Shuddhashar: What is it that you strive to explore and convey through your poetry?
Dom Hale: Everything, from the weird incomprehensibility of my experience to how that experience grazes or misses the world. I don’t think you can write poetry by imposing limits on what you want to sing beforehand, circumscribing the horizon. Or I don’t think I could, anyway. It all falls in.
Shuddhashar: How do you interpret the present world, and how have current events spurred you to write?
Dom Hale: To be honest I don’t feel like a particularly articulate person in my day-to-day life, so poetry is a way of comprehending the world which strikes simultaneously at the depths of my experience. I go to write, and sometimes when I think I’ve just about finished with a poem, or at least I’m coming out the other side of it, I might have a fleeting sense of clarity. But this is very precarious. The act of writing the poem and living with it afterwards is the interpretation of the world. It’s never single-minded for me though it can be pretty hell-bent: the world only gets translated however momentarily by staying with the contradictions and trying to keep on the balls of your feet as best as you can in the melee of language. Inevitably this can mean responding to what’s going on at any one time, either directly or obliquely.
Shuddhashar: What literary pieces – poetry, fiction or non-fiction – and writers have informed and inspired your own writing? How have they done so?
Dom Hale: Since I was young, some of the English romantic poets have been important to me, especially Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. Recently I’ve been reading the stunning new collected poems of Anna Mendelssohn, I’m Working Here, edited by Sara Crangle (Shearsman, 2020). Mendelssohn’s work gives us this completely idiosyncratic, intelligent, resistant way of writing through the pain and beauty of artistic and political commitment. I’ve also been loving Dambudzo Marechera’s Cemetery of Mind (Africa World Press, 1999), edited by Flora Veit-Wild. A properly amazing, outrageous writer. I can’t think of a better line in any poet’s work than ‘My anarchist arse has shat on society’.
Shuddhashar: In what way do your personal identity and experiences shape your poetry?
Dom Hale: I think this is a difficult question to answer interestingly. I’m too close to the work, too involved in the chaos. But for me, the personal identity and experience of any poet is bound to mould and saturate their work, often relatively obscurely, even if their poetics involves an explicit commitment to moving away from or trying to suppress these qualities.
Shuddhashar: How do you use structure, language and grammar to accentuate the message of your poetry? Do you subscribe to conventions or break them?
Dom Hale: If a poet isn’t constantly attacking deadening conventions then I don’t really see what the point is. True poets are revolutionaries; they have to be. This doesn’t necessarily mean a wholesale abandonment of forms that might be considered ‘traditional.’ The best poets invent new forms, sure, but they can also energise and agitate inside existing shapes. Forms that are given to us from history can be a way of speaking with and to the dead, a gift, and shouldn’t easily be misconstrued as intrinsically conservative.
Shuddhashar: What is your opinion about the conflicts and solidarities between political poetry and the literary and artistic values of poetry?
Dom Hale: I think that any notion of the separation of the aesthetic and political is a bourgeois lie.
Shuddhashar: Does your poetry transcend national boundaries? Does it appeal to different nationalities or linguistic groups?
Dom Hale: I’m an internationalist. I want an end to colonial violence and state oppression the world over, and the abolition of racial capitalism which works to destroy our lives, communities, and histories.
We will no longer serve you. A day warps
strained through orange light, tenements and forms
moulting their fixity beyond the heat shimmer of infinite summer
Birds burn through the upper atoms
Getting dicey off the rails
And I think of my skint companions
where they might be, what they could be up to at the moment
Passing hours swallowed in manipulation
aches like cranes and girders of regenerating cities
the private forgery they grind our teeth inside
Deadbolt. Tuesday. But it’s not my tunes you lot hear
doing in the evening Illegitimate and fucked A sun defaults
hands me the familiar urge to bail
from this disgusting law-abiding country
Acres of the criminalised and watched
Scalpels hazard lights Old apparitions we have struggled with
The world would make us cold.
Ten years for tearing down a statue track the rip of truth
They ask me to account for my life
I will not explain myself, statute gorging out there lordly Beggared clouds
In England somebody takes themselves every two hours
I heard that in the recorded lecture I’m making notes on for a student
who I’ve never met and for which I will be paid £8.72
Gratitude is poison
and everywhere that poison smacks the hanging heads
my sister on her own and wasted in a soulless hospital
Wrecks beyond anything phrases can liberate
Kennel time Scalar blows Motherfuckers managing the NHS
Even as I type these lines I feel my deadening.
What cruelty have you been force-fed today? Lavender
bleeds the leaving sky a plane faint against it
bound for Global Infrastructure Partners and border checks
control towers of the hostile environment
emergency restrictions designed to isolate confuse and pacify
Reigning SNP the loyal retainers of the free movement of capital
indicting hunted bodies defenders of a grotesque landlordism
memorials the nadir of handcuffed brains
When a woman is abducted by a cop what kind of mass cultural derangement
orders hordes of plainclothes pigs into every fucking corner of an island
It’s austerity forever then
The commons was a lie or died in Morton Hall
cos air and water’s money
surveilled areas at night
But I am with you mate addicted sleepwalker
card-carrying dupe of Big Tech bolt awake still here
the multinationals divvying up the rotting USA
batted between screens, attention like a burnt-out building
and nothing for my co-conspirators
I saw the sawn-off future in the river
saw the dented springtime was a baton
One lockdown too many.
These purple marks on my lower abdomen
are signs that the corticosteroids and drink are catching up with me at last
Nobody really asks how anyone else is doing anymore
because the truth’s about impossible to bear
and so widespread reduced to platitudinising as to be almost meaningless
in the little society of unhinged screaming at each other
Begone from the poets’ boundaried paradise
sent packing from the GP surgery
I look to you for a dunnock touch
Flux of shoots snowdrops on London Road Gardens
or the short-lived yellow ones Pleasure grounds for dogs
If I have a dissidence it’s clinging to these hollow rooms
hollow but at odds still with the barrage talk of public fact
So draw yourself up to a great height and snap the actual fuck out of it
The mould may well be with us to the desolation and our end
If I’ve reflected torment I have reflected light
and aimed my tailed brokenness like a broken hyperlink
at the psyches and opinions of the lost eyewitnesses
I will walk deep into a woodland
Now you see me there
And all of a flower it’s underway. Rabid light
To the divine timer, the friend who blew full pelt
Barking on the tongue, sweet, off-peak
Hurling in from Manchester without a tune or rest.
What I need is one more autumn, one more shot:
Tonight I’m 27 and the adrenaline
Whips like wishes to a skiver on the pulse
A sky lilac of the federations. But I reckon
We’ll be gorgeous from now on. There rolls another evening
Swift fidelity and grace: my stolen life lies naked, my
Stolen life zips up, losing those bold rosaceous figures
Tracing the dodo job in a vast capital, losing you
By another when Leith’s all perfect light. Boats and gulls
Wearing the sea and the wet buildings talking shop
Jitter what it means to be a fucking symptom,
How trying to blink back rucked stuff
On the far side of the rational shade
Only becomes an infographic, nerves serried,
A foil of city speech to stick in the craw. And then some,
Through the revolving door. But I’m not fussed
Shit news oils in, it’s Saturday, there’s cops
Watching on Talbot Road. Smell of tarragon,
Smell of brine. My head’s high gone, and honestly I miss
A bar, sounds alongside the lot, not far
In a second that welcomes every thought your head could have
Wound to a familiar pier without suicide or cost.
This one’s an awful world to wake up lonely in
So leave the avenue, scop, sack it off,
Bite the magnificent air: it’s spring’s colour negative
Stepping out at enmity with something in my eyes
The portal forks. A no-show then. If I’m a little on the nose
I’m nuzzling in. You won’t forget, you won’t
Nod off, they’ll never pin you down. My brilliant comrade.
Those cunts can’t touch us. Hear me. Get lost.
Still, everyone moves on. I mutter like a fucker
And my facemask slips, overdone by Martin Hannett
Paying fees to the bouncers on Parnassus, tutting
Ranks of the employed. Time prosecutes the pores
Hammered, desperate, alone: it is onerous
Night on the world and the proprietors of history
Unfurl their grim bought gullets in plainsong.
But they will never recruit me, never take what life
I now stand by. Just try. So long. Use it cautiously,
An anthem stings the noose’s neck, a gale of laws
Until the burning orchard’s up in arms
And I’m not done. You have to slap my face
To make these run, you’re sick of it. The sticklers
With their literary careers to think about might take the piss
Or the pointless lunch monitors who’d have it all
Homogenised, make every poet toe an arbitrary line.
The pandemic really brought out the officer in you.
We have to get above all that. Sinew after
Sinew, lily pad to lily pad, a Serco cloud
A circler on his arse. I murmur evening to the waves
I wait by the kebab shop and I worry, shivering
About my friends at work and in the useless plastic street
Or lying on their beds in ordinary despair and
Fear. Spent half of lockdown sleeping, dead,
The other in a fucking trance. The poets’ fire
To the head. Too much to parse. A swallow passes on.
I have nothing else to say. My mouth is thick
With nettles, in a nettle song. Those shoes you’re in
They suit the season, though these days every season’s
Wrong. It was never reasonable for me to write to you
Disaster on disaster sent me west
I blew everything, bone idle, drinking in
A buttoned cast-off shirt with all the worst ideas
A séance for the ones I never met. And so
You turn off the lamppost and parts of weather
Topple from the prehistoric sky. Hold tight.
I’d like to be a better person, face out, face there, under
The heaving stars. A finch or a trowel. A sprig or a prow.
Put away the temperature gun. There is no
Handbook how to do it and I set off from the missing bar.
It must be otherwise. A mirage now
Your buds and decoys lie around us at the only
Pick-up point, you know I mean it in a seaside
Town. A weak connection is the anti-note. And then it
Hits in fucking waves. Capital is coming down.
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