RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Gavin Selerie

Hariot Double by Gavin Selerie (Five Seasons Press) £18.50

Hariot Double by Gavin Selerie (Five Seasons Press) £18.50

The successor to Selerie’s Music’s Duel (Shearsman, 2009) has arrived! Hariot Double probes the life of Joe Harriott, the Jamaican saxophonist who was part of the Fifties and Sixties London jazz scene, from birth to death, and that of Thomas Harriot, the Elizabeth and Jacobean astronomer, from death to birth. In between these two narrative portraits lies a contemporary sequence entitled ‘Intermean’ serving to link the two. Both were inspired by diverse cultures. One explored the skies and colony of Virginia and the other London’s Soho and new music.

The opening poem, ‘Formation’, sets the tone. Partly in Jamaican speak the poem oscillates in triumphant wordplay, half staccato and half sliding rhythm. Thus:

‘for muse-ache bent
he’s grained to discover
now sister Ignatius
say you can blow xaymace
summit or sonnet
a cheek tale, akee all split.

As if from nothing
a seed a stalk

The first section evokes the Soho jazz scene through a variety of techniques and approaches, visual and sonic, drawing upon a range of found and documentary materials. Words are split to create more meaning and odd sounds, spare and moving forward to reflect and probe the lifestyle, period and place. The vocabulary, phrases and characterisation, draws the reader deeply into the texture of the musician’s world. The work goes beyond an echo of say the novels of Colin MacInness, such as City Of Spades (1958), into a wider tapestry of musical inspiration, journey and identity.

D-difficult racket, caw from ruin
to Lansdowne leafy block
its staircase winding
to basement den.

Shake and Cole,
you play this (spare)
and see what (ridge) happens.

Coated folding ephemerid
breaks mel-odic

rule by least
the dimdown old heartscape.

All the others they play here in d’room
but what I play is out d’window.

There are not many poets as equally at home with the sonic and visual aspects of the poem as Gavin Selerie. The range of inventiveness and materials brought to light, showing considerable research, is formidable. Alan Halsey’s graphics add texture, drawing upon source materials, and visual depth helping to bed the poems.
Halsey is at home with Renaissance alchemy and astronomy having recently provided images for Nigel Wood’s from the diaries of john dee (apple pie editions, 2015). Each page, poem and visual text is carefully laid out for maximum sound and visual impact. Such consideration comes from taking seven years to bring this major work to fruition.

The Renaissance Harriot section is utterly beguiling allowing a shadowy magus figure from the circles of Sir Walter Ralegh and the ‘Wizard Earl’ Henry of Northumberland to take centre stage. His moon mapping from Syon House, near Richmond, London, preceded that of Galileo. He also drew the Sun, sunspots, and recorded the motions of Jupiter’s satellites. A sense of mathematical, astronomical, ethnological and anthropological exploration flashes through the section, which is written in period language and spelling.

I have merely scratched at the surface of this substantial, 362 page, work, which I thoroughly recommend.

David Caddy 23rd June 2016

Edward Dorn – Two Interviews

Edward Dorn – Two Interviews

Edward Dorn’s Two Interviews (Shearsman Books) edited by Gavin Selerie and Justin Katko is a useful companion to the Collected Poems (Carcanet Press 2013), reviewed by Peter Hughes in Tears in the Fence 58. Dorn’s poetic achievements are towering and well worth exploring. If you have never read anything by Dorn, I recommend starting with Recollections of Gran Apacheria (1974), which works by revealing a history of effects through suggestion and has a deep emotional pull, and proceed to the satirical epic, Gunslinger (1968-1975).


Two Interviews features The Peak Interview from July 1971 in Vancouver with Robin Blaser’s students, Tom McGauley, Brian Fawcett and John Scoggan, with Jeremy Prynne, Stan Persky and Ralph Maud present and contributing, and The Riverside Interview from 1981 between Dorn and Gavin Selerie. Both are terrific conversations, with Dorn speaking informally in the first and more extensively in the second. Justin Katko’s Preface surveys recent and forthcoming Dorn related materials and gives a context to this decade of adjustment for Dorn. There are obviously differences of tone and occasion, in Dorn the speaker in 1971 and 1981 that provide the book’s vitality. Dorn, as these interviews and Iain Sinclair’s memoir American Smoke (2013) suggest, was a man who knew the lie of the land and what happened in the wide spaces of the badlands and beyond. His methodology, derived from Charles Olson at Black Mountain College, was to locate himself in a place through a close reading of its cultural landscape, history, geography and geology. The great joy in this book comes from a greater understanding of his practical working methods as well as the way he adapted to new locations and developed his use of wit and aphorism. He was to some extent a nomadic exile by choice looking across and beyond the American West. There are questions devoted to his time in England, teaching at Essex University, and his fruitful friendships with Jeremy Prynne, Tom Clark, his first biographer, and Donald Davie.


Two Interviews includes a short selection from Dorn’s unpublished daybook, The Day & Night Report, from 1971, a selection of two chapters from Dorn’s unpublished prose work, Juneau in June (1980-1981) and three uncollected poems, originally published in Spectacular Diseases No. 6 in 1981, and rare photographs, including the human totem pole of Jeremy Prynne, Ed Dorn, Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, Kidd Dorn and Maya Dorn. Gavin Selerie provides a highly informative and detailed introduction to the Riverside Interview and there is also a bibliography of Dorn Interviews. The whole book as Justin Katko indicates is a worthy addition to Ed Dorn Live: Lectures, Interviews and Outtakes (University of Michigan Press, 2007).


David Caddy  December 22nd 2013

%d bloggers like this: