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O, that this too too solid flesh would melt…

May 9, 2009

Rain in Venice


Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain–Billie Holiday

I was sitting at a table outside a backstreet cafe in La Serenissima, watching the autumn rain come down in sheets. The downpour hitting the awning above my head sounded like a carpet being beaten with wild enthusiasm.

I was the only customer–enjoying the rain, savouring the caffè corretto (coffee with grappa is ‘corrected’ coffee: I love that) and contemplating the way the surrounding buildings, already crumbling, appeared on the verge of melting into the murk of the canal. Liquifaction, dissolution, things returning to the primal source–it all engendered an agreeable melancholy.

The owner brought me another grappa on the house. I invited him to join me. We both contemplated the deluge.

“No wonder we’re the suicide capital of Europe,” he said. I thought perhaps, given my imperfect Italian and his strong Venetian accent, I’d misunderstood. He handed me a copy of Il Gazzettino, the local daily and pointed at a front page article. Sure enough, Venice was apparently the most popular destination in Europe for people intent on suicide. According to the article, autumn and winter were the most popular times for visitor suicides. Considering this, I decided that it made perfect sense. Venice is a melancholy place at the best of times: in autumn and winter, when it’s raining or foggy or misty, it’s even more so.

Venice has always struck me as perfect illustration of what the passage of time and the elements do to the monumental vanity of man. Every damaging high tide brings the city closer to falling back into the lagoon from whence it sprang. Wandering the back streets, along the small, little-used canals, one senses a city that is moribund. The young flee to the mainland, old family businesses and local markets close and the elderly shuffle about waiting for the next damp, cold season (Venice is freezing in winter) to carry them off.

Surrounded by the fading, crumbling glories of the past and a dying city, it’s hard not to draw the right conclusion–everything ends. Worlds, empires, cities, lives. Venice demonstrates that nothing could be more natural. It’s a comfortable place to make an end. Hence it’s popularity as a suicide destination.

So let’s have poems on death, dissolution and melancholy weather. Like this:

Sonnet 15

What was Ashore, then?… Cargoed with Forget,
My ship runs down a midnight winter storm
Between whirlpool and rock, and my white love’s form
Gleams at the wheel, her hair streams. When we met
Seaward, Thought frank&guilty to each oar set
Hands careless of port as of the waters’ harm.
Endless a wet wind wears my sail, dark swarm
Endless of sighs and veering hopes, love’s fret.

Rain of tears, real, mist of imagined scorn,
No rest accords the fraying shrouds, all thwart
Already with mistakes, foresight so short.
Muffled in capes of waves my clear signs, torn,
Hitherto most clear,—Loyalty and Art.
And I begin now to despair of port.

John Berryman

  1. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 9, 2009 7:03 AM

    Sonnet 126,231,764

    One hundred and twenty-six million, two
    Hundred and thirty-one thousand, seven
    Hundred and sixty-four euros! Oh, poo.
    I seem to have avoided wealth again.

    The more far-fetched the figure, the better
    The dream I have with my two euros bought;
    The chain of commas helps to unfetter
    The fantasy that such a fortune ought,

    By rights, to go to someone well-prepared –
    Like me – whose every working moment has
    Been spent becoming visually impaired
    And dreaming of unlimited pizzaz.

    Humanitarian? I’ll text the bank
    And transfer some from Idleness and Wank.

  2. pinkroom permalink
    May 9, 2009 8:34 AM

    Nice mood piece there Mishari. Any “holiday” destination takes on a different character out of season which I personally much prefer… a prescence/echo of crowds/fun rather than awful the real thing… perfect for the lightly misanthropic streak in most (I should imagine) of a poetic bent.

    A study

    This gondala; this gondalier, my
    scarlet throated ferryman,
    taking me back, back to those little back canals;
    the only sign of life itself a little
    washing out to dry at length in the still
    soaking mist.

    Gone, now gone, the crowds of July
    the time we spent, in years gone by
    gone the song of the opera sang
    still ringing between the silent iron
    Where a girl of twenty five
    is waiting.

  3. mishari permalink*
    May 9, 2009 11:06 AM

    Never mind, HLM…keep buying those tickets. It Could Be You!!!…but probably not. Still, at 70 million to 1, the laws of probability dictate that you will win at least once every, erm…1 and a half million years.

    Thanks, PR…and you’re absolutely right. Resorts out-of-season are rather wonderful for those of a poetic bent and infinitely preferable to the ersatz bustle and forced gaiety of the ‘season’.

  4. May 9, 2009 10:53 PM

    And to top it all I slip to commonplace
    Waterlogged in a panic of regret, this
    Rain makes cliché of the molten real
    Detaches me, I think: poet in rain
    What else would he be feeling?
    The hack.

    The dew-mist is too perfect an effect
    It slow Lugosies, cat-rubbing my legs
    Behind the lens I see myself and sneer:
    Pure sentiment, paste-gem tears, he
    Puts it on, this heartache’s a con:
    A meteorological conceit.

    But, Christ, your absence
    Your steam-silhouette cut through
    The constant-severed curtain
    Sounds a joy-skinned drum, insisting
    That this grief-choke is precision
    Itself: your absence.

  5. mishari permalink*
    May 10, 2009 12:31 AM

    Terrific, ExitB…I guess you’ve not taken to wearing lederhosen, swilling foaming steins and singing Ach, Du Lieber Augustin, then…?

    Seven Types Of Unambiguity

    Like slipping off a well-worn coat
    Or into another room,
    A chill that wraps around your throat
    And drags you into gloom.

    Like water running down a drain,
    Like sand out of a glass,
    Like distant objects on a plain
    Beyond a narrow pass.

    Like sudden music sounding clear,
    Familiar yet unknown
    That penetrates the inner ear
    And drills right into bone.

    Like soft endearments in the dark
    That lull you into sleep
    And in a dream make you embark
    Upon the endless deep.

    Like a moth drawn to a flame
    That lures you in the night:
    Transforming fire will reclaim
    The wings that gave you flight.

    Like a river, fast and deep;
    For every man, a Styx:
    One shore a bed of feathered sleep,
    One hard with death’s cold bricks.

    Now the rain comes fast and hard
    To wash your life away;
    The life that slashed, the teeth that scarred:
    Death holds that beast at bay.

  6. pinkroom permalink
    May 10, 2009 8:50 AM

    Have wintered in a number of melancholy resorts over the years but the topper must be Bognor Regis… don’t ask me why, it’s a long story and there are people out there with long memories and a cruelly unforgiving nature who would still be…er, very interested.

    It seemed so very unpromising but then I discovered this whole underbelly of fascinating characters with stories to tell and plenty of time to tell them as we rattled around in all the empty pubs, cafes and arcades looking for some kind of company… all it needed was the Chet Baker soundtrack. Here’s a sonnet of sorts to its memory.

    They roll-up the streets when the sun goes down.

    Driven to Bognor, this Variety
    comedian’s joke,the car radio
    cassette continued to roll out inside
    my head aware of all the months ahead,
    I’m a midnight girl in a sunset town”
    and laughed that while there were shops and houses
    there were almost no people there
    left a whole life, now no one to play with.
    But within an hour or three I had found
    a job and a place to live and set out
    to explore the drizzling seafront with some
    other refugee from the larger world;
    together at its last shingled shore.
    I think we almost kissed. But we didn’t.

  7. May 10, 2009 11:09 AM

    Thanks, Mishari

    Your own verse is quite perfect for deflecting the effects of a sunny Sunday morning.

    No lederhosen, yet. Steven was, of course, right – the city transforms at night. We’re still adjusting from London – all over by 11pm – body-clocks. It’s the gentleness I didn’t expect. The streets are barely lit yet feel entirely safe – Kreuzberg at night reminds me of the long, dark paths at GlastonburyFest – small groups roving and drinking but all in good spirit. Everyone is very friendly, scruffy and self-styled at the same time. Bunch of bloody hippies. Feeling very much at home.
    It’s the city that Amsterdam believes itself to be.

    Spookily, one of the wi-fi usernames within range of our appartment is called Augustiner.

  8. mishari permalink*
    May 10, 2009 11:22 AM

    Glad you’re enjoying Berlin, ExitB. It’s a city I’ve always felt has a great deal to recommend it. Here’s another one to dampen your spirits (inspired by pinkroom’s meditations on faded sea-side resorts):

    End Of The Pier

    The tide goes out, regular as clockwork
    Exposing the town to the gimlet eye–
    What is it without the sea? A dull suburb
    With old sins revealed, barnacle-encrusted
    With the telling: remember the time I…
    Yes, we’ve heard every drooping tired lie:
    The time you stole the jewels and got busted–
    Let’s face it–you’re no Cary Grant or even Benny Hill:
    Just an old man in a dull town, poor and ill
    And waiting for that final day-trip–cross-channel,
    Cross-tunnel, across time and space, the last lark:
    The long, dark ride in the unamusement park.

  9. May 10, 2009 11:48 AM

    “Spookily, one of the wi-fi usernames within range of our appartment is called Augustiner.”

    I swear it isn’t me! (larf) Speaking of Xberg, have you whiled away a Sunday in Cafe Morena (Weiner Strasse) yet? Right down the street from the fire station. If you haven’t you really should… it’s a tradition (hasn’t changed a bit in 20 years). Counter-clockwise around the corner from the front door of the Cafe Morena is the best falafel place (with the best music to eat by; an old cassette of dolorous piano and violin) in the area!

  10. May 10, 2009 11:57 AM

    We’ve certainly walked past some enticing cafes on that street (Gorlitzer Bahnhof is our nearest station), so I think I know the one you mean. So far we’ve found Bellmann, which was ideal, dark, falling-to-bits-stucco, holes punched through the thin walls, and only one street away. The storm on Friday forced us into a groovy blues/jazz/R&R bar on the same street and I heard some righteous punk noise rising up from a basement bar late the other night – will wear a suit to that one.

    Sorry to Berlin-up your blog, Mishari, I’ll stop now.

  11. mishari permalink*
    May 10, 2009 12:19 PM

    Don’t be silly…it’s all grist to the mill. Interesting besides…

  12. May 10, 2009 12:37 PM

    Wiener Strasse was once the site of the greatest parties in that sector of Berlin… the AP photographer Hansi Krauss had a vintage jukebox in his huge-ish-flat and stocked it with vintage soul. The parties would run all weekend. A very sweet fellow with a baby face and an obsession with Motown, Stax and all things related. Chatted with him several times in the aftermath of his various shindigs (Norwegians mumbling face-down on the drinks-sticky, butt-festooned living room floor etc). Then one day I was watching CNN and there was Hansi’s naked white corpse, kicked by furious Somalis… no more soul parties, then.

  13. May 10, 2009 12:45 PM

    Now the rain comes fast and hard
    To wash your life away;
    The life that slashed, the teeth that scarred:
    Death holds that beast at bay.

  14. May 10, 2009 1:23 PM

    Sounds mythic.

    There were some arty types having a party in the courtyard of our building last night but it all looked pretty gentle. At least, they didn’t keep me up; although recently I’ve found I fall asleep best with Black Sabbath on my headphones.

    Also visited Another Country, which has the best selection of 70s psychedelic-covered Michael Moorcock paperbacks I’ve seen in a long while. I ‘rented’ an Ionesco collection from the semi-lucid love child of Danny from Withnail and Antony Hegarty.

  15. mishari permalink*
    May 10, 2009 1:38 PM

    Funny you should mention Ionesco. We went to see a production of Rhinocéros in Paris not long ago. I’d last seen it 25 years ago. It was even better than I remembered…

  16. May 10, 2009 1:39 PM

    Another Country is good; St. George’s (Wörther Straße 27 10405
    Tel.: (030) 8179 8333 ) is my favorite.

    The first time I ever walked into Another Country, I placed a tall pile of would-be purchases on the desk and the feller asked me, “Are you going to bring these back?” I thought he was joking. “No,” I said. “I think I’ll keep these.” He whisked them to safety. “Then you can’t have them.” Again, I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t!

  17. May 10, 2009 1:39 PM


  18. May 10, 2009 3:16 PM

    I was asm on a production of the Chairs, years ago, and one quote from it haunted me – I wanted to see if I’d remembered correctly. I hadn’t.

    We saw Les Liasons Dangereuses at the Deutches Theater last night. I always thought Laclos’s one oversight was not putting Valmont in a giant rabbit costume with detachable phallus.

    And, SA, thanks for all the tips.

  19. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 10, 2009 7:27 PM

    Il padrone scrive:

    The empty coffee-cup, the stubbed-out fag
    suggests his stop for refreshment is done,
    but he sits here still, clutching his manbag,
    glomming moodily at the falling rain.

    Fucking Ada! It’s nearly half-past three!
    I’ve got to mop the floor and clean the room,
    get some kip and back for seven-thirty.
    Our Lady’s bum! Why can’t he fuck off home?

    I’ll give the miserable sod a drink,
    though I wish it was a dose of laxatives.
    These bloody tourists drive you to the brink,
    no wonder Venetians are killing themselves.

  20. mishari permalink*
    May 10, 2009 7:46 PM

    Nice one, MM…I’ve never owned a ‘manbag’ in my life (cheeky fucker).

  21. May 10, 2009 9:24 PM

    I have one of these European Election poll card thingys through my door. The trouble is, since I don’t read the news any more, I have no idea what anyone stands for or who I should vote for. (I doubt I’d have much of a better idea if I did read the news, but heh!). I think I’d like to vote slightly more for Europe than against it – so where do I put my X?

    I also find myself surprisingly pro-Turkey joining. (Surprisingly, I guess, because I have the feeling that most people don’t give a damn). I guess it’s the c19th historian in me.

  22. mishari permalink*
    May 10, 2009 9:34 PM

    Well, Labour are generally pro-European but they need a smack so fuck ’em. The Tories and UKIP want us out of Europe, so they’re no use. Basically, your choices are Green (which I’m going with) or LibDem (too fucking wishy-washy for me. I have no idea what they stand for).

  23. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 11, 2009 12:08 AM

    The Greens are authoritarian conservatives. We know where that leads.

  24. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 12:45 AM

    Surely not? My understanding is that they want to run things on sunbeams extracted from cucumbers, to put an organic chicken in every pot and to distribute hand-woven raffia sandals to every household. What the hell’s wrong with that?

    Anyway, the real conservatives are the imbeciles–Labour, Tory, LibDem– who think that we can keep on doing the same things, in banking, energy consumption, first-past-the-post elections, ad nauseum–and expect different results.

    Furthermore, Caroline Lucas, the Green MEP, is the only panelist on Question Time that ever talks any sense.

  25. May 11, 2009 1:36 AM

    Yes, it’s time to start a new political party. I’m sure it would be easy to get into power at the moment simply by not attempting to line your own pocket at every opportunity. Why should MPs get any expenses – second home or not. There’s a bloke who works for our organisation (located in London) who – I’m not joking – commutes in every day from the Borders. No second home. No extra money for doing so. Our Chief Executive (who admittedly is probably paid better than MPs), rents a second home in London – he lives somewhere in the North – but does so AT HIS OWN EXPENSE. Politicians should have an idea of public service – like Adolf Hitler did, who never receive a penny for being Reich Chancellor, believing it was a duty and an honour to one’s country (as well as good PR when replacing the venally corrupt previous political class).

  26. parallax permalink
    May 11, 2009 3:48 AM

    Hey Mish, great snapshot of you in Venice. Just popping in to say that I’m off on Friday travelling for six weeks, so I’ll be neglecting my Politely Homicidal posting duties for a while. If I find myself kicking my heels in London I’ll make a pilgrimage to a bench in St Annes (is that the right place?) and read a poem for cs :)

    I’ll leave you with a Robert Frost sonnet:

    The Silken Tent

    She is as in a field a silken tent
    At midday when a sunny summer breeze
    Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
    So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
    And its supporting central cedar pole,
    That is its pinnacle to heavenward
    And signifies the sureness of the soul,
    Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
    But strictly held by none is loosely bound
    By countless silken ties of love and thought
    To everything on earth the compass round,
    And only by one’s going slightly taut

  27. parallax permalink
    May 11, 2009 5:17 AM

    ps just to let you know, Michele is saying goodbye on cs’ blog

  28. May 11, 2009 12:14 PM

    Mish – I’m now a fully-fledged nerd. I went to see the new Star Trek film last night, which I rather enjoyed. The actor playing young Bones really did get him right, and it did seem to be within the spirit of the original series. I even found myself having actual opinions about whether it worked as a prequel (that demonstrates applied knowledge)

    So I must retract any “I’m not a nerd” type comments made on earlier threads.

    Para – nice to see you over on my blog, have a good trip…whichever bench you end up at…

  29. freep permalink
    May 11, 2009 12:35 PM

    Star Trek was OK, St Pollyana of the Sacred Tearducts, but only that, I thought, because there was too much in it for nerds. It left me thinking what I always think after hi-tech sci fi – that it said technology offered solutions to everything, that heroes and competence go together, and that the American Way (even if suffused with irony) is still the way to the future. A good film out just now is ‘Shifty’, which only cost £100,000 to make. Yours, Nerdless.

  30. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 1:02 PM

    A sci-fi film you might enjoy, freep, is Equilibrium, with Christian Bale, who’s always fun to watch. I don’t know if you’ve seen The Machinist, but he gives a quite horrifying performance (I mean that as a compliment) as a man unhinged by guilt.

    I quite liked the Star Trek series when I was a kid (although it does seem faintly absurd now) and some of the films have been OK-ish, though I hear the new one’s quite good. The series expounded a sort of hippie/american/libertarian ethos that was quite attractive, if impractical in what is, essentially, a very hostile universe. I think that was part of its attraction…

    I think modern sci-fi series have been much more satisfying–things like Andromeda, Firefly and Stargate-SG 1. The heroes are all very flawed, the technology invariably lets you down, makes things worse or fucks you up and ‘The American Way’ is treated as a bit of a joke…

  31. May 11, 2009 1:48 PM

    Some of the Next Generation films have been a bit painful, although I always enjoy the Borg, the original James T Kirk series is still the best, which was indeed very liberal for the times.

    Freep – I do see what you mean about films being awfully Americanised – as in the Americans being the ones who always save the day. There was some awful trailer for a film which starts with the blowing up of the Eiffel Tower and then an elite force is gathered from around the world and surprise surprise they are mostly Americans. That was at least what was good about the original Star Trek that there were characters from pretty much every continent (although no Antipodeans for some reason).

    Equilibrium is indeed very good, of course I appreciate Christian Bale and all his works, but it would have been good with anyone in it (honestly) and the story is good, borrowed heavily from 1984 and sort of fused it with the Matrix, but it does it well.

    So you’re a convert to Firefly now Mish?

  32. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 11, 2009 1:52 PM

    The crumbling walls, the ambling throng
    A porous place to reminisce
    Of slime-becoated love gone wrong
    And amiss

    On holiday with gondola
    With putrid ping-pong and tennis
    Malaria and ebola
    And menace

    The racks and grocks, last cigarette
    The water-bored, shrunken penis
    The iron lady, Margaret
    And Dennis

    Disporting at the maskèd ball
    Macabre mime at the chemist’s
    The perfect place to end it all
    Is Venice

  33. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 2:00 PM

    A cracker, HLM. Very cunning rhymes.

    Polly, I liked the film Serendipity and had supposed the series was based on the film until you corrected my error and that in fact, it was the other way around. So I sought out the series. It’s very good…

  34. May 11, 2009 3:28 PM

    HLM – a good poem indeed, I like the line “A porous place to reminisce”. Not sure I noticed any shrunken peni when I last was in Venice though…

  35. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 11, 2009 4:36 PM

    You must have missed the Prince, then.

  36. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 6:39 PM

    Is there no end to the impudence of hoi polloi? There is, I must confess, a great deal to be said for absolute monarchy and the power of life and death over ones subjects….

  37. May 11, 2009 10:27 PM


    One does always love a poetically melancholy post (quoth an inveterate practitioner of such moribund exercises). Clearly a bit of fog in Venice is preferable to Death in Stockton after all. Ah, and you have chosen to quote the most assertive of Berryman’s forays into licensed melancholy. Before air travel, shipwreck as amorous metaphor ruled… er, the waves. Yet Britannia could hardly be envious.

    The template of all these shipwrecked love poems of course is Petrarch Rime clxxxix: Passa la nave mia colma d’oblio. “Voyages my ship charged with forgetfulness….” The poet’s usual sweetly guiding star-signals (miei dolci usati segni), that is, Laura’s eyes, are missing from the universe, so he is lost, and despairs of reaching port. (But we don’t feel too bad, as we know that in the next sonnet he’ll have washed up safely somehow, to start the whole sighing-and-groaning-for-love cycle over again.)

    And as we know this love-is-risky/sea-voyages-are-risky/shipwrecks-do-happen trope was the motor that thereafter drove about 38.7 % of the sonnet speedboats down the Po,Tagus, Seine,Thames and other great rivers of the sonneteering Renaissance.

    Brittania as I say could hardly be envious because perhaps the strongest of all of those vessels was that of Thomas Wyatt, who as Henry VIII’s envoy to Italy picked up on Petrarch, brought the trick back home, rusticized, anglicized and stiffened the form and made of P’s shipwreck sonnet his own “My galy charged with forgetfulness”, with its great closing invention, making the eyes of the desired one not signals that guide toward rapture but omens that lead to suffering (“The starrres be hid that led me to this pain/Drowned is reason that should me confort…”)

    What’s always bothered me a bit about the Berryman version (which draws on both Petrarch and Wyatt–B. was nothing if not a scholar), is knowing that it is the coded private document of a brief, abortive and rather halfhearted bit of marital infidelity on the part of an academic poet who by the time the poem entered his canon had long since shed whatever emotions it may have originally contained. (My own guess is that Petrarch’s original contained no real particularized emotions whatsoever, and had to do instead with matters largely abstract and aethereal.)

    My favourite modern version of the shipwreck sonnet is Frank O’Hara’s “To the Harbormaster”, which is in its way perhaps the sexiest of all of them.

    At any rate, lovely you’ve descended into a proper melancholy in Venice, just don’t die. But if you do die, I’d recommend getting over to Mantua first. Dry land burial is to be preferred. This is considered at far less length in the post today over here:

    Secrets of the Estate

  38. May 11, 2009 10:34 PM

    It’s been *days* since I’ve exercised my talent for non sequiturs, so: anyone want to write a long-postponed love letter to *Julie Newmar*?

  39. Captain Ned permalink
    May 11, 2009 10:36 PM

    Some cracking poems here, particularly our host’s contribution of 11.22. As for recent sci-fi films, I’d like to recommend ‘Gattaca’ (1997), which is no masterpiece, but is rather effective all the same. ‘Minority Report’ (2002) might have been a masterpiece were it not for a) the stupid ending, and b) the presence of that numpty Tom Cruise, the most bafflingly successful actor on this planet, or on any other

  40. Captain Ned permalink
    May 11, 2009 10:37 PM

    ‘War of the Worlds’, however, another Cruise/Spielberg collaboration, completely sucked.

  41. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 10:57 PM

    Thanks for your fascinating exegesis, Tom, and the interesting context-setting for the Berryman sonnet.

    I’m with you there, Cap’n…Minority Report wasn’t at all bad despite the presence of Cruise, an actor I usually abominate. Gattaca was very good but, as you say, War of the Worlds was rubbish…I quite enjoyed the Will Smith re-make of The Omega Man (can’t remember what it was called[I Am Legend–Ed.]) and I, Robot had its moments…

    Julie Newmar, Steven? I know the name but I can’t put a face to her. Google here I come…

  42. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 11:06 PM

    According to wiki, Julie Newmar:

    …was a “dancer-assassin” in Slaves of Babylon (1953) and the “gilded girl” in Serpent of the Nile (1953) in which she was clad only in gold paint. She danced in several films including The Band Wagon and Demetrius and the Gladiators

    Newmar invented her own “pomacious” brand of pantyhose, “Nudemar,” in the 1970s. She holds three U.S. patents: 3,914,799 and 4,003,094 for “Pantyhose with shaping band for Cheeky derriere relief” and 3,935,865 for “Brassiere.”

    Definitely worth a bit of fan e-mail…

  43. mishari permalink*
    May 11, 2009 11:16 PM

    Here’s the poem Tom mentions:

    To The Harbourmaster

    I wanted to be sure to reach you;
    though my ship was on the way it got caught
    in some moorings. I am always tying up
    and then deciding to depart. In storms and
    at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
    around my fathomless arms, I am unable
    to understand the forms of my vanity
    or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
    in my hand and the sun sinking. To
    you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
    of my will. The terrible channels where
    the wind drives me against the brown lips
    of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
    I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
    if it sinks it may well be in answer
    to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
    the waves which have kept me from reaching you.

    Frank O’Hara

  44. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 12, 2009 12:31 AM

    Death In Blackpool

    Along the Golden Mile the lights are bright
    The sea-breeze from the channel tugs and nips,
    The evening fades and segues into night,
    Von Aschenbach samples a burger and chips.

    The boys on the prom are spotty and hard,
    And their hair is decidedly greasy,
    Like all Lancashire lads they wash in lard:
    Von Aschenbach is feeling quite queasy.

    He takes a walk as far as the Tower,
    Sits at the foot as his legs are shaking,
    Gets a drench from a stag’s golden shower;
    Von Aschenbach’s guts are really quaking.

    It seems that the burger’s ingredients,
    Noses for noses and eyes for eyes,
    Are back in town and looking for vengeance.
    Gustav Von Aschenbach explodes and dies.

  45. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 12:49 AM

    Great stuff, MM. If only Visconti had followed your example, we might have had a film that was actually worth watching…

  46. May 12, 2009 6:22 AM

    Gustav Von Aschenbach explodes and dies.

    A harsh fate that, Melton.

  47. Captain Ned permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:31 AM

    But a more dignified end, all the same, than Dirk Bogarde’s mascara running down his face as he collapses on a deckchair to the lachrymose strains of Mahler.

    Good bit of O’Hara there. I’ve not read much of his work, but what I have read, I’ve thought excellent. I saw that there were a couple of references to him in the latest series of ‘Mad Men’. At a lecture he was giving, I heard JH Prynne say that there were three great American poets: Whitman, Pound and O’Hara, which is provocative, to say the least. No William Carlos Williams?

    Wasn’t Julie Newmar most famous for playing Catwoman?

  48. May 12, 2009 9:55 AM

    I always think of O’Hara as the Gay minor American Larkin. Julie Newmar I think of as the Holy Ghost in the Mary Tyler Moore-Kim Novak-Julie Newmar trinity of my pre-adolescent libido.

  49. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 10:05 AM

    I’m with you on Kim Novak (I recently watched Bell, Book and Candle after many years. Boy, could she smoulder).

    Funny, that’s two films in which James Stewart fell for her–Vertigo being the other, of course. And I always resented Penis Van Lesbian for having MTM. As a boy, I felt she was far too good for him. But Julie Newmar made no impression. Mind you, even as a boy, I thought Batman (the TV series) was risible.

    The narrow-shouldered, skimble-shanked, pot-bellied Adam West wasn’t my idea of any kind of superhero and Burt Ward (was that his name?) was simply too oafish for words, my dear. And I always associated Eartha Kitt with the Catwoman role.

    Like you, Cap’n, I don’t really know O’Hara’s work. I think I’ve always confused him with a once popular novelist, John O’Hara, who wasn’t very good.

  50. May 12, 2009 10:10 AM

    Frank O’Hara and John O’Hara are about as alike as Venice and Stockton.

    I always think of Larkin as Eric Morecambe’s policeman in Singin’ in the Rain, without the buckets.

  51. May 12, 2009 10:19 AM

    Don’t ask me why but I always think of J.H. Prynne as Julie Newmar doing Kim Novak in Vertigo with Mary Tyler Moore in wading boots as Jimmy Stewart.

  52. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 10:27 AM

    Could have been worse, Tom: I could have confused Frank O’Hara with Scarlett O’Hara. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn–tomorrow’s another day…

  53. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 10:32 AM

    …or O’Malley the alley cat:

  54. May 12, 2009 10:38 AM


    It’s like Berryman confusing Petrarch’s twin signs–Laura’s eyes as stars–with Loyalty and Art, as though heaven were cross-eyed.

    Myself I’m often guilty of confusing tomorrow with yesterday. But isn’t it already today where you are?

    Kim Novak and I come from the same neighbourhood as it happens, though I believe the smouldering was something she learned in Hollywood.

  55. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 10:48 AM

    Ah, the lyrical possibilities of strabismus…don’t they smolder back where you come from (Sandburg’s ‘city of the broad shoulders’, if I remember correctly)?

  56. May 12, 2009 11:59 AM

    Let go of me
    Let me fall
    I’ve come to an end
    I’ve turned that last bend
    It is as if
    My coach has driven off the cliff.

    Let go of me
    Release your grip
    I’m past the post,
    Nine-tenths a ghost
    It is a pity
    My future is not pretty.

    In this situation I find
    You tend to change your mind.

    Don’t let go of me
    Don’t release your grip
    I’m hanging on
    I’m still hanging on
    Searching for ledges
    Too close to the edges.

  57. May 12, 2009 1:11 PM

    I’ve been vexed in the vapours of Venice
    When my gondola tipped, then upended
    A masked waif rebuffed my amore
    My mudded ‘tache left him offended

    I’ve been pained in precipitous Paris
    I tried to procure a lush floose
    An absinthe flame tindered my nose-hair
    As l’trick, even, I’d much toulouse

    Struck low in the lead-fog of London
    I roamed the East End like a rake
    Through the wrong door I boldly did wander
    And was cat-struck for this sore mish-take

    I’ve been woeful in windy Wienna
    My clack-dish was empty and void
    Bereft to one thin cigarillo
    It was no substitute, I’m a’Freud

    Crestfallen in cold Kathmandu
    I was hit by a comet….etc

  58. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 1:25 PM

    The chagrin that I felt in Chicago
    Was as bad as any I’ve felt;
    Henceforth it’s a town I’ll embargo:
    By Christ, that fucking town smelt.

    I picked at my scabs in dull Swansea
    And people said, “brother, what ails?”
    How big of a dipshit must I be
    To be stuck in the arsehole of Wales?

    Suicide watch in East Grinstead,
    Depressed by my local MP…etc

  59. May 12, 2009 2:28 PM

    Thank heaven you don’t live in Bury
    The angst you get there is very.
    So either numb the pain
    Or emigrate to Spain
    With the aid of a fast-moving ferry.

  60. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 2:49 PM

    I’m generally bright-eyed and merry
    A man not much given to gloom;
    But should I end up stuck in Bury
    I’d pick up a shotgun and BOOM…

  61. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 12, 2009 3:25 PM

    Now all across the land of Germany
    In the houses and hotels of the Hun
    They’re supping on schnapps and getting squiffy,
    ‘Sehr gut! Der schweinhundt Alarming iss gone!’

  62. May 12, 2009 3:40 PM

    MM we performed our compost heap show in Worms which seemed particularly apt and which caused much hilarity amongst the more puerile members of the team ( okay me ).

    Best shop sign was Pizza Worms which I plan to stop laughing about next Thursday.

  63. May 12, 2009 3:49 PM

    Zoicks, I’ll be staying away from Bury in the future, I’ll stay down the Altincham end…

  64. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 4:24 PM

    Speaking of funny/odd signs, a new halal butcher just opened up round my way. The giant sign over the entrance says: ‘un-stunned meat’…well, it made me laugh. I mean, if dead isn’t stunned, what is? (I know what they mean, but still…)

  65. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 4:28 PM

    From Heidelburg to Hamburg, from Dresden to the Rhine
    The Krauts are breathing easier: “Alarming’s gone, the swine.
    He pinched our women’s ample bums, he ate us out of wurst,
    He drank the country tinder dry; Mein Gott, he’s got a thirst!”

  66. May 12, 2009 4:32 PM

    But Bury is much better than Altrincham St. Polly.

    Altrincham lest we forget,
    Too close to the grisly Cheshire set
    With their snooty airs and graces
    Written large upon their faces.
    A sniff of touble they’ll call the police
    Like a gaggle of bad-tempered geese.
    Not far from wealthy Alderley Edge
    All the woman are Patricia Routledge.
    The men are either lawyers or bankers
    Known to all as …… fill in as appropriate.

  67. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 12, 2009 4:39 PM

    I’m a sandgrown’un, native of Blackpool.
    But its o-zone would not tempt me back. Fool
    Or not, I don’t care
    For the bracing sea air
    Or the handgrown’uns’ penchant for whack-tool.

  68. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 5:08 PM

    You can keep gay Paree,
    You can stuff the Big Apple
    There’s just one place for me:
    The old stones of Whitechapel.

  69. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 12, 2009 5:30 PM

    Though Whitechapel Road is a winner
    For a McGarrett and Ayrton Senna
    A monkey and rhino
    Buys Mayfair, a wino
    And Elton John’s semi in Pinner

  70. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 12, 2009 5:43 PM

    I tried to insert you into Death in Blackpool, HLM, but couldn’t find a niche. Look out for yourself in forthcoming Last Tango In Blackpool. Better keep an eye on Marlon, too.

    Ah, the good old Diet of Worms! Memories, memories!

  71. obooki permalink
    May 12, 2009 5:58 PM

    Adam West: you don’t watch Family Guy, do you Mish? – Adam West plays the town mayor in the style of batman in a sort of post-ironic post-modern manner. It’s one of the funniest things about it.

    As someone said to me, having seen War of the Worlds: whenever the Martians kill someone, their trousers always remain; so the obvious way to defeat them would be to produce trousers which covered the whole body. I don’t know, haven’t seen it myself.

  72. May 12, 2009 6:12 PM

    MM There’s always ” A Bad Day at Black Pool” to consider as well.

    Is that my coat? why thank you.

  73. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:26 PM

    Or The Creature From The Black Pool.

  74. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 8:34 PM

    …let’s not forget James Ellroy’s neo-noir novel, The Blackpool Dahlia, subsequently filmed by the ever-so-subtle Brian De Palma.
    And Lawrence Durrell’s The Blackpool Book…and Blackpool Narcissus. And the King Crimson LP, Starless and Bible Blackpool. And, of course, Stendhal’s The Red and The Blackpool…

    Am I right in remembering reading somewhere that ‘Dublin’ means ‘black pool’ in Old Norse?

  75. Captain Ned permalink
    May 12, 2009 9:59 PM


    trudging the shore of plastic & bones
    …of dogshit & driftwood
    & the wide waste of seaweed
    ………sulkily evicted
    to be hidden in the mist

    all this ragged dross & more
    the rest of gwaelod’s rubbish
    spat out onto the grey
    grey sands
    ………for a moment
    I’m content to cherish the weight
    of this smooth wet stone

  76. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 10:31 PM

    Lovely, Cap’n…mind you, I had to look up ‘gwaelod’. The Welsh Atlantis, apparently.

  77. Captain Ned permalink
    May 12, 2009 11:01 PM

    Mishari – ‘gwaelod’ simply means ‘bottom’. The legend you mention (the lost kingdom drowned when a drunken guard failed to keep his eye on the sea-wall) refers to ‘Cantre’r Gwaelod’, or ‘The Realm of the Bottom’ (‘cantref’ literally means a hundred towns/homes/divisions of land). There are prehistoric tree stumps to be found on on Borth beach (not, incidentally, the beach I had in mind while I was writing the poem), so there was once a substantial tract of land where now there’s only water, but the sea must have rose long before people were building communities in the area. It was a familiar story from my school days.

    Much enjoyed your riposte to the unfortunate young Jackett on the Walcott blog, Melton Mowbray. ‘St. Edmund Hall, if anyone’s interested… ‘ Hmm. Not really the done thing, is it, to mention Oxford as your place of study four times in one post? I’m sure he/she is perfectly harmless nonetheless.

  78. mishari permalink*
    May 12, 2009 11:17 PM

    Oky-Doke….bottom it is. I, too, enjoyed MM’s rather cruel post, which reminded me of nothing so much as a wolf savaging a hamster.

  79. May 12, 2009 11:33 PM

    Alarming – I was merely referring to the gun-toating Prince Mishari roaming the streets of Bury, and that Alty was rather a good way away…

    I’ve spent many happy an hour watching various sweaty bands at The Met.

  80. May 13, 2009 1:53 AM

    Steven A – thanks so much for the harp CD, it’s really very pleasant listening at work, which can be too hectic for a non-working type such as myself. Especially I like the last one, which I could swear was called Serenade when I used to play a piano version of it. Well anyway, I’ve not heard it for years and years and it was lovely to hear it again.

  81. May 13, 2009 3:41 AM


    Regrettably one’s attempt at a a Death in Venice sonnet for you has fizzled as dismally as a sparkler dropped in the canal, but how about two quatrains on going off to die in Naples and/or Rome instead?

  82. May 13, 2009 8:34 AM

    Off topic, but can I ask all the Poster Poets who visit here to keep an eye on GU Towers over the next week or so?


  83. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 8:37 AM

    Any chance of being a bit more specific, Bill? I mean, are we looking for anything in particular? Like most of us, I still lurk and post…

  84. May 13, 2009 8:50 AM

    Just catching up with some previous comments and I must say I’m completely confused by Sean’s sudden sway to the it’s-not-the-way-you-say-it-it’s-what-you-say position. Especially as I’ve spent many a happy comment eulogising with him over Bruno Schulz who is surely the epitome of the small-subjects-expanding-in-meaning/significance-by-the-way-they-are-written-about approach.

    Odd too to try and link formalism to high capitalism – as far as I can see the big sellers are the likes of Dan Brown, JK Rowling or Steven Spielberg. All of whom are solely about narrative and “meaning”.I’m not sure who a formalist author might be but in film the intensesly formalist Malcolm Legrice or Guy Sherwin have scarcely made a ripple on the public’s imagination.

    Billy what are we looking out for?

  85. May 13, 2009 9:05 AM

    An update on the much-mooted print anthology.

  86. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 9:07 AM

    Great. Thanks for the heads-up, Bill…

  87. May 13, 2009 9:56 AM

    ST POl:

    We’re glad it made it!

  88. May 13, 2009 10:40 AM


    Speaking of Whitechapel. Do you know Fog Walking by Peter Hammil? Great in that sort of funny/actually good way that a lot of prog/post-prog has. It’s certainly evocative in a slightly hysterical Ackroyd/Sinclair vein.

  89. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 1:01 PM

    ExB, I do, though I haven’t listened to A Black Box in years. I think it was one of those LPs that anticipated a lot of other stuff, like The Tubes (who were an absolutely fantastic live band but didn’t translate to vinyl very well, aside from, perhaps, White Punks On Dope)…I must dig it out and give it a spin…

  90. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 13, 2009 2:40 PM

    Blasphemer! Driving All Night, Don’t Touch Me There, Only The Strong Survive, What Do You Want From Life, Prime Time etc etc

  91. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 5:12 PM

    Sorry, MM…but I saw The Tubes about half a dozen times between ’77 and ’81. They’re were a wonderful live band, wildly theatrical and had the most elaborate sets and props.

    The band would, for example, became Quay and The Ludes for some numbers (White Punks On Dope, etc.) Fee Waybill (lead singer) would wear a spangly body suit with giant Quaaludes attached (Quaaludes–US name for methaqualone or Mandrax).

    For Prime Time and Television, the stage would become the set of a game show, etc, etc. The LPs just never caught the exuberance and hilarity of the shows.

    The Tubes were great visual satirists. I mean, the LPs were good (I had them all) but not as good as live…

    The Tubes doing White Punks On Dope, Germany 1982:

    Doing Talk To You Later in 2003:

  92. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 13, 2009 6:19 PM

    I never saw them live, but their first album made an indelible impression on me. I was lying in a drugged haze in a squat in Kentish Town when some bloke came in with the record, took off the whiny crap that was playing, turned the volume to 11 and dropped the needle. Ay caramba!

  93. May 13, 2009 6:50 PM

    The Tubes showed why modernism was necessary

  94. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 6:57 PM

    Al, you do realize they were taking the almighty piss…? Of course you do. You’re quoting someone or other. Who originally said it about whom?

  95. May 13, 2009 7:43 PM

    It’s a Billy Mills quote filtered through an MM variant. I can’t remember the poet BM was drily taking to task.

  96. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 7:54 PM

    That’s right. I think it was a Poem of the Week. Did we ever have Tennyson?

  97. pinkroom permalink
    May 13, 2009 8:02 PM

    a long way from misty Venice…

    I was never sure about The Tubes personally … sort of glam rock with a few dildoes stuck on for effect, but “Prime Time” was an absolutely magnificent pop record… another group entirely, and from what you say it was.

    A walk in Whitechapel, Spring 1980

    I too gave you my “Prime Time”
    as we emerged from the Aldgate East tube
    in search of East London Polytechnic
    Students, Union,
    or so it said on the
    hand banda’d flyer still smelling
    of spirit, much needed
    as hard as nails
    youth, tried to meet the eyes
    we deadened
    above the jaws we slackened,
    for who chooses to fight
    the brain-impaired?
    Left, keep walking
    past the kosher
    butchers and restaurants:
    their be-grimed Yiddish: closed, closing,
    left behind. Now somehow in the streets
    about Spittalfields, the church of Hawksmoor;
    fucking lost, and dark and darkening:
    our exchanged glances; not exactly
    the day or hour
    for sight-seeing; Petticoat Lane and
    Jack the Ripper. Circling, looking purposeful
    in our dwindling purpose
    and then, there
    at last
    and glory be
    a queue of folks,
    quite similar to we,
    from Gasworks Green,
    in our “Prime Time” to see
    the might and the power:


  98. May 13, 2009 8:21 PM

    Glam rock with a few dildos stuck on for effect? You make them sound even better than they were Pinkroom. They were a great night out – nothing more and nothing less. I suppose they are doing comeback tours now like everyone else and I imagine the youthful zest just isn’t there anymore.

  99. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 8:30 PM

    Thanks PR. You make Whitechapel sound grimmer than it is. Then again, being big and nasty-looking might make the area more accommodating for me…

    Exactly, Al…they put on a great show. Witty, mocking, energetic and like the culture they were satirizing, disposable…

    Here’s something rather more substantial:


  100. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 13, 2009 9:14 PM

    Thanks, Mishari. Breathtaking fivestar stuff. A beacon of brilliance through five decades.

  101. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 9:31 PM

    I won’t pretend I’m surprised you’re an afficianado, HLM. Thompson has always been a benchmark of excellence for me, the very model of what a singer/songwriter should be.

    The fact that he’s also one of the world’s most gifted and eloquent guitarists doesn’t hurt. He ‘s one of those musicians, like Miles Davis and Tom Waits, whose entire catalogue I own and listen to often…

    Check out this brilliant live version of Valerie:

    …and because you can never, in my opinion, have too much Richard Thompson:

  102. May 13, 2009 11:03 PM


    Is it foggy in Venice or are you in Whitechapel again and is it raining? Torrents on the pitch in Wigan, where I was a half hour ago, looking for the boat to Italy.

    All of which is to lead into saying thanks very much for coming round to bring a whiff of smelling salts to my ailing Italian embarkation quatrains at

    (I’ve left you, in a response comment there, an interesting bit from Ring Lardner, Jr.’s review of my Runyon, about his father’s relations with DR.)

  103. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 13, 2009 11:25 PM

    It was Fairport Convention who were whining on the turntable in Kentish Town, come to think of it. Can’t stick ’em myself. Volk rock is almost as embarrassing as volk poetry.

  104. mishari permalink*
    May 13, 2009 11:34 PM

    I’m not a big FC fan myself, MM, although I do like some of their renditions of trad. stuff like She Moved Through The Fair.

    But Thompson is something else and not easily classified. Check out Al Bowlly’s In Heaven. It demonstrates (if demonstration is needed) the RT can do it all–rock, folk, jazz, blues–and do it beautifully:

  105. pinkroom permalink
    May 13, 2009 11:58 PM

    Whitechapel really was grim 30 years ago. Was back there about a year ago and some parts are now painfully gentrified but I’m sure you can also still find capacious pockets of depravity… the ancestral seat of the distaff side of the pinkroom family was a ten-to-a-room rookery around Bow way.

    Never saw The Tubes live but have seen Richard Thompson. I like the way he attacks the guitar in a very un-folky way… sets off all sorts of interesting ‘accidentals” but for me his best work was always with Linda… gave him an extra dimension.

  106. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 12:08 AM

    Yes, LPs like Shoot Out The Lights and I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight are wonderful. Linda Thompson complemented Richard wonderfully…I heard her being interviewed on Late Junction some time ago, on the occasion of the release of her first LP in…I dunno, 20 years?

    Apparently, she’d developed the most ferocious stage-fright, which was why she hadn’t performed or recorded in so long. A great shame.

    Oh, most of Whitechapel/Stepney/Bethnal Green are very far from gentrified and Tower Hamlets is still the poorest and most deprived borough in Britain. It comes bottom of every table–health, education, life expectancy, etc, etc…

  107. May 14, 2009 8:07 AM

    FC doing Tam Lin is magnificent; that guitar riff is simplicity raised to the power of genius. Richard Thomson, who plays it, is one of the all-time greats.

    I think it may have been Elinor Morton Wylie who revealed the need for Modernism; if so, it was the only thing of worth she ever did.

  108. May 14, 2009 8:44 AM

    I thought Liege & Lief was a great record. Reynardine is spine-tingling. Although I never get the fuss about Joe Boyd. No matter how high I turn up the volume, L&L still sounds watery and far-off. Same with Fables of the Reconstruction. And I think it was him that put the daft sax solo and girly singers on Nick Drake’s Poor Boy.

    Never got around to Richard Thomson. Someone lent me a cassette back in the day but it didn’t work. And my Firefox currently won’t play sound on YouTube. I feel trapped in a pre-instant-gratification retro-Hell.

  109. May 14, 2009 8:51 AM

    Gentrified. Is there any worse concept? Urban regeneration runs it close perhaps.

    The desire to improve and revive is wonderful but usually it means throwing out the locals and the local businesses and converting everything to expensive flats.

    Manchster is rife with this – trouble is no-one can afford the flats so now they are all being used for skunk farms( the plant that is, sadly not the mammal ) and brothels. The developers base their imagery on a sort of early 80’s/ Factory records romantic lifestyle but no bands can afford or even find any rehearsal space near the city centre.

  110. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 8:59 AM

    ExitB, if you send me your current address (you’re going to be in Berlin for a while yet, no?), I’ll burn a compilation CD or two of Richard Thompson’s work over the years. I frankly can’t imagine you not being smitten…at the risk of insulting your intelligence, have you checked Tools/Options/Content and Tools/Options/Applications to make sure you’ve got the right plug-ins/selected the desired action for media files? Or just install the latest version of Firefox?

    Al, I saw the same thing happen in NYC many years ago. The Lower East Side used to be a great place–cheap rents, diverse population, lots of struggling artists and musicians. All these factors made it an attractive place to live.

    So the ‘deveopers’ and ‘gentrifiers’ moved in, drove rents up, drove all the artists out, drove all the cheap ethnic restaurants out (The Ukraine, The Kiev and a bunch of kosher eateries where you could get a bowl of borscht and bread for a buck, bars where a shot and a beer cost a buck, etc..) and turned the place into yuppie hell…bland, dull and expensive…

  111. May 14, 2009 9:29 AM

    Mishari, problem is I think that the empty flats also bring in criminal elements and make the place even worse than it was before.

    The junkies have been largely moved out of the area where we’ve had a workshop for 20 years but now we have paranoid gun-wielding criminals in their place.

  112. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 9:53 AM

    Al, just pop over to Rotterdam, where you can pick up an FN (Fabrique Nationale) Belgian assault rifle for about a 1000 euros (standard NATO 7.65mm round, so easy to get ammo).

    It’s time for artists to arm themselves. Remember, Al…an armed giant inflatable pig is a respected giant inflatable pig.

  113. May 14, 2009 10:15 AM

    ‘an armed giant inflatable pig is a respected giant inflatable pig’.

    As the great Fur-Q said, “you’ve got to kill people…to respect people”.

  114. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 10:21 AM

    Exactly, XB…when a neighbour of mine insisted on playing Coldplay very loud, I informed him that this disturbed my equillibrium and was, in fact, an impediment to my achieving satori and breaking the cycle of re-incarnation. But the bastard wouldn’t be told…so I firebombed his house.

    Now I respect him as someone who’s changed his name and moved to another city and he respects me as a homicidal lunatic. It’s win/win…

    Good piece by Matthew Norman in today’s Indy….

  115. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 14, 2009 10:48 AM

    Funny how things comes in threes. This morning the new dog shat on the kitchen floor, I was accosted by the postwoman bringing a 375-euro speeding fine and half my tooth fell out. Can you recommend a suitably downbeat Jake Thackray song to rescue me from my temporary hell?

  116. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 10:55 AM

    This isn’t very downbeat, but it should cheer you up:

  117. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 14, 2009 11:08 AM

    Brilliant! Ta, Mishari. My molar may be cracked but my smile is intact.

  118. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 11:16 AM

    Actually, this is the one I was looking for. An old favourite:

  119. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2009 7:29 PM

    Don’t get me started on Thackray.

  120. May 14, 2009 8:08 PM

    Intrigued of Ramsbottom writes “MM what would it take to start you on Thackray? “

  121. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 8:14 PM

    MM doesn’t like Thackray. Called his humour ‘pawky’, if memory serves. Needless to add, I disagree…

  122. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2009 10:36 PM

    Yorkshireman. Whimsical. Mannered. Folkish. Folk off.

  123. May 14, 2009 10:48 PM

    MM I was going to offer you money to sound off but you’ve gone ahead and done it anyway. Succinctly put too.

  124. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 10:58 PM

    Far from being a typical Yorkshire-bore (cf. Bernard Ingham, Fred Trueman, Michael Parkinson), I’ve always seen Thackray as being in the French tradition of singer/songwriters like Georges Brassens.

    MM, of course, has never recovered from the breakup of The Edgar Broughton Band….

  125. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2009 11:01 PM

    Dammit! Any further remarks about Thackray will be by subscription only.

    Wasted an hour watching The Mentalist (I say wasted, but what else would I be doing?) tonight. It’s the third I’ve watched, and I’ve (nearly) had enough. NCIS finishes tomorrow, can’t stomach L&O SVU, Taggart (which DCI Burke has resurrected) is over. There’s just The Bill or talking to Mrs M. Tough choice.

  126. May 14, 2009 11:07 PM

    Didn’t Thackray also sing some of Tom Lehrer’s tunes? I have a memory of him singing Poisoning Pigeons in the Park but it could be advanced False Memory Syndrome.

    MM You wasted time watching The Mentalist ? – I sat for 30 minutes watching flabby ex-members of Liverpool puff round Anfield for a testimonial on ITV4. Mesmerising.

  127. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2009 11:08 PM

    I haven’t watched The Mentalist but the star was in an entertaining show that only lasted for one brief series called ‘Smith’. It starred Ray Liotta as a criminal mastermind and whatsisname was one of the gang. I rather enjoyed it. It also starred…Johnny Lee Miller? Is that his name? Played Sick Boy in Trainspotting?

  128. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2009 11:40 PM

    I think I heard Hansen and Lawrenson babbling about that event, Alarming, and made a mental note, or multipage essay, to avoid it.

    Never heard of ‘Smith’. It was the name which initially attracted me to the Mentalist (Presumably it doesn’t have the same associations in the US. While I think of it, whatever made Kia call their new motor the Soul? All right, I am unusually juvenile, but surely others must have spotted the unfortunate conjunction of words, especially as the ad plays about 8 times in the course of the average cop show), then the eponymous character’s barmy manner, then the general shoddiness of the thing.

    There was a fab late-night series I used to watch called, I think, Profit, which suddenly disappeared. Ever heard of it?

  129. pinkroom permalink
    May 14, 2009 11:43 PM

    Yorkshireman just a Scotsman with the last drop of generosity squeezed out innit?

    Strangely I’d never seen Thackray as such but rather as one of those clever clever oxo musical “joke” acts that don’t seem to transfer to Gasworks Green that well… Flanders and Swann, Hinge and Brackett, Richard Stillgoe … T***er and w**k. I used to make a cup of tea during their twitty little turns… irritating but old-fashionedly harmless.

    Am I missing out here??? Was there a whole Lenny Bruce side lurking away in Whiechapel, or even Chapelside, basements? Jake telling the useless Yorkshire plod, incapable of catching the ripper, to go kill themselves; all set to the .plummy tones of an artfully plucked classical guitar? I need to know

  130. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 15, 2009 12:11 AM

    Profit only ran for 8 episodes, it seems.

  131. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 12:13 AM

    Thackray was a working-class boy (his father was a police constable) who won a scholarship to a Jesuit college in Leeds and went on to study Modern Languages at Durham University. On graduating, he moved to France where he became fascinated by the traditional chansonniers and decided to give it a go. I came to him with no preconceived notions–I heard him on the radio when I was about 10 or 11 and he made me laugh. That’s all.

    I’d never heard of Profit but according to Wiki:

    Considered by many to be ahead of its time, the show was a precursor to a cutting edge television genre that includes Nip/Tuck, Dexter and Mad Men. Dark themes stemming from the villainy of the central character made the show uncomfortable and unfamiliar viewing for mainstream audiences and Fox station affiliates, which ultimately led to the demise of the series.

  132. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 15, 2009 7:47 AM

    On my fourth or fifth run-through of Mish’s Jake posts (while typing in hoodie slang and police jargon subtitles for the French version of The Bill), my ever-loving came downstairs to enquire whether I was listening to Georges Brassens.

    Jonny Lee Miller’s biggest claim to post-Trainspotting fame is having been married to Angelina Jolie for a couple of years. He lost the James Bond gig after being shortlisted with Daniel Craig, but was an excellent Graeme Obree in the biopic The Flying Scotsman. Not that many share that view.

    I’ll just duck over the nearest drystone wall with Jake…

  133. May 15, 2009 8:22 AM

    Pinkroom Flanders and Swann had a charm that the others on your list certainly didn’t have.

    I found them more akin to Edward Lear than merely being filler between whatever Esther Rantzen was doing that week.

    Don’t mean to be rude and apologies if I am but are you being sponsored to mention Gasworks Green as often as possible?

  134. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 8:41 AM

    There used to be an obnoxious Scots blowhard named John Junor, a scribbler who never wrote a paragraph without mentioning his hometown of (I think) Auchtermuchty. He used it as shorthand for the font of all good things–common sense, decency, blahblahblah.
    He was, natch, a fervent Thatcher lover, the twit. His daughter Penny is some species of royal bootlicker…

    And of course, there’s Garrison Keillor, who mentions Lake Woebegone with the regularity of an atomic clock..

    Perhaps PR works for the Gasworks Green Tourist Board?

    Odd thing on Question Time last night: Dimblebore kept calling on audience members as …”the woman in pink.”
    Every damn woman he called on was in pink. Is this a Grimsby thing? Perhaps @pinkroom can tell me.

  135. May 15, 2009 10:47 AM

    I’ve knocked out something fans of 70s sci-fi might find amusing

  136. May 15, 2009 10:54 AM


    Your comments may be a mess but the last line of Atom Heart Mother is a blinder.

  137. May 15, 2009 11:00 AM

    Thanks, btp, much appreciated!

  138. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 11:08 AM

    Great stuff, XB…Iain Sinclair meets William Gibson meets Michael Moorcock. I’d like to think Freddie is an amped-up, de-constructed, re-constructed version of Fred Goodwin…

    Bill’s posted on the book blogs with news of a Poster Poets anthology that the Grauniad’s publishing. You’re in it, XB, as is perfectly right…

    I always liked that LP (Atom Heart Mother). Funky Dung was a favourite track…

  139. May 15, 2009 11:58 AM

    Thanks, Mishari.

    ATM has special significance for me. When I was 16 I had a dream after listening to it; an angel appeared to me and sent me on a mission to kill God in oder to abolish heaven & hell.

    I picked it up on CD last year but it’s yet to have the same effect. Perhaps the angel was only on the cassette version. Or perhaps my mission was successful…

  140. May 15, 2009 12:07 PM

    OK, I’m useless at this game; which poster poet is exitbarnadine/Tom?

  141. May 15, 2009 12:08 PM

    Ignore that last comment; I’m just mixed up. Nothing new there.

  142. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 12:10 PM

    Bill, exitbarnadine is BaronCharlus as was, Tom is Tom Clark AKA beyondthepale…

  143. May 15, 2009 12:32 PM

    ExitB are you sure it was a dream? sounds like the acid you were obviously on finally peaked.

    I’m not sure about Pink Floyd post Syd Barret. The likes of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast on Atom Heart Mother seemed more about listening to mushrooms frying in a pan on stereo headphones than anything else – more novelty than musically interesting. Always liked the cover and the title though.

  144. May 15, 2009 12:40 PM

    Yes, I realised that about 30 seconds too late.

  145. May 15, 2009 12:42 PM

    No drugs, sadly, Al. Just my unconscious doing what it regularly does.

    The cover and name of AHM are fantastic. I have a love/hate relationship with the Floyd. I devoured their stuff as a teen – they were the first big group i saw live – but as I got older most of the post-Dark Side stuff seemed more and more pompous. The records between Syd and DSotM, however, are full of gems and genuine experiments. Bizarre space-rock and orchestral attempts interspersed with pastoral ballads and some very unexpected moments. Julian Cope or someone described them as ‘egoless’, certainly not a word you could apply to the Wall: someone once described Roger Waters as, after Jesus, the man who had bored more people with his life story than anyone else in history. And to use his record to draw parallels with the Berlin wall, as he did with his 1990 concert at the Reichstag, is borderline obscene. Being in Berlin at the moment I’m really getting a sense of that.

    Also, I must say that security at Checkpoint Charlie seems to have got very lax.

  146. May 15, 2009 12:43 PM

    Ummagumma was always my favourite post-Syd PF album. Mind you, I havent heard it for over 30 years now.

  147. May 15, 2009 12:49 PM

    It has its highs: Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun; Careful with That Axe, Eugene; Grantchester Meadows

    It has its lows:

    Several Species of Small Furry Creatures Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict; The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party, movements I-III.

  148. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 1:16 PM

    AHM, UmmaGumma, Obscured By Clouds and Meddle all had good things on them as well as not so good. I always rather liked that one that went:

    “As I reach for a peach
    Slide a rind down behind
    A sofa in St. Tropez…”

    From DSOTM onward, I lost interest…

  149. May 15, 2009 1:24 PM

    I still maintain you were high as a kite ExitB and facts won’t deter me from that opinion. As Stewart Lee says apropos a taxi-driver trying to win an agument he has obviously lost ” You can prove anything with facts”.

    Pink Floyd played at Manchester City’s ground very near to where I used to live – the sound quality was extrraordinarily clear even in the streets where the sound from less well-equipped bands used to echo about the place. You had to travel a long way to escape it.

    Tony Wilson once said he would commit suicide by jumping off his own ego – the same could be said for Roger Waters.

  150. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 4:00 PM

    Here’s one for you, Al:

  151. May 15, 2009 5:24 PM

    Re: The Floyds: “Animals” is in my Top 11 Albums of the latter-middle third of the latter 20th Century. I quote:

    Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Waters) 11:26

    Big man, pig man, ha ha charade you are.
    You well heeled big wheel, ha ha charade you are.
    And when your hand is on your heart,
    You’re nearly a good laugh,
    Almost a joker,
    With your head down in the pig bin,
    Saying “Keep on digging.”
    Pig stain on your fat chin.
    What do you hope to find.
    When you’re down in the pig mine.
    You’re nearly a laugh,
    You’re nearly a laugh
    But you’re really a cry.

    Bus stop rat bag, ha ha charade you are.
    You fucked up old hag, ha ha charade you are.
    You radiate cold shafts of broken glass.
    You’re nearly a good laugh,
    Almost worth a quick grin.
    You like the feel of steel,
    You’re hot stuff with a hatpin,
    And good fun with a hand gun.
    You’re nearly a laugh,
    You’re nearly a laugh
    But you’re really a cry.

    Hey you, Whitehouse,
    Ha ha charade you are.
    You house proud town mouse,
    Ha ha charade you are
    You’re trying to keep our feelings off the street.
    You’re nearly a real treat,
    All tight lips and cold feet
    And do you feel abused?
    …..! …..! …..! …..!
    You gotta stem the evil tide,
    And keep it all on the inside.
    Mary you’re nearly a treat,
    Mary you’re nearly a treat
    But you’re really a cry.

  152. Zephirine permalink
    May 15, 2009 5:35 PM

    Congratulations to all who made it into the Poster Potes Pome Tome! And thanks to those who nominated my stuff.

  153. May 15, 2009 5:38 PM

    Thanks Mish sadly, as with the books my French isn’t up to following his trains of thought.

    I have a lovely series of photo-booth pictures of him making silly faces – I read the Bark Tree about 30 years ago and fell in love with it, those photos were icing on the cake. I finally read the last of his novels a couple of years ago. A marvellous man.

    His translator Barbara Wright died last week. The Guardian printed a nice obit. She avoided translating more lucrative work and stuck with the avant-garde. I once met someone who knew her – a real wag in the old sense of the word by all accounts which seems about right.

  154. May 15, 2009 5:39 PM

    ‘Poster Potes Pome Tome’

    Let the nominations for a title begin.

  155. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 5:40 PM

    Zeph’s is a hard one to improve on, XB…

  156. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 15, 2009 5:43 PM

    Do you mean you’re subtitling the English ‘Bill’ for the French market, HLM? The mind boggles. Is it called Le Guill?

  157. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 5:53 PM


  158. May 15, 2009 6:01 PM


    My Dutch is excellent.

  159. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 6:06 PM

    BTW, XB, you might want to download this LP…Miles Davis Columbia out-takes from 1958, a Japanese issue. The version of Love For Sale is absolutely stunning.

  160. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 15, 2009 6:07 PM

    Nah, s’awl vicey-versa innit?

    No, I work on series like P.J. (Police Judiciaire) and Central Nuit that attempt to emulate The Bill.

    I have translated the odd documentary on Queneau, however, and have nothing but respect for Barbara Wright. Having said that, translating Queneau’s verse is rather like filling in bits of a jigsaw: you come up with the four corners and work inwards.

  161. May 15, 2009 6:11 PM

    Thanks for the tip, Mishari. And thanks, too, for the offer of a Richard Thompson primer. I’m more than interested but need to find out exactly how I get to my post in this building (we’re in a kind of annex to another appartment). Will email you when I’ve got it together.

  162. mishari permalink*
    May 15, 2009 6:15 PM

    Whenever you’re ready, erm…dood.

  163. May 15, 2009 6:31 PM

    HLM Queneau often changes tenses mid-sentence so I can imagine it’s a nightmare to translate. Barbara Wright said the trick was to translate it into English then translate the English version back into the French to see if the 2 French versions matched up.

  164. May 15, 2009 8:26 PM

    I used to read John Junor, and much later I also passed through Auchtermuchty. I don’t recall it seeming especially virtuous. Wikipedia says he didn’t come from or live there. Probably he came from somewhere like Glenrothes or Kirkcaldy and only dreamed of reaching the heights of Auchtermuchty society.

    I like the bit with the bees on Ummagumma.

  165. pinkroom permalink
    May 15, 2009 10:17 PM

    You guys are too good for me, or should I say yo aint so gasworks green as yo is cabbage looking.

    Part of the satirical purpose of said village/suburb was the whole Auchtermachty type thing… Fulchester (geddit) Little Britain wotevas… a self-contained slice of all that is good bad crap represntative of England beyond Oxo and Metro. I’ve lived in two of the hardest Greens in England as it happens (why are these s-holes always called Green??? Bethnal already mentioned this thread.) Langley Green in Crawley where the ex-boxing champ Alan Minter broke my toys, among other misdemeanours, and Hyson Green in Nottingham… most other places always seemed to be in the shadow of a Gasworks but the point is these places must have had a certain loveliness once. You can still see it with your eyes half closed.

    The pink is nothing to do with pink ladies in Grimsby or even less Pink Floyd but rather my own name for a place I sometimes transcend to, with a small nod in the direction of the pink dawn of socialism. I hope that clears up the Grimsby QT question.

    pinkroom also has two pomes in the pome tome. Have I ever said what a great chap BM is? Excellent taste. Fine moustache. All round good egg. His name shall resound around the Green tonight.

  166. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 15, 2009 11:29 PM

    Farewell NCIS! Thank God Director Jenny got blown away. There is justice in TV world. There’s only Numbers on Friday night now. Mrs M translates the algorithms for me. I wish I’d recorded Spiral now which I didn’t notice for a long time. It looked like it might be interesting.

  167. May 16, 2009 1:35 AM


    Your ATM Experience–

    “ATM has special significance for me. When I was 16 I had a dream after listening to it; an angel appeared to me and sent me on a mission to kill God in order to abolish heaven & hell.

    “I picked it up on CD last year but it’s yet to have the same effect. Perhaps the angel was only on the cassette version. Or perhaps my mission was successful…”

    –may well have been the sort of Decisive Moment experienced thirty-five years ago this spring by your fellow sci-flier Philip K. Dick, in fact just a few blocks away from where I write this, and later referred to by him as the “2/3/74 epiphany”. A beam of ‘pink light”, he said, pierced his consciousness.

    He wrote of this:

    “I speak of The Restorer of What Was Lost The Mender of What Was Broken.”

    “March 16, 1974: It appeared – in vivid fire, with shining colors and balanced patterns – and released me from every thrall, inner and outer.

    “March 18, 1974: It, from inside me, looked out and saw the world did not compute, that I – and it – had been lied to. It denied the reality, and power, and authenticity of the world, saying, ‘This cannot exist; it cannot exist.’

    “March 20, 1974: It seized me entirely, lifting me from the limitations of the space-time matrix; it mastered me as, at the same time, I knew that the world around me was cardboard, a fake. Through its power of perception I saw what really existed, and through its power of no-thought decision, I acted to free myself. It took on in battle, as a champion of all human spirits in thrall, every evil, every Iron Imprisoning thing.”

    Dick was quick to explain that his system had been saturated with sodium pentathol and other heavy duty analgesics all through his series of “2/3/74” visions, but, as he had for some time insisted in regard to his earlier use of amphetamine, the drugs always accumulated in his liver and never went on to affect his brain. He said.

    So in this sense Dick’s Pink Beam may be less authentic than your allegedly “natural” angelic apparition.

    By the way, the place where the Pink Beam transmitted itself into Dick was a few doors up from the cafe pictured here:

  168. May 16, 2009 9:07 AM

    As it happens Mish, you have lately come in for a bit of compliment from the Ozarks and elsewhere down at the tail of the thread here:

  169. Zephirine permalink
    May 16, 2009 10:14 AM

    MM, Spiral is very very good, and you can get Series 1 on DVD now with subtitles. (I have tried watching it without subtitles but even though my French is pretty good the slang loses me very quickly – HLM would obviously cope!)

    As you’re a connoisseur of cop shows I can tell you that it uses the Murder One series structure. But what’s great is that it’s wholly French and not fake-American.

  170. May 16, 2009 11:18 AM

    MM Farewell NCIS? Surely not. Won’t it be swirling around the airwaves in an endless loop of repeats for decades to come like Friends, CSI or ER? Our only point of navigation as to what season we are in being the actresses hairstyles or whether George Clooney is still in it.

    An odd series reliant on the Navy having dozens of murderers in its ranks as far as I could see but I’ve only seen a few episodes. Are you running an on-line seminar about it anywhere on the www. ?

  171. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2009 11:43 AM

    Thanks for the tip, zephirine. I’ll order it. I used the subtitle option throughout The Wire. I wonder if HLM did those?

    Yes, earlier series are on endless repeat already, Alarming. The characters are fairly amusing, though the Marine Corps bollocks is quite hard to take and I have to mute when the schlock kicks in, as it did in spectacular fashion with ‘kooky’ ‘scientist’ ‘Abby’ last night. David McCallum does a sterling job as stereotypical ‘eccentric’ ‘English’ ‘pathologist’. Better than ‘Emilia’ ‘Fox’ anyway.

  172. May 16, 2009 11:52 AM

    MM Your last comment has beaten my record for putting “words” in inverted com”mas”.
    Very necessary these days “unfortunately”.

  173. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2009 4:08 PM

    I went through that bloody Poster Poems index three times looking for that Union Street poem I wrote before I realised 2/5/08 to 23/5/08 are missing. Bastarding IT fuckups. I had to trawl through the entire poetry section to find it. I should send a bill.

  174. May 17, 2009 12:54 PM

    Blimey – Billy put me in the Poster Poems anthology!!! Is he just being polite?

  175. May 17, 2009 2:39 PM

    Mills! You prankster!

  176. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2009 2:51 PM

    I think you’ll find, Polly and Steven, that every poem Bill chose was recommended by other poster poets in the thread he links to in his post. Popular acclaim–it’s the Gold Standard (except for Dan Brown, Barry Manilow, Tom Cruise and …erm…never mind, maybe it’s not)

  177. May 17, 2009 2:53 PM

    No way in Hell I’m emailing that Crown dragon, though. I’ll sit this honor out! But it was a chummy gesture I do appreciate.

  178. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2009 3:06 PM

    Like you, Steven, I won’t be emailing Crown (who sent me the most risible explanation for my banning last year, i.e. she conceded that banning me for ‘bullying’ had been a mistake but that the ban remained because I’d re-appeared under different user names. How’s that for logic? Banned for stuff I did after, erm…I was banned).

    But the idea of my work appearing under my real name (as I’d want it to) while being banned from posting under my real name offends my sense of what’s right.

    I’m perfectly happy with the knowledge that lots of people whose opinions I value and respect were kind enough to recommend some of my stuff. That’ll do me.

  179. May 17, 2009 3:40 PM

    Aye (well, not “lots of people” in my case, but Para, and Anytime Frances, who stuck up for Oscar -and yours truly- in the Zadie Smith witch hunt, are good enough for me).

  180. Zephirine permalink
    May 17, 2009 7:33 PM

    Ah c’mon, you guys, are you saying you don’t want to be in the book? The book which was suggested by the PosterPoets, not by the GU persons, which – let’s face it – only other Poster Poets will ever buy, and for which lots of PPs (including yourself, Mishari) spent many hours choosing poems to recommend?

    I have several questions about this book, e.g. what will the copyright situation be and are they assuming none of us want to be paid, but I’m happy to go along with it and see what happens.

    Anyway, Mishari, at the moment you’ve got more poems chosen than anybody else, possibly because you came back under another name !

  181. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2009 8:07 PM

    I don’t want to be a spoil-sport, zeph, but seriously…you don’t think that there’s something a bit off about the fact that GU will publish my verse under my real name (assuming, of course, that they would. It’s not something I’m prepared to enter into a correspondence about) but won’t allow me to post under my real name?

    It’s a nice idea and I’m flattered that some of my stuff made the cut but I only ever did it to entertain and amuse my fellow poster poets and myself and in that, I think I succeeded. But my point is straight-forward–if my real name isn’t acceptable for posting, then it’s not acceptable for anything else.

    As for the copyright situation, I was under the impression that when you sign up to comment on GU, you agree that anything you post becomes, for copyright purposes, the property of GU, although I could be wrong about that.

  182. Zephirine permalink
    May 17, 2009 8:36 PM

    Yes, I’ve just asked for clarification about the copyright thing. I don’t think you actually assign copyright to GU, I think you just permit use of the comment on GU in any way they see fit, but I’ll see what the reply is.

    Well, it’s up to you, and I don’t know all the banning history as I don’t go onto the rest of the books blog much but (if I may say so) you seem to be rather painting yourself into spoil-sport corner with the name thing… as far as I remember most of your best poems were written as artpepper, so why not publish as artpepper?

    I’m publishing as zephirine, I have no illusions that this book might establish me as a poet so it doesn’t really matter about using my real name. I might try and get some of the stuff published elsewhere and then I would use my real name, but this book is basically a souvenir of a good year on the PP blog, no?

  183. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2009 9:13 PM

    zeph, I use my real name. Always. Everywhere. The GU is the one exception and it was done reluctantly. You choose to use a pseudonym and that’s fine but it’s something I’ve never been comfortable with. To me it smacks, rightly or wrongly, of evasion and dissembling–of a reluctance to be held to account. There is no artpepper, no budpowell, no arsenelupin, no feloniusmonk, no shortyrogers etc.– just me.

    My banning was an injustice and it’s rankled ever since. It happened in the same month that Poster Poems started and I was prepared to post verse under an alias–after all, all the regulars knew perfectly well who I was–but the idea of entering into a correspondence with the GU over whether I’ll be ‘allowed’ to use my real name…nah, not gonna happen.

    Anyway, the anthology won’t be any less worthwhile for my absence.

  184. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 17, 2009 9:53 PM

    I can see your point, Mishari. It would be insane to allow you to put your own name to the PP stuff while simultaneously stopping you from doing so on the blog. Hasn’t your sentence expired yet?

    As Zephirine says, no-one’s going to buy this, so questions of copyright and payment seem redundant. freep’s pointed out in the past that the poems on the PP blog probably get more readers in a week than some published poets get in a lifetime. If someone was going to nick them, they’d be away on their toes by now.

    I thought I would append my bonafide name to the biog so I can prove I wrote the poems. It’s going to solve my Xmas present problem this year, and with any luck some elderly relatives will keel over when they read my contributions. It’s an ill wind…

  185. Zephirine permalink
    May 17, 2009 10:03 PM

    I don’t see why you shouldn’t publish under your real name in the book then, with the pseudonyms having been a temporary measure. I wouldn’t have thought being ‘allowed’ comes into it, but as I said, it’s your story and I don’t know much about it so I should mind my own business really:)

    Personally, I started writing online using a pseudonym because I write professionally under my own name (not poetry) but couldn’t get any work. It was a way of winning over a new audience and convincing myself I could still do it. There is an element of mask and evasion, but the real friends I’ve made on Other Stuff and Pseuds’ Corner all got to know each other’s real identities pretty quickly.

    So I’m all for using a monicker to have a consistent online presence, but on the other hand I don’t like people using lots of different online names to play games and deceive, there always seems to be a level of spite in that.

  186. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2009 10:04 PM

    Who could have foreseen that Poster Poems would help you to commit the perfect murder?

    “Oh, look, dear…young MM’s had some poems published! To think I always said the young wastrel would never amount to anything! I’ll read one aloud, shall I? Ahem….gaaak…cacoughkkk…sgrrrokkk…(thump).” The rest is silence…

  187. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 17, 2009 10:59 PM

    Let’s hope they put Inspector George Gently on the case. Or better still Insp. Linley. Sarah Crown would probably end up in the dock.

    I had to conceal the last poem I got published (25 years ago) because it had a fuck in it (the word, not the action). It was also crap (the adjective, not the substance).

  188. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2009 11:21 PM

    The word ‘Inspector’ in the title tells me all I need to know. Aside from Gogol’s The Government Inspector, what you’ll get is the Laura Ashley School of Crime.

    In his essay, The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler responded to critics of the New Brutalism by pointing out that writers like Hammett …”gave murder back to the kind of people who commit it.”

    British writers do many things well but crime fiction isn’t one of them.
    Lord Peter fucking Wimsey, Miss sodding Marple, Hercule bleeding Poirot and anyone called ‘Inspector’…fuck the lot of ’em.

  189. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 12:06 AM

    I see some women have been elected to the Kuwaiti parliament. Things can only get better.

  190. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 12:42 AM

    Yeah..a few Jaqui Smiths, Hazel Blears and Harriet Harmans should turn the old doss-house into a veritable paradise on earth, as it has in Britain.

    I remember the Emir closing parliament in the early 70s. My father was in the cabinet at the time. As a lifelong Grauniad/New Statesman reading left-ish man, I expected him to be outraged. “Shocking, isn’t it?”, I said over lunch. “Bah,” said my father. “They’re a worthless rabble. We’re better off without them.”

    Not a lot has changed. Some places do better under a benevolent autocracy.

  191. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 1:07 AM

    Worthless rabble is a pretty good description of Gordon’s cabinet. Maybe Brenda will storm the H of C Cromwell-style:

    Dipart, I say, and lit us hiv done with yaw. In the nim off Gott, gow!

  192. May 18, 2009 7:59 AM

    Mish and steve, please reconsider. The book won’t be as good without you.

    As for copyright, part of the initial deal for the series was that copyright remained witht he poets.

  193. May 18, 2009 8:39 AM


    Thanks for the PKD story. Whilst I should stress that my experience was most certainly a dream, it is interesting how many artists (in times of personal crisis?) seem to experience these epiphanies with lightshow. Comics writer Grant Morrison and errant rocker/menhir expert/music historian Julian Cope both claim to have experienced complex and profound visions that directly altered their understanding of the world and – natch – the importance of their role within it. These visions seem to expose the recipient to a broken universe whilst identifying a solution/greater intelligence. Isn’t that a central concept of Zoroastrianism? I like Blake’s brand of seeing things that aren’t there, more domestic, slippery, without placing himself at the centre. Although I’ve heard this has been overstressed by use of anecdote in some biographies.


    I appreciate your reasons but just wanted to say the anthology would be the poorer on my shelf without your pomes: for their quality and for reminding me, in forty years when the Internet’s down to one tricycle-powered iPhone, who the top hustlers were. I’ve handed over my true-name to SC; have also outed myself as SirTopaz, for what it’s worth.

  194. Captain Ned permalink
    May 18, 2009 8:43 AM

    Mishari – I too am dubious about emailing Sarah Crown; the McCrum/Smith debacle still rankles with me. However, I’m going to put my reservations to one side because I think the cause is worthy enough to overcome such doubts. After all, Billy has worked hard for this, and it would be a great shame to let it founder now. Crown, the mods, the books blog honchos – they’re not worth it. And you’re quite wrong about the anthology not being affected by your work’s absence.

  195. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 18, 2009 8:48 AM

    So the two contributors here who use real names and real photos will neither be real nor present?

    Personally I’d be far prouder seeing my name if theirs are also on the teamsheet.

    Come on, guys. Lace up your boots. Let’s win this one for (insert suitable alias)!

  196. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:12 AM

    Ahhhh, what the hell…Crown’ll get her damned email. Inez said I was being excessively stiff-necked and I suppose she’s right. As you say, it’s not really about the Grauniad or Crown or the mods, it’s about Bill and my fellow poster poets.

    The funny thing is, MM, Kuwait would have had women MPs and cabinet ministers over 30 years ago. The men who ruled Kuwait–the royal family and cadet branches and the leading merchant families–were far more progressive than most parliamentarians. Men like my father were all for it. It’s been parliament that has prevented it.

    MPs then, as now, were an unruly, uneducated and reactionary mob, compromising leaders of various backward tribesmen and Muslim fundamentalist nutcases. They bought their votes for cash or sheep (seriously).

    A democracy that doesn’t work is, in some ways, worse than no democracy at all.

  197. freep permalink
    May 18, 2009 9:31 AM

    Been greenhouse building.
    Glad to hear most are giving permission to Sarah Crown. The poems are what matter. A bit of inspiration and a sudden rush of language – or an arduous bit of crafting with a blindingly bright metaphor – that’s what we want to see, and the names are not quite so important.
    Just found this, from one of my ten favourite books; the Opies’ Oxford Dict of Nursery Rhymes:

    Here am I,
    Little Jumping Joan;
    When nobody’s with me
    I’m all alone.

    I find the editors say that ‘jumping Joan’ was a cant term for a lady of little reputation. I had known this jingle for a long time, and I always had an image of a little friendless girl skipping in a playground, and getting solace from a quiet song. Alas. The world is harsher.

  198. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:37 AM

    I’d love to have some company
    It’ll cost you a shilling
    Jumping Joan’s alone, not free.

  199. May 18, 2009 9:38 AM

    Great news, mish.

    Now Steven, your turn.

  200. May 18, 2009 9:54 AM


    Speaking of

    “I like Blake’s brand of seeing things that aren’t there, more domestic, slippery, without placing himself at the centre,”

    I am put in mind of Allen Ginsberg’s slippery-blisses Blake “Oh Sunflower” vision-of-light epiphany in a Harlem apartment around the time he was thrown out of Columbia. When I interviewed him in in 1965 he made that moment–which included the Blake lyric, white light, and wanking–the decisive point in his life narrative.

    Whatever gets you through the epiphany.

    By the way, should anyone tire of the strains of deciding which name to use and whether or not to use it, we’re doing sleep at the top tonight over at

  201. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:03 AM

    I remember reading somewhere that a caller was told by Mrs. Blake that, “Mr. Blake’s in the garden talking to an angel…”

    Blake, white light and wanking, eh? Beats a Grecian urn or a host of fucking daffodils.

    XB, so you were SirTopaz…I should have known.

  202. May 18, 2009 10:18 AM


    Interesting that Ginsberg focussed on O, Sunflower. The Fugs – Ginsberg-affiliated? – recorded a version of it for their first album, also ’65, I believe. Blake certainly seems to be the motherlode for many that seek a non-conforming yet canonically-established root for their own experiences/art/agenda. Julian Cope sells a t-shirt on his site: ‘Why be bleak when you can be Blake?’ Don’t think he mentions wanking much, though.

    I didn’t know the ‘outside, talking to a spirit’ story. I’ve heard the naturist Adam-and-Eve-in-the-garden suppertime encounter may be apocryphal although one can hardly doubt the Ghost of a Flea encounter or the spirit that chased his out onto Hercules Road from his home (now a grim block of flats).


    ‘Twas I. I know your feelings on sock puppets; I donned the Topaz mask to spoof the occasional arguments that broke out. I don’t think I was divisive. Hi ho Silver away, etc. Anyway, it was fun.

  203. May 18, 2009 10:24 AM

    I hate Blake; the most over-rated “major poet” ever.

    There, I’ve said it.

    Basil Bunting once said that Blake appeals to those who prefer propaganda to poetry; probably a bit harsh on the fans, but a fair description of the work, I think. Most of the work is tosh; what remains can all be sung to the air of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. A cloth-eared non-poet if ever there was one.

    Later, I tell you how I really feel about him.

  204. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:42 AM

    Although I don’t hate Blake, I do find much of his work a turgid mess.
    However, a lot of the shorter works I find quite resonant. Is there a better description of the current state of affairs than:

    The whore and gambler, by the state
    Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
    The harlot’s cry from street to street
    Shall weave old England’s winding sheet.
    The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
    Dance before dead England’s hearse.

    …now tell us how you feel about Keats, Bill.

  205. May 18, 2009 10:49 AM

    Keats: Blake without the talent.

  206. May 18, 2009 10:57 AM


    Mish was a much bigger part of Poster Pomes than I ever was (Christ, he should get his *own* bloody book as a supplement); I figure it’s much less of a tragedy if *I* discreetly beg off. Well, I’m being “discreet” as my personality will allow. You don’t want me to go into *detail* about what I think of Sarah Crown, do you? I think a non sequitur is in order about now, so:

  207. May 18, 2009 11:09 AM

    Fair enough, Steven.

  208. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:12 AM

    Telly sings love song to animatronic Barbie doll. Priceless. This is what’s been missing from my life…here’s another ‘great art moment’:

  209. freep permalink
    May 18, 2009 11:21 AM

    Here’s a weird thing about Blake’s stuff. Both his best-known poems are a series of questions. The Tyger and Jerusalem.

    Was not that strange, those words to prate
    Without any -ment to add to the state?
    Was a beast in the forest, with breath so hot,
    Or was there not?
    And did the feet leave marks on the shore?

    He was a bad-tempered old git with ideas, but not much of a wordsmith. He would have made an excellent blogger.

  210. May 18, 2009 11:27 AM

    I like his paintings. I don’t have the language to describe the effect they have on me but they do seem, ahem, an authentic translation of some very gnomic, dark inner encounters. That he chose to translate them as cosmic truths is perhaps a shame, reducing them to Billy’s ‘propaganda’.

  211. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:30 AM

    I’m with you there, XB. I find Blake’s artwork much more interesting than the verse.

  212. May 18, 2009 11:41 AM

    Never seek to tell thy love,
    Love that never told can be;
    For the gentle wind does move,
    Silently, invisibly.

    I told my love, I told my love,
    I told her all my heart;
    Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears,
    Ah! she doth depart.

    Soon as she was gone from me,
    A traveller came by,
    Silently, invisibly;
    He took her with a sigh.

  213. May 18, 2009 11:45 AM

    I wander through each chartered street,
    Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
    And mark in every face I meet,
    Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

    In every cry of every man,
    In every infant’s cry of fear,
    In every voice, in every ban,
    The mind-forged manacles I hear:

    How the chimney-sweeper’s cry
    Every blackening church appalls,
    And the hapless soldier’s sigh
    Runs in blood down palace-walls.

    But most, through midnight streets I hear
    How the youthful harlot’s curse
    Blasts the new-born infant’s tear,
    And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.

  214. freep permalink
    May 18, 2009 11:48 AM

    (Shatner)I think it’s gonna be a long long time … I miss my wife…. It’s lonely out in space
    (Telly) You and I will fly … (infinitely sincere pregnant rhetorical suffused with meaning suppressing thoughts of personal greatness and adulation) … away

    Blake lives.

    You have a fine cabinet of curiosities here, mish. I like Blake’s paintings, too. But then I have a weakness for angels.

  215. May 18, 2009 11:49 AM


    Savalas and Shat: those were nobler, sexier times, weren’t they?

  216. May 18, 2009 11:52 AM

    I was angry with my friend:
    I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
    I was angry with my foe:
    I told it not, my wrath did grow.

    And I watered it in fears,
    Night and morning with my tears;
    And I sunned it with smiles,
    And with soft deceitful wiles.

    And it grew both day and night,
    Till it bore an apple bright.
    And my foe beheld it shine.
    And he knew that it was mine,

    And into my garden stole
    When the night had veiled the pole;
    In the morning glad I see
    My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

  217. May 18, 2009 12:04 PM

    I asked a thief to steal me a peach
    He turned up his eyes
    I ask’d a lithe lady to lie her down
    Holy & meek she cries

    As soon as I went
    An angel came.
    He wink’d at the thief
    And smil’d at the dame

    And without one word said
    Had a peach from the tree
    And still as a maid
    Enjoy’d the lady

  218. May 18, 2009 12:08 PM

    Yes, the visual stuff is bearable, but with each of those poems, XB, my teeth become more firmly clenched

    He was a bad-tempered old git with ideas, but not much of a wordsmith. He would have made an excellent blogger.

    Ah that “not much of a wordsmith” is the killer blow. Poems are not made of ideas, they are made of words. Blake didn’t really make poems at all.

  219. May 18, 2009 12:12 PM

    But then I have a weakness for angels.

    Is that quite, well, legal?

  220. freep permalink
    May 18, 2009 12:19 PM

    They are not underage angels, and they consent.

  221. May 18, 2009 12:22 PM

    Fair enough, Billy. But I love the story in the angel poem, the wink and the ‘still as a maid’, the sly, less than angelic behaviour and the poet marking himself out as a bit of a sad-sack. The rhythm, though, isn’t very elegant.

  222. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 12:32 PM

    Of course, I’ve always taken Bill’s position, viz. poetry isn’t made of noble sentiments or powerful emotions or genuine feelings or even truth, although it can be all of these things and more.

    A poem is a significant artefact wrought from words. If it fails at this first hurdle then anything that follows is irrelevant.

  223. May 18, 2009 12:44 PM

    freep: are they undergratuate angels?

  224. freep permalink
    May 18, 2009 12:51 PM

    My name is not Walcott, Bill. I do have some sense of propriety. When the blessed seraphim visit me, we do some merging, privately. That’s all I’m prepared to say.
    I think Blake just talked at them and drew them; from my memory of the illustrations, they kept their celestial garb on. (His wife Catherine was usually in the garden at the same time.) There were holes at the shoulders to poke the wings through.

  225. Zephirine permalink
    May 18, 2009 12:51 PM

    freep, that may stand in the way of your election as Celestial Professor of Poetry when you finally reach the afterlife. But hey, gather ye angelic rosebuds, eh?

  226. freep permalink
    May 18, 2009 1:02 PM

    Exactly, Zeph. Tomorrow we die, but you don’t turn down angels when they deliver themselves to you on a plate.

    And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
    And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
    And he said, let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said I will not let thee go, except thou bless me …
    Gen. 32.

  227. May 18, 2009 1:25 PM

    Glad to see you’ve decided to allow your poems to go into the anthology Mish. I was unaware of all these issues before I’d signed up and was wondering if I’d just displayed a shocking lack of solidarity, but all’s well now I think…

    I’m halfway through reading Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience with his original colour illustrations. I have to agree that the ideas are much better than the writing and the illustrations are excellent. There’s some exhibition of his art doing the rounds isn’t there?

    I have a certain fondness for Blake because of the hymn Jerusalem, which, if you’re going to have to sing a hymn, that’s the only one to pick – to be sung at full volume.

    I’m afraid that Fairport Convention and Richard Thompson might be a bit before my time, but I spotted this yesterday and thought it might be of interest – the Cropredy festival. Line-up includes these two, plus Ralph McTell – it’s got to be top quality!

  228. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 1:46 PM

    Polly, Mowbray will be there in his best afghan coat, the waves of patchouli oil coming off him bidding fair to knock you flat. His love of folk is only surpassed by his love of Portsmouth FC.

    It wasn’t an issue of solidarity at all, Polly. Far from it. Just a personal hobby horse…

  229. May 18, 2009 1:52 PM

    Not being a hymn man, mention of Blake and Jerusalem bring to mind endless pages of this drivel:

    Los answer’d. Altho’ I know not this! I know far worse than this:
    I know that Albion hath divided me, and that thou O my Spectre,
    Hast just cause to be irritated: but look stedfastly upon me:
    Comfort thyself in my strength the time will arrive,
    When all Albions injuries shall cease, and when we shall
    Embrace him tenfold bright, rising from his tomb in immortality.
    They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
    Pity: let us therefore take example & warning O my Spectre,
    O that I could abstain from wrath! O that the Lamb
    Of God would look upon me and pity me in my fury.
    In anguish of regeneration! in terrors of self annihilation:
    Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder,
    And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the destruction
    Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End.
    O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration! t260
    O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies!
    Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!
    The Dead despise & scorn thee, & cast thee out as accursed:
    Seeing the Lamb of God in thy gardens & thy palaces:
    Where they desire to place the Abomination of Desolation.
    Hand sits before his furnace: scorn of others & furious pride:
    Freeze round him to bars of steel & to iron rocks beneath
    His feet: indignant self-righteousness like whirlwinds of the north:

  230. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 1:57 PM

    See, that’s what I meant about the turgidity of his longer works. I still find some charm in the shorter works. He was capable of a striking and memorable phrase. Else why would he be remembered?

  231. parallax permalink
    May 18, 2009 2:50 PM

    Blake rocks, ‘London’ as a song of experience is fucking ace. eat shit if don’t believe.

    obviously I should back this up but am on borrowed internet cafe time – if it comes to the vote I’m with freep and tom.

    hey, what’s all this anthology chat? Don’t rush to answer I’ll catch you in a week/ten days/four weeks – going to where the angels fear to tread

  232. May 18, 2009 2:56 PM

    parallax, I want a poem of yours in it. Please go to the link above (my reply to ISA) and follow instructions, so to speak. URGENT(ish).

  233. May 18, 2009 2:57 PM

    Sorry, on new thread, not above.

  234. parallax permalink
    May 18, 2009 3:47 PM

    cool, yep spotted it. Thanks Billy. Will get back you in a couple of days – hope that’s in time – if not, no worries – appreciate the invitation – in case I miss the ballot box I’ll say here: all parallax’s poems are parallax’s own work, never been published elsewhere, happy for you to publish them, thrilled to be invited to the party. Capt’n Ned’s suggestion that you include more of my poems is, of course, entirely valid. My bio reads: “parallax lives in Sydney”. And SA – stop being precious, great poem, anthology will be better for it … or, don’t you want to be seen hanging out with us? is that it (larf). No really, be part of it SA – it’d be cool to be in (on demand) print with you.*

    *genuine response – I only say this because you’ve questioned my authenticity before – cool.

  235. May 18, 2009 3:59 PM


    (stiff-upper-lipishly holding back sentimental tears for the regiment)

    “You go on ahead without me, man. It’s far, far better this way… ”

    (wincing as left arm, leg and both balls happen to be wrapped in Nazi tank treads; waves Para up the road, counts five and pulls pin on grenade under chin)

  236. parallax permalink
    May 18, 2009 4:00 PM

    ok, too many cools = too many spliffs :)

  237. pinkroom permalink
    May 18, 2009 6:45 PM

    Jumpin Joan’s back on the game
    Sir Topaz and Charlus
    are one and the same
    Better with pepper
    than pome tome without
    Blake rocks! (You drongos.)
    Parallax shouts

    only one question
    remains it would seem,
    Why Fairport Convention
    than the ‘cred. ‘ String Machine???

  238. May 18, 2009 7:38 PM


    “Blake rocks, ‘London’ as a song of experience is fucking ace. eat shit if don’t believe.”

    A relief to hear a sane word.

    Does one have to dwell well outside the historical influence of London’s role in inventing modern capitalism to understand that Blake wrote the first and still the best poem about the development of that monster model?

    An eighteenth century craftsman and a Londoner, he knew enough to revise

    I wander thro’ each dirty street,
    Near where the dirty Thames doth flow


    I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
    Near where the charter’d Thames doth flow.

    The perception of “chartering” as a new organization of the city in terms of trade and business reflects an intelligence that goes beyond the trivial. The perception itself breaks out of the mind-forg’d manacles the city and the system impose.

    Raymond Williams said this all so eloquently so long ago that one is surprised no one has listened.

    This blog that was founded on a righteous revolt against one of the city’s charter’d citadels of the Word now comes back to lick the hand that feeds so weakly.

    When Blake sees the walls of power running with blood, a real if invisible relationship is made symbolically concrete and manifest. The whole new order of the city and the system, with the further marginalisation of the despised and the outcast, is the image created in the poem “London”. It’s more than pity the poor chimneysweep. Or twinkle twinkle little star.

    Hereabouts I see the despised and outcast at my feet when I walk the streets, their Blake does not exist.

    Flaming Sarah Crown with systematic email campaigns in nasty January and then rounding in sweet Maytime to form a love-Sarah squadron in order to become duly charter’d, by her corporation, would seem an odd turnabout. But being charter’d at any cost to principle may well be some people’s idea of the New Jerusalem. Forget your green and pleasant land.

    None of my business, brothers and sisters, apart from the fact poetry once was.

  239. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 7:50 PM

    That’s all well and good, Tom, but aren’t you rather making Basil Bunting’s point for him? That Blake was more of a propagandist than a poet? For all the context-setting and analysis and deconstruction, the fact (for me) remains. Most of Blakes work doesn’t sing and that’s a grievous fault.

  240. May 18, 2009 7:54 PM


    Passionately said. Although I think you’re being a little unfair. Mishari took some persuading up-thread, the winning argument being that this collection was based around an enjoyable, communal experience. Steven, who was involved in the ‘nasty January’ thing (I think), is keeping away.

    I don’t think there are pound signs flashing in anyone’s eyes.

    It’s clear that Blake still divides, enrages and inspires and that’s all good. I feel an entirely-unearned allegience to him by way of geneological accident but, like others here, I have found myself losing patience with some of his less edited outpourings, visionary as they may be.

  241. May 18, 2009 7:55 PM

    Oh, and @pinkroom,

    That you rumbled me as SirTopaz a while back was noted. Had you asked me outright I would have sung like a canary.

  242. May 18, 2009 8:20 PM


    It must just be my nostalgia for old standards if not gold standards, but this to my ears did ring as song: perhaps not of the necessary sort like Blake’s, but an energizing tune all the same:
    ” I can no longer tolerate the deletion of perfectly innocuous posts by the Grauniad’s illiterate mods. The writing was on the wall when they deleted a Joyce quote. Now that the witless bastards have taken to disappearing posts, I’ve had enough. The so-called designers killed the site and the mods have killed the spirit. Fuck ‘em… This entry was posted on January 26, 2009 at 4:00 PM.”

    One almost could hear in those lines the crinkling of the edges of charters as they burned… but ah, life is made of delusion.


    Couldn’t agree more about the unedited prophetic outpourings, but let’s not throw the incisively brilliant Blake out with the blathering bilge Blake. The former, if only by virtue of the fact it continues to have the power to make Power uncomfortable, remains of value.

  243. May 18, 2009 8:26 PM

    And by the by, as of Basil Bunting (who as it happens was pleasant enough to me in my tossed-salad days), and his alleged “point” about Blake being bollocks, may we not admit it would take some high-powered rose-colored lenses to miss the flat stretches in among the good bits of Briggflatts. Even Basil and Billy B nod like Homer now and again.

  244. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 8:28 PM

    As I said and as XB repeated, this is hardly an acceptance of the Mark of The Beast. More in the way of a mark of respect and affection to my fellow poster poets, many of whom post here as well.

    Grand gestures are all very well (and in fact, I’m rather good at them, being a quick-tempered bastard) but hollow gestures aimed at…who? My fellow poster poets? Bill? Nah.

    The only people who give a flying fuck whether I appear in the anthology or not are my friends, not the Grauniad, not Sarah Crown (who’s just a name). I’ll always choose friends over principles, I hope…

  245. May 18, 2009 8:41 PM

    Respect and affection and friendship are the loveliest of things, but I don’t see how they exclude sticking to your guns, unless you were firing blanks all along.

    I do enjoy the company and intelligence of the group but if that means sticking to some spur-of-the-moment kiss-the-hem-of-the-garment-of-the-power-of-the-moment even when the edict is Blake’s not good enough to rate with the Poster Posers, then I can’t wait for the next Revolution of Grumbling to begin.

  246. pinkroom permalink
    May 18, 2009 8:43 PM

    I think that last verse of London sings… just differently: harlots cursing their weeping children, death, disease… its just an angry, righteous, sexy, twisted kind of song… a bit like The incredible string band (as oppossed to boring, worthy Fairport with that horrible lumpy bass sound) so to speak. Love it. Even in the big, mad poems you hear it rumbling away.

    I’d tumbled Topaz from the first XB… you just can’t hide talent… even as the most outrageous dogger. Reminded me stronly of Larkin’s Night Watch? The one with old Prjick in it… the Dutch are just intrinsically funny aren’t they? Fine work BC/ST/XB. Still not sure who the vicaress is though?

    I hope our host and SA do join the pome tome because their voices were, especially in tandem with MM, absolutely key to the mix… the sour/peppery counter-note to all that good, sweet lovin”. Personally I think Billy’s choices… about one/two each were very well chosen… a good representation of an important movement. I think XB is right.. we shall be remembered… in my view as the people who, at least in a small virtual place at least, kicked down the towers of Oxo/Poetry Society blahblah cliques/bores through talent and elan alone. Forward to the pink dawn of the PP republic – or benign despotism if the lads/lassies don’t deliver!

  247. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:03 PM

    Tom, you’re getting a bit hysterical. I hardly call granting permission for my verse to be included a “…kiss-the-hem-of-the-garment-of-the-power-of-the-moment…”. Touch of the drama-queens there, sport.

    As for Blake, I’m fucked if I can see what Blake’s got to do with anything. Some think he’s great, some don’t. That’s life. If I insulted everyone who didn’t share my opinions, I’d have very few people left to talk to.

  248. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 9:06 PM

    I’m a Blake and Keats man myself, BTP, and this ground has been extensively fought over for some time. Now I’m content to rest in my tent, sipping Falernian from a finely-worked samianware bowl, while the barbarians grunt and scream across the river, devouring their filthy food and copulating with their ugly, hairy women. Aquila non capit muscas, eh?

  249. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:08 PM

    That would be Mowbray the Eagle and us the flies, would it? You turkey.

    Up in the sky! What’s that I spy?
    Only an eagle flies so high!
    But no, it is no kind of bird:
    It’s Mowbray, the jet-powered turd.

  250. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 9:09 PM

    I thought Sir Topaz was WN7, Holy Mother of Sockpuppets. Which begs the question… God, no, no, no!

  251. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:13 PM

    The Baron/XB is WN7? Nah, not a chance…

  252. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 9:18 PM

    No, it’s my defective radar, I think.

  253. May 18, 2009 9:24 PM


    Amen to that.

    It was Williams’ view that Blake’s project was to build the holy city as against the unholy city. I love nothing more in human character than the courage of any forlorn hope.

    Mish, I have no opinions at all, just a few beliefs, and those are fading fast.

    I come here not to insult you, but by the implication of spending the time, to honour you. And that goes for everybody else in your casa.

    Still the truth is the truth.

    Melton, I thought that across the river they had bikini waxing.

  254. May 18, 2009 9:30 PM


    Thanks, as ever. I was in Zevenaar when I wrote the first Topaz poem, hence the Dutch connection. The vicaress is the one who thinks the pieman’s creations are vulgar. Draw your conclusions.


    Someone once mistook me for Mishari – we both had to talk her down from her confusion – which would make me, potentially, both Mishari and WN7. Clearly, like Iago and Viola, I am not what I am.


    Just finished reading Outer Dark; like waking up dead in Quinto del Sordo curated by Dock Boggs. Will return with more formulated thoughts. Thanks again.

  255. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:36 PM

    “…the truth is the truth.” The battle cry of fanatics down the ages, as if the truth were only one thing, unshaded, unsubtle, indivisible, unchanging. One can hear Pol Pot saying it, as he justified his enormities. An unimaginative position to take, if you’ll forgive my saying so…

  256. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 9:44 PM

    XB, I like the Goya/Dock Boggs connection. Very apt. I look forward to your thoughts on the book.

  257. May 18, 2009 9:46 PM

    “Steven, who was involved in the ‘nasty January’ thing (I think)…”

    If you’re referring to that wondrous moment when Zadie Smith accused yours truly and Oscar MacSweeny of making the world unsafe for female novelists, due to Oscar’s jape (and my subsequent spin on it) that referring to Zadie Smith as a “modern great” is only okay if you’re sleeping with her… yeah, I was there. Doing my bit for “immoderate speech” as against Totalitarian Decorum.

    Every middlebrow bluenose with a PC pickaxe and a premature climacteric came a-swinging down out of the rafters on that one; the great majority hadn’t even read the “offending” two comments because Herr Crown deleted the harmless things the minute Ms. Smith yelped (though the subsequent high-flying, Leavis-like rhetoric about Oscar and myself being “pathetic little men” lingered rather longish).

    Look: it’s *their* venue; they get to make up (and unmake) the rules as they please. I was merely exercising the miraculous new prerogative to *really talk back* at Shite on a Screen.

    I remember watching “news” about Lady Di way back when, and reading occasional pieces, in which pundits referred to her as “one of the most beautiful women in the world”. Not that I’m shallow (or have fashioned that adjective into an ethos), but, fuck me, *my eyes* told me she was *ugly* (Charles in an ice-skater’s fright wig)… what a bold act of cynical reality-control, to drone the trope that this dog-faced woman was ravishing and have the masses parrot the line. It wasn’t about looks, it was about mind-control.

    Calling Di a great beauty or GW Bush a “regular guy” or Susan Boyle a “great singer” is sociologically identical, in fact, to calling Zadie “not if she were a fat bald fuck named Kevin down the pub” Smith a modern great. The difference between 1989 and 2009 being that *this time* I could respond.

    I kept a record of the event here:

  258. May 18, 2009 9:49 PM

    “The Baron/XB is WN7?”

    (Spits out spaghetti, choking)

    (recovers composure)

    Actually, if that *were* the case, I’d start respecting the dear thing as an evil genius.

  259. May 18, 2009 9:54 PM

    The Ghost of a Flea is a very nice picture but Blake’s drawings, whilst uniquely his own are horribly stiff and lifeless. Grisly colour too. I saw an exhibition of his work recently – tried to approach it with an open mind but still had the same problems.

    Just seen the Kuniyoshi at the RA – didn’t think I’d have the chance. Mish if you haven’t seen it yet make some time for a visit – it’s very special.

  260. May 18, 2009 10:02 PM

    Author: mishari
    “…the truth is the truth.” The battle cry of fanatics down the ages, as if the truth were only one thing, unshaded, unsubtle, indivisible, unchanging. One can hear Pol Pot saying it, as he justified his enormities. An unimaginative position to take, if you’ll forgive my saying so…


    All is of course always forgiven. Imagination is anyway a great curse, one would rather not possess it.

    Still, odd how how easy it is to touch a nerve. “Hysterical”…”drama queen” .. “fanatic” … “Pol Pot”!

    You’ve left out Hitler, Stalin and Sarah Crown.

    My heavens, just trying to make you feel your blog is the centre of the known universe–my bad, “sport”.

    Remembering these inaugural posts:

    1. artpepper Says:
    January 26, 2009 at 4:40 PM | Reply

    Toadly awsome blog, dude…love it to death so far.

    2. mishari Says:
    January 26, 2009 at 4:41 PM | Reply

    thanks, art…you always did have impeccable taste.

    How dare one disagree with a two-headed centre of the universe?

    I find the tiresome vanities of the idle rich more and more tiresome every day. Should you have a moment, check out a creature that has to use its wits to feed itself, amid the charter’d walls:


  261. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:19 PM

    Thanks for reminding me, Al. I’ll order my tickets momentarily. I’ve actually been looking for a print or two of his to aquire, my assumption being that in these times, lots of people are going to be raising the wind by selling off the ‘inessential’.

    But quality will out, I guess, because no sooner does a high-quality Kuniyoshi appear on the market before it’s gone. It’s not all beer and skittles being one of the idle rich…

  262. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 10:30 PM

    Here we have the Mishari bird,
    Whose unattractiveness is plain:
    Its body is totally nude
    Its feathers are all in its brain.

  263. May 18, 2009 10:32 PM

    Speaking of which: I happen to know, for a fact, that Stevie Wonder’s former manager has a sure-fire project (involving Latin America and a Reality Show) in the works… he only needs an additional 5 million (dollars, not Euro, mind you) in backing. How about it, M?

  264. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:36 PM


    The Mowbray hen doth peck and cluck
    It’s not the bird’s to blame:
    From egg to pot, the dopey fuck
    Just never grows a brain

    Sounds like a recipe for a spectacular cluster-fuck, Steven. I’ll pass…

  265. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 10:37 PM

    Auction ukiyo-e is still in business on the web, I think. Japan Print Gallery is more expensive. Not a problem for the Goldfinger of Whitechapel, of course.

  266. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:42 PM

    Thing is, MM, every time I spot one I like I contact them only to find it’s been sold. The ones that are available aren’t the ones I want. But like all super-villains, I’m a patient man. I’ll just spend more time in my underground lab, working on my device that’ll make me invisible to the Metropolitan Police and Tom Cruise…

  267. May 18, 2009 10:49 PM

    “Sounds like a recipe for a spectacular cluster-fuck, Steven. I’ll pass…”

    Wait… this was close enough to the outer edge of the realm of the fringes of the feasible for you to even bother passing on it, M? How much have you got stuffed in that mattress, then, chum…?

  268. May 18, 2009 10:53 PM

    … which explains how you can afford to pay the licensing fees to use Beckett’s headshot as your avatar! That’s, what… 20 quid… every time it appears, no?

  269. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:55 PM

    Oh, sure…it might even be a winner. But, frankly, it’s simply too, too vulgar, my dear. After all, one prefers to keep the plebs at arms length…

  270. May 18, 2009 10:56 PM

    Why do you think I bother with this moat? Any idea how much it costs to chlorinate and heat an effing *moat*?

  271. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 10:56 PM

    £50 a time and worth every penny…

  272. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:05 PM

    A moat? How very jejune. You should try my solution for keeping the canaille at bay: 60ft walls with battlements, myrmidons on 24/7 watch and oil kept at boiling standby. Should all else fail, I have constructed a secret tunnel direct to the Thames where my nuclear submarine, The Nautilus, awaits my pleasure…

  273. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 11:12 PM

    4 Kuniyoshis at 2 at £30, 1 at £5, 1 at £60. No reserve. Ends 21/5

  274. May 18, 2009 11:16 PM

    Not as easy as it might seem to come up with a quip in response to this that won’t make me look a graphic-novel-hoarding toss pot…

    …give me a day or two…

  275. May 18, 2009 11:18 PM

    Ah. Melton’s stepped in for me.

  276. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:19 PM

    Thanks for the link, MM, but they don’t really send me. I’d actually commission a dealer to get me what I want if I knew what I wanted. That’s the problem. I know it when I see it, but that’s the best I can really do which isn’t a lot of help…

  277. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:27 PM

    Maybe I should just show some dealer work by people like Johnny Romita, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and say, “Make the connection…”

  278. May 18, 2009 11:28 PM

    I recommend “Oniwaka-maru about to kill a giant red carp” if a copy is for sale. Stupendous and the graphic style pre-dates Vorticism by about 50 years .

    Steven a graphic-novel hoarding toss-pot would look good in my garden, are you available for the summer?

  279. May 18, 2009 11:29 PM

    A) Alarming: I get weekends off…

    B) Ditko in the same sentence with *Kirby*?

  280. May 18, 2009 11:32 PM

    (I predict a “De Gustibus” fight over Kirby vs Ditko sure to make the Blake feud look like a foot massage in comparison)

  281. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:32 PM

    Giant inflatable pigs, worm spoil heaps, graphic-novel hoarding tosspot…you’re nothing if not eclectic, Al…

  282. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2009 11:36 PM

    Actually, Steven, those are just names that came to mind from my Marvel comic obsessed boyhood. I’m in no position to argue their respective merits…Ditko (I think) did Spiderman. Did Kirby do Dr. Strange or the Fantastic Four? If the latter, then obviously, Ditko rules…then again, the Galacticus/Silver Surfer story line was pretty good…

    Mind you, for me, nobody matched Barry Smith’s 22 issues of Conan the Barbarian, all of which I have. Wonderful stuff…

  283. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2009 11:46 PM

    I thought the Kuniyoshi attribution might appeal to you. Not often you see the genitalia depicted as a fish. I’m sorely tempted by that Utamaro. It’s like a drug.

  284. May 18, 2009 11:55 PM

    KIRBY! KIRBY! KIRBY! (veins popping) Actually, I prefer Schiele.

  285. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 12:02 AM

    Keep in mind, I haven’t actually looked at those 60s Marvel comics in many, many years. I do seem to remember that Barry Smith, whose work was a high point for me, initially modeled his style on Kirby…and Spiderman, stylistically speaking, didn’t really come into its own until the late 60s…I liked Sgt. Fury and X-Men. Captain America, I always thought risible, a left-over from WW2…

  286. May 19, 2009 12:17 AM

    Captain America, the DC version of Captain Marvell, Batman, Superman… I found all of these irremediably normative/corny… even as a kid. I found Berni Wrightson’s “Swamp Thing” quite good/well-drawn and Jim Starlin’s “Adam Warlock” imaginative/well-drawn. After that it was Underground Comix (R. Crumb and his minions) and the occasional Rich Corben, Frazetta or Moebius masterpiece in pricey “adult” collector comix popular in France and Italy. I had carefully-preserved stacks of the things and gave them away soon after my first menage-a-trois…

    A friend is a retired millionaire toymaker (you’d recognize at least one of his designs, I’m sure of it) who still collects comics; we had a rousing talk on this very subject recently. He had a large model built of the space ship (Discovery) from 2001… which had to be done from production stills by experts, because the original plans were destroyed by the studio… and shipped the thing to a Kubrick retrospective, where he befriended the genius’ widow! So it’s not just a childish pursuit…

  287. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 12:38 AM

    I found most DC comics a drag as a kid. Superman was just a joke, Batman wasn’t much better, The Flash, The Green Lantern etc…they just didn’t do it for me. Even the worst Marvel comics were more interesting, visually and narratively, than the best of DC. I loved MAD magazine, though, especially the movie spoofs…

  288. May 19, 2009 12:51 AM

    Mort Drucker!

  289. May 19, 2009 2:09 AM


    Two Schieles you might like:

  290. May 19, 2009 7:28 AM

    Very nice, TC!

  291. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 7:45 AM

    Steven, you must watch this. They say it’s a Swedish production but I think it’s a recruiting video for the Heavens Gate cult:

  292. May 19, 2009 9:16 AM

    I’m not really a fan of super-heroes but if forced to choose ( for the sake of a heated debate ) I’d go for Ditko. Kirby’s drawings at times are plain weird – it’s as if everyone ( including the women ) are guilty of steroid abuse. Quite necessary of course in super-hero stories but rather odd when he did more domestic narratives.

    But both are superior to the bloke who drew Watch-Men. A very interesting story marred by incredibly clumsy drawings time and time again. When it broke out of the comics ghetto I was surprised to read all the literary critics who ignored that important aspect of it.

  293. May 19, 2009 9:26 AM


    That’s so timelessly awful I can’t even place its era…. late ’70s? Early ’90s? A hideous warning from the tasteless future?

  294. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 9:30 AM

    Doing some on-line research turned up stuff I’d completely forgotten, like possibly Marvel’s ropiest superhero–Thor. A Norse God in a winged helmet who carried an over-sized lump-hammer, The Submariner, who had gills and Daredevil, who was a lawyer.

    You’re right, though, Al…in the early 60s, the superheroes were more attenuated but by the late 60s they were all built like Hulk Hogan, with muscles in places where normal people don’t even have places.

  295. May 19, 2009 9:30 AM


    What was great about Kirby was his foreshortened dynamism… couldn’t be bettered for showing a foil-suited superbeing wielding five tons of titanium equipment in an impromptu battle royale across some sinister lab beyond the stars.

  296. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 9:35 AM

    Yeah, that video is mind-meltingly awful. It really stretches ones credulity. Apparently, the badly lip-synching blonde muppets are Swedes. I’m guessing the 70s. Then again, who knows?

  297. May 19, 2009 9:45 AM

    When I was in Sweden, I found they’d far-outdone the Germans in putting their kitschier impulses behind them. In accepting Abba as their legacy they were able to transcend it, whereas the Germans are still in denial about Boney M.

  298. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 9:54 AM

    “In accepting Abba as their legacy…” You’re a bit of a sadist, aren’t you?

  299. May 19, 2009 9:56 AM


  300. May 19, 2009 10:14 AM

    Do you know Fletcher Hank’s super-hero stories? On one level completely terrible but their attempt to tell an exciting super-hero story by forgoing any characterisation, story logic or elegant graphics is worthy of praise. Art brut meets Marvel.

    Abba – now there is mind control. We used to do a show about the life cycle of mannequins set in a shop window. I remember going into Woolworths in Walsall where we were due to perform. There were about 20 people in the shop. Abba’s Dancing Queen came on the muzak PA and as I searched for the store manager everyone I passed was singing along. A perfect pop moment I suppose but also very disturbing.

  301. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 11:31 AM

    “We used to do a show about the life cycle of mannequins set in a shop window.”

    What a fascinating life you lead, Al. You constantly come out with these off-hand remarks that stop me in my tracks. “As a man who owns a giant inflatable pig…” was a classic example.

  302. May 19, 2009 11:54 AM

    One of the delights of making work for public spaces is that you can create new contexts for your work, make work for that context and try to find festivals/promoters who will allow you to carry that work out.

    Shop window theatre has a small history ranging from the downright offensive antics of French provocateurs Cacahuete to Australian Neil Thomas who lives in a shop window for 2 weeks with 3 other performers – sounds like Big Brother but is something else entirely.

  303. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 12:07 PM

    Wasn’t there a fellow a few years ago who destroyed all his possessions in one of Selfridges’ main windows?

  304. May 19, 2009 12:07 PM

    Alarming, that’s the kind of thing I envy you. I’ve tried a number of times to get “public poetry” things going, but it’s very difficult to get funding/approval/sites/etc.

  305. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 12:15 PM

    Strange, Bill. I’d have thought–given Ireland’s ancient reverence for poetry and the spoken word and given that some of the most influential writers and poets of the 20th century were Irish–that it would be the one place where you’d get a sympathetic hearing.

  306. May 19, 2009 12:26 PM

    If my initials were SH, I might ;-)

    There has been fairly considerable funding as part of the percent for art scheme, but very little of it has gone to poetry.

  307. May 19, 2009 12:52 PM

    In the UK poetry funding has gone to people like Lemn Sissay who is a nice bloke and all that but is a negligible poet and a sharp media whore. A lot of box-ticking going on if I’m being cynical about it. He’s poet in residence at the South Bank in London I notice.

    I once worked on a project with him for another company. He supplied text for a large outdoor spectacle. I was supposed to do some direction of large puppets but spent my entire time ruthlessly editting the pages of crap that he’d been paid to produce. The show was a dud but he never showed up to any rehearsals or shows. It needed re-writes to make it work which never happened. The company were reluctant to criticise him for some reason so the good ship Sissay sails on regardless.

  308. May 19, 2009 1:54 PM

    Billy since we’re in an envying mood our work is very dependent on subsidy and as we’re temperamentally unwilling to go corporate it means the avenues for work are slowly being strangled by lack of money.

    So I envy those who need only a computer and time to create their work. I could happily draw my way out of the credit crunch ( and probably will ) but it’s not as satisfying as creating full-blooded performances.

  309. May 19, 2009 2:30 PM

    True, one of the great things about writing poetry is that all you really need is a pencil and an old envelope.

  310. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 2:34 PM

    …or a cave wall and a burnt twig.

  311. freep permalink
    May 19, 2009 3:26 PM

    Poet person spec:
    …a deeply cultivated mind, intelligence, taste, wit, verve, warmth, empathy …
    … beard, wooden hat, menagerie, long frock, bad teeth, dreadlocks, twig holder, access to cave …

  312. May 19, 2009 4:50 PM


    “In the UK poetry funding has gone to people like Lemn Sissay who is a nice bloke and all that but is a negligible poet and a sharp media whore.”

    I’ve noticed that the getting-to-the-top talent is the key talent in getting to the top of any creative pursuit so subjective in the judging that very few know the difference between “good” and “great” (or the finer, chronic line between “passable” and “interesting”). Even worse, the crucially pragmatic getting-to-the-top talent seems hostile, if not fiercely antithetical, to etherial things like having a rare gift for words or colors. Also: I often wonder if throbbing mediocrity (a lifelong painless headache) is the spur which drives a genius of pure ambition (and nothing but) to succeed.

  313. freep permalink
    May 19, 2009 6:26 PM

    …which, Steven, may be another way of saying that the greatest of all talents is that of self-promotion.
    It is very common to find Artists who are inferior to the average commercial or jobbing artist, and Writers whose talents fall below those of Joe Journalist or Ms Ad Copywriter. But they suffer from the delusion that Personal Greatness is within their grasp, persuade others into the same folly, and so the delusion grows. To the very top, in fact, because those who are best at self promotion lack all shame, doubt and sense.

    Which is why some critical attention to the formalities is always needed. And why in poetry so much free verse is crap. Not all, just 94.73% of that published. And it may be that blogged poetry turns out to be no worse than printed, open as it is to the collective eye of the world. Is there any linctus which can painlessly cure mediocrity? Dimorphine?

  314. May 19, 2009 7:53 PM

    Steven + freep both sadly very true.

    I do think however that delusion is very necessary when you start out creating work . No-one else is interested in what you do so you have to try and eke small victories out of as much as possible.

    I contend that Spinal Tap is one of the finest films about artists.

    I always shudder in recognition when at the band’s nadir Harry Shearer persists with the ” people should envy us” line. Not because I’d actually say that but because self-belief is important at all stages and often it can be utterly absurd.

    But it needs of course to be delusion mixed with talent rather than delusion mixed with an eye for the big chance.

  315. May 19, 2009 10:52 PM

    Can it perhaps be that the independence required for original artistic production is inversely proportionate to the expectation of, dependence on and ultimate acquisition of “funding” from whatever source?

  316. May 19, 2009 11:26 PM

    btp Forgive my sensitivity about this and I’m not entirely sure what you’re insinuating here but if you do theatre/performance you need money unless you have independent wealth and the artists you want to work with also have independent wealth . No 2 ways about it.

    My company supported ourelves through touring work and commissions for 21 years but reached a point where if we wanted to develop and do more artistically ambitious work we needed money to do that. A show like the pig which has been mentioned above costs in the range of £30,000 to create.

    3 ways you can do this – 1. ) go corporate or 2 .) seek public fuding. 3.) Go commercial.

    The area I work in has virtually no real commercial viability. Public funding has immense problems but believe me it’s a joy compared to corporate sponsorship which demands you advertise something for about a 100th of the cost they’d have to pay an advertising firm to do it.


  317. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2009 11:35 PM

    Al, artists throughout history have sought and received financial support from the Church or the State or wealthy merchants and rulers in the shape of Medicis, Sforzas, Viscontis, Esterhazys, Bourbons, Fuggers et al (Michael Angelo, Rembrandt, Uccello, Bernini, Da Vinci, Cellini, Dante, Bach, Hayden–the list is endless).

    Joyce wrote Finnegan’s Wake, his most original work, while being supported by generous patrons. The idea that seeking or accepting support from the State or from wealthy patrons somehow renders an artist’s work less original is unsustainable. An original artist is more likely to stay original if he/she doesn’t have to worry about paying the fucking rent. Money worries are far more likely to drive an original artist into the arms of commerce.
    Obvious, really…

  318. May 20, 2009 12:51 AM


    No insinuation, just an idealization of being currently unfunded. Staging a theatrical production is of course more costly than writing a poem. So for that matter is painting. On the other hand, making a movie is more costly than staging a theatrical production. Buying Manchester United would be more costly than making a movie. All this is understood. My point was that whoever it is who is paying you is probably going to influence what you do, whether you choose to consciously acknowledge that fact or not.


    As to support from the “State”, here in the former colonies the “State” has routinely and famously exerted censorship along with its dissemination of funding.

    Should you know any broadminded art patrons, let us all know of them!

    Oh well. Can we get back to poetry?

    As this thread started off with the poem that became O’Hara’s To the Harbourmaster, here’s another O’Hara you might enjoy:

    Frank O’Hara: Having a Coke With You:

  319. mishari permalink*
    May 20, 2009 1:17 AM

    “My point was that whoever it is who is paying you is probably going to influence what you do, whether you choose to consciously acknowledge that fact or not.”

    Tell that to Diego Rivera and Nelson Rockefeller…

    The case of Antonio Gaudi and Eusebio Guell is instructive. Far from being influenced by his patron, it was Gaudi who influenced the wealthy industrialist’s nascent views on architecture.

    The weaker and less original the artist, the more likely he/she will be influenced by a paymaster. The stronger and more original the artist, the more likely the artist will influence the paymaster.

  320. May 20, 2009 3:49 AM


    Some Blake watercolours, free of charge–peace offering:

    These from his Dante:

    And a landscape:

  321. freep permalink
    May 20, 2009 8:04 AM

    Poetry is different. I graduated from University at the same time as Neil Astley, who started Bloodaxe Books. We both used to beaver away at IBM golfball typewriters around 1978, at the Tyneside Free Press, churning out little poetry booklets. I gave up after a couple of years, but Neil was dogged. He got funding from what was then Northern Arts, and thanks to subsidy over a long period, established the marque as the UKs leading poetry publisher. It was regional Arts money that enabled him to get established, despite periodical financial crises. To my knowledge, he was able to make his own decisions about what to publish. There was a time when he was really adventurous, getting translations of Russian and East European poets. Later he began his anthologies which have been a commercial success, and I can detect his taste throughout. I haven’t kept in touch with him, but I think he’s been able to plough an independent furrow. The risks aren’t as great as for film makers and theatrical producers, and the market is small, so maybe poetry is less likely to be compromised …

  322. May 20, 2009 9:03 AM


    Poetry is different, yes. Also perhaps the UK is different.

    Certainly times are different as well.

    I went up Tyneside to read at the Morden Tower along about 1964-65, I believe candles lit the space because Tom Pickard had not been able to pay the electric bill out of his dole cheque.

    Nonetheless ’twas good fun.

    In those years I read my poetry in Bristol, Nottingham, in fact all around the landscape. Money was never a thought. Andrew Crozier at Ferry Press published a book of my poems on subscription from friends, I believe it was a quid per subscriber. Low overhead anyway. That was my second book, my first I published sub rosa and nocturnally on a semi-functional mimeograph machine in a broom closet at Wivenhoe Park.

    I edited a mimeo magazine similarly without regard to money and simultaneously edited the poetry section of The Paris Review for zero remuneration.

    In London Tom Raworth and Barry Hall were doing independent publishing on a shoestring. Tom was a night telephone operator with a family, the poetry was his pleasure.

    In ensuing years in NYC and California it was likewise possible to publish at such low cost that independence was not threatened.

    All that was of course happening in another geological epoch.

    Since those times, costs went up, and accordingly there hath been born, in the US anyway, the Administered World of the Arts, which is in truth an empire not of Art but of careful social/administrative accommodation. (Or is Networking an Art? It is at any rate the key to all subsidy.)

    Does existence inside that form of careful accommodation affect one’s writing? I couldn’t say. Existing outside it, the only publishing avenue I currently find feasible is do it yourself blogging, and that is perforce unsubsidized and independent. Too little time left to start over differently and anyway would not know where to apply.

  323. May 20, 2009 9:08 AM

    btp I think you severely underestimate artists abilities to dance around these strictures. I possibly also underestimate artist’s abilities to be seduced by the dollar so perhaps we are even.

    As regards State funding in the UK. In my experience you go to them and say I want to make this show, it costs this amount, we’ll do X amount of shows this year and if people like what they see it will continue to tour in the following years. Will you give us money to make it?? They either do or they don’t.

    If they don’t you ( as I’ve done for decades ) figure out another way of making it or you put it on the shelf and wait for an opportunity in the future ( which I’ve also done. ) If they do give you money you make the show. The content remains untouched by those who fund. Really it does.

    The decisions from funders tend to be based on whether you can make the project viable financially which as you need an audience to make theatre doesn’t strike me as particularly sinister. I’m not making work for a small coterie of people although on a bad day in Bracknell that’s what you’ll get.

    The sinister machinations and manipulations occur in the more heavily funded organisations with higher public profiles. They certainly also try and control everything but, as above the joy is outwitting that control and carrying on making the work you want to make.

    I’m funded by the state so I suppose you can mildly patronise me :) but the only interference I get is having to fill in race equality forms and disability policies. All in practice extremely tedious and pointlessly time-consuming but as I’m not actually against employing people from other cultures or those who need to use a wheelchair and I am receiving public money it doesn’t make me feel I’m suffering at the hands of the MAN.

    As money gets tight I suspect the strictures placed on who does and doesn’t get funded will tighten up and then you can sit in the purity of your poet’s chair rest assured we will jump ship if it all becomes too much.

    freep it’s pointless trying to compare the creation of theatre with poetry. 2 entirely different animals – which is why I’ve written this essay! The means of producing all forms of work are often compromised or messy but it’s surely all about artistic integrity and the work.

  324. freep permalink
    May 20, 2009 9:26 AM

    What you both point to, al and btp, is the inexorable and destructive rise of the administrator and the bureaucrat in the arts. We inhabit an overmanaged world, and money flows through bureaucracies and trickles to the artist. Rules, like moss on a North wall, beset the makers. Many of the bureaucrats have souls, but they have a tendency to sell them for their salary. It’s rather like teachers in the UK, who have had creativity crushed out of them by a Gradgrindish national curriculum.

    It sounds, al, as though you do a good job skirting, ignoring, subverting, accomodating and nodding at the rules. But do you enjoy that bit? Purity is always a luxury where money is concerned.

    My point about Bloodaxe books, in an era when money was something else, and arts administrators barely existed, was that they were pretty adventurous at a time when money with few strings was available, if not abundant. And when they were more stable, the publishing decisions became more commercially ‘sensitive’. I don’t think in the long view that damaged Astley’s independence, but just reflects what happens to a publishing house as it grows bigger.

  325. May 20, 2009 9:30 AM

    The problem with arts council funding here in Ireland is that it’s almost impossible to get unless you are creating employment and have an equal opportunities employment policy. Bureaucracy is favoured over everything else. In my experience, the council will informally “advise” on the writers who should be published. The application form is here:

  326. May 20, 2009 9:48 AM


    This gets down to the nut of it:

    “We inhabit an overmanaged world, and money flows through bureaucracies and trickles to the artist. Rules, like moss on a North wall, beset the makers.”


    The only poet’s chair I know about has a hard back.

  327. May 20, 2009 10:08 AM

    freep I don’t enjoy the bureaucratic side but see it as no different as to when I left art college and had to do part-time jobs to pay for painting materials.

    If you want to make a show that costs money to produce, it entails getting the money from somewhere. Christo sells his drawings to finance his grand-scale projects, I’m not a superstar of the avant-garde, I don’t work in an area that interests agencies who promote art so I go to the source which provides the least interference for the most support.

    I sound more defensive than I actually am and completely agree as to the destructive encroachment of middle-management into the arts. But good work with integrity is still being produced in this manner.

    It may not be possible in a few years to carry on but we aren’t there yet and I’m not one to give up on some hypothetical premise. When I first went to the Arts Council they told me what I did wasn’t art, one officer told me to “Go away” but we argued with them til they changed their minds, ironically by quoting their own criteria back at them.

  328. May 20, 2009 10:10 AM

    “In ensuing years in NYC and California it was likewise possible to publish at such low cost that independence was not threatened. All that was of course happening in another geological epoch.”

    But, Tom, as you point out: you’re now publishing for *zero cost* (minus a handful of domestic fees)… on your blog. This is far, far stronger than samizdat, though samizdat has all the romance to it, while having a paper-based book out on a major house has all the clout; I’d argue that both advantages over virtual print are purely atmospheric (laugh). The words are still the words and they have never been so free, both in reach and from censure. Writers, filmmakers, singers, painters and dancers, even, have never been so (potentially) independent… and with access to a global audience. If this isn’t revolutionary, what does the word mean? I think we should celebrate it rapturously while it lasts.

    It’s my opinion that *anything* is possible, in Art, if you don’t need money for it. Well, perhaps its luckier to be working in a field in which the production itself costs little money (sorry Al!). Certainly, writers have nothing to complain about: because where is the guarantee, in this life, that you can earn a living doing what you love doing?

  329. May 20, 2009 10:39 AM


    Lovely. I’m a bit old and crippled for the raptures, but hear what you mean, love what you say, and will celebrate with you.

    “…and they have never been so free…”

    At zero cost in travel fees while this interesting discussion has been going on I’ve been off to the Pearl River at

  330. May 20, 2009 10:48 AM

    Steven no arguments except are you suggesting that freedom is only to be found in the written word?

    My main objection is this insinuation by stealth that writers/poets are the true free spirits and the rest of us who seem to need more time, money and space to do what we dos are labouring under false illusions.

    This seems more like dogs marking out their space ( and I include myself as a dog ) and barking ” I’m more free than you” than anything to do with what’s being produced.

    I agree when you have only a computer or pen and paper and an income derived from somewhere to make your work you aren’t as tied down as I am with my van, my 1000 kilos of giant puppet head in a shed etc. but in terms of imagination you’re ( not you but you know what I mean ) no freer than I am. Isn’t that what counts in the end?

  331. May 20, 2009 10:57 AM


    No, the argument is more “free from the spectacular duress of needing more than 100 ducats to produce one’s Art”. I don’t mean the results, necessarily… but I do think if you’re tied to an actual budget (or beholden to patrons), it takes more grit (and more out of a feller) to… etc. You know what I mean.

  332. May 20, 2009 11:21 AM

    I would only say that the satisfaction of realising ideas in a full-blooded 3-D tangible form is for me and the others in the company worth all the grit involved making it possible.

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