Jun 022015
You and I Soapbox141

‘A Sweet Disorder’

Pardon my sarong. I’ll have a Shirley Temple.
Certainly, sir. Do you want a cherry with that?
I guess so. It’s part of it, isn’t it?

Words! It is the words, isn’t it, that are increasingly hard to believe in. Without terminal humor (sic) that is – the above lines come from the beginning of a new poem by John Ashbery (age 88), and are published in his latest collection Breezeway, of which a New York critic writes: “The poems anticipate death but hold it off—they filibuster—by transfiguring it into comic forms.”

Harry Kratchnikov was nowhere to be seen but then deep in the Snigger Space with men beyond fifty, if not MB50, this wasn’t a history lesson either.

Yesterday – it was Sunday afternoon and I was being roughed up. Yesterday – it was Sunday afternoon and Dio and Trixie were being roughed up by an older man – and one old enough to know better – a monk no less in a sarong or something like it…
…The monk was about thirty silent yearswordstalk. He sat in a chair. Dio and Trixie sat side by side facing him. He spoke. They listened. No answering back. No cherry on offer either.

Afterwards Trixie said that she was not amused by this capacity men have to take themselves so seriously, and that there was no mistaking this marketplace:
Men only

Ignorance? You don’t know the meaning of the word, he said. Hardships. Trixie winced at the hard line of his bony jaw. And above it his burnt face and lips. Years and years in the outback.
You don’t know what hardship is, he said.

He spoke like a man stood at a bar, a bar where Dio couldn’t find a place to stand. Dio was hearing one thing, but seeing something else altogether. Cold anger swept up his spine. Was that meant to be a mistake for love he thought. Love? That’s a dirty Word. That’s a really dirty Word mate.

He went on and on, poking each one of his words into Dio’s softy soft belly.
Y’are not hardcore at all are yer? He said.
Ye bitch!
Try some kind of middle position between Love and Hate then: Did you get over the beatings eventually?
You’re fucked mate, he might as well have said. Go down.

A hot dusty wind. Bare arms.
What he was saying was rubbish. Sheepshearer, outback nonsense. Round and round it went, birth after rebirth, life after life, and every word filled with misery. He’d have looked as good with a beaten mongo hat and red-brown with outback dirt.

Only that Sunday afternoon there was no beer on tap, and despite where he’d come from being hellish hot and sweaty, Jeepers, here it was cold, not hot. Still he wasn’t about to get soft putting on extra clothes. Over his brown sarong or whatever he liked to call it.

Sure it was madness. Nonsense talk, every word rubbish. Taunting Dio to step up. Toe to toe. Yea, he’d probably even let you land a few punches, just to draw you in even further. Then PkoomPhoom out cold, flat on your back.

Easier ways to get there, Trixie said guiding Dio towards the exit.

Sure it was madness. Thirty crazy years too long stood staring at the sun.

Holy Men, I ask you, Trixie said.

But the bitter sense of what he had said was not missed on them.
A Sweet Disorder.

Jun 272014
Pix NOTE141 031

‘Writing I believe is a sort of co-production’. In the continuing ficto-documentary spirit of this dialogic project of ours, I now also read and repeat : ‘If it is not fair, it is not Christian either’ (Alan Bennet LRB Vol 36 No 12 19th June 2014).

To begin with: we are all are equal in the sight of God. It is a reasonable idea and one might have a liking for it, as we think how it might help us to prosper at the end if we succeed in living better lives. But as we continue our journey through life with this great-great-grandfather (nineteenth century) proposition of egalitarianism hung around our neck like a dead and rotting chicken, we observe fewer and fewer grounds for believing in it, neither as an objective truth in the world nor as an equal chance in eternal life metaphysically speaking.

Equality. Dare we speak of Luis Suarez, let alone of God? If it is not fair…

If it is not fair, then it is always exceptional. What does the exceptional genius of a young Venezuelan footballer care about fairness or equality? Or an Isis jehadist, or a red-headed ex-Sunday Newspaper editor, or HM British government for that matter – what do any of them care for equality? If you can argue cleverly enough, there are always grounds for making an exception.

What does HE care for equality?

Don’t even ask, you say. But here’s the thing:

“A funny old man of Hot-ass
Refused to make jokes at the Mass.
When asked, Ain’t it odd
Not to chuckle with God,
Said, Yes, it’s quite an impasse. ”

Hilarious Life/Death – I am for full disclosure and Agnes agrees. SHE, in contrast to most of the other implacable divines, is always game for a good laugh, and can be relied upon to bring me to another climax in holograph whenever.

I don’t like growing lists of exceptional States of Emergency whether they involve the toothsome violence of a young football celebrity, or the heavily armed violence of the forces of the constituted State or a would-be Caliphate. Nor does Agnes… and SHE is best not aroused, since an angry Agnes, demons beware of Krodhakali, refuse to make any exceptions – even of God.

No joking, I think somebody should be talking to HIM.

Get Real

 Posted by at 10:57 am  Atelier, Fundamental Perversions, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Jul 262012

At the worst of times I’m an anti-poet atheist; at the best of times I don’t give a monkey’s; it is so irrelevant that my mind remains unblemished by such filth. And more importantly I’ve got to get out of this place – the lyrics of a song swirled briefly – if it’s the last thing I ever do. Did the words refer to the factory the singer, or at least the song’s writer, worked in, still living, squashed, in his parents terraced house; dreaming of a future with his girl friend? Poetry, of course, is simply smashed up prose. What some people do instead of getting to grips with the real world.

To be honest I have no idea how many ‘floors’ I have already descended. Didn’t she say two floors down? Continue reading »

Jul 162012

Christopher Turner (LRB 5 July 2012) in his review of the Barbican exhibition: Bauhaus: Art as Life, quotes Gropius’s manifesto that called for a unity between art and craft, a unity that would ‘rise one day towards heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystalline symbol of a new faith’ and to facilitate ‘a community that wanted to create a new man in a new environment.’

    Where do any of us stand in relation to this linchpin of an ambition? What sort of work or practice would it take to bring enough light into our beings to make us ‘better’ people? Do we even believe that it is possible? And what is the evidence for change in us?

    Visiting an old friend recently, it seemed to me that he was much the same as he was when I met him more than forty years ago. There was the same strong ethical thread informing his behaviour as well as being an opportunistic chancer who was able to charm his way across social, professional and bureaucratic boundaries. And when I, in turn, reflected on any possible changes in me that I could detect, I see the same short sighted, shy individual with a poor instinctive sense of reality, who has to rely on books to aid him in building some useable concepts of reality. Sort of.

    Because there is a strand of doubt which hardly believes that locked into our subjective/objective tensions we have never and will never finally describe reality. And this idea or belief is central to this blog and then, of course, there is a but, quite a big but:

    But we can be tantalised, seduced, persuaded, entertained, enraged and engaged as we pursue these strange and surprising, not to say outrageous, gods of language. 


Jul 072012

Not really a circular journey because that presupposes that the person who comes back is the person who set out all those days, months or years before. But we are confined to our spherical prison under the stars and under the sun. Renzo Piano’s Shard points the way out. The straight line must be the stuff of imagination. It informs, lends a narrow beam of light to our lives. Enables us to pretend that we have pushed God off ‘his’ throne and replaced him with . . . what? Science, psychoanalysis, all sorts of possibilities come to mind. And we really can tell stories . . . well, some of us can and some of us are rubbish at it.




 The Flags Are Out


The flags are out – no I don’t why either . . .

but we may have to bend ourselves to the collective will.


The deer came out of nowhere; no, that’s not quite true

it obviously came out of somewhere.


It emerged in a rush from the hedge on my right

startled by my appearance before her, two or three metres


from her, she swerved and plunged into the opposite hedge.

A brief encounter with the wild – a second from


a collision that I imagine would have left me

sprawling in the road because she was all force.


A force intent on evasion and survival

making a life on the margins of the human dominated landscape.


Bright eyed maenad alive with perfection; one being intensity

tearing me limb from limb; flesh organs bones into


the mincer. The fat red-faced cook turning the handle

with gusto, eyes libidinously merry,


dreaming of such a dish to set before the king;

Spices and fruit bursting with juices


bursting on the jaded palates of a thousand diners.

Come overwhelm me, my darling –


this is something special: to be remade

to enter the hunt, to outwit time


to twist and shout exulting the joy, to fall

to touch the cathartic as an equal; to die as she dies


because each day I must enter her once more

in order to find what I must be.


(Alan Kirby 2012)


The Smell of God

 Posted by at 10:24 pm  Atelier, OVER and BEYOND  Comments Off
Jul 052012

And what is the smell of pilgrimage? Fragrant, or foul? Towards the blissful odour of the divine? Or the stink of God dying (if/when God detects the smell)? 

I’ll begin with a quotation-

Enrique Vila-Matas, tr Rosalind Harvey and Anne MacLean. Dublinesque (2012), P 24.

The narrative is taking Samuel Riba back to his home in Barcelona in a taxi. He reads a newspaper on the journey:

"He goes back to the newspaper and reads that Claudio Magris believes (that) Ulysses' circular journey as he returns triumphantly home – Joyce's traditional, classic, Oedipal and conservative journey – was replaced halfway through the twentieth century by a rectilinear journey: a sort of pilgrimage, a journey always moving forward, towards an impossible point in infinity, like a straight line advancing hesitantly into nothingness.”

What does being on pilgrimage (see our strapline) mean? Outlaw and Disloyal is one answer, such as:

        - using the reference to Claudio Magris in the above quotation

        - anthropological writing, such as Tim Ingold on ‘Lines’, or Michael Taussig on ‘Fieldnotes’

        - OR being ‘en route to Istanbul’ (according to our ABOUT # here) concocting a theory in transit, as I was about a week ago ON A TRAIN FROM WATERLOO TO PARKSTONE involving
1.) ‘Vagabond Literature’: on the CONTEXT of Writing

Outlaw and Disloyal (rather than (say) Cosmopolitan or Bohemian)
a) Out of Place        = vagabond dialectics
b) Abroad               = serial dialogicity

2.) ‘Rurban’ – on the LOCATION of Walking

The complexity of ‘city vagabonds
                             = landscapes rather than spaces 

3.) 'Just Past'* – on the TIME of Talking  

Histories of the living
                            = the feuilleton tradition

(* Urgeschichte: for more on the ‘Just Past’ see Walter Benjamin etc)

4.) ‘Sunrise’ – on the STYLE of walkingtalkingwriting

Subjective kinetic optimism plus moral imagination
                            = in jest

Earlier in Dublinesque the narrative takes the sixty year old Samuel Riba, thereafter shortened to ‘Riba’, to a hilarious meeting with his ancient mother and father, where he finds that he is no longer able to explain his movements. It is, so to speak, a meeting with God, "So you've been to Lyon", his parents ask Riba over and over, irritably seeking a reply – and I rather suspect, malodorously – but he finds it impossible to give any account of his recent visit to that city, where he spent the whole time alone in his hotel bedroom concocting a general theory of the novel.

However, when he had finished his “daring” theory, Riba remembered the ‘sacred
instinct of having no theories’ spoken of by Pessoa, and so held a secret funeral for it (and all other theories) and left the city. Riba of course is unable to tell any of this to God, or to his ancient parents.

Wall to wall joys of monarchy

 Posted by at 9:30 am  Atelier, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Jun 092012

The ogres of monarchy must be very pleased with their recent efforts; success beyond their wildest dreams. And there was plenty of rain to test their stolid and plucky English pride.

Once, halfway through the journey of our life

I found myself inside a shadowy wood,

Because the road had disappeared.

                    This is Sean O'Brien's opening of his translation (2006) of Dante's Inferno.

According to his introduction O'Brien had the idea that translating Dante was a necessary rite of passage. Though I haven't yet heard that Ivor Cutler had a go at it. Something or other brought Cutler to mind a few days ago – was he mentioned on the radio? Prior to that he had seemingly slipped into the category of the forgotten. In the Poetry Library I discover they have quite a number of his books. One I pick out is The Flat Man, though the F has been turned back to front. And there is a photograph of the author in a white singlet and a black flat cap. His mouth is clenched – about to burst into laughter? eyeing you, the reader or potential reader. The book is dated 1977 but reissued in 1997. Some years ago I stood next to him at the desk of the Poetry Library. He was dressed in what I saw as a poet-arch-bishop's regalia. A lilac jacket, flower in his hat. He asked me if I was a poet. I refused that identity but did admit that I wrote the occasional poem. He gave me his mystical blessing. In remembering this, it brings to mind a more recent occasion when I asked Paul Muldoon to sign one of his books – he too, peered into me, examined me to see what I might be made of, what words I might be made of.

It's what we are always doing; chasing words that we might make use of.

Ivor Cutler's Lean

People lean back in


But only

if the the chair

has a back.

Backless chairs –

or stools

as we call them –

are suitable

only for leaning

forwards –

or sitting bolt upright.

You would think that

people who really wanted to lean


would use

a stool.

I first heard of Ivor Cutler listening to John Peel – so long ago, it must have been a previous life – and I think Peel must also have been a fan of John Cooper Clark who's been featured on the tv recently.

Incontinent; malicious; bestial;

And mad; – and how incontinence offends

Our maker less, and this incurs less blame?

                (from Canto XI)

What sort of thing was punk? I barely noticed it at the time but have been woken to its excitement through reading Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces. It is linked in to what he calls The Secret History of the Twentieth Century – the Dadaists, the Lettrist International and the Situationists. Those who don't sign up to the dominant narrative. Pina Bausch's work is in that other tradition, insisting on the authenticity of her view, creating a radical way of working that is challenging and painful, was slow to be accepted but now (a couple of years after her death) is wildly acclaimed. On Wednesday evening after being captivated and beaten up by her company's performance of Victor, the audience (including me of course) gave them a long and well deserved standing applause. Détournement as Guy deBord put it.

Pina Bausch's way of working, her using her company through close and personal questioning to arrive at movements and words that are gradually turned into the performance. Seeing the dancers/actors is to see the process – a sort of psychoanalysis – and it makes sense of the hearing about the close attention that Pina gave as a child (from under a table) to the various adults who stayed at her parent's boarding house.

In a recent dream I was teaching a class (young adults) about certain aspects of language (though what exactly has not been retained) when suddenly I am facing a rebellion. There is a young woman who is angry at what she sees as poor teaching and she demands to hear from her fellow students whether or not they have learned anything at all from the class. In those moments of rising into wakefulness from the dream I have the impression that the general consensus is NO.

Threads and Traces

 Posted by at 11:39 am  Atelier, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Jun 012012

I think of networks of nerves and blood vessels, I think of love that touches and enables new organisation to take shape, I think of a sheep trapped in barbed wire; the paths that open out into the journey and those that apparently come to what we call a ‘dead’ end. A few weeks ago I could not help but notice the body of a black cat killed by the rushing of motorised traffic as I cycled out, vulnerable, myself, to the possibilities of the same fate. A mile or two of A road before I can dive off into the network of lanes that connect farms and hamlets, wriggling and clinging up hill and down dale; a maze to disorientate, to visit sleepy hollows, and present new and surprising vistas that I didn’t know existed. The black cat’s cadaver was in the middle of the carriageway, recognisably cat-like, but it wasn’t long before it was flattened, bones crushed, soft tissue squeezed out, perhaps nibbled by creatures that have a taste for that sort of carrion fast-food – crows and the like. Then a couple of weeks later it looked like a scrap of fur rug and by this time it had moved (been moved?) into the edge of the road, more or less right in my path and finally in the last week or two all that remains are three or four scuffs of black something-or-other across the white line; something that I no longer bother to avoid. A mere trace of something that had lived and breathed and been loved.

    Earlier this morning I read Paul Durcan’s The Road to Vétheuil 2009 (from Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being)  and loved how it traces a path of love from walking ‘downhill to the village’ to the opening of the door and ‘we embraced and we burst out laughing.’ And the final six lines:

        ‘We stood face to face, talking nonsense,

        Not having seen one another for six months.

        Delighted to be doing that, and that only,

        And not being expected to do or say anything else

        But simply to be there and nowhere else

        Piping absolute, pure, spontaneous song.’

    Alain Badiou (In Praise of Love) writes (something else I read this morning): ‘ . . . between May ’68 and the Eighties . . . I developed the political conviction I have remained implacably loyal to and for which “communism” is one possible name. But I then equally structured my future life around processes of love that were by and large definitive. What came later, of the same order, was illuminated by that inspiration and its enduring nature . . . That was really the moment when, in between politics and love, my life found the musical chord that ensured its harmony.’

    The image of the project that we call life that is suggested by Badiou's words is that of a musical instrument (take your choice of instrument!). We are given the rough outline and we struggle daily and in our dreams at night to refine the trumpet or violin, to clarify what sort of instrument it is, learn to play it, engage with our resistances – when the teacher says sing, well, sing for God’s sake . . . but no, I can’t, I won’t, leave me alone, I’m in too much pain, I’m too distracted.

    And here is Tonto peering at the traces, the hoof print in the soft earth, the broken twig. He’ll know which we must go