Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Neon Highway ISSN: 1476-9867

Issue 13

Welcome to the 13th issue of Neon Highway and thank you once again to our additional

Editors, Dee McMahon and Matt Fallaize.

It is the year 2008. I am presently residing in Liverpool, the year of Capital of Culture where supposedly many cultural things are happening, although sometimes I tend to forget as I am either in the studio or doing Karaoke these days in the Royal Oak pub, Toxteth. I have a fascination with the past right now. I keep playing Ska music. I am reminiscing about the mods and rockers, missing parker jackets with targets on the back and I am missing Paul Weller in his pinstripe suit and I miss Squeeze and The Specials and I am listening to Jimmie Hendrix, ‘castles in the sand’, must be my favourite song of all time.

I went to Wales recently. They have lovely beaches there and there were seagulls and a white chair strangely just waiting for me to sit upon and look out to sea.

It was very lovely, the way a beach really should be. Maybe we should have poetry readings on beaches. We could then throw them in the sea or post them in bottles. I think we should do it here on the River Mersey in Liverpool, post hundreds of SOS poems to promote peace and love in bottles, throw them into the Mersey. When people find them, they recycle the bottle, contact the poet and meet for coffee. That would just be such fun! Fabulous idea also for dating!

Recently, Costa coffee house in Bold Street, Liverpool has been running its own poetry readings. It’s kind of strange as you press the buzzer on the outside of Costa like in some surreal dream and voila, you are inside the poetry reading., like walking into a big glass cube with lots of people inside. Alice is reading her poems there July 14th. Robert Sheppard read there the other day! Alex Scott Samuel is the man running the readings. Well done…Jim me lad! Jim, as in ‘Long John Silver, Jim…’ I wasn’t thinking of any other ‘Jim’. But there was also Lord Jim wasn’t there? Who wrote that one again? Who was Jim anyway? I always meant to read it. In this issue, I will be interviewing the poet, A.C Evans. This interview was once in the only online issue of Neon highway, number 12 but I decided to bring it here along with the other interviews into hardcopy format. and in its new illustrated format by A.C Evans.

All best for now.

Jane Marsh

P.s. I just love the name Jim. No one seems to call their kids, ‘Jim’ anymore…?


2. Note from Jane Marsh.

3. Contents

4.William Bedford

5.Richard Fletcher

6-7. Dave Ward

8. A.C Evans

9. Flora Pederson

10. Colin Beck

11. Vanessa Burger

12. Juliet Troy

13. Michael Courtney Soper

14-15. Leonard Harley

15-17. Jamie Wilson

17-18. Kristian Cole

18-19.Ben Barton

20-21.Christopher Barnes

22-24. Reviews

25-35. Jane Marsh interviews A.C Evans

36-37. Listings

38. Subscription

The poet, Dave Ward will be interviewed by Jane Marsh inside issue 14.

Front cover drawing by Alice Lenkiewicz

William Bedford

Poetry Society

When Lennon lived in Emperor’s Gate

fans carved their lust on his blue door

and Prufrock’s ghost was forced to wait,

baffled by the music and Rolls Royce

that spoiled his early morning communion.

Now Lennon’s ghost has a Brooklyn haunt,

and T.S. Eliot springs alive

with annual volumes the pleased critics

declare ‘okay’ though ‘unauthorised.’

A Concord sings over Earls Court Square,

and Boy George fans now congregate

wherever the loudest volumes slam,

like scented talcum, their scented brains.

A tenant sold the door in Emperor’s Gate.


You were the first girl I slept with,

and we talked all night,

just like with other later girls,

welcoming the slow birdsong of light.

They kept our beds in separate corners,

nurses whispering in the corridors outside.

In the morning when I woke you had gone.

They said you wouldn’t be long.

I learnt later you had died.

Richard Fletcher

What were you like?

We could so easily have been

A pair of competing Wyverns

Chasing each others tails

To complete the circular chain

In the form of a gold brooch

Laid at the base of Ben Wyvis

Directly following my banishment to Bute.

Dave Ward

From (on the edge of rain)


milk white moon

spills autumn seed

across the river

dark boats lure

ghost streets run

with scarlet leaves


bird’s wing map

spread in flight

grey of sea

grey of sky

over the horizon

another horizon calls


a silver morning

petals fly purple

slow circles turn

the leaving season

frail bones lattice

across cobwebbed field


rain leaves rattle

pale voices touch

sky shivers frail

flower mouths moist

snow fires beckon

caressing warm breath


edge of light

far fields calling

scarred hands healing

the river’s night

circle of journeys

turning in flight

A.C Evans


Here, where an overcast sky flattens

The world into a dead, grey expanse

And the banality of existence claims us,

The hard cut-glass edges of winter

Approach, and a baby, abandoned

On the steps of a church, whimpers

Unheard – for there is no one there,

No one to respond

And the mother,

A grainy figure on CCTV,

Is sitting many miles away

Trying to ignore the oncoming cold.

So, these are just provisional notes

Scribbled for no reason –

For no reason can be found

For the way things are,

And because

No feelings can make us think

That the real is unreal anymore,

Or that the sensations we know

Are anything but subliminal twitches.

We watch the painful spasms

Of an untouchable creature, crouching

In a comfortless corner,

Huddled in a forgotten room,

Listening to empty, uncaring voices,

Listening, in solitary despair,

As the footsteps fade away, and she

Gets to her feet,

And she clenches her fists,

And she cries out in solitude,

And the tears stain her dirty cheeks,

Her face a torn and shredded mask.

No hope now

As the footsteps fade away.

Flora Pederson

A feast for the breeze

A hunter’s breeze murmurs a soft lullaby

whilst stroking the veins of the leaves,

it floats in the open window –

subtle strings and stale air mingle

claiming by force, dust fragments caught in stasis.

Still atmosphere, now waits

airlocked between floor and ceiling,

remnants of lifeforce spent

dead plankton inhabit the space.

Preserved, enclosed inside –

glass shield parts a transparent sea,

permit to nature’s breath

to swallow, consume and digest.

Replenished and nourished by feasting, it sighs

teasing such fingers of freshness,

ebbing its’ cunning form away

whilst stroking the veins of the leaves,

a hunter’s breeze murmurs a soft lullaby.


It’s never the case

of not adding up,

numbers exist to consume

other numbers,

it’s the unwanted answer

that causes upset.

Colin Beck

Morning Tea

When in my moccasin

Did I sigh with a young mother

Beauty had her face reflecting

From a shallow complete complexion

Cocky in the head she eased her warm hand

Across my breast and brushing past my heart

I showed her how to tie stomachs

Lack charisma like England lowland pastures

Just a little waft

With an insect in a flower afternoon tea

Lazy green

White light gods

Gifts and wood feather nets

Kettle drum

She dreams with laughter

But no imagery

Lament of The Lamb

I dreamed a desperate dream alone

I heard her song like and unknown moan

I know she only comes to mingle in the autumn bloom

With her crimson eyes she held me down

Left me flaccid opened a box

And wound up the lullaby

A tired pair of lungs bellowed like a child

Crouched beside rolling thumbs fallen smiles

Like liquid life sun beading down

Die on my flaccid breast

A landmark of burning flame

A bad dream a bad seed

A silver flip of the coin

Vanessa Burger

Moonlit Garden

Indian summer

The hidden anvil thunderhead


In the leaden sky

And the shadows congregate

Around the pool

The stars silently sinking

Amongst the koi.

On the grass,

The sepia, stunted array of toadstools

Is seeking to take prisoner the watering can

The green guardian gnome grinning wickedly

At the cat.

In the Quietness

Through the open window, falling stars

In the luminous, thundery air.

Wooden beams are warping,

And I frown back, into the next room

Where a candle flame grows

Out of thin air.

Juliet Troy


A simple nervous system returns to the boil exposed palisades and

promontaries tuber flowers brimming how to kill crustaceans weeping bright

tears push the spike with an electrifying example of simulacra ghost will

ever visit cobwebbed streaming and vermin hunted phrases in connecting a

tin turn the legs and claws melancholy wooden creaking caves rockpool

swimmers wrap china double binds one bilateral arm stretched upwards

streetwalker and flesh the way of Hatha Yogis the ghosts tapped on the glass

binoculars of that moment hired as a singing wolf we had a theodolite black

and infinite fans waving when Paris became quiet air was becoming a

barometer tinged with fig trees with our knuckles cut hard topped carapace

the children with rapping the sum of all embroidered green leaves too small

to probe with teaspoon tactile before we cook pathways to the holy grail

pick and dress the crinoline cage and half the articulated socket to find

diamonds cocooned in linen and silk.

Michael Courtney Soper

Guiding in the air currents

Shining metagyres in the sky, pierce through

Near the planar edge, flowing, in the cerulean,

Flowing completely from one side to the other,

Above the sapient highway, flowing, near the byways

Always of permanence in the strange dimensions of materiality.

Luxurient above on the great route…

Shining, piercing through, guiding.

In the strange dimensions of materiality

Flowing, near the byways of permanence, flowing

Piercing completely from one side to the other

In the sky, the metagyres are near their byways of permanence.

Leonard Harley


All our green ghosts are burning

yet, undelayed by coming

and going, unaltered by abetting

the brag of breath, by extending

the business of the eating

worm. Our fingers will be extending

equal branches through the flesh, abetting

the going and coming

of other breaths for burning.

You are not nothing

my darling; you will be burning

yet, in all green living.


Crazygirl, crazycry

for the man

who cannot lie

with you tonight

He’s a lie

he’s nonsense, dead

he’s gone to bed

another night

He’s far away

he’s gone away

So crazycry, crazymourn

the man who’s gone

to nothing at all

Cry, cry your loss

and dream he never was

Jamie Wilson


what are the roots that clutch

what branches grow out of this stony rubbish

then wilt



insect-like nerve impulses


what insect feet march along my optic nerve

what electricity


in the sun

what shivers and sharp-delight

what momentary pleasure – a faded wavelength



an emotional vampire

run down

run out

one more…

scratch card philosophy

dustbin entropy

the law

the law

just one




what are the seeds we sow

what flowers grow from this chemical tapestry



i can see

i can see


what are the species that shriek like rats at love

what voices thrum and chant


into never-say-never-land

slow burn

slow burn


bed side horrorshow

cinematic vitriol

the wall

the wall

is just too


that’s entertainment


what planet is this I am on

may I be dismissed

with a bullet




this anaesthetised planet

this topple down hamlet of black



no love

shrugged from the shoulders of the earth

with feeling.

once more…

Kristian Cole

Caring and Killing

Collapse upon the sturdy bridge,

And mourn out the lungs thick topic,

Miles from the village bound in Oak,

Guilt burns against the shimmer of the river,

Final reflection in the sealed eyes,

To remember the baby as it was,

You wind down the 'ours' in sorrow,

What's yours is mine within that carrier,

Passing now from this life to the next,

But carried for miles down the river,

Like Moses in transit,

Logistically correct,

Destination untrue,

If you cannot see it then it isn't really there,

This isn't really happening,

The blonde of her hair now worn thin to the scalp,

Like the career she is chasing,

Getting rid of the unwanted,

To better the self,

Logistically speaking,

To be bound down here,

In this town,

Is like being the baby,

Bag contented,

Rim filled with cavernous rocks,

That she just cast overboard,

Gracing a tremendous airborne swing,

Trouncing the rivers blue in white ripples,

She had dined on the last one through hunger and


Some said to preserve the lack of evidence,

Announcing her core as ailing,

Bland otherwise spill from the court in


Due to the shadows of the upbringing,

But her defence was the caring and killing,

If a random unknown assailant,

Had outperformed the task,

It would have meant grand black nothings,

But in her motherly state,

Albeit temporary,

Tear the child from the teat and destroy.

Ben Barton


Aliens have crawled across the border

on their bellies

Signed names in blue biro:

Permits to trespass

on our living quarters.

We are powerless, shackled

destined to watch

as they infiltrate us,

demanding we perform

Like a spinning zoetrope

offering them clear vignettes

of our daily humiliations.


As they cut him from the Spyder

I took in my arms the tough, lean body

of this man so young

beardless, breathless

Well hung

Together; we laid him on the stretcher

and I caressed his broken arm


face smashed, splintered

His lips torn

and tongue wizened in a sea of froth

so black about the eyes

stone cold

and his forehead concave

Hot blood spattered on asphalt.

In the truck we were alone

and through the bumps

and horns and swerves

I kissed his mouth, his lips

found mine

Bitter with betrayal

from road to morgue

I willed him, no, dared

That he would rise-up

Awake; and speak our love’s proud name,

and tell our devotions, desires

To a world unwilling to listen

or to even believe.

I knew that his list of men

was as long as my arm:

his chest pockmarked with

their cigarette holes –

an army of gilded lovers

Stood in line, queued

far back

Snaked along the highway

their mouths wet.

They had left indelible marks on his flesh:

a constellation of keratoid scars.

In the foggy nights I was left behind

to ache and wonder

If those glassy eyes could really see

Did he see my face,

and would

he remember me?

Christopher Barnes


‘from the field book’ by Carol Thistlethwaite

from the field book by Carol Thistlethwaite

ISBN: 978-1-905202-76-8

BeWrite Books

32 Bryn Road South


Lancashire WN4 8QR

The cover of this book of bird poems indicates the strength and delicacy of the work within. It is based on both a knowledge and keen observation of birds in their natural habitat. As Carol indicates in her first poem 'split instant', visual recognition identified through movement (or non movement), colour and shape, the ‘jizz’, which is at the core of her poems. The ‘jizz’ is set skilfully within the bird’s natural habitat, by locating the poems at a particular time of day via the turning of the tide or the arrival of dusk, for example. This enhances the reader’s sense of being there.

Individual birds or gatherings of birds are characterised in language that grasps and pulls you into their core, as in the poem heron, where the description ‘is a calm’ allows you to understand the nature of the bird. As I write this I find myself thinking that the word ‘description’ doesn’t do justice to Carol’s writing of these birds. She doesn’t just give a visual picture – she writes you into the bird’s behaviour. You enter into the poem through the language used, especially the sound of the language which mirrors that of the birds, the formats, the syntax and sense of intention demonstrated in each text. For this reason Turnstone with its ‘chink plink chink plink pebble-flipping-turnstone flicking over stones,’ is perhaps one of my favourite poems. The language, the prose format, the gaps and syntax capture movement, sound and environ in a way that gives the reader his own key to the kingdom of the bird world. The internal rhyme in many of the poems, for example, Common Tern with its ‘dips’ and ‘pricks’, again enhances sounding out the jizz.

The imagery used in from the field book is very vivid. It surprises in a way that is acute, producing a gut reaction experience. A Common Tern ‘full stops another’. Cormorants are ‘long shadows of an era’. When Pink-Footed Geese ‘quilt the estuary, bedding down’ this does more than describe an action, it also describes the sheer quantities of geese present, the feeling of sinking into a downy quilt on a cool night, and more.

There are a range of formats and fonts used within the collection – concrete and prose poems are evident, and some work better than others, I feel. What does work well is the rhythm achieved throughout, supporting as it does the writer’s sense of intention. Read Treecreeper aloud and hear the rhythm created by the syntax, the internal rhyme, the words used.

These poems are skilfully crafted and immensely satisfying to read and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Review of ‘Dreaming of Walls Repeating Themselves’ by Pat Winslow

Dreaming of Walls Repeating Themselves by Pat Winslow


Templar Poetry

Fenelon House

Kingsbridge Terrace

Dale Road


Derbyshire DE4 3NB

Pat Winslow appears to be writing a social commentary on survival, on coping and not coping with life events. Certain themes come to the fore – war or perhaps surviving war, illness, childhood memory. The poems themselves intrigue, playing with the reader’s perceptions, demanding your attention and repeated reading. Time, as in The Persistence of Memory, and imaginary time in the poem Imagine, is used effectively to do this. Line length and punctuation are used to deliver rhythm, for example in The Front Room Picture, or emphasise and surprise, as in Mycroft. This interesting and intriguing work deserves to be read and re-read.

Review of ‘Test Paper’ by Linda Cash

Test Paper by Linda Cash

ISBN: 978-1-906285-02-9

Templar Poetry

Fenelon House

Kingsbridge Terrace

Dale Road


Derbyshire DE4 3NB

This is one of those books of poetry where less is more because each poem is distilled fiction, a narrative exposed gradually, and sometimes hanging on a single line. Themes are predominantly the dark side of life, love, loss, and sexual encounter, and the poems constantly highlight the different approaches of men and women to them. The themes are treated in a practical, rather than emotional way. Humour, sometimes black or satirical prevents sentimentality throughout. There are occasional light-hearted poems too, but these left me a little less satisfied. Imagery is strong, and sustained imagery guides you through complete poems as in Aromatherapy Kit, or Half Life Crisis. Linda saves the best until last in the more experimental Test Paper. This poem made me think about many things – the questions posed, if they related to each other, the inadequacy of any ‘real’ test papers that may be littered with leading questions, other poems I’d read, and most of all, about methodology in poetry writing, mine and others. This poem was a great choice to end a very enjoyable group of poems.

‘Complete Twentieth Century Blues’

By Robert Sheppard

ISBN: 978-1-84471-264-9

Salt Publishing.

Salt Publishing Ltd

PO Box 937

Great Wilbraham


CB21 5JX

United Kingdom

Wonderful to read this hardback quality edition of Robert Sheppard’s recently published ‘Complete Twentieth Century Blues’. A contrast of forms, techniques and subjects keep you wondering and always interested. Some of the poems I had read previously in other texts from the past such as ‘Flashlight Sonata’, ‘Basalt Wind-Chimes for the window-Box of Earthly Pleasures’, ‘Tin Pan Arcadia’, ‘Killing Boxes’ and ‘Far Language’. One thing that stands out from reading this volume is that Sheppard is one of today’s most talented and innovative poets. A ‘must read’ for all those interested in reading how boundaries in writing have been challenged and explored.

By Alice Lenkiewicz

Jane Marsh interviews the poet, A.C Evans

Interview taken from issue 12 (online issue 2006)

A.C then sent this back to me with his own personal illustrations, therefore resulting in ‘The illustrated Jane’ version of his original interview, which I have decided to publish in this issue of Neon Highway.

(Brief Biography taken from the,‘The ArgotistOnline:

A. C. Evans was born in Hampton Court in 1949, and lived in South London until 1963 when he moved to Essex and co-founded the semi-legendary Neo-Surrealist Convulsionist Group in 1966. Moving back to London in 1973, he currently lives in Mortlake, near Richmond. Working in the tradition of the bizarre and the grotesque, he also considers himself a Realist. Influenced by everything on the dark-side, he is also inspired by the iconoclasm of Dada, revolutionary Surrealism and the immediacy of Pop. He regards all these as points of departure, none as a destination – we live in a post avant-garde world.

His individual author collections include The Xantras (Trombone Press), Chimaera Obscura (Phlebas Press), Dream Vortex (Tabor Press), Colour Of Dust. Poems And/Or Texts 1973-1997 (Stride), This Sepulchre (Springbeach Press) and Fractured Muse (Atlantean Publications). The poetry sequence ‘Space Opera’ was made into a digital film and shown at the onedotzero3 Festival at the ICA in 1999.

He considers creativity to be the indirect effect of irrational drives and desires; an infinite quest for self-discovery and, inevitably, an indictment of both established dogma and fashionable orthodoxy. In his extremist, author-centred, poetry and graphics he uses ambiguity, juxtaposition, irony and objective chance to question assumptions about convention, identity and reality – black humour and the absurd are his constant preoccupations.



Hi A. C.

I would imagine you would appreciate this room. On the wall there are paintings by Klimt and Duchamp. My gramophone over there plays music by Liszt and Wagner.

The CD player plays music such as The Stones and The Velvet underground.

The weather is just wonderful. We are now in Mid winter so it is cold and icy outside. The trees are bare and there is some frost and ice on the ground.

On the bookshelf you may find some collections by Plath, Byron, Baudelaire and Swinburne. There are also two recent reviews of yours on Lee Harwood’s Chanson Dada. Selected Poems by Tristan Tzara and Symbolism by Rodolphe Rapetti. Now if you just seat yourself down I would like to ask you a few questions to someone whose writing style it seems has been described as ‘macabre, hermetic minimalism’.

Your work has been around for a long time and first published in the British alternative press in 1977. However it has been said that your work was more driven towards “ modern occultism” rather than the conventional ‘literary’ small press. Could you explain what it was that pulled you in this direction?

Gosh, Jane! You are looking very vampish this afternoon…. And you have gone to so much trouble. It is very much appreciated and very nice to talk… But, to answer your questions: My first ‘publication’ was, in fact, 1968 when I was lucky to land a tiny contract for greetings cards. A few designs were distributed through high street shops at the height of the ‘Beardsley craze’ during the Art Nouveau Revival… Also, under the umbrella of the Convulsionists, I managed to issue some mass-produced prints and get things into the school magazine. This was all in the late nineteen sixties. After a break I started submitting material to little magazines in the mid nineteen seventies, hence the reference to ‘alternative press….’. The first magazine to take some pictures was called Sothis. I soon found acceptance with other editors in the ‘occult’ scene. There were mags with titles like The Daath Papers, Illuminatus Monthly and Nox: A Magazine of The Abyss. I was instinctively drawn to this kind of subculture: it seemed more attuned to the disruptive, paraxial fantasy I was trying to achieve than the rather staid literary scene. In any case – despite my Aestheticism – I didn’t really see my work as a narrowly ‘artistic’ enterprise – like the Surrealists I was aiming at some kind of transformational paradigm outside mainstream definitions of art/poetry. There were clear affinities between Surrealism and ‘occultism’ (a vague, dodgy term I should say) and, at the time, one felt ‘occultists’ to be more ‘alternative’ than most exponents of the counter-culture who played at being hippies at weekends. The Surrealist ‘angle’ on the occult was, of course, non-mystical – unlike the Crowleyites, or the Alexandrians, for instance, I did not view the occult as an alternative religion. It was more to do with ‘reclaiming the imagination for anarchy and nihilism,’ formulating tactics to disconnect creativity from the hegemony of ‘the establishment’. Gothic Romanticism, Baudelaire’s ‘Satanism’ and Rimbaud’s use of alchemy provided historical parallels, while Jung’s psychology pointed to an ‘interior model’ for the ‘occult image’.


Could you tell me a little about your work?

The work develops on two fronts: the written and the visual. Within these two spheres I operate on a narrow spectrum of formats. The written works fall into non-fiction and ‘literary’, the visual works are black and white line drawings in either pen or pencil, collages (mainly photomontages) and, more recently digital-photo images of various kinds. Regarding the literary work I would subdivide it into poetry/experimental prose, fiction (short stories) and poetry translations from the French. In both literary and visual work I often rely on automatism and chance elements. Automatism means a kind of immersion in the unconscious process, guided intuitively.

I have often regarded ‘automatic’ line work as rather like calligraphy, hovering on the borderline between pictorial representation and writing. All artistic activity is supported by the non-fiction work ranging from short review notices to extensive feature-length articles/essays like Angels Of Rancid Glamour (1998). Baudelaire said artists should also be critics – it is vital to maintain a sense of focus and context, and to engage with the history of ideas.


Who were the first presses to support you?

Well, apart from the occult ‘zines mentioned the first art-poetry press to support my work was Stride edited by Rupert Loydell. Throughout the nineteen eighties Stride maintained a policy of openness to diverse approaches that was – and still is – exemplary. Stride published my first small collection Exosphere in 1984 and I contributed reviews, artwork and poetry to the magazine. Today Stride is one of the best independent presses on the UK scene. I should also mention Phlebas and Tabor who published the mini collections Chimaera Obscura and Dream Vortex.


Can you tell me a little about your poem Space Opera?

Space Opera was short sequence of prose-poems first published in Stride’s Serendipity Caper anthology. It was subsequently re-issued as an illustrated booklet with an intro by Steve Sneyd.

Written in a kind of techno-reportage style the sequence evoked a universe where there is no distinction between inner and outer space and all communication is subject to widespread disruption from indeterminate forces. The general setting was onboard a clapped-out star-ship on a mission to investigate the mysterious planet NeoGaea, a kind of parallel Earth, but millions of light years from home. It was an attempt to fuse lowbrow and highbrow by taking a simple space adventure scenario and filtering through a mannered poetic style – the cognoscenti define this sort of thing as ‘speculative poetry’…


Your work has been described as ‘artistic’ meeting ‘magical’. What would you say is your driving influence?

That’s quite a ‘deep’ question, depending on what you mean by ‘influence’ – influences should be points of departure not destinations, I think. In the nineteenth century from the time of the French Revolution to the First World War one can see a progression of ‘movements’, often referred to as avant-garde – we learn from many figures and themes of those movements and define ‘influences’ that way. That’s a very big subject and the cultural history, from Baudelaire to Beauvoir, is very important. Formative influences (i.e. contemporary, not historical) included Dada/Surrealism, Op and Pop Art, Psychedelia and Nouveau Realisme (e.g. Tinguely) – that’s on the visual side.

Contemporary literary influences included Burroughs, Borges, Nabokov, Pynchon, Angela Carter and J G Ballard. As I say this it is clear that none of these were poets in the strict sense, actually they are all prose writers. I had heard about the 1965 Albert Hall event but we didn’t really take much notice of the poetry scene – the era was defined by Mary Quant not the Children of Albion. My inspirational figures were Aubrey Beardsley, Antonin Artaud and Marcel Duchamp. I think we can return to this a bit later on when we talk about the Convulsionists because, amid this welter of references, I’m thinking about your phrase ‘driving influence’…. And Paul Meunier’s observation (quoted in Rapetti’s Symbolism) that ‘artistic concerns were originally alien to the production of art.’


What kind of poetry or movements in poetry do you particularly dislike and why?

I have always been against any kind of literary theory that downplays or ignores the visceral basis of creativity. The creative imagination is driven by non-verbal, obsessive compulsions that, in the final analysis, are rooted in biological/genetic phenomena. It is obvious that creativity is value-neutral and independent of any particular form of expression, visual, literary or musical. Therefore, I have no positive interest in the kind of fashionable Post Modernism that locates the main theoretical focus of poetry in the domain of ‘language’. I see this trend and similar academic fashions (Social Constructionism or Reader Response Theory) as part of the regrettable inheritance of Wittgenstein – it is clearly reactionary. For example, the current oxymoronic notion of ‘linguistically innovative’ poetry is based, according to its luminaries, on doctrines of Ethical Criticism, specifically the writings of Levinas and Bakhtin. To begin with this is contradictory in that a truly ‘language-centred’ poetry cannot be based on an ethical framework of any kind. In the second place it is intrinsically reactionary as the writings of Levinas, Bakhtin, and the other gurus, are mainly propaganda for orthodoxy dressed-up in the ‘technical’ Newspeak of academia: ‘defamiliarisation’, ‘plurivocity’, ‘dialogism’ ‘sociolect’. The doublethink is the objectionable aspect – projecting a ‘progressive’ and ‘advanced’ image but working to a regressive, conservative agenda. It’s a question of cultural politics, not literary standards, because any art that is neither entertainment nor therapy is spin and propaganda – welcome to IngSoc! The Language Poets of the 1970s de-valued, even denied, the individual voice in the name of anti-Romanticism and in so doing allied themselves, knowingly or not, with the worst kind of literary Puritanism. I don’t really care if a given example of Language Poetry conforms to someone’s idea of ‘good’ poetry, in the end its only radical chic. I would say the same about the British Poetry Revival in its earlier phases: it was an amateur way of latching on to worthless American trends – Black Mountain, Objectivism, Projective Verse and all that frightful stuff. Actually, it was a publicity stunt to promote a generational revolt against the Georgians and – wassisname? – Larkin. They want to write Modern Epics – they take themselves far too seriously – give me Fiona Pitt-Kethley any day!


To what extent has alchemy influenced your work?

The function of art is the transformation of substance into style.


Tell me a little about your creative process.

The ‘creative process’ is a primitive, bio-psychic phenomenon characterised by the interaction of external stimuli, unconscious drives and the neural-endocrine levels of the biological system (physis). These interactions generate the ‘altered states’ intrinsic to creativity. Cultural factors determine how various features or facets of creativity are defined as ‘artistic’. The main impulse for any creative act takes the form of an obsessive compulsion or drive-demand, often referred to as ‘inspiration’: the production of a given work of art, and its dreamlike characteristics, can be explained from the psychoanalytic perspective. Composer Toru Takemitsu said his work Quotation of Dream (1991) was ‘fragmental’ and episodic, reflecting the ‘shapes of dreams’. He observed that a work can be vivid in detail but may describe ‘an extremely ambiguous structure when viewed as a whole’. Following both Freud and Takemitsu, I would say that poetic form should resemble that of a dream where, for instance, details may be clearly defined while their disposition is determined by the ‘fortuities’ of a ‘self-propelling narrative’. For me the attraction of collage – and other modes of juxtaposition – derive from conformity with the Freudian ‘dream-work’ and the laws of the unconscious – the two main properties of dream-work being compression and displacement. The law of compression determines the fragmental and condensed format of all my work in any medium. The law of displacement encourages an allusive approach to ‘mood’ or ‘atmosphere’ akin to Mallarme’s adage ‘paint not the thing but the effect it produces’. Displacement of psychic intensities ensures that the least important features of the work are given more prominence than the most significant, leading (with luck) to a somewhat ‘hermetic’ or enigmatic effect…. I must add that chance plays a key role in everything…


If you could go anywhere in reality that somehow was created from your imagination where would it be and what would it be like?

It might be like a neglected pleasure pier on the North Sea coast. During the day there would be howling gales and isolated rainstorms, at night the sea would be like purple glass – the moon would look huge. From the shore would float the distant, scratchy sound of an old 1940s Benny Goodman/Peggy Lee recording of ‘Blues in The Night’.


You have said that Surrealism has been a strong influence in your work.

If you were to exhibit your work in a gallery these days what kind of show do you think you would focus on?

Dark Energy – Dark Energy comprises seventy percent of the universe and provides the repulsive force necessary to power the ever-accelerating expansion of the galaxies. Just as the existence of the unconscious can be inferred from Freudian Slips, so Dark Energy can be detected indirectly from the effects of virtual particles on the orbits of electrons. I like the idea that seventy percent of the universe is ‘dark’, just as seventy percent of the mind is ‘dark’ and seventy percent of human prehistory is ‘dark’. So my exhibition would be based around Three Zones Of Darkness.

To the side there might be shrines dedicated to some modern goddesses: Veronica Lake, Caterina Valente, Julie London, Donyale Luna and P J Harvey. I think the décor would look rather like Martin Hibbert’s Burnt Out Hotel. Oh, I might exhibit some collages and drawings as well! At lunchtimes there would be tasteful piano recitals and in the evenings there would be poetry readings – in the dark, obviously…


You say you enjoy the work of Louise Nevelson. I do also. I read a book about her work a while back and I was fascinated by her assemblages made from found objects and painted gold. I just thought I would mention that to you.

Yes! The Tate Gallery has a couple of her things. There was one called Black Wall (1959) and another called An American Tribute To The British People (1960-1964). I thought the Black Wall was fantastically sinister… There are Sky Cathedrals, Royal Games, Rain Gardens and Night Scapes, all very intricate and painted uniformly in either white, black or gold… there are echoes of Nevelson in some of my drawings…


Can we build an assemblage together? I’ll collect a few objects and you put them together how you want. Here we are, some old boxes, feathers, a doll, picture frames, books, string, a glass case, medicine bottles, paper, broken mirror, pieces of rusty engine, glossy magazines, shoes, a mannequin, lots of old china plates and a few cans of spray paint. What do you reckon? I’ll come back in an hour and see what you produced.

OK, I have added an empty window frame and a battered wig-maker’s white polystyrene artificial head called ‘Ultima’ to this assemblage.

‘Ultima’ is an important totem. In the glass case will be several old sepia photos and the diary of a bibliomaniac.

The broken mirror must be at the centre of the installation. You can just take a photo and add it here if you wish?


Now I just want to show you the chamber. This is the deepest room in the house way below the ground and the steps are a little creaky. Hope you’re not too tired, it’s quite a way down.

Hope you like my spiral staircase. Here we are at last.

Please step inside. Okay please do sit down. You can use that old gravestone if you wish?

Jane, this is such a friendly way to conduct an interview – thank you, this gravestone is quite comfortable – what does the inscription say? I can’t quite make it out as it is covered in yellow and black lichen. What a gloriously spooky wrought iron spiral staircase that was – I can almost taste the rust.

Could you tell me about the group you formed called The Neo-Surrealist Convulsionist Group?

It is tempting to say we were just a group of alienated teenagers…! We formed the thing around 1968 and it only lasted until around 1971 or 1972. There were about five or six participants based in Chelmsford, Essex. Other places included Colchester, Ipswich and Witham… people used to meet in coffee bars after school – we were all sixth formers doing art or literature, mainly as a way of avoiding sport. The associations continued after everyone left school and tried to get jobs. Some poetry was written and experimental prose cut-up; atonal electronic music was composed and lots of paintings and collages produced. There were occasional expeditions or ‘pilgrimages’ to ‘displaced destinations’ such as the old Hungerford Bridge, the Victoria Embankment Gardens (for the Sullivan Memorial – very ‘convulsive’), The Atlantis Bookshop, or the Dashwood Mausoleum and Hell Fire Caves at West Wycombe. But mainly there was a lot of loafing around, drinking coffee and snogging – or going to see Hammer Horror films and German Expressionist movies at the NFT.

There was one exhibition at Hylands House – the exhibition was for all the school leavers but we managed to commandeer a room – as the Convulsionists were the general organisers of the show it was quite easy to get the space! We came up with the term ‘Convulsionism’ after the phrase ‘Beauty will be convulsive…’ (from Breton’s Amour Fou). I felt it implied the ‘visceral’ idea – my ideal work of art was to be a meaningless allegory generated by a kind of neurological spasm or frisson that could be transmitted to the viewer – well, if it gave me a frisson it might give you one as well.

One old policy document from my archive says: “CONVULSION IS CONCERNED WITH THE BEAUTY OF PURE IMAGINATION AND FANTASY AND IS VIOLENTLY OPPOSED TO CONTRAPTON IN ANY FORM” (Convulsively Produced Notes On Convulsion, 1968). Earlier, I mentioned some key influences… I should add the Lost Generation to the list – the Francophile ‘Yellow Nineties’ Decadent poets and artists (Arthur Symons, Ernest Dowson et al) and, also, the ultra-Symbolist absurdism (as we saw it) of Laforgue and Alfred Jarry – we were quite keen on ‘Pataphysics as I recall… There was some empathy with English Pop Art, so we rather revelled in the Mass Media – Pop Music (The Doors, Brian Auger), Jazz (Indo Jazz Fusions, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis), Science Fiction and ‘cult TV’. It was ironic that the real Surrealists had disbanded themselves in 1966 so we settled for being Neo-Surrealists!


What are you working on at present?

I am continually revising my ‘personal aesthetic’ (which is not a literary ‘poetic’) and have found this has absorbed much of my time in recent months. In our present situation when, for various reasons, free artistic expression is coming under threat as never before, I have been driven to ‘sharpen up’ my thoughts on such issues… On a more practical level I am revising and digitizing some non-fiction from the back-catalogue – various reviews and articles that I feel I have neglected and must revisit. I have an ongoing programme of computerisation that is quite time-consuming – some examples appear on the Tangents website. Publication-wise there are various poems accepted by magazines including Fire. Recent appearances have included ‘Vespula Vanishes’ a poem for Tori Amos (Inclement), ‘Danger (Midnight Street)’ (Pulsar), ‘Beautiful Chaos’ and ‘Dadar Radar’ (Fragments), and another piece called ‘Not The Cloudy Sky’ (Harlequin). Forthcoming, among other items, is a short story ‘Vikki Verso’ from Atlantean Publications who have taken a number of texts and drawings over the last couple of years. A recent collage, called ‘In the Beginning’ is on the cover (designed by Neil Annat) of a new Stride publication – Peter Redgrove’s A Speaker For The Silver Goddess (2006).

Thank you for answering my questions A.C.

And, thank you, Jane, for a fascinating conversation…

I’ll go and get you a glass of wine from the cellar

Be careful how you go – mind all those cobwebs!

I wish you luck and fortune with your work, as Salomon Trismosin once said:

Study what thou art

Whereof thou art a part.

What thou knowest of this Art,

This is really what thou art,

All that is without thee,

Also is within

All best for now.


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Neon Highway February 2006


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