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Iain Sinclair 

 

Iain Sinclair was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. After training at the London School of Film Technique, he published his poetry (and that of Brian Catling and Chris Torrance) in his own Albion Village Press imprint. His early verse shows the influence of the Beats and the Black Mountain School of poets (especially Charles Olson's “open-field” poetics) as well as of British figures such as Eric Mottram.

Among his his publications are: Back Garden Poems (1970), Muscat's Würm (1972), The Birth Rug (1973), Lud Heat (1975), Suicide Bridge (1979), White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987), Downriver (1991), Radon Daughters (1994), Conductors of Chaos (1996), Lights Out For The Territory (1997), Dark Lanthorns: David Rodinsky as Psychogeographer (1999), and Landor's Tower (200). Two new poetry collections are due in 2006. They are Buried at Sea, and The Firewall (a large selection of "hidden" works covering the period 1979-2006. 

A Worple Press publication, The Verbals (2003), comprises a conversation between Sinclair and Kevin Jackson. A review of it can be found here.

The following is a sequence called 'Blair's Grave', which will be published by Nicholas Johnson's Etruscan Books as part of The Firewall.

 

 

 

BLAIR’S GRAVE

‘This gibberish had the sound of a mind unravelling’
                                                                 Don DeLillo


monkeyheaded earthenware drinking vessel
clatterrattles at behest of the man who blows
bad wind, fabricated facemask 
unbuilds ziggurat of denial 
talks piety, sweat meniscus drying blue
‘I want I want’, no trust- 
worthy rung on ladder, so shred it
believe what I say I say: foul heart’s straw



II

your city will be underwater, fool
better so, intimate
sleeves rolled, eyes wild won’t focus
everything swims, dirty glass
eyes for onions, software 
coloured wire, bird substitutes
duck and swim through skin
you cough: words are broken plates


III

what would occur if the beard of Bill Griffiths
were appointed, asthmatic wheeze-
master, workboss, retired labour 
overlord, in place of mendacity, warp-truth
headlamps: ‘like a patch of daylight’ 
your command, distressed
distressed bears huddled like
evangelists: spectators on a melting shore


IV

hasty strings at evensong, forlorn questions
in Cherie orchard, cold finger’s rectal probe
curl of pubic fleece the circumlocution
office offends dignity, he cannot
cut the mustard gas, cress bed on chalk
which prime minister delivered most sick
notes which fucked least in righteous 
‘countercompositional thrusts’, cancelled kids


V

peppering belly with hurt food, waiting on
chequered cloth, entertainers named & shamed
ventriloquised paste, nothing to say becomes
nothing to do, so roll under floodtide
stacked capital in drowned sheds,
mortars lobbed at mud fort
will they be burgled at the back door
with pokers and nuclear shingle, pilgrim
caste badge: poverty chic or obedience

 


VI

most of the food we receive is sacked Kurd 
‘English-Turkish-Greek-Continental’
grand alliance united nations redgreen
display tomatoes peppers dates brown
onions oranges with stalks lottery sales
to locally poor cancer ward horseflesh
afternoons funding exchange rate un-
satisfied banks CCTV records: knife damage


VII 

looks like a boatman up against the wall
seawall? pretty much so, grave blocks
of uneven size weight distribution, bareheaded
like the wool is missing & unsure how
to stand, right fist curled childish the other loose
in pocket, touches hair-flesh, beard on
wrong part of the head, turn it, the fire:
food, dance, the mystical, history, crime


VIII

summer barque studio storm
like fireflies the lantern’d boats far out
across the dark lake, oil rigs & prisons
staggers ape-gait through
electric showers, 3 years slumbering on
the banks of the Ocean, died in LA
car crash theme: reshot, recut 
fever, malaria, bicycle, vamp
he picked his chauffeurs for their looks


IX

anyplace but Utah hard snow the things you do
all the time are the ones you forget Perugino
madonna postcard lying on blue cloth of
Blake book, we were dreaming
the nuns the Bardot girl
do it again beginning where we let
go and out of the box bursts
waterstorm to freeze the city’s previously
unrevealed source: opium gum, stiff tongues


X

they comb the beach for scotsmen who can’t swim
to Malaya through the bottom of a bottle 
gangs fire alcove benches in excited monologue
sights in yellow telescope are
purely bad blame not be apportioned 
individual purchasers of ethical coffee or lords
of conspicuous charity stepping from full-
bellied aircraft in dark glasses which they remove
for interviews, much water still tastes of sewage 


XI

Gordon Brown plants a tree in Kenyan slum
we’re not the Mail we could stretch to 600
in the Hotel North the monkey never dies
grey-city city of invisible rails no sky
chili dogs chase empty beer bottles 
see you around Molly raincoat
rain neon spells bead the narrator is
dead cinched belt a world without news


XII

clouds rack the judge is silent low ceiling
an illusory flag a world-set of ghetto
archetypes, mammal miss & her jack-nerved
dealer, deal tarot nativity swords
I know that old boy he used to be a boxer
when chafing cares shall cool at last
otherwise he must live out in misery 
lamentable time, bet the house, balk gloom


XIII 

police ambulance air gunship plead 
guilty to everything pleabargain swastika armband 
bad son manacles in the interpreter’s house 
spike threatens carotid artery moslem radio flying 
bodies dance in hot air nothing gives
fine wrist slap tapioca tube mum’s relief
family name friend saw old man rushing from
a krugerrand bank with bags of hot loot
therefore he swet, and did quake for fear


XIV

if you can’t open gates of death like a blown safe
on the low-way to Beckton problematic pilgrimage
stalls in warground aftermath air inside burns
portal a mocking quotation to labour caduceus
safer to try the role you could not fulfil and now 
father’s kinder breath puffs a shopping bag
rats worms wires replace blood no virtual will
lifts roof of strategic walk: alone, sneezing


XV

again caught against seafret we are invited
to pelt the old gentleman with mud, self-generated
if practicable, by handful, arab-celt-gypsy
in american clothing, soft on stiffening body 
has known cold & cell, damage, eyes won’t open
until there is something solid to view, 
against empty traffic invitation to shoot
never never allow that impropriety: reproduction


XVI

wife slips window which other men saw
unglassed framework dried stone on which
sponsor’s message resolves into fingerprint of god
painter of nocturnes, watercolours, glaze under
glaze, rectangle of river, one portal certainty
between non-verifiable external witness & inward
prompting anxiety of influence, pulpy red
fibres, polyps, sand: it’s there & you know it


XVII 

BEWARE THE SEA. IT HAS THE SMELL OF BLOOD, OR LIFE
or letter set at paper-hanging angle, painter
stepped bespectacled before wall of sea photos
sea-on-sea, & fear, paper will give way before
storm erupts, real water, overwhelming in dip &
crush IT FLOWS GENTLY THIS END if you
watch with eyes and let dogs swim in your place
I LIVE IN HOPE OF A BROADCAST he relents
drag-ash coal clinker WILL NEVER EVER RETURN


XVIII

life at sea is like Night like nothing but itself
vertical recall depth-surface slippage weight
some blue likely to run over chase down moon
stalk of blindness too stiff sits suited in
horrible chair dictaphone chalkstripe spectacles
beginning of nothing, withering into white
headless worm, cones rods, older than fish, red
is silver: unpublished novel too small to read


XIX

knock on wood Berlin summer 1892 attempted
to photograph the soul storm in the archipelago
clouds ambitious of becoming water blue petitions 
clothe the woman across the table taps his tank
repines Formica daily tabloid crossword marriage
metal in our gut sings we detonate windows
it doesn’t help the bus if you step into traffic
how close you have to come to register zero


XX

returned chalk to floating light in car park
rolled from bed to tethered mother moon
departs traindoor drawn into bowed pain
discharge shines on curved section of nailed egg
processed slacks bluff against understatement
memories compete for space at night you twitch
partdead Apolyon’s candle blown: holed 
tongue swallows best, black wormy bread


XXI

by Sarah collecting walnuts to harvest ink
read lens eyebrows carved in suet
you’ll never be released she improvises 
call your soul the odour of this windowless
chamber expecting prick of rosewater lift
core temperature experimental procedures split
twin the form of the bone is really similar
bone of Luz excuses a lifetime’s fruitless search


XXII 

fullrack wire-music watering can bullet
held by gravity of address travel business class
hireling peasant throws up his arms
what is staged is also real bought at price
from hyacinth garden like when the Iraq war
started I’m a Californian & I go outside
paint cactus trophy somebody
records what I say publishes that banality 
impact cuts beef stops mimicry: a true fall


XXIII

modernist architect round specs 
inking dull-eye stacks all sharpness 
straight torture police in buttoned uniforms
german green makes the place seem gay
he reported not many Jews found
we saw Warsaw burn & Modlin being burnt
a stirring spectacle inherited wealth stain 
liver spots Houston oilmen: no atonement, none


XXIV 

educated at Edinburgh & in Holland ordained
minister of Athelstaneford he published in
1747 The Grave a didactic poem of the starred
graveyard school consisting of some 800 lines
blank verse celebrates the horrors of death 
fractured soul or skate cold dish of Blake’s
borrowed pilgrim clawing through walls of clay
tenement madness by suicide-mouth possessed


XXV

dollar bulk captures Mafia weather
Sicilian-American or Balkan Ukrainian Siberian Jew
long coats on the pier all of a piece
we will sink your laughter-curated cow talk
cows they know & the ritual of steppe death
necklace light fellates black shoes
‘who’s paying?’ carefully they step ashore
craft heading out to redundant statuary


XXVI

let out hooks & eyes if dressing required
simulate slack love text one thing 
image quite another, what’s lost gives 
lion winged boat the constant glare
who commissioned paper passing across
table in Switzerland, barber in latex
bodysuit shot 3 times, midway no way
sleep leaks & garbage is the final reason

 

 

 


AFTERWORDS


Thus does the ‘Necessary Angel’ of the poetic arrive to save the ‘Angel of History’ from dying of melancholy in a suffocating world of ruins.


Youssef Ishaghpour


To narrow the subject down to the question of poetics, Taussig rules out the idea (put forward by Lévi-Strauss, among others) that the shaman’s song amounts to an ordering of internal chaos, for the song itself is unintelligible, ‘part of a baroque mosaic of discourses woven through stories, jokes, interjections, and hummings taking place not only through and on top of one another during the actual seance but after it as well.’


Anthony Mellors


My favourite politician was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who reminded me of Tom Mix, and there wasn’t any way to explain that to anybody.


Bob Dylan


 

 

 



copyright © Iain Sinclair