Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This looks good, and it includes Leafe poet CJ Allen, and Litter poet Mark Goodwin:

Companion Stones: an exhibition of 12 sculptures designed by poets and artists of the Peak District, each bearing directions to the future.

The exhibition continues until mid July when the sculptures will be transferred to the moorlands, each as a companion to a Derbyshire Guide Stoop.

Read more at www.companionstones.org.uk.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I was sorry to read that Peter Philpott is planning to run down Great Works; that magazine has been a real encouragement to me and to many others. But, of course, like a lot of presses and magazines, it's run by one person, and dependent on their energy and enthusiasms. Philpott comments that:

"contemporary avant-gardish poetry as a social/cultural institution has evolved into something that is best dealt with by younger, hipper, cooler etc etc persons and coteries (eg Openned), especially with access to academic networks and status. A 1990s hobbyist accumulation of homepages will probably put people off rather than involve them."

He may be right, but I think he's being very hard on himself and his sites; his modernpoetry.org is a excellent project - a great place for anyone who wants to gain access to innovative poetry. His statement also rather contradicts what he said recently about how poetry needs to to have a life outside of Academia. But maybe he's just accepting the inevitable. It's certainly true though newer ventures like Openned, Intercapillary Space and Gists and Piths generally involve reading series, and are collaborative in nature, which is encouraging, as I think the whole of contemporary, innovative poetry, is one big collaborative project.

Read Philpott's full blog post here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Peter Gizzi reading in London

Tuesday 18th May
Centre for Creative Collaboration, Acton Street WC1

The space was nice: white-walled, with art installations around the place. Peter Gizzi read from "Some Values of Landscape and Weather" - I think most of the pieces were from this book, and I don't believe he read from anything earlier - "The Outernationale" and some new work. Both the readers were allowed a good length of time; I think it was around 40 minutes each - so that I had to dash off at the end and catch my train.

Like his work generally, his reading was balanced between a knowing, modernist approach, and an acknowledgment of the audience, and of the personal element of his work. He was an engaging, slightly nervous reader (which improved the delivery) and he gave a little background to some of the poems, which was useful. I learned, for example, that "Overtakelessness" - the title of one of his poems - is a term coined by Emily Dickinson to denote a quality that deceased people have, and that the title of a poem in the "A History of the Lyric" sequence, "Objects in the mirror are closer than the appear" is the text on a sticker found next to the wing mirror in American cars. I also learned that the poem "A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me" was inspired by the work of the artist Jess Collins - the long-term partner of poet Robert Duncan. Collins used to buy amateur paintings and "improve" them, and Gizzi commented (tongue-in-cheek I believe) that the text he was improving in this poem was "The New York Times".

Gizzi read the whole of several long sequences, including the following:

Homer's Anger
A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me
A History of the Lyric

I found that Gizzi's American accent gave a different rhythm to the poems from the one I'd assigned when reading them myself. In fact, I mistakenly thought of American accents generally as 'flat' compared to British, giving a more quantitative measure to poetry; but Gizzi's reading wasn't like that at all, with stresses and rising and falling intonation very much in evidence.

It was nice also to find that Gizzi was friendly and approachable, and generally seemed like a nice guy. One of the good things about being a poetry buff is that the artists you admire aren't on some distant stage or surrounded by security; you can just introduce yourself to them and start chatting.

Please note: Drew Milne, the Cambridge-based poet read with Gizzi; he gave an excellent performance which I'll write about separately.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The poem below came out of my visits to the Joseph Wright paintings in Derby; the municipal art gallery in Derby has around twenty-five paintings by the artist, including the one shown below. They must be worth millions. The gallery doesn't even have its own entrance; you get in round the back of the library. I go occasionally during my lunch-break, and I'm often the only person in the room; like a private viewing, which is quite a privilege.

Joseph Wright

A lamp in a darkened room
picks out a folk memory

I know where the the mills were,
and the ironworks, the union banners,
a river that runs underground now,
the labour of children


Tax concessions and flexible labour
open up this town. The world is waiting,
crowded into Cromford Mills:
building workers from Poland and Croatia,
maids from the Philippines, competitive rates of pay.

Open up this town.

Arkwright, trailing smoke and sparks,
steps into Arcadia with engines and workers,
mills and ironworks, incidental light


Mechanics of perception,
a white canvas, ghosts
stalking the geographical wonders,
the great coaching inns fetching trade
along the routes of industry,
a Grand National Trades Union
a layered perception flowing underground,
science of hope, mechanics
of a new society.

Somewhere, the notion of a better life,
a river, a town, its ghosts,
a geography of common wealth,
if we could only find it.

I had a notion that
layered experience lay in this town,
lamp in a darkened room.


A notion of light
and mechanics of perception,
layered geography, ghosts
of past masters, open up a route
through the Derwent valley,
past the mills and forges
to landscapes of feeling,
alchemy of craft and enlightened views.
Under a dark outcrop an earthstopper
works by lamplight.
In the library of a great house
a philosopher is giving "that Lecture on the Orrery
in which a lamp is put in place of the Sun"
to work the motion
of light, swaying
through the minds of the people,
and gravity, in perfect balance,
energy, to pump the mills,
coal, smoke, sparks
strange machines in the lit air
of Derby's workshops, in place
of handwork “these cotton mills, seven
stories high and filled
with inhabitants, remind me
of a first-rate man of war,
and when they are lighted up
on a dark night look
most luminously beautiful”


Cars cross St. Mary's Bridge, office workers
lie in the sun at lunchtime, the mill
inhabits a silence, two girls
are dazzled by an ingot's glow

The crags of Derbyshire darken,
landowners pose for portraits, and the friends
of a young artist, his writers and poets,
are young still, in perfect balance,
with gravity, mechanics, the construction
of strange machines
out of canvas and painted light,
most luminously beautiful,
first-rate, and filled with inhabitants.


(Joseph Wright of Derby, lived 1734-1797)

Copyright © Alan Baker

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I've decided to head down to London on Tuesday for the Peter Gizzi reading. I'll arrive at St Pancras around 3.30pm and intend to allow myself the luxury of an hour or two in the British Library. Then the reading, followed by the 9.30pm train arriving home somtime after midnight. I'm sure it'll be worth it; I've been re-reading Gizzi's collection "The Outernationale" this weekend, and it's wonderful poetry. Why the poetry itself isn't sufficient, and I need to see the man in the flesh I don't know. But why not? He's over here for a limited time, and you could do worse with your time than seek out the best poets of the day.

I'll give a full report.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The fact that a Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition has given us the most left-wing government we could possibly have had out of the recent General Election shows what the Labour Party has become. We had a choice between conservative, neo-conservative (New Labour) and centrist. At least the worst excesses of a Tory government may be offset by Lib-Dem protests.And there are other Reasons To Be Cheerful:

The coalition agreement promises, among other things, to:

  • Scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database.
  • End the detention of children for immigration purposes.
  • End the retention of innocent people’s DNA on the DNA database.
  • Defend trial by jury.

Maybe we won't turn into a Police State after all, which we surely would have done had New Labour won a majority.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Now look here Clegg, I'll want my room cleaned, my shoes polished and the toothpaste squeezed onto my brush in the mornings...."

An old British tradition: Fagging

Good new work from Ed Baker, in a publication by by The Red Ceiling Press in New Mills, Derbyshire. Just down the road from here. It's called DE:SIRE

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R.I.P David Chaloner


we have lost our sense of ease and are gaining
a tact that is almost becoming

they employ restraint against the trick of illusion
releasing "it wasn't meant to end this way" and
"the entire situation has become odious"

we are quite calm and working well within our limits
which have no distinction there is much to be done
and although we don't know where we are we make a place

David Chaloner, 1944-2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Peter Gizzi

US poet Peter Gizzi is over in the UK, reading at the following venues. If I'd known earlier I would have tried to get to Monday's reading at Warwick. As it is, I may try to make the London one.

University of Warwick
Monday 10 May @ 3 p.m. with Michael Heller
WHERE: The Chaplaincy

University of East Anglia
Wednesday 12 May @ 7 p.m.
WHERE: Arts 2.51

Cambridge University
Friday 14 May @ 8 p.m. with Jimmy Cummins
WHERE: Bowett Room, Queens’ College

University of Sussex
Monday 17 May @ 5 p.m.
WHERE: Arts A 155

Royal Holloway Poetics Research Group

Tuesday 18 May @ 7 p.m. with Drew Milne
WHERE: Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London WC1

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I've been browsing Ernesto Priego's manuscript "The Present Day"for his forthcoming Leafe Press publication; the book is a critical response to a chapter of that title in Octavio Paz's classic book on Mexican culture "The Labyrinth of Solitude". I'm looking forward to Ernesto's book being in print with us, and reading the ms makes me wish I had more time to devote to publishing and promoting good poetry. Ernesto's poem is amix of politics, poetry and philosophy in unadorned language - mainly English, some Spanish:

Here & now
I was going

to write
a poem.

I needed
as always

an image.

what I want

is copyrighted.

Ernesto Priego

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day!

You that in love find luck and abundance
And live in lust and joyful jollity,
Arise for shame, do away your sluggardy!
Arise I say, do May some observance!
Let me in bed lie dreaming in mischance,
Let me remember the haps has most unhappy
That me betide in May most commonly,
As one whom love list little to advance.
Sepham said true that my nativity
Mischanced was with the ruler of the May:
He guessed of that I prove the verity.
In May my wealth and eke my life I say
Have stood so oft in such perplexity.
Rejoice! Let me dream of your felicity.

Thomas Wyatt c. 1538