Monday, October 17, 2022

I.M. Alan Halsey: some thoughts, links, and a poem dedicated to him.

I am saddened to hear that Alan Halsey has died, and my heart goes out to Geraldine at this time.

 Alan was an important writer, and he’s one who has been important to me for a long time. In the early 1980s we conducted a long correspondence on poetics, after I’d featured his work in my early magazine Rock Drill. In Pages he was one of the 12 featured writers, and his work was accompanied by a long essay by Gavin Selerie on his work up to that time: Pages 397-420 Alan Halsey. (And a response to the work therein by Tim Woods. See here: Pages: Pages (first series) reissued entire with an interview on Jacket 2: Complete Index of all 5 series ( )

 Of course, there was more work, much more work, after that, and the academic tone of the earlier work lightened (though he always remained bookish in the good sense, as befits his main occupation as a book dealer, who was of great use to my own self-education). That is: if satire is ‘lighter’ (which if I weren’t writing this so quickly, is a statement I’d want to stop and examine).


I didn’t really know him very well until he’d married Geraldine Monk and he lived not too far away in Sheffield, and they both stayed with us (once when a double-booking, Geraldine performing with Julie Tippetts, left them without a hotel!) – which was always fun. Much drink given, much taken. Lots of gossip and laughs…

 By this time Alan had branched out into visual poetry (is that the right term?) and music performance (is that the right term?). I remember a launch of Marginalian at the Text Festival in Bury and a performance of Juxtavoices in the Bluecoat (with no bar!). (Here’s a gallery: Alan Halsey (

 He has one piece on this blog, a charming gift for Patricia Farrell’s birthday, which I don’t believe is collected anywhere: See here: Pages: Alan Halsey: Those acrobats A and Z put on a show for Patricia's 60th ( 

Oh, let’s not forget his incredible investigative editing of the three volumes of Bill Griffiths. See here:

I never wrote on his work much, and indeed, only recently so (unless you count 3 poems dedicated to him, a bit on that below). I often found the work difficult, but always witty, even humorous (I adopted one of his techniques that he told my Edge Hill students about on a visit: keeping wordlists: ‘error/terror’; ‘rose/eros’ etc., that I used in Warrant Error – and its title is a blast of Halseyean logopoetry, it strikes me now.) But recently I did write in some detail about his collaborations with Kelvin Corcoran, first in a blogpost in the series about ‘collaboration’,

  Pages: Thoughts on Collaboration or Coauthorship 8: Kelvin Corcoran and Alan Halsey's three books (

 Then in a sharper review of the (then) latest collaboration Winterreisen,

And finally as part of a critical article on collaboration for English Studies that I write about here:

Pages: My piece on 'Collaboration' is published in The Yearbook of English Studies 2021 (

 I think I quote these lines (from Halsey, not Kelvin) in all three pieces:


The poets shuffle out, bloody-eyed,

back to their caves in the anthologies

half a mile north of Neglect,

watched by Eng. Lit. lads on CCTV. (61)


That about sums up Alan’s attitude to the literary world, and to academia! As I say in the review of the book, ‘Those lines are typical of the sardonic humour, which usually jumps out like this, a bolt from the blue, and is one of the pleasures of reading Winterreisen.’ Do, if you haven’t.

 I want to point to one of the poems I wrote for Alan, as my tribute today (one of the others is shared in its dedication, and the third is a dud). Here it is, ‘The Hello Poem’, from my volume Berlin Bursts. 

The Hello Poem

 for Alan Halsey


Hello poem, it’s me again. I’m

the voice that lives upstairs. You


hear me reeling across my floor,

your ceiling, as I dance about my


affairs. And you about yours, not

miming my sound, un-


rhyming your eyes as they rise,

faltering, toward me, from the ground.


Hello poem, it’s me again, the

other side of your world,


speaking long distance



around your curve, racing

like a tycoon’s jet


to overtake the dawn

and possess tomorrow.


Hello poem, it’s me again. You

ran away with yourself to


stage your new self’s forming. I am

the silence that inhabits your zero.



Locating Robert Sheppard



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