Thursday 31 July 2008

Nine Arches Press presents Shindig! @ Kozi Bar, Warwick

On Tuesday August 19th 2008, Nine Arches Press presents:


Doors open 7.30pm

Kozi Bar, Market Place, Warwick.

Come celebrate the launch of our first issue of Under the Radar with poets, wine and song.

Special guest poets:

Jane Holland - Warwick's very own poet laureate

Simon Turner - Leamington based new modernist poet

Matt Nunn - Birmingham's finest poetic export

Join us for the first ever Shindig! event in Warwickshire - a new kind of poetry event, a veritable feast of music and the spoken word. Gists and Piths hopes to see you all there.

Monday 28 July 2008

'SCHMIG' - Two Poems by Chris McCabe


Genuinely peculiar or just trying to be?

Dial 3 for genuine


lardon : pig erection


so what’s the closest thing
to the sea, to happen,
between any of us?


Put the stones in the empty rose bottle to do the Bez-maracas shake. This is what happens when you hit 30 you said : just throw it away. Look : the dry stones stick in the still-wet neck. Recycles Box – just place it there – to take it where the glass breaks back. Can the stones be made again? The wine inside & the air in my hair felt nice. Just freaky-dance I said, to the woman of 26. Don’t be such a miserable cow



memory loss
(or do you prefer
the one
about Memory Loss?)


correct use of language is about context : you would never call a man who had murdered a woman a ‘ladykiller’. yet the definition is accurate & in some way deferential to the victim –

police said they were looking for a ladykiller aged between 35 & 40


They tried to market the other side of the river as ‘northbank’ but that’s how people already knew it, due to the absence of what makes the south appealing. And you can’t market absence


Poseuring for photos inflates the sense of self until you don’t recognise your own image. Then you eat porridge.


(work okay today
quite quiet)
(get stuff done)


Shovel-loads of horseshit across the film set. Who would want to act across that? Just loads of it. Shitloads.


The quartz fly landed on the ESCAPE key. Made my teeth CAPS grit. Knee joints LOCK. Made me sick. Viscerals SHIFT.


so what’s the closest thing
under one roof, to the sea,
to these two
who love like this

Free Gift

Before bed she said : Have you seen the slug?
I answered : I’ve already flossed. If I had not
misheard I would have offered to remove it.

The morning brought a red teapot of hope in the post.
Its aroused spout stuck out of the bubblewrap.
If a teapot could be sexual, if a teapot could be socialist.

We thought a baby was either hungry or happy
but inbetween he made a noise called SCHMIG
like a jester preparing a gig for the King of Tourettes.

We had to teach him that moral dilemmas
dreg the spontaneous & here was a case exercise:
I’d lost a nail in the cornflakes trying to scoop the free gift –

I’ve found the plastic prize, but should we tell anyone?

Chris McCabe published his first book, The Hutton Inquiry (Salt) in 2005. A book called Zeppelins (Salt) is out now in hardback and a pamphlet of ludic elegies called The Borrowed Notebook (Landfill) will be published later this year.

Sunday 20 July 2008

The Last Thing the Old Man Heard was...

...the unoriginal blathering of an idiot on the radio.

I just caught the last few lines of a radio play, in which a woman narrated, "The last thing she heard was the [somethingunoriginal] mute as a stone [more unoriginality]." The construction itself is a cliché, but to add cliché to cliché and then give this a prime, 6-7pm slot on BBC Radio 4 is the epitome of cultural stagnation, if you ask me.

So in tribute, I am proud to unveil the latest slightly pop, designed-to-annoy-Simon's-delicate-experimental-sensibilities, surrealistic game: "The [Last] [Thing] [the [Old] Man] [Heard] was [...]"

Based on Exquisite Corpse, the rules are simple: replace the relevant parts of the sentence to come up with the most satisfying response to the BBC's utter lack of inspiration or adventure.


"The last thing the BBC Radio 4 Production Controller felt was the rusty halberd slipping between his buttocks."

"The only thing the reformed Al Qaeda Terrorist could think of to do was lapse by dropping a bomb full of Charlie Brookers on the BBC's Shepherd's Bush HQ."

"The first time George Ttoouli read Louis Macneice's The Dark Tower was like dropping contemporary BBC radio programming into a bucket of Pam Ayers' piss."


Thursday 17 July 2008

Statements of Intent (3) - Gloria Dawson: "White Asparagus in Vladivostok"

What a lot of people use language for seems to me absurd. There are two things to do with this absurdity - joy in it, or try to transcend it. I oscillate (and oscillation is often a good way to describe what I am doing and being) between the two. I have written for a long time without much knowing what I was doing (I am typing this in the dark, nearly). Poets who have rocked my world: Clare, Stevens, Grahams Jorie and W.S. John Kinsella. One can't make totems out of any of them and I try to avoid worship. Everything is a potential idol - and one should allow a transient gaze to settle occasionally.

A poet is someone with a bad sense of timing.

Thursday 3 July 2008

George Ttoouli Has Visions

Visions of the City II @ The Bishopsgate Institute, London, 3/7/08

Given Chris McCabe's prevalence, I finally found him reading at an event in a place beyond the immanent. Visions of the City II featured Hannah Silva, Tom Chivers (resident poet @ the Bishopsgate Institute and host), Chris McCabe and Iain Sinclair, reading in that order. To get it out of the way, and because I couldn't ignore it, the space was absolutely wonderful and the event beautifully timed and designed.

But being a mug, I turned up fifteen minutes late and missed Hannah Silva. My experience of the evening was therefore of the three men only; i.e. that of a testosterone-fuelled harnessing of London’s feminised territory to a marauding male aesthetic. (Allegedly.) No doubt it would have been peachier if I’d caught the full quartet, but that’s what I experienced, and that’s what you’ll have to settle for.*

The consistent thread between the three poets was that of recording experience and place simultaneously; and, as often happens with this kind of psychogeography**, a defamiliarisation-so-as-to-bring-you-closer-to-the-essence-of-the-place through the poet's language and imagery.

In a prose piece by Tom, Liverpool Street Station arrives flat-packed from, no doubt, the Ikea of Psychogeographopolis (early version here, the recent one was published as a poster-pull-out in the Edgeless Shape). Whereas the men in Chris’ London were as tall or short as their capitalist status allowed: his marxist-working-class-not-really-a-persona was dwarfed by bankers and policemen on packed out tube carriages.

Iain Sinclair was another consistent thread: the younger poets both name-checked him in epigrams and referenced him indirectly in their sets, and he danced like a crazy minstrel on their poetics. Formally for Tom this manifested in lists, catalogues, especially of road names. St Botolph's popped twice, once in Tom’s reading, once in Iain's.*** Chris read extracts from a blog project, The True History of the Working Class, which was akin to ripping off his shirt to show a tattoo of Iain Sinclair gurning on his chest. But funnier.

All three tapped into comedy at some point in their readings - Tom's sardonic wit created a sense of a London which was always out to crap on his shoulder and Iain delivered jovial rubrics inbetween his creative pieces. The funniest moment of the event was an accidental spoonerism: Iain's "city shoals"**** inverted to a, "though true, inappropriate description."

The reason I’ve highlighted the comic element is because of a vibe I started getting at some point during Iain’s (wonderful) final set. The poet-archivist's role, or the psychogeographer's role, seems to veer into a dry territory very easily. Maybe it’s because it's heavy work, this kind of poetry, at heart, even though the selection seemed pitched digestibly in terms of length and sampling. There’s a need to throw in some light relief at some point.

Is it the pressure on the wordsmith to 'do justice to' the subject, that demands an urgent, serious tone, first of all, which the poet then has to deviate from? I’m not sure. Glancing back at early practitioners, poets like Edward Carpenter, for example, or perhaps Walt Whitman to some extent, there’s a need to take oneself seriously, else the grandness of the vision might just fall apart into a randomised list. So the poet has to keep the tone strong and hypnotic, urgent and serious, else the importance of the individual’s experience of a place might not be believed, or held up to the light for scrutiny.

Or is it just me? I can't say I have the lineage, of who begat [...] who begat Sinclair who begat Chivers and McCabe. There must be some funny psychogeographical poems about, ones that stress the irreverent above all. The love-hate relationship between a poet and place, but delivered on the scale and with the grandness of vision that Iain has for East London. That, I think, is what set his work apart on the night: that he turns his subject to the light, again and again, and never finds his responses exhausted by the examination. That, too is what set him apart from the younger generation – stamina, or perhaps simply more time to write. But that’s another discussion.

Incidentally, Iain’s final gobbet was telling on this subject. While browsing the shelves of the fantastic collection at the Bishopsgate before his reading, he stumbled across a book called Death Dictionary: Over 5,500 Clinical, Legal, Literary and Vernacular Terms. The brief encounter and extract he read sealed the night beautifully, but he had turned away from his own work.

Tom Chivers runs penned in the margins and has a blog, thisisyogic.

Chris McCabe has a previous collection from Salt, The Hutton Inquiry.

Iain Sinclair name-checked his latest manuscript/work in progress, which is almost finished, but all I caught of the title were the words 'blood' and 'Hackney'. It's a kind of memoir spanning forty years of his life there. There's also The Verbals, Iain Sinclair in conversation with Kevin Jackson (Worple Press, 2003).

* If Hannah Silva reads this and decides she wants to set the index card straight, she’s welcome to send some poems, a complaint, verbal abuse, or ASCII flowers.

** Yeah, why am I so uncomfortable about calling their poetry psychogeography, straight up? Maybe because it’s one of those terms that seems to have been downloaded to do a box-job on a kind of poetry that relies on open field’s legacy more than the closed-shop analyses of, say Ruth Padel’s poetry, or Sean O’Brien’s, or [insert endless list of mainstream poetry].

*** As a North Londoner, the East Londoner emphasis to the night all kind of washed over me. It may as well have been Timbuktu, or Swindon. Don't get me wrong, my dad grew up in Dagenham and I still have family down there, but everything was boarded up last time I went, even the sewers. (OK, I made that up.)

**** Do I really have to spell it out for you? Try saying it quickly ten times, after a large tumbler of London Dry Gin. You’ll see.

P.S. I am considering a follow up post to this: Compilation of New Terms for Death. Possibly if we get enough suggestions on email, I'll start it. Possibly though, the idea needs to be terminated.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Sean Rafferty @ Intercapillary Space

Intercapillary Space is currently hosting a symposium/revue on the work of Sean Rafferty, edited by Alistair Noon. Click here to check it out: it features contributions from, among others, Kelvin Corcoran, Peter Riley and Edmund Hardy, whilst Mr Noon himself contributes an interesting article reading Rafferty in relation to the work of WS Graham and Basil Bunting.