When I was busily inventing René Van Valckenborch, I saw the Liverpool band Dead Belgian playing upstairs at Que Pasa in Lark Lane and was blown away. I had thought I might hire them to help me launch A Translated Man but in the meantime, they’d got famous, went on a long tour – and beyond my pocket. They made a strong CD. I later met the 3 male members of the band in the Fly and the Loaf with Ian Perry, and I talked to Matthew Wood about René and Jacques. I saw them again last night playing at the 40th birthday party for the radical bookshop News from Nowhere. And they were just as good (with their wonderful new singer Brooke Sharkey). Read about them here and listen to them here. I couldn’t find YouTube footage of the new line up, but they have a new EP out, Grand Jacques (one track on the link), and the previous line up may be seen and heard below.
I felt of necessity that René should feel ambivalent about Jacques Brel and he is forthright on the matter in one of his poems (though he does praise Marvin Gaye, who lived in Ostend, Veryan Weston, who is playing Liverpool next week, and Kevin Ayres, who ironically two of Dead Belgian toured with as the Wizards of Twiddly). Van Valckenborch may have been referring to a Brel karaoke, should there be such a thing, and that is emphatically what Dead Belgian aren’t!
against my double
in the café brel he handjobs
the tempo snappy strings &
vomiting brass his screeches
sticky patches inside egregious
lovers’ trousers sweat-stains
from armpits of sobbing drunks
he collapses palms rank pools
of national feeling it’s more
car crash than crescendo
collective delusion & delight
Now back to imagining the European Union of Imaginary Poets that Van Valckenborch invented and which I feel impelled to extend. I'd even have to invent another Belgian if I go through with my plan to invite 20 or so writers to help me complete them.
Related news: there is a review of A Translated Man in the current Poetry Salzurg Review by Michael Blackburn. His final remark 'Anyone who can start a poem "under a confection of fucked chandeliers" is definitely worth spending time with' is particularly delightful. Does he mean Rene or me? You can hear a manic reading of that poem here. Click onto my name.