Monday, October 29, 2007

Chris Hamilton-Emery

[Chris Hamilton-Emery, of Salt Publications, asked a very similar question to one I was framing on the British Poets list. Zeitgeist or (M)orphic resonance aside, I thought it fitting to begin with his reply to his own question – and sort of to mine -

My feeling is, and I don't want this to be seen as an attack, but a great deal of innovative writing that comes my way is using tools and techniques which are actually rather hackneyed. Disrupted syntax, linguistic borrowings, indeterminacy, hypo-contextualising, hyper-contextualising, heteroglossia, discontinuous texts, types of spatial arrangement. So I wondered whether given what I see as the huge take up of these practices, it might be more accurate to regard these practices as mainstream. I've also pondered on whether new innovations are in fact linguistic but are in fact social, for example, work which innovates a readership, not through the excesses of the text, but through its techniques in drawing people in. I was interested in considering this in the context of different readerships.

Secondly, I do worry that we're at risk of imagining that innovation can only happen in certain social locations, like Cambridge for example, and how this branch of innovation, might not in fact be innovative and might, in fact, have more to do with ideas of privilege and social identity. Not to knock Cambridge, but if I had one sense of changes since 2000, it would be that the Cambridge scene has now ended. But I do doubt that innovation can be understood now in terms of these locations of practice, and that many institutional locations have in fact developed an institutional idea of innovation which is rather weak and is losing reception.

I think the interest in digital poetics is fascinating, though I think the technologies and their usage are moving faster than many practitioners and so a lot of technically inventive poetry can seem rather hackneyed and its reliance on medium is often to the detriment of the actual content. So I think this could be a dead end, or rather, the means have become the ends.

Innovative poetries in the Black and Asian communities have largely been excluded from recent surveys so British Black surrealism and sci-fi writing have it seems to me been missed and new Muslim writing seems to have been branded as identity writing as if this were somehow old hat and not worth investigating.

I'd point out that the writing that seems to me to be most highly charged right now, seems to have greater social concern about community and meaning, and less to do with political empowerment and political enfranchisement - the politics is there in people like Ronnie McGrath or Sascha Akhtar, but language and community seem more pressured and alive. I think people, young people, seem to be looking at a world devoid of standard models for moral and ethical behaviour, largely disinterested in 19thC political theory and its realisation and more concerned with inventing social constructs within poems, constructs which might transcend national, racial, or
community boundaries. There's a great deal of carnivalesque play, and a lot of persona poems come across my desk.

What I'm seeing is this massive diversity of practices, and a happy coexistence of technical approaches, not a case of either or, more a case of this mode of writing is the most appropriate for this content. If I made one last observation, it's that what's being said is suddenly more vital than how it is being said, and that saying things matters. Maybe it's seeing body bags and kids being shot on the street which has writers searching for ways to explore these tragically commonplace occurrences, I don't know, but I think the locus for new writing may lie firmly outside of institutions in the UK right now, and despite the long term relationships and support structures we've all enjoyed, there's something else happening outside these transatlantic conversations. I'm keen to see what new European migration brings to the mix, too.

But I don't have answers, and most of the material which might provide evidence for these observations hasn't made it to a commercially viable project for me, and that, of course, steers are great deal of my thinking and reading. So it's necessarily limited.

… There's no binary opposition of avant-garde (now surely a historical term) and the mainstream, and there are no power structures that make sense within such a framework. What we have now is a multiplicity of practices and readerships and no real framework for understanding their trajectories, outside of consumption.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Editorial to Pages; fourth series

Welcome to the fourth series of Pages, which I intend to keep focussed upon a single issue.

Under the general title Turning the Pages I am publishing short responses to the following question:

Now. 2007-8. What have been the most significant developments in the alternative British and Irish Poetries (however you define those) over the last 7 years? This can be answered in terms of big picture socio-poetical contexts or in terms of local poetic practices, but please think through both the negative and positive aspects of your chosen sphere. Avoid predictions.

Please do not send unsolicited responses but do re-visit the site and see the latest instalments. I intend to add something every month (subject to responses) but no more than one item a week.

Robert Sheppard

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Editorial to Pages : Third Series

I have been posting these Pages for two years now. It’s time for rest and reflection. The aim of this series was to present a BLOGZINE, to utilise the technology of the blog to produce a little magazine (in the same way that 1960s mimeos mags appropriated the office duplicator). In effect, something different happened: I produced a hybrid form, combining the personal on-going reportage (but I hope not the customary chatter) of the blog, with the compendious embrace of the magazine. There’s nothing wrong in that; it’s simply what’s happened.

As you can see from the Index below, I have published many writers other than myself. I am particularly proud to have presented some new writers here (which has always been the aim of Pages). But I am less sure about the photo of Django’s guitar, or some of my own contributions! They remind me of that Radio 2 programme where John Dankworth and Cleo Laine invite friends into their house; again, there’s nothing wrong in that.

The arrival of photographs has made a difference to the blogzine, of course, and it was particularly good to record the Allen Fisher Poetry Buzz in some detail. Photographs seem so much more suited to the medium than poems!

One of the things I thought might happen (to me) through the experience of editing the third series is that I might learn better to read poetic texts (particularly ones which fill more than a frame) on screen. This hasn’t happened. I still find this difficult and, if research tells us that it is 25% less effective to proof-read on screen than on paper, then there must be a similar loss of clarity when faced with a literary text (I am not talking about web-works, written especially for the medium, of course).

That makes me wonder whether I might devise something more statement-based in the future, for the fourth series. I am going to rest this blogzine, perhaps until July 2007, which would be the twentieth anniversary of the first fascicle edition of Pages! (I’ve a few ideas, constellated around my interest in poetics as a speculative writerly discourse – I am currently thinking about this for my inaugural lecture – but I haven’t settled upon a specific project.)

Watch this space – and meanwhile have a look again at those Sinclair poems or Dee MacMahon’s two contributions, or that Oppen thing, follow that link to those poems you didn’t read the first time round, or give Scott Thurston another chance….

(If you are really quick you can buy some earlier Pages from Alan Halsey Books at
Alan Halsey / West House Books, 40 Crescent Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield S7 1HN


Sheppard (Robert) ed. Pages. A miscellany of early issues, from both the first and second series: 1987-88: 1-8, 17-24, 25-32, 33-40, 49-56, 57-64, 65-72, 73-80, 89-96, 91-104 (sic), 105-112, 113-120, 129-136. Contribs. incl. A.Fisher, Miller, Edwards, Seed, Clarke, Chaloner, Cobbing, Caddel, Raworth, Hawkins & O'Sullivan. Together w/ a few unnumbered pages, supplements, etc.

The collection £10!)

Robert Sheppard

Pages Third Series: Blogzine 2005-7

© The Authors, Artists and Photographers named, 2005, 2006, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Index to Pages 447-533: third series

Use this index with the Archive to find past postings

February 2007

533: Robert Sheppard: Editorial to Third Series (Number Two)
532: INDEX to Pages – third series
531: Robert Sheppard: Corseted in his cross-hairs (more September 12)

January 2007

530: Robert Sheppard: Love Life (short story and link)
529: Robert Sheppard: Partly Writing
528: Simon DeDeo and September 12 (link)
527: Robert Sheppard: New Links for the New Year
526: Robert Sheppard: The Archive of the Now (link and texts recorded)

December 2006

525: Dee MacMahon: Three Poems
524: Tony Parsons 50th and the reading of ‘Smokestack Lightning’.

November 2006

523: Moralis: George Oppen Interview 1973

October 2006

522: Rupert Loydell and Robert Sheppard: from Risk Assessment
521: Rupert Loydell: Four Poems

September 2006

520: Introducing Professor Robert Sheppard
519: Todd Swift’s Babylon Burning: five years after 9/11

August 2006

518: Simon Perril: Melomania

July 2006

517: Patricia Farrell: Image
516: Patricia Farrell: On ‘A Space Completely Filled with Matter’

June – July 2006

504-515: Patricia Farrell: A Space Completely Filled with Matter

June 2006

503: Mark Mendoza: Four Poems
502: Django Reinhardt: His Guitar
501: Robert Sheppard: Recent Works on the Web

May 2006

500: Robert Sheppard: Everything Connects: The Cultural Poetics of Iain Sinclair

April 2006

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

March 2006

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

February 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 (part one)
492: Clark Allison: Mind’s Eye
491: Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 3): Midnight Express

November 2005

490: Iain Sinclair: New Poems - Patrick Hamilton (from Buried At Sea)
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: Robert Sheppard: 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

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.
446: Robert Sheppard: Editorial to the Third Series/Afterword to Pages, the Second Series (moved out of sequence to start of February 2005 archive)

© the authors, artists and photographers, 2005, 2006, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

Robert Sheppard: Corseted in his cross-hairs

‘September 12’ (the sequence) is made up of ‘sonnets’ written in 2003-4. Numbers one to 12 appeared in Shearsman magazine and numbers one to six may be read at the Shearsman site:

Number 7 was posted here on Page 526 (December 2006), but here’s the rest, and links to the rest:


Corseted in his cross-hairs for her caveman pockets,
something goes off in her hand and something
goes very dark. He’s a mission to come on her open
territory. She prays upside down as he plays God
away on business, fingering her laptop trigger

Done for a whore’s breakfast she loads herself into
his strip-search vest as he sprays his self with love

She’s fashioning his new long range out of her wide
world vagina flicked across her dead lover’s finger,
slapped on his goggles in the rubble action replay
and spilling generation funds on the saintly dust. He

pushes his Big Picture into her head. She blows it
away. Then he rewinds to the comic Big Bang:
blistering flesh bursts like a blown-up condom


Intervene in err… history impure terror full stop
incognito explodes his own cover at what
he plans to do thinking makes him happen stop
follow the line tightly packed hips sway the crowd

He’s a burnt-out f-f-f-fuck-box ah! you’ll waltz
across his set, the CCTV-free short-cut alley stop

His tongue tingles like a um fuse then onto
the triad his poisoned tube is pointing stop
fast-forward to where he fear-fucks a corpse

in a transfer-tube marked import stop
read in five or in the sand-pit he plays
with an imaginary uh friend no no enemy stop
like the ‘child he never was’ his pit-bull strung
up before the erm… next war started?


Spiked footsteps, pierced by sound,
push love, wheels turning, through his body

His stutter slot trips a new paw-print stage
of psychotic re-enactment, aloft with 9/11
footage on the scorched hooves of history

Heavenly transport hums on dirty wires.
Flecks drip onto his battery fan Look! flick
the stale sweat of his pre-emptive terror
breezing a brass tiger to his florid cheeks
(the shifting voice of my thumbnail pause

What am I err… for? Echoic c-c-c-cave-cell
or self, I splutter anti-matter, the deep mu-mu-mutter of auto-interrogation, self-torture. I am.
Useless to stop anything believe me leave me


The shutter-stop tricks a new poor print. Staged,
the evidence takes off a lie of your own, a bleachy
kiss that strips the warts too much
A chord and a whip? Behold your deformed back! In
the inflammatory century blown in promissory notes
rabid-eyed in a drama of primed monster photo-ops,
they option the past. Irony’s out with an old sunk ally,
tongs of love un-gripped by the sane divorce to sever

Several darts are lighter. They teach restrictions
to heavenly gaudy statesmen. They re-locate
a new sense shelved for their new wharf outing,
the extraordinary City, where they channel hate

calibrate consumption’s sub-limits on the caking of a
horlicks, the binding gossip of conscript kickers






This last one should be centred on the page. More or less the remainder of the 24 may be read on Jacket magazine at

The first 7 may also be heard on The Archive of the Now, at

The final group (17-24) will also be available on a CD of work by the Edge Hill University Poetry and Poetics Group.

The poetics of the September 12 project, ‘Rattling the Bones’, may be read at Softblow and

The second set of 24 from the project is entitled ‘Burying Bad News’ (but I am also considering ‘Burying Good News’ as a title) and the third, which I finished in December 2006, is called (for the moment at least) ‘Emergency Renditions 2006’. None of these has been published so far. The fourth set is in preparation. Arithmetically astute readers will have noted that that means there will be 96 poems. I have also written 4 floating sonnets (if they are sonnets) to round the number up. I believe this to be my best work to date. See Page 528 for Simon DeDeo’s take on September 12 (link), which encourages me in this, at:

Page 531

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Robert Sheppard: Love Life - a short story

I have been writing fiction lately, and this piece, Love Life, was written at the invitation of Manchester band Performance, particuarly Joe Stretch, using one of their song titles as a starting point. It is now posted on their website, along with stories by Nicholas Royle and others.

Unfortunately, they seem to have mistyped the title ‘Love Live’. An eagle eye is needed to detect the division of the story into its four sections.
It begins:

Love Life
When Sam was a history student the married couple in the larger room next door borrowed his chair for three months.

Imitation black leather with a high metal frame. An uncomfortable compromise between easy chair and desk chair. For the whole term he could stand or even hop a couple of paces, and he could sprawl on the hard bed with his books and Michael Jackson’s Bad, but he couldn’t sit to relax or write his essays and poems. And he couldn’t invite round June, the girl he was starting to see.

He passed his neighbours every day in the narrow corridor leading to the residence’s single kitchen where he boiled an egg or two. She was wiry with a tangle of limp hair, but she smiled, books under her arm. Sam strained to catch their titles. The husband ignored him, stomping by in his blue overalls. He wasn’t a student but, Sam guessed, worked out at Doncaster or somewhere. He always carried a batch of red top newspapers to sell.

They needed the chair for their weekly meetings. Muffled debate pulsed against the hollow partition walls. He would hear the man say, on more than one occasion, and louder than the rest of their talk: ‘When Lenin started out he had only as many as we are today!’….

Now read the whole story (there’s onanism, novelty condoms, and suicide bombers to look forward to)  not by clicking here, as this post used to say,

for the Performance website has long gone but the story remains.

It is available in my three short stories collection The Only Life, which is published by Knives, Forks and Spoons at

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Robert Sheppard: Partly Writing 2006

This response to the Partly Writing 2006, I don't think, ever saw the light of day. I had wanted to include it as part of my inaugural, but cut it, and then recently I sent it to Susan Schultz for her collection of Rumsfeldisms. So here it is, crossing with a poetics of September 12.


The session that spoke most to what I am currently writing was the one on textual borrowing, partly because one of the ‘borrowings’ referred to by Jena Osman is ‘in’ one of my poems. While I have no problem about works of mine called ‘texts and commentaries’ which write through back to against in between certain named texts, the discussion about the use of citation, particularly in works which use/appropriate/subvert a dominant political discourse was pertinent. The crux of the issue for me lies in the transformation of such materials. A gallery full of framed sentences of Donald Rumsfeld would not be enough. Nor is it enough to simply quote it (as QD Leavis reportedly said of a supposedly weak opponent: ‘Don’t criticise him; just quote him!’). Going back to the poem, the last in a sequence of 24 ‘sonnets’ called September 12 I find actually that I ‘quote’ the verbal collocation that Rumsfeld didn’t say (i.e. ‘unknown unknowns’ was one of the combinations that he didn’t make in his improvised permutational text), but I also find a quotation from Tony Blair.

Through slatted blinds you spy another
writing a stuttery scrawl of spidery infringement.
You chisel each other into pedestal fear,
nailed to combat mottoes, slashed
and slotted in your mirror-script encryption

You’re unknown unknowns, improper nouns
once announced in a Cold War Nuke Ode.
Same-selved you live: dead meat on the other’s
plate garnished with knowns, lashed to the past

Sirens sing at the fringes of your passage.
Sleep plunders the sickly green of paramedics
under shutters. History was yesterday

In the live moment splintering between two deaths
invade this single body and unblade the truth

What concerns me is: what is this usage? Is this irony? Is this framing? If transformation is the key, as I believe, what is a quality transformation? Hopefully something to do with the interinanimation of these ‘quotations’ with the surrounding text, some of which puns on/rhymes with them. The word ‘critique’ was used a number of times. This strikes me as too ‘comforting’, another term that was used. How complicit are we in the linguistic structures that we borrow? I’ve got enough Adorno still left in me to think that I am making a fiercely impacted object of resistance, but critique must be left to the agency of the reader. A beautiful object, perhaps, containing these ugly words (but not, of course, only these ugly words).

(And I still believe that you can’t have exchange, the weekend’s key word, unless the other party, as it were, has volition. I don’t believe you can have intertextual exchange with a text.).

Robert Sheppard June 6th 2006

Page 529

Simon DeDeo's response to September 12

Simon DeDeo, whose blog ‘Rhubarb is Susan’ I had heard of, has a response to the poems from September 12 he has seen:

Page 528

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Robert Sheppard: New Links for the New Year

I have a new professional web page at Edge Hill University, complete with air-brushed photo so I look like a wax dummy of myself (appropriate for the self-repression in the service of the performance principle of paid employment, even of a professor;

The page I originally wanted was deemed too long by the techie-police and is detailed and linked, but you can get it as a pdf through the page or here.

Parts of Risk Assessment a collaboration with Rupert Loydell, published by Damaged Goods, 2006, may be read at:

Finally, read Edmund Hardy’s interview with me may be found on Intercapillary Space at In it I talk about both the poetry and the criticism. Edmund’s review of The Lores may be read at Terrible Work:

and his review of my critical book, The Poetry of Saying may be read at Terrible Work too.

My review of Peter Barry’s Poetry Wars may be read on Jacket, complete with another strange photograph of me (in Riga) and its decidedly non-academic conclusion about the goings on at Earl’s Court in the 1970s and ‘those radical poets of the 1970s who – yes, I’ve got to say it – fucked it up for the rest of us.’:

Page 527

Robert Sheppard: The Archive of the Now (texts for the sounds)

You can now hear me read my work at the Archive of the Now, curated by Andrea Brady at Brunel University, and follow some links there too, here:, and click on Authors and click on Robert Sheppard.

But check the site out for other Pages poets, from Adrian Clarke to Scott Thurston, from Lawrence Upton to Kai Ferle-Hedrick.

Here are the full texts (or links) for the poems I read.

from Internal Exile
Writing is impossible without some kind of exile

Julia Kristeva

from Twentieth Century Blues 6

Internal Exile 1
Out from germ-warm subterranean wind into
Business having just been, or about to be.
Hyphens, dashes, asterisks, strokes:
The silver number has been screwed. Red
Flag: blue light. One moment the man stands
With his arms tied behind his back; the next he falls
Head first from our chronicle. Pictures have pictures.
You are the real hero. The image –
That was like walking into somebody else’s poem.
A public zipper porched shadow action. Heroes
Standing under cardboard captions. Masculinity sells
History: four guards on this side, four
On the other, changing according to
House demands. All the victims’ outfits were
Manufactured by the Enemy. It was a fantastic
Feeling, going up stage and turning around for all
The judges. Her writing is content. Watches sold
Doubt as her underhand life expressed the
Heresies. Her clothes burn, turning stories,
Can add fur sovereign meaning
To line-sewn memory dust. Don’t open the door; shut
Your eyes. To slam these columns you took this out.
The shimmering architectural fantasy
Of a slum, purpose built. Entry to that soft-furnished
Dream, riots hanging like petrol vapour
Over the black plastic rubbish bags,
Electric train-flashes crossing the page, from one of the
Languages which blows across Europe like ill-wind.
Bombs implode as a warning underscoring
The essential sentence. He says my
Mind is always somewhere else when I
Kiss her. This sentence is a variation. She’s
Out on the porch, testing the day, transforming
Not only her, but the text, from which she
Could never be exiled. As soon as I write ‘the world’,
It doesn’t invert. Poverty less plentiful
But obscured by wealth and well-being.
The systems began to fail, in domestic adjustment.
The Chinese trains were nicer than the Russian ones.
This sentence is a variation of the next. The flow
Freed from compulsion. Trying to gauge it
All; the woman is not at her mirror. (Skip
A few pages; I will too.) Black girl in a tight leather
Skirt jumps into a waiting passenger-seat:
Pink folds of flesh for his mental
Speculum. I froze and sweated, wanted to burn
The insignia – but who would deck
Themselves in the cloth pages
Of a tattered history? Pretend that some of
The sentences have been removed
Though your meaning heaps. Women desire a war;
Virus men built appearance. Wouldn’t you prefer it
As a straight-out? The bike boys zooming in of each
Other’s rolling captions? What was once
Familiar is now merely strange. Moving clouds behind
The birds rewind their film of homecoming. Swoop
Loop wires in light. A magpie flicker in dirty
Scruff eye. This has to be learned,
Holding language in suspicion. Posturing
About disaster, style demeans. A cold sore
On a child’s mouth predicates a market
Full of bargains. What could she begin to say? How
Will she survive the questioning? Perhaps
It is only the uncurtained window-pane that
Throws the room back at us? Reader:
Worker. Walkman overspill rhythmed by the engine-
Driver’s wiper-lashes. Another realism. She
Remarked the dome of her clichéd perception –
An image for later snuff-movie simulations: murder
Leads door to door. The crystal eye set in the wall.
They did not even notice that the effigies were of them.
Replace the object. She makes the unknown turn –
Feels at one moment a gobbet of raw meat in a
Porno film. She goes to the window to cry.

March-April 1987/March-April 1991

Internal Exile 3
She’s living in the rough
Basement of a condemned house. Street
Level defines a world, its variations
In autonomy. She’s a genuine
Answer, designed to put you off. She’s
In another time; he is in another gender,
The man with the briefcase, practising
Dance-steps on the platform.
Dry water-colours dust off the stiff washing,
Disrupting any finer feelings he may have had.
You cannot see through the whole. What
Began as art was repeated years later
As a political act. She always wore
Black lipstick, tears in her eyes. Men danced
In fire, did press-ups with guns. Others
Flew to posterity. She burnt her other self,
Teasing out the voyeur’s disappointment, the
Beauties of her unbridled
Allegories. The writing returns
To block desire. It’s
A world of spies and disclosures; she
Feels his presence in the room with her, scraped
Again across the grain of history. Territory
(Or no territory) on the shit-
Stained canvas of her language:
Her heavy green front door, and its
Dried spattering of blood. Fulfil desire;
KILL IT. It was her statement, her
Trigger on silence. Now
The writing’s nearly over the work
Withdraws. Is this a model
Of the world that does not exist, straining
For a new referent? Her prejudices
Owe the world no apology.

May 1987

Four Empty Diaries
Twentieth Century Blues 24

Empty Diary 1905
She falls for him, conventional longing well
tutored, no pose held, broken but breathing,
yet she keeps a finger in a
page of last year’s tightly scribbled diary:
the ranked delights of the Paris corsetière,
the dummies’ impersonal whorish display of lace
and china flesh, a flat-buttoned pressing
of chambermaids’ etiquette; I can’t bear his
‘I sleep, I wake, I never dream’
; want to slit his throat, to hoist
him, dripping from his penis; her story
stalled, veins in her bare neck pleading.

Empty Diary 1936

The Proletarian News

For Charles Madge 1

vauxhall was grey she needed blocks of
flats not jewel panopticans she threw back
her hem and did a tight city
fling tyrannical wireless valves on tulip faces

echoes of men patronising answers on folded
blankets heads bubbling with pints of stout
rotten teeth of her voices skin always
gleaming an unblemished marching announcing sore lips

surrealist commodes adorn the scattered floors of
chaotic meal times in houses of the
poor dash of belisha peril in jitters
waiting for the paraffin fire to blow

Empty Diary 1954
We are statues of ourselves, stiffened eulogies
in the arthritic history of imperial endeavour
(the world of his syllabics: the words
we silently mouth: our faces networks of

electric lies: our lips would seal: our
eyes close on a world which will
drill its electrodes into our mermaid flesh
sketched in by the boss) Say it:

We lick the pellicle of your absence,
Nazi leather stitching your bulging zip (stilyagiskinny kids shivering outside the wimbledon palais
filter sin through newsprint skin us alive

Empty Diary 1968
‘For the man who
has me…’
her eloquent slips black
my discourse,
this second skin, or
so she’s
been told by her
second mind.
My tattoo sweats her
name. She
enters me on a
useless giggle,
then squats at the
master controls,
punching slogans into consciousnesses
sweetened for
rotting the fangs of
. I
wrote her onto the
pillow, a
hot boy pressing for
a kiss,
his Anti-Universe, sunrise from
her bathrobe;
Or: truncheoned jeers, diesel
coughs, she’s
manhandled into the gaping
Black Maria.


from History or Sleep

Human Dust 3
Lores and Bye-Lores 2
Melting Borders 4
Twentieth Century Blues 31

And we are allowed to be happy
sometimes. Indeed it is our duty.

Anthony Rudolf

Less real than a dream
logged in
archaeologists’ ledgers
propels awareness
along another axis
hangs a veiled
filter for your presence
a gauze a
gaze figures inward
dirtying cuffs on the world
wraps the teeming air
in chalk upon a wall
a voice-activated
future on the blink
surrounded by threats
a new point of view
refugee witness’s
shallow relief
slapping into the silent hallway
on her television
at the fingertips
bigger suits work out
the countryside
its collapse ratios
the people
real news from virtual
through force; cold defence
in these narratives as
obliterated landscapes

He wants to be watched the
events the camera
misses notate
the little utopias to
turn them to song (almost)
impassive but knowing
drink the swimming
passion, pleasure’s
beating sunsets each
wall a collision
a vaporous gleam
a sinking body he examines
herself rolls across the floor
at a pinch a pluck a
spoor knuckling
happy sometimes, hardly seems
our duty to brush
with the palm
in such a way
sets this in motion so
he enacts
the bye-lores
she pulls him into
the pool of her
pushing aside
each scheduled routine

One raped
can another relax
orgasmic dead fur
from this catalogue of
terror, frog-eyed navigators
chart us
while enemies invade
(liberate) equivocal
tells us we cannot afford
to open the window
you cannot see
another’s sorrow without
on the breeze, a counter
to think and feel
pleasure empty
as a mouth willing cool
scarecrows itself
all with its fevered dreams
of possible tomorrows
barkyou wake (your victim
pours from you
virtual memories conflate
salt sweat stains
to find - who? - dead)
the recognition that
another human being has responded


Small Voice
Hundred 3.7
Twentieth Century Blues 36

darkness drags

a headlight’s irradiated cone fading to an
English print of shredded lane rheumy vapours
tickling in time the throat catches on
slices of transitory purpose lost in decline

watch a row of identical open trucks
head somewhere archaic like a Midland colliery
not singing praises it’s not even singing
the sharp rasp rustles in the ear

a redundant germ that drifts this Age
of Irony now happening to be forged
it barely sustains its volume of displacement
the vandals have fled the gate bangs

scoop phlegmy lyric from the clogging drone
from the rusted hinges’ lament

bitter croak

January 1997

Only the Eyes are Left
for Mina Loy

What coils under this raw
Sky is pain

Her blind stone eye possessed
By the filth

To which it holds

In her grandmother’s stays

Felicity if only looks
Could cure virginity

Only the eyes the dust of
Stars clogging

The celestial chamber the
Bowery the café du néant

She grips the sides of the
Capsizing real in a

Apartment made of

Refuse in a grand refusal she
Makes him reel

Colossal pussyfooter
With lunar junk

from September 12
Note: poems 1-6 are available online at

Here’s the final poem I read on this recording, the 7th:

Honour killing that slaps a legal face on, when
the evidence takes a life of its own. A breach of
police cooks the entrails warm, holocaust rap

Clawed whip behind a uniformed back:
Switch off your mobile during prayers.Jihad handcuffs locked into media ecology;
all chatter intercepted @bobmarley123
declares White Meat unprepared for barbeque

They remember women as sperm-capped
mountain ranges, out of range, bespoke

bombers in tailored suicide vests, who cannot
drive their delivery van straight - while MI5 bugs
old lectures on Poussin, trying to break the code!
The fourth world war forgives itself forever

A Note on the Texts Recorded
‘Internal Exile 1’ and ‘3’ may be found in Complete Twentieth Century Blues, which is due for publication by Salt, later this year, but 1 is anthologised in Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry, and 3 in Floating Capital: New Poets from London. They date from 1987, and are the first and last parts of a sequence.

‘Empty Diaries’ (1901-2000) may be found in Complete Twentieth Century Blues, but the 4 here are also anthologised in Other: British and Irish Poetry Since 1970. They date from 1991-3.

‘History or Sleep’ presents the opening sections of the poem of that title, which may be found in Complete Twentieth Century Blues and in The Lores. It was written between August-November 1995.

‘Small Voice’ may be found in Complete Twentieth Century Blues, and in Tin Pan Arcadia. It dates from January 1997.

The remaining selections are not from Complete Twentieth Century Blues:

‘Only the Eyes are Left’, a poem in homage to Mina Loy, and ‘National Security, Huyton 1940’ (which is available on the Archive of the Now site, and are both from Hymns to the God in Which My Typewriter Believes, and written in the early 2000s.

‘September 12’ presents the first seven ‘sonnets’ from the first (of four) series of 24 poems, probably to be collected under that title, written in 2003-4. (See later posts for moe on this.)

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