see nerd) blog


image: illustration As part of this site’s redesign, I’ve created tannoy, my new blog. If you subscribe to this blog, please transfer your subscription. See, nerd) log is closed.


scan monster

image: illustration My father, on the right, died in the early ‘60s, in his early ‘40s. He was an engineer who switched to management and did rather well.

Following WW2, he left the army to study engineering. In August 1948, he took an IEE (now IET) student tour of Switzerland.

His tour photo album is engineering enthusiasm: railways, locomotives, maps, dams, geography, sights, and no pretty girls. He was, as I am, a nerd.

The album is postcards and curate’s snaps. It’s fascinating for me; he’s a man I never knew. He shoots what I would have shot. But he’s different: I’m fascinated by railways as lines in landscape, he’s fascinated by locomotives.

Among the place and enthusiasm are fellow students. Most shots are count–the–heads hide–the–personality poses, but the guys enjoyed themselves. I’m glad.

Sixty years later, I’ve scanned his album. It’s an interesting vision of the time, it might interest surviving fellow students. Most of all, though, it’s a portrait of a young man in 1948, a photographer, an editor. It’s here.


anyone there

image: illustration I write this blog confident no one reads it, pretty much. That’s not entirely true: Lilli once wanted to reply to a post.

But there’s no reason to subscribe; what do I say that’s worth a revisit? This blog is my kitchen table, I grumble crankily and the dog ignores me.

I considered revamping it for commenting, but the design and configuration was more work than I’d expected. Comments need software needs maintenance. If no one reads this, let alone wants to comment, that’s a waste.

Of course, as things stand, if anyone wants to encourage me, they can’t say so! If you want commenting, tell me, or email oh bugger be. I’ll be shocked if someone does.


old image

image: illustration I’ve become unhappy with the photos here and on Wurm; there’s more posts than good photo content. So I’ve acquired a scanner to import my youthful output, a suitcase of slides and negatives.

There’s utter drivel there, of course, but interesting images too. I see compositional techniques I use now slowly developing. I see themes now I didn’t seen then. I see themes I’d forgotten, including self–portraits. I see themes I explored and discarded, some of which I now see were doing interesting things. Perhaps I might return to them.

A difficulty for developing ideas then was the lag between photo and feedback, especially for those, like me, who had no access to a lab. Commercial labs had the annoying habit of not printing mistakes, so I couldn’t learn from them … and some weren’t mistakes! The cost hindered me; most of my exploration took place when I was a student. These were good reasons then to drop some exploration. Digital technology now allows me to revisit the surrendered form without threatening the beer bank.

Whatever, you’ll see fresher images here. The last few photos came from the suitcase.


interesting poetry

image: illustration To me, an interesting poet is someone whose poetry creates effect. For example, when I first heard Sean Bonney recite packet switching poetry (to invent the wrong name), the jerky rhythm & the subject chop made me feel strongly of London, the nature of place, my experiences there.

A very interesting poet is a poet who finds a new way to create effect. I don’t know to whom I can ascribe packet switching poetry, a number of poets used it even then. It seems to be coming quite popular now. But whoever came up with it will be, to me, a very interesting poet.

A great poet is someone who creates an effect new to poetry. That’s why I put Prynne in the great category, he’s found a way to create something in poetry I’ve only otherwise felt in music.

The “mainstream” doesn’t seem interested in exploring new ways to create effect, so, by my argument, a mainstream poet can never be more than interesting.

Equally, though, by this argument, I have to allow a poet who’s doing something I don’t expect, or don’t like, a chance. Almost by definition, the people who find something new to me are those who’ll be doing things I don’t expect. Thus I explore the mainstream, the buggers could surprise me! Much more, though, I seek out the new and the different, especially translations. I try to avoid dismissing something as drivel automatically (although if it walks like a skunk, & it quacks like a skunk, …); in among the 99.99% awful may be something incredible.


hacked off with lulu

image: illustration I’ve prepared a collection to set Wurm Press in motion. Having researched information online, we decided self–publishing using Lulu seemed the best option.

So I’ve spent quite some time preparing a book to Lulu’s specifications. It’s ready, the proof looks good. And guess what? Only when I attempt to actually make the purchase do they bother to fucking mention they only allow our chosen publishing option in a few countries.

I went back and checked the various pre–sales documentation, and, again, found no mention of this restriction. Why conceal it until this stage? Is it because the restriction doesn’t apply should we assign them publishing rights?

What are we supposed to do, set up an address abroad? Sod the conning bastards.


poetry, amateur, professional

image: illustration A great advantage I have, when attending poetry conferences, is I am thoroughly amateur. Most around me will earn their living from literature. I, sitting at the bottom of the compost, have no career to damage. They have to be at their best (and, when they are, they’re very very good). If I make a contribution, I can be thoroughly awful, yet I can’t be knocked any lower (well, except to be banned, I suppose!). I can enjoy myself carelessly. There is a toxic pile among amateurs, of course, but it’s pretty irrelevant when around professionals.

This isn’t leading to a confession, incidentally.

It’s interesting, though, that most people who earn their living from poetry do so from ancillary activities, often by teaching literature. They get to do what they love and be paid for it, but they don’t get paid to be poets. Even so, they get professional time to travel their art, presuming none teach literature for the money.

The recent visit of Jaap Blonk to Wurm im Apfel reminded me that even these people, though, aren’t pure poetry professionals. Jaap is; he earns his income directly from his own work, from performances, from sales of his CDs. Such people are rare, they have to enthuse their audience, to be among the very best, or they don’t get dinner.

Such poets represent the very old traditions of poetry in the modern world. Having Welsh roots, living in the Republic, adoring the classics, I can’t help but be aware of bardic traditions, living from performing. A bard is a rare profession today, and it was a privilege to welcome a bard to Wurm.



image: illustration I know Tesco have the reputation of selling crap at high prices, on the grounds they do just that, but even they go over the top. They’ve just charged me €1.75 for a product that has €1 marked on the front in big writing. No doubt they’d claim it a mistake, as it surely was, but I’m not returning it. This I’m telling you is so worth the 75¢.


a season of small insanities

image: illustration Some first collections were launched a while ago in Dublin. I don’t believe any should have been published; the poems were exercises, they were immature, the poets needed stewing for a decade to develop their own flavour. Fortunately, Maighread Medbh’s new collection, “When the Air Inhales You”, saved that evening.

In Cambridge, though, it seems first collections are properly seasoned. I recently attended the launch of Andrea Porter’s “A Season of Small Insanities”, published by Salt, ISBN 978 1 84471 509 1.

Porter’s poetry is well constructed, polished, mainstream, and considered. The collection reflects many themes, but behind most poems lies a deep empathy, richly expressed, a dangerous sea on a sweet day.

The collection’s first two thirds is a string quartet in a drawing room. It’s domestic, feminine, elegant, loving, with a underlying theme of cleanliness which makes me suspect I’ll never be invited to the Porter household. But don’t presume I’m saying Porter hides from the awful, not at all, it’s just that I have the feeling that somewhere in the origins of many of these poems is a discussion around a kitchen table. Heike with her Dictionaries is a translator at a Bosnian war crimes investigation, trying to be dispassionate, but:

   They bought six soldiers here. They dragged six boys here.
   They executed them here. They shot them here.
   Gesture left to speak.
   They buried them here. They hid them here.

I like the way the colouring is not overdone.

There are a number of lovely little fantasies inspired by great artists and poets. For example, in Head, the protagonist has somehow snarfled Goya’s skull:

   I put the head on a red cushion. I cook paella
   with organic rice I have discovered in Asda.
   Sitting opposite, I offer him a Chilean wine.
   He declines; he would prefer Rioja.

In the final part of the collection, Porter puts down her feather duster and picks up her knuckle duster. From Snow Night:

   You are talking about hot tea when he dies,
   hear him stop breathing, become silenced.
   So quiet this snow on early hour streets.

From No Returns, which I wish I could quote in full:

   You stand in line in an anywhere Mothercare
   to return nappies still in their cellophane.

   No you’ve lost the receipts.
   Yes it was a cash transaction
   Yes, less than six weeks ago
   No, in-store credit isn’t any use to me.

   You feel your T-shirt becoming sodden,
   catch the eye of the horrified Saturday girl
   who will remind the imagine on the 37 bus
   and replay it as a form of contraception.

The collection is not perfect. Nothing makes the mountains want to lift up their skirts and dance. It’s unadventurous. All the same, it’s a fine first collection, the quality of first collection I like to encounter. I look forward to more.


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