Saturday, 28 November 2009

Interview With Jane Marsh

Interview with Jane Marsh
Neon Highway On-line 2006
Edited by Alice Lenkiewicz
Hi A. C.
I would imagine you would appreciate this room. On the wall there are paintings by Klimt and Duchamp. My gramophone over there plays music by Liszt and Wagner.
The CD player plays music such as The Stones and The Velvet underground.
The weather is just wonderful. We are now in Mid winter so it is cold and icy outside. The trees are bare and there is some frost and ice on the ground.
On the bookshelf you may find some collections by Plath, Byron, Baudelaire and Swinburne. There are also two recent reviews of yours on Lee Harwood’s Chanson Dada. Selected Poems by Tristan Tzara and Symbolism by Rodolphe Rapetti. Now if you just seat yourself down I would like to ask you a few questions to someone whose writing style it seems has been described as ‘macabre, hermetic minimalism’.
Your work has been around for a long time and first published in the British alternative press in 1977. However it has been said that your work was more driven towards " modern occultism" rather than the conventional ‘literary’ small press. Could you explain what it was that pulled you in this direction?
Gosh, Jane! You are looking very vampish this afternoon…. And you have gone to so much trouble. It is very much appreciated and very nice to talk… But, to answer your questions: My first ‘publication’ was, in fact, 1968 when I was lucky to land a tiny contract for greetings cards. A few designs were distributed through high street shops at the height of the ‘Beardsley craze’ during the Art Nouveau Revival… Also, under the umbrella of the Convulsionists, I managed to issue some mass-produced prints and get things into the school magazine. This was all in the late nineteen sixties. After a break I started submitting material to little magazines in the mid nineteen seventies, hence the reference to ‘alternative press….’. The first magazine to take some pictures was called Sothis. I soon found acceptance with other editors in the ‘occult’ scene. There were mags with titles like The Daath Papers, Illuminatus Monthly and Nox: A Magazine of The Abyss. I was instinctively drawn to this kind of subculture: it seemed more attuned to the disruptive, paraxial fantasy I was trying to achieve than the rather staid literary scene. In any case – despite my Aestheticism – I didn’t really see my work as a narrowly ‘artistic’ enterprise – like the Surrealists I was aiming at some kind of transformational paradigm outside mainstream definitions of art/poetry. There were clear affinities between Surrealism and ‘occultism’ (a vague, dodgy term I should say) and, at the time, one felt ‘occultists’ to be more ‘alternative’ than most exponents of the counter-culture who played at being hippies at weekends. The Surrealist ‘angle’ on the occult was, of course, non-mystical – unlike the Crowleyites, or the Alexandrians, for instance, I did not view the occult as an alternative religion. It was more to do with ‘reclaiming the imagination for anarchy and nihilism,’ formulating tactics to disconnect creativity from the hegemony of ‘the establishment’. Gothic Romanticism, Baudelaire’s ‘Satanism’ and Rimbaud’s use of alchemy provided historical parallels, while Jung’s psychology pointed to an ‘interior model’ for the ‘occult image’.
Could you tell me a little about your work?
The work develops on two fronts: the written and the visual. Within these two spheres I operate on a narrow spectrum of formats. The written works fall into non-fiction and ‘literary’, the visual works are black and white line drawings in either pen or pencil, collages (mainly photomontages) and, more recently digital-photo images of various kinds. Regarding the literary work I would subdivide it into poetry/experimental prose, fiction (short stories) and poetry translations from the French. In both literary and visual work I often rely on automatism and chance elements. Automatism means a kind of immersion in the unconscious process, guided intuitively. I have often regarded ‘automatic’ line work as rather like calligraphy, hovering on the borderline between pictorial representation and writing. All artistic activity is supported by the non-fiction work ranging from short review notices to extensive feature-length articles/essays like Angels Of Rancid Glamour (1998). Baudelaire said artists should also be critics – it is vital to maintain a sense of focus and context, and to engage with the history of ideas.
Who were the first presses to support you?
Well, apart from the occult ‘zines mentioned the first art-poetry press to support my work was Stride edited by Rupert Loydell. Throughout the nineteen eighties Stride maintained a policy of openness to diverse approaches that was – and still is – exemplary. Stride published my first small collection Exosphere in 1984 and I contributed reviews, artwork and poetry to the magazine. Today Stride is one of the best independent presses on the UK scene. I should also mention Phlebas and Tabor who published the mini collections Chimaera Obscura and Dream Vortex.4.
Can you tell me a little about your poem Space Opera?
Space Opera was short sequence of prose-poems first published in Stride’s Serendipity Caper anthology. It was subsequently re-issued as an illustrated booklet with an intro by Steve Sneyd. Written in a kind of techno-reportage style the sequence evoked a universe where there is no distinction between inner and outer space and all communication is subject to widespread disruption from indeterminate forces. The general setting was onboard a clapped-out star-ship on a mission to investigate the mysterious planet NeoGaea, a kind of parallel Earth, but millions of light years from home. It was an attempt to fuse lowbrow and highbrow by taking a simple space adventure scenario and filtering through a mannered poetic style – the cognoscenti define this sort of thing as ‘speculative poetry’…
Your work has been described as ‘artistic’ meeting ‘magical’. What would you say is your driving influence?
That’s quite a ‘deep’ question, depending on what you mean by ‘influence’ – influences should be points of departure not destinations, I think. In the nineteenth century from the time of the French Revolution to the First World War one can see a progression of ‘movements’, often referred to as avant-garde – we learn from many figures and themes of those movements and define ‘influences’ that way. That’s a very big subject and the cultural history, from Baudelaire to Beauvoir, is very important. Formative influences (i.e. contemporary, not historical) included Dada/Surrealism, Op and Pop Art, Psychedelia and Nouveau Realisme (e.g. Tinguely) – that’s on the visual side. Contemporary literary influences included Burroughs, Borges, Nabokov, Pynchon, Angela Carter and J G Ballard. As I say this it is clear that none of these were poets in the strict sense, actually they are all prose writers. I had heard about the 1965 Albert Hall event but we didn’t really take much notice of the poetry scene – the era was defined by Mary Quant and Ossie Clark not the Children of Albion. My inspirational figures were Aubrey Beardsley, Antonin Artaud and Marcel Duchamp. I think we can return to this a bit later on when we talk about the Convulsionists because, amid this welter of references, I’m thinking about your phrase ‘driving influence’…. And Paul Meunier’s observation (quoted in Rapetti’s Symbolism) that ‘artistic concerns were originally alien to the production of art.’
What kind of poetry or movements in poetry do you particularly dislike and why?
I have always been against any kind of literary theory that downplays or ignores the visceral basis of creativity. The creative imagination is driven by non-verbal, obsessive compulsions that, in the final analysis, are rooted in biological/genetic phenomena. It is obvious that creativity is value-neutral and independent of any particular form of expression, visual, literary or musical. Therefore, I have no positive interest in the kind of fashionable Post Modernism that locates the main theoretical focus of poetry in the domain of ‘language’. I see this trend and similar academic fashions (Social Constructionism or Reader Response Theory) as part of the regrettable inheritance of Wittgenstein – it is clearly reactionary. For example, the current oxymoronic notion of ‘linguistically innovative’ poetry is based, according to its luminaries, on doctrines of Ethical Criticism, specifically the writings of Levinas and Bakhtin. To begin with this is contradictory in that a truly ‘language-centred’ poetry cannot be based on an ethical framework of any kind. In the second place it is intrinsically reactionary as the writings of Levinas, Bakhtin, and the other gurus, are mainly propaganda for orthodoxy dressed-up in the ‘technical’ Newspeak of academia: ‘defamiliarisation’, ‘plurivocity’, ‘dialogism’ ‘sociolect’. The doublethink is the objectionable aspect – projecting a ‘progressive’ and ‘advanced’ image but working to a regressive, conservative agenda. It’s a question of cultural politics, not literary standards, because any art that is neither entertainment nor therapy is spin and propaganda – welcome to IngSoc! The Language Poets of the 1970s de-valued, even denied, the individual voice in the name of anti-Romanticism and in so doing allied themselves, knowingly or not, with the worst kind of literary Puritanism. I don’t really care if a given example of Language Poetry conforms to someone’s idea of ‘good’ poetry, in the end its only radical chic. I would say the same about the British Poetry Revival in its earlier phases: it was an amateur way of latching on to worthless American trends – Black Mountain, Objectivism, Projective Verse and all that frightful stuff. Actually, it was a publicity stunt to promote a generational revolt against the Georgians and – wassisname? – Larkin. They want to write Modern Epics – they take themselves far too seriously – give me Fiona Pitt-Kethley any day!
To what extent has alchemy influenced your work?
The function of art is the transformation of substance into style.
Tell me a little about your creative process.
The ‘creative process’ is a primitive, bio-psychic phenomenon characterised by the interaction of external stimuli, unconscious drives and the neural-endocrine levels of the biological system (physis). These interactions generate the ‘altered states’ intrinsic to creativity. Cultural factors determine how various features or facets of creativity are defined as ‘artistic’. The main impulse for any creative act takes the form of an obsessive compulsion or drive-demand, often referred to as ‘inspiration’: the production of a given work of art, and its dreamlike characteristics, can be explained from the psychoanalytic perspective. Composer Toru Takemitsu said his work 'Quotation of Dream' (1991) was ‘fragmental’ and episodic, reflecting the ‘shapes of dreams’. He observed that a work can be vivid in detail but may describe ‘an extremely ambiguous structure when viewed as a whole’. Following both Freud and Takemitsu, I would say that poetic form should resemble that of a dream where, for instance, details may be clearly defined while their disposition is determined by the ‘fortuities’ of a ‘self-propelling narrative’. For me the attraction of collage – and other modes of juxtaposition – derive from conformity with the Freudian ‘dream-work’ and the laws of the unconscious – the two main properties of dream-work being compression and displacement. The law of compression determines the fragmental and condensed format of all my work in any medium. The law of displacement encourages an allusive approach to ‘mood’ or ‘atmosphere’ akin to Mallarme’s adage ‘paint not the thing but the effect it produces’. Displacement of psychic intensities ensures that the least important features of the work are given more prominence than the most significant, leading (with luck) to a somewhat ‘hermetic’ or enigmatic effect…. I must add that chance plays a key role in everything…
If you could go anywhere in reality that somehow was created from your imagination where would it be and what would it be like?
It might be like a neglected pleasure pier on the North Sea coast. During the day there would be howling gales and isolated rainstorms, at night the sea would be like purple glass – the moon would look huge. From the shore would float the distant, scratchy sound of an old 1940s Benny Goodman/Peggy Lee recording of ‘Blues in The Night’.
You have said that Surrealism has been a strong influence in your work.
If you were to exhibit your work in a gallery these days what kind of show do you think you would focus on?
Dark Energy – Dark Energy comprises seventy percent of the universe and provides the repulsive force necessary to power the ever-accelerating expansion of the galaxies. Just as the existence of the unconscious can be inferred from Freudian Slips, so Dark Energy can be detected indirectly from the effects of virtual particles on the orbits of electrons. I like the idea that seventy percent of the universe is ‘dark’, just as seventy percent of the mind is ‘dark’ and seventy percent of human prehistory is ‘dark’. So my exhibition would be based around Three Zones Of Darkness. To the side there might be shrines dedicated to some modern goddesses: Veronica Lake, Caterina Valente, Julie London, Donyale Luna and P J Harvey. I think the décor would look rather like Martin Hibbert’s Burnt Out Hotel. Oh, I might exhibit some collages and drawings as well! At lunchtimes there would be tasteful piano recitals and in the evenings there would be poetry readings – in the dark, obviously…

You say you enjoy the work of Louise Nevelson. I do also. I read a book about her work a while back and I was fascinated by her assemblages made from found objects and painted gold. I just thought I would mention that to you.
Yes! The Tate Gallery has a couple of her things. There was one called 'Black Wall' (1959) and another called 'American Tribute To The British People' (1960-1964). I thought the 'Black Wall' as fantastically sinister… There are Sky Cathedrals, Royal Games, Rain Gardens and Night Scapes, all very intricate and painted uniformly in either white, black or gold… there are echoes of Nevelson in some of my drawings…
Can we build an assemblage together? I’ll collect a few objects and you put them together how you want. Here we are, some old boxes, feathers, a doll, picture frames, books, string, a glass case, medicine bottles, paper, broken mirror, pieces of rusty engine, glossy magazines, shoes, a mannequin, lots of old china plates and a few cans of spray paint. What do you reckon? I’ll come back in an hour and see what you produced.
OK, I have added an empty window frame and a battered wig-maker’s white polystyrene artificial head called ‘Ultima’ to this assemblage. ‘Ultima’ is an important totem. In the glass case will be several old sepia photos and the diary of a bibliomaniac. The broken mirror must be at the centre of the installation. You can just take a photo and add it here if you wish?
Now I just want to show you the chamber. This is the deepest room in the house way below the ground and the steps are a little creaky. Hope you’re not too tired, it’s quite a way down.
Hope you like my spiral staircase. Here we are at last.
Please step inside. Okay please do sit down. You can use that old gravestone if you wish?
Jane, this is such a friendly way to conduct an interview – thank you, this gravestone is quite comfortable – what does the inscription say? I can’t quite make it out as it is covered in yellow and black lichen. What a gloriously spooky wrought iron spiral staircase that was – I can almost taste the rust.
Could you tell me about the group you formed called The Neo-Surrealist Convulsionist Group?
It is tempting to say we were just a group of alienated teenagers…! We formed the thing around 1968 and it only lasted until around 1971 or 1972. There were about five or six participants based in Chelmsford, Essex. Other places included Colchester, Ipswich and Witham… people used to meet in coffee bars after school – we were all sixth formers doing art or literature, mainly as a way of avoiding sport. The associations continued after everyone left school and tried to get jobs. Some poetry was written and experimental prose cut-up; atonal electronic music was composed and lots of paintings and collages produced. There were occasional expeditions or ‘pilgrimages’ to ‘displaced destinations’ such as the old Hungerford Bridge, the Victoria Embankment Gardens (for the Sullivan Memorial – very ‘convulsive’), The Atlantis Bookshop, or the Dashwood Mausoleum and Hell Fire Caves at West Wycombe. But mainly there was a lot of loafing around, drinking coffee and snogging – or going to see Hammer Horror films and German Expressionist movies at the NFT. There was one exhibition at Hylands House – the exhibition was for all the school leavers but we managed to commandeer a room – as the Convulsionists were the general organisers of the show it was quite easy to get the space! We came up with the term ‘Convulsionism’ after the phrase ‘Beauty will be convulsive…’ (from Breton’s Amour Fou). I felt it implied the ‘visceral’ idea - my ideal work of art was to be a meaningless allegory generated by a kind of neurological spasm or frisson that could be transmitted to the viewer – well, if it gave me a frisson it might give you one as well. One old policy document from my archive says: "CONVULSION IS CONCERNED WITH THE BEAUTY OF PURE IMAGINATION AND FANTASY AND IS VIOLENTLY OPPOSED TO CONTRAPTON IN ANY FORM" (Convulsively Produced Notes On Convulsion, 1968). Earlier, I mentioned some key influences… I should add the Lost Generation to the list – the Francophile ‘Yellow Nineties’ Decadent poets and artists (Arthur Symons, Ernest Dowson et al) and, also, the ultra-Symbolist absurdism (as we saw it) of Laforgue and Alfred Jarry – we were quite keen on ‘Pataphysics as I recall… There was some empathy with English Pop Art, so we rather revelled in the Mass Media – Pop Music (The Doors, Brian Auger), Jazz (Indo Jazz Fusions, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus), Science Fiction and ‘cult TV’. It was ironic that the real Surrealists disbanded in 1969 (Andre Breton died in 1966) so we settled for being Neo-Surrealists!
What are you working on at present?
I am continually revising my ‘personal aesthetic’ (which is not a literary ‘poetic’) and have found this has absorbed much of my time in recent months. In our present situation when, for various reasons, free artistic expression is coming under threat as never before, I have been driven to ‘sharpen up’ my thoughts on such issues… On a more practical level I am revising and digitizing some non-fiction from the back-catalogue – various reviews and articles that I feel I have neglected and must revisit. I have an ongoing programme of computerisation that is quite time-consuming – some examples appear on the Tangents website. Publication-wise there are various poems accepted by magazines including Fire. Recent appearances have included ‘Vespula Vanishes’ a poem for Tori Amos (Inclement), ‘Danger (Midnight Street)’ (Pulsar), ‘Beautiful Chaos’ and ‘Dadar Radar’ (Fragments), and another piece called ‘Not The Cloudy Sky’ (Harlequin). Forthcoming, among other items, is a short story ‘Vikki Verso’ from Atlantean Publications who have taken a number of texts and drawings over the last couple of years. A recent collage, called ‘In the Beginning’ is on the cover (designed by Neil Annat) of a new Stride publication – Peter Redgrove’s A Speaker For The Silver Goddess (2006).
Thank you for answering my questions A.C.
And, thank you, Jane, for a fascinating conversation…
I’ll go and get you a glass of wine from the cellar
Be careful how you go – mind all those cobwebs!
I wish you luck and fortune with your work, as Salomon Trismosin once said:
Study what thou art
Whereof thou art a part.
What thou knowest of this Art,
This is really what thou art,
All that is without thee,
Also is within
All best for now.

Neon Highway, 2006

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Swan of Yuggoth

Swan Of Yuggoth

Becoming music unfettered, white-winged, the Swan
Calls out from where a blue supergiant circles
The Ancient of Days.
Beneath a leprous, hermaphroditic moon the Earth’s Lover
Sees a rabid dog
Escape through a secret rose garden.
White roses covered in snow,
The sacred source of illumination, kalas out of space.
Sounds awake, aeons of light years so far distant
Before the scattered remnants of the Milky Way
Spawned this Swan of other aeons,
Cross of Northern Skies, Bird of Aethyr returning to aethyr.
Penetrate unhindered
Even here
Crystalising arcane colours.
Eidolon of Yuggoth, glorified, spotless, virginal,
The light touch of your icy plumage ruffles this lake’s
Clear surface, reflecting tall trees, pale pillars
Descending quiet as splintered sunlight
Glances from your rippling wake.
Opposites are transformed
Into a new cold being, Diadem of My Heart.
Incorruptible, arising reborn,
Displacing ashes of purgatorial fires, long-necked body thrusting
Towards Leda, as the cries of her conjoined twins
Smash open the cosmic egg.
So, you are still dreaming.
But your eyes are perfect stones, like mirrors;
Transplutonic realms,
Awesome power zones, disguised as petals.
Their supreme light pervades the Ultimate Snow,
An incursion of otherness, a visible vibration.

Bird of Aethyr, returning to aethyr, Swan of Yuggoth.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Dream of Aldebaran

Dream of Aldebaran

Blazing red star flaming eye
Taurus Alpha following
Images of opaque objects
From the Hyades to the Pleiades.
Nine bright stars that rule our sky, with
Nine ladies and three dark sisters,
Mystical figures who control our destiny:
Calliope, her epic screams create terror,
Clio, her revelations paralyse thought,
Euterpe, the sound of her flute chills the blood,
Thalia, her laughter is an antidote to death,
Melpomene, her tears flood the universe with pain,
Terpsechore, her ritual chanting is the dance of the stars,
Erato, Angel of Eros, her lyric passion excites the senses,
Polyhymnia, her devotions define the limits of the possible,
Urania, her science is the word of truth.
Just turn the lights out – this is a chapter from
The Book of Storms,The Primal Dream of Three Uncanny Sisters
(Melete, Mneme, Aoide) – no Fates these,
Three Dark Stars in the shadows hidden
From the advance of Orion.
As the galaxies expand,
Surreality is disclosed in moments of distraction.
And these are the Nine bright stars of the dream:
Aldebaran, the burning eye
Capella, so much brighter than the sun
Castor, twin star so far, far away
Pollux, hero of the hour but so far, far away
Procyon, you rise before the dog
Sirius, source of Sothic Mysteries
Rigel, you dominate the mirror world
Bellatrix goddess of war, you are deadly nightshade
Betelgeuse, you tower over all, but
The blazing red eye feasts on human flesh.

A previous version of this poem appeared in Bard 74, 2009

Monday, 29 June 2009

Boo Galaxy

Boo Galaxy

We reached the Boo Galaxy
Via the Shrine of Roquepertuse
A gate mounted with severed heads.
We were blazing a path
Through an evaporating universe,
Escaping from an old film
Called Chain Gang Charlie.

Yes, we attain immortality through art
For divas never die, and
Even topless movie babes live forever.
Not just a playground love spat
The situation was much, much worse
– Apocalypse when?

As we approached the Boo Galaxy,
At just below the speed of light
Well within the law,
Edging into overkill, I said,

Oh, darling!
You’re an icon of sleaze
I can forget my painkillers now!

As we waited for the lights to change
– Emergency road works – I thought
We’re a pack of ragged ravers
A troupe of mad performers,
Heading for Seventh Heaven,
Not Arcturus
– and the Boo Galaxy
Engulfed us in a violet glow.

A previous version of this poem appeared in Handshake 75, 2008 edited by John Francis Haines

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Back Into The Night

My Life As An Assassin - A Twilight Zone Chiller

Voici le temps des Assassins - Rimbaud

Dazed and distracted I recall my former life as an assassin

Blood orange sands smoke trails shapes of infinity darker side of iconography origin of sexual differentiation – this is very much a personal statement

I stood resplendent in polyester in a series of far-out Fellini-esque entertainments filigree solarised film footage seemingly straight portrait obscure underlying action knowing genre piece spectacular effects kick ass lotsa love… now you begin to look like an eerily atmospheric cult movie from the sixties

Highly polished twilight zone chiller beautiful colour negative images ethereal visions strange telekinetic powers pulverising visceral energy truly terrifying emotionally charged engrossing fantasy elements bathed in dramatic Technicolor inserts excruciating jokes nudge-nudge humour central premise revitalises well-worn amnesia device with expressionist lighting and the austerity of virgins

Unable to cope with accidental death but retaining the style of the original I fell into the arms of a vengeful Hispanic street gang tribe of down-at-heel Puerto Rican hookers took refuge in the sewers captive zombies rebelled using experimental methods to bring them back into the night delighted to welcome an acclaimed singer-songwriter paranoid outsider looking for inspirational source of new album sing back the symbols enter through a mirror tricks me into drawing cross and curve with bandaged hands

Intriguing striking mysterious haunting theme soundtrack set on location impressively photographed fanatical guerrillas huge gold doorway leading to modern day troubles detailed black and white sets words from all twenty-four books stunning use of graphics intelligent ambitious key example of avant garde poetic metaphors traditional training rituals courtship marriage greed life-power-money original tinting and toning

In the throes of new lusts dying multi-billionaire explores opposing cultural worlds teenagers who like Salsa and Carmelita’s monologues women’s prison films (subverting stereotypes of mature ladies and post-modern men) complex subjects of social identity what exhilarating nerve what a dazzling display of sheer zest comic romantic melancholic drawn from space-age pop dawn of hi-fidelity original talent dark companion showcase high end audio reproduction indispensable veers from surreal hilarity to political upheaval and back again

Zillion trends in hi tech jinks with gangs of twatted clubbers lurching about like idjuts to unfashionable springy rhythms neon-lit underworld sea of love river of hate spiritual journey through Hell On Earth and back again

A glossy comeback vehicle no more editing with razorblades no more quirky signals etched on walls no more lonely soul-searchers ruthless specialists in military flesh piercing long-fingered aristocratic fops Celtic daydreamers potential suspects celluloid visions of secret agent or menaced assassin involving themes of fun hugs and cuddles sexuality and violence just watch our jet-set gaucho zoom into overdrive

Where’s the supernova?

Sombre skies link dotty monologues drag performances over the top production numbers drugs booze and drive-by shootings peek inside the editor’s war room complete with quantum beam splitter and a cornucopia of collectable rarities try impersonations with improvised dialogue sharp cruel witty no more pimply street-boy types just examples of red-hot live merchandise a solo performance until the cops show up and follow a group of women who set sail in a Chinese junk seeking adventure new life far from this shrieking abrasively satirical foray into wanton abandonment crazed family abducting stray refugees incorporating them into Golden Age of Hollywood shock

Echoes of mad interviews packed with astonishing revealing moments

Spaced out like a toothpaste commercial projected over dark intimidating housing complex we immerse ourselves in an amazing neural world exhibiting flare to spare and aural clichés holding this thing together is Leon Theremin’s Ether Wave an all-too-regular feature rising to the forefront of memory unusual poise pazazz playful provocative tip toeing along Boulevard Haussmann skirting the middle of the night neatly tongue-in-cheek outlandish costumes neither sympathetic or understated script dense awash with arty French movie tropes revealing the killer a young violin player

Back from the land of the dead like the poet who knew too much I arrive on Bitch Island grim cyberpunk world desolate wasteland populated by a few anguished young men looking like Pasolini threatened by environmental disaster and loops of Barbara Streisand songs amplified soundtrack roll call of the great and gorgeous no plonkers no chaser standard situation indefinite TV self-portraits lots of silent black and white photography

(We have been working on this since that mid seventies first feature about a young woman bored with her boyfriend smashes violin sucked into universe of downmarket noir features with the all the hallmarks of knee-jerk gore this means we reassess our future

Visions of irrational netherworlds suppurating ecstasy pleasure-pain downtrodden masses thousands of extras unforgettable hunger trendy interiors classic seductions Antipodean disco-dancers showcased in epic productions watch the crowd go crazy depth emotional insight vast international nuclear conspiracies mixing politics with myth and fantasy these were both our strengths and weaknesses plus my poetic fascination for the interplay between inanimate objects sinister metamorphoses split screen contrast situations and the dark malevolent tone of the post-war Absurdist tradition)

Meanwhile on the far-out fringes of ‘the permissive society’ lurks an irreverent humour explicit material which may offend some viewers with luck and a fair wind hey ho precipitating usual yuppie nightmare of young Manhattan literary agent pushed ‘over the edge’ into the whip-cracking world of a wicked dominatrix plastic clients prowling through labyrinth of rooms acting out grotesque parody of undercover secret society pain humiliation so-called assassins lurk in corners elaborately montaged astute media manipulators can you have the rock without the roll the swing without the…

In Europe nothing has changed steam still splutters from the pool leitmotivs rain down from the sky in gay abandon buildings are old dirty magnificent stylish and dramatically allegorical I erupt into frenzied bloodshed over two hundred locations two thousand costumes elements of a giant fresco running time three hundred minutes with intermissions to allow for sinister moves towards our hero a local boy scene a remote country house where Gladstone spent many a weekend researching The Estranged Attractor background modelled on vague vista-vision cosmopolitanism celebrated climax at the Royal Albert Hall as a bunch of hard-nosed space-marines pitch headlong into a web of extracts from Rimbaud’s poems a network of cross-border kidnapping and one of the best loved British thrillers

Naked as tortured emotion

Singing symbols back to front round and round all places the poet used to visit on the run in London one of most terrifying moments in current drama not so much a search for the East more a deflation or ‘deconstruction’ of big time aspirations as he festered underground in Mrs Scarlett’s Rooming House Camberwell dosser’s paradise brilliant new wave language of verbal colour criminal love paraphrase of maybe/maybe not rewrites off-cuts personal memories found objects old bus tickets possibly work of fashion-conscious metro-centrics excavating rich vein of neo-Dadaist humour cheeky enterprise harsh times something for everyone skipping through chance encounters semi-abstract associations old punk style ‘no wave’ link-ups with cool jazz

We can never know the answer we can never express the dynamic like an assassinated poet on acid oddly life-affirming oddly oddball familiar faces well worn amnesia device another nice one make you sound like one of last year’s top media personalities

Series takes off uncompromising production design externalising desire warped limits orthodox syntax in equal measure farthest reaches final frontier unearthly terrain mapped out by intrepid explorers of inner space alienated outsiders yes we are at the outer limits of representation folks from the sublime to the ridiculous forget those arty classics rediscover the night with its needlepoint of stars just die for this one brooding visuals heavy head-nodding deep breaks obscenity charges baton charges Goth girls with attitude sinking Chinese junks trippy paraphenalia grief murder dark electro feel months of planning now we can all kick ass lotsa love…

Wailing gnashing teeth true variety style trash stunts back into cinematic night moves comic songs dirty plates juiced up vibes deranged hobos mad tender dark suicides muggers lounge lizards killer docs nasty nerdy head-cases mouldering polemics lie detectors literate dramas wheels within wheels unspeakable obsessions boundaries of known pathology ignore the hype try not get too excited even holiday snaps and old home movies send strange signals to shabby weirdo stalker types unshaven smelling of dog’s piss levitating in back alley laudro-mat fear reflecting degeneration

Sublime gloriously textured hands in air recall my former life as an assassin in drag orange sands visceral energy mirror trick melancholic dawn over cityscape– now, you tell us a story…

Illustration: The Estranged Attractor, 2001

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Medusa Cascade

Ladies and gentlemen,
The image you see here may well be an ideal work of art.
Perhaps it is a lurid and melodramatic allegory of the creative process?
You will observe how, on one level, the symbolism is obvious – an uncontrollable force overwhelms the ivory towers of pedantry and the bastions of patriarchy. It is a force from ‘beyond’ – it is the dark energy of unconscious drives, it is a monstrous incursion from the paraxial realm of Desire.

This oracular vision is presented to us by that Pythoness of Subliminal Terror, superstar choreographer of the Ballet Plastique des Noctambules, Ms Medusa Cascade – watch your step!

Illistration: Cometographia II, 2002

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Nowhere Imperfect

A Provisional Cosmology

There are secret motions, out of sight, that lie concealed in matter – Lucretius

How can a self-activating universe emerge from nowhere?
Activity in the cosmic substrate (quantum vacuum) involves an indeterminate relationship, governed by the Uncertainty Principle, between the complimentary quantities of energy and time. The Uncertainty Principle is not an intellectual construct but a fundamental characteristic of phenomena.
This uncertainty relation allows for the transformation of ‘borrowed energy’ into a particle called a pion. At a subatomic level pairs of such exchange particles or mesons, provide the attractive intra-nuclear force between protons and neutrons (nucleons) within the atomic nucleus. These ‘virtual’ particles are the objective source of The Casimir Effect, a phenomenon that confirms the existence of minimal energy entities in apparently ‘empty’ space.
There is no absolute void and no such thing as absolutely empty space, even though the Uncertainty Principle ensures that subatomic activity in the void, or quantum vacuum, cannot be described with precise exactitude. A field of absolutely empty space cannot ‘exist’ because the Uncertainty Principle prohibits a field fixed absolutely at zero. In the quantum universe no field can have both a precise value (zero) and a precise rate of change (zero) simultaneously, consequently there will always be a minimum level of uncertainty, a certain level of irregularity, slight fluctuations in the density and velocity of particles. These non-uniform perturbations would be as small as they could be, but would, nevertheless, lead to anomalies in the otherwise smooth regularity of any emerging points of space-time generated by such irregular fluctuations through friction.
The Big Bang event can be understood as the explosive after-effect of an extended chain of irregular perturbations among fluctuating virtual particles generated by borrowed energy comprising the indeterminate pre-cosmic substrate at the quantum level. The density fluctuations already present in the initial space-time singularity, and observed in the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background), formed the basis of subsequent physical irregularities in the early material conditions of the universe and eventually gave rise to all the astronomical features of the observable cosmos.
These astronomical features are the by-product of a quantum eruption, much as the material expelled from a volcano is the by-product of a violent subterranean event. The outcome of this ‘eruption’ is an expanding red-shift universe of galaxies in space-time that, in due course, having exhausted its propulsive momentum, will revert to an original quantum state. In the interim, over immense periods of time, complex chemical chain-reactions, together with the interplay of forces and the synthesis of stellar elements, will engender all the phenomena of organisation and animation humans call ‘nature’, including living organisms such as bacteria, plants and animals on diverse planets. Notwithstanding the vast time-scales involved, ‘existence’ as experienced by these organisms, is as transient as the universe itself – a universe tending to disorder, reflecting latent chaos and where time is an emergent property arising from the red-shift expansion.
There is no substantive role for intelligence, imagination, self-awareness and other capacities of sentience in a value-neutral and non-purposive universe, although the development of sentience in humans gives rise to anthropomorphic interpretations of existence. Such interpretations are based on a false identification of structural organisation with thought. Even though these capacities – survival strategies of evolutionary adaptation – are of great value to physically weak organisms, they have no intrinsic significance. The same is true of all metaphysical speculation which, being a by-product or side effect of self-awareness, is disconnected from the factual basis of actual reality.
A condition known as the ‘no-boundary condition’ applies to both the manifest universe and the pre-cosmic quantum vacuum. Thus, just as there is no such phenomenon as ‘empty’ space, there is no possibility of any ‘edge’ demarcating either the physical macrocosm, or its quantum substrate, from any form of ‘outside’ above or beyond the manifest sphere.
Even taking into account the possibility of ‘other’ dimensions or the possible viability of the hypothetical ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics, the substrate and the cosmic totality are indivisible and coextensive. There is no exterior or transcendent sphere of existence, just as there is no possibility of ‘non-existence’ because there is no absolute void: total nothingness cannot exist.
The answer to the perennial question of origination (where does the universe come from?) can be answered with reference to the quantum vacuum. But if we ask how this vacuum in its turn can exist and from where it derives its existence it must be said that the answer cannot be formulated with absolute exactitude. This failure of exactitude is the natural consequence of the Uncertainty Principle governing indeterminate relations between complimentary quantities, ensuring that the ‘given’ substrate perpetuates itself. Furthermore, this self-perpetuation cannot be seen as a 'genesis' or 'birth', or mode of becoming, for such an idea would imply that a void lacking a space-time continuum emerged from a state prior to its own existence – an outlandish and superfluous assumption.
The Uncertainty Principle also explains how, through non-uniformity (anisotropy) and the process of ‘borrowed’ energy, the quantum vacuum may give rise, from an imperfect ‘nowhere’, to any number of expanding space-time universes of finite extent .

Illustration: Spontaneous Creation, 2007

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Displacement Effects

Vox et Praeterea Nihil – New Poetry from A C Evans

Plutarch’s description of the nightingale (‘A voice and nothing more’) is a salutary reminder of the ephemeral nature of our poetic endeavours. For what are poets – those nightingales of ‘culture’ – but a diversity of voices? Some are shrill, others are gruff, many bombastic, most mawkish, self-important or pseudo-sophisticated, a few, a very few – those crying in the wilderness – strike a chord. Yes, we are all voices and nothing more – with particular emphasis on the word ‘nothing’.
Undeterred by such thoughts, or by the hyper-intellectual theories of academic literateurs living (like several respondents to The Argotist interview and essay) in a state of denial that is really a kind of hubris or confusion or both – a number of new poems have recently slipped out from under my door. Some, thanks to the generosity of several editors, have actually found their way into print and/or online. Last April, under the Dada-style title ‘Bom chucka wah wah’, Stride published six poems from a new sequence, South of Suburbia, an excursion into tabloid impressionism. In June 2008 a group of poems together with two collages by way of illustration (‘Displacement Effects’ and ‘This Is Not The New World Order’) were included on a feature page on the new Inclement site. Aside from South of Suburbia, there are three other new sequences called The Silver Ghost, Radical Chicanery and Perfect Storm.
Various poems have appeared in the SF anthology Old Rossum’s Book of Practical Robots (2008) and Handshake 75, while magazines, Harlequin, Inclement Poetry for the Modern Soul, The Penniless Press, Pulsar and Fire also included a number of items mainly, but not exclusively, from these new sequences. Awen from Atlantean Publishing carried three translations from the French (Breton, Verlaine, Maeterlinck) while ‘Boo Galaxy’, published in Handshake, was even short-listed for the Data Dump Award 09.
Thinking about surfacing?
Illustration: Displacement Effects, 2002

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Dea Phantastica

Dancing with the Dead - recently published fiction by A C Evans
Then turning to my love I said,
‘The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.’
- Oscar Wilde

‘The Vision of Morgan Le Fay’ (1992) was published in Awen 55, December 2008. ‘We Vampires’ (1972) was published in the Halloween anthology Haunting Tales (2008). ‘Mute Witness’ (1972) was published in Monomyth Volume 8.2 Issue 44, December 2008. These are all from Atlantean Publishing (editor D-J Tyrer).
The two short stories from 1972 are from Deathmasques that early collection of thanato-erotic symbolic psychodramas; ‘The Vision of Morgan Le Fay’ exists in various versions and is also included in the collection Colour of Dust (Stride, 1999).
Morgan Le Fay is the Dea Phantastica of all our nightmares. She embodies the anarchy of the wayward imagination. This short prose poem takes the form of a telepathic communication from Morgan, goddess of Strange Doorways, to a visionary ‘scryer’, the Hermetic Philosopher of the Dead Lake (a fictionalised Dr John Dee) revealing her attributes and history to him via his crystal stone.
Beware her ‘shape-shifting gargoyles’ they are everywhere!
Illustration; Dea Phantastica, photo by AC, 1971

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The View From Planet X

Charting the Postsurreal – Recent Non Fiction by A C Evans

From Hoffmann and German Romanticism, to the modern fantastic in horror films, fantasy has tried to erode the pillars of society by un-doing categorical structures. - Rosemary Jackson (1981)

‘Arcanum Paradoxa’, a brief survey of alchemy and its poetic links which first appeared here on CygnusX, has now been published as an article in The Monomyth Supplement 44 (Jan 2009) from Atlantean Publishing. ‘Arcanum’ is one of several investigative essays – an ongoing enquiry into the aesthetics of the post-surreal. Another contribution to this, no doubt, infinite project is ‘The Unique Zero Manifesto – Towards the Open Realism of Disclosure'’ (2002-2007) which probes further the ‘primal mechanics’ of the creative process. ‘Unique Zero’ is forthcoming from Salt Publishing , included in the anthology Troubles Swapped For Something Fresh, edited by Rupert Loydell of Stride.

Also there are several review articles now available online from Stride.
These include 'Nightmare Scenarios: Incursions of the Unacceptable’ (2007) a look at English horror films through English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema (2006) a reference survey by film critic and actor Jonathan Rigby. An abridged version of this review also appeared in the magazine Midnight Street.
‘A Hymn to Contorted Beauty’ (2008), a review of Prague-German writer Paul Leppin’s 1930s novel Blaugast: A Novel of Decline (‘In these pages we find the ultimate, amorphous horror of mere existence depicted in the most graphic way’) and, most recently, ‘Delusions of Cosmic Destiny’, an analysis of Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions by historian Ronald H Fritze. Check out a reaction to this review on Planet Clio.

The 2006 'Interview With Jane Marsh', culture correspondent extraordinaire, was reissued in print last year and appeared in Neon Highway 13. Known as ‘The Illustrated Jane’ this contained both artwork and documentary photos chosen to compliment the text.

Artist Mervyn Peake once asked; ‘what should we hope for as the curtain rises and lays bare the gratuitous stage where, unhindered a man may cry his ghostly manifesto? A miracle? Of course. For we have seen paper transformed into a cosmos of such vibrancy as made the room we stood in like a land of the dead.’ (Introduction to The Drawings of Mervyn Peake, 1949).

So... cry your ghostly manifestos!

Illustration: The View from Planet X, 1993