From January 1st, this is a good place to go, I think.
WAS my Blog (Hey! I’m not really a blog I’m a magazine - but not your usual sort of) Magazine. BLOGZINE. It's stopped being anything now, as of April 9, 2008.
But what is online stays online, and what's here is what happened while it was happening. The Chinese above, in Pinyin, is huānyíng, and it means “Welcome” and it’s meant. The girl (pictured) is my television lawyer, just in case. E&D is (or was) a mix of poetry & reviews and sometimes charmingly gentle rhubarb (sometimes with hot custard); it has a heart of rolled gold & the word ‘acerbic’ (is that related to ‘cynical’?) doesn't come into it. There are music reviews too, of gigs at the local music halls. This bit was on hold for a while because I was in China for two years, but now I'm not, though I'm going back soon. Anyway, everything here is all a kind of mysterious (I’d like to say it’s sensuous but it isn’t) zone of gentle & benign happiness (whatever the hell 'happiness' is), where headaches disappear & people are friends, & your shoes never need cleaning, & I hope you enjoy it.
This is a re-designed site, launched in October 2006. You can view the original website, and all the stuff published there, by clicking here.
Oh, & if you want to find out about my poetry, please go to my Home-From-Home which is a site almost as heavenly as this one.
E&D is no longer accepting submissions of work for publication.
Remember That I Love You by Kimya Dawson
Sample track: Loose Lips [Listen]
Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave
& The Bad Seeds
Sample track: More News From Nowhere [Listen]
2 Poems by Sharon Mesmer
A Motion Sends A Postcard Home
by Rupert Loydell
Ackowledgements by Paul Violi
Lipsmackin' Ashes by Sandra Tappenden
Great Writers and Their Shirts by C.J.Allen
Memoirs #1 - 5 by Jeff Harrison
Secret Lifes by Rupert Loydell
And Then There Were Some
by Jeremy Twill
Snow Ranges and Fair Woods by Jeffrey Side
Lost Vampire Movies by Michael Blackburn
Aubade by Nigel Pickard
Herb Robert by Andrew Bailey
2 poems by Glenn Frantz
Rivers by Peter Hughes
The links below will take you to poetry
at the old E&D website.
One Poem by Nigel Pickard
A Sunny and Happy Day
Click Here for Intelligence
One Poem by Alison Croggon
Great English Inventions
One Poem by J. Allyn Rosser
Which, Of Course, I Don't
3 by Sharon Mesmer
A Poem by Paul Sutton
Plethoric Air by Luke Kennard
New Year Letters by Mairead Byrne
A Picture by C.J. Allen
Four Prose Poems by Ian Seed
In Khlebnikov's Aviary by Paul Violi
from "Risk Assessment" by
Rupert Loydell & Robert Sheppard
'Where X Marks the Spot'
Kate Bingham's "Quicksand Beach"
Stanley Middleton's "Harris's Requiem"
Anne Beresford's "Collected Poems"
John Barnie's "Sea Lilies"
Jack Gilbert's "Transgressions"
Peter Riley's "The Llŷn Writings"
K.M. Dersley's "Paranoia in Paradise"
Anthony Wilson's "Full Stretch"
Paul Violi's "Overnight"
Charles North's "Cadenza"
3 from Kendra Steiner Editions
2 Tall Lighthouses
'Calls From The Outside World '
Jeffrey Side's 'Carrier of the Seed'
Don Paterson's 'Orpheus'
The links below will take you to reviews
at the old E&D website.
Catherine Wagner's "Imitating"
K.M.Dersley's "Between the Alleyways
at The World's Fair"
Lee Harwood's "Collected Poems"
Paul Hyland's "Art of the Impossible"
Adrian Mitchell's "The Shadow Knows"
Sheila Murphy's "Proof of Silhouettes"
Tim Cumming's "The Rumour"
Roddy Lumsden's "Mischief Nights"
Three from Shoestring Press
Rupert Loydell's "A Conference of Voices"
Nigel Pickard's "One"
Keith Jafrate's "Songs For Eurydice"
Julia Darling's "Apology for Absence"
Dean Young's "Ready-Made Bouquet"
Mike Barlow's "Living On The Difference"
Chris Beckett's "The Dog Who Thinks
He's A Fish"
Present Tense: Poets In The World
John Seed's "Pictures from Mayhew"
& "New & Collected Poems"
4 from Bluechrome
U.A.Fanthorpe's "Collected Poems"
John Ashbery's "Where Shall I Wander"
David Herd's "Mandelson! Mandelson!
John Mole's "Counting The Chimes"
Robert Sheppard's "The Lores"
Sharon Mesmer's "In Ordinary Time"
Laurie Duggan's "The Ash Range"
& "Compared To What"
Redell Olsen's "Secure Portable Space"
Lisa Samuels's "Paradise For Everyone"
Andre Mangeot's "Mixer"
Bravo Books by David Belbin
The links below will take you to plays & fiction
at the old E&D website.
The links below will take you to visual art
at the old E&D website.
The links below will take you to reviews of gigs at the old E&D website.
Visit The Annexe to read extracts from
Nigel Pickard's debut novel, "One".
The Argotist Online
The East Village
Hob Nob Anyone?
The Poetry Project
The Ragged Edge
Reality Street Editions
Sunk Island Review
Wild Honey Press
The Word Hoard
This site is best viewed using
Slip this site into your newsreader.
(I have no idea what this means,
actually, but I'm told it works, so
if you know what to do please do it.)
[What is RSS?]
All posts, & also the blame,
are © Martin Stannard,
or © the author as stated.
From January 1st, this is a good place to go, I think.
I’ve for a long time based what passes as my philosophy of life on the teachings or casual remarks of three people. First, there is Graeme Edge, the drummer/poet of The Moody Blues. He's really underrated, I think:
to fly to the Sun without burning a wing
to lay in a meadow and hear the grass sing
Great stuff. I wish I could write like that. I wish I could think like that.
Second, there is Constance Morgan. Constance is not a household name like Mr. Edge, and Constance Morgan is also not her real name. I promised her years ago that if ever I had cause to talk about her in public I’d change her name to conceal her identity. Constance was always a great calming influence upon my sometimes agitated, palpitating, restless heart. I can’t explain how she taught me to find inner peace when it wasn’t really there. I can’t explain what I’m talking about. She also taught me that a man (or a woman, come to that) should always strive to be where they belong. She lives in Leatherhead.
Third is Emma Peel, the Avenger (pictured below) who gave this wandering soul an anchor in a sea (nay, an ocean) of watery flow, as it were. Some people have said to me that any philosophy based upon the mumblings of a fictional character, however delicious, has to be fundamentally flawed, but it’s them what's flawed, because Emma Peel is no fiction. I saw her once in a Safeway supermarket in West London, so that proves it. She even spoke to me. She said “Excuse me, please.” I was blocking her way to the frozen peas.
But anyway, I remember in one avenging adventure she was in a particularly tricky spot and she looked Steed square in the neck and said “Steed, sometimes in life you can’t do what you want to do.” You don’t forget wisdom of that calibre, no matter what the distractions.
Later, when things had sorted themselves out and the world was again a safe place to live, she looked at Steed (in the eyes this time) and said “Steed, you know, sometimes you can stop doing something you don’t want to do and go and do something you do want to do.” You can’t buy this kind of advice. Well, you can buy this kind of advice but it's easier if you just get it for free off the TV.
Anyway, all this is just a lead up to say that "Exultations and Difficulties" stops here. It's been fun, but I'm kind of done with it and feel like stopping. It's as simple as that. Later in the year I'm going back to China to work, but that's not why this is stopping. It's stopping because I don't feel like doing it any more.
Thank you for being here. I hope you've enjoyed it.
Orpheus by Don Paterson (Faber, £12.99)
Review by Luke Thompson
A tree rose from the earth. O pure transcendence -
Orpheus sings: O tall oak in the ear!'
We’d only read the first page when Al stopped and said, ‘Did Orpheus have such big ears?’ Al’s my landlord.
My girlfriend said, ‘Well you know what they say about big ears.’
‘You know, “Big ears, big…”’
‘Maybe it was a bonsai,’ I interrupted.
‘Still don’t reckon I could get one in mine.’
We read on.
‘Jesus, he’s got a bed in there too!’
‘And a person.’
‘This is absurd.’
‘Maybe he was like that Ethiopian tribe with the plates in their lips – you start small, with a five pence piece or a bottle-top, and work up.’
So we flicked to the back, see what he could get in by the end.
Here, where we expected to find Orpheus jamming a space shuttle and a herd of cattle down his ears, we got Paterson’s ‘Afterword’ on the cycle and some repetitive notes on how tricky writing a ‘version’ is. He tells us he intends for the poems to stand in English on their own, independent of the German, doing ‘as much as I dared in the presentation of this version to distance it from the original.’ But while he was busy distancing himself – altering a rhyme scheme here and there, giving each sonnet its very own title, and refusing the parallel German text – Paterson has sneaked closer than ever to Rilke’s own intention, the games with metaphors, the crispness of language, the complexity of mood, and… well, look:
Breath, you invisible poem –
pure exchange, sister to silence,
being and its counterbalance,
rhythm wherein I become,
ocean I accumulate
by stealth, by the same slow wave;
thriftiest of seas… Thief
of the whole cosmos! What estates,
what vast spaces have already poured
through my lungs? The four winds
are like daughters to me.
So do you know me, air, that once sailed
You, that were once the leaf and rind
of my every word?
Here a breath is an exchange with the world, a link between the earth, the body, and the poem or song praising it all, and the poem itself is posed as something unific, something that recognizes the all-too-human condition of contradiction and self-estrangement, does not shy away from the ever-presence of death, and remains somehow joyful, light affirmative.
Now look at this:
But you… You whom I knew like a flower
whose name I don’t know: I’ll summon once more
to show them, show how you were taken away,
O beautiful friend of the infinite cry.
But dancer first, who – with what sweet hesitance –
paused, as if casting her girlhood in bronze,
in mourning, in listening – until from some great height
music fell into her altered heart.
Sickness now stalked her, her blood overflowing
with shadows – and yet, caught by only a fleeting
suspicion, rushed into her natural Spring.
But again dark and gravity poisoned its source
till it gleamed of the earth; then, wildly beating,
it roared through the steadily widening doors.
Three years earlier (the same length of time between the final death of Eurydice and Orpheus’s own song-cycle in Ovid) the dancer Vera Ouckama Knoop died of leukaemia at the age of nineteen. Vera was Rilke’s own Eurydice for this work, his inspiration, the condition of his great act of praising, he says. Now, it should be possible to read the objective claims of these sonnets without any prior knowledge of Rilke or Orpheus, but it is important to Rilke’s method of coming to praise the world that one has one’s own means of approaching the truth, using one’s experience to approach what is universal.
So, if we are to understand the way Rilke approached the universal, it helps to know a little Ovid and to be familiar with the Duino Elegies, also with Rilke’s life, to quietly note the year it was written (1922) and the conditions. And it helps to reread: the sonnets refer to one another constantly, each a part of a unified whole, adding pressure to a previous metaphor, reemploying a phrase in a new context. It’s impressive that Paterson has kept control of all this and still managed to make Rilke’s complex work of consolation and praise a clean, brilliant read. It would take months to read the thousand translations of these sonnets, and I don’t believe that having done so one would be any closer to the poet’s intentions than if one had only this. We read it all in an evening, the three of us. There was a long silence when we finished. Al said, ‘I got a light bulb stuck in my mouth once.’
© Luke Thompson, 2008
A poem by Peter Hughes
short distances downstream
you can’t tell which is
the oldest water in the river
the tributaries rain &
seepage are all lost
in the sense of found
as the river approaches its name
headstreams sometimes merge
or at least run briefly parallel
but many strike out in
even though they start
a spit apart
rivers wear away
carry & let slip
their odour changes like your own
it’s rarely home cooking
the water changes & makes
& changes the land
America is being lowered
a yard every 30,000 years
by every style of surface water
but it is also being raised
by other kinds of bullshit
some of which are known as
becomes a peneplain
which is like a level
playing field only bumpy
& level only in theoretical models
but never seen
except in certain
Hampshire camp sites
steepness varies alarmingly
& rejuvenation may occur
at any time
depending on where
the monkey-gland man
torches his van
is the shape of
who has ever
dipped a finger
I knew an interfluve
who could stand up
for no more than two hours
at a time
I now know this is true
except certain sentries
who are mainly Hirst installations
which distract attention
from the purpose
of the building in the background
it is important
not to irritate academics
when you talk
or write about rivers
& the water heading that way
covers all the land
it patters into heather
& on rock
& sheep & your cagoule
the bus shelter
Mazdas & corgis
loose molls & wardens
service stations buds
matter in allotments
on its way
to the river
before tethering your goat
for long periods
like that long weekend
from November to March
or before attaching
a mill wheel
to your caravan
check seasonal variations
in the flow of your river
& while a spring
may seem delightfully
bear in mind
their site & eat
backwards into bone
© Peter Hughes, 2008
Paul Evans: February (Fulcrum Press, 1971)
Essay by Nathan Thompson
Perhaps you’ve not come across this one. On the other hand, maybe you have. If you have I may well be preaching to the converted, so: sorry. Leave now - go elsewhere, but quietly please, and amuse yourself. Maybe watch a Z-Cars video or sharpen your favourite pencil. Above all don’t leave any nasty comments about Grandmothers and eggs. If you haven’t read it, pour yourself a nice drink and pull up a chair. I’ll try not to do an ancient mariner on you.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this book a lot. I wanted to write something intelligent and maybe even witty to put it in context. But it’s quite hard to write about. I really like it. It’s interesting and funny, beautifully observed and tender, and flawed and vulnerable too. I like it. I hope you might. Maybe that’s why I’m finding this difficult. Bear with me. I’ll try to explain. Here’s a snippet from ‘Horoscopes’ to start you off:
Someone is tapping on the sea with two small hammers
and the tune rises above the sound of the traffic;
down below a salesman is persuading a policeman
to pay now towards his imminent funeral; there are
starfish, and six rotten oranges in the street.
I think we should be revisiting this. Why has Paul Evans been largely forgotten? It would be easy under the circumstances to go on about poetry wars or politics but I don’t want to. Well, yes, OK, I know it’s probably mostly all to do with that poetry wars and politics yah-di-yah and I guess that’s a reason to discuss it. But, do I have to? Do we have to go through this every time? Please, please, please can we move on now? If you feel that you need to know more about the shenanigans that led certain members of the poetry-speaking world in the ‘70s to sit in different corners of the playground and huffily gurn (admittedly often with some justification) ‘don’t like you’ please read Peter Barry’s brilliantly infuriating Poetry Wars (that’s a plug for Salt Publishing Mr Salt, if you’re reading). OK, the politics of the ‘70s is interesting and has done more than it should have to shape the ‘mainstream’ (a.k.a. ‘available in some larger branches of chain bookshops’) but let’s leave it at that and look at some poetry. This sounds more hectoring than it’s meant to. And I said a few words back that I wouldn’t talk about it. I’ll stop now. I’m probably compounding the problem and I didn’t mean to offend anyone.
So: Paul Evans. Another reason his poetry isn’t widely known may be because he died tragically in a mountaineering accident in 1991 on Crib-y-ddysgl, Snowdon while climbing with Lee Harwood. So he didn’t get to see the era when contemporaries such as Roy Fisher, Harry Guest, and Harwood himself were given big Collected Poems and finally gained some of the recognition they deserved outside of the (exciting but low-impact if all you had access to was W H Smith and the local library) world of small and smallish presses. And indeed, his work is often likened to that of Lee Harwood. There’s some mileage in this approach: both Evans’ relaxed delivery and his quirky vantage points are reminiscent of Harwood. Take the openings of the sections of ‘Four ways of looking at an English Landscape’:
‘While waiting for help to arrive
we had the leisure to admire
the golden foliage of the oaks...’
‘Your breath is easily taken away
by the lovely Peckforton Hills
in the last week in November...’
‘The nests were many and various
as islands in an archipelago
where oak is the dominant tree...’
‘We broke down on a drive
east to west across Cheshire.
Being for the most part city-folk,
the social habits of the birds
The humour is touching, the tone faux-naive and laconic, and, by virtue of its surface-simplicity, the writing has that Harwood knack of instant empathy whatever the subject matter. It’s this quality, reminiscent of the endearing ephemera of good conversation, that allows apparent flights into absurdism , and a dream-like cut-and-paste approach to syntax, to cohere as emotionally consistent narrative. Here’s ‘1st Imaginary Love Poem’:
Your hair a nest of colours a tree
the sky hung from you constantly
amaze me new dialects and everything
the white clouds drifting in your eyes
“I like poetry as much as sleeping” you said
and the guards lined up outside the tower
the crocodiles were all on form that day
wiping your face in the sun
how could I fail to love you for what you did?
bending to pick up the message
my hours of waiting destroyed “Meet me
by the equestrian statue at 2 o’clock”
it was an English sunset the bells
in my sleep reminding me of home
I shall be there fully-dressed and awake
their jaws snapping and the water turning red
If Evans has an over-riding poetic concern I’d guess it’s to ‘make it now’. His poems inhabit a fluxing moment (maybe that should have had some Evans-Harwood quotations, ‘inhabiting a fluxing moment’) and, by engaging with the ephemeral, flicker with immediacy. And it’s not always the raconteur-ish immediacy of the Frank O’Hara ‘I did this; I did that’ poem (though it probably couldn’t have happened without it); it more often than not gets inside the process of action/reaction without naming the intent or cause and therefore, to my mind, weathers the passage of time better - unconcerned as it is with some of the external stuff that can cause more self-consciously trendy in-the-now poems to date quickly (I’m getting carried away again aren’t I... I guess I’d better give an example or quote something - try and rein things in). The erotic ‘We are the Instruments of the Adoration’ almost sets out a manifesto, albeit in the past tense, but thankfully pulls back from the brink:
I wanted to abolish Time,
writing a poem in which
only scale mattered –
It could sound like a pretty big declaration were it not immediately undercut by a long dash and a stanza break (indicative of ‘but...’), and a suggestion of the unfinished-ness of the past as it feels its way into a kind of plurality of the potential-present:
the moth dying in the candle flame,
alight with love; my daughter
waking in the morning, when light
from under the door calls her;
the sun itself embracing the earth,
creating ripples in the turmoil
radiating out and down
to the very breeze on my cheek
in the window this morning –
so that all the times I approached this poem
are one, the life of it...
And I don’t think it’s damning by comparison to suggest that he handles the multiple-possibilities-of the-present thing as dextrously as Lee Harwood, who I’ve always felt to be the master of it. But I think I’d intended not discussing Lee Harwood too much. It’s difficult as I’ve been reading the Salt Companion to Lee Harwood, which is just great (that’s another plug Mr Salt, if you’re still reading. That makes two plugs: you owe me). I’m getting all enthused again aren’t I.
Hmmm... I’m not sure I’m doing the best job of staying focused, but reading this book makes me feel life’s boring if you just focus on one thing. It’s a sort of butterfly-minded (‘studied idiocy of flight’ (did I really just quote Robert Graves?)) poetry of piled suggestions that allows you to supply your own narrative and so feel something different through it every time you read it. I’m going to close with number 5 from the ‘Taldir Poems’ because it kind of sums things up:
in the game of endless table-tennis
falls among china, rattling
like the rain
for 3 days now
on the millions of leaves
in this valley
it falls into
P.S. If you liked any of this, or have read Paul Evans before, you’ll be pleased to hear that the wonderful Shearsman Books has got together with the wonderful Robert Sheppard and they’ll be putting out a Selected wonderful Paul Evans in the near future.
© Nathan Thompson, 2008
2 poems by Glenn Frantz
The body is favorable to the quality of physical knowledge. This condition is the fact that an individual should be clumsy and a strength will result.
Brain is money, which imposes the burden on the cliff-filled skull of fifteen hours per day of deficiency in the senses. "You must take the body to the future" is the keyboard age for you. The work is good to those who have a nearly uniform correlation of entertainments to circumstances. .
Strict genius wins conditions more rapidly used up, the crimes being versatility, as of mediocre ability, etc. in other directions. This costume is the enjoyment that an individual should be clumsy and a music will result. .
Brain dominates over body in the light of great ability in making a botch of everything they undertake. The books are balanced, but the shelf falls over. .
The brain enjoys the United States. The body would enjoy the United States if Congress granted immunity to whooping cough. If diseases can be amiable, other diseases may be awakened, but not within reason. The world is reasonable to those who have a very well-preserved thinness of introduction to amiability. .
The most atrocious lessons are good collectors, and conversely. The great business value of obliquity in the character is that you may remain undisturbed. I owe you five dollars...
MY DAYS IN A LAKE
You have asked me if I know the name of the sitting-room,
if I know the body of the stair.
You needn't look startled.
In solving a teaspoonful of this grim epithet, without a word,
I set my want of course,
but I put it down to the common means of singers.
The richest wines of occultation,
being without feelers and with only the air,
comprise a snow-capped and lofty retribution,
and the rustling hotels and surmises crowd into it.
Oh, do not imagine that my sympathies do not know a bait.
I'm on the brink of the grave, and I am extremely lazy.
I like the green dining-room so much for its swift-falling city-sounds,
while the wet tiles like little glints of light
fall turning backward to the empty sea.
The deepest pond is a bright sanded floor,
a polished fish paddling in a wash-bowl.
Some of you live, are singularly rich, and tremble mice much for that.
There lived an emperor in prison,
who had a remarkably beautiful sound, all made of shell-fish.
He was more secret than a belt of commodities,
while his own party, who were commonly clothed,
far from any toil, purely native brass, observed:
If we join together we can rule all the reflections in the treetops.
You see the circlet of this aneurysm of intelligence?
He appears to have useless facts elbowing out the great supposition.
The poetic can easily be falsehood developed,
as birds universally sing when they are so engaged.
That all united should like to strike the old spoke
in any case is hardly silence.
The grass flames, the package of sharp lake, dears --
in a clang, it seemed as large as your head, green and bright.
The morning air smells sweet with semblances,
on the needles there a wicker rabbit
spreads out to black and foam-flecked winds.
And it was cunning, and teaches one where to limp
and what to answer for!
© Glenn R. Frantz, 2008
Carrier of the Seed by Jeffrey Side
Review by Andrew Duncan
In radically autobiographical poetry, the self is the prison of the poem. The voice of the poet gives the text a deep comforting layer of personality, swaddled in layers of trust, familiarity, witness. But the problem of putting everything in the first person is that in our life we don't experience everything as a first person, we are also able to hear other people’s voices, intuit their experiences, and even lock into a whole cosmos of non-human processes and sounds. If all my poems mean the same thing, in fact mean Me, then they are much less diverse than the world. In order to reach the state of a camera, with its at least passive capacity to take on infinite diversity, the poem has to go through depersonalisation. This may be the point of a poem like this one:
keep the altitude
in view by
the stream near
Vancouver yet the
exploratory research points
to functional monitored
contingencies and the
upgraded model now
offers responsive logistical
innovation while at
the same time
no place seems
lowest to these
The soul of a poem is in its breath pattern, the division of sense coinciding with movements of someone’s sensibility. It may be alienating if someone depersonalises the flow of the text. This negates a whole repertoire of well-loved effects and also demands the reader to switch off their routine response and find a new way of reacting to the text. Carrier, presented as one long continuous strip, has a straightforward phonetic organisation: every line is three words long. This disconnects the line break from the flow of sense of the text. The telltales which show someone's emotional state, which make it possible to slip into the rhythm of a text and a situation, are effaced. The text thus breaks free from the limits of a soul and could for example be the voices of several different people, standing at different points of a situation. It ceases to be owned by a personality, which we could try to reconstruct in order to identify with it and share what it owns. Take this passage:
I hear a
turtledove similar to
Tripoli where she
met me her
singularity showing itself
in the way
she descended mirrored
accordingly to come
hither consistently but
it isn't an
illness there’s a
chemical element that
takes place at
a certain point
though nothing’s been
proven yet come
off it you
have a stable
mind so hang
on this is
one of the
voices calling through
you were forced
to closely release
faculty with these
who will be
familiar among the
admired melting into
nature resented constructions
against the glutted
The "I hear a voice" probably belongs to the previous tirade, but for all that may belong to this one as well. The passage may end before the end of the quote I have extracted. This passage refers to chemicals and to voices coming through you so is probably about schizophrenia in some way. We might consider this as a theme of the work as a whole. Voices keep coming through a membrane which is very permeable. The central function in the ego which represses other voices has been stood down in Carrier. The story may involve a real romantic encounter between the poet (or some character?) and a girl, maybe even in Tripoli in Libya. The turtle dove is a symbol of amorousness. Its enclosure in a shell (possibly also a symbol of Venus, depicted with a shell, a comb and a mirror which also crops up) is poetic and strange. ‘release faculty’ could refer to some halfway house where someone stays after a bout of illness, but could also be a definition of art as self-expression. I’m not sure how the singularity relates to mirrored, although it could simply be a mirrored staircase. That combination of virtual images and a shifting point of view offers difficulties to an insecure sense of reality. resented constructions could be a feeling of someone who feels oppressed by an over-complex social order, as if melting into nature were an option. I think instead of a chilled beer tap: the absence of heat makes water from the air condense on the metal, and so the absence of warmth in a poem makes the invisible appear. Transient and undefined things emerge into plain sight.
It is hard to read Carrier without thinking of Tom Raworth and Adrian Clarke. Tom Raworth moved, in the early seventies, into a depersonalised voice. After a great deal of argument, people actually reading the poems detected a personal sensibility re-integrating the finely differentiated data. In some of his great works, the integrating urge was applied to a variety of texts covering the range of voices you can hear from different niches of our society, and reminded me (at least) of a sculpture by Tony Cragg in which a vast range of found materials - old bottle tops, plastic toys, bicycle parts, a debris-line like the foreshore of the Thames at low tide - are integrated to form a Union Jack. The artist disappears behind the debris and the debris disappears beneath the artist’s transforming design. Both Cragg and Raworth are recognised as modern classics. Mechanising the line-break so as to get away from a voice in 2007 is not the same gesture that it was in 1970. I don’t think it can have the same revolutionary effect, but all the same it shouldn’t be hard to assimilate.
The language which emerges from beneath a known voice and fixed social relations is deeply ambiguous and yet free to roll off in all directions.
from his long
dog from Manatai
aura of civility
complete pattern of
when I was
deep underground or
widespread and she
couldn’t see the
point of closing
next to me
looking like a
crystal stretched in
water she was
a mistress to
all the world
It’s hard to tell where it’s going. While I can locate a breach in the wall through which this language has exited, I cannot give an account of what it did next. Absorption and naturalising of the linguistic material is going to have to follow after an unknown interval. I couldn't figure out what is the carrier of the seed or what the seed is. We all carry seeds of human beings, but the word can be applied to material from other species whose means of mobility is to hitch a ride on a larger organism. The relationship between two tiers suggests, for me, the relationship between form and meaning in a stretch of language. But then, it could mean being a bus for a flu virus to ride on.
("Carrier of the Seed" is available as an e-book for free download from Blazevox)
Mark Halliday and I have three short plays in the new issue of The North. By which I mean, three short plays what we wrote together, not three short plays each. That would be six plays, but it's not. It's three. We collaborate almost to the point of insanity and inanity. But it's good to be a play writer as well as a poem writer, I think. Actually, I'm a bit fed up of being a poem writer, so I might just be a play writer. Who knows? Anyway, also in that issue of The North is an article by me, "A Day In The Life Of...." which is perhaps very fine but it's not as fine as it might be because it's not the version they should've published. I think they've published the first draft I sent them to check whether what I was doing was anything like what they wanted. The final version was longer and, I think, more interesting. I'm a little pissed off with them for publishing the wrong version, but this is poetry world and you get used to such things. I once had a poem published in a magazine and it was backwards. Last verse first, first verse last..... the middle one was in the right place though, so give them credit for that. Of course, nobody noticed. Anyway, I'm putting the proper version of the article here, partly because I want it to see daylight, and partly because I'm going to China tomorrow and it seems apt. At least, it does to me. (Oh, no more E&D until I get back. Early April. If I come back..... I guess I will.)
So anyway, what follows was written last September.....
A DAY IN THE LIFE
It’s morning. At least, I think it’s the morning. Have you slept well? I awaken to the sound of rush hour traffic making its way into the centre of Nottingham. It’s early September, and at the moment I’m not working (working as in “have a job”) because my new “job” as Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Nottingham Trent University doesn’t officially begin until October 1st. I’d like to go back to sleep, but I’m not very good at going back to sleep after 8 in the morning, and so I don’t. I turn on the bedside radio to listen to the Today programme. There’s nothing like having a few politicians piss you off first thing in the morning.
I just spent two years in China, sub-tropical China to be exact, at a university in the relatively new city of Zhuhai (20 years ago what is now Zhuhai was just 2 or 3 tiny fishing villages: booming China) to be exacter, in an apartment on a 5-year old campus which to be even more exacter is some 35 kilometers outside the city in a green valley, and there I’d wake up around four, awoken by the trucks and machinery on the site of the new high-speed light railway being built to link downtown Zhuhai (where it borders Macau) with Guangzhou, the site a very long but not impossible stone’s throw from my balcony. I can go back to sleep at 4; that’s not so tricky. Then at 6 I’d wake up to the alarm clock and the slightly annoying but also curiously reassuring sound of the chap sweeping the street below. There’s no litter, only the almost insignificant dead foliage falling from the trees, but it was swept up continually. Full employment in China can be explained by the fact that even when there’s nothing much to do someone is employed to do it. Of course, that someone earns almost nothing, and will almost certainly live in conditions we in the West would not tolerate, and even perhaps find hard to believe: last year I spent a few days at a friend’s house in the countryside. It was a tiny village, and she came from a poor family. Her father worked on the land, her mother had three very menial part-time jobs. The house, if you can call a small concrete box a house, had no running water, no heating, and when you sat in the living room, or what passed as the living room, you could look up at the ceiling, which was the roof, or what passed as the roof, and you could see the sky. It was February and cold, and in the evening for warmth we huddled around charcoal being burned in a wok placed in the middle of the floor.
But anyway –
Two years in China as an ESL teacher is, was, let’s face it, a working holiday, an escape, two years away from this England. And as one of the handful of foreign teachers on a campus of some 15000 students you are, let’s also face it, something of a superstar. I’m not going to mention how around 75 per cent of the students were girls, because that would be a digression, and a distraction, if not for you then certainly for me.
So here I am in England, this England, in Nottingham, in my new apartment, a 20-minute walk from the city centre, and it’s rush hour and I’m not rushing anywhere today. There’s nowhere to rush to, and anyway I think my rushing days are over. In China I learned to take my time; everyone else does, unless they’re getting on a bus, and then it’s every man woman boy or girl for themselves and the devil take the hindmost. I’m not proud of elbowing little old ladies to one side, but sometimes you have to do stuff you’re not proud of. I am also pretty good at it.
And this is a day in the life, it’s supposed to be around a thousand words or so, I’m approaching five hundred, and I’ve only just woken up. Perhaps I should say how I leap out of bed and write the opening lines of a great new poem; how I leaf through the latest West House Books pamphlet while waiting for the coffee to brew; how while sipping the fresh coffee I check my e-mails and accept a variety of invitations to read here, lecture there, judge a competition, appear on Radio 4. But when they come to write the life of this poet there will be endless chapters about how I sprawled back on the bed, sipping coffee and thinking about whether or not I would go to the supermarket before or after lunch, and which supermarket would it be today? There is such a choice in this England, this Nottingham, this city.
In China the choices were different. They have their version of what we have, naturally. There are supermarkets and shops and cars (although not so many of the latter as you might think) and pretty much everyone has a cellphone, even the guy sweeping the trees up probably has a cellphone. Foreign teachers earn way above the average Chinese wage, and so can live very well. All I needed to do for supplies was stroll across the campus to one of the several supermarkets in school, and pick up a few bits and pieces for the day. I’m a good cook, sort of, but I almost never cooked in the two years I was there; my friends and I ate out. And drank out. It was hot, and the beer was cold. Lots of the time, most of the time, we ate outside, and drank outside. There were a lot of privately-owned restaurants in school, and just outside the school was a little town called Jin Ding. It’s one of the dirtiest places I’ve ever been to, but it had great food. We would often eat at the street barbeques there, alongside the factory workers, in among the regular beggars. And further away but worth the long and often excruciating bus ride downtown Zhuhai really buzzes. The open air bars on the main shopping street had a certain attraction, not all of it technically legal.
Among the places I visited in China were the three largest cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Guangzhou was pretty near, so I went there quite a lot, and some of my students lived there and we hung out sometimes, so I got to know my way around pretty well. In each one, for reasons best known (and kept) to myself, I at some time or another found myself walking around the streets on my own in the middle of the night, sometimes at two or three in the morning. The bars stay open late, and I like to explore. And never once did I feel threatened, or scared, or in any kind of danger. Were you to ask me to walk around the centre of Nottingham at midnight I’d be reluctant. It’d be stupid of me to say that crime and violence and all of those disturbing things don’t happen in China, but the difference is astonishing. Back here, now, I feel the difference so much.
People ask me if I wrote poems in China. Yes, I wrote poems in China. It’s what I do, but I don’t do it every day because for me that’s impossible. I just do it when it feels like it’s there to do. I’m not sure those poems from China have any sign of a Chinese influence. Well, that’s not strictly true. There is no sign of a Chinese influence at all, except that stuff from my Chinese days turns up in some of the poems, like stuff from my English days turns up in poems I write here. And some of my Chinese friends are in the poems.
Meanwhile, back in Nottingham, I’ve had my breakfast and while I have all this free time on my hands I’m studying Chinese every morning. You’d think maybe China would be a great place to learn Chinese, and I’m sure it is, but when all your students want to talk English with you, and when you are too hot and tired after teaching to do anything other than have a few beers and relax, then learning a language as difficult as Chinese is a tall order. I learned some, with the help of some students, but I have a long way to go. But since I want to go back, and imagine I’ll go repeatedly back, because something about the country seems to have found a place in my blood and heart, I want to learn the language as well as I can. But it’s tough, believe me. At the moment I’m looking around for a native Chinese speaker in Nottingham to help me out; the place will be full of them when the overseas students arrive for the new term, so maybe I’ll find someone.
I can skip through the rest of my day here, now, pretty easily. Read. And write if I feel like it. Keep my website up-to-date. Doze. Eat. Read some more.
I’m still in touch with a lot of my Chinese students, and chat with them on the internet most days. There’s a seven hour time difference, so it means we chat when it’s late afternoon here and getting on their bedtime there. They are so wonderful. I miss them to bits. I think about them, and then I look out of my kitchen window, and it looks out down along a street with some nondescript offices in it, and whenever I walk down that street during the day there are office workers standing around outside their buildings smoking. They always look kind of miserable, but perhaps I’m imagining that, perhaps I think they should be miserable and so I think they are.
Not that the Chinese people are endlessly happy. Christ no. Far from it. They have their problems and foreigners can’t even begin to come close to understanding exactly what they are. For example, I talked with students who were under so much pressure to succeed, because they had to earn money in the future to repay and to care for their parents who were breaking their necks to put them through school, and some of the kids were almost in tears because they felt they couldn’t do it. So much pressure to succeed, and almost every other kid their age is trying to do exactly the same. Hundreds and thousands, perhaps millions of them. Booming China. But will there be jobs? And if there are jobs, will girls get them? It’s still a very male-dominated society. Then there’s the problem of corruption, within political life and business life. Even the government admits as much, but it’s a token admission, as they punish a few high-profile culprits and all across what is admittedly a huge and probably extremely difficult country to govern countless other examples of corruption and abuse go unhindered. Most of which sounds like something you might read in a broadsheet here, but I have no reason to doubt the basic truth of it. Chinese people will tell you these things happen.
Meanwhile, back here, there’s also a small crisis: I forgot to get any milk this morning, so I have to go to the petrol station down the road to get some. It’s late afternoon, and the people I heard going to work in the morning are now on their way home. If you look into the cocoons, I mean cars, I have no idea if they’re happy or not, and I don’t know if I care. The day I write this, I’ve been back in England, this England, just under five weeks, and at the moment I’d like to be somewhere else.
Finally, before I go, and apropos nothing at all, you don't get out of here without some music:
and if you dig the shirt, they have them on offer at the moment in H&M...... and if you're wondering why he's on the phone in the video, or how he gets his voice to sound all weird while standing in a canal, I have absolutely no idea......
A poem by Nathan Thompson
I try my best to spend my mornings.
The radio is distracting. The plastic flowers
on the desk stick out bling a kangaroo in Moscow.
This is not Moscow. I don’t know any Russian
and am politically inactive
because of my revisionist upbringing. It’s good
thinking about you. You’re like reading
a poem by Frank O’Hara, but being a lawyer
I guess you must be more structured. Either way
look out for dune buggies.
‘A guy’ called Gridtin
has appeared on my computer screen
highlighted in red. Name only that is.
It’s hard to think about him and his problems
and you all at the same time so I think of you
and the mellow guitar of your still not hostile hair.
Time for a cigarette. One of the ones
I gave up yesterday.
Back now. Gracious,
this poem’s so much about me it’s not true.
I sometimes think I can’t care about my lungs very much.
Music is something to do with smoke over my tonsils
or you and it’s very sunny the way
the squirrels jig around in those trees
avoiding water-bombs who’d have thought
sand made these windows just for me
instead of passing the time
In the meeting room? What are they saying?
I bet they’d be talking about you if
saying “watch out for that dune buggy!”
I’m not sure this is in good taste. It might
leave a lemon in the mouth beckoning
towards cleaning fluid which is never looking.
How we’d like to say hello to the octaves on the beach,
the height of waves between your toes
at work in your shoes in your legal office
where the wicked witch presides
over another sundering. “It’s enough
to make your feet curl
and give you irreparable cramp.” That’s where
this started and spindled out
like a spider at Christmas receiving a gift,
which is the biggest hooray today
next to thinking about you.
avoiding dune buggies is on your wish-list
along with refreshing hour-glasses. I’m
going to turn this upside-down again
spilling plastic flowers everywhere. Keep looking.
© Nathan Thompson,2007
I've got a cold, so I'm pissed off, but to cheer myself up (and I hope to brighten your day too) here is something that cheers me up. Oh, I don't know, but I just re-discovered him and here he is. There's some more stuff on YouTube if you feel like looking. This is comic genius, I think.
and in case you look at this site and (I don't understand how, but if you) hate all the indie cool rock'n'roll music I love and put on here, here's some good solid old fashioned music for you: