Enter the interlude, the shadowbox, the waltz.
verse your voice first, then wake up
plumping a ghost pillow,
attunally sounded out like
Cello funeraries. Burnt gristle on the hook.
Once, I saw your face inside a mirror,
in the glass.
Charcoal outhouse, rooms,
pyramids. Mells of history.
We never thought of being alone. It kept me
from overfeeding the boy under my skin.
Tomorrow, how will you know? I’ve had to wait
lifetimes. Tomorrow, the idea of it could change
my name into redemption, or break it into pieces.
Tomorrow as midnight and, by morning, wind-
sieved, sand into sun, a path to light the dunes.
Tomorrow, or else and unless the song leads me
waiting on a dark-windowed car to arrive, its tail
strewn in black ticker tape. Tomorrow, the breath
How long left to wait? I’ve shaken hands
with myself so often I know the dry con
-tours, the underbones. Dread in the arc
of a question mark. You don’t hear
something back like that and live un-
changed. It’s not like one note is blue
when the echo is red, or what can be held
down by someone’s idea of organic logic.
Same old friend,
same old sky
I listen for you to enter
the empty room
I turn up the music until it
If everything is fractalised, how do we pick up the pieces?
for Toby Mercer
Good enemy, the self
snapping at type-
writer keys, savage
as automotive pattern,
with smoke, the ‘I’
snagged by sunset—
a long night to sleep
alone in the coolyard
with a full gut buffeted
by silence. Thoughts
start, a bull to a bell.
Polite as shy violence,
that we must live lunarly
opposed, phasal and jig-
sawed in half at the finale
like some magic trick
gasping into hope.
The keys keep jamming.
If hit, it will not fix.
for David Gascoyne
Only the enemy ahead and the past
in tomb-fires crying from Gehenna.
Arpad flags stretched out in neon—
scarscape of a city revisited by war
where the dead-ended street means
bonedust and our bright fear seams
the gold pockets of civic executors.
Dark charity of neo-Kane’s feigning
model conglomerates, who would be
nurse-maidens in public but are ass-
eyed in private and shut every flower.
Who, as professional soldiers, protect
no stranger, but clarion a vexed wind,
the death-clicking of heels after rain.
With & Without Restraints
for Steve Boyland
a swan unhooded
in choric sunlight
a wind-pronged ash tree
wet roads inside a lake
seven years pass in
in village covens stovecold
to sing the dead unlonely
shadows crack / uncrack
via Dickaty on sax
sound as consort to a
field fire’s magnetism
what is recanted is
Krapp’s terminal wreath
from a creeper-root
each opening of the throat
after Yves Klein
Picasso in a fresco
He enters the theatre
like Caligula enters
the imperial banquet.
Blue curtain dragged
across the floor.
Fire harnesses the void.
He lives like an oven all heat and silence .
Angularly profiled, accepting of visitors
(via appointment only—
Would you like to make
Montotone symphonia. Blue sky
as infinite SPACE.
Monogold in blue monchrome. No.
Life has too many names, he says—
I prefer to live inside
the paintbrush of memory.
Anthropometrically he faces towards the window
Who is he facing the blue
static of the television screen?
—reflected in himself blue—
An ugly mouth
wearing proto-fascist handcuffs.
Synthesis of blue eros.
The rain in your face cries
for sentiment’s sake.
You wipe the paint from your eyes.
Dying is nothing more than a tightening of the belt braces he said.
I am dappled as a smoke ring, he said.
That I might have been the study of air, he said, he said, he said.
Helen at the lyre calm as an x-ray.
Disapproval is always physical.
Form forming via
The cellist invigilates her strings.
I remember her as wings on a body,
as the body strewn.
In the blue whiteness of starlight.
In these blue pillars of shifting water.
On Surrealism and Poetry: A Poetics
1. from A Poetics of Desire (2016)
Writing writes as it unwrites, familiarises as it others. I write to wrongfoot myself, to wake myself up (from myself).
I am the masked burglar who wants to break into himself: Writing is ‘[a]n interrogative mode of being, a corporeal questioning of identity and place’.
Poetry is ecstatic. Out of stasis, moving the self outside of the self.
To write with the volume turned up. To pressurise each syllable. Linguistic innovation over plain sense. Difficult language offends our basic literacy but is permissible, if only because the world itself can be difficult.
I want to offend basic literacy.
I am the carpenter’s son trying to rebuild a life. Poesis: the maker.
I am the blundering detective who cannot solve his own case. History as historia.
I demand a fresh enquiry after the enquiry.
 Judith Butler, Subjects of Desire, p.9.
2. The Surreal as more real
I am wary of classifying my own work. This is something that others might do. Instead, I prefer to move between modes, hoping to evade classification. That said, there are poets who I have gravitated towards (and from) who have been called ‘surreal’ over the years. Of these, and in my early writing (particularly in Blood / Sugar, my first serious poetry collection), Peter Redgrove stands out. Redgrove, a Jungian psychoanalyst, was dubbed surreal at times, also a ‘scientist of the strange’. However, he saw the surreal as ‘more real’, which chimes with my own poetics.
In Blood/Sugar I also included a suite of poems after Claude Cahun who, like David Gascoyne, was considered by Breton too surreal for the surrealists. Gascoyne’s Night Thoughts is never unlocatable on my bookshelf and yet his poetry, to me at least, is both ludic and vatic, visionary over surreal per se. More recently, in fiction, I have been interested in the ‘new weird’. M. John Harrison has been a discovery of late.
Writing, of any kind, might explore strangeness, weirdness, or what has also been called ‘surreal’, Why? Because we don’t know precisely why we are born and what will happen when we die, never mind all the unknowing that happens in between. And so a poem, any poem, if it is open to exploring the vastness of what little know, may look to celebrate mystery. I am interested in the mysteries inherent within language, rather than confirming anything known or, indeed, real.
Ultimately, I have no idea if the poems of mine in this selection typify any of the claims I am making here. I can tell you with more certainty that, for many years, I have been wearing a jellyfish over my head, first worn a century before by H.D., attempting to thaw herself out from a Freudian iceberg.