I have some new writing out. A Study of a Long-lived Magma Ocean on a Young Moon is a pamphlet created with Ella Johnston and published through our little ol’ Dunlin Press. Ella has contributed asemic writing/art and I’ve added the words. The title comes from a scientific paper, and we riffed on it.
And when I say we riffed on it, I mean we not only produced the words and images for the pamphlet, we also produced large-scale paintings, ceramic objects and video (Ella) and a soundtrack album (me).
Taking the lead from Ella’s asemic pieces for both the pages and the gallery walls, in which ink lines and shapes are applied quickly to paper, we also worked quickly and edited lightly across all the media and materials that went into the Young Moon project. The poetry in the pamphlet is a collage of found words and phrases from scientific texts, and rounded with immediate thoughts and automatic writing, and the music was mostly improvised and recorded in single takes, with minimal editing and mastering.
The whole project has been fun and a positive exercise in working with a great sense of unburdened freedom. A lesson to remember! I’m also really pleased with how it’s all turned out.
You can get a copy of the limited edition pamphlet from the Dunlin Press shop, here.
My new chapbook, The End of Music, published by The Black Light Engine Room and the indomitable PA Morbid, is out now.
What’s it all about? It’s about playing in never-quite-famous indie bands “back in the day”, and also about loads of rock and pop stars who are no longer with us. Not exactly the ’27 club’, but that kind of thing. People gone too soon. And there’s plenty of them. And it’s about the joy of music, and how it makes you feel.
Who’s in the End of Music supergroup? Lemmy. Syd Barrett. Prince. Michael Hutchence. Sophie. Metallica’s Cliff Burton. Alice Coltrane. Stuart Adamson. Leonard Cohen. And there are other references to, to Mahler, Selena Gomez, more. There’s even one about Pavement that you can read to the rhythm of ‘Cut Your Hair’.
And so the poems in The End of Music include descriptions drawn from my own experiences of time as a singer and songwriter, and from performing as a musician in bands in the 80s, 90s, 2000s. And they also include a bricolage of mediated, cut-up and collaged words and phrases originally found in music reviews and critical retrospectives, online and in print, from a wide variety of sources including ‘below-the-line’ comments on sites such as YouTube.
Versions of a few of the poems have previously been published in The Broken Spine, DREICH 9, and Beir Bua’s journal.
Here are some notes on the text with irrelevant page numbers:
p8 Syd Barrett was the co-founder of the English psychedelic and progressive rock band, Pink Floyd. p9 Oh Yeah is a song by Can, the German experimental rock band. p10 Manuel Göttsching is a German musician and composer, and an influential experimental Krautrock/Kosmische Musik guitarist. p11 Journey in Satchidananda, is an album by jazz keyboardist and harpist Alice Coltrane, featuring saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders and named for her spiritual adviser Swami Satchidananda. p14 Ace of Spades is a song by UK heavy metal band Motörhead. Lemmy was the band’s singer and bass player. p18 Leonard Cohen died in November 2016. p20 The words “Our love was made to rule the world, you left me wanting what we were” are from the Selena Gomez song Forget Forever. ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ is a poem by German poet Friedrich Rückert, which was set to music by Austro-Bohemian composer Gustav Mahler. p21 “Bimm Bamm”, or “Bim Bam”, is a phrase sung by the boy’s choir in the fifth movement of Mahler’s third symphony. p22 ‘Cut Your Hair’ was a 1994 single by US alternative band Pavement. Its lyric can be swapped for this poem. p24 Taylor Swift’s album 1989 was released in 2014. p25 Disintegration Loops is a suite of music by the American avant-garde composer William Basinski. p26 Tchakrulo or Chakrulo is a Georgian folk song and was recorded for the Golden Record, which was carried into space aboard the Voyager space missions. p27 Sophie Xeon was a Scottish musician, singer and producer. She died in January 2021.
If you’d like a copy of the chapbook they’re £6 and available almost exclusively from yours truly, so message me and we can arrange details.
It’s a fun little thing this. I hope anyone who loves or plays music will like it.
The poems, writings, texts – I’m not too concerned with definitions – in this short collection of recent work is purposely heteroglossic. Or maybe that’s polyphonous, or dialogic, in its multifarious registers of language. It encompasses instances of office jargon, marketing strategy terminology, symbols lifted from popular culture, references to continental philosophy, Marxist theory, art theory and critical studies, old documentary footage, movie-star biographies, science texts, Elizabethan drama, nature writing, local observation, memoir, dreams, overheard conversations, below-the-line comment from websites, phrases altered sequentially through an online thesaurus, the occasional neologism, slang… and more.
Quite usually, the various parts collide in quick succession during the course of a single small work. I don’t think we experience the world in straight lines. I mean, there may be a beginning, types of mid-points, and then a disappearance that we may wish to see as some kind of an end, but how we get from one to another is never even, never consistent, never quite understood.
(Outside, as I was writing, it suddenly started to rain. Now it has stopped again, and this sentence is already too late. And now…)
Let’s shout out to American composer Charles Ives and his Unanswered Question, and to Leonard Bernstein discussing ‘the delights and dangers of ambiguity’, after which we can measure the value of doubt and uncertainty against things that are capable of being understood in two or more possible ways. Why do we need all our questions answered? The biggest, life-giving ones are always beyond us. We rarely seek certainty from the music we listen to or the best of the paintings we see. We don’t need to understand why Rothko switched to yellow paint for that particular canvas for us to be in awe of it, or to understand the tonal scheme and shift from D major in Mahler’s ninth symphony for us to enjoy it’s great, deep beauty.
Writing raises questions better than it answers them. Or at least that’s some of what these various poems (etc) seem to demonstrate. I hope so. Maybe in them we can see a few of the symmetries, elisions, repetitions and deletions we experience in our everyday lives. Maybe, in re-writing the poems as we read them, we’ll stumble across the temporal subjectivities that undercut any ideas we have of finding definitive versions or true authorship. Maybe, out of the debris – the imagism, the rivulets of consciousness, the cut-up, the bricolage, the Po-Mo, the deconstruction, the hauntology – we’ll find something useful or good.
All of us know very little. That’s a start.
You can buy The Zircon Ferries from Beir Bua Press here.
My latest bunch o’ poems, The Zircon Ferries, is out now with Beir Bua Press. Thanks so much to Michelle Moloney King and the press for publishing it, and to Ella Johnston for the artwork on the cover and the vispo elements inside.
Here’s some nice stuff people have said about the poems:
And here’s a poem as a taster:
Some History Revision
Perhaps towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the early years of EastEnders, with Pat Butcher sailing back to Cannes from Elba where she’d exiled alone in a replica edition of The Queen Vic, and the call to arms was simply to pour some pints, wave some flags, and the bends in the river went on and on.
Even then we felt something needed to give as Prussia was restored to its former borders, Britain sized up its economic power and Bono considered a cowboy hat. The Congress of Vienna, delivered by Walls or Lyons Maid sustained us through a decade of hot summers foreign films on Channel 4 and European football bans.
Let’s not forget in the analogue of days, that hayfever found us in any green room. It meant a day off books, revision time for abdications at Rochefort, Murat confused with Marat, Wicksy merging with Curly Watts, channel-hopping again as we lived through deconstruction.
We never knew enough. Still don’t. It would be easy to cry about it, and maybe tempting, all of us waiting for plot twists, following the narrative arcs of characters who now seem little more than clichés. Don’t start, some facts persist and somewhere some new coalition is polishing the optics, seeking its brief period of costly domination, waiting for the drums to kick things off.
Elsewhere there’s Immanuel Kant and Steve McQueen (or not), and painter Agnes Martin and a lizard caught in a thesaurus as it tries to cross the road, and philosopher Jacques Ranciere, and the meaning of an ‘oppolin’, and business meetings, and Andy Warhol, and a cheese sandwich, and trends in crisps, and a hoopoe, and Blackfriars Bridge, and object-oriented theory and, well, more. Etc.
You can get it here, and it doesn’t cost a lot (prices are shown in dollars but it prints regionally), so please support this marvellous experimental press in Co. Tipperary if you can – it’ll help keep the interesting stuff happening. And I’ll love you forever and more..
Totally excited to announce that I have a new longish-pamphlet of poems, The Zircon Ferries, coming out at the end of August 2021 with the incredible Beir Bua Press. The press, based in Co. Tipperary, is run by award-winning poet Michelle Moloney King. It’s the publishing press of sister site Beir Bua Journal and publishes experimental, avant-garde and vispo poetry pamphlets – and there’s a bit of all of that in The Zircon Ferries. Beir Bua is the perfect place for it, so I’m delighted to be there.
I know, it’s been just over a year since Pomes Flixus was published, but I’ve somehow been writing at pace, which I like, and making quick and brutal edits, rather than procrastinating over decisions and making ponderous revisions. I think that the process has kept them vivid and fresh and packed with ideas. To quote from the intro:
‘The poems, writings, texts – I’m not too concerned with definitions – in this short collection of recent work is purposely heteroglossic. Or maybe that’s polyphonous, or dialogic, in its multifarious registers of language. It encompasses instances of office jargon, marketing strategy terminology, symbols lifted from popular culture, references to continental philosophy, Marxist theory, art theory and critical studies, old documentary footage, movie-star biographies, science texts, Elizabethan drama, nature writing, local observation, memoir, dreams, overheard conversations, below-the-line comment from websites, phrases altered sequentially through an online thesaurus, the occasional neologism, slang… and more.”
Here’s a taster:
So, you get three philosophers for the price of one. The Third? Henri Lefebvre provides the title and something of the narrative. It’s that kind of collection.
I have an author page at Beir Bua here, or you could just go and buy The Zircon Ferries at the shop here.
But what are the Zircon Ferries? Well. Well well. We’ll see.
Fred Frith writes music with titles such as ‘No Birds’ and ‘The As Usual Dance Towards the Other Flight to What is Not’. He prepares and plays guitars with drum sticks, ping pong balls, ribbons, anything. He is an expert with delay. Fred Frith is an experiment. Are there rules? What are the rules? Need there be rules?