Robert Sheppard: Bad Poems for Bad People!

            for Sean Bonney

i put myself in the scene i swerve new walls a mile high. An Investors in People plaque gleams on the funeral director’s wall. Shadows cast us aside for evening’s soft erasures, leave pencil shavings on paper. Dear Sean: Political poetry will both say and not say, modified by formal resistance. Commodified a looted shop or Love on an impulse never correct mistrust of getting some watches a clear Muse stream hash-tagged on Twitter. This might be a way of approaching Adorno’s contention that the unresolved antagonisms of reality return in artworks as problems of form. There’s

NO reason (‘pure’n’simple’) announces Toxteth until Correction
the bizzies’ eye arrives too late 2
4 hour ASDA takings (banked) wink back

i wasn’t marginal in that room but I was backed into a corner, saying, ‘The artist buzzes like a fly between the three planes of his or her conceptual prison.’ Select every noun in the OED and print out all of them alphabetically, each prefaced with the word NO. 10 a.m. first can of Tennants, the Daily Record. ‘There’s nae bookies on the train!’ A slag of glitter outside the glassworks. A monument to formal annihilation. Man on trial for staring at TV. Sean, Rupture – as formal activity, an art of patterned interferences, elements that form and interrupt so that everything falls into place and everything falls apart – is meaningful, though I agree: all the fullstops moving two words to the left won’t do any more. False steps. Or lists of sublime brand names, catalogues of designer socks. They don’t form, that is: forming as the negation, the mastery of disorder, violence and suffering. Because means are meanings, technique is cognitive, writing is lucid building. If forms think, perhaps they spit and shit too

2 scallies on kids’ bikes promise a
revolution like in Lebanon CHANT Camron The
CUNT liquid notes down the wrong end
of a telescope where clips of torched
cars emote infantine Intifada and play Terrific

             wheelie bins

           at eve

music as analogy where form and content are one. The opposite of content rhymes. Which is form. Lockerbie twinned with Tripoli. Coming to the volta. He became a slave to forms, earlier than one should, because he saw in those African women the form of slaves too soon. You can’t translate their scream (or whisper) until you can hear (it). What do we translate it into? Another scream? The form of the scream is coterminous with its audition as something else, as you said Sean. Whisper music maybe or the ribs of a waterworks flexed under grass. ‘Ian’ wears the corporate label of his wage-slave-name ‘Ian’ but is still Ian to his lover in corporality. Measured vibrations work un-uniformly through them. Keats spoke of poetry surprising by a ‘fine excess’ but what I hear is raw excess, stuff stuff. The mother of all no-brainers. Things, not objects. Commodities. Loot. Roaring in seismic massage. The counterfeit ‘good’ poem is ‘well-behaved’ you said, while I spoke of Auden’s guilty realisation that a poem which was like a democracy would be formless, a society organised like one of his poems, totalitarian. And by y/our poetics? This space places the poet into a nuanced and unstable state: art promises political accomplishment it can never satisfy, and thrives on that. The shanty jigsaws of sheds on a slope haunted and stimulated my thinking for hours, and certainly flowed. Youths on bikes, obscured by trees, on the rise in Greenbank Park, seemed somehow freshly menacing, as if they’d been granted power by circumstance, power they didn’t know they possessed. They knew that together they could do what they liked, could dream of actions – destruction, veridical interruptions, slow listening, rape – that only the day before they thought impossible because they’d policed themselves or thought themselves policed. The next day, it’s business as usual. Imagine another principle of interruption, Badiou’s. YES. It must be able to propose to thought something that can interrupt the endless regime of circulation. Of Integrated World Capitalism or whatever. Wherever. It must establish a point of interruption, an almost distal space, born of retardation. Revolt today may require leisureliness not speed. Oaten flutes or consorts of viols to make blue houses happy. Qualities of attention. Thinking, slow and rebellious, capable of establishing the fixed point that will allow the patient search for at least one truth that bursts as a hole in knowledge and makes misted mountain peaks more beautiful by Tipp-Exing out the detail. Not the stench of fascist truths that taint the sky. Maybe I still want to put disorder back into collage, uncivil and elsewise. Tuning in thinking. Her lipstick did not smudge like a badly told lie. Is the most honest person still the artist who says: I don’t know? After September 12: multiform unfinish? Material funkiness in the heat? Total prosodies that take account of manifold features of the work? I want this to follow in my own future footsteps: Sack business as usual. Centrifugal entropy from that point where ditches cut across a field, illegible history a verb we cannot read. Hedges fences boundaries. National borders. Trees as. Roads used as, even. Dark forests. Isolated low windowless buildings, grey. Suspect. Poetry that tells us what we already know is the enemy, you said (Donald Duckweed Faber Poet emotes ‘Viaducts hoist us haughtily above the hoi polloi’) but how can we know what we know if we can’t hear it, Sean? (‘…as koi coil coyly round the ornamental fountain,’ ‘Penshurst Revisited’ or some such formal rightness from Duckweed). ‘The most pathetic poem is small people on fire,’ as Frances Kruk has it, that great line from her new book (say hello). We heard dead fish singing in Edinburgh and Jow asked if I was holding my head in despair. Some of them thought they were on y/our side: litanies of platitudes, surreal reversals, incandescent subjection, spittle spilt as dribble. Slaves to events. Select every noun in the OED and print out all of them alphabetically, each prefaced with the word YES. A puddle silver under the street lamps. Is politics the naked operation of power and ethics-free agonism, or praxis in a situation that articulates an interstitial distance from the state

Canary Wharf g-

listened without shame as remote Riotry scorched
tarmac excess in destructive Love am I?

new political subjectivities. Fictional poets dozing, dreaming, feeding off memories of memory. 10.36: open Tennants can number two. Beyond the lip-synch, I’m listening to the scream as annunciation. A return to hearing the world, Toop says, is the most radical structure of all, since it’s hard to envisage a master plan emerging out of amorphous, uncontrolled method. Small-scale and man-made radar objects float on the sea surface. What’s next for them? Audio Notes on a Packet of Nuts? What are the commodities using us for? Or the language, flarfing around us? Somewhere in the world tonight, there’s no fighting. A mobile phone mast, another, and hidden, all the others: chattering. Each to the others. An earring dropped from her lobe, unlike the fear of fear. Somewhere in the world tonight, there’s yes fighting. More than years passed and corrected to hopeless Smithdown doom the police eye’s too late Coming Down from St. George’s Hill Active citizens (her Big Society) revving up/ Fumes and consumption’s vapour/ Lists a pop capitalist 1988 until now as I try to inscribe unfinish formally in the consequent poem. An art of patterned interrupt. Everything falls into place and everything falls a part of something else to complicate things, to create more complex nervous systems. A man with a long rod fishing in survivalist gear, a small black dog lying asleep near his man, soaking up light. Lucidity. (And complexity.) Liquidity. Flooded fields, glistening grey, stagnant at dusk. Listen. Retardando. They hate us, shrink public space into long hours. Cuts in the land, dark wounds of earth. All-night kangaroo magistrates. Wind-torn trees. Collective punishment. Small people evicted from council flats. Human finish distilled between the optics and the pumps in tight jeans. Flooding indebtedness. Spotlit torrents of unceasing rain down Mount Street. Structural immiseration. They want us to hate ourselves but we mustn’t, as they shrink social value into low pay. Show and release the possibilities of a life.

September 13-October 13 2011

Note: This ‘manyfesto’ is a response to parts of Sean’s keynote at the Conversify Conference, Edinburgh, September 9-11 2011 (though not to the exemplary readings of Rimbaud therein, but in anticipation of the publication of Happiness). It was first performed as the finale to my Berlin Bursts reading at the Bluecoat’s Chapter & Verse literature festival, Liverpool, on October 16 2011. I have melted and re-formed quotations from the following into its forming action: Adorno, Auden, Badiou, Bad Prophets Err, Bonney, David Cameron, Clark Coolidge, Simon Critchley, Duckweed, flarf, W.S. Graham, Guattari, Simon Jarvis, Primo Levi, Kruk, Marcuse, Meschonnic, Milton, Pasternak, Penny Lane Graffitist, John Rajchman, Rancière, David Toop, and Two geopolitically-challenged ‘scallies’ from Wavertree, Liverpool. It also is twinned by the paper I wrote and delivered at the conference, ‘Notes on Form, Forms and Forming and the Antagonisms of Reality in Criticism, Poetics and Poetry’.

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