Thursday 31 December 2009

Nathan Thompson - One Poem

Possible Pieces for the New World Orchestra

Recently I have been making sketches – calculations in balance with the things we can choose to believe, red and plain as a crisp packet. I know that you appreciate company and trust, so please share this with me. Something must change. Transfers and postal orders can help us create it. I love you, more nakedly exposed than ever before.

everything in our power is
to choose to create it
this little room
filled with the scent of forgotten roses
ash tottering in a horizontal pile
and gone
                      can you tell the television is broken

30 August: I’m still waiting for your letter to tell me that what I’m doing is as freakishly beautiful as Frankenstein. Play your horn with a flute stuffed down it – a performance direction the equivalent of aural torture sex.

do you think they know you left me
as one ship crosses another in broad daylight
the furniture of our indifference

to hurt is to be a plant growing
                                                           evenings with Mahmood
for company      a sitar      that’s what I missed out

31 August: This should be cosmopolitan if it is to be truly all-encompassing and primeval. But the tax man has taken away the solitude of high piccolos and I shall have to rethink your cowbells in punk-style skiffle: washboards with an Irish accent, the hiss of missing teeth.

to continue      leaves are falling
whisky pains      suck this and
see if it blows      ideas birthing
later      spot the difference

how to incorporate everything
expression      criticism by all known
contemporary dead composers
into something coherent

I’ll need words      sonic
graphs in imaginary idioms
your language and mime
whatever’s in between
cheques and money orders payable

32 August: We’re in the future now. I imagine you dressed in a pink robot suit covering the essentials Zulu-style and I’m Michael Caine barking orders. It’s reasonable to feel you’re right when you’re dressed in red and your opponents have ‘incorrect weapons’. That’s how the hammer and sickle went wrong: ‘if you know where to shoot to find a heart and don’t mind...’

But something more visual is required to give this meaning. Here’s a picture I drew yesterday:

[small pig on a high-wire eating an Iraqi communist]

it isn’t easy      these lines
become the unstable nature of autopsy
Slinger: the horse is bolted
Hemingway: the hell it is

this is America for beginners
wild and cold as Alaska (is that really... I’m just not sure)
burning borealis separated
by an entire country or ocean

‘more tea?      the global economy may collapse but...’
what ‘s left      China aspires
and we’re living the dream      ISBN tenderness
to ease the joints      patterns we construct

In our musical instruments the world is richer, subtler, more complex than we imagine. White noise can’t be found. We hear portions, weights, textures and colours but ultimately we construct beyond our control. After all this, I hope you enjoy the string duet. We can surrender but what choice do we have.

Nathan Thompson is published by Shearsman, with pamphlets forthcoming from Oystercatcher and Skald.


Tuesday 29 December 2009

Peter Gillies & Rupert Loydell - Bill Viola

Bill Viola is not your Friend

I never thought I'd get the point
of performance art and film.
White walls made for paintings
are not cinema or tv screens
but this projected light brings tears.

Bill Viola is not your friend.
He's too busy filming life and death,
pouring water over the camera
and working out how silence sounds,
how still moving images can be.

I never thought I'd get the point
of watching videos in the dark
or tolerate reality recycled.
How long should we sit here waiting
for the creep of flesh onscreen?

Bill Viola is not your friend.
He's too intelligent and thoughtful,
explains his work too well.
Watch the man rise, catch breath
and fall; rise, catch breath, and fall.

"Being in a body we didn't own or know."

        © Rupert M Loydell

Bill Viola could be your Cousin

Pitch black at first. Not so low budget
as you might expect, better hold your breath
as his doomed giant lovers hold theirs.
One on each screen afloat,
they'll drown in all this slowed-down sincerity.

Bill Viola could be your cousin
and if you're convinced by his faith in video art
you will stand there like a pillar of salt,
seduced by his Old Testament gusto
and his play of underwater light.

Camera-shy or just a poor swimmer
he leaves his actors to fend for themselves.
They get to rise up from the waters of baptism
although some days, for sure, anything
could be preferable to water-logged transcendence.

Bill Viola could be your long lost cousin
with a film of your classmates in a High School stunt.
Now he says the ocean is a self without a shore
but when his weighty figures plunge down
does your neurotic fear of death truly disappear?

"By the time he felt comfortable enough to ask why,

he was in too deep."

        © Peter Gillies

3 of 3. There are more in the meatworld and in cyberspace; Stride has one, more expected at Shadowtrain, and there have been reports of the limited edition series showing up on people's doormats. Including one of the Editors' doormats.

Saturday 26 December 2009

Peter Gillies & Rupert Loydell - Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock is not your Friend

I know I shouldn't be thinking like this.
I mean it's all in the past and we've been
and moved on, but I find myself below glass
watching over and over the blur of a man
as black paint is flicked, poured and thrown.

Jackson Pollock is not your friend,
he works far too large for comfort,
makes too much mess in the lounge
and leaves drips everywhere in the toilet.
(Light olive with spots of dull umber.)

I know I shouldn't be thinking like this.
New ideas are great but up on the wall
they can suddenly seem old. And I can't
help but think of the drunk, brutish painter,
his one-sided fights with poets and friends.

Jackson Pollock is not your friend.
He wouldn't want to be one anyway,
would rather turn the jukebox up and down
pints at the bar before bragging about
his ongoing battle with colour and form.

"The stars are brilliant tonight."

        © Rupert M Loydell

Jackson Pollock could be your Cousin

That's no accident when a can of enamel
is neatly perforated to drip evenly across
miles of canvas tacked to a studio floor.
Quick drying paint goes on easily: no room
left for hesitation, no need for one to hang about.

Jackson Pollock could be your cousin
who stares at you tormentedly so you
stare back at him quizzically.
Perhaps he'll sell you a cheap one
small enough to take home in your hands.

Despite his threats of doing this or that
he tries to stay with his signature style:
pouring red, lavender, pale blue and yellow
interlaced with loops and contours of black Duco,
highlighted with trickles and spatters of silver.

Jackson Pollock could be your difficult cousin
who likes to be gently affectionate one day
and outrageously cruel the next. He knows
how to sulk, how to throw himself in the Hudson
then swim off in yet another drunken rage.

"But you should be getting something for your trouble."

"Help yourself. I should've probably thrown 'em
                                                                  all away a long time ago."

        © Peter Gillies

2 of 3. We like these. If anyone would like to contribute their own collaborations along these lines, we'd love to take a look.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Peter Gillies & Rupert Loydell - Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon is not your Friend

I never think to read
the safety information provided.
If we crash, we crash;
we'll try to get out fast
with all our limbs intact.

Francis Bacon is not your friend.
He'd smudge your face and pin you
to the floor or bed, pull open
wounds to admire their beauty,
paint them purple, red.

I never think to read
what the critics said,
prefer to trust the horse's mouth.
If he said that's how he saw it
then that's just how it is.

Francis Bacon is not your friend
He knows how time smears flesh
and memory, how chance predicts
the future and that paint can tell you
everything you'll ever need to know.

"Words frozen in my broken mouth."

        © Rupert M Loydell

Francis Bacon could be your Cousin

How self-confident and charming
with his sado-masochistic hair
and gambling smile. So much flannel
with his jutting jaw, fudging
any slack signs of remorse.

Francis Bacon could be your cousin
down at the Gargoyle Club, introducing
you to his obnoxious friends who insist
on discussing your indiscreet walk,
your feeble fear of painful carousing.

Embarrassingly worked up, camped out even,
how can you remain impartial to such threats?
How riveted we all are
by a wildlife sportsman in pads
ripped and splattered into decay.

Francis Bacon could be your Soho cousin
on condition you admire his medical plates,
agree to wear the X-rated goggles,
sit on his couch and snarl for him,
pose as a primate-pope for a day.

"Try not to flinch at what comes popping up out of the gloom."

        © Peter Gillies

This is part of a series of (very) limited edition pamphlets produced by Rupert and Peter along the theme of art and artistic vision. 1 of 3.

Sunday 20 December 2009

John Tucker - Two Poems

Blackbird Fly

Shot 1: garden fence post.
Enter flying blackbird, lands
on post, sings octave of C, ascending:
‘don’t rape mi for so li-ttle dough’.
Flies off.

Shot 2: different garden, brick wall.
Enter flying blackbird. Lands on wall.
Sings octave of C, ascending:
‘don’t rape mi for so li-ttle dough.’
Flies off.

Shot 3: different garden. Bird-table.
Enter flying blackbird. Lands
on table. Sings octave of C, ascending
‘don’t rape mi for so li-ttle dough -
and when you do make sure it’s slow;
and now begins the Fractured Know’.
Flies off.

Shot 4: empty road. Enter hopping
blackbird, dishevelled, dragging
a sack of cash, unable to fly.
Shuffling down the road, black bird
has lost voice, sold song and soul.
Only sound now, prison chain-gang
drag of loot
in bag
on concrete pavements.

Diet Theory

Language speaks mankind. It’s full of fossils,
coins, corruptions, ossifications; dead metaphors
that the brain is built of; ghost-vowels, consonantal

masses; kaleidoscopes of colour; word-shades,
word-frequencies. It’s worth billions of pounds.
Words like soul, truth, consciousness, love,

infinity, they were sacrosanct to the Romantics;
but are they simply differences in sound
combined with homogenised differences in idea?

Words like taste, intelligence, class, time, take
them off the menu too, for vowels are our souls,
for language speaks mankind.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Joshua Jones - One Poem

The Girls Downstairs

When the girls downstairs come to take me away they’re often very nice about it. Apologies follow their high heels spiking me like big needles into small babies.

When I say take me away, that’s not exactly what I mean: they tie me down to the bed with locks of their hair (which they usually set on fire at the end to release me) before convincing me that this time is the time they’ll just set me free. They never do.

Occasionally it is mild – manipulation, humiliation, threatening to disembowel me. Other times it gets pretty violent. One of them once made a knuckle-duster of lightbulbs, switched it on – each bulb a different colour – and punched me repeatedly until I passed out, vowing as I awoke to leave this place, get a job and meet new people who read magazines and talk about current affairs.

One girl, though, there’s something sad about her. I can almost sense affection in her torture. I dream of the night she’ll come while the others are sleeping, her hair perfectly messy , like a beautiful girl you met the night before in some bar where the jukebox always plays the wrong song waking up in your bed and smoking the last cigarette from the crumpled pack she finds on the floor.

Anyway, she’ll come, frantic, telling me to follow. We’ll run through the building in search of a way out. At the top of a staircase dark as a well, I’ll stop, nervous; but she’ll just smile and take my hand, beckoning.

The problem, of course, with dreaming is that you wake up. The further we get down the stairs, the more everything fades – like a rubber erasing multiple layers of scribbles. And morning is a frame without a photograph.

The strangest thing is that in moments of extreme despair and loneliness, when I search for scars as if looking for phantom limbs, there’s nothing there. It’s like trying to piece together the exact narrative progression of a dream you had once, years ago, as a kid.

Monday 14 December 2009

Myra Connell - Two Poems


Such small buttons. Who’d have thought it?
And the chain so delicate, the cartoon keys,
so small for this tough woman with the skirt stretched straight
across her legs, the bloody tights, brick shoes.

The solid hips are right. The faded face.
I have effaced myself, she’d say, if so she spoke.
Rules are locked inside my chest and buttoned tight away
like breasts. What’s beneath the fabric

I refuse to know.

The vegetable vendor

“The vegetable vendor raised her face: she was my grandmother.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, p 75.

Raise your face
from the piles of aubergines,
the onions, garlic bulbs. Look up.

My grandmother the vegetable seller,
who sat by her table in the market
plaiting into ropes the long leaves of the onions,
looked up and in her eyes I saw
the dining table, six chairs,
the tall-boy, dresser, all in matching oak,
carved flowers, which went with her from her father’s
to her husband’s house.

She had not been born to selling fruit.
Someone was at fault.

Friday 11 December 2009

A Reviewer’s Manifesto

The more I review, the more I feel like there’s got to be a reason for it. Time and again I hear the argument that reviewing doesn’t serve a purpose in terms of sales; only a few exalted locations provide a sales boost, or so I’ve heard – the right places perhaps being the London Review of Books, or the Times Literary Supplement, or perhaps the New Yorker and similar penthouse suites of today’s shiny ivory skyscrapers.

Still we persist. “Poetry is the opposite of money,” says David Morley (although I’m inclined to spell that statement, ‘Poh-tree iz tha oppozit of bling”), so there seems little point in jacking in reviewing if poetry doesn’t generate much in the way of sales in the first place. It must be about something else.

What ‘else’ is this? The 'debate'? A belief in the discussion of literature serving a purpose that supports the literary life, engages readers in further, (better, perhaps?) ways with the world of books than other, existing channels do? The chance to broaden someone’s horizons about what they’ve not yet read, and what reading a particular book might do?

Or is this simply a matter of intellectual display, a chance to show off one’s own knowledge? I’ve heard that said once or twice, I can’t remember where exactly, but probably in relation to, primarily, academic discussions of literature. Critical studies often tend to encourage comparative readings that, when negative, lead people to discredit a reviewer’s opinions on the grounds that they’re simply flexing their literary muscles for their own benefit. In other words, the reviewer is scene to be failing in some way, not the book, or the author.

You could say this about some of AA Gill’s restaurant reviews. They often meander endlessly on about the reviewer’s personal life, barely mentioning the restaurant at the end, especially when the meal and/or atmosphere haven't managed to impress him. Taken as a form of eating diary, that’s an acceptable response, to me, but reviews should have a certain degree of functionality, and justification, beyond interest in the reviewer’s life as validated by their exalted position in the mainstream press.

Arguably, I’d not say the same about Charlie Brooker’s television reviews. ‘Screen Burn’, while as stylised, in its own way, as Gill’s writing, always serves to offer solid justifications for the reviewer’s opinions, when (as they mostly are) the reactions are negative. And there are more jokes.

Taking further that idea of the functionality of a review, what is its purpose? As Jeremy Treglown put it at an event in May 2008, on the art of reviewing, “Honesty is important for the sake of readers.” Yes, but what’s the purpose of being honest, if the industry only likes a good review, and tries to make a bad review reflect, as much as possible, on the reputation of the reviewer, not the book? Is it for 'the readers'? And who are they?

Treglown went on to say that the review’s audience needs to be clear; they’re written for readers, not for publishers, or the author (as Lionel Shriver once argued as being the only person, apart from the reviewer, to whom any review mattered). They’re not written for publishers, for their publicity departments. They’re not written for people who aren’t interested in books either. Why would someone read a book review, unless they wanted to enrich their experience of reading literature in general (i.e. they read reviews of books they haven’t yet read themselves) or of a text they’ve particularly enjoyed (i.e. after they’ve read a book, as an act of building connections with other readers and widening their knowledge of a book)?

So this takes me a little closer to defining the purpose of reviewing. A review should be written for readers; it should inform the reader of the qualities of a text, according to that reviewer’s understanding of the book; the reviewer should, therefore be able to bring something to their particular reading of the text that isn’t facile, or obvious, that most readers of the review would have been able to say for themselves.

There are many types of review reader, but let's break them into two: a reader who has already read a book, and one that hasn't. In the case of readers who haven’t yet read the book, it's relatively easy to write a review in a way that provides something the reader can't do themselves: plot summaries, sweeping statements, limited analysis.

This explains why publishers send advance copies out as much as six months before publication to mainstream outlets. The mainstream tries to capture zeitgeist, be ahead on what’s hot in the current world of cultural output. The editors of these newspapers are second-guessing what the public might be interested in; going a step further you could say it reduces book selections to what the majority of target audiences are expected to be interested in.

This strikes poetry off the map, in most cases, excepting all but a handful of household names whose positions are made so by recurrent features in newspapers; hence a self-fulfilling category. (And also explains why mainstream media tread and retread the same ground over and over, with barely a nod to the margins; a condescending presupposition that readers worth reaching are idiots who buy their reading lists wholesale from newspapers.)

I could take a little diversion here, down the route of poetry publishing: only a handful of UK poetry publishers send out advance copies. Sending review copies out after a book is published means readers who are already interested in a book can decide its qualities for themselves; reviewing a poetry book two years after its publication date means more work for the reviewer to justify their opinion. So poetry publishing generally tends to hamstring itself in the first instance by not allowing the mainstream media to treat it as part of a zeitgeist. A vicious circle of resource shortages could be blamed, but, then again, those that can, do, maintaining a status quo of very limited selective tastes at the forefront of the public consciousness. (Though the more I talk about this, the more I feel like I belong in a shack in the woods. Maybe Simon has a spare room in his hut.)

So, returning to the former point about readers who read reviews to enrich their understanding of a particular text; it assumes a degree of foreknowledge in the reader, a hunger for more information and therefore the review has to be a cut above the rest. It can’t simply trot out obvious ideas, reiterate a story’s plot points, key themes in the poetry. It has to make associations, contextualise the work, stylistically entertain.

In conservative outlets this manifests as enlisted ‘experts’ who dissect a book in the context of a writer’s oeuvre, relate it to the contemporary (mainstream) field and tradition, and make high-sounding, definitive statements about the work. Stylistic elements might include: practical criticisms; a generally impersonal voice - and what else? Name-dropping; the kind of syntactical structure designed to be quoted on future editions of the book jackets, or the cover of the author’s next title; anecdotes about the reviewer’s last encounter with the author at an awards ceremony.

Yes, I’m sneering. That kind of reviewing has failed poetry, and leads to alienation of the reader. The ‘expert’, or to go a step further into Edward Said’s ‘cult of the expert’ (shit, I’m name-dropping now, but it’s OK, this is an essay, not a review) is both a way of endorsing a review, but also a way of suggesting a reader is not up to the task of having a valid opinion themselves about a title. Leave ‘common readers’ to post their comments on Amazon. Name-dropping is the worst crime, designed to highlight the reviewer’s superior intellect for making the connections. More often than not, it establishes boundaries and cliques between readerships and poetry circles.

This is not to be anti-intellectual, or anti-academic. If anything, people who hold a somewhat primitive understanding of the term 'intellectual', or bandy the word 'elitism' around without a nod to the importance of specialism and expertise, are as guilty of exclusivity and clique-building as intellectual people who do the same. But enough digression.

I've had many a conversation with Simon about the notion of popular writing attempting to divorce itself from tradition, to appear the first in its trend. David Kennedy's recent review of Voice Recognition, at Stride Magazine puts it well (and is provides a good round up of the last fifty years of poetry anthology introductions): there's "a dismissal of the recent past and a hailing of the present as a site of changes, shifts, trends or emergent groupings". This implies that the poetry has emerged from nowhere, rather than, as Virginia Woolf once demonstrated, rejecting the recent past in favour of a slightly more distant past - a kind of cultural leap-frogging.

So name-dropping can be used well. Comparisons an author under review and literary forebears, or contemporary counterparts, which are both given depth and justified within the context of a review's functional purpose, have to be valid. By the quality of these associations you can create a measure for the value of a review.

Taking this point a step further, what I can’t see being a problem, is if reviews adopt the best qualities of reviews targeting both types of readers. There’s nothing more boring than a mainstream review of a fresh-off-the-printer book that simply tells you what you want to know in a dull, conventional style. Just as there’s nothing worse than a reviewer appraising a book from two years ago that tries to set off every intellectual firework in their repertoire, thus making the review more about the reviewer than the book.

Now a leap further: ultimately, what’s needed is a kind of anti-review, in the sense that it takes the traditional points of reference for mainstream reviewing and turns them on their heads, while assimilating all the best qualities behind those conventions. And there is a need for a manifesto to achieve these aims.

We at Gists & Piths aim to please, though I notice, perhaps for my own troubles with the art of reviewing, or perhaps simple lethargy (before Simon interjects with an editorial comment, I’ll do it myself: I’m a sloth) our last proper review came on August 30th and my own participation in a review here was on August 6th.

So, a Reviewer’s Manifesto, which I will try to live up to over the coming months, or as long as it holds relevance for me:

1. The audience for a review must be defined, according to readers past, present and future, of the book under review.

2. The review must be functional, once the reader is defined, in order to serve, honestly, the review’s readers. The ultimate aim is to allow the reader to decide for themselves whether the book might be of value to them, or increased value to them.

3. In order to decide the reviewer’s degree of honesty in holding their opinions, the reader must know the reviewer’s biases, past and present, and possibly even future, in relation to the book, the book’s author, and the writing of the review.

4. The review must avoid highbrowing the reader in a way that becomes exclusive. This does not mean second-guessing the reader’s intelligence in a condescending fashion. It means making sufficiently diverse and detailed comparative associations between the book’s qualities and metaphors, other books or authors, other art forms, social phenomena &c., that the reader will at least feel some of the review’s descriptions are engaging and comprehensible, even without knowledge of the subject being compared to.

5. To this end, metaphor, of the best poetic kind, is highly encouraged. Lists, or multiple descriptions of the same point also, though with the proviso of point 6.

6. The review must not waffle. There’s nothing worse than waffle in any kind of writing.

7. The review must incorporate elements from writing modes that are not adopted by traditional reviews in order to overcome the stagnating neutrality of mainstream reviewing and to attract readers with and without an existing awareness of a book to the review itself. These elements can include: stylistic adoptions, such as tabloid headlines, football chants, political speeches; genre adoptions, e.g poetics, detective novel, fairytale conventions; structural oddities, such as menus, flashback techniques; personal anecdote that makes the reader engage better with the text; declared effects which impact on the writing of the review, e.g. attempting to imitate the style of the book, writing while under the influence, typing blindfolded, reading during a storm; or any other mode of writing that enhances the reader’s experience of reading the review, without hampering the review’s functionality.

8. The reviewer’s reputation, and the value of their reviews, will be manifested solely upon their ability to meet the points in this manifesto.

9. The contents of this manifesto will be reviewed from time to time, according to the aims of the manifesto. Should reviews produced to this order fail to entertain, then the manifesto will be adjusted, or thrown out.


Tuesday 8 December 2009

James McLaughlin - One Poem

South Atlantic

Let there be no thought of war today the trees are too beautiful the wind way too inexplicable on Sky Arts last night John Williams in Argentina was exquisite you could see it in the faces of the orchestra a wry smile here a tap of a bow there a knowing nod how music and nature come together in every tree I hear it like an oboe somewhere along the river bank I think it was Argentina great ships had assembled women got their tits out Hammy had to go to Southampton he was a welder they wanted a helicopter pad put on the Queen Elizabeth good money Hammy said working day and night they’ve got to get it down there the trees are too beautiful today let the ample light come to me imagine druids through the leaves and twigs every night a strange little man with glasses would be wheeled onto the news this little man was a symbol of distress today in the South Atlantic he would say as the trees refused to die and the morning air soaked in my lungs can you hear it Hammy in the wood pile on the dung heap today a ship was hit by a missile the injured were taken to the mother ship by helicopter the grim little man said there was talk of a call up some were up for it I wasn’t he had decided to go he said it would be an adventure I had him by the throat are you fucking mad I take this path everyday by the river through the woods it is well worn all you meet is silence and their dogs there is no greeting from the swans or the morning mist they said he was one of the lucky ones he had watched his hands melt in front of him he lay all night in a barn screaming the officer told him to shut the fuck up he was disturbing the others it was 20 below please let there be no thoughts of war today the trees are too beautiful the wind too inexplicable there through the trees and the half light everything is full of whispers inclinations I can see little men in blue wode dancing in a circle they are gathered round a camp fire I can see them quite clearly when it was all over the great ships came back women got their tits out Union Jacks flew and bands played Rule Britannia I can see a robin he has his new winter coat on he looks me straight in the eye it was darkness when Hammy returned there were no flags and no bands there was no celebration the bands were all silent there were only the lights of cranes to sing a lament for him and the dockers' silent whispers in Argentina last night John Williams took his guitar like a lover and played a melody so beautiful that it drifted like a gondola along the colonnades over voices and spirits it drifted like a heavy slow exocet missile out through the South Atlantic out over the vespers and spume it drifted up to the moon and around the great bear and on over through the darkness and beyond.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Kelly Kanayama - One Poem

The Virgin Mary Painter

By the time the Virgin Mary painter
came down with her guitar from Alaska,
Mrs. K had already been to see
Mr. Pacheco with the 1960’s walk-up
and ponytail who said in a past life,
she’d been a stage parent like Leopold Mozart
or Gypsy Rose Lee: he saw footlights,
a frightened prodigy in his third eye, a mother

crying in the other two. Her son had started
TV that year, shedding glasses and reserve
for jingles, close-ups, sports drinks
proffered by nameless cyclists. (In real life,
she told him on set, don’t ever
take drinks from strangers
                                                        A phone psychic
had already suggested Jesus. Mrs. K found

the painter instead at the Wellness Centre
for one night only, artwork in tow,
guitar blessedly put down after a ballad
on the magic of you. This picture
of the Virgin, said the painter, hid
a real healing heartbeat. The Virgin’s arms

held nothing but a background
too light to be sky. Mrs. K volunteered
to touch the canvas breast, felt blood
moving in her own fingertips.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Recent News...

What with all the poetry we've been publishing here lately, we've had a slew of interesting submissions. What with all the real life we've been doing also, we've a bit of a backlog - but we've some rather good stuff lined up in December.

But meanwhile, a small interlude to offload some of the interesting poetry events scooting about the country...

- The winner of the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation is... Professor Randall Couch for his translation of Gabriela Mistral's Madwomen.

"Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957) is one of the most important and enigmatic figures in Latin American literature of the last century. The Locas mujeres poems collected here are among her most complex and compelling, exploring facets of the self in extremis—poems marked by the wound of blazing catastrophe and its aftermath of mourning."

- We've been invited by the British Library Web Archiving Programme‏ to participate in their preservation project. I get the feeling, to do it right, we'd have to write to every contributor we've had and ask for permission to allow their work to be archived there, although we could quite easily add a T&C point in the submissions form to set a start date. It's quite a bit of work, so if you have any thoughts about this, we'd be grateful to hear it. I tihnk we'd end up sitting between Gillian Clarke and Give me a Break - Cyfle i Ddianc.

- bani haykal is blogging at a new location, with his misinterpret musings. Rather brilliantly voiced, in the editors' opinions (well, one editor, but the other is hermiting again - goad goad).

- John Tucker (two poems forthcoming on G&P) wrote recently to us announcing the Anon Project: "It’s a new artistic printing and distribution experiment centred on a website that has been seven years in the making. The idea is that people visit the website and are granted two things: currency and the vote. With currency one can submit work, which can be anything from concrete word-patterns, to newsflash, to flash fiction, to verse. With votes one votes for the work to be made available for nationwide (as yet) printing and distribution on snazzy, anonymous, A6 ‘throwaways’ which can come in seven colours." It's quite a weird sounding idea, with plans to circulate printed 'throwaways' in "public transport hives, bookstores, libraries, cafes". We like weird.

- Flarestack Poets, the new pamphlet imprint from Flarestack Presshave launched their first three pamphlets, the two winners of their Pamphlet Competition and an anthology of the best poems submitted: Selima Hill's Advice on Wearing Animal Prints, Cliff Forshaw's Wake, and Mr Barton isn't Paying edited by Editors & Judges, Meredith Andrea and Jacqui Rowe. The G&P Editors attending the launch event, so expect a little more on this soon.

- Speaking of Jacqui Rowe, she runs the very entertaining bi-monthly 'Poetry Bites' series at the Kitchen Garden Café in King's Heath, Birmingham. Upcoming 2010 events:
* 26th January: Michael McKimm
* 23rd March: Nine Arches Press
* 25th May: George Ttoouli (yes, yes, OK, but...)
* 27th July: Jane Routh and Mike Barlow

- Speaking of Nine Arches and pamphlets, the Editors also attended the launch of David Morley's The Night of the Day, published by Nine Arches earlier this month. We picked up our limited edition, slightly-larger-than-life copies, with silver cover fonts and black flyleaf, which, I believe, are now sold out (less than three weeks after publication!), but there's a cheap version available.

- And we've heard, thro' our divers network of spyes, that Richard Price may soon be appearing on the Verb, talking about poetry pamphlet publishing. As one of the key luminaries at the British Library behind the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets, it's something to look forward to.

- The last in Shearsman's 2009 Reading Series took place on Tuesday, 1 December at 7:30 pm, featuring Janet Sutherland & Alan Wearne. Click the names for details of the new collection that will be launched on the evening and for biographical details: Janet & Alan.

- And finally, also from the Poetry Society's press room, further details of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry have been released. You have to be a member to submit suggestions, it's UK only, and websites don't count, which seems a shame given how much new work is happening online in the UK.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Melanie Leong - One Poem

A Linear Narrative of a Situation

There’s an on-going exhibition inside the fridge,
        "The well-preserved
against the decaying process."
I close the door.
At dawn, you undress me.
Carefully, slowly,
perhaps even with a tint of affect(at)ion.
You shed my skin, layer after layer.
The bra is always the trickiest part,
rebelling against your dumb fingers.
I asked you to recite the alphabets,
from a to z.
Halt -
I miss the obtrusive silence.
I think, you’re too logocentric for my liking.
A malicious quality encircles your letters.
-- Excuse me; what?
The truth comes out -
the notion of having sex with you
is equivalent to ingesting that
uncooked, rotten potato,
covered with a patch of mould, greeny-ugly.
I close my eyes, for telekinesis.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Recent News...

- Tonight is unofficially London poetry night: Carcanet are hosting a triple launch with poets Jeremy Over, Richard Price and Matthew Welton, 18.30-20.30 at The Horse Hospital, Collonade, Bloomsbury.

- Also, the Shearsman Reading Series continues with two fantastic poets, Giles Goodland and Frances Presley, 19.30, Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, WC1A 2TH. Other stuff happening tonight, but didn't look quite as exciting. If anyone gets down there and wants to do us a write up, would be most kind.

(These notices have gone up late partly because of incompetence, partly out of bitterness that neither of the Editors can attend. London, bring a piece of yourself to the Midlands, we have poetry fans here too.)

- Salt have gone mad, in the nicest way possible. They've started offering their Facebook Fanclub and blog readers massive discounts on a range of titles, rotating on a weekly basis from now up to Christmas. Details of the first two are on their blog. First one has expired already, but I've picked up Montejo and Gelman. Fortunately nothing I want on the second list that I don't already have, else I'll be bankrupt in six weeks.

- A reminder of discounts on the Popescu Prize 2009 Shortlisted titles (it's not linked too obviously from the main competition page). We like muchly.

- Oystercatcher have just published a new pamphlet by Carrie Etter, The Son. I was lucky enough to catch her launch, with Janet Sutherland (wonderful also, reading from her new collection from Shearsman, Hangman's Acre and some samples over at peony moon), which was incredibly moving. The sequence, even without the context (you'll have to ask Carrie about that, when she's back from Prague) is extremely powerful, beautifully crafted. Genuinely brought me close to tears listening to her read. She'll be following that up next year with a full length Shearsman collection, Imagined Sons [NB: See Carrie's comment below for correct info]. Well worth keeping an eye out.

- Seeing how this is turning into a Shearsman press release, I should mention the fantastic latest issue of Shearsman Magazine #81 & 82, including new poetry by Christopher Middleton, Anamaría Crowe Serrano, Lee Harwood, Linda Black, Kenny Knight, translations of Gunter Eich by Siroul Troup, etc. etc. Oh yeah, and one of the Editors. (Sorry, 8th Sin, I know, but I'm a glutton for your wrath, Si.)

N.B.: I can't avoid pointing out how much I love the fact that the image thumbnail for Ken Edwards' Red & Green is a picture of a Cartman doll. Legendary.

- And speaking of legendary, the November issue of The Believer has a fantastic interview with the Legend that is Peter Blegvad. Here's a link to 'Daughter' on youtube, with a random abstract painting.

Monday 2 November 2009

Sharlene Teo - One Poem

“That summer, at home I had become the invisible boy"

That year I could stay
in my room for hours.
I would lie in bed
staring at the ceiling,
shell-shocked by a kind of
elegant blankness.

I’d seen this brand of
blankness in movies
before, curled around
the barrel of a long
shot. Leading man takes
lady’s hands.
Clinically tender, he turns them
over like old coins,
as if searching for the rareness,
the responding warmth which
should rise like a clear note,
a sigh, soft steam from a
broth. Outside the diner,
bombs go off.

My father forgot to go home
in the late light. Search party
of one; maybe he left
a message. I comb the coast
shaking starfish, throttling
seagulls. For lack of envoys,
I scour the sand for slow cursive,
beer-bottle, sea-mail.
No sign.

This is what I tell myself.
I tell myself I’m giving up
on people. Moving up to
the mountains, away from every
mouth. I am tired of how people chew
and cluck and crinkle. I want things
to be inchoate, simple.

Always wondered what it would
be, my totem animal. A stag,
perhaps, slow canter, bright
eyes — nothing so noble. It would
probably be a hedgehog; stray
dollop, far from doubting whole.
As a child I watched this cartoon
on television, the Hedgehog in the
Fog. Wild and scratchy, it flickered
through four o’clock and
left me speechless — I had never felt
so cleanly alone. And it keeps on
recurring — bright like blindness,

blip-sized world.

Friday 30 October 2009

David Devanny - kazimir malevich - white on white

[breathe in]

[breathe out]

[breathe in]

[breathe out]

[allow your breath to come to a natural pace]

[as you next breathe in - focus on the air moving past the tip of your nose]

[do not follow the air - just feel it pass by this point – and later feel the air pass back out]

[find yourself in a quiet meadow]

[it is almost silent - just a few distant twittering birds and the

occasional sound of feet walking lightly through the grasses]

-shhh                -th                -th                -th                -shhh

-the                   -hare            -is                -shhh           -is

-shhh                -is                -slipping      -a                 -way

-the                   -guns          -shhh            -th                -the

-guns                -shhh          -th                 -shhh           -th

-shhh                -her             -shot             -shall           -shhh

-ricochet          -off              -shhh            -th                -shot

-shall                -shhh          -ricochet      -off               -shhh

-stones             -shhh          -over             -there           -th

-th                     -th               -th                 -th                 -shhh

-th                     -th               -th                 -th                 -shhh

[be still]

[and breathe in]

[and breathe out]

[and breathe out]

[and breathe out]

[and breathe out]

[and breathe out]

Wednesday 28 October 2009

The Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation Shortlist

I've always felt the biennial Popescu Prize to be one of the most exciting poetry prizes in the UK. The shortlist is invariably a selection of some very strange and important books being published in English (bilingually, or monolingually) across the world and always points to the importance of independent publishers in bringing international literatures to English readers.

The 2009 Shortlist is no less exciting than previous years (2007's winner, Kristiina Ehin's The Drums of Silence, trans. Ilmar Lehtpere, is one of my favourite poetry books of the past few years), and the Poetry Society, who manage the prize for The Ratiu Family Foundation, have managed to negotiate a bumper 20% off all eight titles.

Here's the shortlist:

Selected Poems by C.P Cavafy
Translated by Avi Sharon (Penguin Classics)

Courts of Air and Earth – a collection of middle and early Irish Poetry,
Translated by Trevor Joyce (Shearsman Books)

Rime by Dante Alighieri
Translated by JG Nichols and Anthony Mortimer (Oneworld Classics)

Against Heaven by Dulce Maria Loynaz
Translated by James O'Connor (Carcanet Press)

Madwomen by Gabriela Mistral
Translated by Randal Couch (Chicago University Press)

Unfinished Ode to Mud by Francis Ponge
Translated by Beverley Bie Brahic (CB Editions)

Poems of Oktay Rifat
Translated by Ruth Christie and Richard McKane (Anvil Press)

Birdsong on the Seabed
Translated by Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe Books)

The winner will be announced on Thursday 19th November. Bets are on.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

David Devanny - willem de kooning – composition

i came across a tap–dancer who danced his way to work – he tapped the names to the cars he passed as he danced his way to work

he tapped

honda civic – renault megan – honda renault ford – fiat punto – vauxhall corsa – renault honda ford and ford and vauxhall renault mini cooper – toyota beetle ford

jaguar ford – jaguar ford – jaguar ford and a vauxhall – toyota ford – a mini a renault – honda vauxhall ford

and i came across a tap dancer who danced his way through the meadow – he tapped the names of the flowers he passed as he danced right through the meadow

he tapped

hawthorne currant maltese cross – hawthorne primrose broom – a patch of sorrel cowslips primrose brooklime currant broom – charlock harebell mint and teasel charlock maltese cross and mint – charlock currant brooklime harebell hawthorne primrose broom

primrose sorrel – cowslips currant – harebell cowslips broom and broom and charlock brooklime brooklime harebell mint and teasel sorrel and broom

and i came across a tap dancer who danced right through the cemetery – he tapped the names on the graves he passed as he danced his way through the cemetery

he tapped

eunice andrews – abigail randall – stephen beecher – lydia clark– lucinda cooke – temperance pitkin – captin porter – lucy clark – sarah strong – martin andrews – eunice pitkin – jemima may – miles crampton – abigail porter – lucy woodruff – joseph clark

Saturday 24 October 2009

David Devanny - mark chagall – i and the village

there was a man in a town who decided to become a baker – but once he was a baker every third loaf he baked went awry – some loaves were misshapen – too flat or didn’t rise – some loaves were burnt – some undercooked – some came out looking like obscene body parts – some went missing entirely – what the defect was in each case was not consistent – but what was consistent was that it was every third loaf

the baker went out of his mind – he tried everything – tinkering with every bit of the oven – filming the contents of the oven – trying to trick the oven – calling over a friend to watch the baking process – but nothing worked – and so disheartened the baker wrapped himself up in brown paper until he had decided what he wanted to do

the baker decided to become a scientist – but once he was a scientist every third experiment he performed went awry – the first and the second would pass without problem – he would prove his theories and his graphs would correlate – but the third experiment without fail would fail – and the scientist could not help but let it get to him – no matter how much he – well you can see how it goes – so he wrapped himself up in brown paper until he had decided what to do

well it so happened – at this very same time – in another part of our town another man set up a balloon printing business – and so the scientist who had been a baker who had been a man – decided to give up trying to prove things and to give up trying to create things and he – having unwrapped himself – and feeling as a potter’s wheel spinning of its own accord – sat down to count to one hundred – he never got there

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (59)

The January sky was pale blue, with watery clouds. My perception of the world is limited by my five senses, and my perception of image is limited by my sensual perception of light. Image, time, mind and memory... to try to capture them seems absurd and futile. When my grandfather was out of work, he'd scrub the kitchen floor; he was a good man, my mother tells me. He fell out of an army truck and escaped the Great War. My perception of him is limited by my five senses. He is here in the present, along with my entire past, this desk and computer, along also with the future. The history and energy of presence. Good night, see you in the morning - that's the kids sorted out, let's have a glass of wine. The present, singular or plural, pale as January's sky with all its clouds. The past is present like a shifting sky of pale blue and thin cloud. The future, all our futures, are a presence like a shifting blue in a cloudy sky. All futures are invented. The origin of futures was in trade in agricultural commodities, and the term is used to define the underlying asset even though the contract is frequently completely divorced from the product. As you age, your future contracts. I see the future without me in it - with my children in it maybe. Nothing ever stands still - keep moving ahead with us. The future is orange. The future doesn’t exist. Let’s pour the wine.


Texts quoted:

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica on 'futures'.
Eric Gamalinda, 'Language, Light and the Language of Light' (Pinoy Poetics, Meritage Press).

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (58)

The process of filling in the bay had been going on for one hundred years. The reduced market for egg-hatching machines and spittle-cups made the change necessary. Whatever its appeal, Malmo is full of funkiness. People don't usually hang out in restaurants till late in the evening and it can be hard, thus, to track down a decent meal after dark should you get famished in the wee hours. The taxi took me down a dark road, far away from where I wanted to go, finally leaving me at a deserted hotel with no obvious way back. I had no choice but to climb the steps to the poorly lit lobby. Death is no longer enshrined in taboos. What was this hotel? My reflection in the doorway revealed to me my true self: a bipedal primate mammal, anatomically related to the great apes but distinguished by a more highly developed brain, with a resultant capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning, and by a marked erectness of body carriage that frees the hands for use as manipulative members. Famished in the wee hours. Burnt out on the trail. Not using my modem (I get no dial tone). A haunted man. Then she uprose, the only rose for me. She didn't understand me, nor I her, but that made things more interesting. She knew that the moon influenced the cycle of the tides. She circumnavigated the globe, she shook my pockets loose and took me home to meet my life. My hands were freed as manipulative members.


Texts quoted:

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica on 'Death', 'Human Being'.
Tourist brochure for Malmo, Sweden.

Monday 19 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (54)

[He] remembered not only every leaf of every tree of every wood, but also every one of the times he had perceived or imagined it. Forgetfulness might seem bliss, like falling asleep in a comfortable bed after physical work in the fresh air. If you find that difficult, it's something that can be learned. Simple breathing exercises can help, or meditation. Some people find that lavender oil, valerian or other herbs help them. In a prose piece, he envisages a School of Forgetting, where the pupils are taught in specialist fields, such as Forgetting History and Forgetting Language. In the lit room, the window pane is a black square, the streaks of rain are like little lines of glass beads. The modem is flickering, the printer is warming up. There is the case of “AJ,” a 40-year-old woman with incredibly strong memories of her personal past. Given a date, AJ can recall with astonishing accuracy what she was doing on that date and what day of the week it fell on. Because her case is the first one of its kind, the researchers have proposed a name for her syndrome – “hyperthymestic syndrome.” She had been called “the human calendar” for years by her friends and acquaintances. AJ is both a warden and a prisoner of her memories, said Parker, a clinical professor of psychiatry and neurology. They can at times be a burden because they cannot be controlled, but she told us that if she had a choice, she would not want to give them up.


Texts quoted:

Jorge Luis Borges, 'Funes the Memorious', from Labyrinths. - Source: University of California - Irvine, Hyper-Memory: The Inability To Forget, March 7, 2006.
Dennis Tomlinson, review of 'Five Poets from Saxony' (Shearsman), Tears in the Fence 46.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (52)

If the kingdom of the stars seems vast, the realm of the galaxies is larger still. From the North Devon coast we could see the Welsh Hills across the sea, and when night fell, the Milky Way was a pale crystal band across the sky. Our home galaxy is a large spiral system consisting of several billion stars, one of which is the Sun. Many such assemblages are so enormous that they contain hundreds of billions of stars. And yet there are so many galaxies that they pervade space, even into the depths of the farthest reaches penetrated by powerful modern telescopes. Look, I said, if you lie on the grass out here you can see the Milky Way. They rolled their eyes and smiled at each other, but came anyway. The stars were like jewels in a black roof. Below the cliff, we heard sea-surf sounding. At dawn the tides withdraw, currents pull round the headland to the grey Atlantic, past Lundy Island, where seals stare like the souls of the drowned. To have a soul would mean that consciousness was separate from the physical body. Every visible star is a sun in its own right. Ever since this realization first dawned in the collective mind of humanity, it has been speculated that many stars other than the Sun also have planetary systems encircling them, and that some will have life, even advanced civilizations. For the early Egyptians, the Milky Way was the heavenly Nile, flowing through the land of the dead ruled by Osiris.

Texts quoted:

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica on 'Galaxy', 'Cosmos'.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (51)

As if this place were a dream of this place, that comes from no where other than here. If this were true, then ducks rising from a pond in a flurry and splash are taking off into a season of late promise, into which, while the power station spreads its clouds (which, incidentally, are mainly water vapour), late developers come to skinny-dip and young women dream of men who make them laugh. For the young, all things are possible. Would you like to reconsider? The tapestries tell of meadow flowers and men with lutes that strolled through the young land like news of peace, mixed with the uncomfortable freedom that peace brings. The word troubadour is a French form derived ultimately from the Occitanian trobar, “to find” or “to invent.” A troubadour was thus one who invented new poems, finding new verse for his elaborate love lyrics. The young girl in love invents her lover anew, perhaps while lighting a cigarette or texting her friend. The mind thus invents a place that is no where else than the place it's in; the ducks are in full flight now, the estuary extends, painterly and complete, under an extravagant sky. Meanwhile, Super Mario clears the way to a lower (indestructible) floor and heads to the first pipe spawning Bobombs. If you’ve forgotten your password, we can send it to you by email. A home without books is like a room without windows. The casement swung open and she leaned into the May morning, hoping this wasn’t a dream.


Texts quoted:

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica on 'Troubadour'.
Slogan from Jacqueline Wilson's website (
"New Super Mario Brothers Cheats", (

Friday 16 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (50)

Through effort we develop our character. In this hexagram, wood, standing for our character, nourishes fire; through the good example of our character, we light the way for others. This gives meaning to our lives. At fifty, a man should be rich. But how many are? Money isn't the answer - it's transient and unworthy of our attention. The life span of a five-pound note is one year on average. Between 2004 and 2005, the Bank of England reported that 153,531,778 five-pound notes were shredded. Lakshmi Mittal, aged 55, is the richest man in Britain, with an estimated fortune of 14.9 billion pounds derived from his steel empire. But is he happy? My daughter, born Nottingham 1996, passes me a note: Dad please come up in 15 minutes with water and a Nerofen. I know this is a wrong spelling SOS. The phone is ringing. Hello? It's my mother, born Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1923. She's had a slight fall and spent the afternoon in casualty, but sounds OK now. Now it's time to settle my daughter down in bed. A glass of water and some Nurofen. And I've caught a cold. If I were rich, these things would still happen. We light the way for others. This gives meaning to our lives. My father, born Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1921, died, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1973, has nothing to say; yet his influence at this time is propitious, and worth more, I may say, than all the banknotes shredded by the Bank of England. And he wasn’t rich, or anything like it, at fifty.


Texts quoted:

A Guide to the I Ching, Carole K. Antony (Antony, 1980).
Schott's Almanac, 2007.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (46)

There is no one reality. Each of us inhabits a separate universe. That's not speaking metaphorically. This is the hypothesis of reality suggested by recent developments in quantum physics. Reality in a dynamic universe is non-objective. Consciousness is the only reality. So reality means the memories of each person? That dog that I'm watching scampering across the park in the chill autumn fog, running until he's out of sight in the gloom. Is he in a separate universe? We can confirm that your order was sent from our Fulfilment Centre. Tomorrow is the shortest day, St. Lucy's day, the winter solstice. Four more shopping days till Christmas, and the Sony Wii is out of stock everywhere. The Wii handset is a piece of advanced technology; it uses an accelerometer and a gyrometer to measure motion and tilt, and likewise utilizes both infrared and Bluetooth technology to interact with a sensor bar and to send information to the Wii console. The universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. M-Theory is defined in eleven dimensional space-time with ten dimensions of space and one dimension of time. F-Theory may contain two dimensions of time and ten dimensions of space. We believe that a multiverse of universes exist like bubbles floating in Nothing. Like a star at dawn, lightning in a summer cloud, a phantom and a dream. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder … we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.


Texts quoted:

Interview with Dr Michio Kaku, BBC.
The Universe and Multiple Reality, by Professor M. R. Franks.
The Ghost in the Atom, by C. W. Davies and J. R. Brown, ed., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)
Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe (New Revised ed.), (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1932; Cambridge: The University Press, 1932)


Alan Baker is the editor of Leafe Press. Other sections of The Book of Random Access can be found in Great Works, The Hamilton Stone Review, and on his own blog, Litterbug. The Book of Random Access has 64 sections, and each section has 256 words. 64 is the number of hexagrams in the I-Ching, and both 64 and 256 are significant numbers in computing. This is the first of seven sections from the sequence which Gists and Piths will be serialising over the coming week.

Monday 12 October 2009

Zoë Brigley - Two Poems After Anne Brontë

Anne of the Opening Hand

In the overgrown garden, the winter days pass
like the long black column of a funeral train:
the hands of the mourners sheathed in white gloves,
their blank fingers pale and missing the nail.

Beside the blighted Scotch firs, the boxwood swan,
and the castellated towers of the bleeding laurels,
he considers the risk of encounter, whether
it is safer to admire me from this distance.

Out there in the wilderness, his hands strike poses.
Like trees and shrubs under a gardener’s shears,
they readily assume the shapes I give them:
the swallow and warrior, the lion or goblin.

He reaches the garden gate never saying a word,
though the branches against the window sound
a round of applause. All that is left
is a hand waning, reaching across this parting hour.


“Were an alteration to take place while she was far from home and alone with you – it would be too terrible – the idea of it distresses me inextricably, and I tremble whenever she alludes to the project of a journey. In short I wish we could gain time and see how she gets on”
-Charlotte Brontë writing in a letter about her sister Anne’s proposed trip to Scarborough

During the long night, I write my desires:
a letter for help that longs for a glass-flat sea.

But she cannot bear me to leave and by morning,
she has drowned my letter with words of her own.

I rise at dawn and chalk the streets with pledges
to walk the narrow edge of cliff-top verges.

She stands below my window and above I listen
for donkey carts that rumble on a faraway beach.

I drink the bland nectar of dandelion tea
with oranges sweet enough to eat on the sand.

I fill up the silence with a long caress
that makes little impression on her safe footing.

Still the water rises, the gulf will fill:
I float like a boat out of landlock.


Zoë Brigley's first collection, The Secret, was published by Bloodaxe in 2007. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including The Manhattan Review, and Horizon.

Sunday 11 October 2009

News and Events

The Birmingham Book Festival has been running since the 6th of October, and is ongoing until the 29th, and loyal fans of Gists and Piths should know that the Editors are involved in a couple of upcoming events. Simon Turner will be talking on Roy Fisher as part of the seminar series on Saturday 17th of October (the series as a whole looks very interesting, with Luke Kennard on David Foster Wallace, and Heather Child talking on Will Self being among the highlights). On the 20th of October, meanwhile, Nine Arches Press are hosting Surreal in the City, where Simon Turner (again) will be reading alongside luminaries such as penned in the margins supremo Tom Chivers, the world's youngest ever Forward nominee Luke Kennard, and Matt Nunn, the Brummagem Neruda. George Ttoouli, Turner's partner in crime in the G&P mayhem, will be acting as compere. If you want to book tickets (Surreal in the City is free, but I think it pays to book), the box office number is: 0121 303 2323.

In other news, editors' favourites Baroness are currently streaming the entirety of their startlingly good new album Blue Record on their myspace page, in advance of its imminent arrival tomorrow. God Bless the digital age.

The longer nights and colder weather have been driving the editors indoors in preparation for their long and terrible winter slumber, but we've still been managing to get a lot of reading done. Here's what's been exciting us collectively over recent months:

Beats at Naropa, an anthology published by Coffee House Press, consisting of nuggets from the audio archive of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Contributors include Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Anne Waldman, Diane Di Prima, and Amiri Baraka; there are interviews with Burroughs and Ginsberg; and big retrospectives on neglected figures like Bob Kaufman. Now if that does't get you excited, nothing will:

Matthew Welton, We needed coffee, but..., a brilliant second collection from a one-man Oulipo revolution:

Voice Recgonition and City State, two new anthologies of young poets, one covering the whole country, the other focused on London, but both packed with genuine talent and promise. I'm excited about where a lot of these poets go next. Expect full coverage soon:

British Surrealism in Context. Okay, that doesn't count as reading, but it is exciting. Leeds Art Gallery are showing an exhibition of, you guessed it, British Surrealism, taken from the private collection of Dr Jeffrey Sherwin, the most prominent collector of the field in the UK. Sadly, the Editors weren't able to make it to Leeds, and the exhibition closes at the end of October. But if anyone does make it up there, we would love to hear your thoughts: perhaps a review might be in order? The Editors, however, do hope to get a chance to see:

Angels of Anarchy, an exhibition of Surrealism (there's a pattern emerging here, isn't there?) which focuses on female artists, and the movement's (often troubled) relationship to feminism. Big names like Frida Kahlo and Dorothea Tanning are included, alongside lesser known artists such as Emmy Bridgwater (one of the Birmingham Surrealists). More news once we've been to see. Why do these exhibition always happen so far away from the Midlands? Why did I never learn to drive?

Friday 9 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (9)



Fat trills, buzz-notes, electric twitters.
The hedgerow shred from inside by scissors.
This one moving eye to watch us while we
scaled the five stiles from the Wye to Hoarwithy.

Thursday 8 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (8)

Great Tits


high wire acrobats
of our bird feeder’s
three ring circus

clingers   climbers
ringers    rhymers

they call for teachers
for teachers

& have nothing
to learn

Wednesday 7 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (7)

Willow Tit


black cap
                  & black bib
world’s eye
                  on the wold
skids sideways
brightest ear
                  of the wood
                  in zigzags
                  the twigs’

Tuesday 6 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (6)

‘greenness a thousand times more green’
      —Dorothy Wordsworth


Now they are precision
      for opening seed hearts.

Now they are jade lanterns
      on a bough -
      sweet-hearts and pair-bonds.

Now they are emerald
      lamps lit
      over the bird feeder.

Now they lime-light the branches,
      pears or goosegogs.

No green more greener
      nor no finch
      more finchier.

Monday 5 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (5)



Trust the plainest of birds
with the sweetest calls

to carry them under cover
lest they fall into the claws

of a hoopoe or golden plover.

Sunday 4 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (4)



whose call
(according to Bill Oddie)
is as a cricketer bustling up to bowl
who hurtles to the crease
then releases


Saturday 3 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (3)





                                has   a heart
        the coppery heart—
                                        beat of bushes from
                                                it  bursts  the



Friday 2 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (2)

Long-Tailed Tit


          A nursery ball
        with a bell inside
    blown through branches
      —a bauble with a tail
         peals in its nest-
          bell of lichen.

Thursday 1 October 2009

David Morley - Painted in Nest Boxes: Bird Poems (1)


Were it not for the slight upended
twite suspended below that lancing spray
of elder blossom then the light that slid
through my eye last night, that told
the twite’s call within an ear of my eye
might well, might not, might never, be remembered.


David Morley directs the Warwick Writing Programme. He has published more books and won more prizes than we could possibly list here, but his poetry collections include Scientific Papers and The Invisible Kings (both with Carcanet), whilst in 2007 he wrote The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. Gists and Piths will be serialising more of his bird-poems over the next few days as part of our Midlands poetry season.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Two Poems by Jane Commane


Night as rag-soaked petroleum,
the whisper of moon creaks
through the cloud’s machinery.

Something has taken a hold
that leaves you wondering
where it all began –

with milk turning thick-sour
clotted in the bottle, or the soft
gyrations of motorway noise

trapped in lobes of the landscape’s
shell-coils, or with the funeral march
tapping blind on the pipes in the wall.

Childhood rusts, counted on coat hooks
in cupboards-under-stairs, a spark caught
silently as a kiss threatens a dithering island.


Nightfall recast, an angler’s line
falling still into a dark plot
formed invisible –

the soft tremor of breath
sending footprints tumbling
across the lover’s sheets.

Yet the blackbird breaks a chorus
as soft as the egg-blue
spoiled on pavement

Yet the blackbird sings
in the cloud-dense lateness
and tears a hole right through

and the shivering alarm
hacks through the dead wood,
razor resonance.

The half cut moon, deepest neutral
hangs down and the strings are cut.
Illusions falter - we deserve nothing,

with our dreams full of doppelgangers,
unborn declarations, we deserve
nothing less, nothing more than this,

and at the wrong hour, pitch perfect
siren of the heartless unease -
we reset our clocks.

as the sonnet breaks itself, falls to ash,
dawn becomes a vagrant,
missing amongst the refuse of night


Jane Commane runs Nine Arches Press with Matt Nunn, and they also co-edit Under the Radar magazine. She is currently working on a first collection, due out in Summer 2010. She has also recently worked with visitors at the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, and some of the resulting poems can be viewed here.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Statements of Intent (5) - Chris McCabe: "The slip gets mistook for the punt"

You have the ghosts of the past ruffling your shuffle feature, I said to Tom, that's what I like in your work. The problem (one of the problems) with 99% of poetry is that it's set in the past: the past of a person you don't know: a past experience of a person you don't know asking you to try and access their life through a transparent language that aims to be less important than the experience itself. The slip gets mistook for the punt. Brenda said she always made a point of giving poets like this a filofax for Christmas. Poetry, when it surges forward with its great dirigible speech bubble (in the present tense) offers every line as worthy of being the first (or last). Ends only when it runs out of breathe. Offers synchronicity to the speed of everything else around us. The city, the internet, last orders. Jon reads the stuff when he's drunk, on the tube or bus: what's out the window slows down what's on the page, so better to absorb it. I said, that's what I like about you: the human mind has evolved to crave speed as the essense of all artistic experience. Or not artisitic: compared to Houseman no piece of television is slow. Goldenballs turned Jasper Carrott into Melville's Confidence Man. Sarah made a monster out of the weekend broadsheets and Mr Mister tried to make it speak. Like a great poem I'm sure it changes faces whenever I'm not looking. When you go back to one of those great dirigible bubbles it never seems the same. What living thing ever is? Andrew said I was asleep when the monster tried to bite off my tongue.


Chris McCabe has two collections with Salt, The Hutton Inquiry (2005) and Zeppelins (2008). He also has a pamphlet of ludic elegies called The Borrowed Notebook (Landfill).

Thursday 24 September 2009

One Poem by Chris McCabe

Prac Crit

Your face: a foetus’ sense of Christmas trapped in a Chinese lantern.
White, drained, wan, drawn –
open & expectant to receive,
innocent as can be expected after living with us.

I just wanted to say, the only reason we did it –
the basement traps in Dallas St., Havelock St.,
the BA Honours done waiting to jump from the bin,
the weight of the water tipped from the window,
an unfair game with lasers after we’d drained your batteries,
the Valentines’ card written out to you
not from one, but two lesbian girls –
your heart turned over like the city’s first pink cab –
all your forced gusto for Kronenbourg, a pint of numbers,
Sambuca, Tennants’ Extra – long days at Bar Variety –
the bands, the fans, what’s in, what’s out
(for Delboy, Rodders & Uncle Albert)
Squires on Monday, Tokyo Joe’s Tuesday, Polygon Saturday,
your shoes hidden as you slept – left in the cab mate –
the boot polish on your face as you woke like a bleached minstrel,
the trousers we tried to free you from on your 21st
an intervention from a stranger on Hardman St.,
all the wind-ups – I’ve just been jumped by a gang,
look at my ribs – the rat pellets dissolved in your brew
and photographed as you read MAY CAUSE DEATH
IF CONSUMED, a collapse of a smile still around your lips
as your hair grew for the moon that year
– Moth-head, Bulkhead, a bowling ball of fuzz –
which meant you missed the frisson of my forehead against the bridge
of a cokehead’s nose, a cue flailed,
the ivory option of a pool ball unexpected in the hand
and we ran through Preston
like that was the way to write a dissertation
so how could we joke, the following week
that that was them at the front door to get us back
– grab a bat, a bar, make a stand –
but you were already in the kitchen, the latch stuck,
tugging for your life like a Yale Electrotherapy Case
and when you broke into the yard and onto the escape route we’d made
– adobe wall crumbled under your cons until you hugged the terrace wall –
you turned to expect blood, brawn, brains, a brawl
and saw us pointing, laughing, deranged
in the endorphin rush of how sick we could be to think this up

And the graduate in me said: we only did it because we like you mate

Reprinted with the permission of the author.


Chris McCabe's latest collection of poetry is Zeppelins (published by Salt), which this poem is taken from. There's more by and about Chris McCabe on Gists and Piths.