Thursday, January 31, 2008

There's an interesting (I think!) discussion of 'Englishness' going on at this blog: here. It's reminded me of how good, if a little disconcerting, it is to have this sort of discussion, which might challenge one's own world-view. About ten years ago I stumbled across the british-poets email discussion list. More sophisticated forums like Facebook have replaced these groups, and their demise was hastened by saboteurs who seemed to delight in stirring up arguments with insult and provocation until sensible people were driven away. The british-poets list (which also incorporated Irish poets, including Billy Mills and Trevor Joyce) was at the time run by the late Richard Cadell. He proved to be a warm and wise host and I'm grateful to have had the benefit of his encouragement for my writing and publishing. The group provided my introduction to innovative poetry and my education was assisted by being able to chat with the likes of Peter Riley, Douglas Oliver, Keston Sutherland, Geraldine Monk, Alan Halsey and other illustrious persons. It was all a bit ragged at the edges, but there was an openness that I think you'd be unlikely to get in a more controlled and monitored environment. I've realised while typing this that I'm getting nostalgic for the old days of email discussion groups. Better stop now.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Beginning and End of the Snow
by Yves Bonnefoy

(tr. Alan Baker)

A joint publication by Bamboo Books, Culver City, CA
and Leafe Press.

Designed by Bob Rissman (Bamboo Books).

from 'The Book of Random Access'


The things you see at 4am! Do people still have their milk delivered in glass bottles? Without my glasses the streetlights float like faery lights across the park. St. Elmo's Fire. The bushes thrash about in the wind. First person singular present tense. What else is there? I think about my father thirty years dead. John and I are not on speaking terms. I stress about work and what I have to do tomorrow. How will my children live? That's future tense. The will-o-the-wisp lights in the short-sighted dark. The long-sighted page. Is it all happening in a continuous present? he asks / asked / will ask. What time is it? All clocks moving through the ether are slowed down compared to clocks at rest in the ether. One would have to distinguish between “apparent” and “true” space and time measurements, with the further proviso that “true” dimensions and “true” times could never be determined by any experimental procedure. That clock on my wall, its numbers are blurred. Long have we parted been, lassie my dearie. I remember talking to an old man when I was a child. He was my cousin’s grandad. He said that as a young man he came to Newcastle from Yorkshire to look for work. That was in 1900. In the narrow streets near the river he was surprised to see women sitting outside their front doors, smoking clay pipes, as he'd never seen such a thing in Yorkshire. Why should I think about this at four o’clock in the morning?

Friday, January 11, 2008

I'm off to Malmo in Sweden next week on a business trip, the start of my new globetrotting existence. All this foreign travel doesn't mean I'm some sort of big-shot - far from it; I'm a mere 'technical resource' (as people like me were described on our company's website recently). Increased globalisation of companies (people in my office report to managers they've never met in Germany, Spain and the US) and cheap air travel means that instead of sending you down the road to Bradford or Mansfield they can send you to Singapore or... Malmo.

When I get back from my trip I need to get on with the latest Leafe pamphlet, a collection by Carrie Etter which I'm excited about. I also need to send out some copies of my translation of an Yves Bonnefoy collection - more on that later. I'm also working on a long prose-poem called 'The Book of Random Access' which is in 64 sections, echoing the 64 hexagrams in the I Ching, and each section has 256 words (64 and 256 being significant numbers in computing). Wow! Bet you can't wait to read it. Well, you're in luck, cause I'll be posting some excerpts here soon.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Here's a poem by Uzbek poet Yusuf Juma, about the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan. The massacre took place on 13 May, 2005 when hundreds of unarmed protesters were killed by Uzbek security services for taking part in a demonstration against the government.

The best men of the people were shot in Andijan.
Elders like Dukchi-ishan, were shot in Andijan.

People were shot in Namangana, shot in Fergana,
the very best lions were shot in Andijan.

The blind are alive, the jackals are alive,
Sharifjan Shokurovs were shot in Andijan.

Future Babarakhin Mashrabs were killed,
tigers like Babur were shot in Andijan.

In their hearts they were wild activists, endurers of the right way,
let their graves be full of light, they were shot in Andijan.

They went off faithful to their faith, they went off with open eyes,
the earth was left without men, they were shot at Andijan.

Yusuf Yuma is currently being held by the Uzbek government without charge in an unknown location. For more information on his case, see Areopagitica. His case doesn't seem to have been taken up by Amnesty, maybe it's too recent, but there is a petition you can sign (I've signed it) here.