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Lawrence Upton: ‘the stuff of things’ 

 

 

by

 

 

Robert Hampson 

 

 

I first came across the name Lawrence Upton early in the 1970s in listings in poetry magazines. In those days, we relied on such listings (alongside book shops like Better Books in Charring Cross Road and later Compendium in Camden Town) as a guide to who was doing whatand what magazines might be worth buying or worth sending material to.2 Lawrence was thus first known to me as the editor of Good Elf magazine. In Peter Finch’s Second Aeon, for example, Good Elf was ‘described as ‘one of the best spirited mags in the uk’. Finch explained: ‘editor Lawrence Upton insists on interjecting all sorts of useful and useless info before, between and after the poems, often had me on the floor laughing’.3  I am not sure I saw any of the early issues. I couldn’t get over the terrible pun in the title and never thought of it as a place to send work.

Lawrence was also visible through his active involvement in Poets Conference, which, in the early 1970s, was campaigning for a living wage for poets and for a National Poetry Centre,4 and through his work for the Association of Little Presses (he was Secretary from 1972 to 1977). I must have seen him at the ALP’s annual book-fair at the London Musicians Collective/London Film-makers Co-op at 42 Gloucester Avenue, NW1. He was also, of course, prominent in the activities of the revived Poetry Society. The genteel and moribund old Society had been shaken up by the re-election of Bob Cobbing and Stuart Montgomery and the election of Eric Mottram, Asa Benveniste, and Anthony Rudolf to the Society’s General Council in 1970-71; followed, over the next few years, by the election of Allen Fisher, Lee Harwood, Peter Hodgkiss, Barry MacSweeney, Pete Morgan, Tom Pickard, Elaine Randell, Ken Smith and Lawrence Upton. Lawrence was on the Executive Committee in 1974 and, by 1975-76, he was Deputy Chairman until his resignation (with Bob Cobbing and Eric Mottram) in November 1976 in response to the Witt report.5 I would certainly have seen him at Poetry Society events, at the AGMs, and in the Poetry Society’s cramped basement baror the somewhat louche bar of the White Horse Hotel next door in Earl’s Court Square. I remember him as a friendly and energetic presence.

Good Elf 5/6 (November 1977), which was the first issue for five years, came out after the resignation of many members of the General Council of the Poetry Society. It is also the only issue I bought: it included work by Bill Griffiths, S. J. Clews and Jeff Nuttall (Bill and Jeff had also been members of the Poetry Society’s General Council) as well as Nuttall’s suppressed ‘New Manifesto for the Poetry Society’, which was written during the heat of the Poetry Society battle. Lawrence introduces Good Elf 5/6 with an editorial on events at the Poetry Society (and reflections on censorship) and with a clear sense of his return to Good Elf as marking a new beginning. That the departure from the Poetry Society was the end of the first phase of an unfinished project is suggested by the inclusion of the Manifesto. Nuttall’s preface to the Manifesto ends with a call to ‘focus attention on real British poetry’ and a list of the magazines ‘where it is to be found’: ‘Joe di Maggio, Spanner, Fix, Alembic, Sixpack, the Curiously Strong, Curtains and the Poetry Review under Mottram’.

The Manifesto itself begins with two assertions of creative freedom:

1. That the creative imagination of each individual is the sole continuing force of new forms, new ideas and new vocabulary, by which language must be perpetually revitalised.

2. That it is always permissible, and often imperative, to suspend the functioning laws of grammar and syntax when the creative imagination is brought into play.    

 It ends with similar large assertions, promoting internationalism and cross-media practice:

11. That poets are not concerned exclusively with their native tongue; that poetry is international and translingual, that English poetry should concern itself with poetry and the world, not merely with England and English.

12. That poetry, far from being the mere manipulation of words, is a visionary discipline which informs certain sections of all the arts, and that all media enjoying a poetic character are the concerns of the Society.

In between. there are also more practical proposals, such as Item 10, which begins: ‘That in a unique Poetry Centre, in which printing, bookshop, performance and library facilities are brought together under one roof, precedence be given to printing and publication’. These were the radical views of the group on the General Council with which Lawrence was associatedand which (among other things) the Arts Council found insupportable.

That emphasis on formal and linguistic exploration, on international and transmedia practice, and on ‘printing and publication’ characterised Lawrence’s own subsequent career. Immediately after the general exodus from the Poetry Society at the end of 1976, for example, Lawrence spent the next three years (up to 1979) as part of jgjgjg with Clive Fencott and cris cheek, which I saw perform on a number of occasions, and during the same period (from 1974-1979) he was also guest composer at Fylkingen in Stockholm, an artist-run organisation committed to contemporary experimental performance arts. (There was some suggestion that Lawrence had completed a first degree in Swedish, but perhaps this was just the product of a Chinese whisper.)

The only samples of Lawrence’s work from this period that I have to hand are a small A5 booklet, Riming Couplets in Series (1975), and a larger A4 publication, Views of Lyonnesse, books 2 & 3 (1978). The former, which was printed at the National Poetry Centre, consists of a series of paired word (beginning ‘somatic / chromatic //depression / aggression’), and these couplets are described as ‘starting points for improvised and/or taped performance’. As a score and as the basis for improvised performance, Riming Couplets in Series can be seen to have something in common with some of the work of Bob Cobbing in this periodlike the early sections of ABC in Sound (Writers Forum, 1965), for example. The second pamphlet, Views of Lyonnesse was published by Cobbing’s Writers Forum. It describes itself as ‘a slide show’, and each book has an appropriate subtitle: Book 2: ‘slides 102-151’; Book 3: ‘152-185’. I never heard Lawrence read this and don’t know whether there was a corresponding slide show for performances or whether this is simply a conceptual or compositional device with the fragments that constitute the text responding to specific images. I suspect the latter.

Views of Lyonnesse derives from another aspect of Lawrence’s life (of which I was not aware until much later): his sense of his family’s Cornish origins and his attachment to the South-West. It also reveals another aspect of Lawrence’s writing: a poetry of place and landscape. In Book 2 of Views of Lyonnesse, this manifests as a fragmented lyricism within an open-field use of page space; a poetry of sea, rocks, cliffs, ridges, informed with the knowledge ‘that the sculpting of / shores is a result of waves / beneath water level’. In Book 3, the focus is initially on stones (paving stones, flag-stones, capstones, dolmens, flint implements) and land formations (syncline, drumlin, and the underlying granite of which the Scilly Isles are largely composed); and then attention to the geomorphological effects of periglacial denudation and to the processes of inundation which formed the Scilly Isles gives way to glimpses of the history of human settlement from the archaeological evidence of the stone age village of Nor-Nour to a guided walk ‘past the Art College / following the river / to the first settlement’ and thoughts of more recent history (‘the rivalry of hate existing / among clans and families’).6  Book 3 concludes with an extended account of a walk out of the town to ’the highest village’, following the road as it gets steeper, and then ‘climbing up alone among the banks / of the mountain streams’.

Subvoicive

When I began writing this essay, I had the sense that, for much of the 1980s I had disappeared into my new full-time job at Royal Holloway, and that Lawrence had disappeared during this period as well into work and family life. I knew that he took an MA in American Literature with Eric Mottram and later a Dip. Ed in Computer Science, while working at a couple of school-teaching jobs during this period, and that by the end of the 1980s, he had become a Lecturer in Computer Science. I had the sense that I had got to know him largely through Subvoicive, the reading series originally set up by Gilbert Adair and Patricia Farrell in the 1980s at the White Swan in Covent Garden, and I had vague memories of him mentioning the Dip. Ed and his Computer Science job to me during conversations there.  

When I looked through my diaries for the 1980s, I found I was more active in attending events than I had remembered, and that Lawrence and I had been present together at a fair number of readings: his name appears in my account of the SVP readings by Eric Mottram (22 April 1986), Ken Edwards (10 June 1986) and Peter Middleton (12 April 1988). We were both among the handful of people present for Mottram’s reading at RASP (2 January 1987), and I also noted his presence at the Robert Kelly reading organised by Eric Mottram at the American Institute (6 June 1987). His name is recorded among those present at the Robert Sheppard and Gavin Selerie SVP readings at the New Moon (10 March 1989, 1 December 1989) and the Maggie O’Sullivan SVP reading at the Two Brewers (16 March 1990). In the latter two cases I record conversations with Lawrence, and, by 27 September 1990, I was close enough to Lawrence to join his table (along with Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell) for Ken Edwards’s fortieth-birthday celebrations at the Doggett’s Coat and Badge, at Blackfriars.  

My impression remains, however, that I only began to get to know him better during the 1990s, when he was running Subvoicive, at first jointly with Robert Sheppard and Ulli Freer (from 1992 to 94) and then alone from 1994 to 2005. I remember Lawrence’s enthusiastic introductions to so many readings in the room over the White Swan in Covent Garden and subsequent venues, and I remember his less happy introductions later when the series had moved to what I remember as a basement beneath a pub in Farringdon Road, a cramped space with poor lighting, candles on tables, with Lawrence perversely chiding those present in the audience for the lack of support for the readings from those absent. There was a sense that SVP’s moment had passed, and the earlier anxiety about bringing on another generation to hand on to was replaced by the sense that the younger poets were going elsewhere. As early as March 1994, around the time he ceased being involved in the running of SVP, Ulli had expressed to me his frustration with the poetry reading format, and his interest in spaces and events which were more open to film, music and performance.

The diary entries support my impression of a closer friendship with Lawrence during the 1990s. In a conversation at Ken Edwards’s SVP reading (25 January 1991), Lawrence told me how the Computer Science course he had taken at Kingston Poly had changed his life; at the Bruce Andrews SVP reading (15 March 1991), we had a discussion about the current state of the little magazine scene, the breakdown of distribution through the loss of specialist bookshops, and the impact of the loss of magazine listings in Second Aeon, Poetry Review, Poetry Information and Reality Studios; in April 1992, at the Compendium launch for the Paladin collections by Allen Fisher, Bill Griffiths, and B. C. Catling, he talked about his domestic problems and his thoughts of moving to Sweden. He also engaged in a couple of my collaborative projects. In April 1991, I brought out a purge of /dissidence, to which Lawrence contributed a mail-art collage and an extract from ‘Major War Poem’, which began with ‘prime minister’ and ran through a series of p and m pairings (‘perennial mediocrity’, ‘poisonous microbe’, for example).7 Lawrence also contributed to the second purge (wasted years) in 1992 with three pages from ‘Rebus’ (a poem and two prose pieces).8

Meanwhile, in July 1991, Gilbert Adair had organised an SVP colloquium at the American Institute (under the title ‘No one listens to poetry?’), and in May 1992 Lawrence had organised an SVP celebration of Gilbert Adair’s work (as Gilbert set off for Singapore).9 I was also very grateful to Lawrence for his support of my own work: I read at SVP with David Miller (22 June 1992), with Elaine Randell (31 January 1995), with various poets as part of the SVP Christmas Bash (5 December 1995), and with Colin Simms (16 January 1996) as that year’s Eric Mottram Memorial Reading which Lawrence organised. In May 1996 I organised a conference on ‘Poetry and performance’ at the University of London Centre for English Studies, which concluded with a performance by Lawrence and Bob Cobbing.10 Following this, I worked with Lawrence on the 1997 SVP Colloquium (as part of a committee which included Allen Fisher and Ken Edwards) and on the 3rd SVP Colloquium (29 January 1999), both at the Centre for English Studies. By this time, we had clearly developed a good working relationship.

RWC

The previous section gives a glimpse of Lawrence’s active role as a poetry organiser and facilitator after the departure from the Poetry Society, involving not just the SVP reading series, but also colloquia and celebrations. In all Lawrence organised 6 SVP colloquia. I remember a particularly stimulating colloquium he set up on poetry and translation, as well as the SVP Latin American Poetry Festival (11 November 1997). If I have given the sense that the SVP reading series was a tight little coterie group, then I need to dispel that impression. There was a fairly fluid core group, but the programme for 1996, for example, included a book launch for Harry Gilonis and Rob McKenzie (30 April); a reading by Tracy Ryan and John Kinsella from Australia (14 May); a reading by Joel Lewis from the US and Ben Watson (21 May); a reading by Yang Lian from China and a book launch for Nicholas Johnson (4 June); as well as readings by Gilbert Adair (visiting from Singapore), Peter Finch, Robert Sheppard (a farewell reading), and a book launch for Bill Griffiths (11 June, 25 June, 2 July, 9 July).

In addition to these organisational activities, Lawrence was prolific as a publisher and printer. Good Elf 5 was followed by two series of Good Elf Freesheets published in the same year (1978). The first series, published in editions of 500 copies, included Pete Morgan’s ‘The Balloon Poem’ and E. A. Markham’s ‘Celebration’; the second series, with a print-run of 200 copies, included Allen Fisher’s ‘Self-Portraits’ and ‘Pink 149’, Barry MacSweeney’s ‘Dream Graffiti’, and Anthony Rudolf’s ‘Picture at an Exhibition’. In December 1990, he set up RWC (Read Write Create) as a small-circulation monthly magazine. The first issue contained two poems by Robert Sheppard, a lengthy extract from ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and ‘The Magnetic Letter’ (written for Cobbing’s 69th birthday), and an expression of editorial aims taken from Lawrence’s Letters to Ulli, seeking to promote: ‘Poetry of metamorphosis and political metempsychosis to defend us from the men in suits who rise out of the ground as warriors’. RWC was distinctive in its publication of the work of just one poet in each issue. Subsequent issues presented work by Ulli Freer (January 1991), Gilbert Adair (February 1991), Carlyle Reedy (March/April 1991), Ken Edwards (May 1991), Adrian Clarke (June 1991)all writers associated with SVP and part of a distinct London-based community. The next issues included work by Allen Fisher, Eric Mottram, Patricia Farrell and Virginia Firnberg. RWC was clearly, to begin with at least, a means of circulating new work and work-in-progress around the SVP audience and supporting that community after its departure from the Poetry Society.

Alongside RWC, Lawrence also published the RWC Bulletin (sent free to subscribers to RWC). Initially a single page, sent out with RWC 5, this grew steadily in size. In RWC Bulletin 3, Lawrence addressed the danger that RWC might become ‘a mutual admiration club or a members’ newsletter’. He noted that ‘RWC is not intentionally a magazine of poets of a particular city yet all the poets so far published and most scheduled to be published live in or have lived in London’, and expressed his hope that RWC might become a place where dissimilar poetries meet’. As part of that opening out, this issue of the RWC Bulletin also published a listing of publications received. The next issue, RWC Bulletin 4 (Design. Plan. Build), had expanded to 8 pages: as well as news items and publications received, it contained an extensive review of Floating Capital or, rather, a very critical engagement with the title, cover, introduction and afterword.11 In particular, Lawrence criticised the apparent contradiction between the editors’ criticism of ‘the 70s obsession with place’ and the subtitle ’new poets from London’ as well as the recourse to the anthologisers’ standard commercial device of periodisation. Lawrence critiqued the presentation of the selected poets as a group of poets who ‘reached maturity’ or were ‘notably active’ in the 1980s, and attacked the singling out of the ‘negative social measures’ of the 1980s as if these had not already begun in the previous decade. Interestingly, although this sharply critical article produced responses which were published in the next issue, it does not seem to have impacted on personal relations in a way that prevented future working together among the poets involvedperhaps because Lawrence was careful in his review not to attack the poetry or the poets included in the anthology, but to make clear (for example) his appreciation of Adrian Clarke’s poetry.   

In a proliferation of publishing identities, Lawrence brought out No One Listens to Poetry? as RWC Extra 1 in November 1991. This included Gilbert Adair’s Introduction to the July colloquium; questions to be considered; the titles of papers; and the programme for the day. This was followed by RWC Extra 2 (Listening to the Differences), Adrian Clarke’s contribution to the colloquium, which developed a phrasal poetics out of Clarke’s reading of Lyotard. In the summer of 1994, Lawrence published another RWC Extra, Robert Sheppard’s contribution, invite! and incite!, a 13-page essay which kicked off from the proposition ‘New forms of poetic artifice and formalist techniques should be used to defamiliarize the dominant reality principal in order to operate a critique of it’with the proviso that poetry should fragment ‘not merely to mime the disruption of capitalist production’, but ‘to make new connections’in order to address two of the concerns Gilbert had raised: namely, audience and technique. Like the colloquium itself this series was an attempt to contribute to a critical and reflective discourse around the poetry and its practicessuch as putting on workshops and readings, creating creative and political alliances with practitioners in other media and, more difficult, creating alliances with other poetry communities.   

In the summer of 1995, the RWC Bulletin returned after a three-year break caused by Lawrence’s difficult disentanglement from his former partner. The RWC Bulletin which announced this return also announced the merging of RWC Extra into Radical Poetics, a new journal Lawrence aimed to edit with Michael Hrebeniak and Will Rowe. (I think I have a copy of the first issue somewhere.) This substantial Bulletin also contained the long-delayed publication of Ken Edwards’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, an account of his 1994 visit to San Francisco and New York. The last copy of RWC that I have is RWC 34, Ken Edwards’s Bruised Rationals, from 1996. In addition to his publication of RWC and its offshoots, for many years, Lawrence also published an A4 booklet of the poets’ work to accompany each SVP reading.   

Pointing Device

At the same time as he was publishing RWC and what were, in effect, SVP pamphlets, Lawrence had also set up his press, Pointing Device, which published his Picture Songs for Bob (1990), his Letter to Ulli 3 (1991) and 4 outputs (1991), a text for performance by two voices (with marked pauses for improvised gestures). Pointing Device was mainly a vehicle for publishing his own work. Publications included a short prose piece, from Written Graphical (1996), whose format (a single A4 sheet folded to make an A5 pamphlet) is identical to that of two other publications from this period, Lawrence’s and still we rise (1996) and from The Meadows (1996), both published by Drunk in a Brewery. Drunk in a Brewery (a name which seems to glance off statements about organisational abilities in relation to celebrations in breweries) seems yet another of Lawrence’s avatars. The first piece, and still we rise, begins with waking to birdsong and the breathing of his bedmate, the ‘smells of sex’ and the body’s responsiveness ‘quicker than logic’, before moving to thoughts of ‘dawn raids / in Bosnia’ and the larger forces which shape our world. The extract from ‘The Meadows’ is a meditation on water, light and ‘the image’; it evokes a context of cliffs and breaking waves which also becomes an apprehension of the external world impinging on a consciousness. Parts of both these poems had already appeared in Vertical Images 10 (1995).

Four publications from the new millennium show something of the range of Lawrence’s print work at this time. Three Rivers (2003) is a small pamphlet of ten calligraphic textsin two cases combining calligraphic lines with fragments of newsprint: a small fragment of newspaper at the bottom corner of one page; a larger, irregularly shaped piece of newspaper as the background for two similar calligraphic shapes.12 In both cases, the newspaper article is taken from the financial pages and discusses industrial policy and the impact of this policy on the Dow Jones. The second, more complicated, image appears twice in the volume and is also used for the cover. The second small pamphlet, f and g (2004), contains eight pages of lettrist or hypergraphic work using the letters ‘f’ and ‘g’ (separately and together) as visual motifs.13 The first image shows three incomplete gs (the letter-forms cut by top, right and bottom margins). The next two pages overlay this image with different combinations of fs: some printed in black; others creating voids in the printed gs and fs. The most complex pages subject the printed letter f to distortion and other visual interference.

The third publication is Game on a Line (2000).14  The collection is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence’s friend, Alaric Sumner, but has its origin (as Lawrence explains in the extended essay that occupies half the booklet) in the decision to publish work by Scott Thurston as RWC 42 in 1998. In discussing the cover for RWC 42, Scott had suggested that Lawrence ‘give the texts a once over crush gyrate across the copy glass to shake em up a bit’. This suggestion, the mechanical transformation of the text through misusing a platen photocopier, led to the visual poetry of Gaming on a Line.  The title refers to Lawrence’s decision to take a single line from Scott’s text (‘line senses my breath’) and subject it to various transformations, not through the photocopier, but through misusing two fax machines to produce enlargement, reduction, stretching and blurringand then working on the results with scalpel and glue. This produced the cover for RWC 42, but Lawrence later returned to the more complex images he had produced and reworked them for the text-sound section of Riding the Meridian 2, that Alaric Sumner was editing, where they were translated from the page to the web-screen, and as the score for the recorded performance that also appeared on Riding the Meridian. The book version contains 18 visual poems working with fragments of Scott’s original phrase with fractures, over-printings, collages, repetitions of words and letters, blurring, inversion, and reversals of black and white.  

The final publication I want to consider, wire sculptures, was published by Reality Street in 2003.15 Alexander Calder’s early wire sculptures were ‘drawing in space’; Lawrence’s poems in this volume might be seen as writing in the space of the page. For example, ‘Wire sculpture #2’ is largely constructed from a series of paratactic lines with space around them in which to breathe. It begins:  

 

Sparks come out of the candles 

I go into the shadows 

She gestures with her drink 

 

From this start, the poem creates what seems like an uneasy social event. The concluding line (‘The barn is jiving with the surrounding hills’) reinforces the sense of a party or dance as the poem’s implicit context, while also opening out to the wider setting, but ‘jive’ also wavers uncomfortably between the sense of talking deceptively with and the sense of complementing or matching. The reader is not allowed to come to rest at the end of the poem.

A later section includes a sequence of poems with titles taken from the names of places that were part of Lawrence’s London life: East Croydon, West Croydon, Sutton, Carshalton Beeches. These poems (and the ones that follow) refract Lawrence’s recent history of relationship breakdown and employment/political struggles within the education sector. The latter is seen, for example, when the mobile language of these poems draws in the surrounding neo-liberal culture (and its privileging of business) with ‘broken words / ploughed into shares’ (p.21). The biblical beating of ‘swords into ploughshares’ (Isaiah 2: 4), a messianic vision of turning military technologies to civilian applications, becomes a contemporary experience of broken promises and capital investment (or speculation).

Similarly, in ‘Wire sculpture #16’, the working of the brain, the repeated changes of mind, occur within the awareness that we ‘do not exist in commercial quantities’, and these commercial agendas and priorities resurface as ‘consistency in message, increased operational efficiency’ (p.34). Consistency in messaging is very different from the poem’s own hesitancies and openness to changes of mind and direction, while the managerial concern for the ratio between the input necessary to run a business and the output gained as part of the process of resource allocation suggests a very different world view from that embodied in the poem’s own procedures.

A later poem, ‘Wire sculpture #24’, widens the scope further. Beginning with ‘two faces coming out of covering in illuminated darkness’, the poem moves towards a children’s party which dissolves into intimations of sickness, the military-industrial complex, climate change and environmental degradation:

faces drawings on balloons 
swellings under the arms industry 
inflammation of cities 
headaches of waterfalls poisoned dry 
burst head colds new viruses (p.37) 

Like other poems in the volume, this poem moves between ‘the stuff of things’, ‘the way the light catches the world’, ‘what you half remember from last night’s cavalcading confessions’ (pp. 37-8) and various twenty-first century realities.

Conclusion  

From 1994 Lawrence worked and performed with Bob Cobbing as Domestic Ambient Noise. The numerous performances and the 2000 pages of text produced through this collaboration are too big a topic to take on here. Lawrence was also working with Cobbing at Writers Forum, but I was less familiar with this aspect of his life. I lost contact with him in the early part of this century, when he was spending more time in Cornwall and I had also moved out of London. In Spring 2008, he became a Research Fellow in the Music Department at Goldsmiths: my memory is that he was linked to an AHRC project on Sonic Arts directed by John Drever. His 2009 book with Veer, a song and a film, showed that he was also still working with lettrist and calligraphic visual poetics. We would meet from time to time in Central London for a coffee and to discuss projects. The news of his death (and the manner of his death) was a shock. To commemorate him, I wrote the following poem (‘starburst fantasy’) for Rupert Loydell’s Talking to the Dead project. It drew on Lawrence’s wishes for his funeral (which could not be fulfilled because of Covid 19) and has a coda that combined what are claimed to have been Goethe’s last words (‘More light!’) with variations on the start and end of a short permutational poem that Lawrence had sent me. Lawrence’s poem began ‘a light; / little more’ and ended ‘more light / more movement’. It is possible that Lawrence was himself quoting Goethe. I think the starburst was a firework (a rocket) that Lawrence wanted to be used to spread his ashes.

 

starburst fantasy  

 

                      i.m. lawrence upton

 

no need of moon or stars (nor sun to shine) 
just give me muted trumpet & trombone 
the pitch of the body jigged and rejigged 
to reach by swerve of shore and bend of bay 
with scalpel & glue to mix & mismatch 
the kinetics of a visual score 
sheet-feed speeds the image through the scanner 
to crush or stretch against the platen’s glass here where the landfall lighthouse dimmed its light 
here where the giants gathered mask yourself 
barks & growls & misplaced repetitions 
fired from a rocket scattered in the sea 
tone colours darken to a funeral march 
the world-tide breaks here wherever we are 

 

coda

 

birds sing            sunrise in a broken world

                                                 tumble into the light

                                                 more light

                                                 a little more light

 

 

 

 

1. The title is taken from Lawrence’s poem ‘Wire sculpture #24’. I had wanted to use the phrase ‘so many things’ and then realised that Lawrence had got there first. See Lawrence Upton, ‘So many things’, in Robert Hampson & Ken Edwards, Clasp: late-modernist poetry in London in the 1970s (Bristol: Shearsman, 2016), 31-35.

2. For Allen Fisher’s account of Better Books as a source of information in the period just prior to this, see Allen Fisher and Robert Hampson, Skipping Across the Pond: Interaction Between American and British Poetries 1964-1970’ in Abigail Lang and David Nowell Smith (eds), Modernist Legacies: Trends and Faultlines in British Poetry Today (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 41-57.

3. Second Aeon 16/17, 218.

4. Laurence founded and ran the bookshop of the National Poetry Centre at the Poetry Society.

5. See Peter Barry, Poetry Wars (Cambridge: Salt, 2006), 89.

6. See Marta Pérez Fernández, ‘A Palaeoecological approach to understanding the impact of coastal changes in Late Holocene societies using the Isles of Scilly as a case study’, Unpublished PhD (University of Plymouth, 2013) and Dorothy Dudley, ‘Excavations on Nor’Nour in the Isles of Scilly, 1962-66’, Archaeological Journal, 124 (1967), 1-64.  

7. A purge of / dissidence was produced in response to the Gulf War. The other contributors were Gavin Selerie, Adrian Clarke, Harry Gilonis, Robert Hampson, D.S. Marriott, Robert Sheppard and Peter Middleton.

8. wasted years was brought out in response to John Major’s victory at the 1992 General Election. The other contributors were Gavin Selerie, Kelvin Corcoran, Andrew Duncan, John Wilkinson, Ulli Freer, Denise Riley, Robert Sheppard, John Seed and Robert Hampson.  

 9. The speakers at the SVP Colloquium included Clive Bush, Adrian Clarke, cris cheek, Ken Edwards, Allen Fisher, Robert Hampson, Eric Mottram, Carlyle Reedy, Will Rowe, Robert Sheppard and Lawrence Upton.

10. The performance prompted an anxious visit from someone in a seminar in the room below, who thought that a fight had broken out.

11. Adrian Clarke and Robert Sheppard (eds), Floating Capital: new poets from London (Connecticut: Potes & Poets, 1991). The anthology featured work by Gilbert Adair, Paul Brown, cris cheek, Adrian Clarke, Kelvin Corcoran, Ken Edwards, Virginia Firnberg, Peter Middleton, Maggie O’Sullivan, Val Pancucci, Robert Sheppard and Hazel Smith as the ‘new poets’ (with work by Bob Cobbing and Allen Fisher as mentor figures).

12. Lawrence Upton, Three Rivers (Calgary, Alberta: housepress, 2003). This was published in an edition of 50 hand-bound copies.

13. Lawrence Upton, f and g (Calgary, Alberta: housepress, 2004). This was published in an edition of 40 hand-bound copies.

14. Lawrence Upton, Game on a Line (San Diego, California: PaperBrainPress, 2000).

15.Lawrence Upton, Wire Sculptures (London: Reality Street, 2003). Lawrence subsequently published QEV (Writers Forum, 2005); Scat Songs on a Text by Chris Funkhouser (Xeroxial Editions, 2008); a song and a film (Veer, 2009); snapshots and video (Writers Forum, 2009); Water-lines and other poems (Chalk Editions, 2009); Pictures, cartoon strips (Sound & Language, 2010); Unframed Pictures (Writers Forum, 2011); Memory Fictions: polyvocal speech for two voices (Argotist E-books, 2012); and wrack (Quarter After Press, 2012) – the last two in collaboration with Tina Bass.

 

 

 

 

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