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.