Wednesday morning - 2nd attempt to send
Back home from sub voicive poetry. Only took 2 hours. I made the mistake of
leaving Holborn, in the centre of London, after 11 pm. The first 20 minutes
were spent in Holborn Station with various random messages appearing on the
boards. Late at night the indigines of those depths seek to recreate the
splendour of The Old Ones who man the underground during the day, but they
have no concept of matching announcements with reality. About an hour and a
quarter after leaving Holborn, we arrived at Morden, the extent of the
London underground southbound.
When I moved to the edges of Glondon, much further south than Morden or
Modern as some there spell it, I was pleased that the underground did not
reach too far, thinking it would keep at bay the types who some years ago
turned perfectly okay places like Clapham - see Graham Greene, The End of
the Affair - into South Chelsea - see the estate agents; but I didn't take
into account the consequent inbreeding further south. (For your own safety
keep a blank expression should you ever walk down Sutton High Street, show
no sign of interest in anything beyond the commercial stimuli.)
My bus, the 154, a vehicle rarely seen and famous for its route
improvisation, which rises from some diesel swamp in Croydon and crosses
Roundshaw - old Croydon Airport with Prison Camps - before heading into the
smug ex fields of Wallington and Carshalton, was waylaid at Rose Hill - see
John Boorman, Days of Glory - by two whose brains seemed to have evaporated,
leaving the water. These 2 and the driver exchanged fractured words, getting
some quite interesting effects, for a number of minutes, he revving the
engine, them getting on and off the bus, until they happened both to be off
while he was fully conscious and we proceeded, leaving them where they had
been, but we nearly colliding with a police car with its lights turned off
in the bus bay - that's actually quite good for the Sutton police.
Throughout the journey the bus made a ping sound, every 1.9 seconds as far
as I could tell; it drove me a bit mad, reminding me of the earlier journey
up to town on Connex South Eastern and its ringing cell phones - hallo I'm
on a train, yes a train - but seemed to have a rather soporific effect on
the driver who had the look of a dying dolphin hoping to shortly glimpse the
Even when we reached the high point above Carshalton and I disembussed it
took longer than usual because I had to walk around the local park, someone
having vomited over its gate with prolific enthusiasm. Anyway...
It was a spiffing reading. Lots of our usual regulars absent, using their
ESP I suppose, telelistening, and many new to svp faces so a good audience.
Carlyle Reedy did something of a retrospective - as did Alaric Sumner to a
lesser extent, including the text of his _Unspeakable Rooms_ about to go on
tour; and they finished with a collaborative piece which was exciting but
also quite hard to take in at the end of a long evening. I hope they do more
collaborative work because it seemed to be productive...
There's an svp mag - 1998 # 11- @ L1.50 incl postage including work by both
of them published today i.e. yesterday - apart from that there's an Etruscan
Reader including Carlyle; and Alaric - who is on this list - publishes
OBITUARIES AND CELEBRATIONS... as well as his own publications including
WAVES ON PORTHMEOR BEACH from which he read. His ABERRATIONS... is published
by RWC and available from me at L2.50. CR is also in OUT OF EVERYWHERE ed
Below are my intros to the reading.
Introduction to a reading by Carlyle Reedy and Alaric Sumner 12th May 1998
I am going to introduce both poets together, one after the other that is.
Carlyle Reedy has worked in theatre and performance, as a painter, as a
poet; she collaborates with artists and musicians; she works year in and
year out with a lack of recognition for the importance of what she is doing
which is quite outrageous.
For all the energy, wit and humour that there is in her work, there is often
also a stillness and near silence within it, remaining available for us,
whether the piece is a collage, an assemblage, a text, a painting or a
what's-that-Carlyle?, and she has a few of those, as they change and are
changed over the years.
As with so many good makers, the work is rarely really finished but is
manifested in multiple versions over time. She is prolific, but she is also
fastidious in working to "get it right" whether anyone is paying attention
or not. That is, in part, the knowledgeable musician in her - you can have
precision and you can have change and you can have mistakes; you work in a
piece rather than on it. You'll find a poem of mine regarding Coltrane in
Talus magazine which is dedicated to Carlyle and it remains dedicated to
her, I rededicate it to her. When I was working at the first tries and
showing them around and reading it at people, it was Carlyle who saw,
immediately, what I was doing and talked with me about it constructively
while everyone else, it seemed to me, was still scratching its head.
That quiet I spoke of inheres in much of her best work and there is one hell
of a lot of her best work, especially the many small texts and objects,
easily quickly read but full of potential reverberation because of their
careful making - and I include the found material in that. It is not
complete stillness; it is near silence, but not complete silence: it stays
our side of notness. It is work that goes as near as any other I value to
showing us what we are, if we can hear and see what we are being told, by
taking us beneath the clutter and noise of external details, by ignoring all
those insignificant things with which so many in love with themselves fill
their convenience poetry.
Her fastidiousness, and that's not the right word, doesn't prevent her from
being open to the fortuitous accident or to seeing the subject in hand from
an angle no one else would have thought of. She can think on her feet and
make it up as she goes along. I recall her calmness and concentration, when
my part of a performance threatened to burn down the London Musicians
Collective as we celebrated the late Steve Cripps. You could see people
twitching and thinking Fire! Fire! and it's true there were a few unexpected
flames around; but Carlyle got to the end of her piece before she worried
We could all learn to our great advantage from her commitment to her work
and her own belief in it.
Alaric Sumner is another artist with a wide range of activity. I have known
him for over two decades, not quite as long as I have Carlyle, should it
matter, and his work has always been - I have to use the phrase -
Recently - or so it seems to me - the many voices within his work have
become more explicitly that - voices - separating rather than separated
voices, voices overlaying each other, obscuring each other sometimes, as
voices do, communicating with each other, disagreeing but also endorsing,
and adding to the utterance of the other voices within the text, utterance
of the other, voices within the text
He is engaged upon performance writing, another little phrase we might worry
at for a year or two, as we saw when he performed here a few years ago. What
he did then was interesting to say the least; and since then his work has,
in my subjective judgement, grown in technical facility, in range and in
inventiveness. Though the writing is part of its own subject, it doesn't
turn in on itself, but outward, ironic and challenging.
Alaric works with painters, among them recently Sandra Blow, and musicians;
and, quite clearly, they want to work with him.
That positive eclecticism is reflected in the magazine WordsWorth which he
co-edited for many years, surviving a very long silence, and now edits solo.
He is positively an editor, not just one who gets the material out, but one
who seeks out the work that he wants, who is ready to learn about new work
who is sympathetic in the extreme to the maker and her / his text. I am
basing my statement here on what Carlyle has said to me of his work with
her, preparing her book Obituaries and Celebrations. Alaric has been
generous to me as an editor, but I am usually happy to let it happen,
especially with as reliable an editor as he is. That's all some editors
give - whatever happens; but Alaric is a good and patient editor. He
remembers and acts upon what you tell him even when you have forgotten
yourself that you ever said anything.
Most recently, from my point of view, he has been working on a piece called
Unspeakable Rooms in which he produced a text which he then gave to Rory
McDermott to adapt, interpret etc, to do what he, Rory, would with it,
letting go of his work and yet remaining present - and versions of that are
now about to go around a little of the known world.
It seems to me that these very different poets have a lot in common in their
artistic restlessness, their dissatisfaction with second best, combined with
an ability to work within what is actually possible, their commitment to
their work, their engagement with ideas without tripping over them and the
unencumbered but truly politicised challenge of what they produce.