Saturday, May 28, 2011


Or not. But probably. There appears to be a gross excess of love radiating outward from Cambridge, Brighton, London and possibly other articulated loci of poetic production in the UK. A package just in of recent publications wrapped in the Autumn 2010 issue of Naked Punch: Engaged Review of Contemporary Art, the number containing a feature on Brighton poetry, including poems by Chinc Blume, John Tiplady, Richard Parker and Michael Kindellan and an interview with Keston Sutherland by Zoe Sutherland, Danny Hayward and Jonty Tiplady. This from Kindellan's "Terra form A":

Calculate that it begins with the simple problem
that if the Earth ceases to support life, and human
life does not continue elsewhere, all economic
activity will also cease. There are several ways
to estimate the value of Earth. Assign the Earth
its home components, that everything lives, at least
is not value. All life is little overvalued high risk,
so avoid estimations. One way to avoid this systematic
inflation of the price of life compared to others
is to estimate the cost of replacing Earth
compared to costing another planet with compatible
orbit. And if the work were nearly complete, ask
how much is comfort going to cost, competitively,
which is also the total of barely natural, nearby and
at issue. Plus transport.

The coordinates are hard to nail down — there are no satellite photos, no military maps to mark out with any measure of precision the shape and interrelatedness of poetry communities in the UK — but the University of Sussex in Brighton, with Sutherland as an organizing nodal point, seems to have taken up where the University of Essex left off, its connectedness to Cambridge, as though an express line cuts across from one to the other. Sutherland on love, in response to a question from Tiplady:

I think I can remember feeling that I was too much dependent on love. Not too much dependent on any particular individual's love, not anaclitically tied to a mother or a substitute or something, but that the pitch of dependency on a no doubt at least partly idealised love was ludicrously high in my poetry, and that whilst this was in a sense its essential wager, it was liable in the longer term to be unsustainable for me because it would wreak terrible damages on my life and my writing. I am now becoming very dramatic but I think this is true. The question then might be that if this is really an excess and not just a valorised and spectacular excess, but an excess which is too much to bear, and there I hear Prynne in that expression of mine, then by what measure can you reduce the significance of love in your life, so as not only to be able to stay alive but still to be able to honour its centrality and its foundation in your existence.

Then, commenting on his poem "The Proxy Inhumanity Of Forklifts," Sutherland says, "That once something is deducted from universalism by whatever measure, love is then inhuman ... The moment we deduct anything from universalism, we get inhuman love." It is easy, I suppose, to write about love irresponsibly, or devote rudderless attentions to it out of lonesomeness or frustration or a deep and driven wanting of some thing or situation furiously unavailable. Prynne's "Discursive Commentary" on George Herbert's "Love [III]" (Cambridge 2011) dedicates the whole of its attention across 92 pages to "Love" and to love. Prynne's analysis begins with a series of glosses delineating the loadedness of signal words and phrases in the Herbert poem. The first word glossed is, of course, "love":

In Germanic as in Celtic the Indo-European word for love thus assumed the meaning 'free', so that another word meaning 'desire' took its place; Proto-Germanic *lubo, Sanskrit lubhyati, '(he) desires eagerly'; compare Latin libens, lubens, 'willing, acting with pleasure', Old English leof, 'dear', lufu, 'love' (Beowulf 1758; 1728); Latin cognates are words based on liber, 'free, set free, unconstrained'.

Conceit is not constraint. The question of love persists almost unconstrained, as in Finite Love by the Two Brothers (Critical Documents in collaboration with Bad Press 2010), which the authors (rumored to be Justin Katko and Jow Walton) refer to as "Love Poetry" dedicated to friends:

The dream was over, and although he understood that with the half of his mind that had paused to wonder why he had begun the sentence, he knew that the letters had to go on and on to the end ... like the glass circling and circling the ouija board ... an order of ritual that would cease only when the green gulls, finishing their last flight, circled for the final time and landed, breaking their legs on the sheet of thick plate glass stretched two feet above the ground. Oh, the surprise on their faces when the gas jets lit beneath the glass and they sizzled their way to eternity. That's all it is.

Katko — with Ryan Dobran, Ian Heames, Laura Kilbride, Luke Roberts and Mike Wallace-Hadrill — curated the inaugural year of the Cambridge Reading Series (CRS), each of the thirteen events accompanied by a pamphlet and punctuated by an anthology titled THAT MERCILESS AND MERCENARY GANG OF COLD-BLOODED SLAVES AND ASSASSINS, CALLED, IN THE ORDINARY PROSTITUTION OF LANGUAGE, FRIENDS. Referring to the publication as an anthology might be troubling, but at the very least this hastily produced, photocopied selection offers a provisional road map or textual instance of community formation. In addition to poetry from CRS organizers, the publication includes work by Johnny Liron, Joe Luna, Marianne Morris, Sophie Robinson, Stamina Teacup & Julia Bashmore, Caitlan Doherty, Gareth Durasow, Mahmoud Elbarasi, Peter Gizzi (poet-in-residence at Cambridge), Danny Hayward, Frances Kruk, Francesca Lisette, Jaya Savage, Connie Scozzaro, James Staniforth, Joshua Samuel Strauss, Will Stuart, Jefferson Toal, Rosa Van Hensbergen, Tomas Weber and Adam Weg. Cover art is provided by Sean Bonney.

Aside from a table of contents, some acknowledgments and a brief run of biographical notes, there's very little framing — that is, beyond the likely less-than-accidental appearance of these poets between two covers, there is no introduction or afterword that announces a community, a poetics or any unifying principle at all beyond perhaps, as the title suggests, friendship. The insistence of this work against career and professionalization is incredibly affirming (here I come back to the preface of Finite Love titled "Reasons Not to Publish," worth quoting at length:

(1) to evade some alert, punitive power, like an oppressive state. (2) Paranoia. (3) We undervalue our texts; for instance, we take them for something unreadable, or occurring in abundant natural deposits. (4) The texts are injurious personal literature. (5) We forget that we have written the texts, or give away our manuscripts. (6) We want total control over who sees our texts. (7) The texts are morally corrupt. (8) We desire and have no reliable access to anonymity/pseudonymity. (9) To be nearby to e.g. clarify. (10) We want our peers working in a similar mode to flourish (or more generally, want them to take receipt of the visibility back-flow, whatever it is). (11) We are reluctant to obviously improve on the work of yet-living elder writers. (12) To withhold something from an object of criticism; perhaps attention/drive/dignity/interim knowledge of its weak points. (13) As industrial action, perhaps secondary ... (19) To prevent lock-in. (20) The work's not yet begun. (21) Conviction that 'finished' criteria do not exist. (22) We await a formal moment. For example, the texts are occasional verse composed in advance of the foreseeable. (23) We have waited too long. For example, the texts now serve interests that oppose us, or the nature of virtue has changed. (24) People will dislike, misunderstand or feel intimidated by the text; in particular, ones we love. (25) Our verba macks mightier than our res, our expression outwits our content. We are concerned that our texts will punch above their weight, will be more persuasive than they deserve to be ... (30) Memento mori: we want to remind ourselves they will not outlive our lives. (31) More generally, we don't trust ourselves to be as virtuous after we publish the texts. (32) Even more generally, any apprehension relating to the personal effects of fame/failure, or of critical attention/neglect ... (34) We don't wish to distract our friends or allies, who have better shit to be doing ...

But against this self-reflexive and even self-flagellating catalog of reasons not to publish the work is published, an astounding contradiction that throws the very question of publication into overwhelming uncertainty (i.e. In relation to career and professional advancement, what exactly qualifies as publication? Are these hastily produced textual objects publications in any formal sense? How do these print objects frustrate the distance between the public and the private? Where do the intellectually militarized boundaries of coterie end and the trembling limits of humility or affection begin? In the title poem of Commitment (Bad Press and Critical Documents) Marianne Morris writes:

COMMITMENT: stand here screaming like
a flaming proselyte pig happy in translucent muck
that glows when you plug me in. The representativity
of the representation in so far as it is representable
is hilarious.
IF semantic trips through ambiguity
yield sign anarchy THEN we're out
out of a job we never had anyway
and listening pule vigorous devout
Gaga's call to individuality

The poem begins with an epigraph from Henry Reynolds' Mythomystes (1632): "And yet to speake a troth, I cannot herein blame the diseased world so much, as I do the infelicity of that sacred Art of Poesy; which like the soueraigne prescriptions of a Galen or Hypocrates, ordered and dispensed by illiterate Empyricks or dogleeches, must needes (as the best phisicks ill handled) proue but so much variety of poyson instead of cure." The epigraph is crucial, calling out the same apprehensions, reservations and trepidation addressed in the Two Brothers' preface to Finite Love — a recognition of the stakes in the work and the cost to all of work produced in bad faith.



Marianne Morris, Luke Roberts, Sophie Robinson, Josh Stanley. Untitled Colossal Parlour Odes. Bad Press 2011. Josh Stanley, "Ode":

and our minds will go back to their perennial corruption
from which no escape premised on moral
decisiveness and only compulsive will eating all in all
underpins sustain philosophical going on
in hope, inevitably beautiful as it turns on itself like a
childish pelican to show itself less all you can eat

And in the same collection Luke Roberts, a passage from "Colossal Boredom Swan Song":

I spoke warmly and my speech turned into a wing
and the wing broke my arms, and my arm continued to sing.
Dear cowards, the sea dries up and you remain. The presses
are idle and the censor's lunch is so long and dream-like
you trouble nothing, not even my heart.

Mike Wallace-Hadrill. Nettle Range Bladefear. ©_© Press 2009. Letterpress chapbook printed "on a Miller and Richard Albion press serial | number 4993 built in 1898, which still works | beautifully." From the book:

Vox gameshark bow at charge about won't nest
below this level let's fall in less than three hamfist
fruitful subsong, fold to tract. Fairlight erotic plot
frequency were in blank skin attack envelope were

position referral
µ-opioid smash and grab nuit
blanche mother snake. How shine when she turbo
cannot, gear itch up. Overwing petal scram syrinx
fleet at suck, babel dive nucleate field will seeding.

Came out warning chevron also did breach adverse
camber, hazard embryo daydream hold shy focus
fast. Unmediate sewage calypso sync invidious 2.0
ever had she never sex for evidence, split fatigue.

Ryan Dobran. Ding Ding. Critical Documents 2009.

Josh Stanley. Contranight Escha Black. Critical Documents 2010.

Pamphlets from the Cambridge Reading Series, all of which can be downloaded from the CRS site. Each of the pamphlets features the work of two poets and brief but incisive commentaries on those poets by the organizers.