Showing posts from 2020


HOT ZONE CONFESSIONS‘Thomas and Lowell made themselves the metaphor of their poems’1.I am myself the quarantine.The garden spreads childrenIn summer clothes like soresOn a lip. The world quivers,All arrows locked and loadedTo overflow. I don’t quite explode.2.Writing has never been bomb squadTo the great squatting missiles belowOur skins; you don’t avoidVolcanic eruption with lava postcards.Words hurl microbial aerosolAcross the lawn to sicken, invade.3.I’m only paper, metaphor, inky myth.What’s made isn’t mine or shrapnel to own,Contains pandemics in its sly mists.Controlled explosions like punking steam?All dreams are engines to the minefieldMind we try to civilly distance from, or collide in.4.We’ve died in rhetorical verse too often to seeThe trees burst from it like shells out ofBurial mounds; all’s fecundity, even dross,Drivel, moss, or fungal rot. All personal worksSurround me, yet extend, like vines on branchesFurl in forests to the furthermost interior animals.5.Go out, stay …


CICERO UNLOCKEDAfter  W.B.Y & D.T. with loveCicero knows a soul is there or isn’t thereAnd neither bandage unbreaks the fear;My cat’s coalfired sleeping in a fiery poolPut out in purrs sleep derails, his furThe kingdom of panthers all breeders conferRibbons on; in heaven the dead move too –In puzzled sleep, at their side some ownerScribbling also of the worried times: halfThe world is half apart from half the world’sOther part – the solid heart has come to knowThe dialogue of self, and loss, and selfless loss;As Plato told, and Aristotle tossed aside, in scorn.We’re divisions of an army made up of usAlone; the hill-town’s been cut off from its face,To save the sloping nose to keep the mills alight.Economies of scale collapselike climbing biblesTipping off a feeding beltway to appal the stars.It is dust bowling as dollars fly like miceOut of the cat hospitals to die church poorIn single pairs of lost mittens, disallowed to mournUntil morning’s dark and the mountains flat as ice.We …

Reading Laura Mulvey’s Late Style Essay on Vertigo in the Light of Covid-19

Reading Laura Mulvey’s Late Style Essay on Vertigo in the Light of Covid-19She says that film is deathin its each frame, movinglife into motion by lightso artifice plays on reality,arousing automatons,those herky-jerky objectswe desire to own, infusewith fake breath, becauseto dominate the unrealis what only gods, artists,do. In Vertigo Madelaineis memory, crossed twice,a favourite bridge, she’sordinary spouse refused,credit card declined, turnedas in Pygmalion into goddess;she falls doubly, is a doubleimage and the pain is fetishesare never again what they oncewere in the possessing hand;you play, let go, releasedthe toy breaks on the rocksbelow. Freud, Adorno, the onewho died at the Swiss borderand loved unpacking books,Benjamin, the master theoristof machinations and creation;the late style is, Deleuze or Saidboth knew, an outcroppingof what’s placed behind us,the time before the mastery;the backdrop replacing actualsmashing waves with fashion;how we make up and dressplain Mom to b…

On the value of reading during a global pandemic

On the value of reading during a global pandemic

Though it save no life
passes time
that could be wasted
with Money Heist
or Tiger King
on Netflix; or fear

or breaking the law
with walking twice
the same day. To read
is to return
to somewhere never gone
or only in memory;

it is a home abroad,
a power without pain.
Libraries are banks
that never drain away
their fiscal strength;
a book is a mile

of miles at a single length.
You may start Sir Browne
and die before the Urne;
no holiday ends
too late; life is brevity,
reading infinite. We skim

the stone of ourselves
upon the surface of time
like a meteor burning
as it skips the skin of space.
We hold a place
to return again. But even

entering the waves once
permits the wetting sea
to begin.  Death is omnipresent,
gasping at medics
like a vicious shark; they lean
in to serve, are swallowed

themselves by dark.
Though lovers break orders
to couple danger in the park.
Open any volume, intake
the giving breath of a moment
whose endless living

is language’s flowing monument.
No consolati…

Neo-romantic poem

I am exploring a neo-romantic style of poem, simpler and more expressive, of late, partially inspired by recent German writers, and the events that have changed the world as much or more than the French revolution. Here is a new poem in this style.

I saw my first flower today
not only of this spring
but ever
as this time my eye
saw at once
what might never be
seen later if I might die
the next day
as the time is fast
coming of a blight
so the red rippling
flew out at me
like a wild thing
so enraged with living
it seemed no cage
could keep such a tiger in.

26 March, 2020

poem on mothering sunday


Something about duty, about going into the sun
As if it was rare; something about not enough
Of basic things, too much information;
A recollection of locks, distance, and crowds
In parks as if they were safer. A sense the young
Were careless, indifferent, as they always are;
The old preparing for what they knew happens;
A time of waiting, as if the air raid sirens

Had just begun, but the shelters hadn’t yet
Flung open. Something else, connected to being
Apart, a decision we made to come together,
A grander union, after division bells, local anger;
Seriousness at a level you could hear in a stadium,
But they were shut. The image of someone holding
A pint glass, laughing at the figures on the telly;
Stocking up on boxed sets, brown rice, macaroni;

Wondering if the straps of your mask were right;
That clutching in the chest like holding on
To your last belongings; a gust of fight or flight.
More dying than had to, but that’s politics,
A retired nurse leaning over with exhausted fear,


I first published this 15 years ago on this blog (in 2005)… eerily prescient...

The Shape of Things to Come

Resembles a triumphant trump of doom;
Is like a hollow room; a horn of plenty;
A ballerina’s shoe; a house in Hooville,
Like a devil’s mouse; a bang-
Drum, a pirate drunk on deadman’s

Rum; like a broken broom used to brush
Away the webs from day-dreaming boys
In a math exam; like a rack of lamb;
A donut convention; a depleted pension;
Like the sort of position churchmen don’t

Like to mention; is shaped like a poem,
Mute and dumb; like a big bronze bell
Held by a handlebar-moustachioed strongman


It may seem ironic that the editor of Drawbridge Britain, a book which advocated for humane open borders, would now suggest we (briefly) close them for health reasons, but I do think the time is here to act boldly, and intelligently. Clearly, this is a threshold moment, when action is still possible, to avert unimaginable chaos and sorrow. To stop a disaster of biblical size.

Covid-19 is now a pandemic, in all but name. It is in 40 countries, has no cure, spreads easily, and kills 2-3% of everyone it infects; there are expert suggestions the death rate by year's end would equal or surpass that of the 1918 influenza epidemic.

It is estimated by government studies that up to 1,086,176 or more UK citizens would die from the virus within a year (based on estimates of 80% infection rates, and 2% death rates), if it begins to spread unchallenged here, as it is now doing in Iran, and Italy. Major events are being cancelled, Chevron has closed its London offices, and the Olympics may even b…


I have come to think that, of all the moral, ethical, religious, spiritual, and philosophical precepts, none is more extraordinary, radical, or powerful, than forgiveness. Forget love - love comes, at least sometimes, naturally. To forgive is the most difficult thing we can ever do. I don't mean to forgive someone for stepping on our big toe (though that hurts) - but to forgive the unforgivable. To forgive murder, rape, incest, hate, racism, war, slaughter, torture, evil.

In the past, only kings and mighty rulers could pardon the guilty - what would otherwise be called the unpardonable. Pardoning the innocent makes no sense. The true power is to unshackle and accept the criminal, the guilty. It's an almost impossible task. It disgusts every fibre of our being, the being that calls for punishment, to destroy our enemies.

It is, of course, the central idea of Christ's vision for humanity, and the promise he claims he can make on behalf of his Father. But even if one is an athe…


Cold Sweat turns 50 this year, and is a movie hardly anyone knows or loves. B-movie fetishists are a perverse lot, and I am one of them. I can genuinely revel in a well-made, odd, quirky, forgotten second-rate flick, with few if any pretensions, seeing it with great affection and respect for what it is; whereas many a pretentious, 'bigger picture' can leave me cold.Cold Sweat is actually, in its way, a great film, but because the director Terence Young has almost no auteurist-following, it's been neglected; the reviews it does get are perfunctory and mainly indifferent - it's seen, if at all now, as a toss-offed Charles Bronson actioner, one of the cheap Euro-trash movies he made as his violent vigilante career went supernova.

It's out on DVD, and easy to find online. I'd recommend it to any fans of the crime/thriller genre, and, for the reasons I mention below, it is separately fascinating for being an example of how a film can gather incredible talent across c…


It has long been debated, in and out of aesthetic philosophy circles, whether art and the arts should also have a moral, or political, or even religious, function - and of course, throughout human history (and art appears to be a primarily human object, in the many sense of that word), art has been many things to many people and societies.

It is only really, however, in our own recent time, of 'cancel culture', that the art object, and the artist, have become so conflated, as to become one, indissoluble and undivided.

Even when Oscar Wilde was dismounted from his seat as the great playwright of his age, and wrecked in a brutish prison, his plays, books, stories, and poems, were not banned; and, conversely, even when Lady Chatterley's Lover was causing a great deal of legal and moral consternation, its author was not a total pariah. Even, albeit controversially, Wagner, the arch Jew-hater, is performed in Israel. We know the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to …


Recently, a well-known literary journal in Canada, PRISM International, issued an apology for publishing a few poems by one Stephen Brown, after an editor of his was accused of insensitivity for supporting the ex-convict. It turns out, so said the apology, the magazine did not know, when they published his poetry, that he had been convicted of a vile murder years before; that he had done his time, and, released, started a new life, writing under a pseudonym, in Mexico. Once they had realised they had published a criminal, they apologised; and soon, the cancellers had Brown's poems removed from the national Parliamentary website set up to showcase Canadian poems.

Stephen Brown was found guilty of having beaten a woman to death with another man - she was an Indigenous woman, Pamela George, and it was of course deeply painful to this decent community in Saskatchewan to know the killer was now free and apparently being feted by the great and good (the local university in Regina, and a …