19 December 2015

The art of David Jones

David Jones (1895-1974) was one of those I was in awe of back in the day when I was first trying to make sense of poetry (I'm still trying). In particular, his book-length poems, or fragmented wholes, In Parenthesis and The Anathémata, inhabited the same mysterious country as the Cantos or the Maximus Poems: long works, poems that "included history" that I couldn't really understand but somehow connected with in disconnected ways.

Not too many of my contemporaries were even attempting such vast syntheses of language, form and culture, Allen Fisher being one notable exception.

What I identified with in Jones was his insistence on the materiality of language and all its associations; as he wrote in the preface to The Anathémata: "But, for the poet, the woof and warp, the texture, feel, ethos, the whole matière comprising that complex comprises also, or in part comprises, the actual material of his art."

Jones was, of course, not only one of the major British poets of the twentieth century, but made a triple mark: simultaneously, as a painter (notable mainly as an unparallelled watercolourist), and thirdly as a graphic artist, particularlty as a wood engraver. In other words, he emulates Blake. But I didn't really know his visual work so well, and it has to be said his watercolours in particular do not come across terribly successfully in the sub-standard reproductions that were all I had access to for a long while.

The major exhibition, The Art of David Jones: Vision and Memory at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester (the first such since the Tate in 1981), was a chance for me to further my education in this regard.

Functioning as a taster or hors-d'oeuvre for this is a smaller show of paintings, drawings and prints at the Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, The Animals of David Jones. And as this was on the route to Chichester, we called in, turning off the A27 just past Falmer. The road climbs to the height marked by Ditchling Beacon and then descends through woodland opening on to sheep pastures. I've never experienced that wonderful view of the Downs, veiled though it was in mist – it felt like a different world from the Sussex I've inhabited for the past eleven years.

Ditchling is the village where Jones spent four formative years of his life in the early 1920s with his mentor, the sculptor and engraver Eric Gill, and the museum there, a modest, modern building next to the churchyard, is dedicated to the furtherance of the traditions established then. I don't go much on the Anglo-Catholic ethos myself, but that insistence on materiality starts here. Eric Gill's rediscovery of the technique of "direct carving" (as opposed to making moulds or models, the final objects to be manufactured by technicians) had an immediate effect on the likes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and, I think, on Jones' approach to writing too, which came much later in life than his visual work.

Jones' evocations of the natural world begin with amazingly mature drawings of a bear and a lion done when he was seven years old. He was a precocious artist already at a time when he was struggling to learn to read.

But as I said, this was just a taster, and the exhibition in Chichester is much vaster and more comprehensive. Comprising more than 80 works in all media, it spans his entire life as an artist. Most impressive for me were the large paintings, mainly watercolours. "Watercolour" may evoke tasteful, wispy scenes or decorative pictures of flower vases, but these are something else, especially when experienced close up. Ranging from the early, intricate, complex landscapes to the later mythological subjects of the 1940s and after, including the magnificently mysterious "Guinever", "Trystan ac Essylt" and "Vexilla Regis", and still-lifes with compressed religious symbolism, they have few parallels in the work of any other artist.

Also shown are many examples of his engraving, including book illustrations. And those inscriptions, comprising Latin, Greek, French, Anglo-Saxon and English text, where he seems to be encoding the entirety of Western Christian and pagan civilisation. I had never realised these were actual paintings too, the distinctive lettering often done in watercolour on a background of Chinese white.

The catalogue, published by the gallery in a handsome large-format paperback with excellent reproductions, is pretty well indispensable if you're interested.

On our return to Hastings, we called in at the Arundel Wetland Centre, where there were numerous ducks and geese. It was quiet, and the mistiness of the previous day had lifted. The two of us were the only customers on the boat ride at noon, drifting calmly along the glassy water between reed and sedge banks and those species of tree that tolerate having their roots in water. Our boatman, who said he was born in Hastings, told us the term for the intermediate stage where woodland starts to reclaim marsh is a "carr" (surviving as surname or place name). Exotic ducks were mostly absent here: just groups of mallards, the drakes outnumbering the females and starting to look edgy. In the now blue sky above wheeled two buzzards. But cloud was beginning to bunch up from the west again as dusk approached. It had been a satisfying two days.

The Animals of David Jones is at Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft until 6 March 2016
The Art of David Jones: Vision and Memory is at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 21 February 2016

10 December 2015

Five books I read in 2015

Unthank Books asked me to do one of those books-of-the-year roundups, specifically requesting I say something about five books I actually read during the year, regardless of when they were published, rather than puffing new releases. So here, along with those of some fellow Unthank authors, are my choices.

2 November 2015

Punkique and Country Life

Exciting day today: first, my novel Country Life got published, and I finally received the author's copies the publishers had promised.

And then the CDs of the debut EP, Punkique, by Afrit Nebula, the new band I'm in (with Elaine on saxes and flute, and Jamie Harris on percussion and vocals) were delivered. They'll be on sale soon; in the meantime you can sample our Jimi Hendrix cover here. And pre-order the complete download (four tracks).

15 October 2015

Country Life

My new novel Country Life (not so new in that it was started 15-20 years ago, abandoned, then totally reconstructed two or three years ago) will come out from Unthank Books at the beginning of November. I have just seen the proof copy and it looks good.

Here's the beginning:

light cones

Further along the coast, some of the houses have been abandoned. Water has ruined them, their windows are broken, and from their shard-filled spaces dankness emanates; small animals freely go in and out. Once, it’s said, more than a thousand years ago, a whole town slipped into the sea right here, and furthermore they say you can even now hear its sounds on a still night. The tolling of bells, a sad sound because of the overtones it lacks, and even sadder still the cries of traders over their lost livelihoods, over undulating kelp. Now there are rumours of heavy water; there is cooling. Whatever it is, that’s what they say. Whoever they are. And over the weight of that sea, over dead things and scum, aquatic birds glide and scavenge, out of time.

The town entered the sea, and that was the end of it. To this day, people may be said to move among the ruins of the church and the various hostelries, now fathoms down and unspoilt. Businesses flourish. Underwater commerce occurs. Seals and maces remain. The innocence of other days prevails and seems immense. The town’s streets are submarine beaches.
     But what raptors may now predate along the broken coast? What creatures become their prey? Their variety astounds visitors. Their industrial life proves a delight to naturalists, and to the many ramblers who take advantage of the coastal paths. Their song is liquid and continuous. The cliff, the beaches, the remaining village – all have entered history with the other relics.
     As a child, he remembers that he was taken by his father to see a pub called The World Turned Upside Down. Tables and chairs rested upon the ceiling, beer remained miraculously in glasses and didn’t ever fall out or even slop; the merry throng, as they revelled all evening, didn’t seem to notice that their feet were above their heads. The piano’s notes descended in distinct arpeggios shadowed by a wobbly reverb, but of the shouting and banter of the punters and the remonstrations of the barman no more could be heard. Well, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
     That was in the seventh century, at the heart of religious life, when the town had been a great port.

South of the glory that is the illuminated nuclear power station, lies the Peninsula, a tiny settlement beginning to glow in the shadow of a Sunday evening, under the cold, dark mass of the sea. The site has been carefully landscaped so as to maximise the attractiveness of the coastline to visitors. There are long, desolate beaches to north and south, and safe bathing can be had, although the area is not a resort. The countryside beyond, the hinterland now darkening, consists chiefly of heathland interspersed with patches of marsh, and is well provided with footpaths.
     When the sea came, none of the town’s inhabitants noticed. They went about their daily business as if nothing had happened, even though the air around that they breathed and exhaled had been replaced by water. The glamour of it pervaded them – no-one could escape, had it occurred to them to do so. The baker continued to bake his fragrant bread, the parson said his prayers, the farmer took his cows to market, the schoolteacher instructed her darling charges, the little girls skipped, the little boys hopped and raided orchards, the ale-house wife gave birth, crying out through a lengthy labour, the sparrows cropped crumbs from a piece of bread that had been allowed, carelessly, to fall in the yard, and all were unaware of the flood water, in all its glamour, that pervaded every space, that rose as the town fell, till both fundament and heavens were joined together by it; unaware that, little by little, and with no warning or outcry, they had become submarine.
     Salt is in the air, and mulberries. Her deep red hair, fragrant with seaweed, moves through considerable density. Hurt me, it seems to sing. All the way along the coast, and into the hinterland. It’s already growing dark. It is February.

We may observe two figures moving in this landscape of cold, dark matter. They may be two boys; well, young men. They seem to have emerged out of nowhere, fully formed, and now start to inhabit this narrative, for at least a space. It seems – effective surveillance would show this – that the two lads are headed along the line of the beach in a southerly direction from the power station. And by virtue of their very presence on such a trajectory at such a time they proclaim their alienation and apartness from the winter landscape, which all the good citizens by this time of the evening have abandoned, fallen as they are to stoking their fires and mending their bellies, while feeding on ultra-high frequencies.

The question is, says the big lad with the spiky hair and glittering glasses, where are you in the human food chain? It’s that savage.
     He has been talking non-stop since they came out to walk on the strand, here at the end of the world. The talk has been of human bandwidth, negative space, power structures.
     The smaller lad, thin and sweet-faced, curly hair constrained by a woollen hat, says, Right. His name is Dennis; he is 21 years old.
     The other, who has actually not stopped talking all weekend, is maybe a couple of years older. The sea is kind of a murky brown, under the mulch-coloured sky, with the occasional fleck of grey-white disturbance. At any rate, it doesn’t look appetising this evening. Waves continuously roll in, gently dump their stuff on the beach and retreat.
     Right, says Dennis again, after a pause.
     Like, in the human food chain you might say, the fucking bosses, captains of industry as they used to call them – these days, CEOs of mega-corporations, or chairmen or persons or big-shot shareholders or hedge fund investors, you know what I mean, the Great White Sharks…
     Yeah, the predators – the Great White Shark off the Great Barrier Reef, agrees Dennis, or [recalling another wildlife documentary on TV] the Brown Hyena on the Skeleton Coast. The, what you might call...
     The multi-national bosses. Top of the fucking food chain.
     They never, you know, says Dennis.
     They never sleep, says his companion, who, we shall now determine, is called Tarquin. Fucking sharks. You know, sharks.
     Very ancient creatures. Primitive.
     That’s right.
     Cartilage instead of bone. Unchanged since before the time of the dinosaurs – what, 65 million years ago.
     The two boys are now on a headland, from where there’s a view through to the Peninsula, and semi-greyed out a little further along, the vast lit fortress of the nuclear power station. It, too, never sleeps, its perennial hum setting up a permanent coastal resonance. It’s the biggest thing around for miles. The dome, the floodlights, wow. They come to a stop, to appreciate this vision.
     Now, isn’t that positively luxurious?
     Supreme, comments Tarquin, contemplatively, awed for once.
     It’s the next stage in my project, says Dennis. It’s my next target.
     He waits for a response.
     Closer, the smaller lights of the Peninsula glow, but they’re beginning to blur. In the other direction – that is, southwards down the coast – a regular pulsing flash on the horizon. That would be the lighthouse.
     What, says Tarquin, a rare vestige of smile flirting with his big hard face, you planning an attack on the power station?
     No, no, my project, you remember my project.
     Tarquin maintains a reverential silence as they both observe the immense panorama. It blurs slightly.
     I reckon there’s a fog coming in, says Dennis.
     Tarquin resumes: They’re at the top of the food chain, right? And then there’s the smaller raptors around them, the executives, the media stars. Yeah, the celebs and the politicians. Jackals, the smaller cats. The executive cats.
     Yeah, those too.
     Taking advantage of their rest on the headland, Tarquin removes his glasses to polish them on the sleeve of his coat. He pursues the metaphor:
     Now those, those people there, your neighbours [indicating with a sweep of the arm the Peninsula’s array of dwellings], well, they’re cattle, aren’t they? They’re … antelopes. Y’know, what d’you call them, the herbivores.
     There’s more of them, a bigger biomass, it stands to reason, asserts Dennis.
Tarquin: Anonymous. Look how they cluster round the centres of power, feeding, content with their status until it’s hunting time. D’you want to be one of them?
     I fucking don’t! exclaims young Dennis. That’s for sure.
     The lads stand in contemplative silence a while longer. Then, as if by common consent, they turn and resume their progress. They are tramping on sand, not on the beach itself but the dry, friable sand of the dunes along its upper fringes, where sea-kale obtains fragile purchase and in summer rare terns are said to nest.
     Well now, I don’t want to be personal, but there’s even worse than being herbivores, says Tarquin. I mean, you could slip down easy to the next level, you know what I mean? You could end up with nothing. You could be – I don’t want to be personal – but if you don’t take care you end up being food for everything else. What are those little fellows, the little creatures?
     Dennis: ?
     You know, the tiny ones everything else in the ocean eats.
     You mean, like, krill?
     Yeah, that’s right, krill. Food for everything else. You understand what I’m saying? That’s the kind of capitalist society we have. At the bottom of the food chain.
     Right, says Dennis.
     At the bottom. Then you’re fucking krill, man!

24 September 2015

Disappear from the Word

A commemorative reading for Lee Harwood, the Red Roaster Cafe, Brighton, Thursday 24 September 2015. This is my contribution:

Disappear from the Word:

76 sentences for Lee

As your eyes are blue he wrote. He wrote that. You move me he wrote and the thought of you. And the thought and he put the thought into words. I imitate you. That’s what he wrote he wrote the words. A long time ago. The words that remain. Four or five words or more there were more words. He wore a blue shirt. Four or five plain shirts some blue freshly laundered hung on a rail. He was at a distance he apologised this is too depressing he said. Later he was talking about music he was talking. He put a CD of rembetika music into the machine and laughing as he did so pressed the button. There was a blizzard. He is at some distance. I want to disappear from the word that’s what he said. No he didn’t that’s what somebody else said. Somebody said it in the street. Or they said it online. And the distance is nothing. What street was that? You have to imagine it. He was quite overcome with emotion he was quite an emotional man. The rain falling you could be driving a car now. You could be but the sun shines brightly now on the West Hill a glass of chilled white wine with friends there is nothing better he said. There is nothing better. Nothing better with friends. Here is a story he told. The gunman was in the street outside the post office. This is the beginning of a story. He was at a low ebb at that time that’s what he said. The ebb was low the gunman entered. The gunman entered the post office this is a true story. He worked behind the post office counter. He had been reprimanded for spending too much time helping customers. That wasn’t the point. The man held the gun he made a demand maybe in a loud voice maybe quiet we don’t know what he said. We just don’t know. He looked at the man. So shoot me he said. He didn’t care any more. Shoot me go on fucking shoot me. Fucking shoot me then. Go on. The gunman was confused. The gunman ran out of the post office. This is a true story. Maybe. The gunman fled. This is a true story. Or so we are led to believe. The story wasn’t over these are the words of the story. It’s only a story. He related the story with great gusto. The story continued for some time after that it was only a story it was the words of a story these are the words of the story so there we are. There we were. We were there at last. Where we were was there. Or thereabouts. That’s the word around here. And the word is out. The word is out he disappeared. He disappeared into the word. Wanting a word. Wanting a word to have words. The word became the words. We had words. We have words. We have the words. These are the words of a story. He disappeared. We have the words. We have the words now. We have the words we have them now. They are what we have we have them now.

10 August 2015

What I think of Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour Party. I joined it in 1989. I had never before, and have not since, been a member of any other political party. I can't remember when I let my membership lapse - a number of years later. It wasn't a point of principle, not the Iraq war or anything like that, just that I was bored with it; it didn't seem to have anything to do with what really energised me.

The reason I joined was that I had recently moved out of the south London housing co-operative where I'd been living for the previous nine years, into my own flat – becoming a home-owner late in life – this move being triggered, I'm embarrassed to say, by the time-limited availability of a Thatcher bribe to tenants of charitable housing associations. In the co-op, I'd been in touch with what was happening in local community politics. Now I was on my own. So I thought the local Labour Party would substitute for this.

My first ward meeting encapsulated what was wrong. There weren't too many people there. Predominantly male, white working class. They seemed very nice people. I was introduced by the membership secretary: "This is Ken Edwards, first-time member of the party." The chair asked: "And what's your job, Ken?" I'm a freelance journalist, I said. "And what union do you belong to?" The National Union of Journalists, I said. "Welcome to the party, Ken," said the chair, then, addressing the membership secretary: "And you have another membership application, I believe?" "Yes, chair, a Mr Patel – he runs the corner shop at [he described the business]." People nodded; some of them knew that corner shop. "And does Mr Patel belong to a trade union?" inquired the chair. "No, he doesn't," explained the membership secretary, "he owns a business, you see."

There was a silence, followed by a desultory discussion while members traded opinions on the rules of the party. They decided that, whatever the merits of  the application, it was not possible to admit someone as a member who was not a trade unionist. Eventually someone, the chair I think, came up with a solution: Mr Patel was to be told he was welcome to join but only if he first joined USDAW, the shop workers' union. (The meeting went on to talk about who was representing the branch at that year's national Labour Party conference. It was Bill So-and-so, from a neighbouring ward. Ah yes, Bill, I know Bill. Good bloke. Labour Through And Through. They were all good blokes.)

Well, I was a newbie, so I felt a bit shy of expressing my opinion at the time. But here we were, still in the Thatcher era, and yet a small businessman, and one from an ethnic minority to boot, was expressing a wish to join the Labour Party. And he was rebuffed. What the hell was going on?

This was a good illustration of why reform was needed to bring the party up to date. I remember, following the widely lamented death of John Smith, who was trying to do something about this, I voted for Robin Cook as leader, someone with strong convictions about social justice who also saw the need for modernisation. But he was deemed too ugly, or something. That beard. (We'll come to Jeremy Corbyn in a moment.) What we ended up with was Tony Blair and New Labour. And yes, he led Labour to an unprecedented three consecutive terms in office. And Labour did some good things. But also furthered Thatcher's neo-liberal agenda. And then there was Iraq.

Backtracking a bit further. The early 1980s; I was briefly a union activist in Bermondsey & Southwark. Not the NUJ, I wasn't a journalist yet, but ACTSS, the white-collar section of the then TGWU. I was instrumental in getting our branch to support Peter Tatchell as Labour candidate in the 1983 by-election. He was being subjected to a vicious homophobic campaign by the popular press after then Labour leader Michael Foot, to his shame, had been persuaded to denounce him as an extreme left-wing entryist to the party. Tatchell lost the previously rock-solid Labour seat to a newcomer, the Liberal Simon Hughes. Irony 1: Hughes, who went on to become a front-bench politician, years later candidly revealed confusion about his own sexual preferences. Irony 2: another prospective Labour candidate for the vacancy, Chris Smith, perceived at the time as the moderate option, went on to win a Labour seat elsewhere, became culture minister in the first Blair government, and was the first MP to out himself as gay. Meanwhile, Tatchell, whose integrity as a campaigner I continue to admire, is on the way to National Treasure status.

The by-election was followed a few months later by Labour's catastrophic defeat under Michael Foot in the 1983 General Election, on a leftist ticket – the "longest suicide note in history". Then followed Neil Kinnock, the expulsion of the Trotskyite entryists (mostly the Militant Tendency), defeat to John Major in 1992, John Smith and ... New Labour.

OK, let's get to Jeremy Corbyn. Where Corbyn comes from in the Labour Party is not, despite the insinuations of some of the media, that Marxist entryist left: the "finger-jabbing" tendency recently despised by Alan Johnson. Nor has he ever plumbed the depths of the egregious George Galloway. He appears to be a courteous and mild-mannered man with old-fashioned socialist beliefs, an inheritor of the politics of Tony Benn, and, indeed, Michael Foot. The thing that worries me about him is that, as Johnson astutely points out, he doesn't really want to be leader of the Labour Party or Prime Minister, any more than Johnson himself does. You can't do that without being willing to give your all to the necessary compromises. You can't do it without being media-friendly, and without involving yourself in the really dirty stuff.

I think Corbyn has been taken aback by the volume and breadth of his support. I don't believe that in his wildest dreams he expected to be the front-runner in the contest for the Labour Party leadership. The three other candidates were all spouting identical sound-bites emptied of all content. It was so bland that even Labour MPs who opposed Corbyn and didn't intend to vote for him were persuaded to endorse his candidature just to maintain the party's credibility and preserve the appearance of a contest. Nobody, least of all Corbyn himself, thought he really had a prayer.

And then suddenly there were all these young people rallying to his support. A social media frenzy. Suddenly, Corbyn's campaign was connecting with similar surges elsewhere: Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain. This was not just the traditional, union-based, tribal Labour-Through-And-Through people, but disenfranchised folks, many unemployed or in fragile, low-paid and non-unionised work, those trying to run their own businesses, youngsters who had never voted, people clobbered by the insane austerity policies they perceived as serving only to reward those at the top who had triggered the economic collapse in the first place. This is how "old-fashioned socialism" connects with the modern world. It's not the union block vote, for sure.

To those of us who are a bit older, many of Corbyn's policies seem unexceptional. It's obvious, even to many not on the left, that Trident is a grotesquely expensive obscenity, the only purpose of this so-called independent nuclear deterrent being to keep the Americans onside. It's obvious that the public good is served by a thriving public sector: that, far from benefiting us by competitively driving down prices, the "big six" energy companies are collectively fleecing us both in charges and in public subsidies for their operations; that the privatised railways are costing us more than British Rail, for all its faults, ever did; that education is, as Blair once famously stressed, of paramount importance, but that it needs to be supported by our taxes, that is, taxation on those who can afford it, because it benefits the whole country in the long run. It's obvious that immigrants and the unemployed are not the people causing our economic plight, and that cracking down on them will not only cause untold misery and hardship but will scarcely make a dent anyway on a welfare bill that is mostly spent on state pensions. It's obvious that, far from wanting to see a food bank in every town, we should be making every effort to eradicate the need for this obscenity. For me, this is all middle-ground stuff.

If I have some unease with the Corbyn brand of leftism, it's perhaps on foreign policy – where support for the Palestinians sometimes seems about the sum total of it, ignoring or downplaying threats, injustices and alliances elsewhere. And the Labour left could do with better co-operation with those campaigning on environmental concerns.

But ... Corbyn doesn't really want the leadership. And if he does win it – what then? I don't have any illusions about his electability in the country at large, in what would be an extremely hostile media environment. Especially as so many of his most prominent party colleagues have painted themselves into an anti-Corbyn corner. So would it spell the end of Labour's prospects of achieving outright power again for a generation? Perhaps. But maybe those days are at an end anyway. Maybe what we should be looking to is a broader alliance of the centre-left and left against the Tories. Maybe campaigning for proportional representation is the way to go. But nobody in the Labour Party seems keen.

The General Election did not result in overwhelming support for the Tories. The anti-Tory vote, if you count the nationalist parties, the Lib Dems, the Greens, was pretty strong. Yet the erstwhile front-runners in the Labour leadership race – before Corbyn came along –  all caved in, assuming the British electorate want austerity and neo-liberalism, and, instead of showing leadership in opposition, offered more of the same, whether they believed in it (as Liz Kendall probably does), or not. As if that was going to cut any ice.

I hope Corbyn wins. Next best: that he loses the race by a small margin and forces the winner, either Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper, to acknowledge the depth of feeling in the party and the country and act accordingly. Already Burnham is saying he will re-nationalise the railways. Feeble, of course – if he really believes in this, why wasn't he saying it a month ago? – but an indication of the effect the Corbyn campaign is having.

23 July 2015


An ironing board is like the bored teenagers on the promenade. The bored teenagers on the promenade are like hurdlers. Hurdlers are like weightlifters. Weightlifters are like gilded gravel in the bowl. Gilded gravel in the bowl is like an orchestra like a loose dressing-gown cord like sutlers. Sutlers are like guests like merchants under parasols. Merchants under parasols are rucked like a curtain. A curtain is like a bullock a bullock is like shadows that follow the shadows that follow are as smart as a griddle cooling against the wall as smart as the jacks on playing-cards that pop up as if they were dogs. As if they were dogs or like a reader who was half-asleep. A reader who was half-asleep is like Neanderthal Man like footprints over the sandflats. Footprints over the sandflats are like a woman who opens a door and hears music. A woman who opens a door and hears music is sagging like a tired dish. A tired dish is like a tape-recorder like scalded tea-leaves like engravings under tissue paper like a mantelpiece frog like useless chimney stacks like Falstaffian generals. Falstaffian generals are like an exhumed gourd like a breeze like broad sunflowers of empty circumspection like a Welsh rarebit like a bar of light like clockwork like patches from a cycle kit like a tiny English Channel like leaves on the cold sea like a watermark. A watermark is like the smouldering one-off spoor of the yeti. The smouldering one-off spoor of the yeti is sharp as tears. Tears are like soft cheeses like an examination or some vast dinner party or like a melon wedged in a shopping-bag. A melon wedged in a shopping-bag is like lichen. Lichen is like lead. Lead is like an ironing board like the bored teenagers on the promenade.

from A book with no name - work in progress

15 July 2015


The phenomenon has been observed and it is concluded that it poses a significant threat. There can be no certainty about it but there is a widespread perception that this is the case. There are indications of something impending. It is commonly perceived to be a threat. There has been extensive analysis and there can be little doubt. Extensive analysis confirms what has been widely feared for some time. Researchers confirm that there has been a steady growth in threats such as this over the past year predicted to result in a sharp upturn in the final quarter. Analysts have crunched the data and it is now believed that the threat could increase significantly in the immediate future. The source of the threat cannot be localised. It could arise at any of the cardinal points either within major conurbations or from relatively undeveloped areas. Vigilance should be maintained. The timeline predicts a number of causes for suspicion and complacency should be avoided. Vigilance must be maintained at all times and at all costs. It is recommended that any complacency should be avoided in the medium and long term as this could result in significant harm. The exact location and nature of the threat are currently the subject of further research but there can be little room for doubt that this is a cause for concern. The findings make an increasingly detailed picture of how current developments in tandem with existing fault lines pose a much more direct threat than we have seen hitherto and there are warnings of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood. An effective threat reduction programme as part of a coherent strategy is recommended although risk analysis suggests that it may already be too late for completely effective and appropriate action in response. Security must be a major concern. The geographical scope of the threat is widening on a daily basis. The situation is degrading by the day. A threat intelligence platform that manages the entire life-cycle of threat intelligence from multi-source acquisition to actionable operations across the entire eco-system of existing security devices is recommended but there is no certainty that this would be a viable long-term solution. More research is needed.

from A book with no name - work in progress 

18 June 2015


So now, the latest episode from my A book with no name to see the light is "Infinity", which is included in Unthology 7, the latest collection of short fiction from Unthank Books. Here's their blurb:

Flinch at the things that twitch in the windows a mile up from the city streets. Let text messages lead you towards a man that you already know is going to mess with your head. Find the meaning of life in your own lobotomy. Now, the ghost of Gaudi whispers in your ear, urging you to get yourself another lover, insisting it’s all going to be smooth and comfortable this time. Ruin yourself and drift towards the haunted shores of your youth. Then find yourself back there, returned to the low-down slums of a city in a country that no longer exists, that
UNTHOLOGY 7 documented and mapped out for you, and you alone, a long, long time ago.
Elizabeth Baines Roelof Bakker Gary Budden Elaine Chiew
Adrian Cross George Djuric Ken Edwards Charlie Hill
Debz Hobbs-Wyatt Sonal Kohli David Martin Roisin O’donnell
Amanda Oosthuizen Dan Powell John D Rutter Barney Walsh
Edited By Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones

"Infinity" starts:
There’s a room and then there’s a little room and another little room off that. And then a room and a room and more rooms and then a room. And beyond that is a little room and then a large room and a room. And in through there there’s another and beyond another and a room beyond. And from here they go into another room and that’s the little room right there. And then the main room. The room where it happens and the room where they prepare for it to happen and the room where they go after....

You can see more about Unthology 7 (and buy it – in its print and e-book incarnations) here.

And Unthank Books are going to publish my novel Country Life in October - but more about that later.

28 May 2015

Tom Raworth collage 1994

Just when I was feeling a bit gloomy – a wonderful surprise in the mail. I wasn't expecting a large package, but when I opened it, a framed picture emerged: a collage by Tom Raworth, signed and dated Cambridge 1994.

It had been sent by a long-time Reality Street supporter, in recognition of my "work in poetry over the decades", one of four similar collages he was disposing of because he was downsizing to a new home and no longer had room for much of his art collection.

It will receive pride of place in our house in Hastings. Thank you.

21 May 2015

No name

For the past year or so I have been writing A book with no name. (This is not the novel that's coming out later this year from Unthank Books; that has a name, which is Country Life.) (Though A book with no name is in fact the name of A book with no name. Got that?) (And I'm writing another novel called The Grey Area, but that is in its early stages, and need not concern us here.)

Anyway, some extracts have appeared or are about to appear. Last year, three were included in issue 2 of Litmus Magazine. Now some more. In the very wonderful Golden Handcuffs Review, which has just reinvented itself as a regular anthology, there are six pieces: "Frequently asked questions", "Dialectics", "It", "Nobody there", "Fall" and "Persons". And in Unthank's new Unthology 7 (it will be launched in June - the link shows you the previous volume in the series) there will be "Infinity".

I don't know when the entire book will be published. It's more or less finished.

Here as a taster is by far the shortest piece. This is "It":

It is this. It is. Or is it? It may be. But then again it may not. It can’t be determined. Could it? No it couldn’t. We can’t determine whether it is. Or what it is. It isn’t possible to do so. We can speculate about it. We can make assertions about it. We can construct narratives about it. But it’s not possible to do much more. That’s what it comes down to. It comes down to not much more than that. And that’s about it. So it’s time to look outside. What is it doing? It’s raining. This is it.

14 May 2015


Welcome to my new blog. Actually, it's going to be a personal website with biographical and bibliographical information and some music too, and a blog attached. But it's still under construction. The blog currently on the Reality Street site will become a purely Reality Street blog and "my" page on that site will then feature only those of my books that happen to be published by Reality Street, and this thing here will be for everything else. More soon.