Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Suicide Bridge - list of sources

Iain Sinclair's Suicide Bridge

Intro. I wrote about Suicide Bridge in about 1994 (see Origins of the Underground, published 2006) and the build-up to that involved looking at a lot of esoteric and fringe literature. That is really where I got going on 'psychoceramics', the scientific study of crack-pots. In 2014 I wrote a review of the second edition of SB, with the new material, which made me think how bad my first analysis was. This is really a very complicated text and describing it takes a long time. There wasn’t room for a source analysis in the review, but afterwards I thought that tracking down some (most?) of the sources would be useful, even if the use cannot be named. This is not a commentary although it supports the two short commentaries I have already published. To sum up, Sinclair has marshalled a lot of freaks in the way that a horror director might marshal magi, mermaids, and mad scientists. You don't need to read the crackpot stuff in order to enjoy Sinclair's great work. The concept of SB is to write adventures for each of the Twelve Sons of Albion named by Blake, and it is a follow-up to Blake. The differences between Sinclair and Blake are vast, but still this was the starting point.
The use of a list of this kind is mainly to allow conversations in the pub, where genuine leisure prevails. Secondarily, I suppose, to neutralise certain ideas – that is, to show that there is no political or even occult system behind Sinclair’s 70s books, rather that he uses pulp mythology in the way someone scripting a horror film might use it. SB is not a documentary or an attack on the ruling class. Its sources are, for the most part, junk and pulp. He does not believe in the truth of the esoteric sources in the way, for example, that Raine came to believe that Neoplatonism was the truth of the universe. He is not much interested in truth (not in Suicide Bridge, anyway).
-Andrew Duncan
Page numbers are for the 2014 edition from Skylight. William Blake is quoted throughout so the many quotes are not separately identified.

p. 18 “MD” – from Melville MacNaghten's Notes on Jack the Ripper, written in 1894. MD was one of the list of three suspects, originally published circa 1959 with initials only because of confidentiality issues. Later works, from the later 60s on, named “MD” as Montague Druitt. He features in Downriver and other novels. The list was first made public by Dan Farson, who features in Landor's Tower.



p. 19 “pale lunar figures” – unidentified (description of Psycho?)
p.23 'the material world and finite time' didn't get exact source but cf. “Two theologians (Zātspram 3.23 and the author of the Škand Gumānīg Vičār 4.63-79 [ed. J. de Menasce, Fribourg en Suisse, 1945]) have seen clearly that the world was created by Ohrmazd as a trap and snare for Ahriman: “By his very struggles in the trap and snare the beast’s power is brought to nothing.”
This is a Zoroastrian doctrine which explains the existence of the material world in terms of a trap to lure the evil principle out into materiality. >>Ohrmazd's strategy is that the good creation will act as a trap to capture Ahriman and neutralize his evil. Ahriman being aggressive, rash and ignorant (he "does not know the final outcome"), as against the thoughtful and prudent Ohrmazd, certainly the ultimate result will be the triumph of good; undoubtedly creation will be restored.<< - Wikipedia on Shikand-gumanig_Vizar, 9th C text.
MD played cricket against the Parsees' team, in 1888. The Parsees won.

p.21 Richard Cavendish – as cited in detail in the text

p.21 “death posture” – theories of Austin Osman Spare as written up by Kenneth Grant.
The illustration entitled The Death Posture, which forms the frontispiece to The Book of Pleasure, contains, in an allegorical form, the whole doctrine of the New Sexuality.”
That Book was 1913. The exegesis is probably from Cults of the Shadow by Grant.
p. 30 “aggression can be generated...” unidentified.
p.34 Thomas Browne letter to a friend:
And therefore I could not but take notice how his Female Friends were irrationally curious so strictly to examine his Dreams, and in this low state to hope for the Fantasms of Health. He was now past the healthful Dreams of the Sun, Moon, and Stars in their Clarity and proper Courses. 'Twas too late to dream of Flying, of Limpid Fountains, Smooth Waters, white Vestments, and fruitful green Trees, which are the Visions of healthful Sleeps, and at good distance from the Grave.

Most of the text of the Letter is incorporated in the text of Christian Morals.

So could be either?

34 "evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is ..."

-Blake


p. 36 Spicer- American poet, details in the text
p. 38 Wilson – Colin Wilson
p. 39 “O Anubis” (and) “The four altars”
-from the Cantos. Farfalla in tempesta is butterfly in the storm.
p.41 “too small to hold its blood” – unidentified



p.48 two Egyptian texts. “Ah helpless one” is Coffin text 74 (“The Revival of Osiris (Resurrection)as printed by Rundle Clark in Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt. Translation probably by A de Buck. 

I am Atum...
is also translated by Clark, same book page 80, credits unclear but seems to be the Coffin Texts,, as translated in Coffin texts, ( vol. 4, Spell 321), edited A de Buck (Chicago, 1939).




P. 50 “the spiritual in all”: unidentified but as it does not make sense it may be Charles Olson.
“Whiteheads simplest statement”.

P 54 “they went without shields” - Eliade p.294 – extract from the Volsunga Saga describing berserkir.

55 “London stone” <<London Stone was a well-known landmark in medieval London, and when in 1450 Jack Cade, leader of a rebellion against the corrupt government of  Henry VI, entered the city with his men, he struck his sword on London Stone and claimed to be "Lord of this city". Contemporary accounts give no clue as to Cade's motivation, or how his followers or the Londoners would have interpreted his action. There is nothing to suggest he was carrying out a traditional ceremony or custom.<<
- probable match
>>Upon entering London, Cade stopped at the London Stone. He struck the stone with his sword and declared himself Lord Mayor in the traditional manner. By striking the stone, Cade had symbolically reclaimed the country for the Mortimers to whom he claimed to be related. <<
55 “peachy clotted tide of sound” - unidentified
56 'in self hood' – Blake
p. 66 quote from The Daily Telegraph, date unknown

p. 70 “oh my grief” (mo chreach) – Synge, Playboy of the Western World

73 the moon in a hood story . This is printed as “the buried moon” in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. The match is not identical so Sinclair may be using a variant.

>>so off he went; spent and gasping, and stumbling and sobbing with joy, flying for his life out of the terrible bogs. Then it came over the Moon she would main like to go with him. <<
Jacobs' source was: “Mrs Balfour's 'Legends of the Lincolnshire Cars' in Folk-Lore, ii, somewhat abridged and the dialect removed. The story was derived from a little girl named Bratton, who declared she had heard it from her 'grannie'. Mrs Balfour thinks the girl's own weird imagination had much to do with framing the detail" 



81 “shat into the plastic bag” - Kray story from Pearson, The profession of violence?
p.84 Chambers: from Guide to London, the Secret City, Michael Chambers

published by Ocean Books, 1974.

p. 81 Jack Spicer – US poet, exact source not identified.

p. 90 “in breaking traditional ties” - unidentified but probably Eliade, Myth of the Eternal Return, or a related text. Could be Jung's 1959 essay on Flying Saucers.
p. 92 Ixtab as goddess of suicide
source unidentified."Although Ix Tab is not recognized as a deity in Maya scholarship today, her origins can be found in the archaeological knowledge produced by early Mayanists such as Paul Schellhas and In the contributions of ethnohistorians such as Alfred M. Tozzer“.



p.97 “She has to...” Ben Bradlee (of Newsweek) describing Joseph Kennedy post-stroke. In Conversations with Kennedy.

“I met Jack Kennedy in November, 1946.... We went out on a double date and it turned out to be a fair evening for me. I seduced a girl who would have been bored by a diamond as big as the Ritz.”

: Source: character Stephen Rojack, reminiscing in Ch. 1 of An American Dream (1965), novel by N Mailer.


p. 99 “Men are most free...” “Not when they are escaping to some wild west. The most unfree souls go west, and shout of freedom.” ― D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature. (chapter 'spirit of place')



p. 100 Ludvig Prinn - De vermis mysteriis
>>The tome first appeared in Bloch's short story "The Shambler from the Stars" (1935), in which a character reads a passage from the book and accidentally summons an extradimensional horror. <<
So Robert Bloch, working in the world of HP Lovecraft (for a magazine edited by Lovecraft). Title means “On the mysteries of the worm”.

101 from The Gemstone File by Bruce Roberts, a fake conspiracy theory/ Roswell text, now widely regarded as being government disinformation.



103 Howard Hughes. Source is James Phelan, Hughes the hidden years.



104 "heroin from the golden triangle" – from The Gemstone File:The dope trade routes are: Golden Triangle to Taiwan to San Francisco. Heroin coming from the Golden Triangle was sometimes smuggled into S.F. in the bodies of American G.I.s who died in battle in Vietnam. One body can hold up to 40 pounds of heroin, crammed in where the guts would be.

Some dope gets pressed into dinner plates, and painted with pretty patterns. One dope bust in S.F. alone yielded $6 billion in heroin "china plates" - the largest dope bust in history - quickly and completely hushed up by the S.F. press Mafia. The dope sat in the S.F.P.D. for a while, then was removed by 
FBI men, and probably sent on its way - to American veins.

All this dope processing and shipping is controlled and supervised by the Mafia, for the Mafia. Dope arrests and murders are aimed at independent pushers and maverick peddlers and smugglers who are competing with, or holding out on, the Mafia. While Nixon was conducting his noisy campaign against dope smuggling across the Mexican border, his dope officer in charge of protecting the Mafia dope trade was E. Howard Hunt.

Lots of heroin gets process in a Pepsi Cola factory in Laos.”

https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/esp_sociopol_gemstone.htm
p.105 “Relieving himself...” - James Phelan
109 Philostratus from the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, a wonder-worker. Also at p.38
109 'those long vistas sacred catacombs where mighty minds'...
'darkness before and dangers voice behind'
- from The Prelude Book 3
Yea, our blind Poet, who in his later day,
          Stood
almost single; uttering odious truth--
          Darkness
before, and danger's voice behind,
          Soul
awful--if the earth has ever lodged
          An
awful [...]
The thirst of living praise,
          Fit
reverence for the glorious Dead, the sight
          Of
those long vistas, sacred catacombs,
          Where
mighty 'minds' lie visibly entombed,
          Have
often stirred the heart of youth, and bred            
          A
fervent love of rigorous discipline.--
          Alas!
such high emotion touched not me.
Also Book Three.
111 'looking forth by light' also The Prelude
small quotes probably also The Prelude
“punish thee in thy members “– not identified
114  felt Incumbencies
more awfulvisitings Of
the Upholder of the tranquil soul, ... 
- more Prelude


p.112 'an ear that could measure' :
from Milton, Apology for
Smectymnuus. “"For
this good hap I had from a
carefull education to be inur'd and season'd betimes with the best
and elegantest authors of the teamed tongues, and thereto brought an
eare that could measure a just cadence, and scan without
articulating; rather nice and humorous in what was tolerable, then
patient to read every drawling versifier.”
114 “a small chamber hung with dusty green”:
Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses – as Wood thought that Milton had been given an MA by Oxford.
“Richardson, who laboured with affectionate
enthusiasm to acquire and communicate all possible information
concerning the person and manners of Milton, has left the two
following sketches of his figure at an advanced period of life.”
"An ancient clergyman of Dorsetshire (Dr.
Wright) found John Milton in a small chamber hung with rusty green,
sitting in an elbow chair, and dressed neatly in black, pale but not
cadaverous, his hands and fingers gouty and with chalk stones."






p.119 “Holmes at Caius” Unidentified. Says freshman so must be an American writer.

119 “ devildom first poetising afterwards”:

The book is Goblin Tales of Lancashire, Author:James Bowker, and the tale is THE
UNBIDDEN GUEST:
    'Jeremiah,' said this personage, 'devildom first and poetising afterwards.' There was an unpleasant tone of banter in this speech, which did not seem in ...'

This contains a concealed joke: “In a little lane leading from the town of Clitheroe there once lived a noted ‘cunning man’ to whom all sorts of applications were made, not only by the residents, but also by people from distant places, for the fame of the wizard had spread over the whole country side. If a theft was committed, at once the services of 'Owd Jeremy' were enlisted”
- the tale is about the Devil and a 'cunning man' named Jeremy. The Devil asks for his soul but offers in return “'Twenty-two years of such success as thou hast not even dared to dream of! No opposition--no exposure to thy miserable dupes’ readily answered Satan.” This is a mythical account of the ascent of Prynne.



120 Pennick, Mysteries : from The mysteries of King's College Chapel, by Nigel Pennick
(Wellingborough : Thorsons, 1978)

120: peiste. This is an Irish Gaelic word meaning “beast”, usually a monster, Latin Bestia. But in Modern Gaelic it just means “worm” and this is the sense here because it runs “worm drives down into the buried mystery/ fenland peiste”.

From out his secret Altar toucht with hallow'd fire. The Hymn. I. It was the Winter wilde, While the Heav'n-born-childe, [ 30 ] All meanly wrapt in the rude manger ... the phrase appears in “On the morning of christs nativity” but the full quote is in so it's The Reason of Church Government , Book 2
>> "not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pea of some vulgar amourist or the trencher-fury of a rhyming parasite - nor to be obtained by invocation of Dame Memory and her siren daughter, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases." 

121 a Ley line
122 The Vegetative Universe, opens like a flower from the Earths center:
In which is Eternity. It expands in Stars to the Mundane Shell
- Blake, 'Milton'

127 “beware” - quote from Prynne lecture as credited.
p 131 “First Reggie...” Kray story, maybe John Pearson again?
p.133 shabti: tomb servant for a dead person (Egyptian)
137 Bladud cf. Geoffrey of Monmouth
"before I was..." one of the Taliesin poems? in the Llyfr Taliesin.


139 “Chief ensign of druids was a ring”
from John Wood the Elder A Description of Bath, 1765

This was the reason for designing a Circus in Bath – echoes ring of stones, Stonehenge


>>First though must come the story of Bladud, the founding father of Bath, an exiled prince because of his leprosy, whilst out herding pigs one day happened to notice that the pigs loved to roll in the hot muds of the spring. Bladud also tried this and was cured, and then went on to found the city of Bath on the spot. Our mythical King Bladud is given a date of 480 BC, and as Wood saw it Bladud created the city about the size of Babylon. Bladud was a descendant of a Trojan prince, a high priest of Apollo and a ‘Master of Pythagoras’. Therefore this high priest was a devotee of the heliocentric systems of the planets from which the Pythagorean system was derived. That the Works of Stantondriu (Stanton Drew) form a perfect model of the Pythagorean system of the planetary world <<
So Wood was a pioneer pyramidiot.

140 “I copulated with my fist” – Rundle Clark, p.44, source not very clear. But it may be Coffin texts, vol 3, 334j. Edited A de Buck (Chicago, 1939)


141 “passion to face the west” :unidentified

143 fetherham:
John Hardyng, Chronicle (1470 version). An obscure text but presumably quoted by some author on the Bladud legend. Fetherham is a cloak of feathers or pair of wings. Hardyng says the Temple is now St Paul's.

145 “cave of the Pythian God”: the temple of Apollo, again, but this time in Delphi. Presumably Wood's History of Bath.

>>However according to Pausanias, Pteras, the founder of the second temple of Apollo at Delphi, gave its name to the city.<<

>>They say that the most ancient temple of Apollo was made of laurel, the branches of which were brought from the laurel in Tempe. This temple must have had the form of a hut. The Delphians say that the second temple was made by bees from bees-wax and feathers, and that it was sent to the Hyperboreans by Apollo. [10] Another story is current, that the temple was set up by a Delphian, whose name was Pteras, and so the temple received its name from the builder. After this Pteras, so they say, the city in Crete was named, with the addition of a letter, Apterei. The story that the temple was built of the fern (pteris ) that grows on the mountains, by interweaving fresh stalks of it, I do not accept at all. [ << - shortened quote from Pausanias

146 “curve line”
unidentified but sounds like a ley writer. Camulodunum is Colchester.

148 EF Stringer: >>star people (also known as starseeds) is a New Age belief and fringe theory. Introduced  by Brad Steiger in his 1976 book "Gods of Aquarius",it argues that people originated  as extraterrestrials and arrived on Earth through birth or as a walk-in to an existing human body. It is a variant of the belief in alien-human hybrids. The term "star people" was taken from an existing Native American spiritual concept.<<

I could not locate an EF Stringer.

149 “contour values...”
unidentified but it describes a graphic representation of anomalous magnetic force readings. Earth magnentism is mentioend in SB so this could (wild guess) be a text on magnetic anomalies from Flying Saucer Review (ed. Charles Bowen). Flying saucers used “magnetic propulsion” in Ray Harryhausen's 1956 film “Earth vs. The Flying Saucers”.

151 “degradation destruction revocation infamy”
>>A disdainful man looks after two retreating and dejected figures. Their swords lie upon the ground. He carries two others on his left shoulder, and a third sword is in his right hand, point to earth. He is the master in possession of the field. Divinatory Meanings: Degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss, with the variants and analogues of these. Reversed: The same; burial and obsequies. <<
commentary on the 5 of Swords from a text on Tarot, probably AE Waite? >>The following year, a small guide by A.E. Waite entitled The Key to the Tarot was bundled with the cards, providing an overview of the traditions and history behind the cards, texts about interpretations, and extensive descriptions of their symbols.  << - so 1911

153 “do not allow even an insect”
- unidentified (but an alchemist)

155 Namagiri:
from a Penguin hist of maths, check soruce
The quote relates to Srinivasa Ramanujan 1887-1920

156 tags are from HP Lovecraft

158 maths-insects
-from the same Penguin book?

159 “burst death's membrane through”
unidentified
but a spiritualist text
165 “worthwhile to destroy myself”
unidentified

169 “Magic Door”
poem by Chris Torrance

170 “dead go the way of the sun”
unidentified

170 vaginal vibrations
unidentified
about prophecy, possibly Crowleyite

172 “west is the body”
unidentified

177 “enjoyed the process of temptation”
unidentified biography of John Cowper Powys

182 “Oppenheimer tasting sin”
unidentified but O is more likely to have said 'The physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge they cannot lose.'' not clear he said this.

187 “ghost of a flea”: John Varley (1778-1842)
painter and friend of Blake. This quote is from a book on the zodiac.

188 Botches:
it is the plagues of Egypt, source text unidentified

Botches and blains must all his flesh imboss.” -Milton
189 “bathing suits”
unidentified


193 “a country surrounded by water” - unidentified but is Britain seen from the point of view of an Amerindian.

194 Sign of the Angel, Lacock – this is a pub rather than a book. Lacock is a village near 

Bath. The pub building is 15th century. It is said to have a ghost. >>The inn is said to be 

haunted by the ghost of an elderly woman, who has been frequently seen over the past 15 

years or so. She is believed to be one of the previous owners who just refuses to leave. A 

friendly soul by all accounts, who has been spotted several times by staff and diners 

patiently sitting at one of the tables in the lounge bar. <<
196 “Maldoror”
book by Lautreamont

196 'highest form of criticism':

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.”

Wilde, preface to Dorian Gray


list of books

punk vortex x file
bone-muscle
victims
the older hidden powrs; the secret minds (source?)
westering
brerton, the darkness
bowen, his journey




Sunday, 19 March 2017

Crime stories

Very satisfied because an order of books has arrived after 5 weeks. I ordered two books about criminal cases by a prominent East German lawyer, Friedrich Karl Kaul (1905-81). These cost 1 Euro each I think, which is why the order was slow.

Kaul is discussed in a history of East German literature which I have been consulting.
It is a platitude that the best writers, in dictatorships, are dissidents. Any bright 13 year old knows this. But if you assume it to be true, you never read writers who are not dissidents. In this way you could miss the fact that it is only, say, 80% true. Also, opposition writers are often banned in the country they are writing about. This means that the reading matter in that society is quite different. I want to read Kaul because I want to get at something more typical of East German daily experience. If you read some writer who is published by a West German publisher, who is being read by people in the West, who is getting reviews and prizes mainly from literati in the “capitalist zone”, they adapt to that milieu. A writer whose only goal is to be read in the communist republic, and perhaps in some of the “fraternal republics”, is a better source than one with wider contacts.

I got into this because I was reading a 1925 book by Egon Erwin Kisch, in an East German reprint. Kisch was a reporter who wrote only reportage, and so was one of the bases of East German literature. He died in 1948. Obviously the DDR in the 1950s was a rerun of the Weimar Republic with the nationalists having their microphone unplugged. Kisch was the perfect writer. That's the problem with the literature of the Democratic Republic – that core of perfection which you can never enjoy, like a core of ice in the ice cream which will never melt. So many writers saying, virtually, “this idea was great when it was first used 50 years ago, so I will be great if I use it”.

If you scour the second-hand listings on the internet, you find that Welsh books stuck in English bookshops are often incredibly cheap. East German books, especially non-dissident ones, are equally cheap. Since I have no money these are two fields I am penetrating in depth. In both cases the appeal is of learning about an alien society from the inside and I want books that speak to the small society and not to a wider world. Also, reading a bad book from a society can be more revealing than reading classics all the time. Certainly true for Wales. I had a wish, at some point (2010?) to uncover trivial culture from Germany. This was due to a question about the prevalence of American culture as "mass consumption”, the point about American movies and TV was obvious but the other question about how far a native “pulp” existed and what constituted its appeal was more elusive. German pulp would essentially not be exported, it would be missing from the libraries I used in London, which were founded on a notion of “seriousness”. I didn't get very far with this although I did get to watch some German Edgar Wallace films.

If you follow simple wishes, you end up reading 9 dissident writers for every one who was regimetreu, loyal to the regime. But in fact the East German regime lasted 40 years, the Soviet regime lasted 70 years. So the idea that the story is all about them falling apart is flawed.

Kaul had nothing literary about him but was very concerned to tell the truth. In a 1959 book (Kleiner Weimarer Pitaval) he quotes the original writer of true crime, Pitaval, as saying that truth is the most important thing. “Peculiar and astounding events, which move us in novels, in these works of the imagination, can because of their untruth awake no founded pleasure in us ... But when the true and the amazing are combined, then our reason and our heart enjoy a pure and true pleasure.” This was in 1736. So that is the model for East German literature, in 1736. Kisch wrote a book called Prager Pitaval about crime in Prague. I used to have a copy of this, God knows how that ended up in London. Kaul must have read this book.

Communist society was based on crime. By the government, that is. I don't expect to find very much in Kaul about crime inside East Germany. You just know it's all going to be about crime in West Germany, maybe in Britain (the home of detective mysteries), crime in the Third Reich, crime by Americans in Europe, crime in the Weimar Republic. In fact he wrote a 3-volume Weimar Pitaval in the 1950s. That says so much about the Fifties in the DDR, that people were reliving the Weimar Republic, in this case alongside the right-wing judges and lawyers who had put communists in prison for talking and set Nazi murderers free because they were patriots. So in 1955 you re-enact the trials but with the result coming out differently.

Kaul writes a 70-page account of a corruption and bankruptcy trial in 1929. I suppose it's not literature but it is very interesting. He was obviously a communist sympathiser as a young man and spent time in Lichtenburg and Dachau concentration camps around 1935. This is why he spent the 50s reliving the injustice of the past. He was also half-Jewish. Anyway, he got out, first to Colombia and then to Central America.

The big story in Russia is the alliance between the Party and the gangsters, which was growing even in the Sixties and came to run the country after the breakup of the Soviet Union. So true crime is the key to everything, even if loyal writers never mentioned it. I am not sure that there was any corruption in East Germany, they didn't have a Mafia and they didn't really have dissidents. But as for truth, clearly Kaul wasn’t willing to tell the truth about the society he lived in. Truth started at the border, more or less.





Refuge areas and English nationalism

This is a posting about resentment and refuge areas, in the wake of the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump.

The poetry world is most visible when it carries out acts of validation, such as awarding prizes and releasing books in prestige series. These acts are claims of homogeneity and indeed poets all want homogeneous applause. However, a significant component of the scene viewed in the round is resentment. This is one of the major energy flows and it needs to be brought to light.

One form of the lingering resentment is ethnically defined. It's aboot time we listened tae naebodie but oorsels. TS Law said. Mentioning this raises the possibility of an English Nationalist programme for poetry. This seems structurally implied in a game where ethnically defined blocs are saying listen to naebodie but oorsels, but it remains a white space on the board. It faces structural difficulties- on the level of someone saying that they won't eat spaghetti or hamburger because they aren’t English. In parallel, it seems that someone who would commit to such a programme would reject all poetry since 1960. That is, this category of people may actually exist, in numbers, but they are structurally removed from the game because they refuse to play it. This would point to the origin of the poetry scene as a self-selected group, dominated by empathy which leads to convergence. The more they converge, through shared experiences, the more they differ from the outside world. We may speculate that even though poetry is subjective, if a number of people read the same 300 books they converge, so that their subjective reactions come to resemble each other. In fact, the wish of the poet was to communicate, and this always mitigated the purely subjective element. The domination of the poetry world by the people who actually want to take part in it disguises an untested fact, namely that the scene could alternatively be run by quite different groups who would then lead it down a new path – so that the empathetic/liberal tendency would have to leave. So perhaps very different outcomes were possible.

English nationalism would take the form of denying the right of the people in the poetry world to own poetry. This is a thought experiment. It is likely that the actual state of poetry is the product of all its preceding states. Nationalism was extremely important in poetry in the era of Newbolt and Noyes, but there was a strong reaction against it in the Twenties – the reaction against the military ideas of the First World War, in fact. Being incorporated into the poetry world has meant, since that point, taking on unstated assumptions about the desirability of war, the condition of the State as an emotional object rather than a business one, about asking questions, and about submerging in a collective, which were not compatible with nationalism.

One fruit of the uprising of 1968 has certainly been to critique individual judgement, the individual experience of art as a source of knowledge and pleasure. I think there is a refuge idea where art consumers faced with the critique of judgement which has been taking place since the Sixties get irritated and disengage and take refuge in a narrower world. Here, the refusal to extend is a vision of authenticity. They find a comfort zone of pleasure while ignoring the critique and the rather long drawn out arguments which have accompanied it. This seems like a retreat to me. Back into the Balkan hill ranges and a tribal sense of homogeneity. I am not sure that criticism ought to be annoying and humiliating. There is a whole line of Marxist-oriented cultural critique which is designed to humiliate people – in the style of John Berger. Your experience is invalid, he is saying, because you are invalid people. This may not be backed up by evidence.

I was very impressed with Goodwin and Ford's book about the rise of UKIP (Revolt on the Right), because at each point they pass on assailing UKIP's dud ideas in favour of saying that the energy of the system as a whole is running down because politicians are ignoring what the electorate are thinking about and saying. The key thing is the decline of Labour and the Conservatives, not the rise of UKIP which wins votes without winning elections. I think the managers of poetry need to learn from populist hostility.

The poetic equivalent of UKIP and Donald Trump is Bloodaxe Books. The critique of the intelligentsia. Of sophistication, of ideas of modernity. The resentment against an elite who dominate the discourse and are super-articulate, the rationalist that the elite represent a consensus and are fastened by self-regard. We have been dealing with this since the end of the 70s. Actually Bloodaxe is not English nationalist. I should emphasise that this resentment is expressed in the jacket texts, a fugitive genre which is not subject to scrutiny and not expected to be responsible and proportionate. Its texts may not be visible in retrospect, they vanish. They are anonymous. But they are read a lot by possible shoppers. This matches up with political campaigns via Twitter and the Internet, the digital post-truth realm. This attitude is not written up in any book (a book about modern poetry by the head of Bloodaxe was announced in the Bloodaxe catalogue but never appeared). Like UKIP, this line of opinion did contain a lesson for the intelligent and credible. I have certainly thought about it a lot. Populist books of poetry were selling in thousands while modernist-style works were selling 200 or 300. 95% of the potential audience are scared of anything difficult.

I don’t think those jacket texts ever named the people they were attacking. They didn't distinguish between the academic taste of the 1950s and the modernist/Leftist poets of the 60s and 70s. They just had a stereotype of “intellectual – smug – inhibited – not entertaining”. Evidently many real books acted out that stereotype.

The poetry world is a small self-selected group. This is worth thinking through. Evidently, people who never read any poetry are less qualified to make generalisations about poetry than people who read it all the time. This is a question of sovereignty, almost. Of the right to make judgements. The established “poetry elite” falls into several groups. Evidently there is a group whose working assets include the rejection of modernism and of the critique of the self (roughly) which has developed since 1968. The populist thing involves a dual rejection: first, of the Oxford line of poetry for being too narcissistic, too smug, too sheltered from life's problems, too conservative in social attitudes. This is quite separate from the attack on another elite, of left-wing intellectuals, for not delivering credible accounts of lived experience and for being too esoteric in linguistic means. You can attack both groups at once. (It is characteristic of a populist resentment that it ignores differences between various sectors which it wants to attack.)

Because of the history of the scene, the populist resentful group is on the Left and is educated. It is rather that they are less educated than the hyperliterate and are Left in a less abstract way than the readers of philosophy. You have to have sympathy for someone who is reeling out of the cinema not having understood the film. People encountered poetry at school – if there were people who read a Shakespeare sonnet and really didn't understand it, they were labelled as not the A-stream by the teachers, but it is unconscionable for the poetry world to go on casting them as the C-stream. If someone is labelled as 37th out of a field of 45 in an exam, it is quite likely that they will mentally define the 36 who were more intelligent than them as inauthentic and lost in abstraction. This sounds childish, but as I was saying adult behaviour in culture recycles attitudes acquired while at school. If you see attacks on poets with Oxbridge educations, poets with knowledge of Continental culture, poets who have read literary theory, we are seeing a “refugium” mentality, parallel to UKIP's attack on career politicians. You have to admit that some people are reading new-style poetry and they just don't get it, the dots don't resolve into a pattern. The scene shouldn’t just be built around academic stars if they are very few in number.

If you get into the critique of everyday life, including consciousness, you can lose the sense of life being lived and offer the reader nothing to identify with. That is the very thing they want, so giving it away is quite a radical step. This may be what people mean when they talk about “abstraction”. I think that what the wider market wants is a poet with greater sensitivity than most people, and then poetry which has contained time. If poetry is an argument, if the compassion of the poet stops being visible because of the critique they are carrying out, the appeal is not there any more. If you are criticising the process of consciousness, you end up with zero contained time. There is nothing to identify with. Meanwhile you can reach a larger market by presenting a poet who embodies compassion and the feel of “lived time” even if they are unoriginal and evidently mediocre at key points.
Obviously I regard the people who like my poetry as the most legitimate critics. But there is a circularity built into this. Suppose you have an elite which enjoys minority support. Meanwhile its legitimacy is challenged by broad if disorganised groups which are pushed by resentment. This means you could redefine them as not being an elite. As a thought experiment, we could say let us define a hundred different factions as being failed elites. How do we decide which one is the least failed? What I am saying is that if you only have 50 fans there is a problem in you defining those fans as the most authorised to authorise because the whole process of legitimation is in question.

I don't think the populist hostility amounts to a new elite group. This is because its means of presenting ideas, in jacket texts and so on, are so shallow and unaccountable. The ideas cannot be argued at length because they are too flawed and too reliant on negative stereotypes which fall into shreds when the evidence is assembled. They exist as smears, scurrilous insults, stereotypes, folklore, dark flashes of emotion, and if they were not like that they would not be populist.

Who are the elite? One segment little considered is the stockists, the people who choose the stock of bookshops. They are nameless so their biographies are not part of the cultural memory. However, it may be they influence the course of literature more than anyone else. The flow of reviews and so on may be at a remove from the book trade, and not especially influential on sales. A critic might be influential by affecting what the stockists do – influence is always conditional on being listened to.


I have reached a halt without talking about refuge areas which ignore the existence of feminism or of immigrant groups (and critiques of the British). I think similar conditions apply – the resentment is never articulated and so is hard to critique intelligently. Similar emotions are probably in play – people don't want to enter the poetry section in order to be made to feel guilty and to be told that the position they hold will have to be given up and they will be evicted. They probably want to hear the reverse, actually. They may want a refuge area, a refugium, from those feelings. They are resentful of an elite which bases its legitimacy on inflicting those feelings on people. But actually – being pro-feminist and pro-immigrant really are qualities which qualify you to apply for a post as culture officer, qualities too which justify the system and protect it from legitimacy and energy leaking slowly away.