Review of Tim Allen



I was googling the “refitting old ships” quote, by Stravinsky on himself and Eliot. Perhaps they “can say again… only what has already been said” (Stravinsky on Eliot) if given “the sense of the present” (Eliot on Stravinksy) only when there is nothing to say. This nicely cuts up the two, and from Cage also, and may find room for Frye’s ‘continuous present’, which might involve the cultivation of sublimity (process in general), instead of spontaneous fear.



I hope to tie together my posts about a terrible grotesque and hermetic language.

It might not be obvious, but I think that sublimity, especially its effacing moment, can be brought about via narrative that lacks a new subjectivity to identify with, as that will instead restore the world as it already was without the reader, then producing catharsis insofar as – reading – we fear the loss of the world.

The goal is anti-habitual, should suggest new practices, processes and ways of responding even as the world reappears unchanged.


In Darkest Capital – ‘EQUIPOLLENCE’

15 page chapbook written by Drew Milne in 2012. The first two thirds is composed of stanzas beginning “the cost of this text” – presumably in reference to the division of labour – then a long unpunctuated sentence slightly offset – which I thought of as an aphoristic equation fragment – that may become redundant. The last third is similarly structured, and each stanza, which has a slightly larger margin, begins “the weight of this line”. I suppose the poem begins with a Lewisian grimace that the cost of this text “is living beyond its means”. The first section seems to be composed around (varying) iambs, and reminds me a little of Milton in that respect. The second less so. It looks like Milne has spliced together various found phrases (the lead, repeated, line subtracts from that sense), and I would guess so that each phrase overlaps with the next. In the first part, this seems to go without comment, while in the second I think we’re invited to to guess what has been elided, rather than say guess the source material, which could be anything but is suggestive of reports, both scholarship and from newspapers. There is an early sense of domesticity, quiet anger and political questions; the author is antagonistic, and I originally wanted to read the sequence for the shimmer of his absence from an ode at the level of readerly engagement with the text.

The repeated phrases add torque, specifically the rhythm of those repeated phrases, rather than – as may be more standard – torquing the line with open field or narrative. Diction is flat but also excited. Any rare word is sneered at in a pedagogical way (I learnt the exact definition of ‘substantive’ in grammar: a word or phrase acting like a noun). I had an early sense of life clawing at itself for space.

I suppose that for me the most appealing sentiment was that no-one gets it, sentence, in the first part, that “does not look like a gift horse that is ready to be messsed with by the dentist of the imagination”, which ends with a fresh and allusive phrase quite unlike another “the rope of words” (with 100,000 google hits from various authors).

Song lyrics and art movements get a mention.

The first series ends, abruptly, with “went to bed to mend his head with sellotape and white paper”. It reminds me a little of the ending of atonal music, but I could never say quite why and what it has to do with Milne or his sweetness; the grimace is now a pin-prick.

The second part reads more self referential – both to poetry (O’Hara and Rupert Loydell seem especially relevant) and itself – and, while it all goes mostly without comment, more engaged; only the postponed politics is better than the movies. I read it as a lament for suffering and how all we can do is be a little political.

I think each part has equal power, rather than appeal. The second series is not prose, unlike the first, and suffers ever increasing line shortening. It ends with “the quango of an imagined / given still up for the taking”. A quango is a quasi autonomous body of the civil service; the given relates to Sellars, ‘myth’, anti-foundationalism, and – I suppose – Hellenistic skepticism, which Milne relates to the title and Epoché, or suspenion of judgment (I’m happy I know this). These ideas intuitively fit together, though I cannot really relate them meaningfully beyond that, but it works together to seem quite dear (perhaps in terms of how the two parts reflect each other’s opening lines), even if no-one is.



Reading some of her late work, Hermetic Defintion, three series of poems ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’ ‘Grove of the Academe’ and ‘Star of Day’. Her own work and that of her Modernist friends looms large, while her use of myth, like the poems themselves (“news that stays news”?), strikes me superficial, which I’m sure is deliberate and due to her style (notwithstanding how little I know about it), while presumbaly having depth. That last claim is not necessarily too snobbish of me, as I was struck by how – despite being an appealing song – the speaker appears quite roughly in places, only to smoothed down by finishing the poem, or the poem’s form. Here’s the ending of the 5th poem from the 2nd series

in the dry sand drift,
I need not turn my head

to assure myself of the sea-ledge,
it is indented like a shell;
I know this, since I came here

before everything was over,
and befopre I realised an intimacy
near as the air.


I’m quite unsure how it achieves that wholism, but it could be, I suppose, a mastery of modernist technique and collage, one in which nothing much happens and everything appears to be on the surface. So I suppose what shatters is the poet – her self – herself.

I very much like how these poems sound, elegant, sculpted, though the collection has given me a bit of a headache, due to how the surface is where all the sensuous action lives/occurs (apparently her later works are linked to Plath, though you would never confuse – I’d guess – their poems, and HD comes off as so much more classical and less troubled).


Ungaretti ‘Allegria’ (translated by Brock)

Got a copy of this. From the earlier poems, I enjoyed the boredom


This night too will pass

This moving solitude
tentative shadows of tram wires
on damp asphalt

I watch the big heads of the coachmen
half sleeping

A later collection, ‘The Buried Harbour’ (I like the figure of himself as both “wretched boat / and the lecherous ocean”), written in the trenches is this translation’s centrepiece. I did not enjoy the only poem that Ungaretti edited in 1969 just before his death, which ends with the confession that “Now I am / universe-drunk”

His treatment of other soldiers is interesting; he seems to want to shatter the world so that he might make them cohere. My favourite poem (and in another he seems to tonally compare himself to a mirage – as what he needs for courage):


That country soldier
trusts in his medal
of St. Anthony
and walks lightly

But I who have no mirage
carry my soul
alone and naked

I can’t read Italian, but the translation feels good. I would say that the appeal is a kind of heroic humility, one which could end up as bathetic, in that the mood, which is light, might be stilted (if you want to compare the Pisan Cantos and its comic treatment of Pound’s co-prisoners, and how without an empathic reading you might invert the two claims, at least for Pound’s less racist poetry). Anyway, a talented poet, but one whom I may not like.


what is any good

Writerly incoherence, be that in locating a fragment or an active inconsistency in reading. And if it works then it’s not just noise.



A Greek word, and I would suppose that it is THE formal goal of art, meaning a suspension of action and belief (not “suspension of disbelief”, as wiki might want us to think). It seems to tie together a few things: dissolution of content (nothing to believe in); the necessity of language (retaining only the energy of writing); an everyday lifeworld; etc..

As to the metaphor of catalysis, I’d speculate that removing the sacrificial catalyst of habit might use up hermeticism (a difficult music with its subjectivity effaced and without authority) so that language no longer reacts and narrative may enact an epoche (form is postponed by the absence of content?).


Having undergone 
a strange feature of wrench, 
                lightly I,
very light, return; a stroll.


front page ii

I suppose… I’m thinking that a language of objectivism and projectivism that does not contain them can be paralysed into becoming a meaningful poem



I have had experiences of catharsis to art, both contemporary and historic. Drawing some threads of thought into something coherent, I’d have wondered about the value of ‘tragedy’ as something fearful, rather than monstrous (Aristotle), or pitiful, as what includes the value of both beauty and the sublime. I’m reminded of the dissonant shocks of atonal music, shaking a listener from habitual standards, into a state of engagement – by necessity – with critical theory – just to survive (with ideality as limit of dissolution of . . . self – for not in the world . . . just a strange inversion).

Here’s a picture of Guernica:

The horrible inspiration behind one of Picasso's great works, 'Guernica'

As to the title page of the blog, I guess what gets left out and cannot be up-to-date varies with intent, but I’d probably be happiest forgetting politics in poetry, which is quite monstrous until used up – whatever to do with the rub

Jacket on chair

still there. I will

wear it;

it creaks.