I’ve intended to write about Claudius App IV since it first appeared on the interweb. I enjoy writing about CA because it contains some of the best contemporary work currently being written and therefore deserves as wide a readership as possible. One of the reasons (I tell myself) for not writing about issue IV is the fact that my name is used in “the flesh called fwan” by Francis Crot, Idaho Pistols, Nat Raha and Verity Spott. Section 41 is:
In 'the scene' getting reviewed by John Armstrong means I can eat. He would hate this. What Paterson fails to realise. It's supposed to be shite like coal (???) A faggot slugabed I can't protect you with. London wilts bye tranny lavic totter on Ankle nodule St Vitus circa Sleeping Beauty enchantress. In 'the scene' getting reviewed by your ft inside me. Hobo fat.
Now it might be possible that this is referring to some other John Armstrong or an entirely fictional John Armstrong were it not for the fact that I was told I was in this poem by Verity Spott via the Twitter gizmo.
I’ll get back to this in a moment. What has prodded me into CA-related action is that my gmail account tells me I have received these two mentions on twitter: “@zackzee, Emily Dorman’s calling Bebrowed at bit.ly/1eGp2sx with texts on the “scariest poet on the planet” for you. Dare to blog?” and “@zackzee, @VanessaPlaceInc, be browed, be very browed” – both of which would seem to be some sort of challenge.
There is some background to this, as I recall I took a previous poem by Emily Dorman to task for not being very funny about Ms Place. I also had a bit of an anxiety-laden rant about Emily Dorman which was then referred to on the CA Facebook page. Obviously I’d like to reply to these two via twitter but it currently seems to be out of action. Obviously, I’m beginning to regret referring to Vanessa Place in this way because this one-liner does seem to keep on coming back at me, I’m much fonder of my pithy one liner on Caroline Bergvall.
Anyway, I am delighted to be mentioned by some of our brightest young poets and am equally pleased to be mentioned by the only poetry site that I pay attention to. It’s just that I’m not sure how best to respond.
It’s now time to address the smoke and mirrors problem. My first involvement in this came about by placing a forum on a disability-related information site. The idea was to promote the development of a community which could challenge societal and cultural attitudes towards those with a long-term health problem. This was about twelve years ago and was a mistake becuse people can pretend to be other people and can say things whilst pretending to be other people with the intention of creating chaos. This salutary lesson has remained lodged in my brain ever since. This has some relevance because I’d previously (foolishly) assumed that was a single human being but it transpires that this might not be the case and the whole Dorman persona may be an indulgent dig at a variety of different poetries. At which point I think I stop caring, a disinterest to that encountered when reading the first 500 lines of Marvell’s “Last Instructions”. In short, it’s all a bit sixth form.
With regard to “the flesh called fwan”, I don’t hate it but I’m not sure that I want to be thought of as a reviewer of poetry. I like to think that I write about my relationship with a poem or a poetry which allows me to be provisional, subjective and inconsistent, not the qualities that you want from a reviewer. I don’t write at length about work that I don’t like (with the exception of Sir Geoffrey Hill’s more recent material) and have this odd tendency to be very enthusiastic about the stuff that appeals to me. Essentially, I write about what interests me and am constantly surprised and gratified that others seem to enjoy the inside of my head. As for ‘the scene’, I’m not aware that there is one although my definition of a scene (free jazz, activist, arthouse) may well be hopelessly outdated. Having said that, the tone throughout seems reasonably playful so I’m not going to argue. Think I need to venture a guess that Idaho Pistols may also write under the name of Timothy Thornton and that Francis Crot and Jow Lindsay may be similarly intertwined.
We now come to the CA challenge and in particular the swipe at “Tragodia”. I’m taking the Dorman rant s a little tongue in cheek but also with a sense of indignation- “But Eliot didn’t publish his account books, nor Stevens his policies, nor Williams his prescriptions. Place repurposed her profession into poetry through a bare relabelling,…” This might be okay in an interestingly witty self-referential kind of way but you do need to do this stuff from a position of strength. There are many (many) things that just might be wrong with “Tragodia” but a ‘bare relabelling” isn’t one of them. Unlike most of the increasingly popular Kenny’s stuff, this trilogy needs to be read from covers to covers sequentially and should be judged (intentional(ish)) by what it says and how it re-adjusts many disparate frames at the same time. It can be criticised for its initial subject matter, for the quite deliberate selection of appeals and its main focus on genetic evidence but, by it’s nature, it can’t be castigated for the initial conceit unless (of course) we’re living in some kind of late modern utopia where the only standards are those set by Eliot, Stevens, Williams and the rest.
The odd thing is that I’d like a debate about “Tragodia”, I’d like someone to argue with my recently expressed view but this isn’t it.
I’d like to finish with the observation that there are many high-profile poets on both sides of the Atlantic that are drably mediocre. Perhaps Ms Dorman would like to cast her glance at those British dismalities that some of us know so well.