93. It’s All About Speech1

(Costa Coffee, Potter St, Bishops Stortford, September 10 & 12, 2012)

Filthy after we put our tent up
                                – oh
here we are
            singing squeakily
                              – not disordered
glittering I’d say rather
                              no not
                              some blurry mess
            folk songs
            & the way I was sitting
            I just woke up one morning
            I can see you’re laughing now
                                          do you know the website
                      never miss the carnival
                      the laughter, too
                                        is changing
                                        this time
                                        all possibilities
                                        on my back
– take it as a warning

And then I see
               they’re still doing that
                                        in the car park
                                        – you know
                                          another time
I bought it there
             they know it’s naughty
                                    but all at once
                                    huge & flaming
                                    I think it says
oh mongrel joy
               we do need you
                              any way
we will
        protect the wildlife
                             I get the cynicism
                                                no one
that’s why we’re doing things
                              take it as a warning
                              it won’t last long
                              in the end
                                         all fuckd up
this world
           I’m sorry
                     only photocopies now
                                          ripped & torn
that’s why created collage
                           heteroclite fragments
                                                 – oh we are!

It’ll take time to bind them up
                                all she sd
stands on the quay
                   come down from the fells at last
another person in front
                        finally we’ve moved on as well
just typical
             this young world
[pounding beats
                – easy, easy
                  minutes at will
                  the colleges
                               have got to understand
                               call off their choirs
                               yeah, yeah
                               let’s enjoy this now
slap of the water
                  the little lake
                                  where we stopped one day
         what holds this together
                    familiar faces
                                   – Sarah
                                     you’re not eating bêche-de-mer
                    buns for the weekend
                    simple things
                    usable & valued now
                                        what they are
                                        we are too
                                        what we are
                                        familiar to you then and



1 Two Keston Sutherland quotes from Hix Eros 4: On the Late Poetry of J.H. Prynne (2014) on the relationship between speech & poetry:

“Poetic thought,’ in Prynne’s sense, is located at what he has called the ‘borders and edges’ of language, that is, at the vastest and most nearly untraversable distance from the material corruptions of workaday language, which Prynne in 1986 called ‘the false & corrupted idiom of residual, vernacular commonalty as almost pure cant.’” Keston Sutherland, “Introduction: ‘Prynne’s late work?’”, p 10

“Poetic thought is not self-consciousness, but the truth of things, and poetry in its radical truth is not what humans speak, but the shining of the lexis in its priority to the subject.” Keston Sutherland, “Sub Songs versus the subject: Critical variations on a distinction between Prynne and Hegel”, p 132

Prynne’s argument is as follows (simplifying somewhat):

“the French keep this connection between singing and the edge, as in English chant and cant: offset or cut back at the leading rim, the sing-song of beggars demeans the word by giving it street-life and media hype”

“English chant and cant (=tilt, border) are not related in origin, any more than French chant and chant which must be separate words which ‘happen’ to have converged in the same form. But English chant and cant (= obscure argot) are related, and historically it seems that the (to lay folk) unintelligible Latin ritualism of liturgical performance may have triggered a resentful sense of an exclusive dialect, thence parodied by the socially rejected who then imitated the speech-tunes while inventing their own reserved formulations. Cant thus early descends into the underworld, seeming to the confidently rational a threat to the comprehensibility of open, lucid speech. It is demeaned not so much by its dark side, however, as by the ingratiating face offered to its masters and pastors, its solicitation of a false sympathy exploited for gain. … this would leave a false & corrupted idiom of residual, vernacular commonalty as almost pure cant: the daily diet of television, say, or the higher newspapers.”

from J.H. Prynne, “Extracts from Letters to Anthony Barnett” dated 5th January & 22nd January, 1986, pp 162 & 164-5, Michael Grant (editor), The Poetry of Anthony Barnett (Allardyce Book, 1993). I’m not deeply convinced by any etymological arguments (oh dear!); and even less convinced by Sutherland’s more general application of Prynne’s phrase. Not one to haggle or even heggle, I’m more for cant, whether thieves’, beggars’ or professional, than Kant. No absolute in language beyond our use of it; no origins beyond the factuality of what we are & speak.

90. In the Parental Voice

(Florence Walk, Bishops Stortford, August 4, 2014)

little noisy children here
                           hey stop that shouting!
you are all like bubbles
                         – right?
then I’ll be back
                  OK then too?
monkey! monkey!
                you’re a monkey too
     a little one

here come more children
                        passing thru
have a good day tomorrow
                         & say goodbye to Charlie
was that Paulina?
                  or maybe a Sarah
the one
       we used to know?
the process
           falls quiet

well, that
           quick visit to the loo alright
this place
           needs noise now
I stress this
              it’s black
the little bag
               the little shop
bright jewels
              white bread
I’d better
           go the Jackson Square
Florence Walk
              is dead
       are you alright?

it was
       the little boy’s phone
his brain rots
               rustle! rustle! squelch!
under a cold
             luminous dome
we just
        walk by

thank you
          this is a start again
turn out
         then scoff
that was
pleasure drops
                       & infrequently

so much
        I must use
thank you
          so much!
simple & sure
              uncomplicated alchemy
beautifully composed
                     on noblest bards
                     utopian princesses
I’d be happy
             I’d embrace
oh, tapirs then
                bring me one
bring me lots
              – they eat
all the kids’ phones
                     all at once
that’s what we use
                   doing the Florence Walk
only the world dreams
hope lurking
             in unrented shops
an insipid ghost
                 worthless &
             at best
schneugh! schneugh!
                    let the tapirs rummage
no place else today

79. And Tender Too?

for David Houssart

Wakey! wakey!
loud rumbling
dogs akimbo
I’ve got
susurrations aswell
I’ve I’ve
seen that
I know
some do
the dark
the strangeness
then this
dread of
imitation most

time to
write it
all down
a flash
a paradise
illumination then
this rumbling
again – it’s
trolley time

off it?
off her?
remember her?
come round
loud steps
we’re dancing!
all with
Gracie in
the streets
rainy streets
of Rheged

not disordered
never so
no matter
we thought
we’d be
we’re here
all ways
at last
sorry today
Essex marches
the dogs
look friendly
we move
freely now

hold on
when young
let go
when old

we shouldn’t
buy things
some say
but make
it all
our selves
a creed
for only
the lonely
this sunny
shopping centre
it’s all
eternal delusions
so what
we are
bubbles only
no more

memory is
dust is
old songs
dreaming again
half heard
expect less
no less

sweeney blag
desirable risk
openplan bank?
no solution
no one
asked us
the criminals

a tapir
in the
flesh itself
more babies
more songs
all eyes
just look

hold on
move around
hang loose
& light
when young
when old
the same
let go
what holds
you not
its opposite
sure thing
we guess
sure thing

65. That’s It

So many
voices here
radically imperfect
good eh?
searching out
more cake
unscrewed heads
absolute acts

not narrative
just lots
of people
doing things
sometimes written
sometimes smeared
some times
just here

the crowd
how many?
how confused?
what scars?
what stories?
what glitters?

invisible forces
rising up
the groundwater!
what you
thought solid
faulted or
voided now
wet as
your insides

speech here
so distorted
foreign voices
let’s mock
Nigel Farage
not serious
frequent glee
any act
speech act
full intention
nothing minimal
some people
understand no
human language

[little children
run noisily
can’t predict
watch out!
pleasure in
all this
[sounds of
more glee

watch out!
love it
[cry sing
(sure thing
hear! all
right all
giants or
bull dogs
ugly brutes
at least
the bite’s
bred out
now then

let’s go
home now
too noisy!
after all
endlessly repeated
no end
everything veers
off course
one day
may be
it’ll be
about now

even cheery
couple smiling
what splendour!
es soll
gut werden
even winter
ends then

all language
then? does
it work?
not utopian?
delicious again
well, time
will pass
a way
the rubble
re built
may be
we’ll learn
got to
do something
not nothing
how hope
really stupid
welcome here
time too
zu machen
to make
build up
a gain
all ways
– –
that’s it

36. Now Open, We Hope

Oh big
dogs too
no not
their heads
it’s complicated
something to
focus on

it’s not
i deal
good morning
saturdays; crash!
all dead
all here
accept fate
yr place
accept or
better not

unabased today
kiss all
my scars
dutiful pleasure

i can’t
think what
is possible
learnt it
& flourish

hullo there
tell me
yr story
agricultural college
at school
last year
probably 16
very nice
bit snooty
they’re right
take on
& off
we go

this is
narrative now
no voids
connective tissue
took it
every where

a funny
little thing
a fox
quick divine
appeared and
then gone

gosh Mr
Hughes1! you
are inescapable
a dark
suspicion but
filial piety
we don’t
choose we
work with
the given
even you
to night

do you
want to
return ??
why no
need she
can’t if
Pauline we
dance as
we go
fine when
we do
it OK?

all horrible
nothing works
now i
don’t care
go shout
don’t care
what trend
just shine
clear bright
i decide
now open



1 more familiar to some of you as husband to the unfortunate but now justly more famous Sylvia – thank you, Veronica