Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Emporium review in Poetry Review

“There is real gold in this volume. Although many of Pindar’s poems are informal, it includes a fine satirical sestina, ‘Les Vacances de Monsieur P.’, an off-beat sonnet sequence, ‘The Prophecies’, and an impressive pantoum, ‘Death of a Senator’. His interests are broad, his responses to them musically gratifying and emotionally and intellectually deep. Pindar’s inspiration comes from the fragility of life, his atheistic conviction that death is just that . . . Whether or not you share his views on God, the Monarchy or women, I expect you will be moved by the eloquence in much of Emporium. I was about to say that Ian Pindar is a promising poet; but no, he is already a significant one.”

Leah Fritz in Poetry Review (Vol. 101:4 Winter 2011)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Music Review

Many music lists seem to have decided that PJ Harvey’s latest is the finest album of the year. I’ve tried to like it, I really have, but in the end it strikes me as a bit, well, sappy. So as an antidote to all that here’s my choice . . .

Album of the Year: Fucked Up, David Comes to Life
So this is where punk went. Some might say up its own fundament, but here it is: a punk concept album. It’s a story of boy (David Elliade) meets girl (Veronica Boisson), girl gets blown to smithereens, boy wrestles with inner demons and comes through it all somehow (although even the band seem unsure quite what happens). “Queen of Hearts”, the song in which David meets Veronica, is a lovely angry romp. Here’s the video – and there’s also another version sung by school children:

And here are the lyrics of “Queen of Hearts”, so you can sing along. 

Sun rises above the factory but the rays don’t make it to the street. Through the gates come the employees, beaten down and dragging their feet. A group of lefties hand out pamphlets to the workers coming in. For two people on the pavement life will never be the same again. When she placed it in his hand, people must have seen the sparks. Neither understands what just happened to their hearts. “Another morning in this place has ripped me out of my dream.” Realizing life’s a waste as the whistle lets off steam. One thing about it all is nothing’s ever going to change. It’s like our progress has just stalled and everyday is the same. “She placed it in my hand.” Co-workers must have seen the sparks. “I couldn’t understand what just happened to my heart.” “Hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica, let’s be together, let’s fall in love. Hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica - let’s be together, until the stars go out.” All we need is for something to give, the dam bursts open, we suddenly live. “The boot off my throat, life is returning, the boot off my throat, let’s all emote.” “Dawn breaks across this town and a new dawn breaks for me. I couldn’t take the pains of the underclass, trying to smile through gritted teeth. We must now all join up and throw off the shackles of shame. United we can’t be defeated, they shall hear us proclaim. I placed it in his hand. Comrades must have seen the sparks. I couldn’t understand what happened to my heart. Hello, your name is David, I am Veronica, let’s be together, until the water swallows us. Hello, you must be David, I am Veronica - let’s be together, until we’re all finally crushed.” All we need is for something to give, the dam bursts open, we suddenly live. The boot off my throat, life is returning, the boot off my throat, let’s all emote.”

The CD comes with all the lyrics, and perhaps unusually for a punk band Fucked Up’s lyrics include unexpected rhymes such as “facade” and “laud” (“Running on Nothing”). There’s also a song called “The Other Shoe”, which includes the refrain de nos jours: “We’re dying on the inside.” There’s a short film about the making of the album here. Wonderful stuff – and Pink Eyes really gives it his all (his voice reminiscent of the lead singer of Killdozer).

Single of the Year: The Weeknd, “House of Balloons/Glass Table”
Sadly, I’m old enough to remember Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Happy House”, so it was nice to hear it sampled here, but slowed down to make it appear even more sinister/deluded. It seemed to sum up the mood of this pretty wretched year, really. We’re all in it together in the happy house. The segue into “Glass Table” (why “bring out the glass table”? Can anyone explain? Cocaine?) is utterly inspired. Not since Tortoise’s Millions Now Living Will Never Die have I enjoyed such a crashing change of gear. Inexplicably, you can download “House of Balloons/Glass Table” for free – quite legally – here, along with the rest of the album, also called House of Balloons, the songs on which, being “chillwave-tinged R&B” (it says here), can at times be a little sappy for my taste, albeit satisfyingly potty-mouthed.

But it’s not all “popular” music. Here’s some of the other stuff I’ve been listening to:

Debussy, Complete Works for Piano, Vol.1 (Jean-Yves Thibaudet)

Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande (Suisse Romande Orchestra)

Elliot Carter, Piano Concerto; Concerto for Orchestra; etc. (Michael Gielen, uRsula Oppens, SWF Symphony Orchestra)

Gamelan Music of Bali

John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (John Tilbury)

Martha Argerich: Debut Recital

Natalie Dessay, Mozart Heroines

Rang Puhar Carnatic Group, Music of Southern India

Scarlatti, Keyboard Sonatas (Mikhail Pletnev)

Schubert, Octet (Wiener Oktett)

Stravinsky, Works of Igor Stravinsky (box set)

Sviatoslav Richter, The Sofia Recital 1958

Toumani Diabate, King of the Kora

And that’s quite enough of that.

Happy Holidays, etc.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thought for the Day

The major facts are simply not faced. It is admitted, for instance, that people sometimes lose their jobs; but then the dark clouds roll away and they get better jobs instead. No mention of unemployment as something permanent and inevitable, no mention of the dole, no mention of trade unionism. No suggestion anywhere that there can be anything wrong with the system as a system; there are only individual misfortunes, which are generally due to somebody’s wickedness and can in any case be put right in the last chapter. Always the dark clouds roll away, the kind employer raises Alfred’s wages, and there are jobs for everybody except the drunks.
 George Orwell, 'Boys' Weeklies' (1940) 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Epic capitalist onanism

'Even in the best of times, the finance sector hasn't paid anything like as much to the state as the state has had to pay for them since the great crash. According to the IMF, British taxpayers have shelled out £289bn in "direct upfront financing" to prop up the banks since 2008. Add in the various government loans and underwriting, and taxpayers are on the hook for £1.19tn. Seen that way the City looks less like a goose that lays golden eggs, and more like an unruly pigeon that leaves one hell of a mess for others to clear up.'
Great piece by Aditya Chakrabortty in today's Guardian. I'm not sure 'bankocracy' will catch on, though. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Should the arts be more selective about sponsors?

I love, by contrast, the way that Thomas Bernhard unfailingly bit off every hand that fed him: denouncing all the prizes that came his way but always accepting them because, in his own words, "I'm greedy for money, I have no character, I'm a bastard too." What integrity!
Geoff Dyer in the Observer

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Alice Oswald stands out

"I’m uncomfortable about the fact that Aurum Funds, an investment company which exclusively manages funds of hedge funds, is sponsoring the administration of the Eliot Prize; I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions and for that reason I’m withdrawing from the Eliot shortlist."

Gosh. Alice Oswald withdraws from T S Eliot Prize over hedge fund sponsor.

Update: Now John Kinsella has withdrawn. I feel sorry for the Poetry Book Society (even if it is a little conservative and stuffy in its poetic tastes), which is a victim, indirectly, of hedge fund managers and other banksters... And TS Eliot was indeed a banker, although not, as far as we know, a bankster. Banking was a more respectable and responsible business in his day, as Ian Hislop recently explained in When Bankers Were Good.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ashbery and Time

TIME: What do you think it's going to be like to meet God?

ASHBERY: Episcopals are famed for their martinis, so I imagine he will hand me one when I arrive.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thought for the Day

Carl Spitzweg: The Poor Poet

'Much, though not all, of the vital poetry around is published by smaller presses far from the centre, while the commercial publishers too often tie themselves to hyped fads and mainstream fashions. What else should we expect? Fine poets are individualistic, living on the fringes, metaphorical and geographical, of the literary scene.'
Paul Hyland, Getting into Poetry (Bloodaxe)

Friday, November 25, 2011

David Cameron’s Jizz Shack

I’ve become quite addicted to The Keiser Report on RussiaToday (available on Freeview). Here is Max Keiser beginning with a bizarre debt-as-pepper-spray trope, before turning his attention to the UK and laying into the Prime Minister’s housing plans. It’s a welcome antidote to the colourless news reporting we get in the UK.

Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil

When I was an editor at the Harvill Press I put out feelers regarding a short biography of Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil, the woman who lived in Samuel Beckett’s shadow. The answer came back that there was ‘nothing there’, but in my view she remains a rather fascinating figure.

Tim Parks’s review of The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1941-56 in the London Review of Books only confirms this. Beckett changed over the war years, says Parks, but the war was not the only factor:

“. . . most of all there was Suzanne. Already acquainted with Beckett, she had drawn close to him when he was at his most vulnerable, hospitalised in 1938 for stab wounds received in a mugging. Six years older than Beckett, Suzanne would allow him to depend on her economically, while letting him retain an independence of action few partners would have granted. She would also provide a buffer between Beckett and the literary world, taking his manuscripts to publishers, writing to them for him and later going to productions of his plays to check that all was being done as he wished. It wasn’t quite the scenario of First Love – the man barricaded in his bedroom while the beloved provides – but Beckett had found a remarkable facilitator.

Yet we hear almost nothing about her from his correspondence: Suzanne sends her greetings, Beckett tells us at the close of many letters; she asks to be remembered; she thanks someone for chocolates. In one letter he mentions her ‘heroically spreading out her dressmaking’ and in another that she has painted a wheelbarrow red. But nothing about their relationship or her opinions. What letters Beckett wrote to her and she to him have not survived; one assumes this was deliberate. Towards the end of a letter to Duthuit, written from Dublin in August 1948, Beckett comments: ‘Suzanne writes, letters that are more and more dismal. At bottom, she is inconsolable at living.’”

You can read the full review here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Emporium reviews

My poem 'What is the Matter?' (from Emporium) has been chosen by the judges of this year's Forward Prize to be included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2012, 'a collection of the best poems of the year'.

I've also become aware of two new reviews of Emporium.

Rob A Mackenzie in Magma 51 calls it 'dark, witty and entertaining . . . "Mrs Beltinska in the Bath", "Armageddon", "Time Remaining" and several others are as ingenious as anything I've read for a while, and few collections have been half as entertaining.'

And then, over in Poetry London (Autumn 2011 No.70), Claire Crowther says: 'Pindar uses varied forms, a sestina, collage ("Chain Letter" is a tour de force of other poets' lines from William Langland to Maxine Chernoff), as well as open form . . . Pindar is urbane, funny and profound. A brilliant first collection.'

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Disaffected, numb, alienating

I've only just stumbled across this: “His work is disaffected, numb, alienating.” Judy Kendall in PN Review in 2003, describing my contribution to New Poetries III.

I shall wear that as a badge of honour, I think.

“Disaffected, numb, alienating.” Wow.

One does one’s best.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Whiff of Rot in the West

'Poetry is a form of dissent', says Simon Armitage, CBE.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Dangerous Mixture

Larry Elliott on the Guardian's Economics Blog:

". . . the latest phase of Europe's sovereign debt crisis has exposed the quite flagrant contempt for voters, the people who are going to bear the full weight of the austerity programmes being cooked up by the political elites. Here's how things work. The real decisions in Europe are now taken by the Frankfurt Group, an unelected cabal [. . .] What matters to this group is what the financial markets think not what voters might want. [. . .] This would be deeply troubling even if it could be shown that the Frankfurt Group's economic remedies were working, which they are not. Instead, the insistence on ever more austerity is pushing Europe's weaker countries into an economic death spiral while their voters are being bypassed. That is a dangerous mixture."


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Corporatocracy vs The Rest of Us

Naomi Wolf in the Observer:

'The conflict is no longer between right and left, but between the "one per cent" – a corporatocracy that, without transparency or accountability, is claiming the lion's share of the planet's resources and capital, while disregarding democratic processes – and, well, the rest of us.

This single global family, transcending national boundaries, just wants a peaceful life, a sustainable future, economic justice and basic democracy. On the other side, the global corporatocracy, also transcending national boundaries, has purchased governments and legislative processes, developed its own military, mercenary or quasi-military enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud and plundered treasuries and ecosystems.'

More here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Push Open the Window

"Regrettably, most people have little or no appreciation of the best of today's Chinese poets and their work. Much of the poetry collected in this volume will, at the very least, reveal to the readers of poetry in two countries…the true features of China's fine contemporary verse." Qingping Wang, editor

"Thought is making a fresh start."
Xi Chuan

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Death of The Poet

The young Occupy OKC protester who was found dead in his tent on Monday was known as "The Poet".

"Dry my tears in the wind
You say you feel my pain
But you don’t even know what pain is."


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

English riots & Tintin

Yes I am still alive.

Excellent documentary about the English riots here. Highly recommended.

You can also read my review of Tintin: Hergé and His Creation by Harry Thompson here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wave Composition #2

The second issue of Wave Composition is upon us, full of interesting things, not least two poems by Peter Gizzi, plus an interview with the industrious Ron Silliman, who has this to say about Louis Zukofsky:

"One of the things that’s quite clear in Zukofsky’s work is that while it starts out following the Poundian model of having an all-over surface characteristic—not unlike what you find in Duncan’s Passages or Olson’s Maximus Poems—so that if you read the first poem you can intuit what every other poem in the sequence might look like; not necessarily would, but might. The parameters are clear. Zukofsky’s very much the same way through “A” -6, and then from “A” -7 onward there are radically different changes. He really attacks the part-whole relationship of the long-poem in a very different fashion. And that to me has always seemed like the secret, that each work really in some basic way needs to be different from every other."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book

I've been meaning to post my review of this book for a while -- it appeared in the Times Literary Supplement (29 July).

Robert Duncan
Edited and introduced by Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman
696pp. University of California Press. $49.95. 9780520260757

Reviewing H.D.’s Tribute to the Angels in 1945 Randall Jarrell declared that “Imagism was a reductio ad absurdum upon which it is hard to base a late style”. H.D.’s new poem was one for those who enjoy any poem by H.D., or for those collectors who enjoy any poem that includes the Virgin, Raphael, Azrael, Uriel, John on [sic] Patmos, Hermes Trismegistus, and the Bona Dea.” Jarrell’s tone is an indication of the depths to which H.D.’s reputation had fallen by the 1940s. Once celebrated as the quintessential Imagist poet, Hilda Doolittle (who was persuaded by Ezra Pound to sign herself “H.D.”) had turned in her later, post-Imagist work to a freer, more flexible style, drawing on archetypal figures, myths and legends. The critics hated it. As Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman, the editors of The H.D. Book, put it: “She became lost, hidden to the official world of poetry, her work out of print, her memory kept alive by a few dedicated readers.”

One of these was the poet Robert Duncan. At school he had experienced a moment of “self-revelation or life-revelation in the pursuit of Poetry”, when his teacher read to the class H.D.’s early Imagist poem “Heat”, but it was not until he encountered The Walls Do Not Fall (1944) that Duncan elevated her to his pantheon of master poets, alongside Pound and William Carlos Williams. That volume was followed by Tribute to the Angels (1945) and The Flowering of the Rod (1946), published together as Trilogy. Duncan’s response to what he calls The War Trilogy was as different from Jarrell’s as could be imagined: “In smoky rooms in Berkeley, in painters’ studios in San Francisco, I read these works aloud; dreamed about them; took my life in them; studied them as my anatomy of what Poetry must be.”

Duncan’s decision to start work on The H.D. Book – “a book ‘On H.D.’ or ‘For H.D.’, a tribute and a study” – can only be understood in the context of this widespread “critical distaste for H.D.’s work”. “I must make up for the critical disregard,” he writes. “To take up arms in her honor? . . . to fight for her cause that I saw as my own.” The H.D. Book is written against “the New Criticism, from the generation of Ransom or Yvor Winters to the generation of Jarrell or James Dickey”. (After reading Duncan’s pioneering essay “The Homosexual in Society” a shocked John Crowe Ransom had withdrawn Duncan’s poem “An African Elegy” from publication in The Kenyon Review.) According to Duncan, the New Criticism is a conspiracy of protestant schoolmen to “exorcise” the magic of poetry. 

In the literary establishment Eliot had won the day – he had, indeed, designed that literary establishment in his essays; and H.D., along with Lawrence and even Pound . . . belonged with those who had departed from what reasonable men consider of concern and had lusted after strange gods . . . The concept of a revealed poetry was not in tune with the mode of the great literary reviews of the forties. The new critics were partisans of what they called the rational imagination . . . ‘Inspiration’, ‘spell’, ‘rapture’ – the constant terms of The War Trilogy – are not accepted virtues in the classroom, where Dream or Vision are disruptive of a student’s attentions . . . The War Trilogy was not written, any more than Paterson or The Pisan Cantos were, for classrooms, anthologies, or the new reviews.

Although elsewhere he acknowledges T. S. Eliot as one of his “old masters”, Duncan largely disparages him in The H.D. Book. The Waste Land he describes as a “period charade”, while Williams’s Spring and All is “the spring of a new poetics”. Williams declared The Waste Land “the great catastrophe to our letters”, and Eliot ensured, Duncan says, that “Williams was never taken up in England”.

Duncan corresponded with H.D. from 1959, when he started The H.D. Book, to her death in 1961, but what began as a brief homage to the poet grew into a project of unmanageable proportions, and was abandoned in 1964. Segments of The H.D. Book were published, but this is its first appearance in book form. As Boughn and Coleman observe, “for some forty years, the only access to the text was photocopied assemblages of the various magazine publications, treasured – and sometimes passed from hand to hand – by Duncan’s loyal readers”.

The H.D. Book is more and less than an explanation of H.D.s work. It is about the growth of a poet’s mind: “I am searching out, a poetics . . . my initiation of self as poet in the ground of the poet H.D. . . . how I had found my life in poetry through the agency of certain women”. It is also a history of Modernism and of the New American Poetry:  

“The War Trilogy, The Pisan Cantos and Paterson were battlegrounds in our own struggle towards the realization of a poetry that was to appear in the early fifties. ‘Aroused’, ‘excited’, ‘inspired’, ‘fired’, we found ourselves contending for these masterpieces against those for whom our own work was never to have a place.”

Duncan touches on his debt to Charles Olson and on open-form poetry or “composition by field”: “to work not from preconceived form but toward a form yet to be created”; the idea being that a poem should retain what Pound called “the defects inherent in a record of struggle”. The H.D. Book is also a reassertion of Pound’s occultism, which, Duncan argues, never went away, and haunts the Lear-like ruminations of the Pisan Cantos. Pound might affect “the ‘spiel’ of the American businessman”, but he cannot hide “the shamanistic poet he is at heart”. Duncan never forgets Pound’s Pre-Raphaelite roots stretching back to Dante, and the influence of W. B. Yeats’s “daemonic experiment”. Yeats’s occultism is easily mocked, while the poetry it produced is revered. H.D. and Duncan have not been so fortunate. Yeats was silly like us, and silly like Duncan, who points out in The H.D. Book that “silly” derives from “seely”, meaning “spiritually blessed”. “H.D. is silly in the head,” Randall Jarrell announced after reading The Walls Do Not Fall. That volume was written in London during the Blitz, and Duncan shows how the second world war brought forth the best work of his poet-heroes, with old age as its crucible: 

Was it that the war – the bombardment for H.D., the imprisonment and exposure to the elements for Ezra Pound, the divorce in the speech for Williams – touched a spring of passionate feeling in the poet that was not the war but was his age, his ripeness in life?

The autobiographical sections of The H.D. Book cast light on Duncan’s unique position in modern poetry – and on why he might regard becoming a poet as akin to entering a cult. His mother died giving birth to him, and his adoptive parents belonged to the Hermetic Brotherhood of California. “In my childhood,” he recalls, “there were still mediums who talked in Indian voices among those adults meeting in the other room.” It was, by anyone’s standards, a peculiar upbringing. Having consulted astrological charts, his parents informed the young Duncan that he had lived on Atlantis in a previous incarnation, and recorded here is his childhood “Atlantean” dream, which some commentators regard as central to his work. Duncan could talk without irony about magic and angels, and in The H.D. Book he observes how the world of faery in its otherness resembles the otherness of being a “fairy”, his sexuality connecting with H.D.’s in “a cult of mediumship, poetry and homosexuality”. Duncan’s occultism was sincere and serious, but autonomous. He borrowed only what he needed for his own purposes. To quote H.D. in The Walls Do Not Fall, his was a “peculiar ego-centric / personal approach / to the eternal realities”. 

While writing The H.D. Book Duncan produced some of his best poetry, from The Opening of the Field (1960) to Roots and Branches (1964) and Bending the Bow (1968). His decision in 1968 not to publish anything for fifteen years has been seen by some as disastrous for his career and reputation. The H.D. Book is the first phase of a larger commitment by the University of California Press to get Duncan back into the bookshops. The Collected Early Poems and Plays will follow, together with the Collected Later Poems and Plays, the Collected Essays and Other Writings, a new Selected Poems and a Selected Letters

Robert Duncan’s insistence on the interconnectedness of all things seems well suited to an age of ecological crisis, as is his recurrent fear of some impending apocalypse with its origin in that early Atlantis dream. The unique mood of Duncan’s verse, the precise music that keeps us engaged in the midst of obscurity, the intimate prophecy, deserve to be celebrated.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

David Tebbutt

David at Harvill

Shocked and saddened at the murder of David Tebbutt. I worked with him at The Harvill Press and he was a rather shy, softly spoken, gentle chap with a self-deprecating sense of humour. He was, in short, a thoroughly nice bloke. My thoughts go out to his family as we await news of his wife Judith.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Good to see such a wide range of publishers on the shortlist for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2011 and my congratulations to the poets shortlisted.

Naturally, I would like to have seen Emporium on the shortlist, but I cling to T. S. Eliot’s observation (in ‘The Social Function of Poetry’) that ‘If a poet gets a large audience very quickly, that is a rather suspicious circumstance: for it leads us to fear that he is not really doing anything new.’

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Free Verse: The Poetry Book Fair

Saturday, 24 September 2011 
Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE

Do come along to the Poetry Book Fair – it’s free if you are.

More than 20 poetry presses will be represented there, including Carcanet.

I’ll be reading from Emporium around 2.30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Emporium review

There's a review of Emporium in the Boston Review:

Ian Pindar
Carcanet, $19.95 (paper)

Emporium, the darkly genial debut collection from London native Ian Pindar, exhibits a variety befitting its title and its author’s range as a critic, editor, and translator. Luring the reader in with deceptive informality, these poems delight in surprises, not always happy: “Youth and beauty have left me / a full packet of cigarettes / and this balcony.” Though some poems feel limited by the effervescence of jokes—to be cracked only so many times before losing their fizz—others, such as the grisly “Advice for Travellers” or the tale of hapless Big Bumperton, sustain rereading with their tremulous unease. Subtle sound patterning, including unobtrusive rhyme, adds a vocal dimension, as does astute parody of worn-out speech: “I don’t recall the last time / we met. I think it was in Berlin.” In many poems, Pindar the ironist and satirist becomes a gadfly, sometimes displacing exhortation into dramatic utterances (for instance, ventriloquizing ancient Indian materialist philosophy). At other times, apparently speaking in his own voice, Pindar displays keen timing in both the comedic and historical senses: “every royal wedding is a funeral / for democracy.” If these poems tend to burst like bubbles, they delight, before doing so, with their livid iridescence. Pindar’s inventiveness and sense of linguistic and literary history make this an enjoyable collection, holding promise for the future.
Paul Franz

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Emporium review

There's a review of Emporium in the Guardian today:

Emporium, by Ian Pindar (Carcanet, £9.95)

Here's a poetry that's light, clear, at times almost throwaway, full of political scope and menace. The two sonnets that make up "The Prophecies", for example, relish surprising connections, their images coming in and out of focus – "In June the instincts will go / backwards, dragging the economy. Riches / will turn to rags and winos will be sober, ushering in / an era of Total Responsibility." Pindar's writing gestures towards a public language ("There are no / virtuous people / only good acts") though this is regularly undermined by the comic and sardonic ("Everywhere I go / People are talking about Antonin Artaud"). The poetry thrives on this flexibility of tone, its declarations constantly being shifted, contested and contradicted. See the poem "Parable", where the blithe hope of "you are your own / purpose, / at ease with a life / incomparable" is immediately undercut by "(So much leads to thinking otherwise)". Much of the book is made up of elusive, uneasy parables, such as "Snow" or "Advice for Travellers", that hover between pessimism and hope, and the potential of language to articulate this predicament: "All founded on / nothing, like you / said. Only your words / found it."
Charles Bainbridge

Friday, July 29, 2011

Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book

My review of Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book is in this week's Times Literary Supplement (print only). Here's a little taster to whet your appetite (the long quote is from The H.D. Book):

According to Duncan, the New Criticism is a conspiracy of protestant schoolmen to “exorcize” the magic of poetry.

In the literary establishment Eliot had won the day – he had, indeed, designed that literary establishment in his essays; and H.D., along with Lawrence and even Pound . . . belonged with those who had departed from what reasonable men consider of concern and had lusted after strange gods . . . The concept of a revealed poetry was not in tune with the mode of the great literary reviews of the forties. The new critics were partisans of what they called the rational imagination . . . ‘Inspiration’, ‘spell’, ‘rapture’ – the constant terms of The War Trilogy – are not accepted virtues in the classroom, where Dream or Vision are disruptive of a student’s attentions . . . The War Trilogy was not written, any more than Paterson or The Pisan Cantos were, for classrooms, anthologies, or the new reviews.

Although elsewhere he acknowledges T. S. Eliot as one of his “old masters”, Duncan largely disparages him in The H.D. Book. The Waste Land he describes as a “period charade”, while Williams's Spring and All is “the spring of a new poetics”. Williams declared The Waste Land “the great catastrophe to our letters”, and Eliot ensured, Duncan says, that “Williams was never taken up in England”.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fallout 2

The Arts Council has indefinitely suspended public funds to the Poetry Society, according to the Independent

"I feel sad that many small poetry publishers had their funding axed earlier this year. Maybe the Arts Council shouldn't have put all its books in one basket." Joan Bakewell

Saturday, July 23, 2011


"The Director has been shockingly treated and in a manner that endangers the future of the Poetry Society."
George Szirtes tells it like it is in his useful summary of the Poetry Society's EGM.

Meanwhile, Jane Holland accentuates the positive on her blog, predicting "A New Dawn for the Poetry Society"Richard Fair gives his account of the meeting (plus a little poem); and Phil Brown at Silkworms Ink offers his perspective.

Friday, July 22, 2011


It's the Poetry Society's EGM today. There's a useful summary of the context over at Baroque in Hackney, while some will be tweeting from the meeting at #posocegm
Well, as Yeats once observed, 'Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.'

Update: Extraordinary statement from Paul Ranford, resigned Finance Manager of the Poetry Society.

Update update: And there we have it -- truly extraordinary!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


How amazing to read that the bestselling Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy now accounts for more than 60 per cent of Quercus’ total book sales. More than 60 per cent! That is an astonishing achievement for my old boss, Christopher MacLehose.


Very sorry to see that the University of California Press has decided to suspend the publication of its poetry book series New California Poetry. The Culture Crunch continues, and poetry is suffering. Why not buy something from the series? 


It seems the young David Cameron had a friend at Buckingham Palace, who helped him on his way to the top. Now it looks as if Anonymous at the Palace has decided to put the boot in. And they tell us the monarchy is above politics. Or at least, they want us to think it is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Forward and back

So Emporium didn't get shortlisted for the Forward First Collection Prize. Ah well. I guess you get used to this sort of thing after a while. My congratulations to the six poets who did get shortlisted: Rachael Boast, Judy Brown, Nancy Gaffield, Ahren Warner, John Whale and Nerys Williams.

Two Little Boys

This song was in my head when I woke up this morning. I think I must be going mad. It’s saccharine nonsense, of course, but this was the first Number One single of the 1970s, and I remember hearing it on the radio when I was a boy.

‘Two Little Boys’ was actually written in 1902 by an American and refers to the American Civil War. You won’t find that reflected in this video, though, which mixes up the First and Second World Wars, plus a few others.

But if all this maudlin sentimentality proves too much, here’s a different take on the 1970s: Billy Connolly singing ‘Two Little Boys in Blue’, which contains the immortal lyrics:

Now the duty sergeant said, ‘Tuck the prisoners into bed
But before you take their cocoa through
Keep them in their cells and hit them where it tells
But don’t leave them black and blue.
You can kick them in their balls, bounce their heads off of the walls,
Bash them on the kidneys, too.
Beat them on the legs and thighs, but don’t give them black eyes
Or you’ll be a prisoner, too.’

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Red Wheelbarrow

I see that William Carlos Williams's red wheelbarrow is being wheeled out today filled with requests for an EGM from concerned members of the Poetry Society. There has been much debate as to what the Poetry Society should be and this put me in mind of a letter from William Carlos Williams to Marianne Moore on 23 December 1936:

"If only I keep saying year in year out – it were possible for 'us' to have a place, a location, to which we could resort, singly or otherwise, and to which others could follow us as dogs follow each other – without formality but surely – where we could be known as poets and our work be seen – and we could see the work of others and buy it and have it! Why can't such a thing come about? It seems so brainless and spineless a thing for us to be 'exiles' in too literal and accepted a sense. Being exiles might we not at least, as exiles, consort more easily together? We seem needlessly isolated and we suffer dully, supinely. I am not one for leading a crusade, but I'd lead a little group through the underbrush to a place in the woods, or under a barn if I thought anyone would (or perhaps, could) follow me. Or I'd follow. The basis for an agreement is the thing that is perhaps lacking. And perhaps your catholic breadth of character, more than your mind, even, might be that thing – and the thing we admire. But nobody moves – or moves only singly. Is this hope?"

Friday, July 1, 2011

John Ashbery Goes to the Movies

You can read Michael Glover’s “John Ashbery Goes to the Movies” over at PN Review.

Some of his [Ashbery's] recent favourites have included David Lynch's Inland Empire and There's Something About Mary, starring Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz. 'I saw that one about four times. All the essential dirty parts were cut for TV.' For all his addiction to home cinema, he made at least one trip out to the movie house recently, to see Sacha Baron Cohen camping it up in Brüno. 'That has to be the filthiest non-porn movie ever made,' he wrote to me later, 'and worth seeing if only for that, though it's quite funny. There was only one other person in the audience.'

Glover also mentions the cartoon Duck Amuck, which inspired Ashbery's poem "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (Houseboat Days). Ashbery says more about this in his interview with Mark Ford:

FORD: You've said that Daffy Duck's predicament somewhat resembles that of Satan in Paradise Lost.

ASHBERY: Well, yes, in particular in relation to a Daffy Duck cartoon called Duck Amuck, in which you see the artist's pen being dipped in the inkwell and then drawing Daffy, and then sort of tormenting him by adding an extra beak or drawing a monster about to destroy him. All the time the artist is invisible. The same thing, it seems to me, happens to Satan and his fellow fallen angels in the first book of Paradise Lost, where God is almost comically absent, at least as far as the denizens of Hell are concerned. (pp.58-9)

Actually, I've watched Duck Amuck countless times (it's one of my daughter's favourites) and the big reveal at the end is that Daffy's invisible tormentor is [spoiler alert] Bugs Bunny. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Steak and Poetry

As one of the comments observes, "This is a lovely article about nothing, really," but Emily Witt's "Steak and Poetry from the Rooftops" in The Paris Review captures well the distractedness of a poetry reading, as the poets are assailed on all sides by the smells and sounds of the city.
I think Lisa Jarnot comes off best here. And her daughter.

Monday, June 27, 2011


(link to the Telegraph)
and for reference
'Poetrygate' (on poet Jane Holland's site Raw Light)

Update: A little more clarification in the Guardian today, but not much.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Churchill and Nietzsche

Cabinet War Rooms, London

My Guardian review of Churchill's Bunker by Richard Holmes can be read here. And there really is a vast tunnel network under Whitehall called . . . Pindar.

In other odd news, I nearly fell off my chair whilst reading Private Eye (Eye 1291) yesterday evening. It pointed out that Hugh Tomlinson QC, "the barrister to go to if you want a gagging order" whose clients include Sir Fred Goodwin and Ryan Giggs among others  is the same Hugh Tomlinson who translated Gilles Deleuze's Nietzsche and Philosophy and Dialogues and the book on Kant  or, as the Eye puts it, "Tomlinson used to earn a crust translating impenetrable works of philosophy by the French 'Niezscheo[sic]-structuralist' Gilles Deleuze." How extraordinary. Can this really be true?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Bloomsday, One and All!

'. . . and there was no-one to see only him and her when she revealed all her graceful beautifully shaped legs like that, supply soft and delicately rounded, and she seemed to hear the panting of his heart . . .'
(Ulysses, 'Nausicaa')

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Emporium encore

I’m not quite sure how to take Sean Colletti’s review of Emporium.

I should be grateful for the attention, I think.

After all, he writes:

‘Any writer of poetry will tell you how difficult it is to write even just a mildly successful sestina, and Pindar shows us how it's done while using ambitious end-words in “affection” and “remainder” without making us want to gouge our own eyes out at regular intervals. Form enhancing content is a common occurrence in Emporium, and it makes the Eliot comparison appropriate.’

But (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) he really hates my anti-monarchy poem ‘The King’s Evil’: ‘a voice planted embarrassingly on a massive pedestal’. Oh dear. He doesn’t mention the echoes of Pound at all in this poem. Ah well. You can’t please everyone all of the time.

(Also, I don’t think he realises that ‘Society of Blood’ does not represent my views – the voice is not mine. NB in a previous incarnation it was entitled ‘Faschismus’.)

Anyway, he says of Emporium as a whole:

‘It emanates creativity, at one point joining lines of over one hundred poets, from Langland to Chernoff, in a poetic “Chain Letter”, as it's titled. This kind of experimentation stands as its main charm and makes it worth reading and re-reading. And as this is Pindar's first collection, I'm already excited to see what he comes up with in his follow-up. Hopefully, though, he'll have made his political opinions more seamlessly integrated into the poetry, which he has such a natural connection with, whether it's echoing the storytelling brilliance of a peak-performance Tennyson in “Big Bumperton on the Sabbath” or using rhyme and form in the most contemporary of fashions.’

Monday, June 13, 2011

Desert Island Discs

Belgianwaffle is playing Desert Island Discs, so I thought I’d list my choices here, just for fun:

- Miles Davis, ‘Mademoiselle Mabry’ (Filles de Kilimanjaro)

- Franz Schubert ‘Nacht und Traüme’

- The Congos ‘Don’t Blame on I’

- Leos Janacek ‘The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away’ (On an Overgrown Path)

- Bob Dylan ‘Visions of Johanna’

- Robert Johnson ‘Come on in My Kitchen’

- Anton Karas ‘The Harry Lime Theme’

- Muddy Waters ‘Honey Bee’ or T-Bone Walker ‘I’m in a Awful Mood’
and if forced to choose: Janacek – I’d like it played at my funeral!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Emporium encore

Have I mentioned my debut poetry collection, Emporium?

It's currently part of Carcanet's June promotion, celebrating first collections, which means you can get a 25% discount. Just thought I'd mention it.

Apropos of nothing, Lydia Davis has written a pleasing review of John Ashbery's new translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations (also available from Carcanet) in the New York Times:

When Rimbaud’s mother asked of “A Season in Hell,” “What does it mean?” — a question still asked of Rimbaud’s poetry, and of Ashbery’s, too — Rimbaud would say only, “It means what it says, literally and in every sense.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Andrei Platonov (1899–1951)

You can read my review of David Bellos’s Romain Gary: A Tall Story (Harvill Secker) in the Times Literary Supplement this week, where you can also read the first English translation of Andrei Platonov’s ‘On the First Socialist Tragedy’, described as ‘one of the earliest and greatest of classic ecological texts’.

‘The relationship between technology and nature is tragic’

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wave Composition

Wave Composition -- a new online literary journal edited by Ed Sugden and Stephen Ross -- has just gone live. Do take a look. It's full of interesting things, but also four poems from my forthcoming collection Constellations: 'tests in a landscape of thinking'. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Emporium encore (I am the Walrus)

Huge thanks to Jonathan Jones (aka Belgianwaffle) for saying nice things about Emporium

Jonathan creates exquisite poem-books at the Sticky Pages Press, such as this one, the library of last resort.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Poem

Forgot to mention I had a poem in the Guardian last week: 'On the French Riviera'. You can read it here.

That's it. I can't think of anything else to fill up this blank space with.

Oh, but there is this petition from Save the Children. Do sign it if you feel so inclined:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Emporium Day

My debut poetry collection Emporium is officially published today, so I would like to say woo-hoo.

It was accepted for publication in October 2008, so it has been a loooooooong wait.

But worth it.

It is being published at a time when the poetry sector of British publishing – a "delicately balanced, even fragile, ecology" – is under threat as never before.

It is being published at a time when the "biodiversity of poetry publishing in England" is in "jeopardy".

It is being published after swingeing cuts by the Arts Council to many fine independent poetry publishers.

It is being published in what appear to be the last days of the Poetry Book Society, established by T. S. Eliot.

It is being published today!