Tag Archives: the claudius app

Brief media bulletin: Jarvis, Sutherland and Jones.

The audio of the launch of Simon Jarvis’ Night Office is now available on the Enitharmon site. This has the reading and a discussion between Simon and Rowan Williams followed by a brief Q and A. Essential listening for those of us currently paying attention to the work. The Claudius App Soundcloud Gizmo has a reading of the stunningly odd Dionysus Crucified read by Simon and Justin Katko- I’ll be writing about this in the reasonably near future.

The Archive of the Now Keston Sutherland page has both the Cafe Oto and the Brighton launch readings of The Odes to TL61P. The Claudius App Soundcloud gizmo has a New York reading, apparently there’s a New Haven reading as well that Keston feels is the best to date- will provide the link when I get it.

There are also two films on David Jones by David Shiel and commissioned by the David Jones Society. Both of these are more about the paintings and drawings than the poems but there’s still plenty to argue with.


The Claudius App, being in a poem and a twitter challenge.

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.

Saying Cheese with Joe Luna

I’m going to start at the end – what does it mean to ‘say cheese’? Most of us will recognise as the phrase photographers (amateur and professional) are supposed to use to make their subjects smile and appear reasonably happy. So, saying cheese is providing an indicator of mood and of general amiability which may or may not be a reflection of what’s going on within and sometimes the effort to smile is obviously forced that it gives away the anguish that is in reality besetting the subject.

I started writing about Joe’s work (I think) in about 2011 with his inclusion in the landmark ‘Better than Language’ anthology and made the point then that the fascinating thing about the work was what seemed to be going on at one step removed from the text. Since then I’ve read ‘For the White Lake Blot‘ on Claudius App and now have in my possession a thin volume entitled ‘Astroturf’ which was published earlier this year. There’s clearly a progression going on- a development that seems to encompass both a more formal lyricism and a quite grim playfulness that’s better thought through.

I’m going to use two poems to think through what I think I mean. As ever, what follows is entirely provisional and subject to change at any time. The first is ‘Shinier & More Resistant’ which is, to use Keston Sutherland’s technical term, decidedly prosey.

It’s in four parts and I’ll start with most of the first part:

You make an infant head count or sway gallantly inside singy lips
love-peak, a crescent just there pointing at a forcefield. Gum
open the ribcage pointing at it. In deepest Earth go terminal
at singy lips or sway gallantly inside an infant headcount colouring
the picture sky blue, there is a public plague over the entrance
portable to the last incalculable fetish and a quality street that renders
people who dodge every awful agenda - recalcify their hats, their pointy
expectations, a timid want streak is overtly fucked.

It seems to me that there are several things going on here that need some thinking about. The first is the repeated ‘infant head count’ which is nearly ambiguous. In what circumstance do we count children? As someone who has dragged young people over quite difficult terrain, I would count heads in order to make sure that the group was reasonably together and that nobody had fallen by the wayside or run off (these were young offenders on remand). Any outing with a group of young people involves regular and reasonably frequent head-counts of this sort. The other kind of head count that comes to mind is when something terrible has occurred, as in a school shooting, and police need to know how many kids have escaped unscathed. There’s also the gruesome count that needs to differentiate the dead from the wounded.

There’s also the possibility that ‘infant’ is an adjective as in ‘infantile’ and the headcount my also be the kind of counting that goes on mentally- inside the head to oneself.

The other obvious ambiguity is the lips that are said to be ‘singy’- are these lips in the everyday sense of the flesh around the opening of the mouth or are they some other kind of lip? ‘Lip’ can also refer to insolence. ‘Singy’ is more problematic because it might appear to be better than it is. What I’m not going to do, for the moment is wade through the fourteen main and many more subsidiary definitions of the verb but, in making this decision, the OED reminds me that sing is also a noun whose primary definition is “the sound made by a bullet or other projectile in its flight” which would take us back into gruesome territory if the lips are the mouth of a gun or larger piece of artillery- the noise made can refer to a shell or a missile as well as a bullet. In which case ‘singy’ is at least as good as it appears.

Before I get into more casting about, I want to have a brief interlude on the function of repetition. The most obvious ‘aim’ in repeating something is to add emphasis, to stress the importance of a particular phrase or image but there’s also the way it can be used to build on or develop a theme. I’m an enormous fan of repetition that’s used in this way but here there might be a bit more going on. These phrases and ‘sway gallantly’ recur within the first four lines and they appear to be used in completely different ways, not a development but a quite radical repositioning of sense. It now occurs to me that swaying gallantly can also have quite gruesome connotations.

The poem develops into what appears to be a quite complex examination of our indifference to the wanton destruction that we continue to wreak on each other:

and in the morning happiness is totally different from what you think it is. With
out disregard for living human beings there could be no swapping, life
does appear, and life-size you split the cylinder right down the middle
and say cheese.

I don’t think I’ll be alone in finding this an accomplished and completely satisfying way to end a poem- I’ll come back to the rest of it at a later stage and give some more thought to those first four lines. I’ll also attempt to deal with the Lana Del Ray problem.

It may be that Luna’s work has always had a lyrical streak and I’ve either missed it or filed it elsewhere. However, the last poem in this remarkable collection is ‘Night Thought’ which consists of three three-line stanzas and a single line. It’s quite formal in that the last line of each of the three stanzas rhymes with the others. I want to quote the last four lines primarily because I don’t have the talent or skill to write them but really wish that I did:

I go to bed and want to feel alive in time
to listen to the only sound that doesn't either
pierce my skin, or throws my head over the sink.

Night is big and clumsy. I am thin, and weak.

The last line is wonderful and is made perfect, I would argue, by the inclusion of the comma.

Astroturf is available from Hi Zero Publications at a fiver including p and p. It’s an important addition to our cultural landscape.

The Emily Dorman Problem Part One.

masouleh, iran

This is not in any way connected to the Paul Muldoon problem or the almost resolved Clavics problem, it may be a sub-set of the not liking Sub Songs dilemma but it is causing some unease.

The problem begins with the publication of ‘Towards a New Critical Vocabulary’ in the first issue of the Claudius App which is startling and funny and inventive and made me smile a lot. This was followed by the usual 5 minutes worth of web research which revealed that Emily Dorman was better known as Mrs Ernest Shackleton but very little else.

So, I did intend to write something more detailed about ‘Towards’ but got sidetracked until the advent of the second issue of Claudius which contains ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ and appeared initially to be disappointing. So, I was going to write a compare and contrast thing pointing out in forthright fashion why ‘Towards’ is much better. Then I played the audio and the problem became apparent.

Starting with the obvious, in-jokes are only funny to people on the inside (hence the term), the use and enjoyment of in-jokes remains in my head as a sixth-form thing akin to the enjoyment of ‘Private Eye’. Poets are overly fond of writing for the cognoscenti, the first part of Marvell’s ‘Last Instructions’ was written for a specific coterie who would ‘get’ the jokes.

Moving on to the less than obvious, the reading of ‘Super Poem’ is wonderfully and seriously inept which makes the poem appear in my head to be much less self-regarding and clever. I was then struck by a fairly depressing thought- am I more impressed with ‘Towards’ because I’m old and British and recognise more of the names that I do with ‘Super Poem’?

So, the problem becomes one of my background and prejudices rather than the work per se. It can be argued that this is always the case but it is rare for me not to like stuff because I’ve never heard of Zucker, Zapruder and co. I’m going to try a section by section response starting with ‘Towards a New Critical Vocabulary’-


This is amusing and a reasonably accurate portrait of critical excess, the inclusion of Girtin is a nice touch and the faux quote is good, I like the use of ‘sleazy’ because it points to a quite complex line of attack. ‘Writerly constipation’ seems a bit too easy in this context but I am intensely fond of the sunspots. The notion of a pamphlet retaining its mortality is one I intend to keep alive on this blog even though the raze/raise thing is as bad as Prynne and Hill at their worst. The last sentence is a bit flat but that might be because I’m not entering into the spirit of things.


The Nigerian scare trope works but, although stupid, isn’t perhaps stupid enough. It does take a little while to realise that the detailed ‘scam’ (consummated or not) doesn’t make sense although the tabloid prose is a nice touch. If this was a lit crit piece then I’d feel obliged to poke at the integrity or otherwise of the italicised numerous. But it isn’t. It also happens that I know at least one Ghanaian poet in Ghana and he’s writing poetry.


We’ve all received these, the Saddam reference ties it in to 2003. The deliberately poor use of English in these things is done in order to lull the recipient into a false sense of superiority, is it over-reading to suggest that something similar might be going on here?


This is really good, I wish I’d written it. I’m reminded of what John Matthias has written about manifestos and the elegaic neediness that lurks blaringly within. In it’s entirety this should be read to every post graduate student every single day until a clear appreciation of the ‘now, on the shore’ device is demonstrated. This is good because it is understated, measured and the degree of neediness is perfectly judged -‘it will’.


This is set out in verse form with two long lines followed by one short. I’m taking it that ‘they’ refers to both answers to the question discussed in the previous section and that the car that is being followed is the answer to both questions that has been ‘reduced’ by the critic.

At first sight, the placing of this seems odd, almost as a superfluous verse afterthought to what has gone before but I do like the cinematic quip at the end which serves as a kind of ironic stop to the pastiche that precedes it.


I’m struggling to know whether this is ironic or not, it’s more obviously philosophical rather than literary but also feels quite personal. Of course, concern about the passage of time involving a degree of decay rather than progress is common to both poetry and philosophy. Whether this is ironic or not, the first paragraph is more successful than the second which is too convoluted, even though that may be the ‘point’.


Here’s a confession, prior to reading this I’d never heard of Millard Filmore and don’t feel sufficiently motivated to find out if there’s a connection between the 13th president of the United States with bear baiting and/or Wall St. I’m going with the supposition that these are reasonably random and serve to underline the overly technical nonsense that is being lampooned.

The riff on overly technical analysis is good, I’m particularly fond of the ‘sforzando of dental plosives’ which is the kind of thing that pervades some commentaries of 16/17th century work- and gets in the way. I don’t understand and therefore cannot judge the accuracy or otherwise of the ‘2 train’ quip and I don’t intend to find out, The demented aunt and the $500 Michael Hamburger is a bit of a jarring end. Are we referring to a $500 Hamburger collection (there weren’t many) or a translation or another Michael Hamburger altogether?


I like Barbara Guest, I don’t think she’s well enough known/read in the UK. If this is meant to be a parody or ‘in the manner of’ then it’s not very good. The faux title isn’t good/shocking/witty enough and seems a bit lazy.


I like the idea of appropriating headlines of accumulating a barrage of headlines. If this is parodic then it needs to be a bit more pointed, i.e. it either needs to be more banal or more dramatic to hit the target.


I can speak with some experience of responses, none of these reflect that stuff that this blog generates, nor do they echo what I’ve seen in other blogs. Perhaps I should pay more attention….

I do take an interest in the use of English in spam which I think is more worthy of creative attention but this only acquires ‘meaning’ if you know how blog spammers are paid.


This is excellent – it’s what caught my eye on the first reading. It captures the tone and the deliberate incoherence wonderfully and all post graduate students should be made to recite it every single day. My only query is about lesser/Lessing- although I don’t know what reputation she has in the US.


  • bellying wave;
  • the intentionality of the prefab;
  • march ends;
  • muscular crusts;
  • shuttling into silhouette;
  • extrapolating that the agape of the Greek;
  • any sparks of chant;
  • let night be an allegory;
  • a clef signifying the displacement of free play;
  • the Beethoven;
  • time is function of a concept of collusion;
  • “missing a composer” won a continent.



I’m taking this as a riff on ‘criticism as rock journalism’ or perhaps there really is this kind of stuff written be people who are just aching to be cool. I’m not familiar with either so I can’t comment other than to observe that it seems reasonably efficient.


This is intriguingly odd- earlyish philosophy contrasted with the most important film director of the last fifty years. I have an interest in both and don’t really think that the first section is strong enough (except for ‘she likes doctors and they like her’) The Godard is more successful, especially the phase/phasing device which is used consciously.

I’m still not sure why these two should be put together, Godard attracts an entirely different genre of pretension than the Neoplatonics….


The first paragraph reads like something I might of written in a moment of low-grade mania and the second points worringly toward the in-crowd problem that I’ve already referred to.


I’m not from Kansas but I am living Somewhere Else. This appears to be a parody of a type of poetry that I’m not familiar with but the fourth and fifth lines do seem quite adept / clever.


I like this a lot, I think it’s both clever and complicated and it makes me smile.


I like this, there ought to be more of this.

Perhaps there is.

The next post will contrast ‘Towards’ with ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ (in both print and audio versions) and ask whether part 2 is a progression or a step backwards.