Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Letter on Silence

It's difficult to talk about poems in these circumstances. London is a razor, an inflamed calm has settled, we’re trapped outside on its rim. I’ve been working on an essay about Amiri Baraka, trying to explain the idea that if you turn the surrealist image - defined by Aimé Césaire as a “means of reaching the infinite” - if you turn that inside out what you will find is that phrase from Baraka: “the magic words are up against the wall motherfucker”. Its going very slowly - hard to concentrate what with all the police raids, the punishment beatings, the retaliatory fires. It’d be too much to say the city’s geometry has changed, but its getting into some fairly wild buckling. Its gained in dimension, certain things are impossible to recognise, others are all too clear. I wish I knew more about maths, or algebra, so I could explain to you exactly what I mean. So instead of that I’ll give you a small thesis on the nature of rhythm - (1) They had banged his head on the floor and they were giving him punches. (2) He was already handcuffed and he was restrained when I saw him. (3) He was shouting, “Help me, help me”. (4) He wasn’t coherent. (5) I went to speak to his mum. (6) He couldn’t even stand up after they hit him with the batons. (7) They knocked on her door three hours later and told her “your son’s died”. I can’t remember exactly where I read that. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in a literary magazine, but I guess you’ll have to agree it outlines a fairly conventional metrical system. Poetry transforms itself dialectically into the voice of the crowd - René Ménil made that claim way back in 1944 or something. But what if that’s not true. What if all it can do is transform into the endless whacks of police clubs - certainly you get that in official poetry, be it Kenny Goldsmith or Todd Swift. Their conformist yelps go further than that, actually, as the police whacks in their turn transform into the dense hideous silence we’re living inside right now, causing immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose and coughing. Because believe me, police violence is the content of all officially sanctioned art. How could it be otherwise, buried as it is so deeply within the gate systems of our culture. Larry Neal once described riots as the process of grabbing hold of, taking control of, our collective history. Earlier this week, I started thinking that our version of that, our history, had been taken captive and was being held right in the centre of the city as a force of negative gravity keeping us out, and keeping their systems in place. Obviously I was wrong. Its not our history they’ve got stashed there - its a bullet, pure and simple, as in the actual content of the collective idea we have to live beneath. They’ve got that idea lodged in the centre of Mark Duggan’s face - or Dale Burns, or Jacob Michael, or Philip Hulmes. Hundred of invisible faces. And those faces have all exploded. Etcetera. Anyway, this is the last letter you’ll be getting from me, I know you’ve rented a room right at the centre of those official bullets. Its why you have to spend so much time gazing into your mirror, talking endlessly about prosody. There is no prosody, there is only a scraped wound - we live inside it like fossilised, vivisected mice. Turned inside out, tormented beyond recognition. So difficult to think about poems right now. I’m out of here. Our stab-wounds were not self inflicted.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Letter on Spectres

We’re beginning to suffer here. Obviously I’ve not been getting much writing done. But I’ve been thinking about the conversation we had, the last time we met. You remember, about Milton? Christ. Yours was such an obvious bourgeois response. Pandemonium is suburbia, pure and simple. The rioters are speaking in perfect English. Its the middle-class, the magistrates, and you, who are all talking some weird, ignorant slang. All of your mouths are stitched up with some kind of weird gaffer tape. Your laboratory is a slum. Sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but things have been pretty stressful: last week the butcher put the prices up even on rat-meat. Today its all he’s got left. You know how it is when you read an account of a situation you’ve been directly involved in, but each one of its constituent parts has been extracted, polished, entirely rearranged? Last week was exactly like that. I got home and tried to phone you, but all that came out the receiver was a complicated, monstrous hiss. I did my best to explain it and came up with this, let me know what you think. Was it (a) you were speaking in a strange new language that had no place in my part of town, or (b) you were speaking at a specific frequency that only particular dogs could hear or use, or was it (c) the static that's left after the tape containing all your reason and superstition runs out and everything’s revealed as it really is for one beautiful moment, all brightly lit in shopping mall reds and flickering striplight yellow. I’ve been wearing a black balaclava for days. From what I can tell, your part of town has been taken over by a weird parade of quacks, magistrates and fortune tellers, all yelping as if everything that happened over the past week was the result of a possession by some kind of evil spirit, and they could only ward it off with a display of archaic gestures, vicious combinations of letters and numbers. The magistrates have taken on the condition of people, and the people round here are no longer to be honoured with even a human shape. Its a curious process. We see it everywhere: in the movements of musical notes, of chemistry, steam and water, of birth and death. Each syllable is a different tonal cluster, penned in with police-wire and used electricity. I hear you’re thinking about becoming a bailiff. In any case, I’m glad they burnt your laboratory down. Now send me some fucking money.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Letter on Riots and Doubt

just to note, I wrote this a couple of days before everything kicked off. & more on that later . . .


Anyway, I’ve totally changed my method. A while ago I started wondering about the possibility of a poetry that only the enemy could understand. We both know what that means. But then, it might have been when I was walking around Piccadilly looking at the fires, that night in March, my view on that changed. The poetic moans of this century have been, for the most part, a banal patina of snobbery, vanity and sophistry: we’re in need of a new prosody and while I’m pretty sure a simple riot doesn’t qualify, your refusal to leave the seminar room definitely doesn’t. But then again, you are right to worry that I’m making a fetish of the riot form. “Non-violence is key to my moral views”, you say. “I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill”, you say. But what about that night when we electrocuted a number of dogs. Remember that? By both direct and alternating current? To prove the latter was safer? We’d taken a lot of MDMA that night, and for once we could admit we were neither kind, nor merciful, nor loving. But I’m getting off the point. The main problem with a riot is that all too easily it flips into a kind of negative intensity, that in the very act of breaking out of our commodity form we become more profoundly frozen within it. Externally at least we become the price of glass, or a pig’s overtime. But then again, I can only say that because there haven’t been any damn riots. Seriously, if we’re not setting fire to cars we’re nowhere. Think about this. The city gets hotter and deeper as the pressure soars. Electrons get squeezed out of atoms to produce a substance never seen on Earth. Under such extreme conditions, hydrogen behaves like liquid metal, conducting electricity as well as heat. If none of that happens, its a waste of time. Perhaps you think that doesn’t apply to you. What inexhaustible reserves we possess of darkness, ignorance and savagery. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms, in the nightmare of their lives as slaves to the rich. Don’t pretend you know better. Remember, a poetry that only the enemy can understand. That's always assuming that we do, as they say, understand. Could we really arrive at a knowledge of poetry by studying the saliva of dogs? The metallic hydrogen sea is tens of thousands of miles deep.


note the use of quotations from Engels, Trotsky, Lautreamont and today's Guardian

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Happiness (after Rimbaud)

download a recording of me reading from my forthcoming book "Happiness" here, or you can stream it over here ///// it's gonna be published by Unkant in the next month or so /////// also, The Commons will be coming out from Openned in September ///// facebook page for the launch is here /////// yeh.