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Peter Howard interviewed

Sorry, Mr Maddox

Cooped up for two years in a London flat
Posh, really: Regent's Park, but at the time
It seemed just small. A science teaching scheme
Was where my Dad worked - he kept pinching bits
Of my Meccano. Oh, I'd always get
It back, or something like, but not the same:
New-fangled black and yellow, not the red
And green, the proper stuff. I had a kit
For making radios, morse code machines,
Burglar alarms, you know the sort of thing.
I had to demonstrate it once a week,
At least, to friends of his, colleagues, I guess.
The Wonder Horse on telly, then 'Peter,
Could you just show...' My patience ran out once:
'I'm watching this.' 'Peter!' 'Oh, let him be.'
I thought I'd won, and my Dad coped quite well,
It seemed. He didn't need me after all.
But while he ran John Maddox home, my Mum
Had words with me 'how close I'd come' and left
Me in no doubt at all my crime was heinous.

The man I report to has phoned in to report
he is drifting further away on waves of influenza.
His boss has taken a holiday at
very short notice, and his deputy
has suddenly remembered an urgent
matter that will take him
elsewhere. My colleagues have clubbed
together to buy me a two-edged sword
costing about two million pounds.

When I walk into the office on Saturday,
carrying the can of worms
I must somehow make palatable
to a Senate already committed
to a circus of two hundred down-turned thumbs,
it is as quiet as you must have known
the amphitheatre in the early morning,
before the games began.
Nothing changes, Spartacus.

The Uses of Mown Grass
first published in the 1998 South Warnborough Poetry Competition anthology
Once we've heard the sleepy rattle of the cutters,
we're a class of children in a summer classroom,
but our minds have already all run out
to the field beyond the playground,

so there's no point, Miss, in trying to keep
our attention on adding up and taking away,
leaving a finger space, or Janet and John:
we're busy making our plans for later.

Some of us will mark out the rooms of houses:
neat lines of cuttings, with a gap for a window,
another for the front door,
so we can invite the neighbours in for tea.

Some will make ocean liners, or space rockets;
and argue incessantly about the design,
which has most room, or goes fastest
and whether Darrell Bowser should be allowed on board.

Others will pile it up like miser's gold.
Never satisfied with what they collect themselves,
they'll pinch your kitchen wall, or mast, or booster,
if you don't keep an eye out for them.

It's warmer than snow, more fragrant,
but it doesn't stick together as well:
so the air, when the battle starts,
will be thick with green confetti.

There will be squadrons of aeroplanes,
a green fragmentation bomb in each outstretched fist.
And there will be one who stuffs it down the back
of Julie Parfitt's dress, mixed with nettles.

David Kennedy interviewed

Under The Trees
Originally published in The Elephant's Typewriter (Scratch pamphlet)

   Sprawled out in the garden, under the trees,
   we don’t know what to think about our heads;
   whether they’re jars of letters
   or huge words grazing the air.

   An insect hovers over yours
   like a diacritic mark in Polish,
   the one that says if auto czesc
   means ‘automatic hello’ or ‘car parts’.

   Somehow this seems decisive
   until we remember the trees:
   are they performing themselves or the wind
   or something entirely other?

   I think this, too, is a question
   we might reasonably ask of ourselves.

Letter from a Man
   or, It’s Really Happening To Me
Note: The poem uses randomised material from ‘Letter from an Astronaut’ by John M. Grunsfeld, downloaded from the Microsoft Network, January 1997, © 1996 Microsoft Corporation.

   Several times in the last month,
   I have performed simulations
   to give myself the best possible feel
   for what my life will really be like.

   Christmas, New Year, celebrations,
   thoughts, my family, some winter fun:
   millions of small details pile up
   but in metal boxes, I have learned

   to respond to my broken equipment
   in a way that still allows me
   to stay in orbit around romance
   and psychological realism;

   in a way that still allows me
   to say ‘Look: this is excitement.
   This is my excitement. I can
   feel my excitement. It is exciting.’

   In spite of the high-tech nature
   of my ground-based simulators,
   there is nothing like the real thing!
   My excitement continues to build.

The Value of Contingency
The poem uses cut-up and fold-in procedures in the manner of Burroughs. The first four lines come from the book Contingencies of Value by Barbara Herrnstein Smith. The rest of the source material is part of an e-mail discussion between David Kennedy and the poet chris cheek.

  To return to Western thought
   which we have never really left
   it appears it has its good points
   and bad points and that they are the same

   there are wider implications which feed
   into questions which do not occur
   in isolation surely
   to render them as separated sets

   up an extraordinary line
   I’m by no means ‘having a go’
   it’s a potentially intriguing basis
   for discussion you see the arguments

   that stem from it into issues and so on out
   To return to Western thought
   which we have never really left
   in isolation surely

   it appears it has an extraordinary line
   in wider implications which do not occur
   it’s a potentially intriguing stem
   from ‘having a go’ into issues which feed

   good points and bad points
   into its questions basis
   I’m by no means up to render them
   for discussion as you see there are

   the arguments and so on out
   and that they are the same separated sets
   To return to Western issues and so on out
   which we have never really the arguments

   it appears it has its going basis
   and bad points and ‘having a go’
   there are wide implicits
   into questions which dated sets

   in isolation surely
   to render them as separate not occur
   up an extraordinary liaison which feed
   I’m by no means having they are the same

   it’s a potentially intrigue odd points
   for discussion you see ally left
   that stem from it into I thought
   To reverence Western thread

   which we have never really length
   it appears it has its ‘go’ keys
   and bad points and rated sets
   there are wider implicit odd points

   into questions which align
   in isolation surely
   to render them as separate arguments
   up an extraordinary lying basis

   I’m by no means heavily left
   it’s a potentially intriguing they are the same
   for discussion you seeing a go
   that stem from it into id points.

Larry Jaffe

gershwins russian fingers

i have george gershwin's russian
fingers intertwined with mine
they dance across my keyboard
creating my poetic muse
he creates the music
to my poetic roots
the rhythm pulsating with
the passion of russian blood flowing
through the veins of my words
a poetic landscape of rhapsody
and while we tunefully whistle
summertime and the living is easy
our souls cavort like americans in paris
cause they got this rhythm
that keeps bess's heart sayin
it ain't necessarily so
but we know it is
as poetry turns into
gershwin's heavenly flavors
his fingers my words
my name is not ira
but somehow he is my brother

© 1998 lgjaffe

Michael Rothenberg

Musee Picasso

So I was headed to the Louvre…
Welcome to Musee Picasso 
But first stop in "Art Collective"

Walk up 5 flights of stairs
Walk to, walk from, walk around
Sit down inside, look outside

Look around
Mostly the women 
Interest me but I know that 

None of these women are the one
Who will help, not rescue, me
Some other time 

When I'm outside of myself 
The Woman of My Dreams 
Will come to me… 

"You cannot spend your life in embraces"
Says the Russian fairy tale
So I sail The Ship of Fate 

Arriving at Musee Picasso 
Instead of Louvre 
And realize what great bowls he made! 

How too much time is spent by 
Finishing work he left undone

His swan harp with twirling beanie hat 
Drawing on vellum 
Dada book cover is brilliant!

A heart holds the strings together
All pictures framed in plain wood frames
I can buy a $3 Coca-Cola 

And rest my feet in his garden 
The Glory of Alexandria

Bird, gryphon, lion, crocodile, bull, cat
Belly buttons, knee caps, oil lamps
Onyx cameos, coins, agate cup 
Head of Dionysus, Isis Aphrodite, Zeus
Julius Caeser, Bernice, Alexander The Great
Ptolemy, Lighthouse of Alexandria
Dancer wound around in bronze veils
Dark-haired angel with me every
Place I go, between stele and III century b.c.
Statues of Egyptian Queens and brasserie 
Drachma and money changers. I look 
In every eye of every woman I see 
As I walk for identification. Is she the one?  
Is she? Yemenite woman of my dreams 
Follows me to Petite Palais, watches me
Eat lamb chops and duck liver pate
Stands by me on bridge over Seine
At night as wide boats stroll sparkling 
Swirl of the midnight waters of life

Chris Byrne


Nike tattooed on my chest
Catchy jingle on my mind
When I blink I see negatives 
Of cola logos and golden arches
Conspicuous consumption has diffused
Through my pores into me

I am the spirit of retro youth culture
A costumed crisis living in a costume drama
I am the process of what was cool 
Reaching room temperature
I live in inverted commas 
In a self-imposed cartoon
I am excitement for those who like routine
Smiling knowingly
Today is of little value
I prefer the good old days before I was born
I deny the creative possibility of young blood
Or am I just fancy dress for a far too serious world?

Coral Hull

The Story Of Movement Is Slow The Clouds Sang

This poem forms part of Zoo, written in collaboration with John Kinsella, due to be published in 1999.

I looked at clouds for hours, waiting for their stories to enter my
ears, if I didn't move my neck the clouds told their stories, they
drifted by like kites and slow ocean swells, there is an ocean in the
sky and in the sea, the sun grew the clouds like sea meadow grass, the
wind blew them like strands of hair, the clouds strewn seaweed along the
shoreline of the sky, the sun grew the clouds and the wind, it turned
the wind cold and warm, the sun grew the hot desert gibbers to breaking
point, the stones cooked like onions along the frypan of the clay, "tell
me your stories," my heart said, "I am waiting like a stone," one bird
looked down, had noticed me as part of the place, "the story of movement
is slow," the clouds sang, "the story of time is eternal, the story of
nature is cyclic," this is the story of the day and the night, the story
of birds that flock and skip along the ocean horizon like a black rope
turning into a cup, the aviators who catch the insects up, their eyes
like nets that see fish through the surface of the sea, the sun grows
the fish, it grows the birds beaks and eyes, it grows the fish fat
beneath the surface with a heart of fear, I said to my friend,
"sometimes the animals just all move about each other, I noted the
journey of a rattle snake and it was all about slow consumption, all the
animals moving past each other, they moved slowly over and under each
other, suddenly one of the animals would just eat another one, and the
one that was being eaten didn't seem to care, like it gave itself up to
be eaten, that it knew its place on the earth was an animal to be eaten
in the same way that the eater knew it must eat, we are the eater and
the eaten, moving in and out of each others throats like long ropes,
like we are ropes the lengths of intestines all inside out, pulling in
and out of each other," "I know," he said, "it's frightening," he
understood that many are frightened, all the little fish along the coral
reef are frightened, their eyes are designed for plankton and predators,
their gills are for daring attempts and hiding spots, go forward and
retreat go forward and retreat, flick your bright spot and tail on a
current and that is it, their eyes are for food and the food they will
be, the beach we stand on waits for us to be food and will feed us if
we're clever, it will harvest us after it has been harvested by us, the
earth told me its long stories, as long as a sun reaching its light
around the circumference, the earth's light is not like a city light,
the small pockets of electricity that cling to the rupture between sea
and coast, "humans put those lights there," the coastline sang, "as
though they were termites or fireflies, the earth's light is greater
than that," when I was crazy I saw a car tail light drive off down the
street, I was sitting in a parked car alone in the winter, I thought the
sun set down the street like a tail light, the moon is the still lamp,
but the story was bigger, and slower and cyclic, my eyes were the car
windscreen interpreting the cinema of the world through glass, meanwhile
nature was just around the corner, it's like you can be in a swanston
street, a city office or the peak hour traffic, meanwhile along the
beach the clouds are trailing their moisture like slugs, sometimes they
have the whole world on their backs like snails, then they are birds,
soaring up before the sunset so that their wet wings arent set alight,
or fleeing that suction so they don't go down with sunset past the
ocean, who would know that half an hour from melbourne the birds sent
songlines along the waves?, the politicians would not come here today,
and many wouldn't come here until retirement or on a special occasion to
the beachside restaurant, they think they know what is to be found,
yatchs and clubs, ice cream, balloons and a bit of sun, wind and sand
and all for us, all our little playground, suddenly the flocks are my
neighbours, the tiny bird with the fish asphyxiating in her beak works
on her death beside me, we are all moving through each other, my dogs
pant at the sea's edge and tremble at the fleshy albatross and lick up
the ocean, I will not eat nor abandon them and nothing else will, we all
have our protectors, the city of people are going home to the television
as the birds go home to the city trees, the wind goes home to the night
after sun down, let us be the clouds who roll away laughing, they are
free, they have asked me to follow them into the sky for my stories.


From Coral Hull's unpublished book Psychic Photography.

if he had touched you/ you would have cried in 
the morning/ his touch cannot heal you: so cry/
you must cry tears that dogs cannot lick away/
flood your night dress/ a hah - a hah - a hah 

hah hah hah/ until the cry is infantile/ until 
the infant crying fills this room/ the room of 
darkness/ that filled its lungs its hours/ those 
long & desperate days of an infant alone/ this

dark stretch of childhood like a road to the 
end/ the infant that marvelled at its own hold
on life/ its tiny body that convulsed/ until just
a convulsion filled the room/ & this crying 

sound that jerked the room into being from 
the miserable cot/ nappies were somehow 
soiled/ miraculously there were hunger pains/ 
those faint sensations of warmth & cold/ a dry

old spider hung on the wall by the cot/ a small
brown bird hopped onto the window sill/ there
was a child amongst the crying/ & touch did 
not heal her so cry/ cry like a baby on a great

flat rock in the sandy desert until the overhead
sun sinks your eyes into your forehead & your
small mouth offers its fluids to flies/ cry out 
along that western australian coast until the 

wind rises up from the indian ocean & slams
you inland - until it tumbles you over & over 
in the west coast heath, seeds & burrs grasping 
your clothing/ cry out along that ninety mile 

beach to nothing but sand blown stretches & 
great white pointers smelling out the shallows,
cry to that thunderstorm far out on the ocean 
cry he cannot heal you so cry/ cry out to your 

infancy - wring yourself dry, hang yourself up
in the clothesline to dry by the heart of your 
sleeve/ then look down all washed up like a 
cloud to the earth, like a child to an insect, 

like the sun to a flower, but first you must cry
like a cyclone