Playlist: January 2021

Not long ago a blog was destroyed. Inside the blog was a forest; what they called forest but by all intents and purposes was more the unknown contribution to chronology which made up many pages of codes and trees. Codes and trees. The liquor in a small pool was seemingly endless dirty martini, where olives float in lieu of lilies. I meant to say it was destroyed and the incident being customisable, now to look back, I see a particular man at sunset wielding buttons. Pop, pluck, glock. Boys share the same blouse as me. Then gingham and dungarees to write in the blog another hour or more, sleeves rolled, plunging seasons into seasons. Keep yourself sewn. Don’t get shot. This winter will you change your life. This summer will you lose it. All of the paper incineration. Sound of artificial camera flash in the dark, razor the code from the trees. This change, not the life, not necessarily. Scrolling the trees. 

What will it take for the server to work? There was a dark room of my childhood filled with blinking lights, layer-bake hard drives, wires and cables. Bringing you coffee, I go there closing my eyes to the electronic warmth at the heart of the office. Whose office is this? How can I work there? Will you give me a job? I am a fine typist / I like the word ‘twilight’. 

But not long ago, a blog was destroyed. We were in generic city, you know the one with buildings, and something swerved into us. I was scared at first, weren’t you? We kept left-clicking the breeze to stop, but the way your hair looked, lifted — I could’ve almost gone with it, the hum and song of the breeze just pink. Remembering lines like January is endless and ‘the Northern Line is the loudest’ as I consent to give cookies, consent to be multiplied in the archive of giving me moments in capital city; where is my iPod? Small things you can do, exchange of fruit, the scale of it. Something swerved into us. I was scared at first, weren’t you? My blood was all scattering berries, clots, poisons. We knew the album was amazing. We said this many times. I said we have to see a doctor. Just a guess but the crescendo fucking kills me. I breathed too hard it was scary. The road was quiet but something swerved into us. Couldn’t tell if it was a truck or a set of emotions. Kisses from France. I was climbing to get to the good bit. This is a painful song coming on I won’t talk about further, being dull and adult, seeing old college friends lost. What is a moon. I said we have to see a doctor and we did, we got in line outside with our masks; it was a time before masks but I add them. Losing your pearls, losing your solace barometer. Remember X overmind of me. We were turned away at the last. Did not see doctor. Jellyfish. I wore the blouse that all the boys wore, proudly.

Driving to Brighton, not driving to Brighton.

The ocean washed up masses of cash, bank notes sticky with kelp and salt, tons of pennies in lieu of pebbles, bits of glass. I paid for a book of poems with a cheque signed on behalf of my father. I paid for my life. The blog lived inside of the sea. It was being destroyed and so the blog called tsunami. It had a world in it. Tsunami_93. Commission you tell me the endless failures of Wednesday, Thursday, watching the ants by the ocean accumulate broadband costs. Watching the ants and cash. Spiralling ants and cash. I said something swerved into us, it was fucking horrible. I saw it, the long hard crash of the numbers, upwards. The colony of allied ants just clicking away in the dark like we already knew them. A politician comes and goes from the hole where you fall through, nightly, clutching at sand. A burlesque of sleep. The patent glitter of policy, it gets in your body. The ants made a moat of the hospital.

Silently, you came to town in my closing dream which was killing our molars from kissing too much in any forsaken house by the sea, endless you climb inside me — figure this in, you figure this out. Sometimes the text at the bottom of the page just disappears. Tell you a blog was destroyed and my concern is for glutinous sentences, stretching. Planetary hardship was relative. Tell me, hold me. I write about dying in my diary, how will it feel to be six or five and not knowing about the dying, how will it feel to look back knowing you lived through it. Tear off the blouse the boys gave to me. There is a coming through of such dreams I have had, splashes of sick pink light, infinite distance — and can I say the animal I never met was nice, they were so nice, the album was amazing. The animal pronoun that therefore I am. Something swerved into us; it was the whole fat year of pink rain. Where a blog was destroyed, you put down the stone. It is shaped like a heart that needs convincing to beat.

Kept diaries of numbers kept easy job kept crying. Felt like portraits of femmes in rose blush and yellow and emerald green, leaking, felt like looking into you back from Matisse or wherever it was in generic city we saw what doesn’t is seen. Domestic bliss. I remember the wires in my childhood were totally opaque. Quiet symphony of dialup and call you. eBay and a “flurry of cosy ideas” says eye, closing for the last time, plated. Down a long gold tunnel and DNS error. “Are you alright? Are you alright?” I hate this question but whacking a drum and bass beat right HERE was good, if originally ballad but easy

to me, this song is less about a particular situation, and more about that feeling you get looking back
on things that have meant a lot to you, or you
feel could have meant more

I hide the application anyway. It is spring 2008, no forests exist, the bathroom sounds of lemongrass scent and harshest bleach. I’m sick. I’m sick of parks I want genuine forestry and a place to be lost and call you. I remember football on the low green, barging into silver, not knowing a wave meant more disease. Not knowing the waves as anything other than the earnest self-abuse of the sea. Salt heal. It hurt to listen by the long thin phrase of your cigarette, smoke getting up in the hours of my eyes. I remember kissing in tents / remember running home drunk from school. Remember who watched us. The man who squared-up for no good reason other than the sound his own voice made, which was a sound of bright cash howled from the sandy reminder. There are memory dunes where stuff piles up, stuff gets sucked or dragged away. Stuff gets pissed on. Something swerved into us and we did not phone the cops. I carried the hurt for a while instead. Walked from one end of the green to the other. Now in the city. On the mobile phone a big red sound passed beta-waves through us and you asked, “what was that?” and pleaded “please don’t die”. I minimise the year, I always reply. I fantasise portals to London.

Dreamt the prime minister was crying on Mars for the ninth time and it was a ninth wave and it was very bee loud it was glandular. Second wave, third wave, watch out for next winter. A man who swallowed all of the cash of the sea was blatant in wanting to touch this and ruin my life. It hurt to listen. A novelty sermon on visions, ecstasies, roses and bread. Something H.D. says about a jellyfish and will you sign up for infinity melt club — it requires the overmind, sad to miss, buoyed up by salt water always. We passed the number we wanted not to pass. Will Alexander writes that poetics is ‘a place where language becomes a fertilised concentration that explodes’. I’m talking about everything we used to do. Another life. Voice barely makes it to audible status. Every month I turn fifteen again and my mouth tastes of Yorkie bars, acid, ice cubes painted with crude sweet oil, Diet Coke, extra salt. Maria, it says, and I wonder. Someone is a shadow they are painting the walls with it, more and more, the paint fizzes up. Crude sweet oil, the blouse of the boys. Softly you bring me the water, more of it, enormous with cash, I hate it. I mix all the paint with us. 

That person who used to work, I miss her. January is endless. Should the blog be destroyed? It was Platonic like kissing the stone at the place where sunflowers grew upside-down by a crumbled temple, they let us go. You say, “this is wretched” then turn on the radio. Elliott Smith in front of a mural, covering The Beatles. That I a girl from Maybole would like to be consulted; would like consultation. Because. The doctor turned us down. The river was frozen. Salt. Pretzels of fallopian tubes. Someone on the radio said poverty. The blog consolation of be love because you. Remarkably clean air I remember? What comes next is older and older, how early the cruel was, forecast, thinking in paradigms and not glassware. “You look young!” It might be I always hold out. Still you smash, the failures of Tuesday, no melatonin. Blissing Chamomile Mountain. Payne’s Gray, Davy’s Gray, Naples Yellow. Salacious impression of what is a gesture. I have all these dreams about ladders like—

å̷͈̳̉u̵̞̰͊̐̕ba̵̱̺͌͊̏de

The problem of the marry a cloud of the martyred morning
In the soft-touching laminate space of the morning
The promise of a landing, striped by the morning
We edit cumulus, collect yon fish by the morning
A rain passed wetly over our morning
The actual cat got into the morning
My proletarian alignment against the morning
Is only a maths class happening this morning
Did you want palaces in the light of this morning
To feel you never got hurt this morning
When it swerved into you in the morning
Of comparative hotness at morning
Equivalent to mattresses morning
That planets lie down inside us, warming

And the flowery agenda of what they would do to avoid this scarcity. Kept saying science, science like a car advert, £500, kept you awake at night. Salt. The technology trusts us! Liberating production to what freeing from labour a person being careful would order milkshake. Water this artificial strawberry. Audit the communal blog was destroyed. Salt and oil. A wheat field in a movie. I remember aspartame sunrise at which close to the not-top of Louise Bourgeois’ many ladders was a droplet of hooch blood, red-to-punk-pink. Under the fairy lit trails of Tuesday, I said FUCK YOU to the motorist, I said OUCH! Today is Blue Day, tomorrow is Green Day; expropriation of serotonin to Bad Day, it is quite a state; put back ice that you stay on, tulips; a sugar-lift etch to keep say [“I miss the nineties”] belong to my early days of still love indie. Weeks become necklaces I am choked inside them. Tending the forest, drive out of the city. Impossible tacos in landfills pass us, having never harmed animals. Nothing swerved ever in heaven; you get really close.

Study the lightning-shaped graze on my knee. 

~

Burial – Chemz 

SOPHIE – Is It Cold In the Water?

Honeyblood – Super Rat

Billie Eilish, ROSALÍA – Lo Vas A Olvidar 

Sharon Van Etten – Serpents

Widowspeak – Sanguine 

Infinity Knives – In The Mouth of Sadness

Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club

Xiu Xiu, Liz Harris – A Bottle of Rum

Fishtalk – Hummingbirds 

Los Campesinos! – Got Stendhal’s

Tim Heidecker, Weyes Blood – Oh How We Drift Away

The Antlers – Solstice – Edit 

Songs: Ohia – Boys

Field Medic – chamomile

Vagabon, Courtney Barnett – Reason to Believe (Karen Dalton cover)

Sun June – Everything I had

Coma Cinema – In Lieu of Flowers

This Familiar Smile – Flawed Fables

Hamburger – Supersad 

Donovan – Colours 

The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane

The Replacements – Skyway 

The Door

IMG_0158.JPG

She laughed at that, her maraschino heart would sweeten the moment with its tender syrup of lies.

“It’s just a door,” he said. The pair of them made a couple of magpies. She was green-hued, he was jewelled with blue.

They made their way through the suburbs, so easy the way they rolled along concrete with those slender legs. I have made a pinball of their trajectories. Soon they realised their mistake.

“We have to go back for the door,” she said. She was insisting. He admitted her this.

They carried the door along many streets. It was painted the colour of duck eggs, a pale blue paint that flaked in places. People stared, assuming they were a lovely young couple setting up their new home. Sometimes, she patted her pocket to make sure the stuff was still there. Later, they would huddle under the lilac in the rich person’s garden and count their dreams beneath panoplies of blackbirds. For now, there was the door.

“What shall we do with it?” he asked.

“It has a purpose.” She propped it up against the red brick wall of the old agora. It had beautiful windows, the kind of windows you imagine on doors in twee country houses, where nice mothers served sugar-bread to doorstep strangers.

“We could do anything with it.” They flirted with the idea of hacking it to bits, chopping for firewood. The forest was not far away; though really it was just a copse of trees, the undergrowth littered with cigarettes, sweet wrappers, needles. Not enough space to get lost in. You could hardly build a fire without alarming the neighbours.

When we are drawn out of nothing we are drawn into possibility. The couple knew the door was their portal, knew it as sure in their blood as they knew their daily hunger. Sometimes at night, she would let him scratch the sores on her skin, sending her off to sleep. She knew he spent those nights awake, scraping the bark off any hide he could, clotting the soil in his nails. They borrowed a suitcase, abandoned at a bus stop. An old lady’s worldly possessions treated them briefly to cardigans, palma violets, little nips of hip-flask whisky. They were warm for weeks, till the wool unravelled in winter’s first storm, till the liquor ran out one cold dark night.

Combustion or invitation. He gripped her arms and tried to shake her from every undulate leafy trembling. Her blood was beyond human; she had set up her fix long before sundown and this was wrong. He stayed with her through the worst of it, the 4am rattles and the toothache. If only the medicine worked, if only. Night-blooming flowers made cheap companions. An amazing array of skinny women would pass through the copse, the side alley that led to the 24 hour Spar, the petrol station. Cars would always pass regardless. The wholeness of the city was a great sprawl of this transitive passing.

And then the door.

She twisted the brass handle. The screw screamed in its lock, but nobody heard it.

(Can we always be stuck like this, honeycombing our bodies?)

It felt magnificent, holding him in the darkness as she always did, the frost forming rime on the skin of their lips. Somehow they knew the door was a separation. A transmutation of the flesh would occur in its fold, the way the pull-back of a hinge would sweep away time as they knew it. This was okay somehow, almost reassurance.

[…& continue].

On Words, Romanticism, Ramblings and Meanderings

I am coming to the end of the Glasgow Uni Creative Writing Society’s ‘Flash Fiction February’ Challenge. The aim is to write one piece of flash fiction a day, following prompts that are posted on the blog. The best thing I have probably achieved since I wrote my 10,000 word ‘The Quest’ story (complete with self-made Photoshop image and realistic fire effects) aged eleven is successfully averaging at least 700 words a day for a whole month (some days writing 700, other days moving upwards of 1300…). The reward is not just having a little portfolio of stories to go back and edit in the summer, but the habit of discipline that’s been earned. I have learned that I need the motivation of ‘completing something’, and that sharing one’s work and discussing it with others helps to feel better about writing. There is also the satisfaction of word count. If I averaged at least 700 a day, then that’s at least 19,600 for all of February. If I doubled my word count and did that for two months, I’d have a respectable 80,000 word novel. It’s an encouraging fact. Even if the content is sometimes pretty crap, I have something to work with! I just have to keep up the daily habit. It’s a bit like crack, only not so addictive, and cheaper. And, well, you have to work for its effects.

One of my fascinations is with the daily routines of successful writers. Not necessarily just literary authors, but philosophers, artists, journalists – even mathematicians. Anyone who gives up a significant chunk of their day to solitary writing, creating or just working. There is a fabulous blog called ‘Daily Routines’ which is the ultimate procrastination: putting off work by reading about how others work. It’s refreshing to see that not everyone needs a wee dram or French cocktail to get the imagination flowing, though it seems to be a recurring theme. As well as the time of day and the choice of stimulant, I’m a little bit obsessed with peoples’ medium: the effects of the pen, pencil or keyboard; how one’s writing implement impacts upon their style, speed and even argument.

Susan Sontag. Source: nymag.com
Susan Sontag. Source: nymag.com

For instance, Susan Sontag on her writing routine:

I write with a felt-tip pen, or sometimes a pencil, on yellow or white legal pads, that fetish of American writers. I like the slowness of writing by hand. Then I type it up and scrawl all over that. And keep on retyping it, each time making corrections both by hand and directly on the typewriter, until I don’t see how to make it any better. Up to five years ago, that was it. Since then there is a computer in my life. After the second or third draft it goes into the computer, so I don’t retype the whole manuscript anymore, but continue to revise by hand on a succession of hard-copy drafts from the computer.

[…]

I write in spurts. I write when I have to because the pressure builds up and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really under way, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little. It’s a very undisciplined way of working and makes me not very prolific. But I’m too interested in many other things.

One day I want to write a big essay looking at how writing style changes according to how you get the words on the page (I even bought a beautiful typewriter to test that out). I love the idea that Sontag uses layers and layers in her writing and editing: the process of writing on top of writing, of scrawling and scoring out like the palimpsest diary Cathy in Wuthering Heights creates on the margins of a bible. Like Heidegger with his under-erasure being.

I also find it fascinating how people can study and write with music playing around them. I used to be a lover of total silence: a pure space in which I find the need to fill up the void with words. Now I can sometimes do with a bit of ambient sound: coffee shop clattering, birdsong, falling rain and so on. It makes a difference whether you are in the actual space (writing in a real garden or a coffee shop, for instance) or in the hyperreal zone of generated sounds (there are excellent Youtube sources of ambient sound, from whale-song to fire crackling in a grate). One will distract me to write about immediate details, the other soothes you into a weird creative ‘roll’ where you can pour out your words or nonsense like code streaming out in hyperspace. OK, I’m being self-indulgent.

And indeed, there is a self-indulgent aestheticisim to all of this: the endless procrastination involved in selecting the correct font for a piece, the need to rearrange one’s desk or shuffle books or change your pen or whatever it is. Yet there is something more important here that relates to publishing itself and the way literature often gets sucked into a commercial vacuum (think of the likes of the Brownings’ letters or Shakespeare’s sonnets which get beautifully repackaged in time for Valentine’s Day) . The original text is beautified by the paratext, and what is left is perhaps more of a consumer object than a discourse of words and sentences. There is an emphasis on white space, the chic luxury of thick paper and the gaps between printed letters. James Fenton said that, ‘what happened to poetry in the twentieth century was that it began to be written for the page’. But what is this page? Is it the sublime landscape of print paper stretching out its possibilities of unblemished whiteness? Or perhaps the virtual page: the ever-changing Internet archive that risks the dreaded 404, this page is missing; that risks alteration and collaboration and manipulation – and is this not a good thing? It is poetry changing, in transition; undergoing the morphological process of the human into cyborg. An automated computer voice reading aloud, staggering over the dashes and tildas and sharps, the onomatopoeia and enjambment like a child having a crack at reading Derrida. Il n’ya pas hors text: there is nothing outside the text/there is no outside-text (he writes in Of Grammatology).  When somebody reads aloud I imagine the words before me, drawing out of the page like butterflies coming to life; I can’t help it, it’s the way I learned to play with poetry. The world I like is the enclosed, shy space between the black ink and the reader’s eyes, the moving lips so silent.

The Mariner's ship and the Albatross. Source: thestage.co.uk
The Mariner’s ship and the Albatross. Source: thestage.co.uk

Like the ‘fluttering stranger’ that Coleridge observes as a child at school in ‘Frost at Midnight’, words in poetry become strange: there is an uneasiness to them that we cannot quite place. Verbs, adjectives and nouns are not what our teachers told us. You cannot fix them to a blackboard, and anyway chalk crumbles. While butterflies might be pinned down and classified by their colours, words are dependent on each other for meaning. So signification sifts in swirls of dreamy reading, and the mind makes connections. The imagination stirs and sometimes forgets them. Footnotes adorn the margins and confuse us, as they perhaps do in Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, where we are driven into warmer but often more perplexing territory, as Coleridge’s gloss is less an academic explanation, and more a multiplicity of voices. At once, he joins in the action, ‘Like vessel, like crew!’ – yes, ‘her skin was white as leprosy’ – and we too catch this virus, moving between microbes of words that open and mutate through the strangest imagery. We shift between and through things with Coleridge’s metonymy, as in the gloss: ‘[a]nd its ribs are seen as bars on the face of the setting sun’. What are we to make of this being, ‘a Death’: an embodied spirit whose translucency both stirs and disturbs and amuses us, all at once? Aesthetics and meaning all blur into one.

Mount Snowdon. Photo by by Scott Wylie. https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotbot
Mount Snowdon. Photo by by Scott Wylie. https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotbot

With Romanticism what we often get is the journey, the progression through space, selves and substance, and through visual experiences: the sublime, picturesque and the beautiful. Not to mention the ugliness of Frankenstein’s monster, mirrored in Mary Shelley’s own monstrously patchworked collation of tropes and terrors and texts (imagine being raised on Milton but growing up like Rousseau  – being both Satan and a noble savage – now that is Otherness embodied, surely?). We follow Wordsworth up Snowdon and along the Alps in his glorious Prelude, with the seamless switch between interior musings and the expansive, golden panoramic shot that reveals the gaping ice and mountains, the tracks the subject’s wandering thinness:

The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light,
Were all like workings of one mind, the features
Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,
Characters of the great Apocalypse,
The types and symbols of eternity,
Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.

(Wordsworth, Book VI of The Thirteen-book Prelude, lines 566-572).

Where nature itself merges into one terrifying being, where opposites uncannily forgo their differences to become ‘features | of the same face’ and still the sweet ‘blossoms upon one tree’, we are in a sublime landscape, and then in the pastoral garden. The subject stamps himself upon the mountains, as the mountains are stamped upon him; we recall, with the help of the OED, the varied meanings of the term ‘character’: as both noun (a literary figure of self/person; a sign or symbol used in writing, print, computing; a code; the properties of a substance) and verb (‘to distinguish by particular marks, signs, or features’). Wordsworth’s figure is the self encoded in the text, the lonesome Romantic imprinted in his white sublime of Snowdon, going deep into the very properties of the rock itself. All is viscous, melting subject into object. All is, as Timothy Morton so aptly puts it, a mesh: where there can be nothing ‘out there’, as we are all a set of strangenesses, part of an existence that is always coexistence; and yet we are not simply part of a holistic collective, but connected in our differences, in our mutations that separate, stick and undo us. There are those clouds which seem ‘unfettered’ and yet even they cannot rise above the poet’s vision, the tacky link of aesthetic projection that takes nature from unified cliché  to a space of wilderness in which things move between abstraction and reification, and humans move with them in the ambiguous space between – like those viruses that multiply and mutate, ‘first, and last, and midst, and without end’.

This dangerous, homogenised idea of ‘landscape’ can be undone by thinking of it textually: as a palimpsest too of sorts, where human language adds layers to our understanding, alters our relationship with nonhuman things of the living and non-living. In writing and reading ‘nature poetry’, we are reconfiguring our place in the mesh; just as a drop of colour upon a single Paint pixel shifts the impression of the whole picture.

While Romanticism takes us on these messy forays into psyches and space, in the twentieth century we have, as Fenton has suggested, the poem as object: the poem as visual play on the page. The attempt to make the poem an object, to get to the very basics of objects. Think of Ezra Pound’s Imagism: ‘The apparition of these faces in a crowd; | Petals on a wet, black bough’ (‘In a Station of the Metro’). Think of William Carlos Williams’s notorious modernist poem, ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’, in which Williams’s poetics bring the object into stark and colourful being, like an object being rendered on some kind of graphic design program. Assonance coats our visual impressions so that we can almost taste what we see, the wheelbarrow ‘glazed with rain’. On the page, the poem too is a spilling of rain, of long lines dripping into single words, of basic objects hardening, forming. The ‘red wheel | barrow’; the ‘white | chickens’.

The Yellow Book. Source: http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/tag/fin-de-siecle/
The Yellow Book. Source: http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/tag/fin-de-siecle/

There is also the lovely aestheticism of the fin de siècle: the beautiful margins and separation of art and text in the The Yellow Book, and of course Husymans’s jewel-encrusted tortoise, which eventually dies from the weight of its ridiculous embellishments. Does a text too collapse under the weight of its stylistic ornamentation? The fashion for minimalism perhaps gives way to this assumption, and yet what about the explosive textuality of Finnegans Wake, Gravity’s Rainbow; anything by Henry James, or for that matter, Angela Carter? Art for art’s sake is not a dip into vacuity, but is necessarily a political statement, a textual position, after all. An attempt to escape the shading blinds of ideology. You might write a dissertation on the politics of purple prose; you might float buoyantly along the clear river of Wikipedia readings.

And now I have lost my place in the forest and cannot find the light again. Birds tweet shrilly and their song is like stars tinkling and various shades of darkness hang in blue drapes from the bowers of pine trees. If I look around I see the jewel of every dew drop glisten and I know that it is twilight. I am looking for something particular: that silent speck of a presence; that which evades me every time I turn over each new leaf. Only I know that I cannot see, cannot see the gathering of these particles; the light is fading and soon the day will close its drapes.

These are just words after all, and who would cling to them?

Some further words:

Derrida, Jacques, 1967. Of Grammatology.

Edgar, Simon, ‘Landscape as Story’, Available at: http://www.lucentgroup.co.uk/the-landscape-as-story.html

Morton, Timothy, 2010. The Ecological Thought.

Huysmans, J. K. 1884. À rebours.