Tuesday, 19 July 2011


 Had an up-and-down weekend at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk with my son, obviously let down by the mostly miserable weather. Camping out together was fun and the kids' activities are good, but I'm too old and grumpy to find slipping and squelching through deeply-mudded fields in the rain conducive conditions for experiencing live music or literature. However, I wasn't the oldest, squarest person there by a long shot, trust me - not only hordes of middle-age Home Counties couples in designer wellies with their Charlie and Lolas in tow, but even proper well-to-do oldies in Barbour rain-proofs carrying thermos-flasks. Forget any notion you might have retained that going to a festival is in any way cool...
  When I could distract my son with unhealthy snacks long enough I kept popping my head into the Poetry tent hoping to see Linton Kwesi Johnson or Simon Armitage (whose last book I really enjoyed) only to be met with sub-Hegleys doing what amounts to rhymed stand-up.
      In fact overall, as "boutique festival" the Latitude seems a synecdoche of middle-brow style-over-substance skim-culture. The effect is thin-spread overload:you dip into a bit of Literature, bit of Music, bit of Theatre and convince yourself you're getting a cultural fix but really perhaps it's just a weekend-supplement frisson, a glimmer of precious dayglo-sheep frivolity seen through beer-goggles.
  Echo and the Bunnymen were fantastic though, sounding as vital and spellbinding as they did when I saw them at Crawley Hawth Centre when I was 15. Spare us The Cutter!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

local history 1

Early man – hirsute,
    breakfast-averse -
                stomps sockfoot
onto Portobello Rd.
          weathered acoustic
                                         aloft –
hendrixes it
              to atonal smithereens
bawling ‘THERE! I
                          WARNED YOU!’
just by
             the fish-stall tub
where splintery crabs’-legs
                                 writhe out
their dry
and a chucked orange
         festered back to green
bursts up
                 in smoke
like a pantomime

First published in The Wolf

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Bizarre Antics

   Came across this in the college library recently, for some reason in the Philosophy section. Its an amusing foray into Artaud's life and work, with line-drawings that make David Shrigley look like Rembrandt and the overall adolescent drift that AA was a misunderstood counter-cultural visionary hounded into madness by the philistine bourgoisie, just like poor old Baudelaire, de Nerval and Rimbaud before him:

 Artaud was an interesting writer and theorist without a doubt, but a lot of his bizarre antics are amusing in themselves. I love the story of him travelling to Ireland in the 30s with a cane he believed was St Patrick's in order to discover the secrets of the Druids: after running out on several unpaid hotel bills and walking through Dublin smiting people with his cane (" My cane imposes silence on my persecutors!") he was finally arrested and sent back to France to be certified.
   Maybe I should follow this model in writing about contemporary poets - how about JH Prynne for Beginners with illustrations by my 9 year old son - " My heterodox vocabulary unravels the cultural hegemonies enshrined in normative discourse!" etc