Monday, 15 May 2017

New from MATERIALS: Prynne & Kruk

A sequence of ten poems by J.H. Prynne.


“Oh strike the light, float the boat, for
sake of common peril they are fallen away
as gathered up in sight of lamentable in-
difference and will go down against us”. 


16 pp, card covers (blue), saddle-stapled.

Also announcing the opening of the German wing of MATERIALS, MATERIALIEN, run from Munich by Lisa Jeschke. First publication, Stecknadel, a German-language translation of Frances Kruk's Pin by Koshka Duff.



















More info on both here.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pocket Reviews

New Books



















Nine Drugs (Face Press, 2016)
[By Ulf Stolterfoht, translated by Lisa Jeschke, with a short introductory piece by J.H. Prynne included as a separate sheet. Available at: http://face-press.org/.]

First thing to say is that, as with any of the steady steam of books made in recent years by Ian Heames, often with virtually no publicity (though the Face Press website is now operational once again, as per the link above), this is beautifully made and designed. The title font sees some sort of swirling whirlpool swimming in dark blue and white inside the letters of that title, perhaps a kind of useful analogy for the poems themselves, which serve as ironically sober descriptions of a series of different drugs taken amongst bohemian poetry communities. Reading this from outside those communities, it can be hard to place what’s going on: rather than the inside reference of coterie achieved through naming (though there are a few names, of the nine drugs which form the poems’ ostensible topics, of poets and musicians and locations – including T.Rex, Gary Glitter and Hans Sachs), we get a sense of community much stranger for not being clearly defined. (Perhaps the poem would become libellous if it did name: the sequence’s most memorable line, the curse “may their work rot unread.”) In any case, the obscurity into which small poetic circles might fall reflects at the level of form. Some of the poets here write poetry that they cannot understand themselves. This is perhaps analogous to the experience of a trip, the way that a drug experience might oscillate between a sense of collective being, of social and even universal connection, of the capacity to understand hyper-complex connections in a simple, singular flash, but might also provoke alienation, paranoia, total enclosure in self, “always close to / absence”. The same with writing. The sense of being at the edge of something: either a breakthrough, whether political, social, on the level of ‘consciousness’ or poetic form, or of total collapse. “nutmeg: before taking a whole nut, push your poetry to / an end. then however you like it: collapse or lethargy. / sink to your knees, pray.” The stakes here might actually be life and death: “in case of an overdose, / a topos position itself right in the middle of the sentence, obstructing / rhymical progression.” Drug-induce “aporia” the cost of ‘finding one’s voice’, alien in the poem. “what luck for their poetry, how devastating / for their soul. all in all, heslach has thus far delivered / eight exquisite poets. deep dark night covers twelve others.” The poem as a transaction between “recipient” and “supplier” reaches a stage of “full dissolution” and “melt[ing] together into a poem thing” – perhaps as a manifestation of narcissistic delusion. Poem as analogue for trip, for process of ego-formation; or vice versa. The term ‘self-reflexivity’ just doesn’t cover it.

It would be easy, perhaps, to dismiss the poems based on a summary of their ‘content’ as some sort of post-Beat drug binge, but that is precisely not the experience of reading them. These are gnarly and odd like nothing else I’ve read recently. In part this comes from the way the poems temper any tendency towards a self-valourizing autobiography of bohemian community as moment of collective possibility retrospectively used to boost fading careers and failing creativity with speculations on precisely such trajectories: and function as factual reports, somewhere between descriptions of physical symptoms prompted by the particular drugs and various narratives of the context in which the drugs might be taken and the significance for the composition of poetry. The speaker’s tone is located somewhere between affection, nostalgia and a caustic satire of bohemian life. So that when he says “for young white drop-outs poetry / and improvised music were the only way out of the ghetto”, we read genuine desire and possibility alongside, or perhaps through, the bathos of retrospective near-sarcasm. Concluding that perhaps “the best drug is a blank sheet”, the poem’s prosaic delirium is “resounding excellent song.” Lisa Jeschke’s hard-worked translations do an excellent job in conveying the tone and form of scrupulously off-centre precision which, from my almost entirely absent German, I presume inheres also in the original.

Luke Roberts, Pocket Song (Self-published, 2016)

Luke Roberts’ latest self-produced book is a small pamphlet which, as title suggests, fits away neatly wherever you put it. Something to carry around, rewarding return visits, small doses sinking in. A short lyric sequence, like a palette cleanser, after the politicised pastoral and the surrealist pastoral and the filtered birds and landscapes of the preceding TO MY CONTEMPORARIES and SORBET, in which the poet finds themselves in the city, breath and treading lightly under the gently loving cruelty of the winter sun and the filtered shadowy glare of Brexit: “Europe the sun and my hangover.” The lines are gentle zingers, zingingly gentle, of a particular quality with which the poet could run and run, but lets themselves run on just enough, no more,  with enough of a kick and a reversal (not quite a sting in the tale) to ensure that things don’t run too smooth, too sweet. Perhaps not wrong to detect shades of Peter Gizzi in the melancholy falling cadence; maybe because I just picked up his chapbook THE WINTER SUN SAYS FIGHT from my shoebox full of pamphlets (poems subsequently collected in ARCHEOPHONICS, the prime lyric product of Gizzi’s 2015-2016 year in Cambridge as the Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellow: I hope to return to and write something about this soon). Or OK, another coincidence, but the American pianist Ran Blake’s ‘The Short Life of Barbara Monk’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tlWitva3Z0)  is a composition based on a pattern of two parts, the first a rhythmically light and lilting memory of childhood skating, the second of life taken away too soon, the realisation of this break. A play with time, repeating the circuits of loss and hope, always ending on the hope, or you hope it will. And you can always press play again. Returning to Roberts, if, as the citational citation of the final poem in the sequence has it, the possibility of “collective life” is stymied, and art contains the promise of collective life, the poem holds up a negative mirror, goes on despite itself, but its fluent and fluid urge to song is not delusional. Roberts’ poem has its movements, its moments. The cover design suggests train lines, or movement on foot. Perhaps you’re waiting at a stop, or lines are running through your head, a rhythm both within and against that of the flow of labour around the city. A pocket song is something small that you can take out or put away, small change. It’ll unfold if you want it to, will compress just as easily. “In the city sincerity flew.” Climbing to the building’s top floor, descending again. The poem’s first person feels more integrated and comfortable with the possibility of speaking in and to the second than in previous work, an earned reward, yet not a resting laurel, declaring its own funeral in the moment of its achieved consummation. This is how poets keep their ear in, or is it eye. And this, too, is how we as readers can be carried on by the words the poet writes. “We love the urgent sun / in its emergency”. Essentially: “love unbroken by the sun” is a killer closing line, and the poem earns it.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Further Announcements

==============================
BREXIT           BORDERS KILL
Published July 2016
==============================
This magazine has been put together in response to the recent referendum in the U.K. which came out in favour of the ‘Brexit’. It has been made quickly as a front against the fascist implications of ‘Leave’. Please print, photocopy and otherwise distribute widely. [D.G. + L.J. ~ July 2016]

Contents: Tom Allen, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, Richard Barrett, Sarah Crewe, Joey Frances & Will Berry, David Grundy, Jeremy Hardingham, Danny Hayward, Tom Jenks, Lisa Jeschke, Justin Katko, Robert Kiely, Ed Luker, Max Maher, Sophie Mayer, Mendoza, Nat Raha, William Rowe, Connie Scozzaro, Robert Sheppard, Rachel Sills, Verity Spott, Street Kid, Andrew Taylor, Gareth Twose, Lawrence Uziell, Collages, Flyer

Link to PDF


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PETER GIZZI – MARIGOLD & CABLE
Published July 2016
==================================





















Marigold and Cable: A Garland for the New Year was written in January 2014 in relation to Alex Cobb’s album of the same name, and was first published by Shelter Press in 2014. The poem has been revised for this edition. Each page of lyric folds and unfolds into the next, its tough and fragile voice settling on gold and sun, on elegy and death, effulgent and full, sozzled and bedazzled, examining and inhabiting the condition of song.

Peter Gizzi is the author of books including In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987-2011(Wesleyan University Press, 2014); The Outernationale (Wesleyan University Press, 2007), Some Values of Landscape and Weather (2003), Artificial Heart (1998), and Periplum (1992). He editedThe House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer (1998), and, with Kevin Killian, co-edited My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (2008).

In morning’s coloratura
a magick eye plays tricks
under the ongoing mossy
cloud-mass, exhilarating
triangles and timpani softly
in silt air, in the blanketed
nowhere of now


41pp, card covers, side stapled.


~~~~~~~~~~~


Available at http://material-s.blogspot.co.uk/

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Announcing...



New publications from MATERIALS: The Sea Together, by Ed Luker, and Army Poems, by Kenneth Irby. A sequence of new poems by Luker, and a previously unpublished sequence by Irby, presented with an introduction by Kyle Waugh, emerging from his time in the US army during the early 1960s. While Luker's poems speak of the present moment -- the highly politicized space of the sea as a locus of movement and the material cruelties of what's known as 'the migrant crisis' -- Irby's call forward over decades to speak passionately, out of intense love and intense hate, of the experiences of those whose lives were torn apart by the army. These Army Poems are poems of declarative urgency and formal richness, imbued with a deep sense of identification with those stigmatized for their sexual desires, speaking out against the disciplinary exclusion and damage wrought on the bodies and minds of those caught up in the army's structures. Written in the army, they also write against the army: as the final poem in the sequence puts it, “I hate the Army, / singly, by itself, one jewel, one open / mouth”. Poetry written from a condition of simultaneous distance and enclosure, this work bursts out of its moment of composition to speak with the intensity and grace we now require more than ever. As Lyn Hejinian has written, it “radiates love”.

Both books are available to purchase from the MATERIALS website. Still available are Yule Log, a magazine published last December, Pragmatic Sanction by Danny Hayward, Praxis, Apostles! by David Brazil, and Merry Hell, by Sara Larsen, and more books will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Also, my own To The Reader is now available as part of the new series of pamphlets from Shit Valley, alongside Justin Katko's Basic Middle Finger and Verity Spott's Trans* Manifestos, with a further pamphlet forthcoming from Kaveh Bahrami. Spott's Manifestos in particular are essential, wrenching reading.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Luke Roberts, TO MY CONTEMPORARIES


Luke Roberts’ new, self-published book, printed, released, and distributed for free towards the end of last year, all quietly, all without fanfare, is called To My Contemporaries (a title borrowed from Edwin Rolfe). As this title might suggest, it relentlessly foregrounds referentiality, by which I suppose I mean naming, something that Roberts has been concerned with for a while, but in a way that develops from its use in both of his preceding books, Left Helicon (Equipage, 2013) and Keep All Your Friends (MATERIALS, 2014). Left Helicon’s invocations of historical, political and literary figures often function as often hard-to-place jokes:

Now I imitate Neruda from memory;

Engels, the beautiful walrus;

Samuel Beckett feeding ice-cream
to a three-legged dog, it is the saddest thing;

The name of my band is Theodor’s Swimsuit,
on a striped recliner,  
it is the second saddest thing;

[…] if you bring Mussolini
into this, I will shoot him in a duel. I will use the robot
Bertolt Brecht to travel back in time, and I will go to town
on Gabriele D’Annunzio.
           
(Most of those examples are from the poem ‘People from the Book Kept Entering the Room’, whose title suggests that these proliferating references function as much as interruptions to the present moment of composition, or inhabitation, as to points of clarification and contextualisation for it.) KALYF deploys such naming them more as part of a sublimated(?) or ambiguous research project (without wanting that term to sound like the subsumption of poetic concern to academic funding-drive), perhaps in the mode of the earlier False Flags, with its take on conspiracy theories, moon landings and Cold War chess games. Thus, the argument about secrecy and clandestine political movements which references Comrade Bala, Patty Hearst, and the like, in the book’s concluding poem, ‘Agitprop: An Ode’

In To My Contemporaries, however, the names are more explicitly posed in terms of what they can teach us: the poem is about reading, and learning from the poets of the past and the poets of now, disagreeing with them, recalibrating them, etc. Or it functions as a survey, a summing-up, reckonings and engagements with the feeling of a particular poetical and political moment, mournful lookings-back and reassessments, workings-through. TMC is very much a poem of address, as its title suggests, but it’s not exactly a grandly rhetorical, public poem – there are all sorts of ironizations, disguises, feints and so on, familiar to readers of Roberts’ poetry over the years, though there is here a definite change in register.

The poem is, in essence, a political pastoral – pastoral elements having crept into ‘Agitprop’, and here being more explicitly fore-grounded, in setting at least, though this is perhaps more background, or ambience, than the explicit and obsessive concern it might be in the work of, say, Lisa Robertson, or even the scrupulous attention to natural detail found in such writers as R.F. Langley and Peter Larkin. Such vagueness is explicitly remarked upon and turned into a joke – how simultaneous recall erases the distinctions between seasons, the specificity of the landscape supposedly attended to, the unsuitability of the poet themselves for that purpose: “It was summer, it was autumn, it was spring […] Implausible that the revolutionary bucolic / should fall to me, the bearer of gratuitous hayfever.” The poem is also suspicious of an attachment to place that romanticizes any inherent quality of – say – racial belonging – “If you absorb a place it absorbs you / is wholly untrue […] a porch in the West of the military tract […] afraid of desolation / but doing duty to where you belong offends my sensibility”. Likewise, its presentation of culinary delights is tinged by its obvious metaphorical overlay with the discourse surrounding migration and economic inclusion within the European Union: “Now fed on Polish blueberries most days / a harvest of European plums, / Greek honey / abundance / waiting for the ground war to slow its circle.”

Despite these self-conscious asides, half-apologies, and criticism, the poem’s pastoralism is not exactly programmatic, though it has the structure of this in some manner – in part, perhaps, due to the fact that it’s a single sequence, in three books, rather than a collection of single poems, as in the previous two collections. It begins with an un-named second person plural, in a particular place, looking at plants and waiting for their washing:

We were in the ice-cold pagoda observing the angiosperms
we were outside the actual laundromat

These lines immediately establish a play between inside and outside, the reality of the place and incident described and its transformation and re-framing within an (often obscured and non-linear) poetic narrative. “I” and “we” are insistently there from the beginning, and the poem describes its own mission statement as early as the fourth line – “This is a poem about timing and advice” – even as it also betrays a scepticism about the grounds for this mission, and the poet’s suitability for accomplishing it:

how to begin when versatility’s in thrall to caution
afraid of repetition
falling short of what we’d shyly call an ethics.

Indeed, the claim is that this is a poem about timing and advice, rather than an actual enacting of a particular kind of timing or a giving of a particular breed of advice. A concern here is whether the poet themselves has something to teach their readers, or whether they themselves might accomplish the task of self-interrogation – itself potentially instructive to others – or whether both these things might fall apart in ironic feints and half-declarations which are almost immediately backtracked upon. Such a problematic would seem particularly to be encapsulated in the line on the following page: “you could finally be divulged”. This is an odd grammatical usage, reversing the usual subject-object structure associated with the verb, so that rather than the speaker divulging something, making it known, they themselves (and, moreover, addressing themselves in the second person) would be the one divulged. ‘Divulged’ sounds here something like ‘divested’, a casting off of secrecy perhaps: though what exactly is meant by the “twofold office” of the previous line which, again, sits in an awkwardly elided grammatical relation to what follows it, is unclear. But what’s central here, nonetheless, and however much apparent disclosure and foregrounding actually functions as another means of giving the slip, of – perhaps, and intentionally, dissembling – is the poet as narrator: in this sense differing from Edwin Rolfe, whose own To My Contemporaries opens with the following ‘Credo’:

To welcome multitudes – the miracle of deeds
performed in unison – the mind
must first renounce the fiction of the self
and its vainglory.

This is not to suggest that Roberts’ poem lapses into a kind of idealized bourgeois individualism – however much that term suggests a crushing, anti-poetic Stalinism, and however much I’d see the opposition between ‘poetry of the individual’ and ‘poetry of the masses’ as crude and unhelpful  – but that its negotiations of “what we’d shyly call an ethics” are more intimate than Rolfe’s “strength and togetherness / of bodies phalanxed in a common cause, / of fists tight-clenched around a crimson banner”. So the narrator in Roberts’ poem draws in elements of intimate or private reference, perhaps intelligible in their full sense only to close friends, and also reaching for a more public form of address – though ‘public’ here might mean as much those friends as an ambition towards a soap-box oratory, an imagining that the poem will mean anything to an imagined political crowd just waiting to be inspired by revolutionary poetry. The poem is more coy and double-bluffing than that, though this shouldn’t imply that there is a secret key, that there really is such a thing as the “secret poem” on which Joseph Persad focuses in his recent review of Left Helicon for Hix Eros. This is a work that so insistently and consistently draws attention to and thinks critically but not distantly through its own circumstances or concerns – it feels and is, I think, a poetry that really means what it says and means something, does something with it.

So, the pastoral, then, as background; the slow, drawn-out process of grinding defeat inflicted by the Coalition, and now, Tory government in the UK, the slow fade-out from the hopes of the Student Movement of 2010-2011, at its most publicly visible, active and radicalized; the impact of certain disputes and fallings-out amongst a ‘community’ of Anglophone poets over the past few years as well; and all these as part of a coming to terms with certain things that the poet’s past poetry has done, which this poem attempts to explicitly bid farewell to. Leave-taking more broadly is something the poem is concerned with –geographical departure, or the death of the poet Stephen Rodefer, mentioned twice in the final section – as well as spring, new starts, the pastoral, the harvest, the birds, the flowers; that balance.

The poem is in three sections (‘Books’): the first, from which I’ve already quoted, establishing something of a narrative, or at least a sense of place, whose dipping in and out of real landscape and a more ephemeral or idealized pastoral variant is played on. Thus, “the actual Laundromat” is a half-joking claim for factual accuracy, the absence of place names and the generalising specificity of locations which are also mythological and poetic tropes – the sea, the forest, et al – a co-existing counter-tendency. There is a distinct and distinctive sound patterning here, more exaggerated even than in Roberts’ previous books, which, for a whole section, leads to a series of end-rhymed lines, with plenty of internal rhyming echoes across these lines as well. This relates to the developing theme of beginning, ending, and return. A familiar move in Roberts’ poetry for years now has been the placing of an adjective at the end of a line (often equating with a syntactical unit), rather than before the noun to which it refers. This is also done with adverbs, often playing on the English-language ambiguity wherein words like “forgetful” implicitly read as “forgetfully”. One could say that this marks a displacement from objects described to quality, the imbuing of those objects with feeling, but I think it functions more as a way of maintaining simultaneous meanings, so that that process of imbuing something apparently solid with something more confusedly personal is deliberately fore-grounded and keeps the sense of the phrase mobile. Some examples: “to write this down forgetful”; “on certain shores uncertain”; “with our justice under-nourished”; “parallels of impressive orchestration unavoidable”. This kind of suspension, or inversion – a suspension whose quality of syntatical and line-ending resolution problematizes as much as it resolves – as an equivalent to what the poem names in the following manner: “nourished endings, solemn and inevitable / the starting point is flinching in compression.” (Inversion also echoes in the inversion (or reversal) of the Biblical creation myth, in which the (male) poet is created out of the rib of their (female) lover - “And Jack knew all the flowers’ names” / therefore I would be her rib” - taught by or (in the second section), spoken through by them: “So Jack spoke through the imperfect medium of Luke” - itself a reversal of Alice Notley's phrase about Jack Kerouac. This is, after all, a love poem of sorts.)

After all this, a transition, nicely managed, a marked shift in register, from first to second book: the end of the first asking what story “you” (either the poet themselves, or its readers) “want to be told”, abruptly concluding “well okay” and then beginning on the next page with a declarative citation of George Oppen. The second book is the shortest of the three, in terms of page numbers at least, though with far longer lines substituting for the three-step structure of the sections that surround it – and is more didactic (from “timing” to “advice”), while carrying on the fragments of narrative reference to place, the metaphorical use of pastoral setting: for instance, the fire in the forest, “curated entirely by unreliable poets”, which seems to be a dig at the unthinking fetishisation of would-be revolutionary activity (“a fire in the forest”) within a situation not yet revolutionary, where the conditions aren’t right. I say ‘didactic’, but one might better substitute the word ‘rhetorical’, or even expansive, as references to flowers and the writing of poets about flowers (the “insurgent botany” of the first section) transition into a list of “these poets [who] are your friends”: a roll call, without naming names (save the late Stephen Rodefer, who recurs in the final section), but rather places, which function as a “parallel of impressive orchestration unavoidable.” This list of Anglo-American poets, recognisable in terms of who exactly is being referred to, to those in the know, recognisable at least as an index of international poetic kinship to those who aren’t, seems to be one of those who might give both the poet of this poem, and the ‘contemporaries’ to whom it is addressed, advice. O’Hara is obviously lurking around here, and not just in the obvious joke about “our lapsed curiosity about the poets / in Ghana”; but the advice sought here is less fleeting, less part of an on-the-move sociality than O’Hara’s.

Apart from this list – a single stanza – this section carries over from the first a recurrence of ribs, ribcages, hips and the heart – again, internalisation, this time on a specifically physical plane, as well as the play between privacy and disclosure, sometimes explicitly in contrast to the address to the dispersed poets, its play on a kind of internationalism, an “impressive orchestration unavoidable”, distance, with the flower functioning as symbolic object both specific (through reference to its uses in literary and botany trivia) and “undefined.” The poem wrestling with definitions, schemas, clarity on the one hand, irony, turning away, shifts in scene and reference on the other, the set of declarations within the final sentence seeing the poet apparently “renounce[ing] my title”. (This perhaps a reference to the joking boasts from from False Flag’s already-ironized ‘Colossal Boredom Swan Song’, with its “withdraw[al] to my ethical bin bag” and “accept[ance] of everything, every tiresome imitation of flight”. Here, the phrase ‘champion of poetry’ reads both as a claim to skill, with poetry as competition and act of mastery asserted over other poets, and as a more generous championing of poetry: “I champion of poetry, salute the elders, put my / foot in a desk, kicking poetry with a desk lamp / strapped to my heart”). Having renounced this title, they propose to reconvene later on “with exacter measures, with better poems, / celebrations of a less sacrificial nature”, and the section ends ominously on the lines “blame all over the ocean.”

If solidarity has broken down into recrimination, there’s nonetheless some promise held out: but the third section doesn’t provide the triumphal assertion of a new programme for poetry, Rolfe-ian or otherwise. Instead, it functions as something like a coda to the second, with its gathering together of the disparate or distanced (by geography, circumstance, straitening of circumstance, suspicion, paranoia, moving on, betrayal, the inability to cope and deal with violences of all kinds – all the rest of it). It functions as a chastened or careful way to begin again after a grand gathering together which is both invocation and farewell. The formal workings here echo this double sense. Such workings – echoed in three poems, outtakes from TMC, which appear in the Xmas magazine YULE LOG – play out mainly through repetitions of words or phrases, the poet deliberately tweaking or rather, spannering (but not quite) the works of the poem. Maybe they could be more accurately figured using a sonic metaphor, as little glitches, distortions, feedbacks, which mesh or extend a different way the use of rhyme and particular cadence, within its frame, the frame of a particular style, troubling it without destroying it.

Towards the end of the poem, an anecdote appears, in which the poet encounters a homeless man outside a late-opening grocery store / off-licence, stopping to call the emergency services. There’s a risk in this sort of move, perhaps, of the return of a kind of philanthropism, a demonstration of the poet’s ethical commitment, as a person, through a specific act of inter-personal kindness; but the way the story is recounted belies that. “Here is my realism”, writes Roberts, preceding to describe waiting with the man and calling the emergency services and concluding “I didn’t love him at all”. What I get from this is that an ethics of care, that acts of political solidarity, might not be prefaced on love of a specific person, but on a more general sense of solidarity, which in itself actually functions as a more reasonable, expansive, useful and practicable sense of what love might mean -- however much poets like to go for extremes, to put themselves through the wrangler of love, elevated in triumph or abjection, aggrandizing and narrativizing their emotional lives, meshing them with politics, making claims for them. “Meet me with everyone / you love, even badly” refigures the roll-call of contemporaries from the second section, on a more intimate scale, and one which, nonetheless, leaves the definition of love, conventional or – given the evidence of this poem – most likely otherwise, open, negotiable, to be struggled with and lived.

The poet concludes with advice that is to himself as much as to his contemporaries, and which might, in some roundabout way, describe the purpose of the poem itself:

write to everyone
you know
write to everyone.

A note to self but also advice in general, encouragement, necessity; in times of dispersal, as any poet, or anyone, might figure them; the necessity of communication, re-evaluation, continued dialogue, and one which might take place more privately, more carefully, with more openness to risk and disagreement, than in the fractious and fracturing fora of an often confused public debate about the political function of poetry (however useful and laudable and central to our thought that might be). The poem, then, engages with and emerges from the difficulties of finding frames for such concerns which don’t descend into bickering and to the crossing of wires, but to a different kind of crossing (a word I’m thinking of here in relation to a recent series of videos made by the poet Richard Owens). We often can’t see these things clearly until after they’ve past – and, in some ways, perhaps even less so after. And we know this from examining the histories of the poets and the poetries we read, the literary histories that are constructed around them, both by these poets themselves and by others, the historians, the critics, the new generations, those who come after. So it can be hard to say just what exactly these words - given, renounced, ironized, declared, affirmed - will mean – and who will read them. But for now, this is what seems important, to me at least, about them.

And then the rest of that conclusion: the burning of the heather on the hillside by the apprentices who “threw their tools / in the sea”, which, perhaps because of a coincidence in my own reading, when I first encountered drafts of the poem, rather than because of something specifically in the poem itself, brings to mind these lines from the poem ‘Landscape with Three People’, included in the late Lee Harwood’s 1966 pamphlet The Man With Blue Eyes:

I loved him and I loved her
and no understanding was offered
to the first citizen
when the ricks were burnt.

Those lines, which I’ve not found glossed or discussed in detail in any of the existing Harwood criticism, explicitly foreground the book’s bisexuality, but what I’m interested in here, in relation to Roberts, is how they offer a removed ambience while apparently tapping into a register associated with acts of historical violence and turmoil – they sound, at least, as if culled from a historical account of machine-breaking, acts of sabotage in reaction to the cruel displacements of the Industrial Revolution; in that sense mirroring the poem’s landscape setting. Roberts, too, plays on the relation between closure and disclosure, historical record and a more numinous interiority, but his poem differs from the elision of temporalities, settings, registers and referents evinced in Harwood’s “and” – a privacy redolent of John Ashbery, the ‘man with blue eyes’ of the title, and arguably associated with the poems’ own acts of privacy or concealment around the issue of sexuality, poised half in and half out of the closet. Roberts’ privacy is of a different kind; is perhaps about the pleasures of concealment, the near-paranoia borne of conditions of political defeat – if ones less dramatic than the references to political torture, resistant fighting and the like that (again somewhat ambiguously and atmospherically) pepper The Man with Blue Eyes and The White Room. In any case, the hillside burning is here a means, perhaps, of imbuing the pastoral with a history of resistance and solidarity, rather than of the class distinctions so often imbued within it, from Spenser on Ireland to the seventeenth- and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century landed gentry surveying the harmonious shaping of their estate; to make it something wilder, a site of conflict and violence as much as of pleasure and escape.

But, again, this isn’t explicitly thematic; we could read the apprentices as younger poets, the contemporaries of the title themselves, learning their craft as much through destruction as imitation; or as something else entirely. In any case, to conclude abruptly, I like the poem’s self-reflexive questioning of the problem of love in poetry, and the way that ethical conduct in love might be inflected, in life, by its use as material for poetry: so that the poet says they are (maybe) done with “loving eruditely”. And its final lines, in the wake of Rodefer’s death and personal dispersal, on “holding on to the living” and calling time and closing; true to the spirit of the poem as a whole, in general free of bombast, with the right combination of warmth, generosity, and self-criticism that doesn’t turn into elongated writhing display and is, frequently, genuinely moving.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Notes on Stuart Calton – LIVE AT LATE DILATED ILEUM (Manchester: Drentpaper, 2015)

















The poem Live at Late Dilated Ileum was composed between October 2014 and May 2015, and put out by Calton himself through his ‘Drentpaper’ imprint. A5, un-paginated, with green paper covers, stapled, with a neat cover collage in which a shrouded head – its top half, seemingly that of a corpse, is mixed with an impossibly open mouth spewing a Colgate toothbrush whose end is submerged in a splodge of black ink which it appears either to have spewed or been sucked into. As with Calton’s previous chapbook, 2013’s The Torn Instructions for No Trebuchet (reviewed here a year or so ago), Ileum unfolds in unbroken stanza form, with shorter tabbed lines offsetting the generally left-aligned text at various points across each page – continuous, linked movement, build-up of modifying and shifting phrases and locations, with the emphasis on seemingly descriptive presentations of numerous transforming things, shorter sentences, sometimes only a single word, providing pauses or rest points that are hardly pauses, machine-gun bursts of punctuating build-up. ‘Some visual disturbance.’ ‘A/ glass eye on the gravel’. As has generally happened throughout Calton’s work over the past decade or so, the language of internal feeling and phantasy intersects in complex construct with a world of domestic appliances, electronics, pubs, social spaces, generally at night, with a preference also for exotic or unusual animals and sea creatures, and the language of left-wing political organising always there as a critical undercurrent – though the latter is less to the fore in this particular case. The poem’s settings are various and shifting, not often dwelt in – apart from the hydra chorus’ live performance – often late-night places, pubs, chemists, service stations (cf. The Torn Instructions). I suppose this is a night world, a dream world, but the specifics of its descriptions make it very much also a realistically-chronicled space: or that’s the basis for its flights of imagination.

The poem is what one might call ‘flashy’ in a different way to the Torn Instructions, and less specific in its conceptual framework, though certainly dextrous in its shifting through scenes and guts and a carefully but daringly deployed set of recurrent figures – marmosets, leeches, martyred saints, and femoral hernias, to name some of them. Of The Torn Instructions, I noted the near-obsessive hovering around “say, five areas of concern”, and something similar happens here. Within the limits of image-range and formal manoeuvring that the poet has set up, and which are, it seems, the generative mode of composition, there is much capacity for dizzying shifts and links – the question of transition between different blocks or units is key to the poem’s formal workings. There’s a play between the poet letting themselves go, through the skill of a near-instinctive capacity for skilled prosodic composition, as the title has it, live and urgent, playful and alarming, sucker-punches and pressure points squelching around the intestines, enclosures and exposure, containment and claustrophobia, language at full fever-pitch ramming itself up against self-appointed walls in a pleasurable play of stricture and selectively deployed release.

The gendering of the poem (in terms of who is speaking, who they are speaking to, what and who they are speaking of) is unclear – part of the same body and of different bodies are mixed up, internalized, covered over, the face surrounded by hernias, the head in the bowel, a world of reversals, replacements, exchanges, transferences. The loved object is one thing, or another, or another, or the speaker themselves, multiplies and doubles, not so much through punning but through the sheer build up, through the technical jargon of psychoanalysis or medical procedures, to more conventional adjectival forms, description in some detail of situations possible only in phantasy re-arrangement. The question of identification. The poem does locational things that you couldn’t do in, say, a film – i.e. the whole thing is set inside the bowel where my head ‘fills with piss’, but also in pubs, off-licences, stages, lakes, islands and so on – with simultaneous wild and manic or joyful invention and a detailed precision. Or see the descriptions of various musical compositions – the particular inventive pleasure of an ekphrastic description of something that does not exist. The speaker wants to stab out their fucking eyes – St Lucy of Syracuse actually does so, or, in some versions of her legend, has some them gouged out by others (more on St Lucy below). St Anthony, St Theresa and others also turn up, but their names are not announced. Even Jesus – or the locations of the Passion – makes a cameo appearance. The discursive frame and image of religious suffering is deployed, not so much for argumentative purposes, still less for theological ones, but for the force of its (e)viscera(tions), its images of dedication, its masochism, its stretching of a body to limits of inner and outer, agency, the loss or formation of the subject, death drive. Likewise, the ‘trending marmoset’ which functions as St Lucy’s attendant and whose eyes replace her eyes is chosen, almost at random, from a mass of digital date, image assault. There has to be space for the arbitrary within the initial realm of poetic choice, which can then be, not so much ‘dressed up’, but made to work poetically, rather than according to a prosaic argumentative logic, within the space that the poem delimits for itself. Not always – at one point Calton semi-parodically comments on why the leech is a perfect image for orality and anality, with both its head and anus sucking mechanisms, taking in and expelling. But the schema is not mathematical, or scientific. It has to do with an affective element and an element of quixotic word-choice and image-range that works on its own (unconscious) axes, almost beyond explanation.

That said, what follows is mainly based on notes taken while going through the poem again, several months after doing so for the first of multiple times, in advance of a reading given by Calton in Cambridge last night. These are not so much glosses as attempts to read along with it, to chart what that experience is like.

[Section 1]

Your anus closes up on my tracheotomy. The question of address – immediately a ‘you’ who the ‘I’ is speaking to – with the ‘I’ who is being closed up by the anus of the ‘you’ pleading with them to ‘speak to me’ and ‘trill to me’, inside one of the complex, multi-line piles-up of adjectives and nouns that Calton virtuosically thrills at –
in a cluster of wracked upper partials a
phlegmatic head […] live in gut wall acoustic
baffle stocking mask anechoic black box mono
limp balloon in the open mouth
The control or power seems to lie with ‘you’, but this shifts as ‘this is a concept I thought up’ describes the previous virtuosic build-up, and we now follow with instructions to ‘replace’. We might think of the by-now famous lines at the opening of Hot White Andy, its ‘now swap / buy for eat, then fuck for buy, then ruminate for fuck’. But replace is more than just ‘swap’: replace is both re-place – re-arrange –and substitute, more than simple exchange. There’s a focus on anality straightaway – ‘your anus closes on my tracheotomy’ – the body is immediately mixed up, parts closing in and sucking up and being divided in unusual ways – anality and orality – the windpipe and the sphincter – a tracheotomy is an incision made into the windpipe to help with breathing. The voice which would speak to ‘me’ occurs within a head or an anechoic chamber / black box theatre space / balloon, but then also the ‘open mouth’ (see the front cover), with the ‘in’ of  in a cluster of wracked upper partials suggesting either ‘inside’ or the way that you might speak to me, the manner in which your voice manifests itself, as ‘a cluster of wracked upper partials’, an upper partial being a set of dentures for the top half of the mouth, though upper partials are also what creates overtones, different registers combining to provide a third. A urethra is replaced with an ear canal – piss and ears – there’s also play here on mono and stereo, perhaps connecting to sexual differentiation (see below – ‘The sexual division / of pitch’). ‘My’ head is now inside your bowel, filling with piss. ‘Swan song’ – swans are supposed to sing before they die, this being the final song. (The poem’s final lines juxtapose rebirth and ‘terminal’ as end point and beginning. The poem’s title is both ‘live’, present, and ‘late’.) Things are itemised – the ‘decimilisation of perversion’. More virtuosic descriptions and switches, this time using ‘replace’. Dentures – the upper partials – are of course replacements for what is no longer there. Loss of teeth in dreams as castration anxiety. Biting down, taking in from the outside, destruction and internalisation, finding out what the external object is by potentially destroying it, making it a part of you.

‘Speak to’ comes back on the second page, but now as just a two-word line (read by Calton in performance as a fragile near-whisper), not to ‘me’ but to another complex arrangement of rocks and bladders and intestines tied together, to die with water and graves, swans, the bladder, rectum. ‘Speak to’ as a refrain now. The ‘clinical waste bin’ is both a particular technical term for waste disposal and perhaps a reference to clinical analysis. The inside of the body itself is producing strange electronic music relating to the machines for the treatment of disease or bodily malfunction that it’s tied up to. Poetry itself is referred to for the first time – this doesn’t happen often in the book, but it provides some sort of anchor to filter the rest of the associated and built-up images on, if you want to see it that way. 
                    [...] the desperate lyric
compulsion of an inner urge. An inner
urge which you cannot understand, and from
which you shall never be free.

Now on page three, prolonging the appearance of a halo, a dying star. Request to drip poison into my ear, nose, and throat (Hamlet) – the speaker pleading now for aggression to be done to them, masochism. ‘Organ of domination. Organ of / perception’ (the eye, which will later be torn out by St Lucy). What might elsewhere be named as Lyric Interiority (or urge, or drive) is here semi-parodically literalized as being incorporated inside the actual organs of the body, digestive, incised, blocked off, (over)flowing. Now (page 4) the speaker seeks a word ‘breathed down to me’, down the ‘blowpipe’, ‘to no-one else’. This ‘you’ is not a ‘general reader’ so much as seemingly a specific person, it’s all too cramped and deliberately uncomfortable, but also abstracted enough in terms of the semi-narrative that’s appearing and the constant replacements and displacements of organs to evade any clear trajectory of address and location. Now the mouth can’t open. Political discourse comes in – ‘Attention. The deficit. Reparation’ – though obviously the main inflection here is Kleinian-psychoanalytic. 

Calton, in a recent email, mentions, as well as Klein, the importance of Bion, Herbert Rosenfeld and Betty Joseph to the concerns of the poem. More so than Trebuchet, he sees Ileum as pertaining to the real (and often the phantasised) experience of certain emotional states in their full confusion taking precedence over the specialised terminology of psychoanalytic and mechanism-centred theory itself - though that pours out almost by name in the third section, as a kind of a parody of that jargon, the rabbit-out-a-hat quality of psychoanalytic explanation.” This combines with an attempt at a
riskier, flashier surface for the language [...] a lot of little parlor tricks and circuses, dead ends and little flashes of idiocy, again to outwit the drive to speak theoretically, to keep that as an underlying force whilst splashing around above it. I wanted to move to a place where almost anything could be said and made to function profitably. Or at least where I could seem to be saying “anything”, in a game of bluff-calling and trust-testing with the reader.
So that notion of bluff-calling and trust-testing would seem to fit with the notions of address above. As reader or listener, you’re drawn into this helter-skelter ride through ambivalent and ever-shifting emotional states, barely able to theoretically frame them in a way conventional (psycho-)analysis would, inhabiting them, though they’re not you’re on, but you’re not the analyst, the positions keep shifting, there’s a dizzy pleasure in following and not being able to follow, and you sense that the poet, though technically very much in control, has a quasi-improvisational flair for letting themselves go off-piste, though always coming back to the ‘track’. The scene isn’t set up, it begins in media res, in the mouth and bowel and anus and windpipe, and it’s only later that particular locations – the disco hall, the various fake names of shit music pubs – start to come in, going outside the obsessively interior grotesque body.

A series of negations now – ‘ineffectual, unrecollectable, un/governable, unelectable’ – attesting to a failure for particular ‘conceptual perceptual’ frameworks to capture this experience, also again with a political inflection: the ‘un/governable’ as the majority of the population who exist below a certain threshold of wealth, in right-wing media-politico discourse; ‘the unelectable’, as descriptions in that same discourse used to smear the Labour Party if they ever veer too ostensibly towards even the centre-left; then ‘the bosses’. The sentence ends with ‘the / birth dream of the sterile obturator’, an obturator being a plate or disc that closes up an opening, generally used to describe something used to fix a cleft palate. So this again has to do with speech and openings, inside and outside, communication. Birth as opening out, expelling, while the obturator seals up.

Now a scene with people ‘petting’ and doing ‘hickeys’ ‘in the fictive treehouse’. This moment of intimacy doesn’t feel intimate, because who these people are is unclear, they are not named, and the scene soon goes away again. Gethshemane comes in – gardens, trials, the father, the weeping of blood. This is the first inkling of the tortured medieval saints framework that will come to play quite a large part in the poem. The fifth page: the throat now becomes ‘vaginismus’, muscular contraction which prevents the vagina from ‘accepting’ penetration. Things closing up. Now the poison that was dripped in is sucked out. ‘Rorschach test of lyric abandon’ – cf. the desperate inner urge as lyric compulsion which ‘you’, as either the one uttering this (the speaker) or the addressee will never understand and will never be free of or from – here it’s tested in relation to perception, the possibility of abandonment, the transferring of feeling onto different replaceable objects. Wound dressings are replaced. Its unclear what exactly ‘enzyme fetishism’ might be. The first of the fake pub names or gig venues come in – ‘live at’, as in the book’s title.

The sixth page: names of five faces emerging from ‘defects in the containing wall’, to each of which the poet ‘give[s] a voice’– Hesselbach – who pioneered hernial operations (cf. the text’s obsession with femoral ruptures (‘My face is the best irreducible femoral hernia you’ll ever have’) – Velpeau – also associated with hernias, the Velpeau bandage, and believed that pain-free surgery was impossible – Laugier, Serafini and Callisen-Cloquet – more names for types of (femoral) hernia. [There is also an architectural theorist, a Jesuit priest by the name of Laugier, who laid out what he saw as the ‘faults’ in Renaissance architecture and came up with the theory of the ‘primitive hut’ as the model for all architecture, but that resonance is I think unintentional.] These five start to sing like a chorus in harmony, and will come back in a later section, following the disappearance of a twelve-part hydra chorus form the stage. The seventh page: the speaker wishes to go back through ‘your defect to / where I belong’. A femoral hernia is an uncommon type of hernia, mainly occurring in women. The process of tracking down all the allusions in the poem, to be properly exhaustive, would be exhausting, and is perhaps not central or necessary to an experience of the poem, though it could be. Re-spawning (albeit into the wrong place) – rebirth. St Lucy comes in for the first time.

[Section 2]

The first section begins with a single line: ‘Then she was wounded, so that her bowels fell out.’ This is from Aelfric’s Life of St Lucy – after her bowels fall out, she carries on alive and praying to God. Lists – ‘that you’ make this and that complex renunciation– replacements. ‘The sexual division / of pitch’. ‘Tongue me into lyric’. This becomes self-willed ‘ontological fraud’, infantile, ‘ecstatic self-effacement’ – cf. the saints’ death ecstasies. Wieners’ ‘Cocaine’ turns up– what’s this, deliberately inappropriately, doing here? ‘The / concessions demanded in this horse are unjust. It is / senseless to try.’ Mandates, quorates, voting, failure of electoral politics crops up every now and again, generally only in a word. Leeches and horses now. Lots of coloured Os and asterisks spelling out something we can’t see. This happens ‘live at the / Late Dilated Ileum motorway service station / amusement arcade.’ Ileum is the third portion of the small intestine. Dilation is, biologically, widening or, metaphorically, writing at length upon something. Stomachs and food and swelling or shrinking, intestinal ruptures (cf. earlier where the speaker suddenly becomes very small after the five faces of the hernia chorus emerge and start singing. This section ends with an apology for unintentional transphobic satirical remarks made in the opening of Calton’s earlier book Three Reveries. Its placing with the poem is starkly delineated, as prosaic statement, and a move that might risk seeming sarcastic or in bad faith: but which to me bespeaks a laudable willingness, not so much to revise or to cover-up, but to admit error, rather than justifying or explaining it away.

[Section 3]

Now the marmoset comes in, as St Lucy’s attendant. The ‘spirit’ (or is it the ‘wiffleball’?) as ‘a prototypically lidless / permeable form identified with the / analyst and the perforated / eardrum of the subject’. St Lucy’s face is ‘paranoid’ and ‘infant’. Her face leaks and swallows, is an ‘unreliable container’ – this container leaking and being sealed, wounds and mouths opening or speaking, closing or being sealed up. A joke to (or on) the reader about what the objects in the poem are doing, what symbolic function they have in its economy. Not seeking their assent but asserting the poem’s right to its imaginative capacity as it rises to a fever pitch: 


You question the function of the marmoset: back off.
[...] From the depths of the poem rises a murmur
of ascent. I’m out to
                                   get you and I know what
I’m doing.
 

The marmoset becomes ‘a binary mouth/anus with its head up / its arse identified with an envious undifferentiated / hermaphroditic early self […] a living part-object’ with merges sadism, anality, orality – here’s the parody of the psychoanalytic jargon building up. Sudden switch of register – ‘Burning grass. Let the whole / city be destroyed for this vile action’. (This is from the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla – Thecla an aristocratic woman who, like St Lucy, renounces riches and sexual advances in order to follow a Christian vocation.) Now pedantically specifying that this is specifically St Lucy of Syracuse, not other St Lucys (the effect of which cannot help but seem like comedic special-pleading, given that the poem is so much about transferring identifications and morphing people or objects). Again the vocabulary of votes and democracy – the tongue ‘must / be sewn up like a vote, plugged like a drain’. St Lucy’s mouth is sealed up. Politics meshes up again – ‘the counter-terrorism of a / penetrative / libidinal echo.’ The leech has multiple brains like a committee ‘re-electing itself’ (this a not-so veiled barb directed at the SWP’s central committee). St Lucy plucks out her own eyes. We’ve moved from the first part where it’s seemingly inside the speaker that all the replacement and sealing and so on is taking place, to specifically the scene of St Lucy, changed here to be more directly about phantasy and violence than in the second section where she first appears.

[Section 4]

Golgotha comes in after Gethsemane and Calvary earlier. Though these are only single words, this nonetheless sets up the crucifixion narrative, which fits with St Lucy’s martyrdom and / or the psychoanalytic sense of replacement, removing the bad object, going back inside, etc. The marmoset is now being sawed up, a hydra-choir appears on stage with you, twelve of them for twelve tones, ‘you’ are cutting their heads off, ‘broken up for parts’. The ocean or the sea comes in occasionally – as, earlier, ‘above the waves, under the sea’ - here, a ‘swimming float’ connected to the earlier (swim-)bladder tied to the rock (possibly also a pun on bladderwrack). A desolate lake. The five femoral hernia singers come back, or at least some of them. ‘Fucking drone music’ – earlier there’s been drone footage of destroyed cities by the lake, though the drone here functions instead as part of a succession of jokes about music in the scene of the hydra on stage, as the twelve heads sing a song by ‘Seal (b.1963)’ for pan-pipes, wind-chimes and a flame-thrower, to the salterello, an Italian dance form. Now the eyes can’t open (cf. St Lucy tearing hers out in reaction to the gaze thrust upon here, rather than tearing out the eyes of her persecutors, in the previous section). The marmoset’s face has become, ‘finally’, bigger than your own – the ‘you’ in these last few sections seems not to be the person addressed by the speaker at the beginning, but, rather, to fit the use of the second person to refer to that speaker themselves. ‘Pierce my very entrails’ – again, masochism, penetration, martyrdom, phantasy, damage, surgery.

Now the poem ends, by telling the ‘you’ which might be the speaker or the addressee, ‘what you are’ – ‘You are the nutcracker at the / rebirth of your own terminal fundoplication’. A fundoplication is a treatment for gastro-oesophageal reflux, which is when food goes back up the foodpipe, along with the stomach acid which breaks it down, rather than down to the intenstines. A nutcracker is designed to break something open. The operation which treats food coming back up instead of being digested is said here to be ‘rebirthed’, but also to be ‘terminal’, and it occurs at the end of the poem. Its hard to unpack this one, probably deliberately so. But, in any case, what this means is that we end with more medical, intestinal jargon – words most people most likely won’t be familiar with, will have to look up and even then have trouble retaining in their heads, not least in the midst of all the poems proliferating images. So its an odd ending, not really flashy, certainly not like the political love appeal at the end of Torn Instructions. Calton noted after his reading that the word on which the poem ends is deliberately one that can’t be easily forced into a symbolic function, either in its particular local instantiation or within the poem as a whole.


~~~

So, after it’s over, to sum up, what I admire most about this poem is its unswerving dedication – like that of Trebuchet – to a formal precision which, more than virtually any other poetry that right now I know, leaves space and thrives on, for its compositional realisation, an improvisational openness which doesn’t flail around in an already-available stock of what amount to clichés, readily to hand in the prevailing air – as bad improvisation can do, the ever-same in the ersatz guise of the always-new – but actually uses them to drive on its adventures of thought and word – a physical wrenching, in and out of bodies and locations which reminds me just why I started listening to and reading ‘this kind of’ music and ‘this kind of’ poetry in the first place. This has something (something!) to do with narrative, certain shifts in tempo which have to do with syllables and consonants and lineation and stanzas and all those shifting filled rooms in a way that can be difficult to get an adequate descriptive handle on. Suffice to say, the questions of virtuosity and timing and things absolutely musical (OK, so it’s easy to say this, given that the poet of this poem is a musician too), to do all things that the music and the poetry that has most fundamentally seemed to change and shift my life in recent years has done. In that sense, I still think back to Calton’s duo with Roger Turner at a Cambridge Miscellaneous Festival of years past as a treasured memory whose jittery liveness (as opposed to literary jiveness) puts the lie to any account that would turn it into a laying up of treasures in stock, simultaneously reduced to past nostalgia and deferred to future reward, all those accumulated golden crowns in heaven weighing the sanest of heads down, hardy laurels gleaming. More like, right now, recollected in no tranquillity as, with Autumn definitively upon us, I sit at the computer in the freezing reading room, the poem’s lines whirring through my feet and hands and ears and eyes and brain. Probably my small and large intestines too.

At risk of a strained comparison, a shoulder all out of joint, I think of the scene we all remember from Haneke’s Benny’s Video, when the camera stays fixed and the prurient desire to see the all-too-disgustingly-important action happening on screen is teased and, by its absence, teased out into the open – but this equivalent, in Ileum, without Haneke’s didactic castigation of an all-too-easily-available bourgeois audience, frissoned by the guilt he launches upon them as teacher-auteur. Who knows how far that comparison goes. I won’t push. But, suffice to say, there’s nothing of that high-minded yet fundamentally inactive teaching going on in what Calton is doing. I mean, fuck it, there’s a joy as well – as much as joy, uncompromised by whatever gumpf and guilt is attendant on it, there can be in reading poetry. And this can thrillingly remind us just why we spend so much time doing that.