Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The argument from stuff

Sophie Robinson is reading tomorrow at the Parasol Unit at 7 (14 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW, between Old Street and Angel stations). & I'm reading with Frances Kruk on Sunday at Cafe Oto (18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL). Kauphmann on animals. You saw Bonney last night at the Klinker. There's also this next year:

“A”-24: A Louis Zukofsky Seminar and Performance

The Centre for Modernist Studies at the University of Sussex presents the British premiere of Louis and Celia Zukofsky’s “A”-24, performed by Sean Bonney, Ken Edwards, Daniel Kane and Francesca Beasley with harpsichord by Kerry Yong.

Sarah-Jane Barnes plays violin pieces by Janequin and Bach

The seminar will include papers by Harry Gilonis, Jeff Hilson, Mark Scroggins, Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas and Tim Woods.

£10/£5. Places are limited, to reserve a place email Richard Parker at r dot t dot a dot parker at sussex dot ac dot uk.

13.00, 23 January 2009
The Meeting House
University of Sussex
Falmer, East Sussex

Francis Crot's Talking Donkey Bloodbath and Posie Rider's "Bloodsoaked Tampon et. al." are being posted.

Monday, 10 November 2008

A note on idealism

Three ways of circumscribing idealism:

(1) A symbolic event which happens instead of a material event which it resembles.
(2) A symbolic event which prevents somebody from pursuing her material interests.
(3) A symbolic event which prepares somebody to symbolise her material interests.

I’m not interested in comparing their strengths and weaknesses as definitions. It is obvious from the outset that no stipulation of this kind will do to capture what's meant by idealism. It's just not up for analysis in the analytic style. Idealism is usefully thought of as that which moves flexibly (dialectically, if you prefer) through these three modes.

OK, let me clarify them. (1) is perhaps the most familiar. Speech about “increasing social mobility,” for example, can be understood as a symbolic event which resembles a particular would-be event – abolition of objective class inequalities of production and consumption – and which contributes to the failure of that event to materialise (because it offers an alternative emancipatory narrative). Flip M.E.G.A. e.g.

(2) is the sort of stipulation we’re attracted to when emphasising the connotative dimension of ideology. Ideology partly works by making its creatures fail to notice, conceptualise, think, feel, theorise or express something. Ideology & habitus, ideology as what's natural, etc. In such cases, there may be nothing ideational to compare a potential material event with. No relation of resemblance could therefore be determined.

If conceptual contradictions or aporia are correlated with material ones, then there should be various causal mechanisms by which the resolution of the latter leads to the dissolution of the former. In fact such mechanisms are hugely difficult even to imagine. (3) is the sort of stipulation we may prefer when we're exhausted by trying to imagine such mechanisms. To take the previous example again, you could argue that “speech about “increasing social mobility”” is something that quite easily could accompany the abolition of objective class inequalities. Certainly, any long-term struggle to accomplish this objective would eventually have to conceptualise itself, as well as its various countermovements and its alternatives – its “probematique” – so in a way, such speech should be expected whenever such material events are underway. (3) gives a more rhetorical understanding of idealism. A moment of idealism is a moment at which thought in some “safe” mode, some materially “status quo” reaches – perhaps coincidentally – a configuration from which it can naturally flow into that thought which is a component of praxis, i.e. that ideality which is the organic complement of material events. This use of idealism is the least pejorative of the three.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I'm nervous. What do we really know about this guy?

i heard he gave a terrorist a fist job??

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

[...] Speaking in Florida, Mr Obama mistakenly talked about being in Ohio while in Tennessee, Mr McCain referred to being in Virginia [...]

Monday, 3 November 2008

Posie Rider has been busy:

"Well not really like her (awful third waver) I'd like to stick the (post-) in her feminism: Silly bitch."

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

From "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism"

By Max Weber.

And since the interest of the employer in a speeding up of harvesting increases with the increase of the results and the intensity of the work, the attempt has again and again been made, by increasing the piecerates of the workmen, thereby giving them an opportunity to earn what is for them a very high wage, to interest them in increasing their own efficiency. But a peculiar difficulty has been met with surprising frequency: raising the piece-rates has often had the result that not more but less has been accomplished in the same time, because the worker reacted to the increase not by increasing but by decreasing the amount of his work. A man, for instance, who at the rate of 1 mark per acre mowed 2 1/2 acres per day and earned 2 1/2 marks, when the rate was raised to 1.25 marks per acre mowed, not 3 acres, as he might easily have done, thus earning 3.75 marks, but only 2 acres, so that he could still earn the 2 1/2 marks to which he was accustomed. The opportunity of earning more was less attractive than that of working less. He did not ask: how much can I earn in a day if I do as much work as possible? But: how much must I work in order to earn the wage, 2 1/2 marks, which I earned before and which takes care of my traditional needs? This is an example of what is here meant by traditionalism. A man does not "by nature" wish to earn more and more money [...]

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Mr Tim Atkins is reading "Folklore" tonight at The OldKings Head in King's Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NA. Start time not impossibly 7.30 pm.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

From "Pop"

By Barack Obama.

[...] Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Two fingers [...]

Saturday, 11 October 2008

acoustic improvisation - solo violin

(But check TFL)
Tonight 11 October 2008
The Norwegian Church (Sjømannskirken)
St Olav's Square, SE16 7JB

free admission
(retiring collection)


Chris Goode
& other stuff @
The Klinker @ Maggie's Bar
100 Stoke Newington Church St.
Tuesday 14th October
Doors open 8.30ish for a 9ish start
£5 (£3 conks)


Satellites Talking
Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 7:30pm
Betsey Trotwood
56 Farringdon Road, London
Poetry by Sophie Robinson, Kelly-Marie
Music by Mel Dobson, Ruby and her Whorses
Maybe comedy and maybe music by Max and Iván


14 Hour @ The Griffin
93 Leonard Street, EC2A
The Woe Betides
Tim Clare
Niall Spooner-Harvey
Guy J. Jackson
Andrew Copeman
& Graham Bendel
Saturday, October 25th at 8.00 pm


7.15, 21st October
The Foundry, near Old Street Tube

Adrian Clarke
Francesca Lisette
Wanda Phipps
Anna Ticehurst
Michael Zand
Mike Weller (video work)
Allen Fisher (video interview)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

architecture for cartography (7/8)

What do they agree on:

Francesca Beasley
Andrew Brewerton
Stuart Calton
Rosy Carrick
David Chaloner
Matt Chambers
cris cheek
Jon Clay
Jennifer Cooke
Emily Critchley
Alison Croggon
Alex Davies
Ryan Dobran
Andy Ellis
Gareth Farmer
Harry Gilonis
Chris Goode
Giles Goodland
John Hall
Jeremy Hardingham
Michael Haslam
Ian Heames
Kent Johnson
Justin Katko
David Kennedy
Michael Kindellan
Peter Larkin
J.P.D. Lavery
Jow Lindsay
David Lloyd
Larry Lynch
Rod Mengham
Will Montgomery
Philip Newman
Peter Nicholls
Ian Patterson
Neil Pattison
Simon Perril
Alex Pestell
Peter Philpott
Robin Purves
Herman Rapaport
Sophie Read
John David Rhodes
Peter Riley
Luke Roberts
Josh Robinson
Stephen Rodefer
Ben Seymour
Marcus Slease
Nicolas Spicer
Josh Stanley
Chris Stroffolino
Keston Sutherland
John Temple
Michael Tencer
Anna Ticehurst
Ross Wilson?

What if you took out Matt Chambers and Francesca Beasely? Better?

Friday, 3 October 2008

From slateyourdate.com

So blind date set up from the internet... Walk in to the pub to see the guy who looks quite like his photograph (not a bad thing), wearing a thinly knitted jumper with thin stripes - very tight over his pot belly. Not great, but forgiven by the fact he'd ordered some nice wine that was chilled and waiting for me. We were chatting away for hours and getting quite merry, all going well - even going on for dinner. Then the bubble burst. He asked what I'd done for my last holiday and who I'd gone with. I said I'd gone to climb Scafell Pike and went on my own because my friend who works in film suddenly got a job. His response: You SO need a boyfriend. That was it. I failed to see why a boyfriend would make climbing a mountain in gale force wind any better, finished my drink and said I'd call him. Obviously didn't.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Parasol Unit Readings Series:

Ian Hunt
Thursday, 25 September at 7.00

David Miller
Thursday, 18 December at 7.00 prob.

14 Wharf Road
London N1 7RW
between Old Street and Angel tube stations


Louise Landes Levi, Alyson Torns and David Miller will be reading their poems at Rustique Literary Café, 142 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park, London NW5, from 7.30 on the evening of Thursday 18th September. Admission: £5 / £3 (concessions).


Christopher Gutkind, Jeff Hilson, Gad Hollander, Richard Leigh, Stephen C. Middleton, David Miller, Wendy Saloman & Alyson Torns will be reading at a special "Crossing the Blue Bus Line" event in memory of Petros Bourgos, from 7.30 pm on Tuesday 23rd September, at The Lamb, 94 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1, near Holborn tube.


Peter Riley & Johan DeWit will be reading at The Lamb q.v. at 7.30 on the 19th of November.


James Harvey & Shanta Acharya
Sunday 21st September at 7.30
at Torriano Meeting House
99 Torriano Av. NW5 2RX
Hosted by Alyson Torns & Valeria Melchioretto


Jonathan Styles
Masterclass in improvisation
Including audience discussion
Sunday 5 October 2008 at 2.00
at the Norwegian Church (Sjømannskirken)
St. Olav's Square, SE16 7JB
Participating musicians to be announced soon
Free admission

Styles also will give performances in October in York, Lincoln and London:




“poetry and music with the post-avant [surely we're back to square one?] crowd for ya Sunday afternoon pleasure”

Third Sunday of the month, 3-5 pm, Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL (http://www.cafeoto.co.uk/), £4 entry.

Sep 21: Tim Atkins + Isnaj Dui (music) + Sophie Robinson

October 19: Keith Jebb + The Mind Shop (music: Armorel Weston, John Gibbens and David Miller) + Alyson Torns

November 16: Tom Lowenstein + Hannah Silva + music t.b.c.

December 21: Frances Kruk + me + Jonathan Styles (music)

Cafe Oto is tucked away at the main crossroads in Dalston, just opposite & down a little way from Dalston Kingsland Overground Station (2 stations from Piccadilly Line at Highbury & Islington), and with good bus routes from Waterloo (76 & 243), Victoria (38), Kings Cross (30), Tottenham Court Road (38 & 242), London Bridge (149) & Liverpool Street (242 & 149), let alone North & East London. Ashwin Street is first off North side of Dalston Lane from the crossroads and other end immediately off Abbott Street (1st off East side of Kingsland High St). For further information: http://www.myspace.com/sundaysattheoto.

So just to clarify: if you're Alyson "Auntie" Torns, you have to read on the 18th of September and 19th of October and you have to host on the 21st of September. If you're David Miller, you have to read on the 18th of September & 18th of December, which is easy to remember, so you just have to remember which is which. Also on October 19th you have to play some music, so probably you want to go to Kauphmann's masterclass on the 5th, which is a Sunday. Also, all roads lead to you: if someone has borrowed something off you and you need it back, they can come to your gigs in September, October or December, or they can go to James & Shanta's readings on the 21st of September and ask Alyson (who will be hosting) to give it to you at Café Oto on the 19th of October, or they can go to Ian Hunt's reading on the 25th of September in the Parasol Unit and hide it somewhere for you to retrieve on the 18th of December (it depends when you need it by really) when you read there, or they might be able to give it to you on the 5th of October if you do go to Styles's thing in the end, or are actually participating in it, because the musicians haven't been announced yet, and maybe they're you and other people.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Thursday September 4.

Readings from Karlien van den Beukel and Peter Manson. Pete McNamara will play the fiddle. Like Timothy Leary on acid etc.

15 Leathermarket Street
London Bridge, SE1 3HN

View Larger Map

Monday, 1 September 2008

From "Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence"

By G. A. Cohen.

Why, then, do workers not elect revolutionary candidates? […] A “Marcusean” reply was popular in the 1960s. Bourgeois ideology, it went, has so captured the minds of the workers that they are hooked on capitalism and virtually unaware of a socialist alternative. This answer no doubt gives a part of the truth, in exaggerated form. But it is important to realize that it is not the whole truth. For it neglects the costs and difficulties of carrying through a socialist transformation. Workers are not so benighted as to be helpless dupes of bourgeois ideology, nor all so uninformed as to be unaware of the size of the socialist project. Marxist tradition expects revolution only in crisis, not because then alone will workers realize what burden capitalism puts upon them, but because when the crisis is bad enough the dangers of embarking on a socialist alternative become comparatively tolerable.

Friday, 29 August 2008

from "bisect duality"

By Make Believe.

Ee-yi-ee-yo-ee-yi-yay-ee-yi-yay. Ee-yi-ee-yo-ee-yi-yay-ee-yi-yay. The Puerto Rican twin sisters introduce a tongue-twister. My stomach and brain swam as one and the same. Well this one pinked / paved / puked at my blister while this one played shell games with names. Can’t tell a fantasy suggested from a fantasy projected, from a cinema seat ejector. I see the birds between your face and name. This kind of day old waitress has been cussing for tips. Can’t tell a fantasy suggested from a fantasy projected, from a fantasy neglected. I see the birds between your face and name. When I bisect duality. Kurt Kobain lives! Kurt Kobain lives! I see the birds between your face and name. Ee-yi-ee-yo-ee-yi-yay-ee-yi-yay. Ee-yi-ee-yo-ee-yi-yay-ee-yi-yay.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

architecture for cartography (6/8)

View Larger Map

The informal ontology of Duncan’s glosses emphasises influence. Poets are generally grouped according to his sense of their common conditions, with priority given to common influences.

Many of us will prefer to sidestep ontological questions if possible, and instead develop practices for dealing with an object set assumed to contain incommensurabilities – to contain areas which cannot be translated into other areas via any conceivable intermediary (see note 1). I am taken by a reverie in which there is a glowing input slot. Sliding Andrew Duncan’s cartographic spirit through the slot projects onto the page the map discussed (conference-call happy-slapped) in these posts. But we can slide anything into the slot – retask kipple, nonchalantly. What we are developing under that scenario is a physics of poetry. Cartographic methods are made available to us like bits of matter, and we don’t have to know our methods to employ them. If they produce interesting results, we tend to retrieve them from the glowing slot and inspect them more thoroughly. All results are interesting at least in the sense of informing what we are prepared to feed the glowing slot next.

Cf. Gary Sotto: “the cricket pavilion manufactures c.3,000 curfews p.a., / mostly for industrial purchasers. I pawn Irwin’s edges.”

Physics can be approximated by shoving maps up bespoke rules-governed practices i.e. language games. Atoms of poetry should now be formalised as a matrix of top trumps. What categories?

Or opinionated detail could be teased out as follows. Two poetic atoms (poets, poems, readings or whatever) are rated in five or so secret categories. The names of the categories are secret, the assigned values are not.

? – 4
? – Y
? – 10
? – N/A
? – 6

? – 4
? – N
? – 3
? – 7
? – 9

The subject is asked to develop a theory or a sense of a system which would subsume these two atoms as these values, and to apply it to a much larger set. Thus perhaps judging that Keston’s “Hot White Andy” and Peter’s “1943, Cat’s Hands” are equivalently ‘charismatic,’ the subject decodes the first category.

Or discourse analysis, borrowing techniques from psychology to have a stab at a methodology of immanence. Is that an oxymoron.

In developing and occupying such practices, we'll probably find affiliations between pairs of poets are easier to swallow than schools or camps or whatever. Our matrix should not insist on “transitivity of proximity”; i.e. in our matrix, the distance between A & B and between B & C should not fix the size of the neighbourhood which includes A & C. Should the soon-to-be-completed largest ever Linear High-Energy Bonus Dormitat Homerus Accelerator at the Birkbeck College’s Centre for Research in Poetics discover R. F. Langley (Cambridge School) and Ted Hughes (Anthropological Narrative: waaaay over on the other side) to be basically the same deal, no other poets should have to shift their locations to accommodate the findings. (I purr off “insist” “fix” and “have to” because actually we probably want the proximity between given nodes to be influenced to some degree by a notion of neighbourhoods (i.e., if Ted Hughes does have a lot to do with R. F. Langley, that alone is sufficient for him to have something to do with anybody else who has a lot to do with R. F. Langley)). We’d need more dimensions than are restful to depict this; that problem withers under a pinch of magic clicksy dust. Poet x is selected as epicentre, the neighbourhood which displays around x accurately conveys information about relations with x, but only approximates the relations of the neighbourhood’s organelles to one another. To confirm in detail its insinuations, the map's reader selects different epicentres in turn. Perhaps a jiggle or a colour code indicates how much of the database information is conserved in the inexact part of the display. Playing with literature map gives you an idea of how it might work.

Just now it was as convenient as it ever has been to say “Sliding Andrew Duncan’s cartographic spirit through the slot projects onto the page the map discussed in these posts.” What does that even mean, though, and is it blatantly a lie? Cuz somewhat contra, Duncan’s map isn’t actually a situated and partial view of the domestic poetic landscape. It sure purports to be, and intimates fragments of the conditions of possibility of what it purports to be. I think we could get closer to its claim if we drew up Andrew’s The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry as a vast one-sheet hypertext – an armoured spider-diagram – perhaps beginning by ennumerating and interconnecting all of that work’s propositions, and then working out what truth-bearers remained and how to incorporate them. To be fair to the reductive project, this would need then to be shrivelled, but instead of scratching out and Tippexing the prima facie petty, specific, obiter, the colour, flavour, diversions and so on, we would rigorously remove information that is entailable, however convulutedly, from the final surviving core (a hermeneutic circle of deletion). The artefacts uncoverable by this process would be weird, difficult to use, unlike the things they are about, and radical as if glimpsed through noumenal aura. In these respects at least, they would perfect qualities of a successfully-imparted necessarily-partisan perspective. They’d thereby have a better chance of communicating its doubly-private character (you might get at this idea with “doubly-partisan,” or “doubly-subjective,” or “doubly-provisional,” or “doubly-partial”). So (1) any item of the manifold (“the poem of his bereaved friend,” for example, or “the poem he does not like,” or “the poem he wrote about for Jacket magazine”) contains a private content over which a public holds administrative power, in that there exist definite rites for its inspection and manipulation with Duncan as obligatory celebrant (for “the poem that he read” it is riteful to ask of him, but not necessarily of anyone else, “what did you think of it?”), and (2) a private content in excess of this, consisting in the provisional aspect of the relationship to the capricious and shadowy object. Cf. Buckerton: “the ground the candelabra takes / only the rose can hold.”

Here's a map of some poets:

Emily Critchley lat.:-6.75 long.:-4.31
Posie Ryder lat.:-8.88 long.:-6.92
Lara Buckerton lat.:-6.50 long.:-9.08
Sophie Robinson lat.:-8.75 long.:-7.79
Steve Willey lat.:-6.00 long.:-6.92
Ron Silliman lat.:-8.38 long.:-7.79
Jeremy Beardmore lat.:-9.75 long.:-7.85
Kai Fierle Hedrick lat.:-6.38 long.:-6.77
Francesca Lisette lat.:-7.50 long.:-7.59
K. Lorraine Graham lat.:-8.00 long.:-8.26
Jessica Butler lat.:-4.25 long.:-6.56
Jonathan Stevenson lat.:-8.38 long.:-6.10
Tom Chivers lat.:-4.25 long.:-3.23

Note 1: E.g. I sympathise or at least commiserate with the instinct that the only elements worth "adding" to the manifold are those that at least undermine cataclysmically its ontological protocols. Cf. maybe Chris Paul: “cartological backwater ode: / toward the necessity of the new it is then: as imperative jus where do you debord for eg funct it funct it to spell me the seizures and squalls of then t'were to say it in which case the new has no epistomological urgency so 're mapping some half submerged palaces civic palaces in the absence of social hay cultural desire/need p(l)ay-off this is not the required: midst correlation harbingers of the unknown, as petrarch became step 1 renaissance, or cross joyce, pound, step 2 toward some international, or other, and others: unless the new is essentially uncertain there is no call for jus what will you extant, as there be shake downs in the future summoned that are, as of, halflight, draws them into net gleam of themap form obscure”.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Tim Atkins's Folklore, John Wilkinson's Down to Earth, Geraldine Monk's Ghost & Other Sonnets && a bunch of others just been published by Salt.

Monday, 25 August 2008

jonathan stevenson's facebook quotations

"As soon as I walked in I felt everything was going to be alright."

"I am from IRAN. My neighbor to the east, AFGHANISTAN, does not remember one year without war in 50 years, and my neighbor to the west, IRAQ, is covered with blood. Now it looks like the time has come for my country--IRAN. What can I do to save my family? What can I do to save my home, to save my country? I can do nothing. What about you?"

"There weren't enough shovels"

"Failure to protest robs us of our most important source of power and completely undercuts our story. The absence of significant protest against U.S. climate policy and continuing engagement in polite civic discourse tells Americans eloquently and emphatically that we don't really believe what we are saying."

"Everybody leaves /
If they get the chance"

"I've yet to see the official photo, taken by a man on top of a ladder, but from my position just a few feet lower, it seemed doomed to fail visually - as do most such clever ideas thought up by publicists."

"I'm probably not the first to suggest this, but could Boris be Lord Mayor instead? That way he gets to wear a funny costume and go to lots of posh dinners etc., but he's only responsible for one square mile."

"We're all fucked. I'm fucked. You're fucked. The whole department's fucked. It's been the biggest cock-up ever and we're all completely fucked."

"One day/ it will happen"

"It is not that reality doesn't exist - it is more that by itself it doesn't really matter."

"You're disgusting, but I love you.
Well, my disgustingness is my best feature."

"By taking action wearing traditional burglar outfits we hope to highlight the outrageous theft of the Iraqi people's oil"

"In the time between my short haircut and my long haircut, I like to stay worthwhile"

"Don't get any big ideas/
They're not gonna happen"

Friday, 22 August 2008

preemptive vengeance

If you're in Edinburgh, go and see Royal Holloway Theatre's production of Darning Jilly. It's a mess, a phasing goulash of nasties and red-shift rant-statuary, teeming with OTT wit, vivesection-lyricism, cheap gags, dear dry-heaves, Kane-tooled koans, and - despite the mercurial character-forms and allegory-spasms - somehow abounding with twist & revelation. All with the faintest burble of Boosh in the background. The look is the "a bit like being shrunk teeny and told to run through somebody's body from the feet to the mouth for charity" look. It gets quite fast and shouty-overlappy in places, I can't decide if that's a production concession - the only way of getting through so much monstrous capillary-rich syrup - or a necessary dynamic in a play partly about patriarchal systemic shouting-down. What if you were to take systemic culpability at face value, would it be OK to go around killing people? Probably. A kind of comparative tidiness of thesis slides in during the final bits, a snarky blade snicking against every rib: something like, gender is our basic social antagonism, more fundamental even than the distinction between the perpetrator and the victim of violence. And the men are left in control of science, history, leisure and celebrity, or so they seem to think, but there are a few loose ends. Um five stars.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

architecture for cartography (5/8)

No poet, no artist of any art, has her complete meaning alone. Her significance, her appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the existing poets and artists. You cannot value her alone; you must set her, for contrast and comparison, among the existing. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that she shall conform, that she shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. My poems barge through the door like Playa Kane:

At stake beyond the commonplaces is whether the cohesion of co-constitutive aesthetic burbles is always by alterations “ever so slight,” and if they are, whether those gradually contribute to grand contributions, or do they rather oscillate around equillibria, and whether or not artists or others can predict, prepare for or execute such alterations, and in the main, whether structuralist commonsense can only make a slogan about how meaning surely totally must like happen, like out there, via a crystalline vacuum capitalising on the verisimilitude of its relational content, or can structuralist commonsense be the beginning of actually seeing and influencing meaning happening as structure? Can I write the texts that are aesthetically necessary to the texts that are politically necessary? Could Marx have written a Marxism unusable by Stalin, sort of in the spirit of Gram or Excalibur? Can you write something that self-destructs at time t using discursive resources alone? What text would maximise violence to Down Where Changed, would most effectively efface it? The bumper sticker "Jerome Prynne is a heaven-taught ploughman"? Your work, the Jo-Jo the Rabbit of poetry, don't run its mouth no more.

The mapmaking yen is historically implicated in designs for mercantile / military dominance. A 360˚ question mark hovers over the suitability of Duncan’s map as intelligence. Should someone carry out a nuclear poi strike on, oh I dunno, bottom left, Avant-Garde Pastoral, what happens? The gist I get from this thing is that Thomas A. Clark, Peter Larkin and Martin Corless-Smith would be supplanted by reserve Avant-Garde Pastoralists not yet marked on the map (see note 1). What would happen if we gavelled them relentlessly? Could we eventually produce a blank space there? Would some new school pass remark-threshhold (see note 2)? Cf. Sean Bonney's "recent irruptions of unmeaning / in Kabul etc, where / we have never been, / have made poetry obsolete: /but still my red shoes / would go dancing [...]" and "[...] poets report for immediate termination [...]".

More generally, how accessible is each node from the others? Neo-Romantic Dylan Thomas is placed quite close to the Underground + British Poetry Revival node. Does this indicate the relative ease with which he could bend his practice to its will / with which we can critically reappraise his signifance into its provenance? Or do lines and arrows indicate the only permissible avenues of movement? – if so, Dylan would have to circumlocute East through Jungian-Mythic country (slay Haslam 5,000,000 XP), round Void Cape, then pass South-West into Folklore-Folksong beforing travelling up through Protest Poetry and Pop Lyrics. Andrea Brady, Peter Manson (again) and Stephen Thomson are written in a crabbed hand in lemon juice between Tom Raworth and Ewart Milne – what’s the significance of this? A kind of sleeper cell? Why two Peters? What could change about the map to make it of more use to scouts? Cf. Lara Buckerton: "[...] my cunts for scouts not hearts were set to lutes [...]".

Here’s me imagining us zooming in a little on the lattice of tensile value, and seeing how junctures co-constitute. Suppose that you are trying to decide whether to read some poems by Robert Creeley or Stephen Rodefer. It’s a difficult decision in this scenario, because neither is obviously better than the other, and because they write very different sorts of poetry. Further, you know that your choice will in a sense be automatically right: if you read Creeley, you will learn to like Creeley, Rodefer likewise. So we’re dealing with meta-preferences – not what you'd like, but what you'd like to like – with nested and dynamically-linked preferences. Now let's imagine that before you make a decision, Redell Olsen begins to publish her work. Let's also imagine that Stephen Rodefer and Redell Olsen are similar poets – they write the same sort of poetry, not different sorts of poetry like Rodefer and Creeley – but that Stephen Rodefer’s is much better. You probably possess a cognitive bias – and you probably don’t know that much about it – such that Olsen’s emergence would lean you towards Rodefer, not Creeley (I haven’t found this bias taxonimised – Dan Ariely mentions it in this lecture). We’re quite used to the idea that good works tend to get imitated more, and that such “imitation” functions a bit like “praise,” even when it supersedes the original. I’m proposing a mechanism which runs this relation in reverse: imitating something may valorise it, not through the implication that a judgement has been made that it’s good enough to imitate, but by a synchronic quirk of our cognitive apparatus (see note 3), which is effective regardless of our beliefs about how the texts influenced each other or how in general they do. This is part of the way influence works. And it’s part of the way the anxiety of influence works.

Here's a partial list of overlapping reasons to choose reduced visibility or invisibility, or crudely, REASONS TO NOT PUBLISH. (This forms a kind of tightly paranoid and loosely anthropic response to a sporty remark jUStin!katKO emailed me about “sharing.”)

(1) To evade some alert, punitive power – like an oppressive state.
(2) Paranoia.
(3) The writers undervalue their texts – for instance, they take them for something unreadable, or occuring in abundant natural deposits.
(4) The texts are injurious personal literature.
(5) The writers forget that they have written the texts, or lose their manuscripts.
(6) They want total control control over who sees their texts.
(7) The texts are morally corrupt.
(8) The writers desire and have no reliable access to anonymity / pseudonymity.
(9) To be able to include roughly meta-textual elements. For instance, to be on hand to answer questions. Or to have the text only visible as performance.
(10) The writers want their peers working in a similar mode to flourish (or more generally, to get receipt of the visibility back-flow, whatever it is).
(11) They are reluctant to obviously improve on the work of yet-living elder writers.
(12) To deprive an object of criticism of something, perhaps attention / drive / dignity / interim knowledge of its weak spots.
(13) As industrial action. Or as something slightly offset from a strike – figurative or knowingly-futile industrial action.
(14) For aesthetic purposes in which priority is given to an aesthetic object other than the text: for instance, the privative “unpublished” becoming a component of a conceptual artwork. Cf. Kenneth Goldsmith, TNWK, Helen Bridwell.
(15) To try and win prizes / recognition for a more mature debut.
(16) The writers anticipate the re-use of parts of their text.
(17) The writers aim to be skinned and prolific enough to self-influence out of view, and to a degree to skip phases of literary history. For example, in 1905, Hans Arp sits down quietly and begins to internally emulate Dadaism, then Surrealism, and then in 1920 stirs himself and begins to write and publish Situationist texts. Cf. The Unconditional.
(18) Lair exstispicy.
(19) The work is unfinished. Is anyone not working on a massive epic at the moment yo. Afric elf.
(20) The work's not yet begun.
(21) Conviction that “finished” criteria do not exist (or are variable or not yet known).
(22) The writers await a formal moment. For example, the texts are occasional verse composed in advance of the foreseeable.
(23) More confidence in verba than in res, or in expression than in content. In other words, the writers are concerned that their texts will punch above their weight, will be more persuasive than they deserve to be.
(24) As marketing, to concoct an air of mystery.
(25) As previous, but without intended release. The writers find it pleasant to live in an air of secret industry, and find actual secret industry as the simplest / most convincing method of affecting it.
(26) A kind of “chastity fetish” – the writers delay until they involuntarily and in a frenzy visibly jet their texts. For pleasure, for instance.
(27) As previous, but with the frenzy conceived of as systemic – for instance, the writers want to keep alive the chance that their texts are stolen and published without their permission, or are plagiarised.
(28) Memento mori: the writers want to remind themselves they will not outlive their lives.
(29) More generally, the writers don’t trust themselves to be as virtuous after they publish the texts.
(30) Even more generally, any apprehension relating to the personal effects of fame / failure, or of critical praise / neglect.
(31) The writers don't wish to distract somebody. For example, the writers don't wish to distract their friends or allies, who to the writers' thinking have shit to be doing.
(32) The writers hate poetry / literature / art, and desire to see other things flourish at its expense.
(33) Uncertainy – what will happen?
(34) An instance of 33: what will happen to existing work?
(35) Another instance: could visibility block the creation of something better? Such blocks could operate by putting writers off certain practices in the spirit of ‘it’s been done,’ or by luring writers into unrewarding imitative practices.
(36) Or a definite conviction that something bad (like in 33-35) will happen.

At least two things can be pulled from this list: a sense of how publishing and not-publishing don't really identify independent spheres of action, and a way of rationalizing your hunch that tomorrow everything might be different (see note 4).

The minimum for going beyond structuralist insight is that our materials perform structuralist commonsense on our behalf. So we can attach this second desideratum to our prospective ontology / get-out-of-ontology-free card. The things which go onto our map must be fundamentally structurally interdependent, in a way that permits sudden drastic reshuffles without warning, when a new thing erupts into visibility.

Note 1: Peter Riley, perhaps? Gerry Loose? Peter Jaeger? Sharon Morris? Jeff Hilson, Dorothy Alexander, John Wilk ah forget it.

Note 2: “If too much bad verse is published in London, it does not occur to us to raise our standards, to do anything to educate the poetasters; the remedy is, Kill them off” – T. S. Eliot. The first paragraph, tweaked, is also by Eliot, from “Tradition and the Individual Talent”. Another possibility of course is that after the strike nearby names would detatch from their clusters and wobble across to the carnage. Those near to the strike include Colin Simms, Adrian Mitchell, Michѐle Roberts, and Basil Bunting. The rubric would change to reflect this gang. It’s just conceivable that a kind of recruit-teleport shockwave would cherry-pick serviceable exemplars from wherever – John Wilkinson, perhaps? We can’t hope for exactness after trauma. Cf. Lewis on relative closeness of possible worlds.

Note 3: There’s a striking parallel in democracy theory, to do with the Condorcet criterion. And Chantal Mouffe writes persuasively about the recent success of Right Wing populists in Europe against a background of consensus and third-wing politics and bland centrism. More about this later hopefully. I think we’re pointed that way. Christ though eh.

Note 4: Cf. problem of induction obv. And how much can publishing and not-publishing overlap? The trolley problem is one way into the literature on philosophy and psychology of privative virtue. Here are a few variations:

"A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You can divert its path by colliding another trolley into it, but if you do, both will be derailed and go down a hill, and into a yard where a man sleeping in a hammock. He would be killed. Should you hop to it?"

"As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you hop to it?"

"A luminous transplant surgeon has five patients, each in mortal need of this or that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveller, beaded, just passing through the city, comes in for a routine check-up. In the course of doing the check-up, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor. Should he hop to it?"

Saturday, 16 August 2008

ballad of a truck by the river

By Paul Goodman

No, ah cain't afford to get a hard-on, boss,
it cost a nigger money to screw
an ah cain't make a livin in dis town
count o dis yere Jim Crow.

So ah sits here out o mischief in de sun
an meditatin dis an dat
jes' avoidin any lil fancy
as is liable to get my nuts hot.

But if yo wanna fuck me, sho,
ah likes to feel a white man's push
as got a job an ain't ascairt
to dirty yo pants cause yo can wash.

To make me feel dat ah belong
white man's cock is better'n pot
an it usually don' cos' nuthin
which usually is what ah got.

De river's bright today, ain't it?
it hot in de back o dis yere truck.
Jes' shove it in. Ah recollec'
when ah was a kid ah had a big cock.

My mammy when her knees was spread
an she solid wi' dat man
she said dat she at rest in Jesus
like a turnip in de groun'.

An when yo push it in an out,
boss o New York town,
ah be so happy an belongin
like dat turnip in de groun'.

Lyin yere grinnin an watchin de river
fo company while ah gets fuck
is jes' like home where I was born,
some niggers dey got all de luck.

Friday, 15 August 2008

inside the coach

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

'Tis hard on Bagshot Heath to try
Unclos'd to keep the weary eye;
But ah! Oblivion's nod to get
In rattling coach is harder yet.
Slumbrous God of half-shut eye!
Who lovest with limbs supine to lie;
Soother sweet of toil and care
Listen, listen to my prayer;
And to thy votary dispense
Thy soporific influence!
What tho' around thy drowsy head
The seven-fold cap of night be spread,
Yet lift that drowsy head awhile
And yawn propitiously a smile;
In drizzly rains poppean dews
O'er the tired inmates of the Coach diffuse;
And when thou'st charm'd our eyes to rest,
Pillowing the chin upon the breast,
Bid many a dream from thy dominions
Wave its various-painted pinions,
Till ere the splendid visions close
We snore quartettes in ecstasy of nose.
While thus we urge our airy course,
O may no jolt's electric force
Our fancies from their steeds unhorse,
And call us from thy fairy reign
To dreary Bagshot Heath again!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The launch of Peter Manson's Between Cup and Lip , from Miami University Press, is tomorrow, August 14th, 7pm Vic Bar, Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


Stephen Rodefer's Call It Thought is out from Carcanet.

Monday, 11 August 2008


Sean Bonney's Baudelaire in English is out from Veer Books.


We are five people deeply concerned about climate change who had intended to take time off work to spend next week at the Camp for Climate Action near Kingsnorth in Kent. In the past few days, however, we have been made the subject of pernicious legal restrictions that prevent us from legally attending the protest at Kingsnorth. Yorkshire police have banned a number of people, including us, who recently took part in a peaceful protest on a coal train outside Drax power station from attending the camp in Kent. Originally the restrictions went so far as to confine us to our homes for the duration of the camp. Those severe restrictions were challenged and eventually dropped, but we are still barred from setting foot in the area of northern Kent where the camp is taking place.

The movement to stop E.ON being given the green light to build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth is of vital importance. But the climate camp is designed to challenge not just the expansion of coal but the idea that progress can only be attained through growth and the extension of "free" market ideologies. We need new ways of thinking and acting that put people and the planet we all live on back at the heart of things. We need a just transition away from fossil fuels. That is the singular and urgent task of this generation and that's what the Climate Camp is all about.

For that reason, on Monday at 3pm we intend to breach our bail conditions and join hundreds, maybe thousands of others at the climate camp. We do not take this decision lightly; the legal implications are very serious. We may be arrested and jailed for our determination to be at the camp. The thought of going to prison even for a short period is daunting, but we cannot accept the logic of bail conditions that stop us attending a legal event at which Royal Society professors mix with families. Scientists tell us that from this week we have just 100 months to solve climate change. That's not long; from this moment on every week counts.

Ellen Potts, Oli Rodker, Jonathan Stevenson, Paul Morozzo, Mel Evans


Sunday, 10 August 2008

architecture for cartography (4/8)

It’s the only thing on my wall help. Andrew Duncan can’t fuck up – it’s his tailpipe – but I’m having trouble with his Chicago Review map, its disingenuity being (uncontroversially) aargh shit die.

It’s nowhere actually labeled “map” or “diagram” or anything like that, so I’m electing to treat it as a picture of why it’s a very bad idea to try to represent Styles of British Poetry 1945-2000 on a two-dimensional matrix.

Or, OK, it is a map, and it does relate styles pretty accurately, but a “style” is not what we thought – a “style” is something a bit OMG Gid Prom-esque and degenerate, some grave reductive error of which we are now suitably warned.

Or, OK, it is a map, but a cartographic reductio of the spatial metaphors controlling the kind of misleading formal stipulations of festal enz-in-deyselves endemic to “survey” criticism (Piers Hugill’s Epistle to the Italians, perhaps, or Sam Ladkin and Robin Purves’s intro to the Chicago Review itself, or even parts of John Wilkinson’s impassioned but wayward essay on Andrea Brady’s Embrace).

And if I were Geraldine Monk I’d pinch his cheek right off, so there’s that (Geraldine holding a cheek).

Whatever else it is, it is clearly also a gag, which makes me consider what aftermaths could spoil it.

Its gaggy core consists in funs poked at a notional serious plan – perhaps impracticable in its seriousness – for the visual or plastic representation of anything important in or of contemporary British poetry. This is as upfront as I get that I am perturbed and somewhat weirdly hurt to find myself written out of the ranks of the other Jungian-Mythologists such as Elizabeth Bletsoe. Actually making these serious plans could atomize the gag in an unease beam (cf. a “nun” gag treated as a cue for an anecdote about my auntie who is a nun: implicitly disavowing the laws constituting nunness in the gag language game).

So first thing is, draw up some protocols which crystallise elements for implicit exclusion or for admission and situation in the array: draw up what you could crudely call the ontology of poetry.

Ontology might focus on writing (practice, peer polity, influence – see note) or on reading (rhetoric, listening, reception, interpretation). The former focus might produce a schema showing ‘where poetry’s going,’ & the latter, a schema helpful for ‘finding your way around the scene’ (i.e. more swiftly get to grips with some poet encountered for the first time).

Dissemenation / community – presses, reading series, etc. – could also found an ontology. Dissemination generally originates and frequently continues in a spirit of inclusiveness and hybridisation. (I’m thinking in particular of London stuff – Crossing the Line, The Blue Bus, Openned, 14 Hour and La Langoustine Est Mort – perhaps the mix motive is less prevalent elsewhere). To a somewhat lesser degree, any minimally-grim faction or poet takes pains to bargain influence from throughout the contemporary landscape. It is often precisely to assure herself that she is reading and writing eclectically that she proposes and recognises genre boundaries.

So from the inside, any standard-issue atom of poetry is catholic and category-defying (see note 1). From the outside, they are all sectarian and pigeon-holed with an ease which makes the ecumenical impulse so pervasive in the first place. Eh . . ? . . wha? . . .

Everything collaborates to form the divisions and the margins that everything ignores. To thoroughly spaff Duncan’s gag, we’d also want to want an ontology, or a set of practical substitutes, that could cope with this dynamic.

Note 1: Cf. Duncan: “THE UNDERGROUND: [...] Tom Raworth and Allen Fisher constitute a whole universe of discourse, building an equivalent of the whole cosmos within poetry [...]”

Saturday, 9 August 2008

architecture for cartography (3/8)

Their criticisms must be understood as newly-recruited to this speculative parallel history, and their tone as a products of their times. In the A4 Moleskine which I typed them from, there also exist:

(1) c.11 pages of pupal, shrill and heartfelt “ideas” re. possible solutions to long-solved or long-dissolved problems of poetics and aesthetics, viz. the relationship of politics and poetry, the death of the author, the purpose of syntactic disruption, the limit conditions of the poem or of art, questions of “meaning” and “aboutness,” &c.;

(2) c.9 pages of fragments of, & notes towards, the never-quite-abandoned Tragedy of Beyonce Knowles, 90% innocuous despite fusty pop allusions (Razorlight, Asterix and Obelix, David Blaine). In one erotic scene having lost his erection the hero restores it by smoking a Marlborough. Another episode is enlivened by the antics of a gypsy thiefess. A sub-plot is outlined involving a comely barmaid who goes too takes her teasing of the novel’s protagonist and his side-kick too far, and gets what she both deserves and really wants. There is one casual reference to a character who uses a wheelchair as a big gay roller-skate;

(3) c.3 pages of broken Youtube embeds;

(4) c.10 pages + scattered marginalia comprising never-used and entirely lifeless conceits, each containing some recognisable ingenuity or manoeuvre, or if not recognisable then recallable, or if not that, then obscurely traceable as a whiff, a faint acridity from linguistic frictions: “military equipment seeks like,” “save on preparation time, cook your tongue,” “too gagged to shag,” “death is driving second,” “bowling ball cut,” “not the sharpest stool in the bucket,” including many exploratory and only tentatively meaningless metaphors: “throat tastes like a blowpipe,” “a womb like a clogged outbox,” “a death the size of a stomach,” “sandbags under the eyes,” &c.;

(5) c.12 pages consisting of the first two-thirds of a political essay which begins, “The negro suffrage movement has now gone too far to be disposed of by the overthrow of its arguments, and by a mere indication of those which could be advanced on the other side. The situation demands the bringing forward of the case against negro’s suffrage ; and it must be the full and quite unexpurgated case,” which was ultimately published under the moniker “Helen Bridwell” as the pamphlet “THE SUFFRAGE QUESTION AND THE ARGUMENT FROM CUSTOM”;

(6) c.3 pages outlining the screenplay Totalled, an early MS of which would later end up on the desk of J.H. Prynne to be plagiarized by him as “Plant Time Manifold Transcripts”;

(7) c.5 pages comprising c.3.5 merry tales, each revolving around an instance of acute falseness by a woman, which I recall intending to complement with about seven others, the design of the set being to illustrate completely the typically female equipment of impulses. Thankfully I stopped there, and the 3.5 are as yet unpublished.

Friday, 8 August 2008

architecture for cartography (2/8)

Substantial fragments of these posts were created just after the publication of Duncan’s map in the Spring 2007 Chicago Review. At that time, the formalised study of rationally-differentiated poets, to adjust where necessary the estimations they had accumulated in the wild, and to produce in a naturalistic manner a revised schedule more sensitive to the varying requirements of democratic flourishing, required such a map. For want of Duncan’s map, some other’s, or some other thing of his, the question of the cash / poem origami golem, beamed into the places of the poet, had historically received the greater attention.

The situation today is somewhat changed. Duncan is by now no more pernicious to the domestic circle than is my defective moral equipment. What argufication failed to amend, free evolution turned, tendency by tendency, and with only the mini turns of a calligrapher, into a public good. My copy of the map is still on my bedroom wall, but my bedroom wall is on the wall of every form room in England.

My question is roughly: had the map been barred as leading to tranquillity, would there have been any palliative or corrective appropriate to the discontents of students of poetry as their estate then stood? That question is my rationale for extending the original fragments. Most of the expression in them is florid, so straightaway I’ll try to state one or two of the intuitions which underlie them.

The paths going between, on one hand, criticism and poetics, and on the other, the poetry they purport respectively to describe and serve, are boggy and wibbly, and perhaps freight on them gets smashed up or sucked up. A statement about a poem may be more or less true than another, but the scale on which these “mores” and “lesses” get staked , and the qualitative distinctions for which they proxy, should properly be objects of contention — or at least of scepticism (see note 1).

I also felt that the phenomenon of each poesy-trope being surrounded by a little cloud of incompatible poetics-tropes, all with mysterious and therefore potentially similar or incomparable fidelities to their hub, while a law (perhaps constitutive?) required us to behave as if only one or two items (see note 2) in each periphery existed, was similar to the phenomenon of practicing politics in a liberal Western Capitalist democracy. Poetic desire and programmatically-freed political desire both have a ramified structure (see note 3), where the joints are epistemological fogs or placeholders for historical circumstance. Publically-communicable political identities, like criticism / poetics, mess up and miss out usefully-configured ambiguities in the phenomena they recruit as their origins.

I thought that Duncan’s map might have something to do with it, partly because it seemed so out of order and yet so constitutive of the order it was out of: though students of poetry go about its land with the aid of such maps, and swap them in pairs and factions, there is something weird and wrong about trying to provide such a thing en masse, even with the caveat of its partial origin or the implicit corrective jostle against the different maps of its recipients.

These intuitions are faffy, and louche in that they imply we need to sort out certain understated and intractable philosophical problems, associated with reading and writing, as a prerequisite to morally adequate political performance, which is plainly untrue and we all know or are one or two harmless and spine-free cuntholes OCD-securing their livings by implying that.

It’s kind of interesting how the link convention developed “you can find out more here,” rather than “you can find out more there. ” Presumably it comes out of “click here.”

So in the update spirit, if you like me are finding the interpollatory^3 interregnum and interpollatory^2 eggnog-alternating travellator somewhat tedious – and by definition you can’t – then a few years back Jeff Hilson wrote this book whose only consequence is it would seem so rude not to return it and forget all about it and now publishes it every few years under different titles, most recently Reality Street.

The really exciting thing is the frictionless page-turner and this is in the days before covermount. You can find instructions how to obey hyperlinks are here. It's arguably maplike. He hit upon it while he was trying to write this book that turns you gay cerebus paribus called Get Gay! and I’ve typed up the only bits (GETGAY.pdf) that don’t get properly scrubbed; if you find them vaguely familiar it’ll be proof of what I’m no doubt saying. So we were thinking we could set up ritual gladiatorial combat trap at The Foundry near Old Street tonight using a variant of compresence theory in which love is the glue of being to rinse Jeff's quail myrmidoxies of their notorious vigilance and complex stamina instead of bundle theory ontology (i.e. objects consist of and in their qualities and nothing else – no “bare particular” say) and stop him and it forever. If you can’t make the ambush we’re having the same ambush on Thursday at the Whitechapel art gallery, this time with Marianne Morris. Frances Kruk has a new book out too, it could well be the same thing, you can get it here or by buying anything with her interposed between you and the thing that you’re buying for Darkness Commodities but if it’s a Light Commodity when it goes through it will turn into Xena by Crot & Noir & al. instead. It’s a good way of telling which are which if you don’t mind getting the books a lot.

Also I’m doing a reading some time in December organised by Peter Philpott. Then maybe he (you know, Peter, Jeff, etc.) could do something worthwhile like edit a “map” book of sonnets. Since some of these would no doubt slip through the safeguards – otherwise the ontological wins – they wouldn’t all be “proper” sonnets, e.g. some of Tom Raworth’s fourteen-line sections would be included. Then we could imaginatively (or literally, if it were distributed in easily-editable format) find-replace “sonnet” with prayer, song, machine for thinking, vow, suicide note & idea &c., and we’d have all our poetry – specifically poetry – needs satisfied so completely that whatever was left over would be incredibly useful to scrutinise in order to determine what poetry is.

Note 1: For comparison, a text (a map maybe) that claims to teaches you to ride your bicycle to The Officer’s Rune in Threadneedle Street may be horribly false (e.g. “swirl left at the Nerve Henge”), but truth is a far more robust discursive-systemic possibility for it than for a text which claims to teach you to ride your bicycle (learnt by doing). Are (existing) literary-critical discourses more like the former or the latter?

Note 2: Remember, by “item” I mean nothing like “interpretation,” perhaps something like “manifold of interpretative possibilities.”

Note 3: Or perhaps, are structured like Opening Theory in Chess.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

architecture for cartography (1/8)

01 - Timothy Button, Johnny Goldsmith (age 25), Sharon Catriona Philbin
02 - James Cummins (age 27), Mark Lynch-Brown (age 34)
04 - Thomas Marks (age 24)
06 - Jade Watts (age 22)
07 - Art Win
08 - Sara Hanna (age 24), Mary Dunn (age 21)
09 - Mike Wallace-Hadrill (age 24), Emily Marr (age 24)
10 - Steph Elstro
11 - Eric Ewing (age 26), K. Lorraine Graham
12 - Maura Hamer (age 22), Benjamin Ramm (age 26)
14 - Camilla Hicks (age 25)
15 - Allison MacInnes (age 25), Jordan Butterfield (age 24)
16 - Anna Bingham (age 25)
17 - Ruvan Mendis (age 25), Carl Stabler (age 25)
18 - Kseniya El Tünde, Adrian Pegg (age 26), Matt Clothier (age 27)
22 - Patricio Norris (age 26)
24 - Lou Kosak (age 24), Kitty St Aubyn (age 25), Nicolo Machiavelli (age 24)
25 - Kendal Chalk (age 25)
27 - Cicely Hayward (age 23)
28 - Luke Kennard

02 - Laura Thrussell (age 24)
04 - Brett Dunn (age 22)
05 - Malcolm Phillips (age 32)
07 - Melisse Morris (age 25), Sophie Read
08 - Eleanor Harries (age 25), Dan O'Huiginn (age 25), April Swain (age 25), LokLing Tang (age 20)
09 - Pilar Tschollar (age 22), Alan Thomson (age 26), Ed Lunken (age 24)
13 - Andrew Broekelmann (age 25), Angus McKnight (age 25), Sophie Robinson
14 - Pierre Joris (age 62), Öykü Potuoglu-Cook
15 - Whitney Knowlton Rothe (age 25)
16 - Helen True (age 23)
18 - Mary Bruton (age 22), Andrew Worster, Viktoria Bagach (age 20)
19 - Tom Raworth (age 70)
22 - Sam Queen, Anna Cranmer, Mairead Byrne
23 - Dominic Hinton (age 25)
24 - Dusie Press (age 82)
25 - Gavin Leonard, Jody Porter (age 26)
26 - Francesca Sophia Alys Fennell (age 23)
30 - Krysto Nikolic (age 24), Sam Andrews
31 - Peter Beentje (age 25), Vernon Baxter (age 24), Emma Dean (age 23), Ryan Dobran (age 26)

01 - Laura McAllister (age 24), Jacqui Meyer (age 27)
03 - Kirstin Hollingsworth (age 23)
05 - Ron Silliman (age 62)
06 - Jenny McDonald (age 26)
07 - Sofia Apospori (age 23)
08 - Krista Davies (age 23)
09 - Maja Gray (age 26)
10 - alex prentiss
12 - Andrea Brady (age 34)
13 - Richard Freeman (age 82)
14 - Hannah Smith
16 - Rebecca Peatman, Marco Martini (age 35)
18 - Guy Mozolowski (age 26)
20 - Camilla Sutherland
22 - Claire CC Lindsay (age 23)


& Hazel Smith.

Tonight, Xing the Line, The Leather Exchange, Leathermarket Street, London, 7.30. Go yo.

Also I am pissed to just miss Chris Goode’s cover sessions in Edinburgh. Underjerk. More info on his blog post pp. 804-5. But then definitely, definitely Darning Jilly, running 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 August in C Soco after lunch. Written by Aerin Davidson & directed by Sophie Robinson & Tom Pinhorn.

My most powerful and trusted friends:

1. Sam Andrews, 30 points (status: somebody)
2. Céline Jacobs, 29 points (status: somebody)
3. April Swain, 25 points (status: somebody)
4. Henry Lindsay, 24 points (status: somebody)
5. Nick Carbo, 23 points (status: somebody)
6. Stewart Home, 23 points (status: somebody)
7. Rosalie Leach, 22 points (status: somebody)
8. Samantha Beale, 22 points (status: somebody)
9. Leah Moore, 22 points (status: somebody)
10. Philip Nikolayev, 21 points (status: somebody)

I am at position #202.

I’m doing some readings. On Saturday the 16th August I’m the trauma bard at a yoghurt-fletcher’s ball in a Homerton glittersquat. Entrance by invite & I have these invites & I’m not going out of my way to invite anyone so if you want one yo girl wanna hang hit me back holla. Sunday 31st August, with Liz Bentley, Tom Bell, Kirsten Irvinga, Saran Green, at Utter, Arcola Theatre, Dalston, from 5. And me & Jonathan Styles & maybe F. Kruk are also doing things on 21st December, 3-5 in Café Oto Dalston. That’s the goat’s birthday.

Friday, 1 August 2008

12.00-6.00 pm
Sunday 3 August
Arnold Circus
London E2 7ES

Stuart Calton, Phil Davenport, Maggie O'Sullivan
7.00 pm
Wednesday August 6

Frances Kruk & Hazel Smith
7.30 pm
Thursday August 7
15 Leathermarket Street
London Bridge SE1 3HN

Thursday, 24 July 2008

from "clarastella"

By Robert Heath.

Invest my head with fragrant Rose
That on fair Flora 's bosome grows!
Distend my veins with purple juyce
That mirth may through my soul diffuse!
'Tis Wine and Love, and love in wine,
Inspires our youth with flames divine.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

From "Increasing returns and path dependence in the economy"

By Brian W. Arthur.

[...] Adoption of technologies that compete can be usefully modelled as a nonlinear Polya process. A unit increment -- an individual adoption -- is added, each time of choice, to a given technology with a probability that depends on the numbers (or proportions) holding each technology at that particular time. We can use our strong-law theorems to show circumstances under which increasing returns to adoption (the probability of adoption rises with the share of the market) may drive the adopter "market" to a single dominant technology, with small events early or "selecting" the technology that takes over [...]

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

from "guy debord"

By Vincent Kaufmann.

From 1952 to 1958, Lettrism's radicality was exemplary: it was probably as radical as it is possible to be.

Monday, 14 July 2008

from "strange stories from a chinese studio"

Trans. Herbert A. Giles.

"This respected friend of mine is the same to me as a brother. Try, sister, to cure him." Miss Chiao-no immediately dismissed her blushes, and rolling up her long sleeves approached the bed to feel his pulse [...] As she was grasping his wrist, K'ung became conscious of a perfume more delicate than that of the epidendrum ; and then she laughed, saying, "This illness was to be expected ; for the heart is touched. Though it is severe, a cure can be effected ; but, as there is already a swelling, not without using the knife." Then she drew from her arm a gold bracelet which she pressed down upon the suffering spot, until by degrees the swelling rose within the bracelet and overtopped it by an inch and more, the outlying parts that were inflamed also passing under, and thus very considerably reducing the extent of the tumour. With one hand she opened her robe and took out a knife with an edge as keen as paper, and pressing the bracelet down all the time with the other, proceeded to cut lightly round near the root of the swelling. The dark blood gushed forth, and stained the bed and the mat; but Mr. K'ung was delighted to be near such a beauty, not only felt no pain, but would willingly have continued the operation that she might sit by him a little longer.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

from "the nature and necessity of composite simples, e.g. ontic predicates"

By D. W. Mertz.

Principle I:
Constitutive of every fact :Rn(a1,a2,…,an), for n ≥ 1, is an ontic predicate, Rn(x1,x2,…,xn), that is the agent/cause of the characterizing predicable unity of itself with its relata, a1, a2,…, an, a unification whose type is to result in a fact, as opposed to a list, set, or mereological sum.

Principle II:
Every ontic predicate Rn(x1,x2,…,xn) has as a constituent an intension Rn whose ontic role is that of delimiting or determining non-arbitrarily the possible n-tuples of relata, , that predicate Rn(x1, x2,…, xn) can unify into a fact, but the intension of itself has no causal agency whatsoever as a unifier (it is ‘predicably inert’ or ‘substance-like’).

Principle III:
In addition to and distinct from intension Rn, there is constitutive of ontic predicate Rn(x1,x2,…,xn) its actual mode of union, its combinatorial or linking agency, among and to its subjects. The linking aspect of predicate Rn(x1,x2,…,xn) is itself not a further intension in addition to Rn, but a causal act of unification that is ‘joined’ with intension Rn that controls its effects. This joining is the unity of a continuous composite, i.e., a union of two distinct entities without the agency of a further interposing ontic predicate or act of unification. Moreover, the unifying act of an ontic predicate is unrepeatable and particular, rendering the containing predicate an individual, i.e., a unit attribute.

The analysis that yields these principles starts first in broadest terms with the fact that a given of our experience is the existence of a myriad of structured wholes—articulated composites—each as such having constituents in one or more types or kinds of inter-connectedness or organization, e.g., cognitive, physical/mechanical, and social structures. In such complexes, entities and their mutual qualitative connections (‘orderings’, relationships, arrangements) jointly contribute to the existence and nature (specific essence) of the whole. That is, the being of a structure, whether, say, as a dynamic physical system (e.g., an operating engine) or a static formal one (e.g., the Natural Number System), is a function of the mutual qualitative co-relevance of both the intension contents of the constituent unifying relationships and the compatible natures of their respective subjects, and as the former orders the latter. The simplest such or atomic structured whole would be one instance of one kind of intensioned connection or unification among one n-tuple of other constituents. This is a fact or state of affairs, :Rn(a1,a2,…,an), e.g., :Red1(a), :Contiguous-with2(b,c), :Owes3(d,e,f) (as in ‘d owes e to f’), whose arrangement-kind is intension Rn, in the examples, respectively, Red1, Contiguous2, Owe3. Here the subjects, a1, a2,…, an, are linked and ordered (if any) into a resultant fact :Rn(a1,a2,…,an) according to intension Rn, though, on the analysis below, not by the intension Rn.


We now have Principles I and II, and from them follows important and particularly relevant Principle III. With I and II we know that ontic predicates are agent-unifiers among n-tuples of subjects and so jointly generate facts, but that the predicates’ subsumed/constituent intensions that specify and delimit their linkings have no such agency. This implies that for each ontic predicate there is, in addition to its constituent intension, a non-identical remainder of constituent and intensionless unifying or combinatorial act. The combinatorial acts of ontic predicates are the ‘ontoglial’ (Greek: ‘glue of being’) essential to the unity of and marking the diversity in a plural universe. Like an intension relative to its ontic predicate, and indeed the predicate relative to its fact, the unifying act of an ontic predicate is recognized via a process of abstraction, but does not otherwise exist separated. Recall there are no ‘bare linkings’ without intensions, nor are there ontic predicates without subjects to unify. This now brings us to the principle thesis of the essay: The union between the combinatorial aspect, say unifying act U, and the ontically distinct intension aspect Rn of an ontic predicate Rn(x1,x2,…,xn), the latter providing the intensional unity of some fact :Rn(a1,a2,…,an), is not a function of an agency of act U, or any other constituent unifier U´, whether U´ is itself an intensionless unifying act or an intensioned ontic predicate. When this is established we will have a composite—ontic predicate Rn(x1,x2,…,xn)— consisting of act U and intension Rn but without a constituent unifier, and in particular without a constituent unifier interposing and thus registering an internal differentiation between and so a discreteness of U and Rn. Hence, an ontic predicate is a composite but one ‘tighter’ than an articulated complex.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

from "king lear [+ edgar, tom]"

By William Shakespeare.

Ay, every inch a king!
When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause?
Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery? No.
The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got 'tween the lawful sheets.
To't, luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.
Behold yond simp'ring dame,
Whose face between her forks presageth snow,
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure's name.
The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to't
With a more riotous appetite.
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above.
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiend's.
There's hell, there's darkness, there's the sulphurous pit;
burning, scalding, stench, consumption. Fie, fie, fie! pah,
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my
imagination. There's money for thee.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Fundraising Event for Royal Holloway Theatre's Edinburgh Fringe production of Darning Jilly by Aerin Davidson

Poetry spoken by Marianne Morris & Frances Kruk
Books on sale
Visuals from Kristen Kreider
Films from Sophie Robinson
Riot Grrrl Disco to follow
& other as yet undisclosed wonders from the world of female artistry

The Downstairs Room @ The Betsey Trotwood
Friday 11th July
£5 entry

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

do as I did, not as I'll do

Sonnets are sometimes appearing on Sean Bonney’s blog. For instance,

poetry, once available
in several sizes
of flip discount menace
before the doors of the mighty
the hounds of capital, unleashed
sobriety, knives & clowns.
But politeness would dictate, now
a specific negation of history’s
lame dogs & veterans
the british anarchist movement
on a day-trip to the seaside:
ok, say that again,
flatten the official town,
the poem.

A new Readings is recently up, with some bits on Sean’s Poisons, Their Antidotes and Baudelaire in English, & other stuff that looks good.

Chris Goode’s probably-fantastic production of Chekhov’s … Sisters is on in London till the 5 July. And he’s got a, you know, courtly and effervescent big post about it which begins:

“Gordon’s alive!

... I don’t mean Gordon Brown, obviously, for whom the phrase ‘dead man walking’ could easily have been coined – or, perhaps not walking but smiling: that weird Malvolio rictus that his advisors idiotically trained him into a while back, and which gives him the ineffable air of a man at a royal garden party who doesn't want the Queen to know that a bee’s just crawled inside his bell-end.”

Harry Gilonis recently strewed a blessing memo re this play. & from Hairy’s Dairy:

“You’ve missed the Ledbury Poetry Festival: “the best in the country”, says Andrew Motion. Which means you’ve in fact missed Carol Ann Duffy, Vicki Feaver, Jackie Kay, Luke Kennard, Blake Morrison, Grace Nichols, Michael Rosen, Matthew Sweeney, a veteran of Britain's first poetry boy band [no, NOT M. Sweeney; that comma was separating, not copulative], a poetry slam, a collaboration between school pupils and a Hereford-based hip-hop group ... plus “your favourite poems read by distinguished actors”.

Missing THAT ought to put a spring in your step and a smile on your lips.

AND you’ve missed the chance to pay to have dinner with Simon Armitage at the Waterside Hotel, across the road from Dove Cottage, Grasmere.

AND you’ve missed Jake & Dinos Chapman making an exhibition of themselves somewhere in London.”

& Friday 11 June: Saint Barnabas Church, Cardigan Street, Oxford OX2 6BG, 7.30pm, Styles J. Kauphmann - acoustic improvisation - solo voice.

& Thursday 3 June: 15 Leathermarket Street, London Bridge, SE1 3HN, 7pm, CROSSING THE LINE reading: Sophie Robinson &Peter Philpott.

Facts about Ireland can be reduced to – that is, can be construed to be – facts about Soundeye 2008, Thursday to Sunday (‘the reduction base’).

Thursday 3 July
4 p.m. – Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon
Trevor Joyce, Mark Weiss

8 p.m. – Black Mariah, Washington Street
Opening of Exhibition with reading by Maggie O'Sullivan

Friday 4 July
12 noon – The Guest House project space, 10 Chapel Street, Shandon
Poetry by Default (curated by Jimmy Cummins)
Susana Gardner, Jason Hirons, Keston Sutherland, David Toms

4 p.m. – Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon
Peter Manson, Tom Pickard, Catherine Wagner

8 p.m. – The Other Place, Paradise Place
Alternative Cabaret (curated by Fergal Gaynor & Marja Tuhkanen)
With a viola da gamba consort, performances from Bonney / Kruk / Lindsay / Robinson, art-noise band KFDS, a twenty-minute opera, the Polskadots etc etc
Admission €8

Saturday 5 July
1 p.m. – Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon
Mairéad Byrne, Jim Maughn, Andrew Zawacki

4 p.m. – Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon
Alison Croggon, Kenneth Goldsmith, Maurice Scully

9 p.m. – Meades Wine Bar, 126 Oliver Plunkett Street
Open Mike Session with M.C. Mairéad Byrne

Sunday 6 July
12 noon – Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon
Daniel Ereditario, Matthew Geden, Justin Katko

3 p.m. – Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon
Randolph Healy, Fanny Howe

admission free to all events except the alternative cabaret


Tuesday, 8 July
7 p.m. – The River Room, The Glucksman Gallery, U.C.C., Cork
Presentation by Kenneth Goldsmith on Electronic Curation and his Website of the Avant-Garde, Ubuweb
Admission €5

Sunday, 15 June 2008

from "sniper one"

By Sgt Dan Mills and Tom Newton Dunn.

Lying up means controlling your bodily functions too. Sooner or later, they are going to be issues if you're in an OP for any length of time. If it's a piss you need, then you slowly roll onto your side and piss in an empty water bottle. Otherwise you or your spotter will have to lie in it for the rest of the night. If it's something else you need to do, then you reach for your clingfilm, turn over, trousers down, and off you go. It's not the most enjoyable experience for your oppo, but needs must. Once you're done, you wrap it up and pop in your Bergen so your hide isn't detected when youeave it. A regular snipers' wind-up is to put your poo in someone else's Bergen. When they're back in camp unpacking, you can normally hear the shout for miles.

"Wharr, who's shit is this?"

If you didn't like the platoon commander, you'd shove it in his Bergen instead.

On my sniping course, I put my Number Two through even worse. We'd been in a hide on the edge of a wood in Salsisbury Plain for two days waiting for a target to turn up. I'd managed to suppress the urge for the whole time, right up to the moment the target's car turned up. I couldn't believe it, it was coming and he was coming, and there was nothing either of us could do about it.

There was only one option available, so I slung a quick tree hook and got into a squat. While still marking the target through the sight, I pulled my trousers down. My Number Two got out the clingfilm and held it under my arse. While semi-retching from the pong, he still managed to catch all my warm faeces, and ten seconds later I got the kill. I had to buy him a fair few pints that ight to stop him whinging.

Monday, 9 June 2008

New(ish) How(2).


"I resist ecopoetics. And definitions of ecopoetics. I resist it as a neat category into which one might insert my own work, like some car slipping into its slot on the freeway."


"These days, utopia is being lived on a subjective everyday basis, in the real time of concrete and intentionally fragmentary experiments. The artwork is presented as a social interstice within which these experiments and these new “life possibilities” appear to be possible. It seems more pressing to invent possible relations with our neighbours in the present than to bet on happier tomorrows."

Thursday, 5 June 2008

from "dog puke"

By Jamelia Wigmore.

[...] Sweet dung up.The mower
The sudden gust whips up the scrum’s skirt
& don’t
the weeds
about her heels smell sweet A reql
child of a fuck Approaches off a
cowtip in every small lift of limb

If you are ever in danger, blow this chiropodist
and serve him nerve endings. And some older
punks you have cleansed with your pinna. You er
know by don’t you. (He with his long fingernails
sets sail out of a charnel hatch.

The dalek is expanding and the dark matter . . .
is you! Orgasms with an um. The clinkers
are full of thinkers so Ja Jeff
(Hilson) Sets sail for never mind that but
does it bursting out of a
Total Trap *not clearness. Lets have a gurn’see
the circlets among the whiteswarm of him have pixie missions
of they own, circularly golden-calf-tipping for instance
or other hex prank What Is There To Do. Thanks to Rednex mexico
plinkers remix. Bleach cuffs that round and round This transluscent mess

Softly Austral in this Scotch English chain store
I am looking for a lighter sheet I had one to Dora.
A bold gib that. The closest he come to admitting
What’s been happening to the Princesses of Fact.


I hand the pixel mission 'velope to the generaless
who hands it to the scion of oblivia. He glances at it,
looks on the back, then clears his throat:

“in vain
onto a slumbering dalek
We soldered a vane”

“hey guys anybody mind if I zoom in”
“no go head” we all murmur
… “I’m just going to scroll up if that’s ok”
“yeah sure do it” we agree about it

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Jumbo and strategic reading tomorrow night at The Leather Exchange near London Bridge. La Langoustine est Morte, Thursday at the Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street: Michael Mellor, Keston Sutherland, Alyson Torns & James Harvey, hostis/inimicus Anthony Joseph & Ronnie McGrath -- where's SAS Cha Cha Cha? -- & a new issue of DEFAULT is out:

Sean Bonney
Emily Critchley
James Davies
Paul Lewis
Mario Susko
David Toms
Augusto Corrieri

5 euro/£3 incl. P&P

James Cummins
12 Gardiners Hills Avenue
St Lukes

Review copies available * trading possible * always seeking submissions

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

from "wordsworth's philosophic song"

By Simon Jarvis.

Marx’s conception [of ideology] was not primarily an assault on mystifying ideals. It was an assault on the idea that assaulting mystifying ideals would make you free [...] What we now call ‘ideology-critique’ is what Marx meant by ‘ideology’.

Monday, 2 June 2008

shall we have those curtains

His hobo lit her Lucky Strike in vain. "Dreams don't cite," she strategised between puffs. "Lords and cannibals, revellers ... they're her 'fan base' ... I see you've started working me over with a toffee hammer. Though you asked for it straight."

"Lullaby, lullaby baby,
little candy joy,
queen of the queers art thou born to be,
in despite of boys."

"Sure resolve my core to an orrery of revolving flaws, like that's mature."

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Jean-Michel Espitallier (trans. Keston Sutherland), Peter Manson, Cathy Wagner & Carol Watts are reading in Sussex tonight. Miami University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Peter Manson’s Between Cup and Lip. Moved even Tom Raworth's chitin heart. Peter's also reading in Cambridge on Wednesday 4th of June, 18 Jesus Lane, Cambridge. This reading advances our interests, and Bonney & Kruk's.

“What is fantastic about Welsh is its ancientness.” Saul Williams, Jeff Hilson & others yet listenable to on the BBC. Wow, Samuel West -- wow. Baffled by the link's mortality? And to think this is you at the top of your game.

Friday, 23 May 2008

from "commons"

By Sean Bonney.

[...] moan, now
on his white bones
his intolerable name.
He is the man or woman
sitting beside you,
bitter & false & snapped
inside every nation
such hawks & hounds, such ravens
o bitter statistics
the cuckoo is a pretty bird

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

"May 29th Room B18 University of Birkbeck Malet St London

Poetry From The Americas -

Martin Bakero (Chile & Paris) will launch his tri-lingual VICEVERSA
here in the UK


Christine Wertheim (LA) will read her works.

These are both poets whose work explores the dynamic relations between the :visual:verbal:visceral: both are infrequent visitors to these shores."

Monday, 19 May 2008

from "word problems for future hedge fund managers"

By Bob Woodiwis.

(AGES 5–10)


2. On his way home from school, Kyle stops to buy a candy bar. It costs 69 cents. How much change should Kyle get back if he pays for the candy with a $1,000,000,000 bill?


(AGES 11–15)

1. Your middle-class parents have a combined household income of $115,000. You receive an allowance of $20 per week. If you save all your allowance for two years, how much debt will you have to finance to hostilely take over your family? How will you structure the debt?


(AGES 16–18)


3. Your mother gives you x dollars to put gas in the family car. Your father gives you y dollars to get a haircut. You lose x + y dollars betting against your high school's undefeated football team. Explain to your familial investors how "that's life."

4. Days before the housing bubble bursts, you short the ABX subprime index and, when the ensuing mortgage crisis causes millions of families to lose their homes to foreclosure, you realize a $550 million profit.

Since, for you, this is the opposite of a problem, find the opposite of an answer.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

a note on the conditional

A version of this will appear in Crot's Guns Over Cheshire, forthcoming from Veer.

“[...] wanting to smash his enemy in the face
wanting to still be nice to everyone
so nothing nasty ever would occur
or nothing at all ever but defer [...]

Simon Jarvis, The Unconditional: A Lyric

You already know the aid problematic – efficiency, governance, conditionality, enforcement, fungibility, additionality, dependence, social capital – at least in silhouette. It is suggested in the following:

“We’d all like to help. We just can’t know where the money ends up. It could be wasted in administration. Worse, it could prop up a corrupt regime, or fund for its officials a new fleshpot. It could be used to build lovely things we have, which work over here, but which are abused or languish or disintegrate over there, because there isn’t the infrastructure or aren’t the skills to support them. It could smother local entrepreneurship and destroy fragile local economies” (see note 1).

Imagine it with me. The rich offer the poor macroeconomic advice which is superior to what the poor would have come up with independently. “Here you go pal – don’t spend it on booze eh?” Even secured by this dreamy hypothesis, the idea that aid should be conditional (upon the recipient’s compliance with the advice) runs into heavy difficulties from the enforcement critique.

Ravi Kanbur, a gentle and benevolent economist, asks, “What is going on? It is a contract, there are conditions in that contract, the core of it is this conditionality, but the compliance rate on these conditions is 30%-40% and the release rate is 99.9%.”

Erudite and mercurial chaperone Tony Killick adds that “the incentive system, most notably the absence of a credible threat of punishment of non-implementation, is usually inadequate in the face of differences between donors and government objectives and priorities, and other factors contributing to governments’ participation constraints.”

Kanbur enumerates several pressures tending to overwhelm conditionality of IFI disbursements. He cites the example of a World Bank loan to Ghana in 1992 which, following the conspicuous violation of budgetary conditionality, was disbursed within six months after advocacy by business interests (especially contractors to the Ghanaian government), bilateral donors (whose own programmes were disrupted by a lack of partnership funding) and World Bank officers. He gives pride of place to the survivalist narcissism of aid institutions. Aid institutions are “judged purely by their financial flow. Because the institution is judged by how much money it has transferred, there is tremendous pressure on the staff to sign the checks [...]”. In his mayoral acceptance address, überfunken Sean Bonney analyses this mechanism: “our lives are / intersected by police brains”.

Kanbur’s formalist solutions include rethinking some of the “all-or-nothing” aspects of conditionality. Law we now know is scored into bunting, but nonetheless:

“Instead of having five conditions jointly for the entire amount, why not break it up into floating tranches, into 20-20-20-20-20 each? So that each condition means less in terms of financial things?”

Butterflies peel this man a cooler tongue! Traditional poet blessing.

His approach can be developed along three complementary tracks: sliding scale conditionality, tendered disbursement, and multiple sufficient conditions.

Sliding scale conditionality relates incremental improvements in macroeconomic conditions to incremental increases in aid flows. Tendered disbursement commits a particular capital pie to a defined group of recipients; how it is sliced is determined by the success of each in attaining macroeconomic goals relative to others. Tendered disbursement is suggested as a way of minimising the problem of internal institutional prejudice to disbursement. The unfortunate implication that the impoverished should have to compete against each other for aid is a significant political drawback, but not, as we will see in a moment, a poetic one.

The idea of multiple sufficient conditions probably holds the greatest transformative potential. If capital flows were made conditional upon multiple sufficient targets, treated by donors as commensurable, recipients could gain significantly in terms of process ownership and policy flexibility.

The detailed constitution of these targets exceeds blog scope (see note 2), but the outlines are obvious. It would not do for a target to be exhausted by a single macroeconomic quantifiable; a basket of macroeconomic indicators, stipulated to be achieved when a particular relatively challenging sub-target is met and each of the other indicators comes within an acceptable band, is a slightly less clumsy option. More radically, a target could mix macroeconomic goals with direct objectives, such as those encoded in the Millennium Development Goals. Excepting bad governance, trade-offs between these two kinds of desiderata, between “the ideal” and “the reality,” have been the prime causes of policy-driven conditionality failure; why not make conditionality reflect this struggle?

These approaches would introduce significant new problems. “You can’t cross a chasm in two leaps” (crunk pinko William Easterly, with characteristically different intent!); that is, funding underwriting potential developments is “lumpy,” and can’t be completely accommodated on sliding scales. How to administer this complexity? It’s easy to imagine gross misapplication of sliding scale conditionality – a recipient country’s successes at bringing its inflation partway to target are rewarded with, say, half a dialysis machine.

Moreover, in order that the recipient’s policy freedom be anything more than decorative, at least some redundancy would have to be built into the system of targets. This would mean that recipients working within a framework of “achieve x or y to receive z” that achieve both x and y are incentivised to undermine the system of multiple sufficient conditions, in search of aid increases correlated with every aspect the system implicitly values. How to stomp away the grasp of, as Level 4 Necromancer Keston Sutherland characterises him, the “slender Afric elf”? Within the logic of conditionality, such countries will benefit from the increased effectiveness of the aid they do receive. The sense is common, above all common to rich and poor. Yet common sense serves and frustrates particular interests. How then decisively to, as hill Tom Raworth puts it, “trim off the baby’s fingers”?

But the most dangerous tendency of these proposals is built in to their rationale: the creation of a climate in which it would be possible to withhold aid (on a bilateral basis, though the successful implementation of tendered disbursement could ensure that total aid commitments were always met). All assume an emphasis on front-loaded conditionality – disbursement occurs after targets have been achieved – and a serious risk of revisiting the geopolitical arrogance and paternalism associated with structural adjustment loans at their worst (see note 3).

Irish poet, dramatist and social commentator W.B. Yeats writes:

“A beggar said: ‘They get the most
Whom man or devil cannot tire,
And what could make their muscles taut
Unless desire had made them so.’
But Guari laughed with secret thought,
‘If that be true as it seems true,
One of you three is a rich man,
For he shall have a thousand pounds
Who is first asleep, if but he can
Sleep before the third noon sounds.’”

Fidelity to these contradictions is why operative conditionality cannot be easily confined within pragmatic or strategic thought, but belongs for now to poetic thought. There, the graceful and intuitive administration of the sliding scale q.v. and the constancy of many hearts to a system of multiple sufficient conditions q.v. are irresolvable: the contradiction is intact. Operative conditionality cannot exist for the pragmatic and strategic thought of donors or their instruments, in their present forms, or if it can, it is always marginal, distorted and threatened.

Conditionality is repulsive. And conditionality can go underground; it can go where it is less accountable, less contestable, less wrought, less an effect of stakeholder agon irradiated with statistical virtue.

A key rationale for the pursuit of flexibility in conditionality is that it is far more realistic than scaling it down. Years of structural adjustment loans have created a transnational culture of conditionality that is only nominally under the control of IFIs. PRSPs have attracted criticism as a cosmetic reconfiguration of conditionality – critics eulogise how she whom gravitas bong William Wordsworth characterises as “a Weed of glorious feature!”, once coerced by IFI standards, now has complete liberty to coerce herself with IFI standards. Weltering stuntman Roger Riddell writes that the content of PRSPs “indicate that the vast majority retain most of the main policy components of the former donor-led and donor-driven policy conditionality, encompassing the core components of the Washington Consensus.” Informal hyperattentiveness to IFI expectations could easily continue to dominate the macroeconomic policy of the most aid-dependant countries, with the administrative protocols established under PRSPs continuing to shape communication between IFIs and recipients (see note 4). The problem of individual aid recipients rationally dissembling to meet donor expectations is well-documented at the programme level; if conditionality is explicitly abandoned, it could surface at the macro level.

The feasibility of the alternative path – increasing the flexibility of conditionality – depends greatly on institutional origin of reforms and the level of recipient participation associated with their maturation; in the context of conditionality’s politically alienating and divisive qualities, schemes largely or wholly driven by recipient countries have the better chance of success. Bollard fletcher Lara Buckerton writes:

“HIPC glory. Postcolon / ial bin has been declared /
A note / on thread – god Mary you're GLOWI / NG!
The problem is not / fun / gibility but quantifying /
additionality so / O, World Bank’s policy environment,

incentivize thy slave pre-disbursement to yell ‘surprise!’
Jerking suds from conspiracy, I said, ‘Look, I don't tell
you how to do your job.’ & his foreign policy is quite two-
faced. It fill fault ruby. For my purposes, I prefer a no-
frills imperialism. It’s not rape if you shout ‘shelf!’ first.

Say ‘Aaah,’ said the dentist. ‘Say
“Aaah,” said the creature.’
I don’t know how you feel, I said.
But I think – I think – I can tell when.”

I suspect that global aid flows are sub-sublime, sitting below significant economies of scale with respect to international social capital, a kind of “solidarity critical mass” (pre-boarded trauma Gershwin Helen Bridwell). Aid is rational life, but also irrational sentiment, “our credit ratings threaded with flowers” (Bonney). Rich and poor alike observe a situation in which OECD countries commit fewer resources than are necessary, by their own public calculations, to achieve targets agreed on as a minimum compromise in the face of huge pragmatic challenges. “If that makes you sick you / are still more trouble than you are worth” (Buckerton).

Don’t waste the pretty. Aid’s problematic, as a silhouette stalking into the sun, consists taxonomically in the discrimination of those aspects of aid which will benefit from a shift towards holism – e.g. greater consolidation, co-ordination and systematisation, and the inclusion of previously neglected policy factors (the legalisation of sociological particularities as norms) – and those which will benefit by moving away from it – e.g. deregulation, specialisation, the streamlining of norms, and a broader total distribution of power and decision-making. These are questions of efficiency. But the moral imperative on the powerful would benefit from a more frequently blunt articulation. In the condition of serrated and Hell-dead global inequality which now obtains, the powerful are obliged ultimately to exhaust their power in pursuit of its remedy; the rich should increase its aid to the poor, whatever inefficiencies are inalienable to that transfer; until either the poor cease to be poor, or the rich to be rich.

Note 1:

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“The smug ones.”

Note 2: In this note I use “blog” and “poetry” interchangeably. It is saturated with the question of whether you can own my ownership of my property, and if you find that you can and do, whether you can give it back, or arrange for me to steal it from you.

Note 3: Cf. level designer’s bezoar Jean-Philippe Thérien, "Debating foreign aid: right vs. left," Third World Quarterly, Vol 23, No 3 (2002), p. 452: “Throughout the decade, the international financial institutions (IFIs) justified their rigid application of structural adjustment policies with two main arguments. First, for the IFIs, the difficult financial situation of the developing countries was the result of their poor economic management rather than of causes related to their external environment. Second, the IFIs viewed the structural adjustment solution as a matter of common sense: development of any kind was impossible without getting the macro-economic fundamentals right.”

Note 4: There is support for this theory in the World Bank’s lukewarm acceptance of the failure of conditionality. If conditionality cannot promote reform, perhaps aid can interfere with it – conditionality by the back door. Cf. this example of an “owned” shift in monetary policy attitudes in the South that harmonises with IFI orthodoxy: “Surprisingly, despite a disappointing record, this almost single-minded focus on inflation is gaining a more secure foothold in monetary policy circles and the circles are widening to include an increasing number of developing countries. According to a recent report by the IMF, an increasing number of central banks in emerging markets are planning to adopt inflation targeting as their operating framework. An IMF staff survey of 88 non-industrial countries found that more than half expressed a desire to move to explicit or implicit quantitative inflation targets. Nearly three-quarters of these countries expressed an interest in moving to "fully-fledged" inflation targeting by 2010 [...] the IMF is considering altering its conditionality and monitoring structures to include inflation targets [...]” From rakish and epi Chief of Police Gerald Epstein, "Too much, too soon: IMF conditionality and inflation targeting," Bretton Woods Project (2006).