Sunday, June 09, 2013
Friday, March 22, 2013
Thursday, November 15, 2012
PEACE AND PURITY IT IS NOT AS BALANCED AS A YOUNG DEATH I THINK LIFE AND PHILOSOPHERS ALL HAVE CONFLICTS IN THEM YOU CAN GO BACK I AM SAYING IF I FALL IN LOVE IN MY FORTIES IT WON'T BE THE SAME YOU CAN GO BACK YOU CANNOT REPEAT HE HAD THIS VERY STRONG MORALISING VOICE WHAT ARE HIS REASONS FOR THINKING IS THIS EPICUREAN THIS REPUTATION POSSIBILITIES FORM THE CONTENT OF THE FUTURE
Friday, November 02, 2012
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
1. We hold that you are all at least as interesting as sunflower seeds.
2. Yesterday I was shown the most beautiful thing: a perfect diamond formed of tiny, clear eggs in on a parsley leaf.
Monday, September 03, 2012
you will swim and I am going to read
that hard man Thomas Hobbes
on the causes of the English civil wars.
There are no women in his world,
Hobbes, brothers fighting brothers
I try to write my class again (I’ll only finish when you sit beside me, looking at my notes, coaxing it out of me) and then I give up and I leave for work too.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Saturday, August 04, 2012
Saturday August 11th 2012
New Work by Amelia Barratt
Certain Works in Paradise by Andrew Hardwidge and Olivia Fairweather
Please email olivia @ magnetickidliv . com for further details
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
I have been navigating a desire to convert my deferred tax assets into Tier 1 capital as is the current European trend (My Tier 1 reserves: a drawer of polished cutlery, a bank of emollients, Eric Catona’s interest in France's chronic housing shortage, long hair, being in a position to look upon the regal intensity of Mark's puffer jacket).
Friday, February 17, 2012
A secret reading list: Memories of the Secret, Berry's The Following Remarks Are Confidential, On The Name, Kilalea's Hennecker's Ditch.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 02, 2011
Atishoo, atishoo, atishoo. A month of exquisite women: grey raw silk, black leather, gold jewellery. Meanwhile, all my men nurse a magnificent crush on the foreign workforce next door. Fetish tool objects left, right and centre. Along the sea path, Luljeta says, no one told me the young British were so beautiful and then she turns to Gery the next evening, stopping mid sentence to say only, you have Balkan eyes. Exactly what happens when presented with a challenge: write about something tonight or else. Your dark hair is haphazardly draped in a towel when you say, plaintively, tell me how women wrap their hair up in turbans. It’s a secret mothers pass to their daughters, isn’t it? Do I look exotic? You’re making me think of the Dutch masters and marriages of convenience in that outfit. I guess my only real aim anymore is to be so conveniently yours that it would be inconvenient for you to love anyone else. Atishoo, atishoo, atishoo. And all with eyelids coloured by a fresh pink rash, thinking about devastating women and researching all possible bestiaries, mine, Morgenstern’s or otherwise.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
An ordinary thing at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival: you will be blindsided by a poem of formidable beauty whilst you wait for something else to occur. Two moments like this last year, both left me close to tears. The first: Don Patterson’s close reading of Frost’s West Running Brook, the sequence of his analysis now forms part of set of easily accessible memories to which I return often when quiet and alone on trains in the morning or whilst tending to a flock of small white milk jugs in the pantry at work. The second: Marie Howe’s reading of After the Movie, which lead me to ravenously re-examine Wittgenstein. Of course, I was very excited by Campbell’s reading and it was nothing but a pleasure to hear Fergus Allen’s poetry and my beautiful friends were with me. But last weekend I was really waiting to hear Hass’ lecture on Czesław Miłosz and then really just waiting for his reading on the Sunday evening. I could barely sit still through Maurice Riordan’s elegant poetry: waiting at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is magnificent. But then two readings caught me by surprise and I am all the happier for having heard them. The first was Oliver Reynolds on Friday night. The second was Emily Berry on Saturday afternoon. Emily Berry later. Oliver Reynolds this evening.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Minerva, goddess of weavers,
Had heard too much of Arachne.
She had heard
That the weaving of Arachne
Equalled her own, or surpassed it.
Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid, (London : Faber, 1997).
Christian Campbell’s class was held on Friday 4th November at 2pm in the Gallery of the Aldeburgh Cinema. There were about 10 of us in attendance. A couple of ex-librarians, a social worker, a retired primary school teacher, etc. Campbell opened the class requesting a working definition: what is envy? Robert Seatter, a Poetry Trust trustee and poet, ventures that envy is ‘curdled desire’. This seems to suggest that envy’s psychoanalytic structure might mirror desire’s own metonymic (substituting the part for the whole) design. Thus envy’s progression seems to issue from our own perceived lack (a missing quality or object) which we then observe in the possession of another. This missing quality or object comes to designate access to a larger or more comprehensive position of power. Kate Miller, a poet and graduate of Goldsmiths University London, says that she finds envy inspiring, that it moves her to action. There is some discussion of this: is envy a stimulus or is it paralysing? Campbell’s thesis is that envy is extremely productive and that poets are inherently envious of the power invested in aesthetics and registers beyond the poetic or even the linguistic.
He therefore advocates the appropriation of form (the style or structure generally) and register (the variation or part of language governed by the level of formality, the selected vocabulary, the weft and warp of the syntax and the speaker’s civil standing or relative position of power) as a ‘productive’ solution to envy’s grip on the poetic sensibility. The class is given a copy of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Discourse on the logic of language which we read (as a chorus) and discuss. Here is M. NourbeSe Philip reading Discourse on the logic of language at Words Aloud 7 Spoken Word Festival in Durham, Ontario, Canada, November 2010. As Maria Helena Lima writes, '"Discourse.." [is] a poem that although sculpted out of the colonial experience -- exploitation of peoples, destruction of mother tongues -- manages to reconfigure poetic conventions to do away with notions of objectivity and universality....Like the women represented in this poem, writer Marlene NourbeSe Philip discovered that she could not challenge the history without challenging the language she has inherited, and ultimately "without challenging the canon that surrounded the poetic genre."'
Following a discussion of the various registers employed in the poem’s composition (the poem is part creation myth, part incantation, part pseudo-science/institutional nonsense, part cultural artifact, part edict, part multiple choice examination), Campbell asks each of us to construct a poem in the form of an essay question. This technique is used in his own poem Sidney Poitier Studies.
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL
General Certificate in Education
Ordinary Level Studies
Section A (100 Marks)
Choose the option that best describes Sir Sidney Poitier.
(a) A barefoot Bahamian boy of so-they-say Haitian
blood who grow up pickin tomato on Cat Island.
(b) The perfect black man and the rightful heir
to the Kingdom of Negrolandia.
Christian Campbell, Running the Dusk, (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press Ltd, 2010)
And so the poem continues. Campbell’s own manipulation of register traps the reader in a rhetorical web, forcing answers in the completion of the reading. NourbeSe Philip’s use of the multiple choice question in her poem is particularly interesting (not only because it is the form Campbell uses in his own poetry) but because here, the form performs Spivak’s problem of the speaking subaltern. What happens when the only language available is the language of the oppressor? When all possible answers are given, pre-articulated? As Kate Miller suggested, the multiple choice is a closed circuit. In the poem’s articulated context of imperial brutality, its absurd trap is inescapable and horrific.
After a few of the group read their new poems to the class, Campbell presents us with a second text and from this we construct a second set of poems:
As I try in vain to write my own poem (‘My Government of the Tongue's legislative programme will be based upon the principles of fine grooming, extreme laziness and luxury. The first priority is a good cocktail for breakfast…. etc’), it becomes increasingly clear that inexperienced appropriation of certain registers is a quick route to gimmickry.
As previously mentioned, Campbell’s primary thesis is that a poet should be envious of the ‘natural power’ residing in other art forms or sign systems. Such invidiousness should lead the poet to seek to recreate that power within the confines of their own composition by appropriating forms and registers that act as metonyms for a larger power discourse. This reproduction and subsequent manipulation of form mimics the mechanism of a drag act. In aesthetic terms however, this is a fundamentally ekphrastic movement. In fact, Campbell reads envy as an inherent function of ekphrasis, extending the desire to appropriate forms beyond the visual realm. Such a thesis leads Campbell to proclaim that you will find poetry in tapestry and such like.
A literal reading of this statement (‘you will find poetry in tapestry’) provokes an irrational feeling within me of almost absolute boredom. This declaration tells me nothing of poetry. It tells me very little of tapestry. Despite myself, I remember a similar feeling of irritation is provoked when a critic indulges in a profoundly comparative structure of evaluation rather than broach the detail of poetic composition. For example, how many times will it be written that Racinian poetry is like classical architecture? What does this tell me of the linguistic manifestation of Phèdre’s lust or the metrics designing Bérénice’s devastation? What on earth does this tell me of the Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena? It tells me that we are often adept at noting likeness and little more. Envy is, in fact, a manifestation of the proclivity for the comparative appraisal of one’s own condition.
So ‘You will find poetry in tapestry’ announces Christian Campbell and this produces no envy for his eloquence or insight. Yet what follows in the class’s aftermath is nothing short of exceptional: Campbell’s study of comparison itself and his pedagogical construction are defiantly elegant and tenaciously subtle. And it’s only when reading the class as a poem (indulging my own metaphoric evaluation process) that the workshop’s multifaceted comment on the hierarchy of canons and registers becomes a truly significant reading. As such the metonymic reading of the statement ‘you will find poetry in tapestry’ is extremely rich. The sentence holds the fragmented image of an idea that governs my reading of the class as a whole, pointing to a much larger exchange on discourse.
Campbell’s decision to comment on the poetics of tapestry was not arbitrary, nor was it hasty. Campbell mentions that Discourse on the logic of language is taken from M. NourbeSe Philip’s book, titled She tries her tongue, her silence softly breaks. The work won the Casa de Las Americas prize in 1988. Its title is taken from the first book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the Syrinx, the chaste nymph, escapes Pan’s attempted rape and is transformed into silent, whispering reeds at the river’s edge. Part of the ideological impact of Discourse… hinges on decisions the reader will make regarding whether to privilege one discourse over another during the reading. Competition between varying discourses and art forms is central to a pivotal moment of envy and ekphrasis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Here is Ted Hughes again:
‘Arachne was humbly born. Her father
Laboured as a dyer
Of Phocaean purple. Her mother
Had been humbly born. But Arachne
Was a prodigy. All Lydia marvelled at her.
The nymphs came down from the vines of Tmolus
As butterflies to a garden, to flock stunned
Around what flowered out of the warp and weft
Under her fingers.
Likewise the naiads of Pactolus
Left sands of washed gold
To dazzle their wonder afresh
On her latest. They swooned at all she did.
Not only as it lay done, but as each inch crept
From under her touches.
A grace like Minerva’s, unearthly,
Moved her hands whether she bundled the fleeces
Or teased out the wool, like cirrus,
Or spun the yarn, or finally
Conjured her images into their places.
Surely, only Minerva could have taught her!
Laughed at the suggestion
Her sole instructor, she claimed, was her inborn skill.’
Indirectly Campbell has posited the Arachne (mortal born) and Minerva (goddess of poetry, craft, wisdom…etc) episode as an allegory for subaltern/imperialist power play. To be extremely schematic about it: here is Minerva as the classical cannon, Arachne as the subaltern literature. It should be qualified briefly that this is by no means the governing theme of the class, just one of the many by-products subsequent to rethinking class discussions and Campbell’s own direction. The emphasis on the role of envy in the allegory falls on its transformative production, rather than which agent (in this case Minerva) is envious of the other’s skill or art.
As the class closes Campbell is insistent that envy culminates productively in translation and transformation. That is to say that a poet translates essential forms in the world itself into poetry. True to the circular nature of Campbell’s incredible pedagogy, the envious climax of metaphoric translation finds its counterpart in the Metamorphoses. Minerva’s envy of Arachne’s perfection of form leads her to transform the mortal into a spider.
As Dryden writes,
This the bright Goddess passionately mov'd,
With envy saw, yet inwardly approv'd.
The scene of heav'nly guilt with haste she tore,
Nor longer the affront with patience bore;
A boxen shuttle in her hand she took,
And more than once Arachne's forehead struck.
Th' unhappy maid, impatient of the wrong,
Down from a beam her injur'd person hung;
When Pallas, pitying her wretched state,
At once prevented, and pronounc'd her fate:
Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cry'd,
Doom'd in suspence for ever to be ty'd;
That all your race, to utmost date of time,
May feel the vengeance, and detest the crime.
Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice,
Which leaves of baneful aconite produce.
Touch'd with the pois'nous drug, her flowing hair
Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare;
Her usual features vanish'd from their place,
Her body lessen'd all, but most her face.
Her slender fingers, hanging on each side
With many joynts, the use of legs supply'd:
A spider's bag the rest, from which she gives
A thread, and still by constant weaving lives.
Ovid, Metamorphoses translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al.
In the coming days I will continue to look at transformation in Campbell’s own work, Running the Dusk. His reading at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival took place on at 8pm Friday 4th November in the Jubilee Hall.
Still to come: Emily Berry’s Stingray Fevers and the new voices, the poetics of the 21st century, Hass on Miłosz and everything else.
Fiona Moore and Charles Boyle are also writing about the festival. Their posts are, as expected, erudite and excellent.
Thank you, Haydn. You are very wonderful.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Before writing here in the days to come of Christian Campbell’s Aesthetics of Envy, Oliver Reynolds’ Old Usher, Emily Berry’s Stingray Fevers and everything else, just this:
When I misheard a phrase of Hass’ Czesław Miłosz: In Memoriam, I wrote ‘O! a heartbreath of wonder and surprise’ for his written
For a while this evening, I didn’t care one bit that ‘Poetry/proposes no solutions’. As Hass tied up his last poem, along the line beside me I heard my friends draw an actual heartbreath (as such instinctive happiness, this manifests as just a longer gap in the animate beat). We are very happy and we are very tired tonight. Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2011 - ‘O! for sure’.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
‘As though a spirit or group of entrained spirits come out of the river over me leering from the blunt hilltop I see…’
‘As though’ and so not quite. Not quite but almost. Hallucination’s quiet insufficiency is furtive. ‘The almost: love’s dreadful regime, but also the dream’s disappointing status-which is why I hate dreams.’ 2 I, on the other hand, love dreaming.
i. The poem’s first movement is from the almost, stuff of personal and banal fantasy, to a pure phantasmal mysticism: ‘spirits’. ‘As though’ imposes the limit – the limited transformation of the simile - that the subjunctive I wish, kissing cousin of the conditional, sees and longs to erase.
I read the poem twice. Or rather two momentary temporalities of mine read the poem once, part convulsive memory and part present reading self. Such a close fold of my internal time seems to mirror the almost’s symbiotic affair with the real. Just but not quite. At one moment I am standing next to Jensen in church. At another I read his poem in London. Such doubling of my time seems only to amount to a sadness I no longer really feel.
ii. Regarding the sadness I no longer really feel. I am preoccupied with Pascal again as I have been for years now. This was written once as an example of ardent and secular doxastic voluntarism though it is now only a statement of fact.
‘I see.’ This subject is still, contrary to ‘leering’ spirits. The subject is seeing and only seen by beings born of the subject himself. (The subject seen is the subject as object. But if you are seen by the fragile figments of your imagination are you a subject-object?). ‘As though’ and so not quite. The almost, this mutation of possibility, rouses your leering spirits.
‘…I see a vertical form within which as within a lightshaft are held dust particles distinct points in space & so in motion…’
A move from the ‘blunt hilltop’ and the river, my adored flat countryside, to the ‘vertical form’, this marks a step across the pencilled axes of a graph. Mirrored footfall from one register to another, from the spiritual to the geometrical, from ‘spirits’ to ‘vertical form’. The ‘lightshaft’ is still on the vertical axis but returns the reader to the transparent forms of the spirits.
‘I’ still hasn’t moved, my childhood countryside drawn around him, has its own agency, an agency I ascribe, as only I can for Jensen, to the secrets I know from a childhood running round these churches and rivers, a possessive passion that envelopes me when I am there and that exercises a cloying movement of belonging upon me. My family are buried in these Suffolk churchyards and sailed on these rivers. These spirits - such ghosts are born only of a desire to be protected by a childhood countryside, by a countryside that will, infuriatingly, exercise no agency of its own.
1 Notes for Curtis written in May 2010. Revised as preparatory exercises for ‘Certain Works’, a play co-written with Andrew Hardwidge and performed at the Bonnie Bird Theatre Laban, June 29th 2011. Curtis Jensen’s poem Aldeburgh can be found in its entirety here.
2 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, (London: Vintage, 2000), p. 66.
‘Le presque : régime atroce de l’amour, mais aussi statut du rêve – ce pour quoi je hais les rêves.’
Friday, October 21, 2011
In the coming weeks I will be writing about The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2011 (full programme available for download here) for the Poetry Trust. Primarily my focus will be the poetry of former US Poet Laureate (1995-97) Robert Hass, winner of the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2010 Christian Campbell, Helen Mort, Sam Riviere, Emily Berry and Hannah Lowe and the possibility of a poetics for the 21st century.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I have thought of someone for several days now, even dreamt the sort of dream that conjures, just for me, a new delirious proximity between the two of us. Dreaming aside, he is taller than I am. When we greet one another, we smile standing apart. There’s always a pause and then he steps forward so that I might lean up close to kiss him on the cheek. He brings his hand to my waist, brings me a little closer to him. This happens just out of everyone’s sight, around the corner by the door. Then I enter the office and he follows. I can feel his fingertips touching my winter coat. And if our hello is kept at a distance I’m unhappy until he has kissed me. For days then I try to keep the kiss with me, until that evening when I am given a new kiss to carry.
Such desire and excitement is formed of longing for a new dance. After that summer I left my underwater bedroom for a honeycomb bedroom (none of my furniture fitting against the slanted walls, such a difficult hexagon). My friends arrive with beautiful pot plants for the hall and another friend arrives for the evening with an arm full of flowers. At the kitchen table Andrew and I write of childhood gardens: buddleia, hollyhocks, nasturtiums. From my honeycomb in the roof, I have the perfect vantage point. I can see each wasp, each orchid and all of Olympic London’s cranes. Sometimes I count the cranes before I fall asleep. Other times I am content just to know that they are not innumerable.
Now watching the street from my hexagon, I say to myself, all I want is the approach, a little new dancing. I hear Marcel recounting, « Pardonnez-moi mon indiscrétion, mais vous avez un long fil blanc qui pend dans votre dos » - ‘Excuse my taking the liberty, but you have a long white thread hanging down your back’ and I say to myself again, I did miss the approach, I did, I did.
Old dances were held high above each of our cities, a thousand feet above everyone else. One summer held in your arms under the vines. Two beds pushed together in the spring. Arm in arm on the garden path. You knelt at the edge of the sea.
Now sometimes it seems that certain kisses fall somewhere between staking a claim and claiming what you consider to be already in your possession. I dreamt of a composite new person last night, formed of old precious matter and new excitement, equal parts water and pollen, something like honey, something like rain.
Best is when he is with someone in his office and he’ll wave and smile at me through the window when I arrive. So I’ll sit at my desk, check my email. Then I go in to see him later. He’ll stand and I’ll shut the door and then go close to kiss him on the cheek and to be kissed by him and now he puts both his hands on my hips and his kiss falls close to my mouth. And then we talk about work and he gossips and I leave.
Yet after longed for hours alone with him, contrived, ‘perhaps you could help me with some of the details’, a glass of wine or several, I grow bored and drunk as he talks. His hand is on my thigh now and I watch my dreamt, composite person unravel as he becomes only a man of his own making. It seems that my excitement hangs by Marcel’s imagined thread and in the end, this comes to nothing as such longing for my old life supersedes and replaces all other longing until it is all that there is.
But some things are inaccessible and that’s all you can say about them. There is still the same happiness and then perhaps there will be something else. In you walked, one summer night in Brasov and I saw the outline of someone I had adored long before in your long arms and legs. Now there will be something different. Something has grown besides the old precious matter, dreamt in the years between us, the two of us standing apart. Anna and I were dancing in the kitchen. There are pigeon insides all over my bedroom floor. A jam jar is held underwater. This then is my end set.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
2. Horseradish vodka, for the end of the evening in Brody and I declare I can match you drink for drink.
3. Cherry varenyky by Brighton Beach, fighting and sorry and in love and standing between strangers you catch my hand as we leave the sea and I return to my city.
We drink to the men and to the women, to a magnificent summer in the attic. And I drink to grace and silence, to your new love, to Andrew and George, to beautiful Yenifker and to you and I closed now in a heartjar.
August 6th 2011. George, Andrew, Jo, Rebecca, Mark.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
When we entered the bedroom, we found a winged (but unmiraculous) intruder there on the floor. It had flown through a windowpane. A bloody wingspan patterned the walls. Its red, wet feathers left pleated, folding lines on the bedclothes.
Anna thought its poor pigeon insides were translucent and pink like pomegranate seeds. I indulged in a little haruspicy and I can tell you that it was so beautiful to see my future in his entrails, so beautiful to see his tiny sacred heart.
Once in Paris, for a treasured summer evening, I watched you watching a pigeon there in our bedroom. I stayed at the door. Between myself, you and the pigeon, I watched as, for you, that pigeon divided. A moment of panic separation outstayed and endured: this pigeon became two and one of those became a dove pigeon and then just a dove. For a while both were as much pigeon as pigeon. Then one was at once the pigeon and at once the dove. Then just a pigeon. Then just a dove.
Now I am still longing to be separate as if for a panic moment, for the next, lost moment watching you watching yourself and the strange beauty of your ability to multiply and divide your folding, pleating pigeons. A heartjar. You hold them still. I only hold the old panic in my gloved fingertips. That’s all I do.
As we moved out, our landlord said, quite how on earth did you get red wine all over the walls, nearly to the ceiling. But what she took for wine was really blood and she watched us as we lent for the marks traced along the paint just beyond our reach.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Monday, April 04, 2011
There are women here in this house. There are women here and you never know when they are praying. They are all praying and you will never know it. Each one is praying. When she prays, she shames me. Her perfumes and her oils and her prayers shame me.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
By my bed in my summer bedroom I dress watching evening dust caught in my window. Green, silver and gold, I can see the sea world garden in the evening light on the other side of the glass, but here, thick with evening dust, the water of my bedroom holds a finer silt. In this light I can see sea worlds and precious sea constellations circling just to the door. A jam jar held underwater. All worlds are moving. Longing to contain and preserve desire. A sea creature cat joins me on my seabed and now I will finish dressing, leave and go out into the evening.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
And so each teardrop clings to a branch. The full branches grow heavy and then they turn silver. The tears fall first and then they rise from the tree. Their webbed wings are long and black.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sunday, August 08, 2010
We write one another lists. I am on the train early. Long tears roll down the window. My sleepless morning is dark and blue.