RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Geraldine Monk

CLASP: late modernist poetry in London in the 1970s Edited by Robert Hampson & Ken Edwards, Shearsman Books 2016

CLASP: late modernist poetry in London in the 1970s  Edited by Robert Hampson & Ken Edwards, Shearsman Books 2016

In Tears in the Fence 57 (summer 2013) the Australian poet Laurie Duggan reviewed Cusp, Geraldine Monk’s terrific piece of history and recollections which looked back at ‘British poetry in that age located generally between the bomb and the world-wide web’. The review concluded with the statement that ‘This history is of its nature a ragged one though the work produced has by now equalled, perhaps exceeded, the hopes of its authors’. Geraldine Monk’s book was published by Shearsman in 2012 and now, four years on, this new history of late modernist poetry in London in the 1970s seems like a sequel. It has an intriguing name which almost suggests that one can hold the past close to one. That said, I am reminded of an early paragraph in Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot:

How do we seize the past? Can we ever do so? When I was a medical student some pranksters at an end-of-term dance released into the hall a piglet which had been smeared with grease. It squirmed between legs, evaded capture, squealed a lot. People fell over trying to grasp it, and were made to look ridiculous in the process. The past often seems to behave like that piglet.

As Robert Hampson puts it in his introduction to this eminently readable burst of flame which sheds light onto an otherwise darkened area (darkened that is by the Poetry Police who seem to tell us that nothing has really changed since the world of New Lines more than half a century ago!):

CLASP is an exercise in collective remembering—with, as Lawrence Upton’s essay suggests, a consciousness of memory work as also a process of selecting, forgetting and inventing.

Hampson refers to a counter-culture in the 1960s which revolved around institutions such as the Institute for Contemporary Arts in Dover Street, the Arts Lab in Drury Lane, and the independent bookshops such as Indica Books on Kingsway, Better Books in Charing Cross Road, Bernard Stone’s Turret Books in Kensington and Compendium in Camden Town. These venues ‘not only provided access to books and magazines, but also acted as centres for information-exchange and making contacts.’ This was after all the world and time of Andrew Crozier’s The English Intelligencer so intelligently written about in Alex Latter’s recent account from Bloomsbury, Late Modernism and The English Intelligencer.
One comes away from reading this new collection of reminiscences reeling with the excitement and energy of a world brought back into focus; this is all heady stuff! It reminds me of a series of History books put out by Blackwells in the 1970s, They Saw It Happen. A flavour might be given here by mentioning Iain Sinclair’s account of his journey from London to Wales to search of the émigré member of the Carshalton Chapter, Chris Torrance. After reading J.H. Prynne’s short review of Green Orange Purple Red, published by Crozier’s Ferry Press (taking its name from the Woolwich mode of river-crossing), Sinclair ‘was out of the door, on the road, back home to Wales’:

‘I walked over the hills, through decommissioned mines, conifer plantations, midge clouds, sunburn, blisters, rusty streams, bubbling tarmac, to Torrance’s Neath Valley farmhouse. It was an excitement to make contact with what was already a very active network, the magazines and contributors with whom Chris had been involved, his transmigrations from Carshalton to Bristol to Wales.’

A brief list of some of the short accounts given in CLASP will tease you into getting a copy without delay: Robert Sheppard ‘Took chances in London traffic’, Elaine Randell was ‘Tangled up in politics’, Paula Claire was ‘Working with Bob Cobbing through the 1970s’ while Tony Lopez was moving from Brixton to Wivenhoe to Gonville & Caius. John Muckle’s ‘Inklings’ contrast with Peter Barry ‘Climbing the twisty staircase’ and David Miller reckoned it was ‘A good decade for getting lost’.

Ian Brinton 10th February 2016

House At Out Mark Goodwin Shearsman Books

House At Out  Mark Goodwin Shearsman Books

I find that reading books is in no way a discrete business and the same, inevitably, holds true for writing reviews. Looking at the blurb on the reverse side of this new collection of Mark Goodwin’s poetry I see the words of Simon Perril:

In House At Out, Mark Goodwin steps beyond the physical landscapes of Back of a Vast, into a new topography: a world that is a “wild’s inf i
nite b its” approached through the gaps and hollows in the word. The holes are apertures as we zoom into language, crack open word hoards and find worlds of association, “hole keys” with which we open kinetic lands as nimble as “music thinking of water”’.

A few days ago, in my review of The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry 1945—2010, I didn’t have sufficient space to say what I wanted to about Perril’s excellent contribution about ‘High Late-Modernists or Postmodernists?’ but now I am prompted to return via this topographical reference to Goodwin’s work. Early on in Perril’s essay he refers to Geraldine Monk in terms of the emotional geography of place, most especially her native Lancashire:

‘Her habitats are haunted by a sense of inequalities and injustices that the landscape has preserved as its own memory, and that charge the language with both neologistic verve and a sense of regional historical witness.’

This combination of neologisms and ‘historical witness’ is central to Mark Goodwin’s work as in ‘Our Shoulle’:

‘a round voice in the bottom of an impossible tube is
nearly silent yet ticks away a shiny poem coils of a
whole other place pull me in it is thin in a last place
a shell makes so wide at first a thrush has smashed a snail

shell on a doorstep think of bricks think of your family
we always wonder why sky doesn’t flatten a shell with its
simple vast coiled solid song song of wafer stone stone
that is a song a crab may live in an on & on song a snail

carries around exchanges for size & no size we do not live
in shells because our feet are too big they would not fit into a
tight pink compartment where a shell goes no further into
the round of all a world slates so slight against her round

voice bright raging sky with a rain in a bottom of impossible’ [.]

There is a Hopkinsian quality of the music of ‘things’ here (‘choses’ as Ponge would have had it) as we are offered ‘a round voice’ in which stones might ring, as they do in the second stanza as ‘song song’ becomes ‘stone stone’. The voice may be ‘nearly silent’ and yet its insistent measuring of Time pulls both poet and reader into a new world. The comparison of shell to brick, of wafer to stone, takes us back a page to the title of this section of the book, ‘A Bachelard’s Château’ and Gaston Bachelard’s comment in the opening pages of The Poetics of Space

‘all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home’.

In the world of Bachelard, imagination can build walls of impalpable shadows and, to refer again to Ponge, imagination can compare the human to the hermit crab:

‘The monuments built by man appear like offcuts from his own skeleton: but they don’t raise the spectre of a creature of comparative size. Compared to a shell, the portals of the greatest cathedrals open to release a crowd of ants and the most wealthy villas or chateaux, home to one man only, are more akin to a hive or an ants’-nest divided up into its separate rooms. When milord departs from his manor-house he certainly appears a lot less impressive than that gigantic claw of the hermit-crab swelling out of the mouth of that cornet shell which he calls home.’
(‘A Note addressed to SHELLS’, translated by Ian Brinton, Oystercatcher Press 2015)

There is, to my ear, a roundness, a completeness as ‘slates’ move to ‘slight’ and, round, to ‘bright’; an echo coiling round a spiral ‘in a bottom of impossible’. I recall Harriet Tarlo’s wonderful anthology published by Shearsman four years ago, The Ground Aslant, in the introduction to which she wrote ‘I have focused here on poets whose formal techniques are exploratory and experimental enough to be called radical, poets whose ideological pushing of the boundaries is to be found integrated into the forms their poems inhabit’. Mark Goodwin’s work was, naturally enough, featured in that volume as ‘the lock of the sun clinks its heat’. And when Robert Macfarlane reviewed the anthology for the Saturday Guardian (16/4/11) he referred to Mark Goodwin’s landscape details as providing no reliable resting place for the eye or the mind:

‘It simply refers the subject onwards in an effortful relay of attention from speck to speck. Keep going. Move along now.’

In this world of spatial vectors and Heraclitean flux I hear the opening lines of one of the poems in Prynne’s The Oval Window:

‘In darkness by day we must press on,
giddy at the tilt of a negative crystal.’

Keep it moving as fast as you can, citizen! And Mark Goodwin writes ‘thoughts escape leave us free and we are poem coils / of a whole i am’.

Ian Brinton 23rd December 2015

Sarah Crewe at the Tears in the Fence Festival

Sarah Crewe at the Tears in the Fence Festival

I am thrilled that Sarah Crewe will be reading at the Tears in the Fence Festival, on Friday evening, 24th October. (https://tearsinthefence.com/festival)

Sarah is rapidly emerging as a strong poetic voice. Her uncompromising poetry has a distinct musicality, draws the reader into strange worlds and creates a wonderful fusion of vocabulary and identity to probe, irritate and celebrate. She gives voice to a range of identities and produces a wide range of poetic effects. Ian Brinton has noted her eerie and uncomfortable voice. S.J. Fowler has described her work as a stone’s throw from Maggie O’Sullivan and Geraldine Monk.

Her collections include Aqua Rosa (Erbacce, 2012), flick invicta (Oystercatcher, 2013), sea witch (Leafe Press, 2013) and Signs of the Sistership, with Sophie Mayer (KFS Press, 2014). Her work has also appeared in Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, Molly Bloom, Peony Moon, Litter and Litmus magazines. She co-edited the anthology Catechism: Poems For Pussy Riot (2013) with Mark Burnhope and Sophie Mayer, and the anthology Glitter is a Gender (Contraband, 2014) with Sophie Mayer.

Her poetry, rooted in the Port of Liverpool, which features as a backdrop to her contrary visions of the social world, is characterised by its stunningly luminous language use. She inhabits and lavishes
concentrated sound and language work with vibrant identities.

My wife is the Devil!

tap.rain metal reverb.lost boy daddy-o.
kiefer/brandon/russell raise wax stained
glasses to my branded breath.tap. did
someone say brandy?don’t mind if i do.
tap.you heardme.in part-pantheon
homage to the wettest element.tap.in
boldest broad daylight.my echo runs
12 feet deep.tap.a slash could make
this city toxic.dix-huit soixante-quatre.
tease my tongue i’ll scratch your skin.

Note the distinct and precise notation, recalling early Bill Griffiths, and the unencumbered fluidity of this poem.

Her musical sense is gritty and sparkles with variant female figures, identities pouring forth in splendour to arrest and beguile the imagination. She has a strong sense of the value of Liverpool’s women over time, her heritage, political warriors and goddesses, and speaks from a space of pride and indignation. Her work inspires, has presence and force. Her poems matter and resonate in their intensity.

tap.the sandstone blast sets off my eyes.
cyan circle matches my lips.tap.it’s winter
but you wear a spring dress with heels.I
stroke at the walls while you wait
on barbed wire.

I can’t wait to welcome Sarah Crewe to our Festival.

David Caddy 7th October 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)

 

SURVIVE

 

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: editors@litmuspublishing.co.uk

or

www.litmuspublishing.co.uk

 

Ian Brinton 4th June 2014.

 

British Women’s Experimental Poetry

British Women’s Experimental Poetry

 

Women’s Experimental Poetry in Britain 1970-2010: body, time & locale

by David Kennedy and Christine Kennedy,

Liverpool University Press.

The opening chapter to this important book makes no compromises and takes no hostages: ‘There is, then, a large body of women’s experimental poetry in Britain that has never received its critical due and continues not to, with the result that it is forever in danger of being forgotten or overlooked.’ Very appropriately this statement is followed by a quotation from that splendid survey of new British poetries which Robert Hampson and Peter Barry edited for Manchester University Press in 1993 with its subtitle ‘The scope of the possible’.

This whole book is a serious survey of what needs to be more widely read and the poets looked at range from Veronica Forrest-Thomson and Wendy Mulford (both with their Cambridge connections from the early 1970s with the publication of Language-Games in 1971 whilst working on modern literature at Girton College and the founding of Street Editions in 1972)

to

Geraldine Monk’s ‘recognition of common humanity, emotional geography, other selves and historical echoes’ which ‘are crucial to the book-length sequence Interregnum.

to

Denise Riley’s related questions concerning how the self is to be given language and the provenance of the words used. In this chapter Clair Wills is quoted as suggesting that the Reality Street publication Mop Mop Georgette is ‘an extended meditation on what is inside and outside the self, and the purpose of lyric.’

to

Maggie O’Sullivan’s reading of ‘To Our Own Day’ which left Charles Bernstein with the experience of each listening bringing ‘something new, something unfamiliar’ and wondering at how ‘such a short verbal utterance could be so acoustically saturated in performance.’

to

Caroline Bergvall, Elizabeth Bletsoe, Andrea Brady, Jennifer Cooke, Emily Critchley, Elizabeth James, Helen Macdonald, Anna Mendelsshon, Marianne Morris, Redell Olsen, Frances Presley, Sophie Robinson, Harriet Tarlo, Carol Watts.

This is an expensive book (£70) but I gather that it is to be reissued as an e-book. In the meantime badger your library to get hold of a copy; I promise that you will not regret reading this remarkably clear account of what has needed to be pulled together for far too long. To refer back to the beginning and to Veronica Forrest-Thomson it seems quite appropriate to quote from J.H. Prynne’s words placed at the end of the Street Editions 1976 publication of On The Periphery: ‘With great brilliance and courage she set fear against irony and intelligible feeling against the formal irony of its literary anticipations.’

Ian Brinton January 2nd 2014

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out! It is available from https://tearsinthefence.com/pay-it-forward/ and features poetry and fiction by Sean Street, Elizabeth Welsh, Lou Wilford, Pansy Maurer-Alvarez, Ben Hickman, Karoline von Günderrode, Lori Jakiela, Paul Kareem Tayyar, Rosie Jackson, Isobel Armstrong, Steven Earnshaw, Sarah Miller, Paul Matthews, Alexandra Sashe, Susmita Bhattacharya, Claire Crowther, Alistair Noon, Mélisande Fitzsimons, Gerard Greenway, Adam Fieled, Jennifer Compton, Alison Lock, Kevin McCann, Dorothy Lehane, Andrew Shelley, Melinda Lovell, Peter Robinson, Tess Joyce, Tim Allen, Jaime Robles, Noel King,  Geraldine Clarkson, Gavin Selerie, Steve Spence, Eleanor Perry and many others.

 

The critical section includes selections from Letters From Andrew Crozier to Ian Brinton, Andrew Duncan on Fiona Sampson’s Beyond The Lyric, Chrissy Williams on Chris McCabe, Michael Grant On Writing, Laurie Duggan on Geraldine Monk’s Cusp, Jeremy Hilton on David Caddy, John Welch, Robert Hampson on Ben Hickman, Sheila Hamilton on Melissa Lee-Houghton, Lindsey Holland, Frances Spurrier on The Best of British Poetry, Mandy Pannett on Rocco Scotellaro, Ian Brinton on Donald Davie, Jay Ramsay on Norman Jope, Pauline Stainer, Michael Grant on Anthony Barnett, Ric Hool on Mario Petrucci, Richard Humphreys on Clive Wilmer, Ben Hickman on Wide Range Chapbooks, and regular columnists David Caddy, Rosie Jackson, Anthony Barnett and Ian Brinton.

 

 

 

 

On the Cusp of Shearsman

Shearsman has recently published a wonderful book of reminiscences, autobiographical fragments and sheer feats of memory:

 

CUSP: recollections of poetry in transition

 

The Preface by the book’s editor, Geraldine Monk, sets the appetising tone:

This book is probably best described as a collective autobiography. With few exceptions the contributing poets write about their origins and influences and how they became involved in poetry. My main objective is to present the spirit of a brief era which, in retrospect, was exceptional in its momentum towards the democratisation and dissemination of poetry. The era or “cusp” I’m concentrating on is between World War II and the advent of the World Wide Web. Already extraordinary in its social, political and cultural upheaval, it seems even more heightened when set against the technological transformation which has since been unleashed.

 

The series of short pieces, each 8-10 pages long, by writers who were on the front-line of the small-press-magazine-poetry reading world around the country is simply a delight to read. It is a narrative of a world where there was a shared sense of excitement and bravado and its underlying thrust is always that ‘Poetry Matters’. Contributors range from Jim Burns and Peter Riley to Chris Torrance and Kris Hemensley; from Tony Baker and Peter Finch to Paul Buck and Nick Johnson. And more and so many more: Roy Fisher, Hannah Neate, Gillian Whiteley, Connie Pickard, Tom Pickard, John Freeman, Peter Hodgkiss, Alan Halsey & David Annwn, Fred Beake, Glenda George, John Seed, Tilla Brading, Tim Allen, Chris McCabe, Frances Presley, Ian Davidson, Anthony Mellors and, of course, the book’s editor Geraldine Monk.

 

Laurie Duggan will be reviewing this book in issue 57 of Tears in the Fence

 

And a new arrival from Oystercatcher: Peter Hughes’s excellent renderings of Petrach, Regulation Cascade. Twenty poems are presented in that familiar Oystercatcher style: attractively imaginative cover holding in 20 pages of clear white paper on which the poems sit firmly-framed in white space. As the first poem suggests, idea becomes object becomes love becomes laurel tree becomes thought becomes

POEM

 

Peter Hughes’s Selected Poems will be published by Shearsman next year, together with a volume of responses to his work, edited by Ian Brinton

%d bloggers like this: