13 Items of Normality

 Posted by at 5:18 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
May 282010

13 things I noticed in Lowestoft between 0845 and 1040 on 25th
May 2010.


  1. Clean
  2. More
    mobility scooters than I’ve ever seen in my life.
  3. Bicycles
  4. The
  5. Emptiness.
  6. Outside
    a shop, on a blackboard, a chalk list of goods, including museli. The
    spelling of muesli as museli – which coincidentally was how the seven year
    old daughter of the friends I had been staying with rendered it, fifteen
    years ago, in thick transparent paint on the large glass sweetie jar. An
    act by which she transformed it into a muesli (or museli) container. No
    more sweets?
  7. The
    Costa coffee house in which a member of staff suggested I might prefer not
    to have a coffee there because (as I could hear) the alarm had jammed on
    and until an engineer arrived . . .
  8. I
    could have reflected on Pinkie Camisole’s broken society or the lies of
    politicians or the cruelty of life and our frailty in the face of that
    cruelty . . . there but for the grace of God . . .
  9. The
    queue rapidly building just before 9 am outside the Post Office.
  10.  Young mothers pushing babies in
    pushchairs and toddlers toddling.
  11. A
    lone father pushing a pushchair along the sea front.
  12. Two
    street people, rough sleepers, or however they might prefer to describe
    themselves, settling themselves on the beach (the only ones on the beach)
    with their cans of lager.
  13. Terraces of tiny houses with giant
    blue wheelie bins by each front door.

Normal Hustle and Bustle

 Posted by at 5:09 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
May 252010

Marsh Barn, Bridport (21st May 2010)


Three generations. They had driven down all the way from Brighton, emerging Poletical Poits, (a possible politics, a possible poetry) on Friday evening began reading to us in this old rustic Dorset barn down by the sea:


J H Prynne (‘…There are many questions about poetry that cannot be well answered by poets, but that’s no reason for not thinking about them and exchanging points of view.’)


Keston Sutherland –




Josh Stanley -


90 minutes later we had a break, and some of us bought one or two of their books of poetry (Barque Press). Then we sat down again for a conversation, the few of us that were left that is, we were down to single figure by then (And many people say J H Prynne is the most significant English poet of our times)…


- What did any of you (1. FOOTNOTE) expect on this marsh ground (2. FOOTNOTE) in the end?

  The area of the Coda, he said, is full of life, recapitulating Simentov’s Serenade, before it descends back into cows.


- Hot! Full! Fast!

  Why do you all read so fast? I asked.


- I tried to stay awake but it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep along with the rest, dreaming the GOOD OLD CAUSE down here (3. FOOTNOTE), because somewhere from off a long list of the 40 ways not to be a Good Comrade, besides Deviationism (Dissident), Formalism and so on, my eyes had lit on Liberalism (Lazy).



- Besides cows are common as muck. And cowardly we know.

  I need to do its suffering, one of you (4. FOOTNOTE) had said.


- Be in maximal danger.

  Cool, empty and slow, you (5. FOOTNOTE), to get one finger in, try sliding a hand, to push round this scandle.




1. You

2.  Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Poetry and Politics (Critical Essays. 1982, P 15-34) etc, etc

3.  ‘Down here’, when at war:

- We hang all Irish sight

- Blood feuds are fought between families

- & we rarely take prisoners…




 Posted by at 10:30 am  Atelier  Comments Off
May 212010

Normal? Gasp! Splutter! Perhaps shudder . . . and what is normal, the actress asked the bishop. Boredom was creeping in; how did this happen to me? She flicked her hair out of her eyes. How did I land up here? Again.

Normal, he asked himself, how did I utter such a suspect word. Why didn't I run it past Uncle Wally, checked it out, given a bit more thought to it all. The scandal word came to mind, the labyrinth of of mind. The desire word came to mind. To be pulled towards and into the flesh of another. Surely that's normal . . . is it normal? He wanted to go home, but he was at home. The dull familiarity of it all as though the dust was thickening around him with each breath. No, not so much around him as in his lungs. She was chattering on and on and he was unable to hear a word she was saying. Had he turned the sound off? Suddenly he was terribly afraid that she was going to take her clothes off.
Meanwhile back in Upping Street Pinkie Posh Camisole had his sleeves rolled up and was experimenting with facial expressions in the mirror. He lusted after determination, courage even, to face down any event that had the merest whiff of crisis about it, like the lack of dosh in his, well, the country's big china, and very, very empty, pig (a present from Great Aunt Maggie). Pinkie was waiting for his new dance partner, Nix C. Legg. As usual he was late; such a prima donna! What was he up to? Could he be trusted? He attempted a threatening, but knowing, grimace in the mirror.

Everything Back to Normal

 Posted by at 12:10 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
May 182010

I told you it wouldn't take us that long. First we decided that the volcanic ash clouds drifting south from Iceland were not as dangerous to jet engines as we feared at first, and then we demanded the threatened strikes by British Airways cabin staff should be called off, or rather we found ways of making them illegal every time they called a strike day. And so panic over, we can all have our summer holidays, flying whenever we want again.

That is the way we Brits like our politics, a certain frisson of foolhardiness, like you say. Or call it that shudder if you prefer; Surprise-Astonishment-Fear-Horror (along a path to a Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin), or what TS Eliot named as the 'bewildering minute', when something utterly takes our breath away because for us Brits, it is the same whether it is our politics, or our poetry, a bit of a thrill for the natives – Shock! Horror! A serious quarrel – but only for a minute, and then everything back to normal.

After all it is only three weeks until England kicks off in the World Cup.

What my Danish friend had previously noticed and described to me as the British habit for disempowerment and apathy. What do you do in Denmark then, I asked indignantly, Oh we take our politics more seriously, he said by which I think he meant the Danes over the last generation have been more seriously committed to expressing the principles of Fairness and Equality in their politics, And we are good listeners, we have to be, you see Denmark is a small country and we have some very big neighbours.

No blocked ears there. That great listening poet, Hans Magnus Enzensberger from over the border in Germany, is featured in last Saturday's Guardian, a listening capacity combined with an ability to speak his mind. Never mind that the mind faces in two directions simultaneously, that is simply the way the Germans do their politics.

We have such a lot to learn.

Disturbing the Tribes

 Posted by at 11:38 am  Atelier  Comments Off
May 142010

The tribes are disturbed –
archaic Tory tebbits murmuring in the shires – what is going on? And what’s
this? Apathy? Disempowered? I don’t know his people! On the street other voices
chime in, I think he’s asking for a kicking and Uncle Wally’s shoulders shake
in soundless mirth.

For a few moments our slumber was
disturbed by this kid on the telly. People were talking about it as though we
thought he might be saying something radical or important. We perked up! But,
fortunately, not for long because our attention span was already stretched to
breaking point so it was a relief when it all got back to business as usual in
a dirty joke. The last I heard he had crept into bed with pink Dave Camisole
though it’s not to be imagined what monster might be bred from this union, even
if Uncle Wally was of the opinion that they look very sweet together, perhaps
made for each other.

But I have a sudden unsettling
uncertainty – what do they talk about the following morning, waking from their
post-coital dozing with a fag (haha!) and cups of lapsang souchong – one is
feeling a little delicate, you understand.

Democracy aka the open society
can cut up rough when you’re least expecting it. Often in those moments of
being caught between one’s habitual cowardice and a certain frisson of
foolhardiness having just discerned that it’s within the realm of possibility
to survive for a few more years; the inconsiderate belligerence of mortality
pushed aside for half an hour.

What was that you said!? Temperature
rising. Shocking business this democracy. All sorts of people thinking they can
say just what they feel like. No respect.

Uncle Wally’s looking
disconsolate* – like he’s just lost a few grand instead of receiving the
promised prize, banked on in anticipatory glee. Ahhhhh, the soft sigh shuffle
that you were thinking you heard.


*Come to think of it he looks
rather like GB before resigning.

“I Never Expected to Hear Myself Say…”

 Posted by at 2:16 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
May 112010

Yes, there is the possibility of a soft sigh, not emitted from our lips but heard, and coming from an unknown location, and I am unable to detect its source or even the direction from where it was made. From above if anywhere, and in my mind as a sound, either immediately over where I am stood, or better to say on a perfect trajectory, coming to meet with my next step or next step after that, because I have had for several years now the image of a iron metal axehead falling from the sky, but were I to look up at this moment, and were I to ask you to look up with me, and we peered together through the sparse clouds and up into the blue sky above we would as like as not see nothing, or at the most only a speck so small that it would appear to us as a tiny flying bird or perhaps less than that, in our state of diminished awareness, something indistinguishable from those vitreous floaters which drift across our eyes.


This image of a falling iron axehead being ‘the area of the Coda’ – ‘where immense life is possible’ I had written down two months ago (March 9th), being the helpful and precisely accurate phrases I had heard used by the contemporary Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov to describe his method of musical creativity – the area of the Coda, not an intimation of mortality but of immense life, in an unfolding and recapitulation.


Including of the just past, of our recent historical experiences and processes -


The ‘Just Past’, Uncle Wally corrects me, being the category of the last century (the 20th in this instance as it relates to us, while for Walter Benjamin writing in the 1920’s and 1930’s it was the 19th), and, since we are still alive to this very day, our lives in it as successors and survivors from as far as the second and third generations back.


- You English, a Danish friend, who has been living in our misty isle for most of the last twenty years, told me last week, And your politics, he went on, I notice two things which I don’t understand, how you are always disempowering yourselves and your apathy.


And it is often true in the dialogue between us, but here over the last few weeks, something shocking seems to have happened to our politics, the sense of the re-emergence of the capacity for ideological quarrel, being visible in the area of the Coda through the recapitulation of the just past. We would go to war for Democracy, we shout out together, But we wouldn’t go to war for capitalism, Or the free market, another voice says, Or the progressive agenda, says a third, and so on, and other words…


…“I never expected to hear myself say”, and even in the presence of Michael Portillo this morning, who used these very words during his radio broadcast in a three part series - Democracy on Trial – begun on BBC Radio 4 today, to which we can ‘listen again’ these next few days if we so wish.


Yes, there is indeed the possibility of a soft sigh.

Hooray, it’s Polling Day

 Posted by at 11:53 am  Atelier  Comments Off
May 062010

Luther Blisset, in his guise as a left-wing novel writing
collective from Bologna, described in his book Q how the force of the Reformation unleashed by the Augustinian monk,
Luther, was picked up by a rag-bag of about to be formed working class plus
disparate elements of the lost and the dispossessed, the dissidents and the
natural revolutionaries, inspired, led and betrayed by Anabaptist iconoclasts
who wanted to change the church and maybe the world. A rage against the
privileged defence of wealth and power, fuelled by the potency of sacrifice as (genuine,
renewed) followers of Jesus the Christ.

To be a parent is to sacrifice oneself for the future
generation; to be a revolutionary is to sacrifice oneself for the cause.

Of course, the axe might not fall with a soft sigh. But, it might
well fall with due weight and solemnity, cleaving the bony carapace of the
skull, clumsily dissecting for all time the rather softer hemispheres of the
brain . . .

and changing one’s mind about all sorts of things. Does it
let in more light? At least momentarily.

Or only darkness?

Perhaps more light AND darkness. Radiance followed by the
brutality of revenge, the violence of the iron axe.

I hardly dare breathe, not even a soft sigh.

Yes, I whisper, of course I believe in democracy. Even the
current crude ritual of placing my mark against a name, a party. YES, TODAY
EVEN, I’ll walk down the road to the polling station and scrawl my cross, my X,
however limited, however impotent an act it might be, however lacking in nuance and
sophisticated thought as to the complexity of the issues, because we have been
granted at least this much collective power.

But how is democracy to move on from this place of grumbling
dissatisfaction? And what of those of us who occupy somewhat suspect liminal
spaces in the universe? Shouting from the edges, croaking dirty jokes and
ribald asides. What have we got? Cameron’s going to roll his sleeves up, Clegg
will continue reading his hero Samuel Beckett and Brown will (maybe) retire to
his manse.

His Absent Presence

 Posted by at 8:46 am  Atelier  Comments Off
May 042010

‘Organizers on Tuesday’, that was the name for the artist collective, or so I thought reading the news-wire item. That was the name of the artist collective who were one of the four nominations announced today for this year’s Turner Prize, all four nominees being praised by the announcers for all the usual reasons, their authenticity, originality and so on, but especially their relevance, the judges making very clear the lack of sensationalist pretensions among all four nominees in attempt perhaps to restore the Prize’s tarnished reputation with the general public, which appeared to mean, reading the comments of certain art critics who were also quoted on the news-wire, that all four nominees worked with hybridity; sculpture / painting, art object / commonplace object, work of art / work of science, continental zone / subduction zone…


…Absent / presence, and Present / absence. As for  ‘Organizers on Tuesday’, I turned to the Journal of Invisible Culture to investigate the work of this artist collective who the judges might have imaginatively said walk between past and present in an effort to unearth traces and fragments, but the generally unbeatable search facility of this polymathic journal drew a complete blank. Of course for the term ‘Hybridity’ on the search facility there were pages and pages of hits, in fact so many I did not have time to look at more than the first few, but it would miss the point to see this exploration of the art collective's name or hybridity as some kind of weak or eccentric joke, or simply a mistake.


ak has been having problems with his hard drive, but will be returning to the conversations here shortly.