Archive for November 2008
She’s a one, Geraldine Monk. I first saw her read back in the late 90’s at a launch event for Iain Sinclair’s Conductors of Chaos anthology at what’s now the Hope in Queen’s Rd, Brighton. She stood out a bit from the rest of the crew, mostly men in poet-suits which were a slightly down-market version of the olive green suits worn by recently sacked TV-AM executives. Monk (is that rude? I don’t wanna say ‘Geraldine’) was northern, pretty strong Lancashire accent, and if I recall correctly was wearing a kind of colourful loose outfit which I associated with post-hippy-pre-punk women who probably had some pagan / feminist thing going on. I went to Lancaster University in the 80’s and it was a big look back then. She read with a gleeful and swervy attendance to the joins and skippy turns in her poetry which I think was from Angles and she did this brilliant thing of kind of conducting herself with her left hand, doing a sort of pliant flower-child kathak dance. only from the elbow down.
I didn’t see her read again until a couple of years ago at the Cambridge Women’s Experimental Poetry Conference (this archive of the event hosted by the wonderful How2: lots there – poke around) where she read from Escafeld Hangings, a long sequence about (in part) Mary Queen of Scots’ little-known internment in Sheffield. She also if I recall read from The Transparent Ones, poems from her time as writer in residence at a hospice. Again she really stood out. There’s a blocky warm presence there, equal parts welcoming, friendly, even slightly scatty, and also demanding, serious. Handler of a strangely opaque beauty, tender and respectful, inquisitive, and with a focus of attention at the level of the word that sees and makes the strangeness almost literally tangible (she’s still pulling the ductile plasms of utterance with that left hand).
The easiest way to get hold of her stuff is to get the Selected Poems from Salt. There’s also a lovely new collection Ghosts & Other Sonnets and that’s what I want to recommend. It’s effectively three separate sonnet sequences, and comes hard on the heels of Jeff Hilson’s exemplary Reality Street Book of Sonnets. In that anthology, Monk’s sonnets are probably at the more traditional end of the scale formally. They’re all 14 lines, 12 and 2. None really end-rhyme but they’re replete with internal musics, crossings and recrossings over the little baby’s-cot-sized spaces. Traditional in look maybe, but they’re still amazingly challenging and strange to get with. They’re often creepy, scary, playing dark domesticity, burnt toast, wardrobe doors redolent of something darker than Narnia, against the cold drowning death of the lost and neglected. They’re initially pretty comfortless. They remind me a little of folk songs that pit the singers place by the fire or in her bed against her lover frozen in a ditch or drowned amid the weeds. Occasionally Monk breaks cover with, for example, an overt reference to the drowning of the Chinese cockle-pickers, references to the war which play low like radio news. There’re lots of birds, seen out of windows. It’s as if the poems, the whole generous lot of ‘em are taking place on a rainy cold afternoon in a kitchen looking out at a wet garden and feeling the inexplicably haunting chill of the cruelty and loneliness and danger and vulnerability of people out there in the world, expressed almost as a character, as a ghost, something implacable. Not too far from the traditional regret and sorrow-filled poetry of the mainstream here one might think. But Monk’s amazing gift is to create such kaleidoscopically inexhaustibly satisfying poems, slyly funny, worked as a clustered brooch, full of invention, learning, music and love for people, that the poems themselves are a crippled sort of placation of the ghost. Creepy stories told against the haunted dark, and the comfort is not in the stories’ content, all drowners and dread presences, but in the materialist gratitude for the generative power of the human imagination present in full effect in the making of them. In the left-handed pulling and plaiting of the words.
Flowering Pain Give Space
Grace Hartigan, Abstract Expressionist and one time New York painter has died at the age of 86, reports The Baltimore Sun. Hartigan was a confidante of the poet Frank O’Hara who had posed for her and written poems to her. She said that although he was homosexual, their emotional intimacy was more intense than any she had with a heterosexual man. O’Hara’s biographer, Brad Gooch, believed the lines “Grace/ to be born and live as variously as possible,” which are engraved on O’Hara’s tombstone, were written for Hartigan. The artist credited O’Hara with influencing her on the use of popular culture. O’Hara’s poetry could jump from Picasso and Lana Turner. She told The New York Times: “Frank broke down the barriers between so-called high and low art.” She took to Abstract Expressionism in the late 40’s but not long afterward began spiking it with images of ads and department store mannequins and street life, early evidence of what she calls her “desire to get the balance of abstraction and imagery, like the porridge, just right — not too hot, not too cold.”
Patrick Jones, brother of Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers, has caused controversy with his latest collection of poetry. The Cardiff branch of Waterstone’s has accused Jones “of deliberately provoking a “furore” about his latest collection, forcing the company to cancel its official launch”, reported the BBC. The bookseller’s called off Patrick Jones’s book-signing after a campaign by a Christian organisation. The author confirmed that he e-mailed his poems to Christian and Muslim groups and to the far-right organisation Combat 18 before the event in an attempt “to spark debate”. A campaign by activists Christian Voice pronounced the book “obscene and blasphemous”. The bookstore has now released a further statement defending the cancellation, saying: “The poetry reading was organised and planned in good faith between our store and the publisher.”However, it would appear that shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book. These actions were taken without prior discussion with the store or their consent and altered the nature of the pre-agreed event. For this reason and because of the risk of disruption to the store, our staff and customers we felt it appropriate to cancel the event.” The issues in Jones’s poems include religion and domestic violence against men. He had this to say: “I sent a few poems to many different organisations on 2 November and I said ‘Please find a few poems. I would appreciate your feedback’,” he said. “I was hoping that maybe they would come out and have a debate. That’s within my rights to do that. Even if they had come out to protest, that doesn’t mean Waterstone’s should give up [on the launch]. That’s freedom of expression.” Er..Yeah? Another blow to the artist in my opinion. Why have some religious organisations been powerful enough to effectively close down one man’s launch? And why is nobody getting hot under the collar about it?
UPDATE: An internet campaign has been launched urging people to boycott Waterstone’s following the cancellation of Patrick Jones’s event. The Facebook protest was launched by mental health nurse Matthew Evans in support of the poet. So far more than 150 internet users have signed up. Join the campaign.
Photograph by Jane Newman Jones. Taken from Patrick’s website
‘Desperate for Love‘ was a poetry event, held earlier this month on 3rd November 2008, at Brighton’s Komedia. We want to have lots of these events. We want there to be more poetry in Brighton. We all remember ‘Do Tongues’ you see, with a little hint of nostalgia. We want this series to grow up big and strong and then get, say, Lee Harwood to come and read to us all. Or Geraldine Monk. Or you, if you’re any good. Right? Next time, we might be desperate for something else. Supply your own adjective, but for now it’s just:
Desperate for Love, which is not:
Mills and Boon naked girls
Pleading with stony-faced men
Or a Christian Slater sick flick
nor bible song not open mic
Desperate for Love is:
The first in a series of readings
Rock and roll. A bitty bit of soul.
Dancing out freak white and stage fright
Taking back Monday night
Poetry, prosetry, wordery, revelry
From the lips and hips of:
Alan Hay. Wolfy Jones. Gary Goodman. Jacq Aris.
With Born Bad DJ Steph spinning her disques and
cutting up moves plus Special Guests.
This night was a success and we plan on doing more more more. So, please check back to find out where and when.