A Northern Winter

1 February 2016

For Ken Bolton (who found it)


1

bitter gall in afternoon light
stroboscopic beech
‘we will shortly be arriving at / Rainham’

a stationmaster
spits the whistle

Tate Modern: Delaunay (Robert) and Severini, Munch and Bonnard, Jonas Mekas’ films. Gerhard Richter.

Before me (from the members’ room), St Pauls and the Millenium Bridge. I will walk that way towards Lamb’s Conduit (via Shoe Lane, Holborn and Red Lion Streets), for Peter Riley and Peter Philpott at The Lamb.

a glass, seemingly of port, at the window of The Dolphin
(this sad enterprise of notation)

The Dolphin opposite The Enterprise.
I’d rather be fish than foul.

2

Today I sit downstairs in the office, looking out the back window to our garage and wall and, above it, the last few yellow leaves against a (rare) blue sky.

I see the sage plant beneath the window and immediately smell (purely imaginary) sage.

3

What troubles me about Jackson MacLow’s methods is the mere thought of method. It seems essential that these works enunciate their principles of construction i.e. primary text, letter selection and secondary text. But is the knowledge of this supposed to bolster our appreciation of the result? If so are we admiring it because it fills the brief or are we admiring it for what it is? The two things are not necessarily compatible. MacLow realised at a certain point that there was no such thing as the purely aleatory, that the first principles were already an aesthetic decision.


4 (Three musical interludes)

i

Charlie Watts, dapper in Hatchards bookshop
a South London accent that may have been worked on

ii

in my head, the
Horrie Dargie Quintet play
‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’

iii

I’d always hated Gary Shearston singing ‘I get a kick out of you’, but suddenly in the student bar, Roehampton, it all, especially the violinist, sounds good.

5

The snow from two nights back hasn’t melted. Interesting to see which plants seem to have survived – lavender, thyme, oregano – that you might have expected to wilt. Tarragon dies off naturally, the rosemary hasn’t really got going.

6

a white oblong of sun on the bedroom wall

time to get up

Tonight, a reading in London which I’m not going to. That’s three London events I’ll have missed this week. Two because of weather, one, inertia.

7

nothing in this drawer

a tangle of script

‘snowbound’

I feel less ‘at home’ here than I did a year ago. But would I feel ‘at home’ anywhere else?


8

If I have always envisaged work as music why do I still fear abandoning a patina of sense? The poems on the surface are ‘documentary’, but documents themselves don’t ‘last’. We don’t read the poets (for the most part) for insights into the contemporary (though they ignore the past at their own peril).

9

speckled lights from Christmas
fake chandeliers

out there it’s winter still
the bulbs in public gardens unopened

I decided today, walking through Canterbury, that what I feel now is a kind of blankness, a nothingness which seems neither bad nor good, neither exhilarating nor terrifying. It is maybe ‘despond’. I need to emerge from it to write again, or if I write again I will emerge from it. I’m not certain which of these is true.

Now, I suppose, is the moment I stop being an observant tourist and become an ignorant local. Yet at the same time Australia appears an even odder construction. I mean I love it, aspects of it at least, but from here it’s a peculiar thing. The fires that I know much about make it to the UK news, as does (as ever) ‘shark attack’.

I belong to a space that nobody here will recognise.

10

spring bitter
and bitter spring
at The Sun

shadows on a page, the rise and fall of breath
striations in an enormous fireplace

marking time
marking, re-
marking

‘Jim Thompson
never materialised
again’


11

The Fitzroy Tavern, Charlotte Street, last seen in, was it, 1992 or 1987? The ‘writers and artists’ bar is downstairs, but I stay up, ‘not writing’, trying to remember the name of the Italian restaurant I’m supposed to be at in half an hour.

telephones that ring like telephones

the ghost of Julian Maclaren-Ross shuffles past

‘a violent hash smoker shakes a chocolate machine’

12

teasel
the burr of the plant, dried,
a device for carding wool

leaves that jump (dead ones) with a sound like raindrops
small greenish birds
an orange butterfly (fritillary?)

now I know the yew, found in churchyards, is poison to livestock

13

and now it’s daylight saving

when will the scaffolding come down?

and what place for this scaffold
in the age of interruption?

miniature daffodils under the tarpaulin
a sign (‘The Sun’) on its side;
inside, from the rafters,
hops, still green from summer

 


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