Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Monthly Archives: June 2011

George Barker and the exaggerated death of David Gascoyne

New piece added to the ‘George Barker: fragments’ page, on a variant draft of Barker’s “Elegy” that indicates that at one point he had believed his friend and fellow poet David Gascoyne to be dead. Here or via the Barker tab at the top of this page, and then scroll down.

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Back from oblivion: tracking the poetry of Gordon Wharton

New page added (tab up the top, or go here), devoted to an attempt at a proper appreciation of the poetry of Gordon Wharton, whose first three small collections were published from 1954 to 1957, but who has recently made a startling comeback, fifty four years on, with an excellent new collection, Towards Oblivion. A British poet who certainly deserves to be read and recognised.

three composite self portraits

Composite self portraits: pen and ink drawings, layered digitally.

George Barker: the genesis of Gog and Magog

New fragment added to the George Barker page, concerning the origins of his “Gog and Magog” characters in Dialogues etc. Tab at the top or click here.

Characters of fag smoke

You people of steam
and persons of transparency,
here one minute,
and the next for always gone –
focus while I outline
what is coming clear to me:
that half a loaf of living
is preferable to none.

Living – it has done for me.
It has been done to me.
My own poor beauty –
look at how you’ve turned.
Put an eye to the keyhole
and tell me when they come for me.
Count me down to grey and brown;
watch me when I burn.

You characters of fag smoke
and fragments of no substance,
say a prayer for the hair
on my chinny chin chin.
Grace to my face
holds a mirror at a distance.
By the skin of Christ’s teeth,
I am hanging in.

Copyright 2011 Richard Warren

George Barker on poetry and the incantatory

New fragment added to the George Barker page – tab above or go here – on poetry and the incantatory, excerpted from Barker’s 1985 pamphlet essay The Jubjub Bird or Some Remarks on the Prose Poem.

George Barker: fragments

New page added with a couple of bits and pieces on the poetry of George Barker. Other bits may be added to it as we go along. This incorporates the June 12 post “An unpublished fragment by George Barker”, which I’ve taken down.  The new page includes an image of Barker by Jessica Dismorr. Tab to the new page up above or link here.

a history of my short life as a poet (so far), part 2: “like Rudyard Kipling on crack”

Recently happened across a review in Sphinx 11, 2009, of one of my first pamphlets of poems, Dead Cat Bounce. I’d clean forgotten I’d sent this in. Two years isn’t a long time, but it seems a long time since I wrote these. Reading the reviews felt compulsive but cringeworthy, like seeing an old photo of yourself in a crap haircut.

Three reviewers, two anti and one pro. At this distance, I’m inclined to side with the anti’s, but I do appreciate the positive comments. In fact, I appreciate anyone taking the time and trouble to review my stuff. Thank you, Sphinx. And, it’s something more to plunder for quotes to fill up the poetic CV. I chose these:

“Is Warren advocating revolution, or just having a good old moan?

I’d much rather read … any new poem by … Carol Ann Duffy.”

Karin Koller

“Unfortunately, Warren isn’t quite there yet.”

David Floyd

“Like Rudyard Kipling on crack.

Though not every line is a pearl, his insights are as good as his ear … In places, his social commentary is as trenchant as W.S. Gilbert’s, and I mean that as a very high compliment.”

Marcia Menter

Cremating a cousin in Golder’s Green

1

Over the large and empty field, but with diminished expectations, birds are circling.
Frost on the hard soil’s surface heightens the trace of the tractor’s path.
Soon gone is the longed for, comforting moment, converted neatly to abandoned history;
still to come is the deceitful and appalling aftermath.
Heaven or hell for these my fellow passengers?
At a rough guess, I’d say the latter for the larger half.

Each on their own reduced assignment sits and is busy in its preparation,
applies make-up, sips water, brushes away a crumb,
sends a final and definitive text, takes a moment to settle her features
appropriately to the minor judgement next to come,
looks to his laptop, guards his bag, flips pages, bites her finger.
But the zig-zag taxi will take each of us surely to an expectant crematorium.

Hiding a yawn is now hardly worth it;
dark mouths widen to their noiseless but original screams.
Preoccupations drop in shreds,
and once more everything is demonstrated as precisely what it seems.
This is the nasty face at the window; here is her fear; now is the hour he so correctly dreads.
Look – here come the bellowing horrors of our collective and recurring dreams.

2

Still breathing, after a fashion, is the photo, but stone cold is the photographer.
The thought, word, intention, curl away to hang as ashes in the whitening air.
After a while there is no value left in lamentation;
facing the facts, we face the front in coffin-wise procession, heading off feet first to God knows where.
Some closing words, well crafted and respectful, hint politely at conceivable redemption.
We give thanks for your zest, but we ignore the elephantine ghosts of desertion, disappointment and despair.

For a while there, I had forgotten you ever existed, but a death is a rough reminder.
Even so, your memory will be on a short lease, and in a closed niche.
So I attempt to reconstruct your other life, the one I didn’t know about, so can’t remember:
a clear Greek sky, your permanent chair in the Copacabana, boules and British beer on an expatriate beach.
Someone will empty your ashes into the Mediterranean. Outside the chapel,
I stare stupidly at your flowers, and know full well that nothing much of you was ever in my reach.

I catch up with your nieces and their husbands. Funny we only meet at funerals.
A hollow sense of duty has brought me to this curious place
to try to repay – far too late, I have to say – a little kindness for which I’m still grateful.
We were both exiles from the same small offshoot of the human race.
The other mourners leave for the pub, to raise a glass darkly, but I hang on a bit, examine the plaques, and wonder –
what in heaven’s name am I going to I say when I see you face to face?

Copyright Richard Warren 2011

rage1

photos taken in Amsterdam 2007