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3.10.31 I attended a poetry recital at the Whitechapel Arts Gallery last night, at which Keston Sutherland read. This has helped me significantly in understanding what’s going on in the New Tonal Language, or whatever it’s called. He belongs to the same school as Sean Bonney, whom I heard at the CCCP, at Easter.

Sutherland’s work has the fundamental advantage to me that I’ve got some of his published works to hand; I never could get hold of anything by Sean Bonney. These are “The Rictus Flag” from Object Permanence, and “Antifreeze” from the excellent Barque Press. Sutherland is one of the co–founders of Barque Press, which would normally make me suspicious, but Barque publish such an interesting selection of chapbooks from fascinating poets that I cannot doubt their integrity. Indeed, I’m seriously considering adding reviews of some of these chapbooks (amongst others) to this site.

Now I perceive New Tonal Language as, for example, wandering into a party full of conversation, and, as you’re walking round, picking up snatches of words and half–phrases, or walking down a London shopping street, hearing. It’s not the same as my musical experiments with mechanie, which was inspired by the idea of wandering around a huge factory. I’m still a vey long way from catching the fullness of this form, but I’m en route.

Sutherland’s reading at the Whitechapel lost me in a couple of times, because I did not know how to listen. But then it clicked; treat New Tonal Language like minimalist music; let the words wash, don’t interpret, let the rain come down.

To understand this form properly, though, I’m going to have to write with it. This is how I gained an understanding of serial music; for example “Aquataine” from haze. I think I’m going to have to apply some sound effect variations. The readings of both Sutherland, and Sean Bonney’s in April, use sharp chopped silences, or just normal pauses, between disconnected words. These gave the poems great energy. I’m not an energetic person. Fortunately, there are a lot more techniques available for connecting phrases of sound. What I’ve heard seems to use variations of rests, and rests with (musical) accents. I’m undereducated in poetry, so there’s a very good chance I haven’t heard alternatives which have been used. But how would slurs work? What about plain old cuts? Merging I’ve heard in other forms of poetry, would they work here? Ooh, syllable puns, yes… There’s a lot of scope. Actually, slurs could be very interesting; they could give a lethargic softness. Maybe. I’ll have to try it out.

Later: I still ain’t got it.
3.10.22 Aha—I think I’ve started to suss the basis of poets like JH Prynne and Keston Sutherland—I’m thinking Charles Ives. He composed pieces inspired from his childhood. His father had a music shop; the child heard different instruments played concurrently, not in conversation, not in competition, merely in coincidence.

Obviously, in poetry, you cannot have one person speaking two voices at the same time, but you can snatch part phrases, mix and match. Whether this is how the poems are actually built, I’ve no idea, but it does give me a handle to start investigating the form.
3.10.15 I’ve just met the poetry of JH Prynne. I’ve ordered a copy of his “Acrylic Tips;” from Barque Press. His work is obviously difficult. I suspect it will be as rewarding.
3.10.8 I ain’t got a clue why, but I really am hacked off at the moment (hence my recent very negative poems on marketing departments, extending my glist sequence). Somehow, somewhere, someone has thoroughly wound me up. Trying to work out what’s going on is like trying to work out what’s causing an allergy. I think this means what’s actually winding me up is very different, but I’m not ready to face it.

The only thing that I know has annoyed me over the last week or so, which ain’t enough to explain my anger, is the new Medal Of Honour add–pack, Breakthrough. It’s appalling. It’s so bad that if you go to the wrong place in the game, you’re automatically killed. This is the mark of an ill thought out and badly implemented game. Given the original game had a couple of brilliant scenes in it, especially the Normandy landings, I think they’ve replaced the original game designers with a bunch of lazy hacks (in the journalist sense). It’s drivel; avoid it.

Last Friday I heard Bernard O’Donaghue in Kimbolton, yesterday I heard John Tranter (editor of the poetry magazine Jacket) in Cambridge. Both are subtle, effective poets. However, I found I only really enjoyed Bernard O’Donaghue’s storytelling, which confirmed my reaction when reading his latest collection. John Tranter kept on impressing me. I have his collections to read; I shall make some special trips to my local to do so (what? what do you mean, what? Don’t you understand? Don’t you realise you can’t properly investigate poetry without a decent pint to hand?).
3.9.21 Every now and then I do a ‘London Run’. I visit the poetry library in the Royal Festival Hall, where there’s a display of poetry magazines recently received. I try and match my unpublished poems to some of those magazines, and send them in to see what happens. I usually have some success.

Last time I felt ill, and only got half the magazines scanned. This time, I felt ill again, although I managed to scan the other half. I think I’ll follow Oscar Wilde’s advice, for now, and assume coincidence.

One consequence is that I’ve returned to the poetry I was writing six months ago. I revised some poems, as one does, But I’m pretty impressed by what I was writing, though I say so myself. My last couple of poems have not been in the same compressed style. I’m going to have to go back to that style and explore it further.

Of course, editors may hate it. They’re perfectly entitled to be wrong.
3.9.15 Dave Wise died this morning. I knew him through pub quizzes and playing Bridge. He had a good and witty sense of humour (he even joked about his fatal illness), cooked well, and won our team a lot of free beer in those quizzes. He detested poetry, but that didn’t matter because he was good company. R.I.P.

I was chatting online before I heard the sad news, and got told off for not putting my photo on this site. So I’ve done it. It’s pretty crap.
3.9.12 This is too inactive. Perhaps I should chuck it. Or maybe write to it. Mmmm…

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