Tag Archives: poem

People come genuinely but mistakenly

This is a plea for feedback on this audio file which is the last attempt to do something useful with the Bloody Sunday / Saville project. I’m asking for feedback because it seems to ‘work’ in the way that I want it to but I’d be interested in the response of others especially in terms of coherence.

” People come genuinely but mistakenly to believe that they had witnessed something”

the marking of the letter k

Jonty Tiplady blog (3)

December 9th 2011 up to 6.40pm

jonty tiplady blog 3
bebrowed 2
tl61p 2
shibboleth derrida 1
crucified evidence 1
obscure poem 1
anarchical plutocracy geoffrey hill 1
clavics 1
emily dorman montefiore 1
upon appleton house 1
find f(2), f(3) , f(4) ,and f(5) if f is defined recursively by f(0) = -1 , f(1) = 2 and for n = 1 , 2 ,…… 1
andrew marvell upon appleton house 1
the philosophy of estar wings by herbart 1
very good thing’s dionysus did 1
keston sutherland stressnposition 1
easter wings poem’s shape mimic 1
anarchical plutocracy 1
geoffrey hill 1
geoffrey hill anarchic plutocracy 1
obscure good poems 1
the importance of poetry 1
geoffrey hill clavics 1
lyrical rhymes 1
geoffrey hill economist 1
jonty tiplady 1
geoffrey hill allen tate 1

The Things Crossed Out

During the evening of April 26th 1986 a young engineer at the Chernobyl power plant was on the phone to one of his superiors who was at home. This was in the hours prior to the explosion, the young man at the control desk was puzzled because the manual had lines that were crossed out and other bits added in biro. His boss told him to ‘do the things that are crossed out’. What follows is a sequence of poems crafted in honour of that moment. The sequence is chronological and I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the material.

San Francisco

Grants Pass








St Paul



Royal Oak







Asheville corrected


New Orleans




Athens corrected

Daniel McGowan identified this person as himself

end of
Block 1
of the
2 and 3
Joseph Place
Fahan Street
  first house is
Joe McColgan
Walks up to alley heads
for town
rubble barricade
illegible soldier(?)
hears first
shot just before
getting to illegible
looks over to
phone box
illegible soldiers (?)
Daniel McGowan
identified this
person as himself
I left the window after this
none of the men I saw had anything
in their hands
came from here
ran from
here and
he was shot
1st man shot here
(he was dragged away)
2nd man shot - dragged
himself towards the alley.
Maisonettes ALLEY Maisonettes
Rosville Flats
Car Park
1 & 2: The men shot running into the lane
3: The man shot while crawling for cover
4: The woman who shouted from the flats
Gap between
Blocks 1 and 2
Patrick Doherty
rifle fire
rifle fire
LEGEND: "join
local IRA
x Doherty
x McGuigan
  Posititon of
Patrick Doherty
photographed by
Gilles Peress and
Fulvio Grimaldi
Arc in which the
firer must have
been located
Joseph Place
Fahan Street steps
Joseph Place
Fahan Street steps
Joseph Place
Fahan Street steps
 Body of
Position of
end of
block of
    Body of
Bernard McGuigan
Nevertheless he felt able to mark with the letter K the
appropriate position of the man on the map attached
to his written statement to this Inquiry
(verbatim, the casualties in sector 5)

Keston Sutherland’s Stress Position

I was going to write this in the manner (style?) of the prose section of this poem but then I realised that this would only make any kind of sense to those who had read it and that only I would be amused.
Let me start by saying that Stress Position is a major piece of work that makes a significant contribution to current debates about language and its relationship to the ‘real’, compromised world. Bits of it are also very funny with extraordinary images.
The poem is ‘set’ in Baghdad and features the poet, a number of historical and fictional characters and Black Beauty. Rumsfeld and Cheney also get a name check and the sky makes several appearances.
If Keston was bipolar (which he isn’t), I’d be gently telling him to increase the lithium because the poem manages to hover on the bridge between mania and psychosis but is probably an attempt to express dialectical consciousness and produce poetry that is “as impossible as reality”.
So, the poem would appear to be a radical critique of American imperialism particularly with regard to torture but it also sets up a particular ‘metric’ (a term much used by Prynne) between aspects of the external world and the inside of Sutherland’s head. This is incredibly successful in that it takes the reader on an exhilarating ride through dystopia and manages to throw out a broad range of ideas at the same time.
I have a personal rule when reading poetry which is to count the lines that I wished I’d written. Stress Position is full of these so I should be overcome with envy but I’m not because Sutherland has thrown down the gauntlet to those of us who aspire to write poetry and change the world (not always at the same time).
Sutherland doesn’t have a good time in Stress Position, he gets gang raped in a toilet cubicle in McDonald’s and loses a leg but the overall tone is rhapsodic rather than brutal. A gastro yacht is also featured along with references to number of dishes- the significance of this escapes me but I’m working on it.
Sutherland has made a distinction between ‘readers’ and ‘consumers’ of poetry and made a passing swipe at mainstream poetry in the process. He was using Prynne as an example of a poet who demands very close attention and scorning those poets whose work can be read and fully understood in one go. With regard to Stress Position, the poem does demand attention but it’s of a different order to that demanded by Prynne, there’s no need for a word-by-word examination nor is their as much ambiguity but there’s still work to be done. The “anagrammatic” Diotima makes an appearance, certain words and phrases are italicised, a lot of compound words are used and I’m not at all sure about the presence of Black Beauty nor the presence of Sutherland’s mother before he gets gang raped. So the attention is more about the poetic structure rather than what the words may mean. Some words are printed in block capitals with numbers attached and I will need to work out what that’s about. There’s also bits of French and German that will require my attention.
The poem is also immensely quotable I’ll just give three lines as an example-

That means that he that the dots are all joined up in a skeleton already

and that skeleton is publically wanked off, into the open darkness

and the darkness spits its wet dust on a sticky mirrorball.

The other thing that the reader gradually realises is that the poem is tightly structured. Sutherland spent a long time thinking about this before putting pen to paper and it has paid off because we stay with the various threads rather than reading the various episodes as random and chaotic.

Ideologically, Sutherland and I are miles apart. I don’t share his Marxist/Hegelian slant on things nor do I have much faith in the dialectic but I do share his outrage at American foreign policy and the forces of late capital. I also share his concerns about the way that language gets appropriated by the impossible world. I don’t read poems to agree with them, I read them to be challenged and to steal ideas and Stress Position more than meets those criteria.

There is a bitchy dig at Derrida that is overly simplistic. If you are going to take on Grammatology then you need to be very clear what you are taking on and why.

Sutherland will hate this but I think the whole world should read Stress Position – it’s available from Barque Press for £6.

Andrew Marvell and planting the bergamot

Marvell’s poetry doesn’t seem very popular these days except for ‘To his coy mistress’ which is one of the finest love poems in the English language. This is a pity because some of his other stuff is very good indeed. I’m particularly fond of ‘Upon Appleton House’ but here I wish to draw attention to ‘An Horatian ode upon Cromwell’s return from Ireland’.
This is a political poem and it is very, very clever. The civil wars of the 17th century carry all sorts of baggage in English culture and I’m wary of imposing modern values on that contested period. The poem was written in the three week period between Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland and his journey north to do battle with the Scots. The ode celebrates Cromwell as the decisive man of action and urges him on to defeat the Scots. However the poem also paints a very positive picture of Charles I on the scaffold and also hints that Cromwell may want the crown for himself. There is also presented as fact the suspicion that Cromwell engineered Charles’ flight from Hampton Court so as to hasten his execution.
Critics have argued over whether the poem was written in support of Cromwell or Charles but I don’t think that this is the issue. I think it is a sophisticated study of power and of the effects that power has on individual men. The stanzas set out below are the first in the poem to suggest that this may be more than just a song of praise:

Who, from his private garden, where
He lived reserved and austere,
As if his highest plot,
to plant the bergamot.

Could by industrious valour climb
to ruin the great work of time.
and cast the kingdoms old
Into another mould.

I needed Nigel Smith in the excellent Longman edition Of Marvell’s poetry to tell that a bergamot is a type of pear considered to be the pear of kings. These lines more than hint at Cromwell being a man of immense personal ambition wants to destroy the past and seize the crown for himself. I don’t think that to accuse someone of ruining the great work of time is particularly complimentary.
Marvell is particularly effective (and direct) as to Cromwell’s ‘skill’ in engineering Charles’ move from Hampton Court to the Isle of Wight-

Where, twining subtle fears with hope,
He wove a net of such a scope
That Charles himself might chase
To Carisbrook’s narrow case:

That thence the royal actor born
The tragic scaffold might adorn,

Smith tells us that this view of Cromwell’s role was fairly commonplace at the time but I don’t think anyone expressed it more succinctly than Marvell. I’m particularly fond of ‘twining subtle fears with hope’ as it sums up how you would persuade somebody to do something against their best interests. It doesn’t lessen the strength of these lines that Cromwell was entirely innocent of this accusation- they reflect what people thought at the time.
I won’t add to the heap of stuff that’s been written about the description of Charles’ behaviour on the scaffold other than to note that it has an elegiac, haunting quality that is absent from the rest of the poem.
Cromwell had just returned from Ireland where he had committed atrocities at Drogheda and Wexford, Marvell’s reference to this campaign takes up a mere four lines-

And now the Irish are ashamed
To see themselves in one year tamed.
So much can one man do,
That does both act and know.

Of course the Irish were never tamed and the brutality of this campaign continues as a running sore to this day. I’ve long held a theory that the English don’t really care about Ireland and I think these four lines epitomise that kind of willful ignorance that’s been around for centuries. Incidentally, the Scots don’t come off much better in the poem.
The last six lines of the poem show just how clever Marvell is. Smith glosses these as a warning to be wary of those defeated who may come seeking revenge. My view is that these lines point out that Cromwell, who has won power by killing others, must go on killing ad infinitum purely because the is that position that the various power matrices have put him in-

And for the last effect
Still keep the sword erect:

Besides the force it has to fight
The spirits of the shady night;
The same arts that did gain
A pow’r must it maintain.

Poem on the recession

This is a poem by Vimalesh Kumar. Vimalesh is from Kerala in India and is currently working in Muscat, Oman. Vimalesh has so far written just a few poems in English.


Oh recession you come to this crowd
Like a blackbird singing in a calming night

You threw our nights in filthy water
You swallowed our happy mornings
You took our bagpipe and castle

Oh recession you are so cruel
You dried our gardens, our dreams
You brought summer in your hand
You swore ice in cold, rain in water

Oh recession you come like hurricane
You hold our ways to sky and sea
You put our flights in dark clouds
You shake our island and wiped

Oh recession you come at right
You took us hard to restrict
You made us to believe in god
You stopped our hurry tides

Oh recession you are true
You shown us mere and myth
You bargain on our dreams
You make us to live for a future

Oh recession you are so proud
You save our children to live
You teach them to live in the real

You took their wheels to walk

Oh recession you are so humble
You made us to thank for goodness
You made us not to be pompous
You made us to survive in troubles
You opened our eyes to the future.

Poem about poetry

Larkin hated poems about poetry but I can’t seem to get away from them. I think that’s probably because I get really immersed in the process (drafting, writing, reading out loud etc) and I am infinitely curious about the way other people do it. Anyway, what follows was kick-started by a Geoffrey Hill essay  on John Ransom Crowe. What I hope I’ve done is put together a slightly tongue-in-cheek riposte to those who take poetry too seriously.

Nights in the pub

Man walks into a bar,


(to no-one in particular)

“I’m looking for the monad”.

The two bar staff exchange glances

and shuffle their sweating feet.

The older one says:

“We haven’t had a monad in here

since a week last Tuesday”.

The man says: (to them)

“You two don’t even know what a monad is”.

At which the younger one gets all indignant,

pours himself a drink and leans across the bar:

“The monad is Eliot’s still and moving centre,

the compression of feeling, the true object of all poetry.”

He’s strangely impressed and orders a drink- double malt with ice.

Night after night he drags himself down there

to the bar on top of the sea,

night after night he drinks himself drunk,

notebook by his side

as the waves drench the rocks.

Then, one fateful night,

they greet him and say:

“The air’s thick with it tonight-

can’t you smell it?”

And he could, the air was warmer

and carried the scent of burning orchards.

All he had to do was wait.

Then,  at ten past ten, it all started to begin.

The plaintive cries,

the women in their thirties,

the long, long sighs,

the silent sobbing inside,

the older men,

the glazed euphoria.

10 or 12 all at once,

he sat fixed to the  bar

he took notes

(as you would),

he sweated,

he cried,

capturing every last angle that he could.

By 11 it was all over

and he went home,


to sleep.

The next morning with coffee and a smoke

he opened his notes only to find

that he couldn’t read a fucking word.

All squiggles and blotches

as if the truth demon had erased

the revelation in the night.

He tried to make things out,

he really did,

but the only words that were left were:





Poetry and the recession part two

I’ve finally written the poem on our economic malaise. I’d been thinking about this for weeks but what finally put it together for me was the fact that the FT published the names of the guilty men on Saturday- these were the guys that came up with the hocus pocus that broke the banks and everyone else. I’ve also been immersing myself in the early 19th century and the role of rapacious financiers was as much a concern then as it is now.

So, I’ve written some polemic which hopefully distills the problem into something more manageable.   I’ve also resisted the temptation to prescribe a socialist/anarchist solution because that would require prose and I can do that elsewhere.

Demchack and Masters

It’s okay, I’ve found them.

The first guys, the flimmers and the flammers

Who first wrapped things up

They’re called Demchack and Masters

Worked for JP Morgan

And they cleaned up big time.

Then there’s Joe, Joe Cassano  over at AIG,

He took on the risk (which was too small to count)

and took the cash.

Then there were CDOs and SIVs and leverage

And A sold a piece to B

And B paid with money from C

Who was laying this off with D

But that’s okay cos it’s all triple rated.

Then the black folks wanted a house

But they were dirt poor

But nobody cared or seemed to notice

And gave them the money anyway.

During all of this jubilation

Nobody mentioned,  perhaps they forgot

That the free market isn’t actually free.

Nobody said, least of all me,

That there’s always a price to pay.

So now the black folks have nowhere to live,

The banks are broken and the currency’s fucked

And we don’t make things any more.

Sixty grown men chasing one job

All because we forgot

All because the sun was shining

And frankly we didn’t care.