RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Laurie Duggan’s Allotments

Laurie Duggan’s Allotments

On Tuesday night in Darwin College, Canterbury, Laurie Duggan gave a poetry reading and I was struck time and again by that tone of voice which merges warmth and mischievous humour with an unflinching seriousness of concern with the human. He read from his recent publication Allotments, a little volume which I reviewed last November on Todd Swift’s EYEWEAR blogzine and also from his Shearsman collection, Crab & Winkle, the title of which is taken from the 1830 ‘Invicta’ locomotive which carried 300 excited passengers from Canterbury to Whitstable. Any temptation to see this poetry as ‘local’ is soon dispelled when you recognise that the range of literary reference throughout the sequences is enormous as the poet weaves from Charles Olson to Donald Allen, Rimbaud to Camus, Susan Howe to Philip Whalen and from Robert Frost to the sly brevity of ‘Allotment 9’ with its glance at Keats and Eliot:

the small gnats

have ceased to wail;

dogwood’s leaves lost

red branches bared

Allotments is published by Fewer & Further Press and the cover by Basil King links this little volume with the world of Andrew Crozier’s Ferry Press where the Black Mountain artist had done the cover for Stephen Jonas’s Transmutations in 1966. Duggan’s new volume of poems, The Pursuit of Happiness, will be available from Shearsman within the next couple of weeks.

On What There Is

On What There Is

When J.H. Prynne travelled to Bangkok last year he took with him a laptop and a copy of Parsegian’s book Van der Waals Forces; A Handbook for Biologists, Chemists, Engineers, and Physicists (Cambridge, 2006). When he returned it was with a carefully hand-written manuscript which would in turn become his most recent published sequence, Kazoo Dreamboats. The reference cues at the end of this extraordinarily moving piece of poetic prose range from Parmenides and Aristotle to Boethius and Wordsworth:

The corridor is and to be the avenue, from particulate vapour to consign into bedrock, transit of durance it is a formative exit in naturalised permission, solemn grade-one rigmarole, better Wiglaf’s rebuke and insurance payout. To be this with sweet song and dance in the exit dream, sweet joy befall thee is by rotation been and gone into some world of light exchange, toiling and spinning and probably grateful, in this song.

This important publication can be found as one of the Critical Documents available from Justin Katko at Queens’ College, Cambridge. The website to aim for is http://plantarchy.us

Certain Intelligence from the Mountain

What a real delight to see collected together in this attractive format a major selection from the prose of the privately circulated poetry worksheet The English Intelligencer. Building upon an excellently run one-day conference last year at St. John’s College Cambridge the three organisers Neil Pattison, Reitha Pattison and Luke Roberts have compiled this break-through publication which has been published by Mountain Press (http://mountain-press.co.uk). As the blurb on the back puts it:

The English Intelligencer’s shifting cast of contributors included such major figures in modernist poetry as Andrew Crozier, John James, Barry MacSweeney, J.H. Prynne and Peter Riley.

The correspondence and essays published here for the first time represent the discourse of an extraordinary group of young poets struggling collectively and independently to articulate the terms of a radical poetics.

Split Screen the Anthology Has Finally Landed!

Split Screen is perfect poetry anthology for anyone who was ever told by their parents that they would get square eyes if they watched too much telly…

Split Screen centres on 72 specially-commissioned poems from some of the UK’s finest poets. Each poem takes its lead from an icon of popular culture, either from the world of film or television. From Doctor Who, Tom and Jerry, Bond movies, The Clangers to It’s A Wonderful Life, from Tommy Cooper to Jayne Mansfield, each poem is a personal take on a popular theme.

The poems are presented in sections, interspersed with poems inspired by adverts acting as ‘commercial breaks’. These advert poems are selected from open submissions around the UK, allowing new poetic voices to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with more established names.

Contributors include George Szirtes, Simon Barraclough, Annie Freud, W.N. Herbert, Kona Macphee, Tim Turnbull and Ian McMillan. And let’s not forget the stellar work the editor Andy Jackson has done in pulling it all together.

And, I have to confess, a saucy poem by yours truly about Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

I LOVE the cover so very much I had to make it full size!

 

Thought for the Day

Fielding Dawson’s account of life at Black Mountain College first appeared in 1970 before being reissued with a lot of new material in 1991. On May 23rd 1990 he wrote the following from New York:

‘Before established narrative will change, ideas must change, and through a speech involving many varied, still changing ideas, a new formula will present itself for us to follow. We’re on the edge of it, have been for most of this century, but our problem—and failure—is we won’t change. And, therefore, we will be stuck with the stylized successful slime that characterizes our bland, and boring, vicious culture.
But a few individuals here and there, including me, do change, and I’m not fool enough to overlook, or deny my responsibility in it. Change must become a discipline’.

More on Fielding Dawson and the British small-press publishing scene to follow and a reminder to those who knew (alert to those who didn’t) that there is a one-day conference at the University of Salford on Saturday 31st March from 9.00-5.00: Writing and the Small Press. For details contact Lucie Armitt at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT.

Paladin Poetry: Re/Active Anthologies

Paladin Poetry: Re/Active Anthologies

In February 1990 Andrew Crozier wrote to Ian Paten the Editorial Director of Grafton Books concerning the possible publication of his own work alongside that of Donald Davie and C.H. Sisson in one of Iain Sinclair’s new triad of poets: Paladin’s Re/Active Anthologies. Crozier’s letter stressed the importance of the Grafton poetry programme and recognised that it is ‘perceived as such I know by literary and academic colleagues.’ He concluded ‘I am very glad to be associated with it.’ Iain Sinclair’s editorial work with Paladin had overseen the publication of some remarkable volumes at the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties including John Ashbery’s April Galleons, Gregory Corso’s Mindfield, Jeremy Reed’s Red-Haired Android, Douglas Oliver’s Three Variations on the Theme of Harm, the Crozier-Longville anthology A Various Art as well as his own collection Flesh Eggs & Scalp Metal. As if to pick up on the ambitious Penguin venture of the seventies of placing three poets together between the covers, so to speak, Sinclair’s new venture of Re/Active Anthologies was a sheer delight. The first to appear contained a subtitle, future exiles, 3 London Poets, and represented the work of Allen Fisher, Bill Griffiths and Brian Catling. As the blurb put it these poets are ‘rogue angels, dynamic presences as yet largely ignored in the cultural life of the capital.’ The second volume to appear was subtitled ghosts in the corridor and contained a substantial selection of work by Crozier, Davie and Sisson. The Andrew Crozier poems were of course selected by himself and it is no surprise to see ‘The Veil Poem’ and ‘Pleats’ in their entirety as well as some separate delights such as ‘The Heifer’, a poem written ‘after Carl Rakosi’ and for Andrew’s wife, Jean. The third of these remarkable anthologies, the tempers of hazard , contained work by Thomas A. Clark, Barry MacSweeney and Chris Torrance. Sinclair’s own account in Lights Out for the Territory says it all:
The Tempers of Hazard was launched with a reading at Compendium. And then rapidly pulped…An instant rarity. A book that began life as a remainder and was now less than a rumour. A quarter of a century’s work for the poets: scrubbed, reforgotten.
Referring to the pulping of this last Re/Active Anthology Chris Torrance wrote to me eight years ago to say that ‘The Paladin Glowlamp was already written into the script. I was forewarned; I could see which way the wind was blowing, the wind of razors shredding text, of Farenheit 451.’

The English Pub and Poets

I have just enjoyed a literary meal at my local pub, where the landlord is fond of his ale, women and poetry. It is good to share a pint with him and chew the fat. He will drop in a line of poetry and look at me for verification. I smile back as I am hopeless at attributing some of the most famous lines! It links us though to an important literary and cultural tradition. One that poets have needed and used going back to Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne at the Mermaid Tavern. It is a great tradition. Dylan Thomas, Norman Cameron and George Barker wrote poems in the pubs of Fitzrovia. George Orwell drafted essays in pubs and saw their role in defining Englishness. Louis MacNeice and Roy Campbell famously came to blows in a pub as have other living poets that I shall not name. A few nights before he died, Barry MacSweeney told me of a poem that he drafted in the late 1970s in a Canterbury pub with H.R. Keating and John Arlott after watching a county cricket match. He was going to send the poem but never did. Sadly, pubs are closing at an alarming rate thanks to cheap alcohol in supermarkets and other factors. Poets and writers need pubs and community. There are always stories to be heard and told. Support your local and not the likes of Tesco. Raise a toast to your landlord and read him a poem. It will do you both good! Long may we support our local pubs and keep the tradition alive.

Wikipedia or Encyclopedia?

The demise of the print version of The Encyclopedia Brittanica after 244 years of publication is something of a milestone in publishing history. I enjoyed reading the old issues with their retrospective insights into a past world. The joy of seeing how things were perceived and understood fifty or sixty years ago is informative, fun and curiously satisfying. There is a sense of knowledge being marked in time and of young minds being introduced to the wider world in a relatively compact and concise form. The contemporary online equivalent Wikipedia is nowhere near as reliable. Some might argue that its provisional nature and status is a virtue. It is also much wider, more inclusive and open to anyone to write. It is easier to reach and despite its unreliability a potentially useful starting place. The problem is that it may not by its nature be able to move from potentially useful to an established epistemological position unlike those old dusty books. Wikipedia needs more reliable online competitors.

Poetry Penguin

Fifty years ago this year Penguin started their series of volumes each containing the work of three poets. Penguin Modern Poets was a startling and splendidly eclectic venture than ran to 27 volumes over the next thirteen years and it says something about the faith a publishing firm had in both its readership and the value of the poets published. In 1962 the first volume must have sounded a safe note with its choice of Lawrence Durrell, Elizabeth Jennings and R.S. Thomas but by the following year Christopher Middleton was there and the American West Coast scene was represented by generous selections from Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. To suggest a measure of the importance of the Penguin venture here it might be worth recalling that Andrew Crozier’s American supplement to Granta and Charles Tomlinson’s Black Mountain supplement to Ian Hamilton’s the Review did not appear until 1964. The series continued its highlighting of the Americans in 1967 with Penguin Modern Poets 9: Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos Williams. Number 12 presented the punchy world of former San Quentin inmate William Wantling and in 1969 Charles Bukowski appeared alongside Philip Lamantia and Harold Norse. The series gave some context for the use of the word ‘Modern’ by re-issuing work by David Gascoyne, W.S. Graham (17), Adrian Stokes (23) and offering space to the more recent voices of Tom Raworth and Lee Harwood (19). It was a remarkable achievement and Geoff Ward’s comment in The Salt Companion to Lee Harwood is worth bearing in mind in terms of what it tells us about the poetry world of 1971: ‘Tom Raworth, packaged alongside John Ashbery and Harwood in volume 19 of the Penguin Modern Poets series, offers work that is broadly comparable at this early stage in its insistence on present tense actualities, rather than their ironised recovery by experience at a metrical remove.’

Poetry Pairing: Whitney Houston Meets Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

I might have mentioned before that we’re loving the Poetry Pairing series in the New York Times? Inevitably, Whitney Houston’s death has found its own poetry pairing.

The poem’s very affecting, right?

%d bloggers like this: