Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Festive Season

Interesting blogs from both Luke Wright and Tim Clare about the 'practitioner as business manager' debate.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Sale of

usual grounding pathologies
shrunk aesthetic – another time aped
the pounding of sheet metal to rough
unpolished tokens to line rooftops a
landscape gloomed by the spitting rain – unstable reflections
on the darkened window as the gargoyle garbles rain water
    onto those below – boxed tower – a summit that fails to taper
it has no floodlights to pick  clarify identify detail least
grey stone imposing dull sonorous impressions
even in photographs
the push of the blanch blocks is firm near unmoving
not the sort for the holiday snap it takes its absence
the stern defiant lips of a speaker “See brother the light, and the light”
    the skull-cap an activist pauses proud
    pouts in excelsis his traipse affirmed
true there are no floodlights to pick out the hollowing shadows
that gloom then fresh depths announced only at twilight – a dawn light
is too sharp a sweep even in summer all must take place in twilight the         sudden calling of spaces    

The Sale of

usual grounding pathologies
shrunk aesthetic – another time aped
the pounding of sheet metal to rough
unpolished tokens to line rooftops a
landscape gloomed by the spitting rain – unstable reflections
on the darkened window as the gargoyle garbles rain water
    onto those below – boxed tower – a summit that fails to taper
it has no floodlights to pick  clarify identify detail least
grey stone imposing dull sonorous impressions
even in photographs
the push of the blanch blocks is firm near unmoving
not the sort for the holiday snap it takes its absence
the stern defiant lips of a speaker “See brother the light, and the light”
    the skull-cap an activist pauses proud
    pouts in excelsis his traipse affirmed
true there are no floodlights to pick out the hollowing shadows
that gloom then fresh depths announced only at twilight – a dawn light
is too sharp a sweep even in summer all must take place in twilight the         sudden calling of spaces    

Saturday, 28 November 2009


The young furred tongue
unravels with languor by the oily water,
lapping three cautious times –

a crimson sock blanches dark,
a rich scent, a sense of things,
not knowing the better

uncouth and ill-equipped to discern,
the palette shrinks.
“Let them believe they are fit for the work,

and that the work is fit for them.”
In line, each of them in line, let them love their roles;
hungered, sick,

swilling fresh coatings, churn, a gastric impulse –
gracious nodding, stifled belch and back to the
spot by the rainbow water that puddles

on the factory floor.

Sunday, 15 November 2009


a gruff rusted bell
 thick pages
a cheek with
    impressed our
last weakened blow to the chin
        a bell
clapper a cheek with
a clapped hand
    the cheek with
the bell chimed the hour
it is time to turn in

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Holding a place

Good old - it is such a rich collection of the weird and wonderful, intelligently written and with a broad scope. I sometimes wish I could just swallow whole chunks of it and store them up to digest whenever I'm feeling despondent or a little fed up with work. I've learned all manner of things, and I was going to link a few up here - but to be honest, every time I dig to find an old article I stumble across something else. Just go, click at random and let your mind wander...

In other news, there's work afoot here and here. Both seem to be getting pretty positive responses. The numberstations work is for Futureradio - and I would take the time to talk a bit more about what we're doing, but it's very much an ongoing process so I may hold off on the grand reveal at the moment.

What other thoughts? Nothing major - no sudden outrages or laments to share. But perhaps that is a good sign.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

the hark a wish

On completing and then strolling
to draw the chill between the teeth
watching what flaps and stalls
in its flight across the territory
Catching bird song also
taking in that same chill
envious then not wishing
to be so- applauding whatever
pastoral things should fill the mind
at these time Is this sense angered
the disturbed welcome the hark a wish
to sit on the bench even in this
is it even a consideration
sparked frosty layer that tips
the snow see even now
treading into the depth of it
surprise at how far the foot
goes I am grumpy I don’t
have a way to swallow that
bird whatever breed it is
or rather I know if I was
to do so it would not be
its pleasant song but my
own dry caw-caw that came from
the belly the throat the tongue
but then
sitting on the bench
feeling pity and the shame of
pity and perhaps even the shame
in shameful pity
and painfully aware my behind is
it is enough to take
in the chill and offer
our respective songs

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A Fresh Day Beloved

a naïve
beloved flag falls under the tramp tramp of orthopaedic shoes not jack boots, there is no
beloved requirement for the them – a
beloved correction adjusted elbows scrape merrily against work desks all harrowed I lust after all women in
beloved trench coats a man troubles the pitted tar paper roof with his besocked and beloved feet
he tingles at the tips of his toes and steadies himself with slow
beloved windmills of the arms He is assured and
beloved – he is quick and
beloved – he can barely breath
beloved for the quiver of fluster excitement a breath pours right out of him
beloved the breeze troubles his clothes but he is not unsteady because of the
beloved wind

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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Michael Clark

I like Michael Clark - I went to a show of his at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival last year where people walked out. One person sitting in front of me stuck his fingers in his ears for most of it. People were dancing nude in one bit. I felt mildly assaulted, abused but largely pleased with what I'd seen. It was a wonderful working of punk rock classics into contemporary dance - followed by a new bit of choreography for Rites of Spring. I went for a couple of reasons; one being that my (then) girl was a dancer and I was keen to understand what on earth contemporary dance was about. It's an alien world, and a little overwhelming - I don't have any background in dance to contextualise. It becomes like trying to understand thermodynamics without any grasp of basic science. I endevour though, and have got far enough to accept that contemporary dance is more than one stream of ideas, or one stream of practice. The term is as non-descriptive as saying 'contemporary literature' - you end up with a general context, but no grasp of what tremendous theoretical diversity exists underneath the surface. Ho-hum, there might be a conclusive point to all this - but I fear it may just be as simple as I like Michael Clark.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

It's not who you know...

There is a certain issue I have with people who spout the old adage about success being related to “who you know.” Nothing has prompted me to blog about it, other than the usual grumbling tums and occasional discussion – but I feel it’s necessary to highlight a few home truths about this belief that the entire arts industry functions on nepotism and an extensive ‘old boy’ network. Sure, there is a degree of that – as with any industry where you have established figures that have dedicated lifetimes to their work – inevitably they do look inwards to people they know, rather than trying to pull up the young sprogs. The reasoning behind this may not always be fair, but it’s no different from working in HR, or architecture, or town planning, or being a chef, or – well, you get the point. The truth is, the world is not like the Apprentice – you don’t wander into an office as an unknown and suddenly find yourself a career. Sometimes it’s blind luck, sometimes it’s hard work and sometimes a friend gives you a boost. Creative practitioners have a tendency to feel the world owes them a living, and consequently that every events organiser, publisher, agent or drug dealer should bow down in awe of their talent. If they don’t receive this immediate praise they tend to reach immediately for our old friend, “oh, of course – it’s who you know.” Consequently they tend to go one of two ways: complete unhinged resentment of “the system”, or alternatively debasing themselves in order to get ahead. The latter of the two is sometimes harder to stomach than the former, though it is more consistently entertaining for the casual observer. I’ve seen some wonderful displays of forlock tuggery – but it’s unfair to relate them, as I’m sure I’ve done a fair bit of it in my time too. First stone and all that eh?

Yes, it’s true that we all need to network and make strong contacts. I’m not totally throwing out that idea, and please don’t feel that my conscience is clear when I talk about people dismissing others out of hand on the basis that they know the ‘right people’. I’ve done it too – but I hope I’ve done it with a sense that some of their success is as much down to talent and enthusasim for their work. Knowing some-one with connections is only half the story – in truth, if you are good at what you do then people will want to help you – and if they don’t? Well it’s no reflection on you or them. Perhaps they are busy, or preoccupied with their careers, perhaps they don’t like what you do. If that really is the case then don’t force the issue, move on – this unhealthy notion that there is only one gatekeeper who holds all the keys is not going to get you anywhere. It’s a sad thing that people take such a mentality where they must either force themselves into a situation or onto a person in order to succeed. The world of performance poetry I come from has always been pretty kind to me, but I’ve never really felt that I’ve needed to turn a trick to proceed further. The friends I have made have been friends first and foremost, and while I may benefit from the occasional advice and support, I like to believe that it’s done as a kindness rather than a sense of duty.

So to those who rage about the old boys – well, one day those old boys might do you a favour – with no askance of compromise or sexual favours. What then? Will you flatly refuse? Course not. It’s flattering when people want to help, why would you slap them down? Yes, the whole industry is biased, flawed and messy – but when a hand reaches down and tickles your tum, have the good grace to roll over and enjoy the compliment. If it doesn’t? Well there will be other hands and other times, enjoy what you do – don’t look for favours to do all the work for you.
Ah, I’ve not made quite the coherent, centred argument that I’d hoped for. Perhaps we can discuss it some more?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

First and last.

The hush, a gull wheels
severed from the horizon
announcing its sudden found freedom
in squalls – not so much thunder-clapping.

It dips and heaves its span
cuts cross-winds
pointed in pursuit
of cumulus climes.

Monday, 22 June 2009


It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – not because I’ve been busy, quite the opposite. The world is fuggy at the moment, a lot of personal stuff and just needing to get myself straight. I want to get back into music at the moment – largely down to this guy.

I’ll write about Mike Watt another time.

Some other projects – I’m writing a play (or at least thinking about writing a play) for my friend Vanessa / working on a new show for the solo gig I got coming up / I’ve had an idea for some epic poem or another.

Brief notes but I’ve spent all morning writing the new grandma column, so got to get away from the screen…

Saturday, 30 May 2009


Newsnight review produced some interesting points yesterday – and perhaps highlighted some of the broader issues poetry has had in engaging with the mass media in recent years. The panel comprised of Luke Wright, Simon Armitage, Josephine Hart and Akala – all of which made some strong cases for their various bits of polemic, while remaining distinctly underwhelming en masse.The contributors, probably through no fault of their own, all seemed forced to revert to type – Simon Armitage did his typically dull “I’m the people’s poet me” bit, Josephine Hart burbled in a pitch that rendered most of what she said incomprehensible, while Luke Wright and Akala seemed largely drafted in order to make the whole thing more approachable. Depressingly, the conversation seemed to centre round a very confused debate about whether poetry was relevant or popular – with the guests taking up the stand-point that yes it was, though their views on why remained more dependent on their individual backgrounds. For example, Akala banged the drum for the power of metaphor, that its popularity in Hip-hop has allowed him (and others) to make the connections to Shakespeare and others. As a regular hip-hop columnist I haven’t got time to make my personal views on this known here, but there is some element of truth in what he’s saying – albeit in a slightly more complex manner than just direct comparison.

The problem with these arguments about poetry and popularity is that it fails to acknowledge that when you use the word ‘poetry’ you are talking about a form – not a particular style or genre of writing. To clarify, like the word ‘painting’ ‘poetry’ is a catch-all phrase for a multitude of different things. Despite what the BBC presenter seemed to imply, elements do engage and see a fair degree of commercial success; performance poetry in particular is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance at the moment (although again, the term performance poetry can be divided into countless subgenres) – but on the flip side there isn’t much call for Neo-Catholic Metaphysical Sestinas at the moment. Perhaps the problem is not so much in the attitude of audience or poet, but in our expectations on how we should consume it. The poetry world is not in a position to proliferate a thousand new poets a year, and there isn’t the demand for it. This isn’t because people don’t engage with it, it’s because you aren’t able to passively consume a collection in the same way you would music perhaps. No-one asks why 90% of recorded music isn’t ‘engaging young people’ or ‘relevant’ – because everyone accepts that there’s so much of it that it couldn’t possibly appeal to everyone all of the time. The problem is that we want simplification – we want to feel that every endeavour can be flatly defined in terms of its engagement and the success it sees economically – when actually we’re not quite certain what criteria we are using. Trying to argue about “the state of poetry” using sales figures is like trying to guess the weight of the moon using fingers and toes alone.

So are we engaged, switched on, hip? Well no, we’re albino catfish in the lake – we have a place, but it’s an enigmatic, confusing one. Mass media can’t figure it out, or at least can’t find a way to make it look interesting on the telly-box. Media coverage of the recent hoo-has in poetry have exemplified this – Padel’s resignation has nothing to do with her art, it has everything to do with preconceived ideas of Oxford as being a stuffy, out-of-touch sort of institution – No-one seems to even talk about Duffy’s laureate in relation to her work, just in terms of what she’s done with the five grand and the fact she has breasts. The world doesn’t need poets to try and engage and “be down with the kids,” because there is nothing more ball-achingly embarrassing. Simon Armitage is prime example of this – his populism just succeeds at making the whole affair look woefully out of touch, a recreational pursuit for the middle-class Cambridge post-grads and bored housewives. Much like dogging.

So what’s the answer? I’m not sure. It’s important to cultivate new audiences, work on projects that engage outside of the usual niches – but at the same time there are ways of doing that without pandering to the usual blather or trying too hard. I remember Daniel Kane talking to me about his new book and saying that poetry was “a thing, like any other thing” – it didn’t need to be blown into some faux-profound bubble or space. I like his view best - that it is a creative reflex, a game that can be played. It doesn’t need to be worried about in quite the way people seem to, and it certainly doesn’t need academics talking about how they have a responsibility to “engage” or “make a point.” Sure, some of it does – and that’s a good thing – but when you try and put blanket definitions on what poetry should or shouldn’t be, well then it just gets dull. There’s so many multitudes contained in that one word, you can’t even begin to set it out as one cohesive thing. Where Newsnight failed was in its erratic generalising and simplification. Don’t talk to me about the “State of Poetry” - Poetry need only occupy a space into a reader or listener can project – what they do with that space is up to them.

Ah forget it, I’m quitting this racket and taking up gardening.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Quick Notes

So busy at the moment it's proving difficult to blog properly  so I thought I'd just make some quick notes:

Currently working on something special on Tumblr - it's a writing project I've been meaning to put together for a while. There's a lot to do and the interface is proving visually beautiful, whilst remaining too confounding for me to follow behind the scenes. Every thing I want to change about the layout requires a tweak here or there and it frustrates me greatly.

On the positive side of this project I've been able to incorporate some of the ideas behind the blogging norfolk project - which was put together by chum Nathan Hamilton. It's worth checking out what's there, and his blog as well - which provides the same wit and insight he himself possesses in person. Sicophantic as all this may sound, I owe him a lot for his support and advice.

I'm taking a break from the choir at the moment to do other things - and that in itself is quite exciting. We've done a number of gigs in recent months ( which I will blog about in the coming few weeks) and as much as I enjoy it, I feel it's time to go and develop on new shows and ideas. I intend to work on some new, more immersive vocal pieces - but haven't quite figured out what yet. That said, they are performing in Luton for the first time without me - in the very capable hands of Russell J Turner as part of the Breakin' Arts Festival. There's some other stuff coming up as well - check Nosher for updates.

Other exciting news? Oh, Stephanie Leal's book is out and features a press quote from a certain someone. I'm quite proud of the little quote as it forms part of a larger article that I'll link up once it's published - it reads better than the usual "THEY IS GOOD WRITER" bumf you get on the back of books. Of course, the content of the book itself is pretty fab - otherwise I wouldn't be endorsing it...

That's it for now - off to London to see this.



Sunday, 3 May 2009

Perhaps I’m not making myself clear…

There seems a current trend among poets - performance and page if you are fickle about distinctions- Wait, let me start again. There seems a current trend amongst poets nowadays. And by nowadays I don’t mean that today I have seen this, I mean that over the recent months there has been a trend towards- towards the thing I am leading up to, just be patient. There seems a certain propensity towards the poet nowadays. Oh, now I’m muddled. There seems a certain tendency, propensity whatever, I’ve just had to look that word up – it means a natural inclination. There seems a certain - well when I say certain, I do not mean it is a sure thing. I mean it as a signifier of reliability. There is a reliability to poets nowadays. “What I mean is” (Agnes Lehoczky) there is a dependable, reactionary stream of blustery snot-noses. Poets I mean. A reactionary stream of bluster boys who seem quite content to classify their personal journal entries, specifically not their entries but a random quish-quash of thought which they’ve had that day, and turn them into a list. No, let me redefine that because it is unfair. Many great poets thrive on the thoughts that they’ve had on that, or any other, particular day. Take William Carlos Williams for example, who enriched American poetry just by the grace of a plum in an icebox no less. No divine mystery there, no magic hoo-do. This is not a war against the requirement of mystical energy in your plum or your poem. Please do not make that mistake. We can do direct talking, and I’m not interested in drawing myself into that woozy polemic anymore than I have to. Poems work in all variety of measures, meters, forms and failures – the world contains multitudes. To paraphrase Whitman.

No, the argument is thus- people’s engagement with poetry seems to require that they are, by their very unique and gratifying position as audience/critic/anonymous blogger, given over to wanting things explained. Quite Simply. In Big Letters. “What I mean is” (Agnes Lehoczky) there is a certain kind of brainwashing that occurs through academic study – there can only ever be one or two interpretations of a poem, and god help you if you don’t get it on the first drop. Now there is nothing wrong with a direct poem, we all like them – they are a bit like pop tarts, or hot dogs, or ice tea, or a roller coaster ride. It’s enjoyable. However, your life cannot function alone on hot dogs, pop tarts, ice tea or roller coaster rides. It would be great, certainly, but you would probably get pretty bored of a diet of hot dogs, pop tarts, ice tea and roller coaster rides. In fact your mind and body would become hideously bloated - craving nothing but endless streams of additives, punctuated with short bursts of adrenaline and possible cardiac arrest. Perhaps it would be best to seek these things in moderation eh?

Back to the brainwashing effect of academic study- “What I mean is” (Agnes Lehoczky) the disorder whereby if something is opaque or not immediately apparent then it suffers dismissal on grounds of pretension. If something is direct, then it is accused of being dumb. You are in a sticky trap, that’s for sure. It’s too easy, in these days of canny self-awareness, to ape everything. Let us assume the hubris and rhetoric of irony and wear it like a big brass badge – that way we can be picky without fear of recrimination. Or something. The notion of commitment. Or something. “What I mean is” (Agnes Lehoczky) there is this ugly feedback loop- something I’ve appropriated from a recent interview with Alan Moore – whereby the audience are not challenged, so consequently their expectations are lowered, and then the writer (or performer or whatever) produces work that is less challenging…ad infitum. The absurdity of the situation is this- hmm the situation isn’t absurd. What is patently absurd is the facile attempt to even grasp the situation. We are not talking. We are on speaking terms certainly. But we are not talking. What I mean is (Agnes Lehoczky) perhaps you do study and consume every word as it was gospel and all the rage. Perhaps you do.

There is a propensity to shrug it off. Or take it all too seriously. I am currently uncertain which is better, so hence I gawp and slack-jaw myself into invisibility.

(SIDE NOTE - Agnes Lehoczky's work is some of my favourite contemporary writing. Please don't mistake the (over) use of her name as anything other than a wayward tribute.)

Monday, 2 March 2009

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

I visited the Sainsbury’s Centre today to have a look at the “China! China! China!” exhibition (its title is brilliant- though I can’t help but wish the next Francis Bacon retrospective would use “Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!”). The heavy leaning towards video art didn’t really appeal a great amount, and there was a strong overtone that the choice of works was limited by heavy censorship (critiques of the political systems in China were notable by their absence). The favourite piece, asides from a massive moon made out of light-bulbs, was a piece of performance art created by Qin Ga. ‘Hurray! Hurray!’ is a video capturing the artist clothed in a horses hide, chanting the exclamation over and over again. Although initially irritating, it rapidly takes on some kind weird hypnotic power. The repetition becomes a centre, a resonant prayer, or perhaps a lament. It’s reminiscent of Joseph Beuys, a primal ritual/action that pulls at old world mythology and collective history (Hurray is adapted from a Mongolian equivalent of amen apparently). Qin Ga seems to imply a defiant death cry - personally speaking I’ve always found Beuys’ work to be incredibly solitary- contrast it with that other notion of shared histories. Cheyne Stoking is a term I learnt thanks to this film, it seems curiously appropriate. I am still trying to find a way of including it in a poem of mine, more on which another time.

More to the point, the exhaustion of repetition is something I’d like to try with the poetry choir- maybe not with the word Hurray (though a sick, perverse part of me thinks that I could claim it’s a tribute to Qin Ga). The principle of taking repeated words, or musical phrases to their extreme is nothing new. In fact one could argue that it’s this shuddering constant that guides most club dj-ing, regardless of genre. Out of the poetry choir stuff, the museum piece and ‘go fly your kites’ already utilise repetition as a tool to help engage (smother) the audience- particularly ‘Go fly your kites’ which I often think of a sort of relentless yammering on the door. Anyway, I’m going to blog about this some more at a later stage- I just wanted to make a record of what ‘Hurray! Hurray!’ got me thinking about.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Some useful things to remember

Hooo! What’s the beat of the day?

“The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes…without chaos, no knowledge. Without a frequent dismissal of reason, no progress…for what appears as ‘sloppiness’, ‘chaos’ or ‘opportunism’…has a most important function in the development of those very theories which we today regard as essential parts of knowledge…These ‘deviations’, these ‘errors’, are preconditions of progress.”
Paul Feyerabend (Taken from ‘Introducing Post-Modernism p.109, originally from ‘Against Method’)
"[A] Dada exhibition. Another one! What’s the matter with everyone wanting to make a museum piece out of Dada? Dada was a bomb ... can you imagine anyone, around half a century after a bomb explodes, wanting to collect the pieces, sticking it together and displaying it?"—Max Ernst, Quoted in C.W.E. Bigsby, Dada and Surrealism, ch. 1

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Wishy-Washy 101: A first thought about processes

So there’s this principle behind having this blog right? It’s intended as a catch-all for processes- you see I was having conversations a couple of times this weekend where the word process has come up quite a bit. This first was with Stephanie Leal, who has kindly offered up her own work and time to the poetry choir . She asked me mid-way through my particularly wishy-washy bit of explanation what exactly the long-term goal was. It took me back a bit, because I’ve only ever thought of the choir as an exploratory function- I mean, it has several positive focuses, but ultimately its great strength lies in the fact it doesn’t rely too heavily on a narrow set of parameters to define its success. I wouldn’t want to be part of it if our only aim was notoriety, the intention is to explore that magic word: Processes.

Ditto with this blog. Processes in writing are kept mysterious for the large part, because it makes people aware of the vulnerable flabby parts of the work- often, in my wilder moments I’ve named it as the Wizard of Oz complex truth be told we all like to keep hush hush. After all, how can an author maintain that sense of booming wilderness voice when they show everyone what they are up to? The reader’s reluctant too I guess, after all no one comes to see the stripper’s fillings, they come to see the show.

So the plan? Well I’ll talk some more about processes soon. I’ve got to go out for a walk and think some more.