and the like. But Councillors set the moral tone of the area, so we can leave all that side of it to them.) No, the common trouble they all faced was burglary: them as proper house-owning citizens of Dawdle-Zone with their TVs and videos, their cars and garage freezers; the police as not being able to catch the villains or trace the stolen property.

Crime is a form of self-employment, after all, and they all knew (he pointed out) what the self-employed were like. Shop-keepers, especially those corner-shop laddos from god-knows what desert clime. (Groans of sympathy.) Car-boot-sale villains. (More groans.) Door-to-door salesmen and phone-calling double-glaziers. (Groans and laughs.) All after something. At your expense. At society’s expense. When respectable folk like yourselves paid the business rate on your shops and factories, you deserved a bit of help discouraging these elements from helping themselves, just breaking the law in their regardless fashion.

Now a bit of self-help is what is needed to combat them (he insisted). And fortunately burglar-proof locks were on sale and display at his very elbow from some lay figure he had brought along. A personable young lady, with all manner of alarms, chub locks, padlocks, circuits and systems. Costs a bit, of course, but what price peace of mind? They would all get an opportunity to look and buy during the interval. (Interval? How long was he going to go on for?)

It seemed he had only started on his main theme: the unalloyed evil of crime and the criminal, and the proper means of its discouragement. The shadowy, uncatchable thugs, younger and younger, that devoted their lives to wrecking decent homes and upsetting normal society. Quite early, he had dropped a neutral reference to the return of the death penalty, of the ‘some might think...’ kind. When there were murmurs of approval from his audience he took the hint, and was soon condemning ‘the lenient prison system,’ and in the end almost playfully regretting we did not accept the concept of mutilating offenders as practised in Muslim countries, gaining outright emphatic approval from his listeners the more deadly and outrageous his suggestions.

Had I come upon the scene of a Black Mass or some secret Coven of Mutilators? No. I shook my senses clear and looked again around me: it was just the same democratic gathering of local residents as encouraged and steered by decent Councillors and supported by proper Council grants. The same householders, pigeon-fanciers, freedom of extreme speech fans and family members as before, only kindled to bonfire heat at the thought of revenge - on whom? On some mythical class of offenders against honest genetic standards? Against their own sons, their neighbours or their neighbours’ children? For who can say who will say what when the figureheads of normality and propriety turn awkward? There is only the sheep-warm urge to follow them on any dead path they care to nominate, and at the present police power was on the up and participation in the State limited to playing the role of anonymous (possibly rewarded) informants. Posters asking for help to identify the ‘Anti-Social’ were now a feature of everyday life.

Still, she made a good sale of chains and locks, this gentle female lay partner of his. The audience were only too glad to show their appreciation in a practical way. And an hour or more had passed before we even reached the point where we were invited to leave the room, so the propriety of our presenting the case against community demolition could be considered. After all, discussing a Council plan, let alone admitting opposition to one, was a risky sort of business not lightly to be embarked on. We retired to the snooker room of the club, awaiting a decision, when a god-almighty scream came from the carpark just outside the window. We threw back the blinds; citizens rushed from the main room into the open to view the horror.


Well, I can only apologise. It seems I was wrong. The forces of evil are indeed everywhere around us and more powerful in this world than any Cathar heretic ever dared imagine in wild-dream scenario. I can hardly bear to describe the unholy scene we beheld. The policeman’s car was parked outside, and the policeman in it, revving his motor, and yelling, and banging his fists on the dashboard, and then getting out and smashing his own windscreen with the steering-lock, in terrible motor-rage. For in the light now flooding from the windows and doors of the club, we could see, as he had surely guessed himself by now, that all four wheels had been neatly removed, and the car propped up on its axles with a few spare bricks.

At that point his car-alarm went off with ear-splitting majesty.

{Dawdon Residents Association; the visit of a chief constable to Sunderland}

That’s all from Bill’s Ghost Stories. Appropriately, British Summer Time began today and it rained, but light remained until at least 7.00 here in Liverpool. Bill’s story should remind us that the forces of darkness don’t need darkness, anyway. But they've helped us through the dark days of the Winter.
Page 498

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


497: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 5): Needfire
496: KAI FIERLE-HEDRICK : Some Poems and a Reading

January 2006

495: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 4): On Friday Morn
495: Robert Sheppard: Review of Lee Harwood’s Collected Pomes (part two)
494: John Muckle: Two Poems

December 2005

493: Robert Sheppard: Review of Lee Harwood’s Collected Poems
492: Clark Allison: Mind’s Eye
491: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 3): Midnight Express

November 2005

490: Iain Sinclair; New Poems: Patrick Hamilton
489: Robert Sheppard: Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat
488: Sheila E. Murphy: Four Poems
487: Robert Sheppard at Fifty
486: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 2): HAZARD
485: Robert Sheppard: Anthologies and Assemblages (A History of the Other, the ninth and last part (not included in The Poetry of Saying))

October 2005

484: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 1): TOMMY
483: Patricia Farrell, Otherwise Than Beings
482: A History of the Other, part eight

September 2005

481: Neil Pattison: Preferences 1
480: A History of the Other, part seven
479: Jeff Hilson: from Bird Bird
478: Robert Sheppard: The Poetry of Saying (Liverpool University Press)

August 2005

477: Lawrence Upton: Two Texts
476: The Poetry Buzz: Pictures of Pages authors
475: Patricia Farrell: Visual Work: Tomorrow’s Attack Objects Talk
474: A History of the Other, part six

July 2005 (June was too busy)

473: The Poetry Buzz (images! new technology!)
472: Robert Sheppard: The Anti-Orpheus/Rattling the Bones
471: Scott Thurston: Sounding Scheme
470: Robert Hampson: Synthetic Feed
469: Robert Sheppard: A History of the Other, part five

May 2005

468: Adrian Clarke: from MUZZLE
467: Marianne Morris: from Easter Poems
466: Robert Sheppard: Looking Back at Place and Open Field Poetics
465: Robert Sheppard: A History of the Other: Part four
464: Ken Edwards: from BARDO

April 2005

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 5): Needfire

Ganny sat i’ th’ corner, caad as owt.

Meg cam ower ti show ‘er hor latest drawin’. It woz a pickchor ov an egg, on end, beginnin’ ti brick, an’ a large muscle-man emergin’, leastways hiz heed an’ airm.

Ganny chuckled. It myed hor think o’ the renewal o’ strength – that she needed partickler, hor, at hor age. Meg woz an aud-farrant bairn, she thot, not like hor scatty-brained Mam. She puu’d th’ rug tighter roond hor, an’ leuked toward th’ winder – the fire seemed to gie nae heat, and the sun little leet the day, which meant –

‘How, Ganny,’ sed Albie as he waaked in, huggin’ a canny bundle o’ peat wi’ him. Albie woz Ellen’s man, her daughter, but most times she felt closer to him nor hor. It woz a matter o’ respeck – that gorl had nyen, nae mense at aal!

‘Heor’s some peat’ll keep us waam, eh?’

‘Ye’ve nut ti hoy ower-much on, it’ll aal be te redee later, ye knaa.’

‘Oh, aye. Ye’ll hev ti ax Ellen aboot that noo,’ he sed, gently.

They exchanged a gliff o’ th’ ee.

‘Is it fire-neet?’ axed Meg.

‘Why noo, Mowsie, whee telt thoo?’ said her Dad, ‘Naebody, on’y Aa’m aad enuf ti hilp, Aa am!’

‘Thor’ll be nae clartin’-on the neet; thee Mam’ll nut stand fer it.’

‘Clartin’-on!’ sed Ganny, sounding reet scunner’d. ‘Th’ bairn’ll dee better fer ye than that Ellen. Nae mense at aal!’

‘Noo then, Ganny, ye knaa what Ellen thinks o’ aal this superstishun. It’s hor hyem noo – it’s aal wors – an she’s wark enuf wi’oot us makkin’ mare.’

Ganny changed th’ subjeck. ‘Hev ye sarra the hens, wor Meg?’ Mebbies she leuked fer a werd wi’ Albie in private.

But – ‘Aye. An’ ye knaa, Ganny, the clockers wor aal huddled in a heap, it woz that caad.’

‘Aye caad it is,’ the aud wife agreed.

‘Aa’ll seun hev th’ fire fettled,’ sed Albie, gerring on his knees to kittle the gleamin’ peat. ‘The fire’ll nut born reet, nut the day. Thor’ll be nae heat fra that airt.’

Albie filled th’ kettle an’ set in on the fire.

‘A cuppa’s what ye need. What we aal need. It’s that bitter, ootbye. Are ye nut frozzen, wor Mowsie?’

Mowsie rubbed her hands afore the fire; answer enuf.

‘En Ellen’ll be fetchin’ the supper, jus’ noo…’
Ganny felt her consarn risin’ wi’ this hyemly crack – cud they nut see the fire’d nut tak, the femmer yeller leet o’ th’ deh, aal wrang, aal wrang…

She storred horsell ti’ mak a bonny protest, when Ellen waak’d in.

‘Lo luv’ said Albie, gie’in hor a kiss. ‘Caad ootbye?’

‘As if ye need ask! Meg, where’s your warm socks an’ jumper? Ganny, will you not come nearer the fire?’

She set a pile of shoppin’ doon on th’ kitchen counter, an’ began riddin’ things th’ way she liked them.

‘Mowsie, fetch thee gansy,’ prompted her Dad.

‘Is the tea not mashed yet?’ axed Ellen, openin’ packages an’ stowin’ them aal-wheers.

‘Ah dunno,’ said Albie, ‘it dizzent seem ti want ti’ boil…’

‘It’ll nut,’ commented Ganny, seein’ an openin’. ‘Ellen…’

‘Not now, Granma. I’ve the sausages to defrost.’ Mebbies she knew weel enuf what Ganny would start on aboot, se she myed great business o’ puu’in’ apart the frozzen sticks o’ sausage an’ arrangin’ them i’ the microwave. Then thor woz frozzen beans ti tackle. ‘Albie, haven’t ye finished with the fire yet?’

Thor wos nae gas laid on wheer they lived, se the fire hed ti dee its share o’ ceukin’. Ellen’d nut hev a kitchen range; she hed nae tyest fer aud-farrant ways.

But eftor a bit she hed to admit defeat. ‘These sausages are nut even thawed,’ she said, sittin’ doon wi’ a sigh. ‘Maybe it’s time we moved to somewhere civilised…’

The farm was Ellen’s by reet, but nyen o’ them thot she really wanted rid ov it. It woz a canny livin’, i’ th’ sommer!

‘Aye, an’ gerra farm in Jamaica,’ sed Albie, funnin’.

‘Bishop Aucklan’s canny,’ ventured Ganny.

‘Aye,’ sed Ellen; ‘it’s not your fault were stuck here. If we could only get planning permission for the land…’

‘It’ll sarve fer years yet,’ Albie reassured hor. ‘an’ then Meg’ll graa up an’ finnd a fine young man that’ll dee aal me wark fer us, an’ Aa’ll com n sit i’ th’ neuk wi’ Ganny.’

‘An’ what about me?’ protested Ellen.

‘Whey, ye’ll hev sailed te New York an’ started a consultancy bus’ness.’

‘They do have aeroplanes, now.’

‘An’ ye’ll send us a poke o’ peat nows an’ thens, te show ye’ve nut forgetten us.’

‘I’ll send you tickets to join me, you mad thing. If I could…’
It seemed th’ caad woz getten intiv iverything. The kettle’d nut raise steam, so they settled for waamin’ up some milk an myed a crowdie wi’ breed-crumbs n oatmeal.

It was later that Ganny started getting’ restless, yance Meg hed went ti bed.

“What is it mother?” axed Ellen, not unkindly.

“Me sticks, me sticks,” the aud wife seemed to mutter, then pu’in hersell tegither: “Ellen, hinny, Aa knaa thee an me dizzent agree ower aud matters, but ye mun fetch me sticks fer the need-fire, less’n ye’ll dee the job theesell.”

“Oh mother – you shouldn’t be worrying yourself over these silly superstitions. The sun’ll come up tomorrow. Spring-time’ll return just like always. And a bonny mess we’ll find ourselves in, what with Bush invading Iraq!”

“Bugger President Bush! Aa’m taakin’ of what’s serious, gorl. The sun gans weak; the fire losses its heat – it alwez diz, this back-end o’ th’ year. Even yor ‘lectric’s nae orthly use. That’ hoo it is. An’ alwez it needs wor help, that’s for what we rekindle the fire, to fetch it back again, to strength. Ye mun put the fire oot, an’ hilp me get riddy to start it again. Please.”

“You should be in a museum, really!”

“Oh Albie, insense her ov it, will ye?”

Albie, catched in the middle, picked his werds careful-like. “Weel, me fadder elwiz re-lit the fire aboot this time, but Aa wez nivvor tewed te dee it mesell.”

“Ellen, hinny, humour me – it canna dee ony haam.”

“Why I think it should – at your age! The cold’ld kill you, if we let the fire out. Albie, cannot we mend that electric fire? It’s the cold giving her these fancies. Why, I’m cold myself, just talking about it.”

Albie muttered summat aboot nut bein’ ower good wi’ ‘lectrix. In the end, they fetched extra blankets – fer Ganny wez ower aud to clamber up stairs these days – and myed hor bed as near the fire as they dared.

And wi’ a kiss from Ellen and a hug from Albie, they clamb up ti bed, an’ left the aud wife in th’ on’y heated room i’ th’ hoose.

Ganny could not sleep. A year back, she would’ve handled the matter horsell’, nae problem. But it hed been a sorry year fer hor, an noo she could hardlies waak wivoot hilp. But sit up and get up she did. Forst, she fussed at the fire, nudgin’ the top peat away with the poker, then brikkin up the glowy bits underneath. It’d seun gan oot, that way.

Then wi’ a match, she lit hor candle – poor leet that it woz – an’ myed hor way slaa-ly ower te the kist i’ th’ neuk. Thor she fand hor matrix, hor spindle, an hor bow. The bow torned the spindle in the matrix, te kindle – what? She looked aroond fer cottonwool or the like, but fand nyen. Pyeper hankies ‘ld dee. An wi scissors she cut bits oot o’ hor hankychief. Mare smaa sticks she needed, but myed dee wi’ cereal packets an newspapers.

By when it woz that caad, she woz tempted ti gan strite back ti bed. It woz a shyem Meg wazzint let hilp her; or Ellen horsell. Mebbies a match would be bettor nor aal this carry-on – but ye cud nut be ower-careful when it cam ti matters ov import, like.

Se she settled horsell bi the hearth, takkin time to twist the bow just-se roond the spindle. Weeny bits o’ pyeper she set roond the matrix, an lange twists fer when th’ flame catched. anither piece wood capped the spindle, an it woz time to wark th’ need-fire. But hor elbers woz awful bad, an she felt that dwalmy as she set the bow movin’, she dooted she’d not manage.

Aal she cud dee woz cry oot as she fell ower, torpled aza stot.

It woz Albie hord hor caal oot.

He wakkened Ellen, an tegither they cam doon ti check.

They lifted Ganny back onti the bed, but she wazzint breathin’.

“Oh Mam,” cried Ellen, “ye’d not be telled!”

Meg cam doon, wakkened be the stour. “Is Ganny aareet?” she axed, but Ellen’s sobbing telled hor otherwise.

Poor Ganny!

Meg took up the spindle, an began ti lake wi’ it, roond n roond.

The silly soond o’ wood on wood roused Ellen. “Don’t fool about!” she thundered, an’ clickin’ up the spindle, brokk it in twee haaves, an cast it on the deed fire.

Mowsie Meg gasped.

Thor woz nowt she cud dee ti save them eftor that.

Phew. If that hasn’t completely chilled you, then there is one further Ghost Story from Bill Griffiths next month.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kai Fierle-Hedrick : Some Poems and a Reading


is a mixed media writer interested in locational/interdisciplinary/collaborative practices. Since 2003-4, when she earned an MPhil in Architecture & the Moving Image from Cambridge University, she has mainly been exploring combinations of text and digital media. Documentation of her work is available on her website. Bad Press published a pamphlet.


this body pulls armfuls of shade less lashes, each blue iris —
in its small privacy haggles terror for a gut plot
less combat, more hope diseased

gone bed-ridden & fugitive, peers oblique
through curtains to grieve
a surfeit logic so moving no news
could cave to sleep — which is to say each collar bone
sternum, spine aches through sans rest

to bank slaughter like care, mass or pittance
there can be no helmet for this

too many, too soon precious bits, sky-blown scraps
& slabs of pink flung wide as queer
silage for a public eye once uneager to water
when angst spawns empathy, a quivered light

London, UK; July 2005

still 11

and impervious to seams this
feat of entirety
that this season I am

so beatific and
bound by air become chords
of soft molecules

their thronged pause sticky
as the pant of hours; this, how
[in the lethargy

of an exhaled lung]
a gal breaks light with gestures
meant for spring

Auto-portrait with news and text

this petite waiver, sly and tabloid, fuels digression from
and into the articulation of a true space, its mass
gray / I've handled colour as man should behave,
with trained and sensitive eyes
/ lot of politics grabs
front-page status [site, mock context], a papal election
made pretty blurb, made print / you can recognize this
double behaviour
/ how I love that Albers loves
red, our want of sincerity or ode / of colour
a mother, stabbed, displaces popes — another day,
the pope returns, a jewel in his hat, its would-be good
[i.e., net worth] retracting zilch / and from all this you may
conclude that I consider ethics and aesthetics as one

* italics signify lines pulled from an interview with Josef Albers conducted by Katherine Kuh

Postscript, Cafe Ouky Douky

Manipulation in particular seems to play a significant role as a strategy of dealing
with the world and assumed reality. [...] Manipulations and deceptions become guidelines
in a pursuit of communication and a proper place — but first of all — they are instruments
to investigate never-too-near-approached phenomenon of truth.

* Adam Budnek, for the 2005 International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Prague

the contemporary interior here short-circuits
alienation sums Prague as this woman or
that woman browsing packaged hours i.e., tram times
to plot arrivals how this man quotes tourism
as asymmetric opportunity their lives in ochre
chapped by the same, pale city or costume
change a time of day, say 6pm, undressing
its turnover with the command to ponder
regularlity substance some moving thing
or metronome their conversation, rhythm poaching
the page like other countries, interrupting
as spectacle made norm by the universal
of cafe culture junctured, caffeinated, common
grounds, the rhythm of human digits drilling
and dwelling swigging, twiddling their high-
strung ways as a taut boredom the preferred
mantra an elastic gainsaying i.e., how she overhears
'I was just traipsin' streets when...' and waxes
meaningful falls prey to another sham
mayhem as stained glass lamps bearing fruit
indeed might break her foreign prerogative
to evade even cross-cultural ruts by any
means the vital act to fictionalise the local
as events let loose the abstract, fatten
narrative, exaggerate, befuddle, fuck up
the line we love this, she and I, for its schizophrenic
stealth we, double-time, risk ethics through
meddling spurn talk as ornament and aim
for the blunt and dusted buildings, their striations
and back-lighting by proxy mark observation as a misfit
stalker interlopers as postcards by Durex quoting
condoms as flying saucers the clatter of wind-chimes
of panes of glass reflective proving our patronage
or my tiger of a t-shirt and foreign cheek bones
bunk presence as witness a sigh of bloody
eureka and scribbling nicks the place

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