Monday, 30 May 2016


Phil Smith heading into the woods

Some walkers and Phil on the stony beach

empty 1930s swimming pool 
ready to roll
Yesterday I went on an artist walk in the Dartington estate led by the Mythogeographer also known as Phil Smith. The event was organised by artdotearth. Just a small group of people gathered at the car park of Schumacher College and walked from there into North Wood, a plantation of huge conifers that must have been started in the 1920s, a wonderful space with giant red trunks pushing up to the sky. Here and there in the wood are various handmade structures, frames of shelters, gathering places with seating, odd sheds, and what looked like a Jules Verne space ship stuck up in a tree. We walked around North Wood and Newground Plantation, taking a meandering route, sometimes into patches of deciduous trees with undergrowth of ground elder, wild garlic, ferns, nettles, brambles, and bluebells now past their best; there was no undergrowth beneath the conifers, just a deep mulch of needles.
     We walked into Stillpool Coppice and Staverton Ford Plantation getting down onto the stony beach at Staverton Ford on the river Dart where there was a group of youngsters playing games by the water and cooking a barbecue. We walked close to the estate boundary on the edge of farmland and woodland, following the route of the river Dart and then taking a path in towards the centre that joined Warren lane and then past Chimmels, Blacklers, The Hexagon, Aller Park and into Blackler's Copse. It took two and a half hours to go round. All of the woodland walk, the bathing place on the Dart, and the path at the edge of the boundary wall was new to me, though I recognised the buildings at the end where some of my friends used to have offices when Dartington College was still in existence. I've given various readings and performances in Dartington, invited at different times by Caroline Bergvall and Larry Lynch, and a Dartington Space residency event in 2012.
     So the walk was rewarding because I got to see more of the Dartington estate but the main interest was Phil Smith's mythic reading of the landscape, first of all in terms twentieth-century Utopian experiments and then thinking about different aspects of the history and prehistory of the area. This was coloured by Phil's own experience of the place, since he was a teacher of performance for a time at the college, working with different groups of students, mostly outside in the landscape. So the various locations we went to had been the scene of student performances some time back. The ford was particularly rich as a location and I was much impressed with the empty swimming pool at Aller Park. We joined in with a number of low key workshop-type things (that I won't report on here) as we went round the walk and Phil is an excellent leader and storyteller guide to the landscape. It was good to see friends Richard Povall and Nancy Sinclair along with the other participants.

Friday, 22 April 2016


My first USA published book was False Memory, 1996, from The Figures, the poetry press run by Geoffrey Young. I sent my manuscript there because I thought that the press was really outstanding, it included books by Bruce Andrews, Rae Armantrout, David Bromige, Clark Coolidge, Michael Davidson, Christopher Dewdney, Lyn Hejinian, Fanny Howe, Ron Padgett, Bob Perelman, Kit Robinson, Stephen Rodefer, Peter Scheldahl, Ron Silliman and some others I didn't know back then. These were the writers whose work interested me so I thought it would be a good fit. The only English poet on the list at that time was Tom Raworth. I went to Romana Huk's conference "Assembling Alternatives" at New Hampshire -- which got me over to the US -- and then I stayed with Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop in Providence, Rhode Island, and read at Brown University. From there I drove to Great Barrington via Emily Dickinson's house at Amherst, travelling with Stephen Rodefer. Geoffrey Young organised a salon at his house for the publication of False Memory. I read there with Stephen and with Ben Friedlander. I got to know Geoff through the post, working on the book with him, so clear and focused, I never had a better editor. We set it in Palatino on a mac, it was printed in a local trade printshop in Great Barrington. For the cover image of this funky looking chapbook he got a photo of Charles Le Dray's sculpture "Milk and Honey", 1994-96, which had just been bought by the Whitney Museum of American Art, I think the first major museum sale for that brilliant artist. There are hundreds of tiny hand made pots, all different, mounted in a glass vitrine. These photos were mostly taken by Geoffrey Young; I was fortunate to be in such company.

This is me reading with Stephen Rodefer, Ben Friedlander and Michael Gottlieb

Michael Gottlieb, me, Carla Billitteri, Pierre Joris

Belle Gironda
Carla Billitteri and Cheryl Donegan

Our host Geoffrey Young

John Mason, Christopher Funkhauser, Ben Friedlander

me, Stephen Rodefer, Ben Friedlander

Carla Billitteri, Pierre Joris, Liz Inglis, Cheryl Donegan, Kenny Goldsmith

Michael Gottlieb and me

Kenny Goldsmith and Laura Chester

Saturday, 20 June 2015


WOR(L)DS IN COLLISION is an exhibition of artworks intersecting with the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, currently on show at Byrne House (the base of Egenis) at the University of Exeter. The show includes work by Richard Carter, Sas Colby, David Connearn, Johanna Drucker, John Hall, Alan Halsey, Tony Lopez, Jaime Robles, Mike Rose-Steel, Suzanne Steele, Dan Wood and others. I went to the opening on Friday 12 June 2015, and so far as I can work out the company included Alan Halsey, Geraldine Monk, Regenia Gagnier, John Dupre, John Hall, Alan Munton, Steve Spence, Victoria Heath, Suzanne Steele, James Freeman, Ian Ground, Christina Burke-Tees, Maddie Dodds, Steve Spence, John Venn, Paul Martin, Lorna Wilkinson, Lucinda Carey, Frederick Cooper, Richard Carter and Dan Wood.

I've added some photos of the work, including my text animation More and More, a frame from Alan Halsey's Memory Screen, two individual facets from The Wittgenstein Vector by Mike Rose-Steel, Jaime Robles and Suzanne Steele, Looseidity by John Hall and Untitled by Dan Wood.

I'm grateful to Jaime Robles and Mike Rose-Steel who organised the exhibition -- it's great to see More and More, which is on loan from Bury Art Museum, installed so well.

The exhibition WOR(L)DS IN COLLISION runs until September 2015 at Byrne House, University of Exeter.


Monday, 28 July 2014


9th July 2014.
We got to the gallery before opening time at 10 am expecting a big queue but it was fine, only about 20 people ahead. Gallery staff dressed in black walked along the line with leaflets and warned us that watches, phones and bags would have to be stored while we were in the gallery. 'You can stay as long as you like', they said 'but only one admission per day'.
     We were met at the entrance by Marina Abramovic who shook hands and said 'Good Morning' to each person who went in. Then we went through the entrance hall to a room with lockers. I removed my jacket but was turned back because I'd left my watch on.
     We went into the first room where there was a group of black uniformed young people on a central raised platform, just a step up, and a few chairs round the outside of the room. The staff picked on individual people, held their hands, and took them up onto the platform, whispering instructions into their ears. Each audience member and a uniformed staff member stood together with eyes closed, holding hands for a few minutes, then the staff member left them to it. I watched this for a while, sat down and took some time to get used to the room, everything slowed. The group on the platform was turning into mostly audience. My daughter Lucy had gone on to another room.
    I went to the entrance of the second room, a long gallery. Marina Abramovic, in the same black outfit, came up and took my hand and led me to the end of the room. She told me I was to walk as slowly as possible up and down the room seven times. She walked beside me, still holding hands, so that I could slow down enough to be in step with her.  'It is important to complete seven lengths of the room', she said, 'four times will be boring but after that it is bliss'. Then she moved away.
     Quite a few people were in the room going up and down, each more or less successful in getting out of the way of oncomers. It seemed a very long time to do one length of the room and turn at the same pace. The floor was tiled in rows I think, certainly there were stripes on the floor. Lucy was already walking her own line. After a while a man in a red monk's habit came and walked beside me on the next row, shoes off, wearing deep red woollen socks. His head was shaved. I was feeling hot in my shoes and stopped at the end of the second round to take them off. I noticed the other walkers, some of them were started off like me by Marina or other staff members. They would walk together with an audience member for a little while. This was a durational performance made by the audience who became the performers. And the task was so simple that they needn't be nervous or worried about exposure or failure. To me it seemed to be an occasion of mindfulness set up for participants out of the simplest means, with Marina and her assistants framing and helping it to run.
     It took a long time to finish the seven lengths of the long room, as slowly as possible; it made me aware of my pace and balance, the overall awareness of gait: proprioception. I could see others stopping and starting, avoiding, leaving, speeding and slowing down. There were smiles as I repeatedly met particular people on the way, which was a pleasure. When I had completed the seven lengths I put my shoes on, turned and walked out of the room. Marina came up and put her hands on my shoulders and smiled. 'So you survived it then', she said. I agreed, happily, and went to the next room.
     The third room was set up with small individual tables and chairs set in rows, just like an exam hall. I went just inside, looking for Lucy, and a black clothed young woman came up and asked me if I wanted to take part in the activity. I did. She took me to a recently vacated small table with a pile of rice and lentils, a piece of paper and a pencil. 'People are separating the rice and lentils and counting them', she said. So I sat down and made a start. At first I wondered if I could be bothered to do this pointless task, feeling a dupe of the set up, doing something that would be immediately undone. But I started to do it and became quite engrossed in picking out the green lentils which were thicker and thus stood a little proud of the white long grain rice. Like the slow walking it was a good task for someone always plotting and worrying about the next thing -- a good task to establish a mindful present awareness -- the simplicity and lack of strategy in it helped to establish that. I didn't go blank exactly, but I kept my eyes on the rice and lentils, getting them spread out a bit to make the separation easier. Lucy was in the row ahead of me and she finished before me and went out of sight. Some people walked in between the desks looking at those of us who were completing our task. I wondered how long I had been there and if Lucy might be waiting, needing to leave. I decided to just carry on and continue the task until it was finished, it didn't look as if it would take that long. I had a big circle of green lentils and a bigger one of white rice. When I looked at the paper I saw that the previous person had written '500 lentils, 500 rice (estimate)'. I added '(certainly a lot)'. Then I went out to the locker room where Lucy was waiting. We had used just the one locker and I had the key. When I got my watch back I found we had been inside for two and a half hours, fully involved for all that time. I wondered if the red-clothed western buddhist monk was a plant.
     Marina Abramovic and her assistants carried out a low key performance that enabled the audience to perform themselves within a framework established by the artist and the management of the venue that commissioned the piece. It put me into a state of mindfulness for two and a half hours, without any religious language or imagery. It massively exceeded my expectations. I had previously read some bad press stories about Abramovic online but this was a good experience.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


I went to the letterpress workshop in Plymouth yesterday to print the edition of Bob Cobbing's wonderful poem 'Wan Do Tree'. I really like the practical process of printing, working with the machinery to make something beautiful, and it's a special pleasure to work on a Cobbing piece. Each print day requires planning and preparation, trying out various design ideas and then working out what can actually be done with the equipment and available type. There are other people working in the print shop on completely different projects and I couldn't get anything done there without the 'old school' printer technician Paul Collier who runs the place. So it is in various ways a collaborative effort. The photo above shows the type for 'Wan Do Tree' set up in my favourite press, furniture clamping the composition in place, with ink-charged rollers ready to go. The colour is called boysenberry and it looks rich on Somerset satin paper.
     My first experience of printing machinery was learning to print on an offset litho machine in the basement of the Poetry Society, this was at Earls Court Square (London) in the early seventies, and it was Bob Cobbing who taught me how to print. The machine was used for the large format Poetry Review edited by Eric Mottram and it was possible to print there just by asking if you had the front. I made some pamphlets and sold them door to door in South London. I also learnt silkscreen on very home-made equipment about the same time. Bob printed some of his Writers Forum books there as well as Poetry Review, and used the printing process for direct composition, just as he did on mimeo and later on a photocopier. There's an excellent piece by Lawrence Upton on Bob Cobbing here.

'Wan Do Tree' is copyright (c) Bob Cobbing 1977. I'm grateful to the Bob Cobbing estate for permission to make my new edition which is available only at

Saturday, 14 June 2014


I was at this high speed colloquium, chaired and introduced by Regenia Gagnier, on Thursday 12 June 2014 to show some recent work and give a brief talk. The speakers were John Dupre, Meaning as Use;  Aron Vinegar, 'What is the logical form of that?' Wittgenstein, Gesture and the Arts; Jaime Robles, Verbal Entanglements: The physical aspects of language and its digitisation; Mike Rose-Steel, Tweeting the Roman de la Rose: digitisation, social media and constraints; Tony Lopez, 'This is a forensic sentence'; Suzanne Steele, Northern Exposure: digital transparency, embeddedness and the Canadian war artist; Richard Carter, Performing the Algorithm: Engagements with Digital Literature.
     Great to see so many Exeter people there including Lewis expert Alan Munton, the curator Cristina Burke-Trees, and Martyn Windsor from CCANW. Thanks to Jaime Robles and Mike Rose-Steel for inviting me to speak and for organising the event. The meeting was to explore future collaborative projects in philosophy, art, technology, english, hopefully right across the spectrum.

Thursday, 10 April 2014


I just got a copy of my latest publication Nevermore from ZimZalla run by Tom Jenks. This is a standing poem in the form of a zigzag folding card with a silkscreen text printed on both sides. A tribute to the poet Robert Creeley, the text in full is a variation on the statement 'form is never more than an extension of content' attributed to Creeley by Charles Olson in his 1950 essay 'Projective Verse'. My poem is designed as a portable Creeley memorial, alluding also to Olson and (because of the title) further back to that pioneer of American poetics Edgar Allen Poe. Ideally this piece would be made in wood and fabric and installed as a free standing folding screen with a face size of just under six foot square.
The folding card is 350 gsm Antalis Perfect Image printed by Handbench Screenprint.

The black side of the sleeve cover is letterpress printed in three kinds of Univers type and the red side is a purpose-made ZimZalla rubber stamp, both on 300 gsm Somerset printmaking paper. This is a hand made edition of 40 copies available only from ZimZalla.