Friday, 28 October 2011


If my own reading with Phil Hall represented a kind of conversation then last night’s reading at The Apple Tree was something else entirely. Here were two modes of performance that might have been poles apart. Stephen Emmerson was a classic ‘ranter’, rocking backwards and forwards on the balls of his feet and, at least in the first part, reaching near terminal velocity. Holly Pester on the other hand drew us in initially with the quietness of her ‘News Piece’. Many of the syllables on the printed page were no more than aspirations. There was a great deal of wit in her timings and deadpan eroticisms. If you want to see some of these texts for yourselves, Hoofs has just come out as an if p then q classic.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

' . . . and the hotel was even worse'

John Martin’s painting ‘Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion’ (1812) lends itself to cheap shots like the title I’ve given this post. The first impression given by Martin’s works, currently on show at Tate Britain, is one of slickness and a limited vocabulary. Martin was never very good with the human figure (mostly the figures are satisfactory only as distant marching armies or fleeing crowds). And yet I don’t feel that the curatorial link to recent ‘effects’ movies (or to the Saatchi world of ‘sensation’) does him any favours. There is an element of belief in these works that for the most part is entirely absent from the world of the cinema blockbuster or that of the Chapman brothers. The paintings only connect with these recent practises through a lowest common denominator. The compensations are unexpected ones, such as the wildflowers visible in Martin’s images of Paradise, or some of the atmospheric effects once you’ve gotten past the volcanoes and collapsing rocks. The funnels at the centre of many of these works appear, as some viewers have noted, like medical images from an intestinal tract. It is easy to see why these paintings were popular and why they became unpopular (one particular work had to be substantially restored after flood damage - ironically enough – in the Tate basement where it had long been stored). They are crude, placed beside Turner or Constable, though not without their own merits.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ryan's New & Selected

It’s been a ten-year wait since Gig Ryan’s last collection Heroic Money appeared from Brandl & Schlesinger. This substantial selection takes in work from the late seventies up till now with forty pages or so of new work. It’s been worth the wait and Giramondo have done a great job.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Westminster, October

57 varieties

The 57th Blue Bus reading took place last night at The Lamb. Emily Critchley and Peter Philpott read individually for the first half then together with a composite work in the second. This was a marvellous piece. For all its disjuncts it seemed as though one person had written the whole thing which was not at all the case. I meant to ask the poets whether or not they intended to publish the work as a unit. It would make a fine book.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Thursday, 6 October 2011

two more London gigs

On Tuesday night the new season of Shearsman readings began with Ian Seed and Linda Black at the Swedenborg Hall.

Then on Wednesday I read with Canadian poet Phil Hall in the Crossing the Line series at The Apple Tree, Clerkenwell. It was a great reading (even if I say so myself). Phil read from a range of books and newer work (his most recent publication is Kildeer, from Book Thug). I read mostly from the Allotments sequence, so it was a kind of launch for the Fewer & Further Press book (thanks to Ann Silversides for the photo).