Friday 2 November 2012

JEFFERSON TOAL & IAN HEAMES // Cambridge // 27.10.12

Has anyone written on Heames and Toal? Well, Richard Owens has typed some thoughts on the newly-published ‘Arcobat’. There’s some page-long stuff in the old CLR series pamphlets, PDF’d for some kind of posterity. And Louis Jagger’s two-page review of ‘Gloss to Carriers’ in ‘International Egg & Poultry Review’, aka ‘Friends 2’, the A4 stapled collection, or anthology, or magazine, or what have you, edited by Justin Katko and Luke Roberts in 2011, packed with poetry and a personalized rip on the purple cover (now out of print and online, go here). Oh yeah, and Jow Lindsay’s four blog posts from 2007 on Toal’s ‘Mortar Penne Ha Ha Ha’ (over at the old ‘Everyone’s Cup of Tea’). Which are actually pretty scrupulous and dense.

But the point I was about to make still stands on its shaky feet, I think: others should, write I mean, whether in scrupulous or cursory scrutiny, but putting it out there. Criticism in the climate of small-press publishing, books popping out every few months, launches and readings in university crevices on the Cambridge-London-Brighton axes, could be a part of the dialogue without hurting the progress or appearance of the poetry. Because if you can’t write about what you read doesn’t the community get lax? (And is the notion of a community that cocoons itself off against harm in mutual friendship-networks, part of the problem? Not community per se, but a lack of bite (tho’ entirely understandable given the bite from outside, perhaps). Well, there’s a whole can of worms. The advantages and disadvantages of alliance: discuss.) But anyway, this thing, here, isn’t quite that criticism it asks for, it’s another report on another reading, and reading a report shouldn’t substitute for entering the fort and seeing the stuff, or booking these people to a place near you.

I’ve had copies of the books Heames launched tonight for a while now (they are, respectively, ‘Banners Over Terminal Highway’, from his own ©_© press and ‘Array One’, from Justin Katko’s Critical Documents), and the more I think about them the more I think that they are some of the best new poetry I’ve read in a while – which is the kind of book-blurb claim that might make you role your eyes in exaggerated and stomach-sinking disbelief, but I do mean that phrases from them will suddenly and insistently pop into my head at unexpected moments and that, formally and in what have you ways, I think that these are important works and that maybe in ten years we’ll look back and really see that, beyond the accumulated fluff of the contemporary, time’s allowed perspective from out of zeitgeist debris. The poems in ‘Banners over Terminal Highway’ work on formal procedures to do, mainly, it seems, with capitalisation (capitals as Capital, or capitol, perhaps, tho’ this is really too silly a speculation to even merit writing up, or down); they use appropriated quotations from other poets and their scenarios are in some dystopian or apocalyptic, yet contemporary in resonance rather than just some future projection (again the book-blurb banality): online zombies, alarm-gut-chompers, lunch-break neurological pathways, cosmic reduction, guerrilla warfare. As, too, in ‘Array One’ (which may even be a better poem than ‘Banners’), contemporary reference peeks through, as London 2012 Olympic-security crackdowns or riots or Arab Springing radar news: “teens woke from a heavily policed summer / no more an illusion than last spring[…]caught up in the rhetoric of the Games.” Perhaps the most obvious example of this would be the poem ‘For Will Stuart’, which Heames didn’t read tonight and which I don’t think has been published, except fugitively, but in which he considers the possibility of interpreting a major world news event (the death of Osama Bin Laden) through a poem (written by Will Stuart): the poetry news, as register of truth or of the filters and screens which contextualize and distort the fact of an event while posing as reportage, fact, transparency. (Transparency, that which is seen through, as distortion or as the pose of instant access, is an important figure in Heames’ work.) “ ‘the US / the US’ / the news appears […] ‘After the United States the United States’ / news appears and collects noisily […] later ‘the United States are the United States’ / they notice, appear and are collected noisily”. The language is like some slight détournement of a phrase no-one’s said but someone probably would or could have: not as the liberation of language, or the revealing of codes behind official-speak, nor with the subjective fury of a ranting observer , nor with ‘objective clarity’, but, maybe, some combination of all these (bar the ‘liberation’).

To put it again in negative terms, the status of observer or subject in these poems is not the lang-po or po-mo schizoid self, all Deleuzian ‘multiplicity’ and ‘becoming’, but neither does it contain, quite, the ironized or sincere lyric register that you might find, at various pinches, in the work of, say, Sophie Robinson or Tomas Weber or Keston Sutherland or Joe Luna. Yeah, I mean, what is the status of the ‘I’ in Heames’ work? Some lines from ‘Array One’: “I was browsing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field images / last night, berserk at how easily / the sky was blue for what felt like a lifetime” // “I am leaving your windows open” // “I need you to go back on” // “I would like to read your thoughts / on this again” // “I would like to be the air between them.” The ‘I’ might at times seem like the subject of the love poem yearning for his beloved – “I would like to read your thoughts” as the desire for knowing the other person’s inner workings, not as attempted possession of them, but as a close intimacy of sharing, even as the phrase that completes the sentence after the line break re-turns it to office email speak. It might also be the player in a game who co-operates with another player, the beloved: “I hit the alarm / to give you a window // don’t ever stop seeing things / or meaning,” which sounds like the farewell of someone sacrificing themselves to save their companion in a movie scenario – this, maybe, as some kind of model for interaction that has human compassion within it, even as it takes place within a virtual world and as cliché (and even as “Empathy is not critical / To my art”).

Similarly, the love object in Toal’s ‘Kaloki Poems’ would seem, as Justin Katko notes in his review of the reading for the UK Poetry list, a “fantasy,” again, perhaps, in a virtual world, non-existent as an actual person. “Fill the boots of a dashing new hero as you meet four potential sweethearts and woo the dream girl of your choice in this romantic 5-part story. Multiple endings based on how you play mean you can always experience new romances or fix failed ones.” As fantasy, then, it is of course in the grand tradition of love poetry, which we too insistently insist on as always being ‘real’ rather than, say, a set of formal tropes: not that Toal’s sequence is, really, an exploration of genre in that particular way. But its concerns are different to, say, a kind of post-O’Hara lyric, even as they’re also not the genial surrealism of post-Ashbery poetry (to pick two perhaps irrelevant schools for starters. Or, compare Lee Harwood’s ‘The Man with Blue Eyes’ to Ashbery’s work from the same period, and argue that Toal is not what using what is ostensibly love poetry in the same way that either Harwood or Ashbery are using it. Well, you could do that if you like.) The language is raw in its video-gamed glitchiness, for all the ‘purities’ of blondness and whiteness that recur in the poem, “teh cosplay” always in danger of letting in languages of ingestion and excretion and violence (video-games are, after all, ultra-violent in their cartoon realness), “inviting a shit-storm,” a kind of sexualized or balletic murder – “bullets maul sigh.” (Those quotations are from ‘Epyx Fastload’, by the way, I don’t have a copy of ‘Kaloki Poems’ to hand right now.) Anyhow, we’ll come back to the notion of the real or imagined love object soon, in relation to Heames’ poems.

Katko comments on the recurrent animals in Toal’s ‘Arcobat’ (bats, panthers, tigers, dogs, etc), speculating a skew-wiff echo of Pound’s Cantos cats: these aren’t perhaps as consistent (or are they?) in deployment, as, say, the recurring legal terminology in Prynne’s ‘Unanswering Rational Shore’, butterflies in Heames’ ‘Array One’, or envelopes in Mike Wallace-Hadrill’s ‘Nettle Range Blade Fear’, but they’re there, not as explicit scheme or code which, once discovered, while tell you what the sequence is ‘about’, but as part of the mental process of constructing poetry which imposes patterns within what might at first seem ‘pure’ flow. (I mean, think the fractals in Pollock’s drip paintings. Or maybe don’t.) Indeed this distinction is what, I think, is distinctive about Toal’s approach formally, at least in ‘Arcobat’ and in 'Epyx Fastload', which was the first thing he read on the night – and that’s a certain looseness in (that word again) flow, a kind of not-quite contained wildness, a spillage of material that can sometimes result in passages which seem fuzzy or undirected, but which can then be brought back to blinding clarity by the kind of line that leaps out at you like a sore thumb thumbing the ride back on track. (Get your similes mixed and stretched here.) Katko theorized it in his introduction at the reading as Toal not always quite knowing what was coming out of him, in his poetry, so that what happens is perhaps not quite willed or logically / logistically-driven, which gives the work that particular quality it has. Anyhow, I discovered that it was not until hearing the poem, by actually reading it out loud, that things really came into focus, and it was good to hear Toal again re-focus things, animals and victims and schiz/cash flow and all the rest of its acrobatics, as he popped around behind the incongruously large lecturer’s podium.

There’s stuff about animals, then, and stuff about children, sometimes combined – “infant hand pat down / grabbed by the muzzle”, “summoning liquid children like / goats to a bath they category inflorescent chant”– often violent stuff, or possessing a latent potential for violence – the thin dividing line between some sort of authoritarian discipline and sadistic harm (“kid in one cot bent in a warning”). This, to me at least, is a horror felt as visceral, and perhaps it’s a horror with particular resonance for Toal, given that he teaches at a school. This would seem even more pressured in ‘Mortar Penne’ (I’m relying on Jow Lindsay’s blogs-posts, as I haven’t read this poem – it’s in the out-of-print Quid 18), in which Madeleine McCann appears as victim-turned-executioner, stitched together from cut-up like a Frankenstein’s monster in the media circus: prurience of celebrity as wrongness, the extent to which hopelessness and victimhood becomes an almost celebrated condition, as grounds for fear and inaction, and as sado-masochistic voyeurism. Some of the most nastily arresting lines from ‘Arcobat’: “the living beams / softened to a puddle of white human cheeks” // “cycloid, clutching its stupid guts” – here, a sense of disgusting malleability and gooey decay through heat (nuclear melt-down?) – “sonar go loud heat delocaliser”, “now receive the weight of the sun” (a kind of morphing of ‘fear no more the heat of the sun’ into an overwhelming by a descending and heavy solar orb), “against heat red dot asleep wet / blind wet street.” Excrescence as violent spillage in instinctive physical disgust at pressured body horror – “Shade now buoyant tiger, spill your flowing human / with sick” // “suck free gore through a / urinated dog.” Hands and softening (I’m put in mind of the ‘hardening’ and ‘softening’ from ‘Hot White Andy’, or Hugh Sykes-Davies’ “but do not put your hand down to see”), melding and meshing not as celebrated cyborgian schiz-flow but as invasion, germ, disease, virus, real violence done to real vulnerable people – the sense that if I let my guard down (for instance, in sexual encounter) I might be under attack, and am under attack anyway, constantly, even as this violence is reduced to cartoon: “blocks the mucus outflow, the split limb threshold, / the slapstick afterglow of an / origami sick. […] Have you ever seen / weakened in the mouth touch yours.” The body is intensely felt as vulnerable and masked up in a gruesome melding process with shades of David Cronenberg’s Brundlefly, in lines driven by sonic logics of clipped pipping Is, Ts, Bs and Cs: “sample bit protein type cautionary applicator mitt / after late time reapers graft your hot robotic skin on.” Victims remain unnamed, rendered anonymous in degrading humiliation, forced ritual: “After late collective gush of a / dozen frantic necks, fourteen shaved heads bend out / hollow, to forge in crap towel the sign of the tick.” Religion is in here somewhere (wars in the name of fundamentalisms, clashes of civilizations?), scientific tests, lab-rats, the flow of capital as the flow of sick and blood and mucus, as, literally, smeared “paydirt.” “Very cash, extension hitbox / fluidity” merges into that gush of the beheaded necks or emptied brains, the shaved heads and the shit-smeared towel. It’s hard, of course, not to think of Abu Ghraib somewhere in the back of all this, or perhaps of torture porn, but the poem’s by no means programmatic in its kakaclog of abuse and assonant squirm. Indeed, Lindsay posits the ‘weirdness’ of Toal’s work as emerging from an anarchist, rather than a Marxist sensibility – “My suspicion [..] is that such weirdness happens through anarchist not marxist instincts – emerges on poems through their ‘wanting’ to be the culture of anarchist counterpower.” I think I’d prefer to read Toal as a reflection of power, of what Richard Owens calls “the spectacular savagery of the everyday,” its “grotesque intimacy” (intimacy as violence, power as personalized, economic relation boring into personal relation), rather than as a counter-power to that power, if this makes sense – a power that is viscerally feltin quasi-comic but also often quite horrible detritus as constant spillage and excess over the boundaries of secure, non-abused personhood and the safety of weaker from stronger (economies, countries, groups, etc). Perhaps I’m not quite getting what Lindsay meant: but it does seem fair to say that is far from schematic, which you can take as anarchist, if you want. This was what I was trying to say with regard to structure earlier and still probably haven’t properly said yet, but I give up. What I mean is that, tho’ in fact Richard Owens actually does gesture towards analyzing the work that syntax and diction do in Toal’s work, as does Lindsay, more so, the poetry doesn’t really lend itself to a schematic kind of close-reading, even as it isn’t just build-up of sound over sense in some kind of ‘liberated language’ free-flow.

Against this, Heames’ opening elegy for Jeff Keen, written on the day that Keen died, stood out in stark and simple relief. In some sort of contrast to Toal, Heames is interested in formal process, whether this be translation, palindrome, capitalisation, or other types of seemingly arbitrary limit set beforehand. This is grid almost as private system – not that its knowledge is refused - he’ll probably tell you if you ask him – but that it is not necessarily central to ‘understanding’, that it is a form of text-generation, even as the formal exactitude mixed ‘casualness’ of register adds a specific resonance or tone to the work that is in some ways quite different to Toal’s. To read Heames’ work, say, through the prism of Keen’s films, their multi-layered pop-culture brightness, their cartoon-violence of image and eye, would be to get their register wrong: because though there are computer games and the war machines of science-fiction (see particularly ‘Gloss to Carriers’) there is also lyric register (and as register it does not have to be ‘authentic’ investment against a barrage of stuff), and their deployment is careful and complex. Lines are short (with some lengthy exceptions) and laid out, generally, in sense units that can be followed fairly easily (as against the jamming-up of someone like, I don’t know, Ulli Freer).

And yet what I notice in Heames’ work is the register in which casual phrases which might, like, be fragments of transcribed speech, hint at personal or relaxed register only to definitively defeat any chummy ease of access or suggestion of ‘realness’ to which that might gesture. This from the penultimate poem in ‘Banners’, ‘Photos of the Party’: “I didn’t know you were smart Until like the end of May / drenched some of our best People in headsets / and loves influence / better at prosody than anything On interpretation.” Notice the grammatical shifts, each clause deflating the expectation set up by the apparent closure of the previous: is it ‘the end of May’ that ‘drenche[s] some of our best People’, and where is the referent of ‘loves influence’? The reference to smartness has always seemed to me like a kind of halting chat-up line, or statement of regret, slightly derailed by the absurdity of the ambiguous date-placing (the qualifier ‘like’ apologizing in advance for inaccuracy) – it’s indeed that inaccuracy which adds the human quality to it, even as ‘like’ so often stands in for some kind of internet idiocy in phraseology, some pathology of dumb(ed-down) speech. Then the Aristotle reference and the talk of prosody, which it’s hard to know what to make of – we might compare the moment in ‘Gloss to Carriers’ where the pilot carries a copy of J.H. Prynne’s ‘The White Stones’ into his flight-vehicle’s cockpit, going “up the hill” as in ‘Thoughts on the Esterhazy Court Uniform’, with the implied continuance of the half-quotation, “and we do not return.”

Things don’t flow, or they do (the whole thing is not jammed-up jump-cut sliced in its sensibility), only to reveal themselves on closer inspection and thought as catching or throwing off kilter so that the whole is hard to grasp. Or important-sounding phrases might be repeated and reduced to empty shells, almost satirically. From ‘Array One’, we have “Caviar is a kind of food / life is the opposite of death”, and the mutation of a line of Danny Hayward’s appropriated for ‘Banners’, “love is the derangement of leisure time,” into “love is an abuse of love”; and from ‘Gloss’, “We have to start thinking, seriously, about alternatives / to the future.” All these are shells which reveal themselves as subverting their initial real or imagined source impulse into a commentary less conducive to the ideology which their official usage would attempt. So, “alternatives to the future,” given the sci-fi register of that poem, says something about imagining and imaging as deflected or explored through fantasy, as utopia or dystopia, and as the realisation of sci-fi in the now (Mike Ladd’s notion of the ‘after-future’); also, one would think, as a riposte to ‘There is No Alternative’ and the ‘end of history’.

It does work both ways, though, I think, so that “O 1 2 3 / we are met in the same world” becomes an odd mash-up of archaic, maybe Elizabethan poetic diction with the insertion of lyric cry into basic number list: ‘O’ as both the poetic exclamation, as if number could be made to cry out, to reveal the human suffering it conceals (see below), and the defeat of that attempted cry, O as merely zero, nothing, a void. I’m reminded here of Kevin Davies’ line-breaking in ‘Lateral Argument’ (which I’ve examined at greater length in a recent post on Kenny Goldsmith): “Information / wants to be me. O / K” – or of the line from Keston Sutherland’s ‘Falling in Love Cream Crab’ on which Josh Stanley comments in the editorial to the first issue of ‘Hot Gun!’, “Only now forever | 1.9.” (Stanley: “Statistics, for instance, needs to be passion […] One can read the end of the poem as keeping track of the I’s development from 1 upwards as it tries so hard to be 2, to conceive of a dual ontology, to be in a world where it is not alone, but it cannot ever get there.” One might read this in the light of Sutherland’s comment on number and universalism quoted below.)

Heames’ “O 1 2 3” occurs in the context of the penultimate poem from the sequence, in which desire for the beloved is seen as in some way the opponent to both capitalism and to natural forces themselves: “I would halt retail / I would put off an eclipse / or might” – this as some kind of variant on “I would walk 500 miles,” with the qualifying “might” as a realisation of reality serving to make previous overstatement endearing in some way, even as “(wanting the famousness of love / its long name)” suggest more mercenary motives as regards self-presentation in love and in poetry. Perhaps “O”, then, is anticipated and deflated and ironized even before any attempt at urgent agency might instantiate itself: the following and final poem informs us that “the poem is a stunt / double for my feelings,” the beloved revealed as an “archangel,” a figure which can’t help but put us in mind of the angels of death from the skies that dominate ‘Gloss to Carriers’ (again, see below), a figure whose unreality is filtered through a million internet searches – “with more hits / than ‘the colour of rain.’ ” Colourless and transparent, smoothness of surface see-through to nothing, the empty target or centre, the “arena” surrounded by “borders” and “blockade”.

So, yes, what one might cling to as moment of revealed or real assertion or intimacy is never ever simply that: to pick another example, “Left the film streaming” (from ‘Banners’) is at once the de-materialized movie as internet data on screen, as how we now watch films in our private cubbyholes, and “streaming” as in tears running down faces, that one could still be moved somehow, tho’ this itself is I guess manipulation, in a world where lines redolent of the lyrics to an old love song morph into the hurt of a tumble in the markets: “Rolling on bedclothes […] This has been going on too / long for us not to Hurt by a strong yen.” This is not the “gossamer career move” of an ambiguously co-opted, post-Deleuzian ‘rhizomatic’ take on technology and on popular culture, pitted against lyric singularity in celebration of capital’s displacements: but neither is it simple or silly or binary in its coding of oppositions and entanglements in current world and word states of play.

Both Heames and Toal come back to the figure of the female, either as love-object, idealized or mediated through screen, visor, helmet (“hot lament on tinted windows”) post-human displacement, or (and perhaps the two are more commingled than one might think, in their work) as war engine, despoiler. Here Prynne’s ‘Her Weasels Wild Returning’ is surely an important point of reference, or shall we say of departure, especially so in ‘Gloss to Carriers’. What might in a conventional, or ‘human’ love poem denote a particular desired attribute of the beloved, comes in Heames’ work to be part of a war machine: “Her pink antiaircraft”; or “Blousy in hyaline” (hyaline as transparent glass or as cartilage: the illusion of believing seeing, or seeing within to some real body’s meat). Or we have this: “The loved one shields and boots”, where those final words might be nouns or verbs, as the virus-protection and system re-boot of a computerized robo-beloved (I’m reminded a little of the dictator’s passion for the police supercomputer in Alan Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’), or as the ‘shields’ and ‘boots’ which, say, Xena, Warrior Princess might wear and carry– these items of clothing themselves fantasy and mediation, fetishisation of war and information as against the vagiaries and unreliabilities of that which might not slot into the discourse of war, profit, control, police. “And pragmatics sink any beneficent dictatorship of the heart / Love against body count.” Here I think it would be hard not to read ‘body count’ as the (militarized) enumeration of people into numbered corpses that Keston Sutherland decries in a couplet from ‘The Proxy Inhumanity of Forklifts’, discussed in an interview with ‘Naked Punch’: “In the dead of night you do a sum / and in the morning you deduct it from universalism.”

Again, this from the opening of ‘Gloss’: “Her heels wore scramjets out / Rockets wept when she slowed past them / Sandaled in plasma […] Lust clipped her brake cables and wing tips […] She knocked back a late draught of radar and blinked out.” (Think too the statue of a female head that forms the cover to ‘Banners’.) That the female in these poems is thus implicated with war, technology, capital, might seem problematic in terms of sexual politics, but let’s say too that it comments on the mediations of love through a sexualised and technologized gauze or the “CGI brushed steel on sedge phosophorous / […] approaching the white hot templates / of Capitalism and Love / Its dismal optic carbine.” This idealisation is the displacement of “the blood of spray operators / spiked on the graph” so that the “woman of scope / input signal of the white race […] goddess, / complete angel of calm” becalms as advertising image what goes on behind, and above, in the “sky of control” (these last quotations from an early poem, ‘Reducing Load’).

We might consider too the dated-sexist appellation ‘bird’ for woman, consider the recurring swans and butterflies in ‘Gloss’ and ‘Array One’, or the way in which jets or aircraft associated with ‘Gloss’s’ female become ‘pretty birds’, new singing monsters of the air: “Xylem of osmotic birdsong / Fluted each weightless undercarriage.” Xylem and osmosis, transport of water and nutrients in the plants – the plant as the factory plant, death HQ, fluting as glass or as instrument, a fantasy of gravity-less soar, the fact that space programmes have always been associated with military expansion, colonisation (‘space – the final frontier’), nuclear races, Nazi scientists, etc. We also have “the pain of living in a metropolis […] Guns change their silhouettes / A management swan dive.” What flies from the air and soars is not heaven or the muse or spirit, the lark ascending, but death from the skies descending, in flight formation unleashing the shit-storm, this the era of the drone, the bombing of Baghdad, everyone pointing and cheering at the exploding lights in the night; the sky of cameras and horizons and dwarfing spectacle, the reality of heaven as angels of death from the corporations and conglomerations that are now our gods. To be “on the side of the angels” is, then, truly “a failure of love / or policy.”

‘Gloss’ is both academic commentary, explanation, and shininess and sleekness of surface, as concealment or perfection of technology and wealth: smooth like our bodies are not, delivering death in high slick style. ‘Carriers’ are carriers of disease, are carrier pigeons, messengers, lackeys, bomb-containers – I’m thinking aloud here –the play of inside and out, “Claustrophobe in the machine […] my emotions leaking from my ‘mask’.” Mask here being face or face-mask, tactics of concealment and revealing, the packing of emotion so that what is real in suffering and love is just another movie scene, a game. You’re toy-ing with people’s lives. Mention of mask too makes me think of the role of the face (and the region of the head in general) in ‘Array One’, which might seem a satire of all that talk of Levinasian encounter which is all the rage in French and Film and Ethics departments round the Anglo-American world: “I need you to go back on / to look at pictures of your face” // “medics lost face” // “the convoy kept rolling / down my head and neck” // “breathe down my neck” // “Ilium is toast / Natalie has dark eyes.” This latter bringing us back to ‘Gloss’: “Their eyes / Mere openings that looked like / Maws vaselike.”

Katko comments, in his UK Poetry review, on the affect of Heames’ memorized reading; tho’ I would ague, and perhaps he would too, that the register of elegy and mournfulness which he seems to claim as a particular quality of this particular reading is a necessary quality of any of the Heames readings I’ve seen. There is that play with tension and expectation, some thing which forces you not to look at the reader in case you break the spell of remembrance; so that it is at once performance, more so than with the usual reading from a script, and that it actually does succeed to some extent in Heames’ stated desire to in some way remove charisma-based interpretation from text and deliver that text ‘as it is’ – even as, at the same time, it does exactly the opposite. This probably makes absolutely no sense.

Which has brought me several thousand words in to realize that this hasn’t really been a review of the reading at all. So let’s throw that bit in at the end. The space, a gleaming lecture-hall which is apparently one of the most expensive buildings per square foot in Europe, was perhaps not most conducive to a fairly small gathering (tho’ a packed hall would have maybe have changed and charged the whole atmosphere in was which now of course it would be pointless to speculate on). Its weird, semi-labyrinthine contours were at once suited to the poetry (with their Goldeneye echoes) and in some senses too sleekly institutional for it: Katko’s reception-broken freestyle on the phone afterwards, or Toal and Wallace-Hadrill’s recreation of Nas with the aid of a clunking upright piano outdoors the next day, might be seen as way of breaking back out into the (keeping it) real world, whatever that is. In the meantime, we all got to hear Toal and Heames read, and you can find what they read as availably published and new from ©_© and Critical Documents, winging its way out onto the next level.