Saturday, 4 May 2013


last night i found i don’t exist
morning gleams like a murmuring
puma on hallucinogens / you’ve made up 1/2 the words
purporting to be a country & western song
there has to be a reason
why so many orchestras drowned that year
a closed space
density of honeysuckle & invisible wing
beat \ such situations fragmented
occur through times
the street name changing 
in remaining the same
blow your nose & laugh simultaneously. 


  1. Great first line here, Simon, and the ending a brilliant expulsion of the brain through the nose (as it were).

    Is that what's meant by the term "cathartic", I wonder?

  2. Which would explain why Othello gets so hot & bothered by a handkerchief! (From an internet search, Aristotle has something to say about catarrh & the humours, too, if those are the 'correct' English translations. Not in The Poetics, though).

    Your observation about the lyric & being hermetic by nature: I think that's true. Do you know Daniel Tiffany's Infidel Poetics (with his remarks about riddles, inscriptions, the communities of outlaws & speakers of cant?)

  3. Simon, thanks very much for that tip. I've now found excerpts of the Tiffany book. Intriguing stuff. Paused over this:

    ".... a mode of publicity. Quite remarkably, the sentimentality of modern nightlife made it available as a staging ground—a counterfeit underworld—for the incipient avant-garde, which deliberately casts itself in the model of the cultural infidel. Indeed, the first modern nightclubs in Paris, Berlin, and London, which opened in the late nineteenth century, provided a theater of indigence and infidelity for launching the historical avant-garde... "

    I wondered if you know this of Raymond Williams', which perhaps anticipates some of the issues touched on by Tiffany:

    Raymond Williams: Language and the Avant Garde

    "In my time" (as they say), I've seen the avant-gardes come and go, without ever missing them much once they're gone, nor, frankly, welcoming their successors; and in recent years I've seen far more of the night life of the streets, here, than I had ever wished to see. And the one thing I have made out from that latter view is that the present state of desperate impoverishment, spiritual and material, is obscure in a way that has nothing at all to do with literary texts and everything to do with the question of how to sort one's way through all this darkness to any sort of momentary enlightenment, even simulated. So to me the view seems medieval in character, impinged-upon all round the edges by shadows that insufficiently conceal dangers which might well scare the pants off any academic person, however "advanced", were they to ever have the courage to venture downward into the nocturnal un-world (shall we call it). Indeed the fact of this is proven by the absence from those same mean streets of any members of the licensed academic population of the town -- and that population IS the power that controls and owns the streets and the town and everything in it. Between the power and the powerless there is no bridge; the one faction simply does not recognize the other. In this sort of situation, the obscurity is all but total, and the entire proposition of the avant-garde, a bad joke played upon those who have nothing... but their starved bodies. Which are mute, speechless, largely unnoticeable, hid for protection behind temporary barriers in the nocturnal shop-doorway fortresses of what seems a vanished or anyway rapidly vanishing commonalty of people.

  4. Tom - I read the extract from the Raymond Williams essay you posted on your blog. This quote is also very interesting. & troubling. Hmm. I don't know the text (I know Keywords). Daniel Tiffany does enrich / complicate the picture by emphasising the role of informants in disseminating the language of the underworld (in their police reports etc.). He also develops a theory relating to Leibniz's monadology, which I find hard to grasp though exciting.

    Raymond Williams' remarks are perhaps rather specific / local? (the town / gown situation in Cambridge & Oxford. Interesting the metaphor of the bridge): I went to university in London where except for the very wealthy it's impossible not to live across 'worlds' simultaneously (a very good thing, that impossibility). He does seem to assume that all avant-gardes are university based (or endorsed. I suppose there's something in that). I wonder if it's correct to single out a certain avant-garde, though. The same could be said of any cultural phenomenon (with a capital K)?

    1. "Which are mute, speechless, largely unnoticeable, hid for protection behind temporary barriers in the nocturnal shop-doorway fortresses of what seems a vanished or anyway rapidly vanishing commonalty of people."

      resonates strongly, in the shadow cast by Thatcher's recent obsequies here.

  5. Simon,

    Yes, that is and perhaps always was the beauty of London, the vast plurality of it. I spent quite a bit of time there in the 1960s, living in the UK five years, some time at Cambridge, then over at Essex just as the place was going up. Over here, now, the avant-gardes are located strictly within the protected sanctum of the big universities, and there is no common dialogue that would connect their artificial construction of a society with the actual collapsing society whose battered corpus washes up at their gates... or in their bins. Not to sound more cynical than the occasion demands, but alas the occasion does call for some cynicism. You'd have to experience it to believe it. The disconnection from reality is most acute and telling in those aethereal neighbourhoods of privilege inhabited by the soi-disant sages of Postmodernism. Williams' profound distrust of America and Americans would have its concrete realization here -- and I don't believe he was ever foolish enough to touch foot on these shores. For that matter, I don't know that he ever had much contact outside the university circles in those later years. A conversation with Derrida, after all, does not (did not) exactly put one in contact with that great mass of the "permanently cheated" -- that mass which was the inspiration of Williams' truly significant work. And for that matter, I don't think he knew much of London, either, nor much liked what he did know. Every time I come back to The Country and the City it's more clear to me which side of that divide drew his heart and mind, held his sympathy, and formed his thinking for better or worse.

  6. Tom - I have a copy of The Country and the City, I must reread.

    I've been outside London a while, but the local pluralities are steadily becoming less plural with 'regeneration', 'gentrification' & the privatisation of council owned housing. I was born in London, but where I grew up is now a very different place.

    Specialists in Postmodernism ... "the name of Mayakovsky hangs in the clean air."