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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Beat Scene 72: Spring 2014 issue edited by Kevin Ring

Beat Scene 72: Spring 2014 issue edited by Kevin Ring

Dedicated to the 95 year old poet, painter, City Lights Bookstore and Press owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, this issue has wide focus.


There is an interview with one of the founders of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute, Diane di Prima; an appreciation of Iain Sinclair’s journey in pursuit of Charles Olson, Ed Dorn, Malcolm Lowry, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder and others in American Smoke; an investigation and memoir by Anne Waldman on Bob Dylan and the Beats; an insight into how Charles Bukowski was featured in Penguin Modern Poets 13, other articles on Kerouac, Robert La Vigne and Allen Ginsberg, plus a review section.


The central feature, though, is a wide ranging and fascinating interview by Kevin Ring with poet, critic, observer and essayist, Jim Burns. It begins with how Burns discovered another world of art, cinema and literature that differed from official versions and his subsequent discovery of American bohemianism through the writings of Kenneth Rexroth, which led to his reading of the Beats, Black Mountain and San Francisco writers in the late Fifties. He became a reviewer for Tribune, Jazz Journal, Ambit and The Guardian, and started submitting poems to little magazines in 1962. During this period he met Roy Fisher, Gael Turnbull, Michael Shayer, Dave Cunliffe, David Chaloner, Chris Torrance, Andrew Crozier and Tony Connor, and started corresponding with Gilbert Sorrentino and Seymour Krim. There are specific questions about the work of little magazines, such as The Outsider, Satis, Migrant and Ambit, about literary figures such as Eric Mottram, Gary Snyder and Andrew Crozier, his own editing of Move from December 1964 – April 1968, his involvement in the 1972 BBC film documentary directed by Alan Yentob, his editing of Palantir 1976-1983, his many poetry books, the nature of political poetry, his four books on radicals, bohemians, beats and outsiders, and so on. A fifth book is due from Penniless Press Publications later this year.


When asked about Move and its supplement, Thirteen American Poets, he replied:


The magazine itself always had a mixture of British and American poets and I wasn’t concerned to project any sort of Beat image, nor that of any other group. I just read what came in and printed what I liked. Just a few of the poets who were in the magazine and supplement were Anselm Hollo, Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Carol Berge, Charles Bukowski, Jack Micheline, Andrew Crozier, Chris Torrance, Fielding Dawson, Larry Eigner, Tom Clark, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Michael Horovitz, Max Finstein, David Tipton, and quite a few more. And it was sometimes a pleasure to give space to a quirky, older poet like Hugh Creighton Hill, whose short poems didn’t fit into any category but were a delight to read.


An admirable editorial stance.


Beat Scene 72 is available from Kevin Ring, 27 Court Leet, Binley Woods, Nr Coventry CV3 2JQ. Subscriptions are £25 for four issues.


David Caddy 6th June 2014

Rod Mengham’s descent into language: The Understory

Rod Mengham’s descent into language: The Understory

(corrupt press limited January 2014)


In the opening pages of his book Language (published by Fontana Press in 1995) Rod Mengham examined the world of Babel; ‘for there was confounded the lippe of all the erthe’ according to John Wyclif’s translation of Genesis 11:9 which hit the light of day some six hundred years earlier.


‘The descent from the Tower, then, is like another Fall: a decline into anarchy and linguistic isolation. And yet the instant of chaos in the biblical myth stands for nothing less than the whole of human history, for the process of gradual divergence, and occasional re-convergence, of multifarious linguistic traditions.’


It is quite echoing then to read in the first of these six short fictions which have recently appeared in a delightful chapbook from corrupt press about Icarus:


He is a diver to the inky cold of the ocean floor, among blind crabs. Volcanic tapers flare briefly. Cormorant fledgling breaks away from the gelid wax. Oiled skin breathes the Kleinian blue. But pressure rattles the lens, changes the convexity of the eye. Currents of lymph sweep away the pin-head sharks and invisible squid. Retinal flurry translates into rushing shoals leading him down to muffled chasms, cathedral rocks. Breathing equipment shuts off, oxygen tubes flatten, general failure of instruments measuring depth, pressure, and the malignity of the earth’s crust.


We are transported into a world that merges ‘Landscape and the Fall of Icarus’ (once attributed to Brueghel and made famous with Auden’s poem) with the art of reading: we are looking for what lies beneath the surface of these compelling fictions, the understory, the subtext.

There are other echoes inhabiting these stories and I found myself recalling Paul Auster’s terrifying futuristic novel In the Country of Last Things as I read Mengham’s ‘Diary of an Imperial Surgeon’ and the historical mischievousness of Milan Kundera as I read the opening paragraph of ‘Will O’The Wisp’. In that earlier book, Language, Rod Mengham had suggested that in its evolutionary descent ‘language has become inextricably meshed with the codes of information processing to a degree that makes less and less distinction between technological and vital structures and processes. On the one hand, there is a register in which the difference between hardware (mechanical equipment) and software (programmes) is neither more nor less apparent than either’s difference from liveware (human beings)’.


Rod Mengham runs Equipage Press in Cambridge and an excellent introduction to the history of that small press which has had so much to do with the world of contemporary poetry can be located in PN Review 215 where Luke Roberts wrote a brief history as well as giving a list of publications in print.


I found The Understory fascinating and it is a little pamphlet to which I shall return again and again not least on account of the clarity and clean edge of the prose.


Ian Brinton 5th June 2014

Litmus Magazine issue 1: the forensic issue

Litmus Magazine issue 1: the forensic issue

This is a short blog to promote what I think is one of the finest new magazines available on the market and I write it to encourage those who have not come across it to buy a copy and to subscribe to its future. Magazines (and here Tears in the Fence is a prime example having existed for thirty years through the efforts of David Caddy and without any support from the National Institutions)




only because there are enough people out there who want to read something that is more than the pre-digested regurgitations of the ‘accepted’ market. Issue 1 of Litmus contains work by poets of significant renown such as David Marriott, Simon Smith, Geraldine Monk, Sarah Crewe, Aidan Semmens, Ken Edwards and Mario Petrucci but, most interestingly , it contains work by new poets and by those who have been closely involved in the world of contemporary poetry in recent years: Jeff Hilson, Richard Price, Anthony Mellors. And…it contains an essay by me about Prynne and his French translator Bernard Dubourg!


You won’t find this work anywhere else and Dorothy Lehane’s editorial sets out the challenge for you in uncompromisingly clear terms:


‘The resulting work is not easy material; it does not always attempt to educate and does not promise to add to your comprehension of science. Rather, its complex processes require the reader to explore some parallels between linguistic construction and forensic science. The reader is invited to embark upon a journey involving botany, metempsychosis, massacre and even fairy tales.’


The magazine can be ordered through either the editors:



Ian Brinton 4th June 2014.


Adam Horovitz’s A Thousand Laurie Lees (History Press, 2014)

Adam Horovitz’s A Thousand Laurie Lees (History Press, 2014)

This memoir of growing up in the Slad Valley, the idyllic pre-War Cotswold landscape made famous by Cider With Rosie (1960), explores Laurie Lee’s continuing impact on the place.


It begins a year after poer’s death in 1997 with an epic, drunken cycle ride through the heart of the Valley when the locals dressed up as Lee. They called it The Night of a Thousand Laurie Lees and stopped at every pub, raising their fedoras, signing books, singing and carousing in celebration of the poet and novelist. The book ends with a spirited defence of the preservation of the landscape and community centred on Lee’s beloved Woolpack pub.


This centenary celebration of a poetic presence in the Valley is the first book on Lee’s impact since Valerie Grove’s The Well-Loved Stranger in 1999 and takes the narrative back to the Seventies and forward. Lee famously left the Valley in 1934 and walked to London and a literary life in Soho, Fitzrovia and the GPO Film Unit, returning to document his life and out of the Valley in poetry and prose. When Lee asked the young poet whether he was writing, Horowitz replied that he was going to summer writing classes. Lee raised his eyebrows and doubted that he needed them gesturing to the party, the valley, the world outside and his slopping drink.


The narrative celebrates the literary and artistic connections of the Valley, its local families and his own immersion in poetry, song and books. Horovitz writes:


I was taught to delve into the landscape aesthetically rather than

physically, so I learned to float into the names of flowers, lost in the

beauty of cowslip and campion, dead nettle and Michaelmas daisy,

beech tree and ash, but not much of immediate practical value was

hard-pressed upon me. The valley was a palimpsest of imagination,

of the living and dead, and was accessible only through though.


At the heart of his childhood memories are his mother’s reading voice, with its delicate articulation, and poems, which he places in the context of her absent husband and the darkness of nearby Keensgrove wood. Frances Horovitz was stilled and enthralled by the Valley, eventually leaving for a life with the poet, Roger Garfitt. Horovitz recalls visiting guests, such as John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Tom Pickard, and liberally quotes from Lee, cites his father’s long poem, Midsummer Morning Jog Log, written in the Valley in 1984-5, other local poets, and the poems that fired his childhood imagination. Poetry readings, epic parties, bicycles, pubs, and the changing nature of agriculture, the struggle to save the Valley from unwanted development, all feature in this story of roots and gradual self-understanding. The narrative’s arc sees Horovitz returning to his parental home and becoming a fine poet in his own right:


Bluetits pick at the last rotten apple

on an unattended tree.


As shadow swallows the garden

I sit on a log and defy the night.


A bat deftly manoeuvres

through intricate webs of dew-laden pine.


I close my eyes and call your name.

It echoes around the valley,


the sound undulating

through trees and hills,


building power

until my cry is a mantra,


chanted by the whole immediate world

of night creatures, plants and spirits.


The book, illustrated throughout by Jo Sanders and has 28 pages of lavish colour photographs by Dan Brown, is a delight and joy to read.



David Caddy 1st June 2014

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