Jul 082016
Guest Kiosk 2, Izmir station

‘entitlement’ was the word I was remembering. I added it between these other two, “death … hospitals”, when we were meeting yesterday in the city-centre Cafe.

We were in the spirit of walkingtalkingwriting, and one aspect of the entitlement word we were on about was (entitlement/un-entitlment) the dialectic, in which both of us were entitled to step out, or into a city-centre Cafe in Exeter to meet. Or to a Hospital to die.

the national choice,

or not,

were death,



I was asking you about your poetry. “Not knowing the difference between You and your better self”, you had written or something that had ended along those lines. I was saying it seemed like a beginning:

‘.. there is only one kind of poetry (these days): Jacobin and unyielding’ (Joshua Clover b. 1962)

This was quoted in a review article I had read by David Lau called Poetics of Resistance in the latest copy of NLR

in which the following poem by Anne Boyer was provided as one of the ‘new signs of collective practice, salto mortale* rhetoric’:

were death,

‘ I wake up singing “death, courtrooms and hospitals”. The next verse is “banks, boardrooms, and universities”. There is a chorus “IT companies! Armies! Films!” ‘

* (Salto mortale : like stepping out of the the cafe-kiosk at the end of the freeway. Anne Boyer’s 2012 collection of poems is available free online: My Common Heart)


Dismal Deaths and How to Avoid Them

 Posted by at 11:48 am  Exodus, Old Men Travelling  Comments Off
Apr 082016
tripe stew131

“How unbearable the body of a living being who fights with death, and now seems to win, now to lose. I don’t know how long we remained like that”. The Days of Abandonment,  Pp 145. Elena Ferrante explores in this story what happens to us when our lives results in an unbearable absence of sense.

Nose bleed. Now I seem to win, now to lose, he is saying. To begin with the dying experience has to be told from the narrator’s perspective. Because to be able to follow the story there are some essential personal details to fill in and a few other thing we need to know. Rat poison!

The reader gets pulled in. I don’t know how long we remain like that. Unlike her four volume Naples Novels, The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante is under  200 pages long. It is gendered and includes references to other women with unbearable stories of an absence of sense, “the pages in which Anna Karenina goes toward her death…”, “…leafed through the ones about women destroyed”, Pp183. Sophocles’ Antigone, comes to mind as well: these are stories in which, as regards the unbearable absence of sense, the men by and large do not die well.

I haven’t stopped reading simply because I have reached the end. And I don’t know how long we remain like this.

Oct 212014
Don Gallo Provoking

‘Hit’ la marciapede and be provoked into speaking: from diamonds nothing was born, from shit flowers bloom.

A man whose name I know as Roberto has returned to Genoa and is expressing a new level of beauty in his life. This is what I am told over the weekend by my monastic friend ‘S’ who has been staying with us and told us a little fragment of Roberto’s story.

Roberto seems exactly the kind of man you need to meet in order to grow a style of conversation that rubs a bit more dirt into your shoes, and loosens your tongue of the terror of speaking in Italian in this new country where you are now living your life. I have not met or spoken with Roberto myself, but I have the strong impression that he speaks a less than perfect English… or Italian. More than a little broken – What could better! He has been the last few years in England, some of them more or less at Her Majesty’s Pleasure , and was otherwise unable to return to Italy for a variety of reasons if you follow my gist.

Italy, as no doubt you are already beginning to discover is a land of open insecurity and institutional terror, more than England I think at the present time, so Roberto still has to be careful about who knows his whereabouts. However, he is back now and working with the community of San Porto of Genoa and there you will find him. His is an inspiring story – as is the one about this marciapiede communita.

La Communita di San Benedetto al Porto was founded and lead by Don Gallo until his death last year aged 84. “My gospels are not four…” Don Gallo once said, “…we have been following for years the gospel according to a path that is in (an) obstinate and contrary direction. And we can confirm it, note it: from diamonds nothing was born, from shit flowers bloom” (La Storia siamo noi 2007).

Like Roberto, Andrea Gallo also came from Genoa. Born in 1928, his Christian education blossomed (under the Silesians) and he was ordained a priest in 1959. However, he developed an “obstinate and contrary direction” of teaching, provoked and based entirely on trust and freedom.

This new direction did not go down well with the authorities, and as a priest he was in constant trouble with them, both spiritual and secular. Working among the poor of Capraia in 1970 where there was a very high level of drug use, he gave a homily saying there are many other worse drugs in society than the ones that are found on the street, including the language a child is taught that makes him “unsuitable” as a grown man to speak or flourish with it.

Soon afterwards he was accused by the Curia of being a communist and removed from office. Returning soon after to Genoa he founded the Communita di San Benedetto al Porto, and continued for the rest of his life to care for the poor of the city and all people of the street. And to provoke : working for peace and for all marginalized peoples… being fined for openly smoking marijuana in the town hall of Genoa in 2006… participating in the Genova Pride movement in 2009… in 2013 saying what the Catholic Church really needed was an openly gay pope.

What is a better word in English than “unsuitable” (as above)? Is there a better translation for “from shit flowers bloom”? And can I provoke you to a marciapiede meeting, speaking and blossoming of language with Roberto (or someone like him), a man clearly in step with this “obstinate and contrary direction”, and living a life of beauty not so far from you in Genova?

Time and Relative Dimensions of Space

 Posted by at 9:55 pm  Catastrophe Games, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Jan 022013

“Broken time and the relative dimensions of space”  (broken time… and/or… time travel) was first explained by Susan Foreman in 1963/1964 (on BBC TV).

We would like to claim the Triple Entry System belongs to the Radical Tradition, but we realise that the sandwich kiosk fabric of WordStall is fragile, and that phrase – ‘The Radical Tradition’ – is full of a strangeness which continues to bring both the black and red shirts out on to the street. We are not looking for any trouble…

Or are we? Strange Cases indeed!

For instance, there is the strange case of the Radical Tradition philosopher Julius Evola (Sicilian nobleman 1898-1974) who discontinued his education at a young age because he “did not want to be bourgeoisie”. Evola joined the Italian army in the first World War and fought bravely on the Asiago plateau. Postwar he was anti-fascist, but even more vehemently anti-communist (anti- egalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-popular), and later became a supporter of El Duco, fleeing to Austria after Mussolini’s fall in 1943. Living in Vienna he walked the streets during air raids “pondering his destiny” (as he wrote later), and was eventually wounded by a piece of bomb shrapnel which left him permanently paralysed from the waist down. In the 1950’s he wrote his famous trilogy on the Kali Yuga (Dark Age), and developed a deep interest in tantra, sexual magic and spiritual practice. Evola leaves an ambiguous legacy, claimed both by the “black terrorists” of the far right, and the apocalyptic “deep green” occultists, and many others who claim certainty as regards the meaning of changeability and austerity also claim him.

Dec 202012
Angelus Novus Klee

Let’s remain topical and stay in La Bella Flora: here are x2 places recommended by the Wu Ming (“slightly more than expected from a band of novelists”) for us Anglophones to find out “what’s going on in Italy streetswise, grassrootswise, riotwise, revolutionwise and so on”:
Struggles in Italy
Italy Calling

We’ll keep latest copies of these two, and more From the good side of Italy  available on our newstand from now on as we trundle Wordstall through the our fluid continental locations we visit. That’s a promise… but just hang on please for a few weeks until the digital magazine racks get here and we work out how to put them up on our stall.

Bella / Bello!

Dec 182012

My, my, O Pantalone (magnifici, e zenerosi Signori), What a come-back! Mario Monti’s government is in its last days in the latest version of the la Bella Flora panto, and out from the shadows nostro parruchiere appears – again and again as it seems to us at the far back of the theatre in the cheap-cheap seats - like an Inamorato resurrected out of the commedia dell’arte (ref: The Italian Comedy, Piere Louise Ducharte, tr Randolph T Warner. Dover 1966).

Of course to see him on the come-back trail like this gives us all quite a shock, but we must learn to take the long view, and in the annals of the ‘best preserved’ of the great undead nostro parruchiere has some way to go. The eight mummies in the Bleikeller* of Bremen Cathedral are among my leading contenders (well ahead of Lenin and other of the ’best preserved’s of the last century). Now over 300 years old nobody quite knows how the famous Bleikeller eight have survived to live on so well with hair, leathery skin, nails and teeth all apparantly intact. One is a student who has lain in his coffin since 1705, another the city chancellor (up to the year 1730)…  And the list goes on, the Swedish officer who went for a lie down after being blown up in an explosion – all survive in an effortless present tense and, although it makes our flesh crawl, we cannot help but join the gawping crowd -

…And then there is also the mysterious Englishwoman “Lady Stanhope” (shades of La Bella Pascale!), who shares the same horizontal position as the sprightly forever-eighty-year-old ’labourer’.  Bunga Bunga, Nostro Parruchiere! For you there is – and will always be - only the everlasting now, and for us the uncomfortable feeling that somehow it is we – the crowds who come to gawp - who provide the strange alchemy which feeds you and allows you to continue to love on.

*Bleikeller – tr = ’Lead cellar’

Jun 292012

If, as you quote, ‘You must absolutely be disloyal to be a good writer’ (Somerset Vaughan? You mean Maugham?) then it rather suggests that to be a writer you must turn yourself out of hearth and home and live as a vagabond – using internet cafés to post the latest chapter of your magnum opus or your latest avant-garde incoherence and curling up each night in a cardboard box (should you be so lucky) free at last. And the smell?


We are misled by books and presumably even more by kindles because the stink of the author has been wished away, reduced to leather, ink, paper, plastics, electronics. Writers must have their distinctive smells; a life at the desk or in the gutter – depending on your authenticity as a writer. What would have hit your nostril as you burst in on James Joyce en famille? And even more disturbing/terrifying what would have assailed your nostrils if you had happened to bump into Walter Benjamin in those moments before he committed suicide in the Pyrénées on the French/Spanish border. The mind reels. It’s as though smells have the ability to cut through the sanctity of our illusions, our best wishes. No wonder priests incense the altars, even the congregation, everybody within reach. And I always thought (though without putting it into words till this moment) that Somerset Maugham was entirely fishy, quite literally that of the rotting ocean, the whiff of some archetypal fishwife gutting fish (and you if you’re not quick on your feet) in one second flat – a grim smile on her face.


Recently, in Florence, I heard Michael Ondhaatje and Kieran Desai discussing something the organisers of the conference called vagabond literature. It was the case that the need to translate slowed the proceedings but after some interesting accounts of their ‘roots’ in India and Sri Lanka, their migration first to the UK and then on to North America where they simply morphed into successful novelists. As they went on they had less and less interesting things to say. Ondaatje in particular looking bored and Desai beautifully decorative and trying hard. And the image of a couple of spoilt rich kids began to dominate my reactions to them. Obviously I should have got up close and had a good sniff to find out what they were made of. If in fact they could still be identified as human. Instead I wrestled with possible questions to ask them but then it was all over and we drifted out from the palazzo into the warm evening to wander and chat. But not about smells.


What is the stench of over-privilege? Is it dry or wet or simply out of this world? Something from the far distant reaches of the universe? Occupying the eternal? Do gods smell?


Life smells.


You neglected to demand the answer to a question but I shan’t let you off so easily. Where are you digging? Do you have characters/plots in mind for the grave, sorry I mean novel?