My S(h)elf: Lee Harwood

I was sad to hear the news of Lee Harwood’s passing a few days ago (July 26th). He was an excellent poet and a central figure in British poetry (60s – present – and onward).  There are and will be many tributes written by those who knew him and his work. These people will have a better understanding of his work and  his lasting influence. here are a few those.


I am lucky enough to have a number of Harwood’s early collections on my shelf and one that stands out for me is ‘The Man with Blue Eyes’ which was published in 1966 by Angel Hair.



The cover is by Joe Brainard which, along with the poems inside, shows how Harwood was writing out of and with certain aspects of American poetry most notably New York School and Beat.

the poem ‘journal. 20 may 65 london’ which was written a couple of week prior to The International Poetry Incarnation which saw the likes of Allen Ginsberg read to an audience of seven thousand people in the Royal Albert Hall. The poem itself clearly takes Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ as a starting point and reads “the new angels ……. / oh fuck these angels / an eye closed half vision / of black smoke clouds” and goes on “angel body twisted like rope / old homestead photos of fishermen / plaiting rope with creaking / papuan wood machinery”.

Another poem in the collection worth mentioning is the first one which is untitled but opens “as your eyes are blue / you move me – & the thought of you – / I imitate you”. There is also a short preface by Peter Scheldahl which states “Harwood writes about memories that refuse to fade and dreams that are never nearly enough” and goes on to describe the poems as “elegant and full of grace, which makes their human intensities bearable and their existence such a cause for awe and celebration”.

this book is now long out of print but for those wishing to read more you can buy his ‘Collected Poems’ from Shearsman here

or a shorter (cheaper) ‘Selected Poems’ also from Shearsman here

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Giant Tiger Land Snail by Ellen Dillon

Giant Tiger Land Snail

I say the earth is porous

and we fall constantly”

                        Peter Gizzi


Achatina achatina

men adore you,

your muscular

meaty foot,

fibonacci-spiralled shell,

caravan of dreams for

a mollusc on the move.

Who wouldn’t

want to be you?


Aeroplanes to America

trace snail-trails

in the sky, curved

nematodes of cloud

that crawl inside if

we’re not careful,

crossing blood-brain

barrier, inflaming matter,

partly paralyzing.


Airing is no prophylactic,

we must be vigilant in tracking

vectors of parasitic brain-disease

lurking in the cumulonimbus.

All membranes are permeable

(some porous, even) offering

scant protection from that

which is tiny, furtive, protein-

sheathed and quietly out to get us.



[April ‘13/ July ’15]

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Iain Morrison

[Poetry For] A new ing

Iain Morrison can be seen reading this poem here

and he blogs here

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My S(h)elf

I am going to start a new serial post where, once a week or so, I show you something that is on my shelf. Simple.

To start this off I will pick something that has been on my shelf for a long time. Lorine Niedecker’s ‘Collected Works’ edited by Jenny Penberthy and published by University of California Press. The hardback was published in 2002 and the paperback (which I have) was published in 2004.


Niedecker (1903-1970) is an integral part of an American modernist tradition. She was the only (where there others?) woman associated with the Objectivist and was for many year neglected (still is in someways). During the 1960 her work started to be published more widely thanks to British’s presses such as Fulcrum. But this kind of info can be found online easy enough.

I first heard about Niedecker’s work via a recommendation from Trevor Joyce. If memory serves he mentioned that she was a big influence on Catherine Walsh‘s work. I have always liked the way in chick the work itself outlines her involvement with poetry. For example

‘If I were a bird’

I’d be a dainty contained cool

Greek figurette

on a morning shore –


I’d flitter and feed and delouse myself

close to Williams’ house

and his kind eyes

I’d be a never-museumed tinted glass

breakable from the shelves of Marianne Moore.

On Stevens’ fictive sibilant hibiscus flower

I’d poise myself,a cuckoo, flamingo-pink.

I’d plunge the depths with Zukofsky

and all that means — stirred earth,

cut sky, organ-sounding, resounding

anew, anew.

I’d prick the sand in cunning, lean,

Cummings irony, a little drunk dead sober.

Man, that walk down the beach!

I’d sit on a quiet fence

and sing a quiet thing: sincere, sincere.

And that would be Reznikoff.

Lorine Niedecker

There is a simplicity in her work but one that is clearly crafted and hard to master. There is a real tension in some of the lines which point to her being an influence on the Likes of Frank O’Hara and Robert Creeley. another poem.

I walked

on New Year’s Day

Beside the trees

my father now gone planted

evenly following

the road



you can buy Niedecker’s ‘Collected Works’ here

Poetry in Motion: Poetry Documentaries

staying with poetry documentaries I watched Ron Mann’s 1982 film Poetry in Motion which features writers like Amiri Baraka, Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs and John Cage (to name a few).



It can be watched – with Spanish subtitles – on youtube here. What was great about this documentary is the amount of footage of poets reading. The film is not just about poetry but also contains alot of poetry.

It got me thinking about how important documentary film making is in terms of gathering and preserving footage which might otherwise remain lost or forgotten about in archives. Furthermore, how documentaries can introduce poetry, poetry movements and individual poets to a wider audience. So I ask, what other poetry documentaries should I watch? Are there any on the British equivalent poetry scenes/periods (Cambridge, London, Essex etc)? What about the idea of documentaries on British or Irish poets? who would you like to see a documentary on?

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Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place

I watched this decent enough documentary on the American poet Charles Olson today.


I am always surprised by the amount of poets I meet who have never heard of Olson. This documentary is a very good, and relatively short, introduction into his life and poetry. It is entitled Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place and was made in 2007 by the film maker Henry Ferrini. For $30 plus P+P you can buy the DVD.

or, thanks to the director, you can see it in six parts on YouTube


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from Fantasias in Counting (Buffalo, NY: BlazeVOX, 2014)

Walk—four Passi , then petty Seguito Scorsi, always one Trango to follow, to pull back then
Shuffle—then Man takes Lady’s ordinary hand for possible particular

All still movement is grave , Riverenza to the thigh or driven right or left that they be removed
since this going beyond making beautiful and charming view moves routinely

Now Riprese , Spezzato , trot left edge inwards , raise heels , enabling higher-frown glances ,
the hop is always for Settle

Of the various possibilities that are , as you hold it in then remove ,
that they should be vague and [  ] and any possibility within frames moves

So that—what is involved—first in one of those amounts to the fine and honourable ,
the foot held the principality , and respect before

Perfectly ordinary beats are all manners clumsy reverence but fine and honourable
the constancy and stability of that favourable toe be careful now finding yourself with feet

I will all the objects that do relate to him I will say                  none of them praised
the extended arm , and the lower surface on the side the front or the back

I will all the faces and edges and twists
even all that is reprehensible

‘Winner’ holds back that said arm , and the foot with the bottom-up shot ,
seems one of those who beg

When it contains extensive , and I of those with the sound of it face the opposite ,
or that the back , which swoons , it is the people , show in front , show in faces

Past the sweat , which , at the edge of a little twist, sings, it could not again ,
and in each of these possibilities comes somewhat indecent or culpable that which is relative
So for the head , hold grace , between good Pleasing and ornate Boredom,
take the foot for the turn , just

Hold it to the lower part towards this
you        associated with ordinary hands , partly with a view to


then take ordinary hands back.

(All of this takes place in two counts.)

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Fragment (the sleeping partner)

incised like pieces of time not to touch but to always know

the sound of someone a tractor mowing the field to bristle to cut the kids’ feet tomorrow

yet they run it out make it every

crux a road another road where cells grow frantic drop their proteins run and yet once spread out blankets shook out in the sun

no limit to the room of sleep its volume a boundless continuous basin and bellow


Fragment (the waking partner)

The list of strange
cases includes
me and should include you.
I’m a spring that sticks.
A waving palm. When
you’re making your beautiful
breathing arrangements there’s
one step I want
you to keep for me,
you pearl of need,
you superb embarassment.


Fragment (the sleeping partner)

who does the obligation love the hot wind lick what does it howl on the plain

flood of animal drawings to adorn a flood of t-shirts to wear in caves to warm and

swaddle the A/C icicle high

clouds excite a feeling of nature in the cavity

how to know something’s been torn out more than a line trying to eke out the flood

pillage and relish a loose skin shaped like a tiny boat before it’s stretched under a frame

undo a mooring of water no expanse will drain where it ends is worse


Fragment (the waking partner)

I cut no slack to lack.
My cares can grow
sacrally, fitfully,
threshing effort, indefinitely.
Look at the rank money
under new medicine.
Look beyond. Tender
sprouts. Liquid
manure before the throat.
I wait for you.
I brought you terms.
You refused to love them.
Don’t cry before
you’re hurt. Your
roar, the road down
into you cries
out on the bare offer.


Fragment (the sleeping partner)

on the face of the waters all ducts gush old tears of ruin and hot metal flaring

are they most noble must they become a giant of strategy bestriding

no no high among the milkweeds caught infiltrating in unison said it’d be all right

parted from the past lives department by a three-strand fence

of incalculable menace the rigor bells ring all bedside

all the hollow-eyed night-tide the fear and care of raising

(from The Duration, a manuscript in progress about living simultaneously in the present, a future that exists, and a future that does not)
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Andrew Spragg


The electives and a heart stop:
find there something
idling in you, forging on or
lifted to grouch about.

Time taken by a distance, a measure.
A voice finds footing in the surface
not needing assistance, seeking the guard:
later on will just be later.

Caught flat from the air,
an accidental flourish and
calling it out, that'll be the
magnet of progress.

Incomparable object:
that old la lune.

Collapse the market
            with infinite love exchange,
watching that slight
clip over and over.

Hey but now let's listen:
conquer all turned cheek
as it meets with the sun,  and it is such a
pretty one.

Where we met the last time,
he was pushing the
object gracelessly up the stairs.


Colossal throb, locket for my heart ,
there are the great multitudes of poise
and the proviso of little else.

Dear all – stomp-out the blue ache,
how good and great thou art –
if you just halted by and by.

Outfoxed or rumly does it
or it does not
mainly compete,

but consummate the other.
Where's the den then and the
making of a major.

Stops there, will for the nothing be,
there's the medicine and then
there's the now.

Remarkable measure:
if you can hear this
I am talking to you.


And found there
out in the dark
a warm sate of attentive

longed aspects,
too in excess of simple excess,
and there's the warm rub.


leapt from one thing to
another like wild fire

do not be daft all
another fire is a kind of wild

and the world is a stone
cold fox

other things that are a stone
cold fox

include you.
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