Author Archives: James Cummins

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. 

http://hyperallergic.com/161711/why-i-am-a-member-of-the-lee-harwood-fan-club/

http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poet/item/5699/29/Lee-Harwood

http://tearsinthefence.com/blog/

 

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.

WIN_20150730_161352

 

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.

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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 –

H.D.

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

Each

spoke

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).

poetryinmotion

 

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.

contactsheet

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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Andrew Spragg

Shorts
for 
 
I

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.

II
 
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.

III

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.

IV

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.

V

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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Trevor Joyce – Three Poems

when  i  died
somebody  forgot
to  tell  me

so  I  held
to  the  highroad
instead  of  the  low

invisible  in  cities
markets  orchards

looting  the
sweetest  fruit

what’s  the  worst
can  happen

to  one  already
totalled?

______________________

how  much  must
something
change  till
it  become
another

so  long  a
thing  may  be
and  yet
survive
itself

when  every  least
circumstance
bears  already
the  wounds
of  its  futurity

nothing
is  to  be
taken
lightly

______________________

as  surge
and  torsion
of  the  great
thundering

all  through
an  involved
whirling

nowhere
surface

nerved  and
mapped  only
in  its  churning
inmost

deep  ab
omination
too  troubled
for  skin

blades  and
flanged  bones
shuddering
nocturnal
turbine

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