Mature Poets Steal

For those of you interested, my PhD thesis is now available from the British Library’s EThOS service.

Mature Poets Steal: Notes to Self, a novel and an extended essay on that work

Much of the novel is redacted in case I ever find a publisher, but there’s lots of interesting stuff about the literary fragment, collage practices and writing about identity for those who like that sort of thing.

Landscape of the Vomiting Multitudes/ Birmingham

Having recently(ish) started a Creative Writing PhD I have obviously written absolutely nothing creative of late (as I spend my time pretending to read up on the theory around literary fragments and cobble together my thoughts into incomprehensible sentences for my long-suffering supervisor). So, when I was asked to read alongside some great fellow Brummie poets at a Beat themed poetry/music event at Frontier+ Festival, I decided to use it as an excuse to write something new.

Not being a fan of blank pages or screens I started instead with Lorca’s Paisaje de la multitud que vomita.  This wasn’t a completely random choice– Lorca was a major influence on the beats and, as the festival is themed around Birmingham and New York, starting a poem about Birmingham with a Lorca poem about Coney Island- well it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Also, I liked the title.  I began by creating a translation based partly on Ben Belitt’s 1955 translation as well as my own painfully bad Spanish —


Landscape of the Vomiting Multitudes
The fat lady came first
ripping the roots and damping the skins of the drums
the fat lady
who inverts octopodes to their death.
The fat lady, enemy of the moon,
racing through streets and deserted buildings
and leaving in corners the tiny skulls of pigeons
and raising the furies of long stale banquets
and summoning the devil of bread from the slopes of heaven
and craving filtered light in subterranean circuits.
They are cemeteries, I know they are cemeteries
and the sorrow of kitchens sunk deep in the silt,
they are the dead, the pheasants and the apples of another time
pressing down on our throat.

Then came the whispering from the jungle of vomit
with the empty women, with children of molten wax,
with trees fermenting and tireless waiters
serving platters of salt beneath saliva harps.
Nothing else for it, son, Puke! Ain’t no other way.
Not the vomit of hussars on the breasts of their prostitutes,
nor the sick of the cat that accidentally swallowed a frog.
But the dead that scratch with their hands of dirt
at the flint gateways where the clouds and desserts are rotting.

The fat lady came first
with the crowds from the boats, the bars and the gardens.
The vomit gently stirring the drums
amongst the children of blood
who ask protection of the moon.
Alas! Alas! Alas!
This look on my face was me, but is no longer mine,
this look that trembles naked in alcohol
and launching incredible ships
to the anemones by the docks.
I fight with this look
that flows from the waves that no dawn dares,
I, poet without arms, adrift
in the vomiting multitudes,
without even a horses enthusiasm to crop
the thick moss of my temples.

But the fat lady went first
and the crowds searched for pharmacies
where tropical bitters are found.
And only when they raised the flag and the first dogs arrived
did the whole city gather together at the railings of the pier.


This I then put through my own patented process of corruption and betrayal to create a spoken-word poem about my memories of Birmingham as a teenager.

After enjoying some great poetry and beat inspired music I headed out on the town and got memory obliteratingly drunk for old times sake.

On not a lot to show for it

I do very little and there isn’t enough hours in the day for it.  I work part-time, research even less, I pub quiz once a week, visit a girl I like occasionally and recently did see some of my other friends, if by accident.  I get between 5 and 6 hours sleep, read the Sunday Papers but rarely get through more than a clue or two of the cryptic, and write increasingly dull lists.  I used to create, I tell myself, although how productive I ever was is a debate not worth having.  I interrupt anything I start, and rarely finish, and decide to sack off this increasingly narcissistic attempt to capture life as (what will eventually be performative) researcher and instead indulge in a even less productive creative something…

[some time later]

A Fragment (consider revising)
(having no the due respect for and being a horrific corruption of A Fragment by G. G. Byron)

Tomorrow, maybe yesterday, to their gaseous disapproval, the song of my fore
far- crying for my liquor, merry in their cup of tea;
Yesterday, maybe tomorrow, imperturbable in eye of tornado, the shape of me glides,
Or, pitch in missed, down and down the mountain slides;
O! mark my adumbration, behold ashes blown to stained glass,
illuminating every where entropy to entropy returns!
No The Greater American, no gospel-stunted high;
Mark no monument but have a child draw my name in dirt:
If that with honey fail to preserve my mind,
O! mark no other musical transaction cost!
In order that, only that certain spot lights up I, blemish;
By, in order, that misremembered, only that, may be forgot.

Still a writer is always working, life is material and it might as well all come good in the end. For those that are interested I have recently also taken up the Cornell method for note-taking because the thesis whisperer told me to and switched to Zotero as my citation software of choice as it’s free, it can be used to add references to Scrivener and because it will help me keep an annotated bibliography.  I have also now definitely read more about the fragmentary imperative in 18th century poetry than I’ve read 18th century poems.

Until we do not meet again… x

The Face of God

As a writer one has the happy arrogance that people are interested in what one has to say.  As a new research student I am all too aware that even my close friends, one of whom is a mighty fine actor, can’t manage to maintain the facade of giving a shit about my project for more than half a pint.  Thus a new branch for this blog buds into life, it is an olive branch because I like olives, but it is also a strained bough – listen carefully, you can hear it cracking – overburdened with metaphor.  Kill your babies – most students of writing will hear that aphorism fairly early in the going – mine, I decided, to let fall from a tree.

Its screams on the way down are meaningless I am sure.

Of course you should also kill your parents and very probably your supervisor if you ever want to feel unselfconscious enough to write.  Now what to do with all those bodies?  Burn them? bury them? pulp them into the recycled paper you’ll print the finished novel on?  What nobody ever tells you, possibly because I have just decided this out of thin imagination, is that corpses make great fertilizer.  And so from the premature demise of a fictional baby which has no metaphoric meaning (implying what? that it is literally true?) I hope to grow a vast PhD vine, or series of vines, like a field full, or at least a row. How many are needed for a barrel? just a bottle?  The vines will be grossly genetically modified, obviously, experimented on – my right eyebrow is arched here implying something and making you feel like you should already be in on it – and produce terrible wine, but wine that will get me drunk enough to be fooled into inspiration.

And so merrily pissed up we (that is to say the royal urination) embark on this great something and ask you, dear imaginary reader, to please bare with us, because I’m not sure either at this point – it is only the beginning and there is still much decided, so stick with it won’t you? Please? I’ll buy you a pint.

Obviously I won’t actually buy you a pint.

Unless you’re a friend of mine and it’s your birthday.

Which it isn’t.