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)


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.

May 232014
Harry K sat in a chair142

Parmenides of Elea (Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; fl. 5th century BCE )- single known work is a poem: On Nature, which has survived only in fragmentary form. In this poem, Parmenides describes two views: In “the way of truth” part of the poem he explains how reality (coined as “what-is”) is. In “the way of opinion,” he explains the world of appearances. (These ideas had a strong effect on Plato, and in turn, influenced… etc.) Part of the poem describes the journey to a very far place:

The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach
rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary
road of the divinity that carries the man who knows
through the vast and dark unknown. And on I was carried
as the mares, aware just where to go, kept carrying me
straining at the chariot; and young women led the way.
And the axle in the hubs let out the sound of a pipe
blazing from the pressure of the two well-rounded wheels
at either side, as they rapidly led on: young women, girls,
daughters of the Sun who had left the mansions of Night
for the light and pushed back the veils from their faces
with their hands.
There are the gates of the pathways of Night and Day,
held fast in place between the lintel above and a threshold of stone;
and they reach up into the heavens, filled with gigantic doors.
And the keys—that now open, now lock—are held fast by
Justice: she who always demands exact returns. And with
soft seductive words the girls cunningly persuaded her to
push back immediately, just for them, the bar that bolts
the gates. And as the doors flew open, making the bronze
axles with their pegs and nails spin—now one, now the other—
in their pipes, they created a gaping chasm. Straight through and
on the girls held fast their course for the chariot and horses,
straight down the road.
And the goddess welcomed me kindly, and took
my right hand in hers and spoke these words as she addressed me:
‘Welcome young man, partnered by immortal charioteers,
reaching our home with the mares that carry you. For it was
no hard fate that sent you travelling this road—so far away
from the beaten track of humans—but Rightness, and Justice.
And what’s needed is for you to learn all things: both the unshaken
heart of persuasive Truth and the opinions of mortals,
in which there’s nothing that can truthfully be trusted at all.
But even so, this too you will learn—how beliefs based on
appearance ought to be believable as they travel all through
all there is.’

(tr. Peter Kingsley In the Dark Places of Wisdom 1999)

Jan 292014
Ground Zero, Santiago Presidential Palace, 11th Sept 1973

They say it is for your own good.

The cut backs (“The Cuts”). Is it possible to cut too far? Cut far beyond last year’s growing point. Back to the main stems. General wisdom says, the most the pruning saw cuts should be to above the first major stem divide. Hoping for new sprouts the next spring, which will form new fruiting branches in future years.

But it is most important not to cut all the stems of the apple tree at once. Leave at least one or two main stems with live branches. However high and tangled they are. Don’t cut too deep. Or you overstress the tree. In order not to kill it, some fruiting branches need to be left growing off one of the main stem.

In the long conversation on the pruning topic, one of the precursors for a main stem graft, which is widely used today to promise new forms of sustained fruiting, goes by the name ‘Human Capital’. The ‘Human Capital’ name involves the idea of replacing the principle of welfare state universal benefits with targeting and charging but with a philanthropic twist: the selected recipients of state education, health-care or other services are charged on a cost/benefit basis. The benefits are calculated (exactly how is a long running economic argument) so nobody get more than their fair share. Fair share in the context of ‘Human Capital’ means in some sense deserving of receiving but simultaneously being charged, with the state (or privatised element of the state) expecting to get something back in return, like more productivity or bigger and better jobs being done. In other words, state benefits are no longer universal.

It is true the orchard has been neglected over the last twenty years and more, and the branches of the ‘Human Capital’ stem grafts have been romping away. However, the main result has not been more apple fruit all round. Quite the opposite in fact. Ivy has been the main benefactor. First it grew in the shadow of overgrowing hedges and overhanging trees, and then increasingly simply as a multiplying derivative of its own great mass of ever-green shade. The ivy has proliferated everywhere. Serving only itself. Glossy. Green.

Fruits have been poor and sour in recent years.

Cut back one week there is the remembrance that green is a colour Mondrian detested, and avoided using the colour in all of his paintings of apple trees.

The ‘Human Capital’ graft was originally one of The Chicago School ideas of the 1960′s, and was especially successfully implanted in the universities of Chile. The economist Miguel Kast had trained in Chicago 1970-73 before returning to work at Odeplan, the Chilean state planning agency. There he became the architect for the state’s ‘focussed’ anti-poverty measures implemented under the Pinochet regime, being appointed Minister of Labour and Social Security in 1980 .

Cutting back much harder, there is the remembrance of Ground Zero, September 11th 1973 that is (not 2001), the date of the Pinochet coup in Chile: the storming of the presidential palace in Santiago, assassination of President Allende, and the violent overthrow of his democratically elected government.

In the Wordstall archive there are the yellowing copies of old newspapers, the front pages carrying throughout all South America with the headlines of Allende’s fall the day after, along with a graphic full page photograph showed the smoke billowing out of the windows of the palace. The photograph had been wired to the newsrooms of Rio de Janeiro and every other city and provincial town in the region. As the news spread out, it felt like a shadow was descending over every man, woman, and child, although at the time it was impossible to put a name to the feelings of insecurity and fear.

In this respect as in others, Pinochet’s Chile was the precursor: not only was it the first Latin American country to fully privatise the administration of its pension fund in 1980, it also pioneered the conditional safety net, establishing the Subsido Unico Familiar in August 1981. Combining the idea of human capital with the principles of targetting…” (Lena Lavinas, 21st Century Welfare, New Left Review 84 (Nov/Dec 2013), P. 5-40)

These coordinated plans of central government are now frequently given the name ‘Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes’. They have been and are being deployed worldwide in all regions of the world – and closer to home of course in the orchards of these misty isles for many years now.

The task of cutting all the ivy at ground level for every apple tree has now been completed. The main stems and branches have been exposed. They look alive and the next growing season will reveal which of these will blossom, which stems will sprout new shoots, and where new fruit will be set.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of buzzing going on within the hive. The bees are mostly asleep this time of year, but it appears that a fierce argument is currently going on about whether the richest ‘Human Capital’ of the misty isle should pay 50% tax.

Both the quantity of next season’s harvest and the likely sweetness of the fruit remains uncertain.

Santa is Back in Town…

 Posted by at 12:25 pm  Exodus, IN Conversation, Tonite at the Coliseum  Comments Off
Dec 112013

It is that time of year again when some old man with a big beard and a reality problem visits all our homes.

And as we sit around the fire together on dark December evenings, jesting and telling each other stories of death and life, we can hear the whispering of the Ancestors as they draw closer to join us from out of the surrounding shadows.

One of my current favourite stories of Death and Life begins like this:

‘It was a very momentous day, the day on which I was to be slaughtered. (Fear not, have faith!) The king was ready, the two attendants were on hand. The butcher had been ordered for half past six; it was a quarter past and I myself arranged for the necessary preparations. We had selected a spacious hall for the occasion, so that many spectators could comfortably take part in the festivities. A telephone was within reach. The doctor lived next door and agreed to be on call if a member of the audience fainted (etc…)...’

It still has my hairs standing on end – does it yours? – and wanting to read on. To read the rest of this scintillating short story click on –  ‘The Onion (Merzpoem 8)’

The story was written in German by Kurt Schwitters in 1919 – just imagine that; all that time ago and it feels as though it could have been written yesterday! – and the 2010 translation is by Peter Wortsman.

Searing Abundance

 Posted by at 8:34 am  Anti-Gravity Surgery, OVER and BEYOND  Comments Off
Oct 102013

“We can’t go on like this!” the old man said raising his horn of plenty. Or did he say it in the first person? Or was it impersonal, “It can’t go on like this!”?

The world is hotting up. No question about it, and it is not just climate change, it’s everything. Faster, swifter and more urgent conversations. And love too, more of it everywhere. Abundant, searing life.


Before he left Mr Fox took one last walk in the olive grove on the other side of the Bay of Naples from the city, where he and his Mrs had been staying last month. It was as if branches and fruits were sprouting from out of his head.


May 152013

I read that there have already been several reviews of the book  Middle C by William Gass (2013, 416 pp), including the ones by Cynthia Ozick in the New York Times, and Michael Gorra in the New York Review of Books. But I confess, I’ve only read the one by Seth Colter Walls in the latest LRB (9 May 2013). At the end of this review it is recorded that during an interrogation in 1978 Gass was accused by the writer John Gardner that his novels were like jumbo jets, “too encrusted with gold to get off the ground.” Gass replied, “There is always that danger. But what I really want is to have it sit there solid as a rock and have everybody think it is flying.”

18 years to make a rock? I am doubtful of the necromancing topography here, and my feeling is that I wont be tempted to “go in” and invest the effort and anxieties (“I write because I hate” WG) to journey through the shady sorcery of Middle C. I am in any case already engrossed in Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas (2005, tr 2011), and will be for some time, travelling on the iron rails which crisscross the enormous territory of  twentieth century Hungary (the book is a thumping 1133 pp). The back cover says it took Nadas 15 years to write, and then the translator 4 more years. It will likely be his last work – like Gass – as both writers are now old men.

Apr 172013

We don’t go on strike anymore,

for instance,

see, you’d live on £ 53. 00 too

if you had to,

I wouldn’t go on strike either

for a hand-out


To stop. Then we might riot,

in order to,

I’d break into shops and steal

the latest gear

‘tho you wouldn’t escape getting caught

on closed circuit TV,


If I had to. And there’s no more room

here for your sort,

you’d find it hard to survive too,

no place to smoke,

even if health tax the living daylights

it’s my choice


Isn’t it? Now we don’t belong in the city more,

none of us do,

I say, go back to where you come from,

somewhere before

you and I were born, this nation state

can do without

the likes of us.