February 1st, 2008


Tall Seated at the rear of Starbucks it’s unimaginably elegant but always frightful what you hear. There were rascalities it seemed and they had been alerted to a patrol on its way to investigate what might be thought. Unless one is scared of the future one cannot even begin to consider how to deal with what the alert boys throw at you. In front of the store window only the reflection in the glass seems at all worth forking out one’s hard earned dough for.
The other day, strolling aimlessly through the ornamental department of John Lewis, there was a stack of creatures that had been made out of belief on sale at a discount, but they were so ugly it’s no wonder that the imagination these days is thought by some to be devalued.  It’s only money, but if the thought vanishes while you are thinking it at least the shape of the money remains, and it can be a comfort.
Which brings us to the edge of the swimming pool, and gazing down at the new carpet that has replaced the water. How it reflects the sky can’t be seen, but the sky is expanding now, and what’s in it, all that lingers is the shadow of former expectations. Don’t be disappointed, a  musician cannot be a total failure if, as is argued, there is at least one song.
And those great and graceful birds in their cages, those birds that cannot travel where they would wish because wishes are denied, if they see windows in their minds, can’t they even look through them once in  a while and fall with their dreams on to the great waste as if they were drapes of possibilities?
A washer-woman looks at the day differently, and a winged idea disappears so easily. It’s useless to try to say anything about the real world so the storyteller has to say something about the world outside of everything, which is not not there but is is there, because he says so, or she. And also is the new cloak around the shoulders, the reinforced shoes that keep feet dry, and the snow forecast to blanket us tomorrow. Please don’t discount a built world, a place for small birds to grow into large birds. The sound of their oily throats wakes us at dawn, and the horses thunder across that patch of the distance where you await, rain in your hand as if it were gems. A pleasant afternoon awaits us.
Supposing the telephone were to ring now, and a recorded voice spoke to whichever one of us in the room is not too lazy to answer it, and if we have won a prize in a fantastic competition we can’t remember entering, is that how it works? That a wheel spins and then an event occurs? Almost before it’s considered it’s become a bus, or a taxi cab would be ideal. One more thing: if two sounds disturb the stationary room, will there be a noise worth making?







February 3


Calls from the Outside World by Robert Hershon
(Hanging Loose Press)

Review by Nathan Thompson

I’m going to be honest. The thing that hooked me was seeing my name on the first page:

Celeste called work to leave a message
for Nathan. “Tell him Celeste called.
Tell him something happened”

(from 'Calls from the Outside World')

I guess this makes me narcissistic and shallow but either way it’s a good, conversational, opener and a decent parody of a stereotypical hook-line: you have to keep the reader interested, right? What better way than to say ‘something happened’ and italicise it? – Unless of course you get lucky and name a character after your reader. 


And that became a famous phone message
and part of the folklore
finally working its way into a byword at the
shop and it came to designate a
call from anyone’s spouse or
companion    Hey Richie, line six –

(from 'Calls from the Outside World') 

This kind of slangy everyday talk characterises the collection. And I like what Robert Hershon is up to: pointless and trivial things do, however unreasonably or inexplicably, become catchphrases in a communal environment or relationship. Private shared interpretation attaching a specific occult meaning to a casual or banal phrase is one way of adapting language to deal with experiences of commonality and the interjections of the alien. You don’t need to be creating new language or syntax to ‘make it new’. You just need to reinterpret and relocate the language you’ve got already and create a kind of coterie, or readership, of mutual understanding.  So far, so New York. But it implies exclusion too:

This must be why the linguists
invented prisons, as language laboratories
so that the whole country can imitate
the speech of young black men but
never actually have to see them, so white
golfers can cry You the man
and little blond girls can shout
You go, girl

(from 'Calls from the Outside World')

I wasn’t expecting the sardonic outburst of this final stanza. In a way it’s a welcome jolt but, while I can see how it relates to the others, I’m not sure this sort of sudden broad-brush social commentary improves the poem. It’s a long way to go in a short space, which, I suppose, kind of strengthens Hershon’s message, but maybe overbalances the poem, weighting it to teeter on the brink of polemic. (Or maybe I’m just grumpy because I’m feeling under the weather (aah), which might make up for seeing my name and being happy.  So I’m balanced and objective again. Honest. Anyway:) The slang in the poem outlasts the present staff and takes on a disembodied life of its own. Private language divorced from its original context becomes dangerous by emphasising separateness, creating a sense of ‘an elite’ based entirely on a banal accident. That conclusion, delivered as it is wittily and conversationally, is enough for me without the final stanza.

I love the second poem, ‘Chicken Suit’

A man in a chicken suit
stands at the subway exit
handing out flyers and loudly
proclaiming the virtues of
honey-fried wings or money-
back onion rings
It’s hard to understand him
through the plastic beak and
what does a man in a chicken suit
really have to say to you anyway
This assumes it’s always the same
man inside the chicken suit but
it might be a new guy every day
unless he is dedicated to this form
a career in a chicken suit
And I have been watching him
from the third floor window
for half an hour now
which may indicate the level
of my own ambition this morning
The eagle suit lies on a chair
waiting for a smart breeze

but I’m not going to say any more about it. What’s not to like? And this free-wheeling style is the backbone of the collection. Hershon’s laconic voice is well-suited to the delivery of sharp shocks of observation and absurdity, often combined with deft touches of imaginative humour:

Donna says olives are packed
in tall narrow jars so
all the olives can see out.

(from 'Olives')

But there is a knowing quality to the writing that can grate a little, as it does here, when the author starts on about the process of writing:

When I enter New York Hospital
to be carved upon by Doctor Fowler,
several people say “You might get
a good poem out of it, Donna did”

(from 'Olives')

On the whole though, I’m carping and fault-finding, which is probably not fair. Overall the collection made me feel happy. And it’s nice to feel happy, although there’s not much clever you can say about it. Except that in spite of the fact this is apparently Hershon’s twelfth collection he’s retained an enviable playfulness, as well as a confidence about using small subjects without always feeling the need to magnify them into symbols of something grander, that throws his moments of seriousness into relief (or vice versa depending on your tastes). And I love the feeling of happy-to-be-alive-in-spite-of-it-all that comes through. OK, there’s nothing technically astounding here. The use of line-breaks is great, but that’s about all you can say. Who cares? This is poetry that makes you glad to be the kind of person who reads poetry. And how often can you say that?    



February 7



I popped into “The Lincolnshire Poacher” a couple of nights ago and who should be in there but secret avant-gardist and poet-about-town Jeremy Twill. He was at the bar, hooked up to an intravenous drip, through which he was being steadily supplied with the house red. On the bar was what was evidently not his first pint of ‘Valiant’.

We got to talking, and sometimes when I talk with Twill it’s remarkably like talking to myself. It’s almost exactly the same mixture of wisdom and stupidity. He makes me laugh, and I make him laugh, and then we console ourselves for our sadnesses, and round off the event by rubbishing a few poets we’re not mad about to make ourselves feel better.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (I can’t tell you about what he told me about his butcher and an elderly customer’s Chihuahua, much as I’d like to) our conversation turned to the not unusual question of why the bloody hell, and for how much longer. Do I have to put a question mark there? I can’t figure out if it’s a rhetorical question or not. Here’s one just in case?

So. Anyway:

Hence (a word I only use when the ‘Thus’ tin is empty):

Entries are invited for a very exciting competition! This will be the first and last competition E&D will ever do, so enjoy the moment.

There’s just one question, and (possibly) just one prize.

The question is: What is the point of this website?

(Background information: almost nobody looks at it. A few people I know look at it, and a few people I don’t know, but after that, who? why? I kind of enjoy doing it, although I wish I could be bothered to be ruder to people sometimes, but there’s other things I enjoy that I don’t do – well, not very often, anyway – so my personal enjoyment is not really an issue.)

Entries should be posted as a "Comment". I'm not expecting lots, so I'm sure not to be disappointed.

The prize is: ........ actually, this has yet to be determined. If anyone can come up with an answer that makes sense, beyond the ones I’ve already thought of and thrown into the garbage, I’ll find something.

I think I’m on pretty safe territory.




February 13


The first time I saw Laura Veirs play was at The Maze when “Carbon Glacier” had only been in the shops a little while and a buzz was just starting to be heard around mention of her name. I’d bought the record almost as soon as Lauraveirsit came out on the strength of a newspaper review, and hadn’t been disappointed; that it was felt by many to be the record of the year (2004?) isn’t or wasn’t surprising. Anyways, the first time I saw Laura Veirs play, not too many people had heard of her, and although there was a respectable sized audience there, I was able to say hello to her before the gig as she sat quietly in the corner of the room, and we had a chat for a little while.

The second time I saw Laura Veirs play was also at The Maze. I have no idea when it was, but I do know that it was another excellent show. There were more people there, but it wasn’t full. That time she'd been supported by one other musician on voice and guitar, and the sound of both had been filled out by some of that fancy electronic recording and looping gadgetry that lets you accompany yourself more than once, so one person can end up sounding like a whole group...... oh, I don't know how to describe it, it's all too technologistical for me ......

The third time I saw Laura Veirs play was also also at The Maze, and it was last night. The place was full. Very full. I wasn’t the only person to express surprise that she still plays such a small venue, where 150 or so is a a packed house, but on reflection I’m not complaining, because the intimacy of the place is ideal for her. She’s warm and chatty, and I’d rather see her there, where people listen and feel a part of something, rather than at somewhere like The Rescue Rooms, where half the time people just go because they’ve got nothing better to do.

Veirs’s two most recent records -- "Year of Meteors" & "Saltbreaker"  -- came out while I was in China, and I’ve only recently been able to catch up on them, along with lots of other catching up I’ve been trying to do. It strikes me that “Saltbreaker” is the stronger of the two, and not far off the quality of “Carbon Glacier”.

But she wasn’t really plugging a record at this show. She didn't even have CDs for sale, because she'd sold out and was waiting for fresh supplies. She was just having a good time, playing solo, and playing songs from wherever the songs happened to come from. At one point she asked if there were any requests, and I did something I almost never do, which is shout out. And she played my request – “Rapture” is one of my favourite songs of all time. [Listen] No doubt.

The really great thing about this show was how Veirs has developed as a stage presence. She’s so relaxed now, so chatty and informal. She seemed really happy, happy to be there and happy to be playing. Her looping equipment (it must have a technical name; what is it?) fucked up during the first two songs, and she even managed to enjoy and make entertaining having to stop mid-song and then, before starting again, asking the audience where she’d got to before she’d had to break off. She was forced to play the rest of the show without the aid of any gadgetry to enhance the songs, and in some ways it was fortuitous. We got Laura Veirs unplugged, and she pulled it off perfectly, just a woman, her wonderful voice, great songs, and a guitar -- except for two songs, where the guitar was replaced by a banjo.

And being replaced by a banjo reminds me of something I meant to say, but I’ll save it for another day.



February 15


This is a collaborative poem, originally intended for Valentine's Day, but we got the date wrong. Our watch had stopped. Plus we were (to a man and possibly a woman) almost terminally bored by urchins trying to sell us single roses "for the lady". The contributors to this poem were (in no particular order, and in no particular degree of veracity) the bloke in Pancho's who's best at the kebabs, Mike Nesmith, a chap who's asked me on three successive Wednesdays at the bus stop outside the Victoria Centre if I can spare 90p so he can get to Derby, me ("Don't forget me"), Charlie Potatoes, Marlo Brandon, and the rather strange and somewhat scary person who loiters near the Trinity Square car park. He or she always has the appearance of going somewhere, and of having things to do, but it's also obvious that he or she has nothing to do except loiter. I leave you to figure out which bit of this he or she "contributed".


Conchita! Sweetheart!
(“The Monkees are really underrated.”)

Darling. Friend.
Shakespeare’s sister.

Dream girl. Boy.
Perhaps you are liked.

Sakura Sakurada,
What’s your cellphone number?

Honey bunch of flowers.
Dear Sir/Madam.

Mistress X. Babe.
Friends, Romans, Countryside.

Part of my heart.
To whom it may concern.

“I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”



February 18


Sharon Mesmer is one my favourite people, and this is her new book. What's inside is as good as the cover.


The first poem, the title poem, begins:

You annoying diabetic bitch.
You anorexic bulimic diabetic bitch.
You dumb annoying talentless diabetic bitch, eat some diabetes.
You and your bitch monster diabetic junkhead father,
and your diabetic cat, your pathetic geriatric diabetic cat that eats birds –
bitch birds –
you fuck-ass body monster, you’re lulling me into a diabetic coma
like that annoying secretary from Ally McBeal, you cold British diabetic bitch-dick

I suppose I should say this is all flarf-type stuff. That's all I'm going to say. It's a thing of joy.......

And this, boys and girls, is a bonus:

"Annoying Diabetic Bitch" by Sharon Mesmer is available from Combo Books, price $13.95. (This was the best link I could find; it seems pretty out of date, but go there and you are, at least, in the right neighbourhood. Anyways, you can always buy the book from Amazon..... Don't forget it's Mother's Day soon.



February 24


A poem by Andrew Bailey

Herb Robert

"Australian law is such that no-one can legally claim that the herb is a cancer cure.  No scientific research has been done that shows it can cure any ailment."
Middle Path Awareness Sanctuary website

The great Dioscorides has already described it.
An irrepressible, joyous addition to any garden.
Will add beauty, health, healing wherever it goes.
Thousandweed. Staunchweed.  Nosebleed.

It has this wide range of applications in the home
and clinic: astringent, antibiotic, antiviral,
styptic, tonic, diuretic, Foetid Cranesbill. Stinky Bob.
Note it only smells like foxes, the flavour

is not unpleasant. Old-man's-pepper. Digestive,
sedative, antioxidant. Dog's Toe. The dog
made a full recovery. Felonwort.
Soothing to bladder pains, neuralgia,

Fox Geranium. Yarroway. Cuckoo's Eye.
bruises, fistulas, and skin problems.
Crobh Dearg. The lumps are going.
The new x-rays showed not one sign.

Soldier's Woundwort. No insect pest bothers it.
Granny-Thread-The-Needle. Stinking Jenny. Her life
was now free of any sign of it, which Mary believes
was due, entirely, to taking herb robert daily.

Hop O'my Thumb. Puck. Robin-I'th-Hedge
The nodes started to recede and diminish in size,
Wren's Eye. Devil's Nettle. Dragonsblood.
till they were completely gone. Bloodwort.

Redshanks. Death-come-quickly. Don't. Saint Robert.
Neighbouring plants are healthier and more vigorous.

© Andrew Bailey, 2008



February 26


So this morning I get up and I'm going to Birmingham for a meeting, otherwise called a lunch, but while I'm munching on my morning breakfast cereal I look at The Guardian online and read about Tegan & Sara and there are two reasons why I think I might like them: Neil Young likes them, their latest record is produced by one of the blokes from Death Cab for Cutie, and they are said to sound poppy. OK, three reasons.

Half an hour later I have their new record on the computer and play it while I shower and get ready to go out. Yes, it's poppy and probably not the deepest or most original stuff you'll ever hear, but it's also very listenable when you're looking in the mirror trying to get your hair right.

The lunch was very nice, too. And all day, from the moment I walked out the door, while I was on the train to Birmingham, while I was at lunch, and while I was on the train home, I had the riff from Nick Cave's "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!" going through my head. It's a great riff, I think ....



February 29


Although some people apparently never look at the sidebar, I've just put a couple of new bits of music on there. I know there's more music than poems on here sometimes, but that's because, well, you know.....

Dawson2and while I was looking for the cover image of the Kimya Dawson record I came across a photo of her. She has wild hair, don't she?

Other stuff happened today. When I went to the Post office to post a Mother's Day card to my, um, mother.... well, there was a woman getting cash from the cash machine next to the Post Office door, and she had a kid in a buggy pushchair thing, and the pushchair was right in front of the door, blocking the entrance. So I said "Excuse me, can you move the pushchair please?" and the woman looked at me like I was some kind of child-molesting-single-mother-raper and, frankly, to put it bluntly, she didn't move the pushchair. So I did. It didn't make her the happiest mother in the world, but ....

What else happened today?

Oh yeah.....  I wrote this. I seem to have given up on poems of late, and taken to chunks of prose. I think I must be tired of figuring out the line-breaks.

A visit to the hairdresser

A gadget was on the street, abandoned by someone who had no love for such things. Electronically, the day began but ended unexpectedly because there was, let’s suggest, no interest. A hairdresser arrived at the shop and found people queueing, waiting. But where was the desire? As the street sweepers reached the end of their shift and turned homeward, some people were just waking up. This world is exquisitely so extremely full of difference.
Quietly, as if by suggestion and not by wish, someone who cannot sing to save their life begins to sing. It is during the time of hanging washing out on the line, to catch the few moments of winter sunshine. God redeems vouchers, or promises to do so. And thick pants, they take so much time, don’t they, in this weather?
And a long, long walk awaits those who want to go further than their ancestors. If it’s as far as you can see, fine. If it’s further than anyone can imagine, even finer. If it’s off the face of everything, you will be happier than a pug in sunshine. Where the water ends and the water begins is, as if you need telling, where nothing matters any more. Listen, and shadows, even shadows have voices. It is a season of mystery, but rather be there than elsewhere where meaning is so clear you fall asleep with knowing.
At, meanwhile, the hair salon, where Donna is still looking for her scissors and Craig, the new shampoo boy, is checking for one last speck of conditioner in the hair of a girl who thinks of herself, only of herself (assumption) it’s coffee time. If Coffee, a girl who thought only of herself (proven) were here now, what would happen? Rhetorical question.
Names mean nothing. Once, and this could not happen long ago in the time of mythology or even before that, before people had the wit to make up stuff and pre-empt the movies, an orchestra was travelling a lonely stony road. The back row of the orchestra, which even in those days consisted mainly of drummers and rarely called upon but nevertheless indispensable percussionists, some of them were eager for haircuts. Hair is important for some people. It’s not how you look, it’s how you think you look that matters. Such was, in those days and even now, The Wisdom.
And teeth, those shiny things, those false things, they matter too. An age passes and even as we drift beyond ourselves into history some of what we care about will remain. Don’t sing if you can’t.  Shout if you can. Of the myriad wanderings that will be written about, only a few of them really matter. That walk to the hairdresser was not one of them. And when the boys call out from the shelter to see if you have any money to spare, don’t turn around. Or do turn around. It makes no difference to the outcome, to be honest.




I've got a cold, so I'm pissed off, but to cheer myself up (and I hope to brighten your day too) here is something that cheers me up. Oh, I don't know, but I just re-discovered him and here he is. There's some more stuff on YouTube if you feel like looking. This is comic genius, I think.

and in case you look at this site and (I don't understand how, but if you) hate all the indie cool rock'n'roll music I love and put on here, here's some good solid old fashioned music for you: