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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Iain Sinclair’s RED EYE

Iain Sinclair’s RED EYE

Soon to be published by Test Centre (www.testcentre.org.uk) in an edition of 500 copies these sequences of poetry, ‘now dusted down and assembled’ were originally written in 1973 at which point they were intended to be a publication from Sinclair’s Albion Village Press. As the notes at the end of this handsome volume tell us the idea was set aside ‘so that Albion Village Press could run with Acrospirical Meanderings in a Tongue of the Time by Chris Torrance and Vorticegarden by Brian Catling.

Sinclair had been highly impressed with the Ferry Press world that Andrew Crozier had founded and had received a copy of Torrance’s Aries Under Saturn and Beyond which Crozier had published in 1969. In a letter from December 1972 he wrote to Crozier ‘the ease & openness of the line; the energy so cleanly played out; a book of internal clouds.’  By April 1973 Sinclair had expressed a wish to do a book with Torrance and in July he reported to Crozier that he had visited C.T. in Wales to gather his manuscript: ‘Walked there, 20 miles over the home mountains. A good spot. Quiet valley, hidden behind the encroaching industrial mess of Neath-Glynneath. A compact & centred existence which has its charms…I now have to find the money to do the book.’  Prynne had looked at the manuscript of what was to become Acrospirical Meanderings in a Tongue of the Time and liked it very much, even to the point of suggesting that he might sell his copy of Robert Duncan’s Letters (Jargon 14), one of 60 signed and specially bound copies with endpapers hand-drawn by the author, to throw some money into the venture. The Torrance book appeared in January 1974 and Sinclair suggested that Vorticegarden, ‘looking , I’m told, like the new English bible, may be, again, our last throw for a while.’

Two sections from ‘Red Eye’ appeared in the summer of 1974 in Volume 7, Nos. 1-3 of Grosseteste Review. ‘Counting The Steps Towards Pollen’ and ‘Frog Killer Memorial’ appear there for the first time and it is a fascinating exercise to compare the changes made from that publication to this final version from Test Centre. For instance, look out for the removal of a host of definite articles. In Turpin Nine, following Torrance’s own extracts from ‘The Magic Door’, Sinclair published ‘The Moon of Making Fat’ and ‘Martian Hymns’. Again the final version now available is significantly different and it would be an excellent exercise of critical reading to put the two versions side by side.

 

Ian Brinton 29/10/13

 

 

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Cambridge Companion To American Poetry Since 1945

Cambridge Companion To American Poetry Since 1945

The Cambridge Companion To American Poetry Since 1945 edited by Jennifer Ashton (Cambridge University Press 2013) offers a useful guide to post-war and late twentieth century American poetry. It covers a broad range of poetries, although says little about non-institutional poets, with each essay providing a valuable list of further reading.

 

The editor, Jennifer Ashton, opens with an essay ‘Periodizing Poetic Practice since 1945’, which eschews socio-historical grounding in the materiality of poetic endeavour in favour of an approach based on poetry movements linked to aesthetic and philosophical questions. It thus omits the impact of War and violence on the one hand and developments in publishing on the other and does not show how the movements worked and gained dominance in cultural terms.  The approach, whilst attempting to link to questions of the poem’s relationship to meaning, intentionality, materiality, response, value, experience and ordinary language, cuts off a set of deeper questions and divides, such as between print and voice, who bestows critical ascendancy, how the judgement process operates and thus hides alternatives. The Chronology of Publications and Events is highly selective and omits a number of national poetry award winners.

 

Mark Scroggins’ essay ‘From Late Modernism of the Objectivists to the Proto-postmodernism of Projective Verse’ shows the roots of Projective Verse in Objectivism and delineates the far-reaching impact of Olson on Ginsberg and the Beats, Robert Duncan and the San Francisco Renaissance, Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts movement, and some of the Language poets.  There is another way of looking at this that might see open-field poetics as more of a development that stemmed from William Carlos Williams and the connections around Black Mountain staff and the Black Mountain Review. Certainly the Olson-Creeley correspondence, the work of Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan’s attempts to bring mythology into the poetic field are pivotal. The essay, whilst brilliant on Zukofsky’s relevance, ignores Ed Dorn and Olson’s impact on English poetry. Nevertheless it is a very useful and important essay.

 

I found Deborah Nelson’s ‘Confessional School’ essay curiously limited.  It provides a social-political background stemming from the Cold War and the Supreme Court battles for privacy but fails to fully reference the historical moment with more local and wider connections between the select few poets that it highlights. In contrast, Charles Altieri’s ‘Surrealism as a Living Modernism’, illuminates the relationship between three New York School poets and two schools of painting, figurative and surrealistic, and shows how their concerns fused, has a stronger sense of the social-historical specifics and brings its connections more alive.

 

Michael Davidson on the San Francisco Renaissance, Ronna Johnson on Three Generations of Beat Poetics, Margo Natalie Crawford on The Black Arts Movement, Steve McCaffrey on the political background to Language Writing, Nick Selby on Ecopoetries in America and Lisa Sewell on Feminist Poetries are all strong on radical thought and offer well-written introductions. I found Oren Izenberg’s essay on the plight of the scholar poet to be particularly perceptive. Hank Lazar provides a sociological reading of American poetry and its institutions, with plenty of useful statistics, and a sense that there is debate around the institutionalisation of poetry and differing interpretations of what a poet is. I missed an essay on non-academic poets, such as, Charles Bukowski, Edward Field, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, etc, who are completely ignored. The essay on Rap, Hip Hop and Spoken Word, whilst referencing slam competitions as non-academic, is insufficient in terms of grasping the wider non-academic field. Similarly an essay on the geography of American poetry would have also offered more balance and width as well as producing a more sociological insights. Jennifer Ashton’s essay on the poetry of the first decade of the twenty first century concludes that the poem’s forms and the world’s formal structures are what matters most.

 

‘The force of the work is to remind us that neither it nor the world it inhabits can be altered by our responses to it or by its effects on us – by, say, our feeling “complete”; they can only be altered by a change to their form. In this respect, we may well have arrived at a crucial dialectical shift in the social and aesthetic history of poetry: a new modernism: post-postmodernism.’

 

 

David Caddy

 

 

Anthony Mellor’s The Lewknor Turn & Simon Perril’s Archilochus on the Moon

Anthony Mellor’s The Lewknor Turn & Simon Perril’s Archilochus on the Moon

The Lewknor Turn is a slim volume of poems divided up into five sections each with their own particular tone. Two of the sections are named after prominent public figures, Rod McKuen and Gordon Brown. The former is, of course, a poet of some considerable renown as an author of thirty volumes of poetry many of which can be picked up remarkably reasonably in charity shops. The latter is a former Prime Minister whose importance is highlighted in two lines from the eleventh sonnet in this section:

 

The best false sense you can lay your hands on

slides away in a fur of Brownian noise.

 

This last section of the book is accompanied by a series of notes and for those who are not in the know about Brownian noise ‘Results show that noise inlet spectra can be classified into two categories, pseudo-Brownian resonant noise and white or pink Large band noise, depending on the spectral density distribution’.

These are shrewd and bitter poems in which the tone moves from the outright comic to the moving sense of humanity trapped within concentric systems of media falsification and invention. The volume should be bought and read by all those who want a sharp dose of acerbic medicine which could provide ‘a sure cure for all diseases.’

 

Michael Schmidt’s blurb on the reverse cover of Simon Perril’s collection of 80 poems suggests that the lyrics to be found here are ‘themselves shells and fragments that constitute a haunted narrative’. This narrative elides the world of Archilochus, the first Greek lyric poet, and Pound’s ‘Homage to Sextus Propertius’ where, as Perril tells us in the afterword, the poet tunes into ‘a frequency of lyric resistance’ resulting in the capture of ‘a viscosity of voice’. We need now to weigh our words carefully:

 

and what of  our words

when the weight

has come off them

 

and Earth’s a sapphire

set upon black;

this space

 

that comes between all

folk and things,

yet strings us along

 

beads at market

amongst the stars

and other gaseous bodies

 

These two volumes of poems are available from Shearsman at www.shearsman.com and are clear indications of Tony Frazer’s continued commitment to poetry that combines the political and lyrical, the individual and the challenging. It is comforting to know that volumes like these can reach the market-place which is exactly where they belong.

As well as being accomplished poets both Anthony Mellors and Simon Perril are important academics. Mellors published his Late Modernist Poetics from Pound to Prynne (Manchester University Press) in 2005 and Perril edited The Salt Companion to John James in 2010 as well as contributing an essay on Bands Around The Throat to the 2009 Shearsman collection of essays on the work of J.H. Prynne, A Manner of Utterance.

 

Ian Brinton 18th October 2013

Iain Sinclair’s Suicide Bridge

Iain Sinclair’s Suicide Bridge

The new edition of Iain Sinclair’s Suicide Bridge: A Book of the Furies, A Mythology of the South & East – Autumn 1973 to Spring 1978 (Skylight Press 2013) expanded on the original Albion Village Press 1979 edition, constitutes the first complete version of the work. The Books of Gwantok, Brerton, and Bowen have been recovered from typescripts, notebooks and magazine publication. It includes a contemporary review of the original edition by Robert Sheppard, which serves as a useful introduction and contextualization as well photographs and artwork from the first edition, and new photographs by the author. This new edition, beautifully designed by Rebsie Fairholm, appears prior to the first publication of a long lost poem, RED EYE (Test Centre 2013), from 1973, on 23 October. Albion Village Press contributors, Brian Catling and Chris Torrance, join Iain Sinclair to launch RED EYE at the Test Centre, Stoke Newington on that date.

http://testcentre.org.uk

I recall the excitement of first reading Suicide Bridge with its heady mixture of poetry and prose, text and counter text, scientific and literary quotation, cut-up’s and interwoven texts, beginning with the introductory statement ‘Intimate Associations: Myth and Place’. Man is rooted in Place but looks toward Myth for his living breath. Myth emerges as a weapon, a tool of resistance, echoing Robert Duncan. This was heightened open-field poetics applied to Albion, via William Blake’s Jerusalem, re-animating Blakean mythology through the low life of East London, with its sacrificial victims, and other occurrences. Hand and Hyle, the demonic twins, primitive and shadowy, born from a black hole, redolent of the Kray twins, emerge and are born again, ‘anchored / to the fate, the corruption of this island’ unleashing cycles of birth, death and re-birth in a violent and bloody portrayal of Albion. Other characters from Jerusalem are brought to life in a series of mythical texts that provide a memory or reordering of cultural resistance to the powerful and malign in a world split between good and evil. Suicide Bridge offers, in essence, a reordering of literary and cultural history, with references to iconic Sixties events and materials, through a series of textual workings to ‘THE ENEMY’. It is a joy to re-read.

David Caddy

The Groundlings of Divine Will

The Groundlings of Divine Will

Daniel Staniforth’s The Groundlings of Divine Will (Skylight Press 2013) http://www.skylightpress.co.uk sees Shakespeare’s first audience, ‘the groundlings of the pit’, as a secret society addressing the Master Of Revels in a glorious riposte to the ways in which Shakespeare studies have taken the playwright away from his historical context. The groundlings, with their ‘ears to hear and eyes to behold’, speak out as one voice in their defence of Divine Will   against all manner of heresies. It is great fun, satirically astute and tightly written using quotations from the plays to reinstate the work in its historical time frame.

‘Twas while shivering at the Winter’s Tale when we heard the

accused Paulina quip – It is an heretic that makes the fire not

she which burns in’t. (Measure for Measure)

The groundlings stand in the pits facing the heavens, their apostolic gazes emboldening the players in their holy writs, clinging to their Divine Will and his sacred trinity of Seneca, Plutarch and Hollinshead, ingesting the pit-rolls and piss-ales of their transubstantiation. They speak out as ‘the human wick, the Temple candle, the alchymy of light’ against theological orthodoxies and their torturing and tortuous ways garnering their evidence and support from the Divine Will, the cauldrons of dark hags, Ralegh’s School of Night, Dr. John Dee, mystical and neo-Platonist writings. Written in period vernacular and ablaze with fire, the killing of heretics, sorcerers, witches, mediums and wizards, classical and mythological references, the Gods of love, which seep in and out of the plays, the book highlights the themes that would have been more pronounced in Shakespeare’s time. The groundlings, imbued with folklore and paganism, see what characters represent and hide, connect Hamlet with Dr. Dee, note the shadowy characters, enjoy Iago’s lies, Lear’s fool and Hamlet’s gravedigger and all the allegories.

The book is beautifully designed by Rebsie Fairholm and printed in 1651 Alchemy, a Garamond type reconstructed from historical sources and comes with humorous back cover blurbs by Rev. Obadiah Horseworthy, Emanuel Swedenborg, Frater Nubilus and Ben Johnson.

It is great fun and highly recommended.

David Caddy

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