Tuesday 29 June 2010

Selections from Edward Dorn's Gunslinger I & II (Fulcrum, 1970)

A rich and strange book. I'll be returning it to The Poetry Library this week should someone else wish to experience it.

from Book 1 (easier to excerpt as the narrative is just beginning)--

He would show you his map.
There is your domain.
Is it the domicile it looks to be
or simply a retinal block
of seats in,
he will flip the phrase
the theater of impatience.


my mare lathers with tedium
her hooves are dry
Look they are covered with the alkali
of the enormous space
between here and formerly.


And by that sound
we had come there, false fronts
my Gunslinger said make
the people mortal
and give their business
an inward cast. They cause culture.


Stranger you got a pliable lip
you might get yourself described
if you keep on.


and as the disputational 44
occurred in his hand and spun there
in that warp of relativity one sees
in the backward turning spokes
of a buckboard, then came suddenly
to rest, the barrel utterly justified
with a line pointing
to the neighborhood of infinity.
The room froze harder.


Your vulgarity is flawless
but you are the slave
of appearances--


You make the air dark
with the beauty of your speed,
Gunslinger, the air
separates and reunites as if lightning
had cut past
leaving behind a simple experience.


to her swelled black mound
her startled faun
which has the earthy smell
of slightly gone
wild violets

from Book 2--

I didn't know you had a drawl, Slinger

I dont, I slow up at noon
from the inertia of National Lunch
and from the scatteredness
of the apexed sun which attempts
at that point to enter a paradox--
namely, The West which is The East.

Edward Dorn
Gunslinger 1 & 2 (London: Fulcrum, 1970)

The entire Gunslinger is available from The Book Depository.

Sunday 27 June 2010

"on suicide" and "on civil war" by Alasdair Paterson

Two more short poems from Alasdair Paterson's new collection:

on suicide

almost his
last thing
that weekend

planting out bulbs
footnotes for the spring

on civil war

following inundation infestation invasion
measure countermeasure and scorched earth
crops officially pitiful and stores covertly emptied
here is an announcement from the ministry
let them eat roots
thank you

here is an announcement from the military
I wouldn't dig
just there
if I were you

Alasdair Paterson
On the Governing of Empires (Shearsman, 2010)

You can order On the Governing of Empires directly from the publisher or from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Local artists

There's a thriving arts community in the West Country. Three artists whose work I like are Alexandra Becker, painter, Jane Gibson, ceramicist, and Trevor Lillistone, ceramicist. I'll add Maxine Foster once the digitial photos on her website reflect more accurately the vibrancy of colour in her work, and I'm sure there are many others whose work I don't know--introduce me?

Friday 25 June 2010

Poets for Living Waters

Kudos to Amy King and Heidi Lynn Staples for curating Poets for Living Waters, a blog site of poetry responses to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus far (having not had time to read all the entries) I've particularly enjoyed those by Tasha Cotter and Brenda Iijima and hope to contribute to the site myself before long.

Saturday 19 June 2010

"On Heresy" by Alasdair Paterson

on heresy

stars come solitaries first
then a host like
pilgrims no crusaders

this rock that bleached
all day in the sun
still isn't white enough

do you prefer
the desert places or
the cities of the plain
I like best the view
of lights from up here

a breath of rosemary
perfection in the air
but the bridge is the devil's

Alasdair Paterson
the opening poem of On the Governing of Empires (Shearsman, 2010)

You can order On the Governing of Empires directly from the publisher or from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery.

Friday 18 June 2010

Geoffrey Hill named Oxford Professor of Poetry

Hill, 78 today, was elected by a landslide; see The Guardian's articles here and here.

I'm delighted.

A wedding anniversary

44 years ago today, my parents married. I always wanted to throw them a big bash to celebrate a significant anniversary (I planned a few such bashes in my head), but money usually got in the way (ridiculously, I think now). I never thought my dad at 69 wouldn't be here. Today my thoughts are with Bernadine Meeker Etter, mother and grandmother extraordinaire, on an anniversary I suppose she too expected.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Vive la Différance!

The new Poetry London (Summer 2010) carries, as its final piece, Tim Dooley's full A4-page review of Infinite Difference with the splendid title "Vive la Différance". It has some quibbles about choice of poets/categorization (as with all anthology reviews), the academicism of some of the poetics statements (saw it coming), and the proportion of the parts of entries (strange as the poetics statements are up to one page, the entries up to eight, the biographies no more than 150 words), but the tone manifests interest in appreciation throughout.

On poetics statements Dooley speaks well of Claire Crowther and Marianne Morris; of poems he enthuses about Denise Riley, Elisabeth Bletsoe, and Morris (all the better for TLS's ignorant slighting of her). These are meant as a representative sample, the review suggests, not as the only occurrences.

If I've delayed in commenting on this review, it's in part because I've been drowning in year-end marking, in larger part because of the graciousness of the final sentence, which makes me feel all the hours were worthwhile but also makes me feel (abashed?). It may be one of the best things anyone's said about me. I dearly hope Dooley's right--I aspire to it.

"Carrie Etter has performed a service for the wider readership of poetry in bringing together these distinctive voices."

Sunday 13 June 2010

Bookstore tourism

In the States, Larry Portzline has been organizing trips to independent bookstores in New York City and encouraging people in other areas to do the same. As someone who doesn't drive and who loves indie bookstores, I'd love to see this happen here in England. Or is it happening already but I haven't heard about it?

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Jennifer Moxley's The Line (Post-Apollo Press, 2007), second selection

A little context from the blurb by Rosmarie Waldrop: "We're in the state between sleep and waking, where consciousness resists the tasks of reason and routine but instead views, from the perspective of darkness, the whole span from newborn promise to the old mammals, erosion of muscle."

"Morning after morning while you lay sweatily wedged between weary physicality and tedious selfhood the punctilious programs of the already dead tromp heavily through your mind."

* * *

"It is my belief that this tedium all started when the elusive present you so longed to possess at last became all that was left."

from "Mortal Aurora"

"Is this the reason old houses comfort you? Their sleep allows for mysterious things--filmy journeys over ethereal banks, star-by-star stone-stepping, beneath your feet soft waters of nothingness and centuries of hidden thought--events that work your defeatist will into a strange elation."

last stanza of "The Milky Way"

"The gift of minor eternity, on a brief mammalian scale, is not this relentless coming to be but the tale you will later tell about it. It is a kind of love, insofar as it moves you."

last stanza of "The Sadness of Old Mammals"

"I sleep with approximately 14,000 days sitting on my chest. A slow hour many years old pushes aside yesterday's appetites and enters as a whisper through an unmuffled ear: 'remember me, remember me, remember me!'"

from "The Periodic Table"

"What an idiot! Why did he choose inevitable defeat by picking the fancy solution?"

end of "The Mattress Raft"

"Why does this poem exist? Nobody knows. But it seems to be mourning the ideal."

end of "The Wrong Turn"

"The lives of the rich are so fabulous! The destruction of the poetical lies heavily on their hands, as on their swollen notion that we are always watching. There is nothing behind the mask. Nothing suffocating under its pressure, no human essence trying to get out."

* * *

"It is easy to lose, through meddling or neglect, an entire aspect of existence. And sometimes, to cultivate a single new thought, you need not only silence but an entirely new life."

from "The Atrophy of Private Life"

"You are plagued nightly by memory-pictures of a time that no longer exists. Admit it, some illogical part of you secretly believes you can go back. The place hasn't vanished, perhaps it even looks the same, but the angle of time that became what you laughingly call your 'experience' is gone. Except in the deceitful subjunctive."

opening of "The Cover-Up"

Monday 7 June 2010

Dikra Ridha's "Ordinary Evening"

Iraqi-British poet Dikra Ridha has an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University; I'm proud to say she was my student. Here is a sample poem from her first pamphlet, There Are No Americans in Baghdad's Bird Market, published this month by Tall Lighthouse.

Ordinary Evening

The sound of a small spoon stirring cardamom tea clings
to the walls. When a hijacker in a filthy helmet opens
the door with a weapon you don't know, you become

an insect in your own home. Incapable of rushing,
unable to scream. You shiver, shake, welter
in the shell of your house. The second he steps

over your slippers and night gown, your smell changes.
A new sweat shields your body, limpid--foreseeing
the end of your prosperity; you existed a moment ago,

five thousand years ago, and diminishing. The hijacker
silences chatter in your ears and blackens the light
in your eyes. You're not dead yet but sure your death

is approaching. Afraid to blink for the weight of this belt,
you choose patience. He checks you out with his boots,
the foetus curl; your last security. He prods, knocks

you over; you fall to your side. He curses at you then turns
and roars his head to the ceiling and laps up your sky.
He takes the water from your bones. Your gold
ring is in his stomach. But wait. Wait.

Dikra Ridha

To order a copy of There Are No Americans in Baghdad's Bird Market, please order it from the publisher here.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Jennifer Moxley's The Line (Post-Apollo Press, 2007), first selection

Jennifer Moxley's outstanding book, The Line, is one of the best books of prose poems I've ever read. I'd like to copy here the following poems in their entirety: "The State," "The Endless Conscription," "The Pitiful Ego," "The Interruption," "The Clock" and "The Railing." You'll just have to read those for yourself, as I don't want to infringe on copyright. Here is a first set of selected passages. This sentence from Alice Notley's blurb gives some useful context: "These prose poems tell the story of sleeping and waking, of this very bout of writing, of the search for the line of time and the poet's immortality."

"Newborn, palpable loneliness shakes you from even the deepest sleep. Against the cold air and shadowed darkness flooded with sudden consciousness the vulnerable flesh recoils. In the liminal all times converge. Severed memories long for the text, the comfort of dialectic."

first half of "The Promise"

"The heartbreak of time is not that it passes but rather the language yoke. By grace of grammar alone the moment's fleeting existence."

from "In One Body and One Soul"

"How many more days will you awaken? The flesh envies the word's longevity but not its delayed effects."

* * *

"You are asleep before belief, held captive mid-metamorphosis."

from "Awake"

"Yesterday was exhausting, yet there is no meaningful reason to think you are lost for good. Though sometimes you do."

from "Address"

"You have accepted that this repetition will kill you, though it remains your only hope."

* * *

"With no new experience to feed it your amulet mind seeks asylum in imaginary visions of a falsified past."

from "Experience"

"True faith does not need the state to enforce it. It makes neither hope, nor a shroud."

"You will walk out of the visible and learn to accept the darkness. You will find the line. It extends backward eternally into the past and forward into the future. The utterance cup, the gentle metric, old words new mind lost time and loves."

* * *

"In other words, write. Find time in words. Replace yourself cell by letter, let being be the alphabetic equation, immortality stay the name."

from "The Line"

"You step off the curb into nothingness where the line offers itself to your hands. Grab hold or fall. Happy in the thought you might never recover you consign your trust to this flimsy thread that nobody else can see."

end of "Mystical Union"

In the UK, Jennifer Moxley's The Line is prohibitively expensive. In the US, you can obtain it from Small Press Distribution, but its UK shipping charges are high because they use FedEx, so I have to recommend Amazon.com, which will charge $15 for the book and $3.99 for international shipping. So, who wants to borrow my copy first?

Wednesday 2 June 2010


Today I fly to Dublin to read on the Wurm im Apfel series tomorrow night and am sure, at least once in the next forty-eight hours, to make it to Mulligan's on Poolbeg Street, for the best Guinness in town--not to mention the atmosphere and the inspiration it's provided me on previous visits.