nov - oct 2012

November 28th

There is a thing I find in some writing, some Scottish writing occasionally especially by some males, that underneath everything I sense the driving psychological pressure of ambition and the competitive, and the need, shown here and there in nuances or revelation in the writing, not to show "weakness" of the individual author. A deep antipathy to "weakness", perhaps sometimes a slight selfregard at recognising and revealing in the other a sign of weakness, can peep out.

And I have a deep antipathy to that, yes I can have my own "psychological reasons", but it disgusts me, instinctively disgusts me, and always makes me feel slightly sick, as if, Is that all it comes down to?  I will never write like that, could not write like that, and will never feel interested or any fellow warmth towards the persona at the core of such writing, whatever accomplishments apparently for the thereby-realised "writer" its driven burnishing produces. But then "warmth", aha, that would be a dirty word, that would be "weakness" at worst with somebody like MacDiarmid equating it with dogs looking for a lick of your hand.

And it will have appeal to a reader of like psychology. I sense its cousin the spirit of vengeance in the geneology, setting-others-to-rights through as it happens the medium of writing, driven by a bang-my-own-chest abiding desire to win. For such a writer a desire for fame is intrinsic, deep down a desire to be seen to have won. I can have no fellow-feeling with a writer like that. They are happy in their own little gambling-booth, for that is what writing is to them.


November 27th

I am reading in Stirling’s Tolbooth Theatre this Thursday 29th at 8pm along with William Letford and Anita Govan.




Harry Fear, whose live stream from Gaza I referred to several times a few entries back, eventually took a freelance position with Russia Today as their temporary Gaza correspondent just before the bombardment ended. He weighed up the pros and cons of accepting the job before taking it on the premise that he could reach a larger audience and profits beyond his living expenses he would donate to Gaza charities.

He will be visiting university groups and such in the  UK as want to hear him in December and January. As I have before indicated, his lack of ego, honesty and integrity I find cheering, and while people like Tony Benn and Chomsky and Pilger are all getting on in age, it’s good to see young people like Harry Fear coming into view. You can follow his twitter feed (I tend to just scan it for his own name and omit the sundry others thanking him or whatever) for news here; there are also short YouTube films he made that are worth looking at, for instance excerpt from an interview with Tony Benn here and from his talk at Leicester Universityhere with some questions and answers after he had returned from a previous visit to Gaza in June.


November 25th

merkland cover
Øyvind Rimbereid, who will be giving a talk on my work as part of the N C Kaser award business in Italy in three weeks, emailed asking questions about the setting of “A Priest Came on at Merkland Street”. I found online these two photos, one of Merkland Street subway station which has for years been no longer in operation. The names of the other stations on the circle which are still in use today can be seen on the destination boards at the end of the platform. I also found a photo of the inside of a carriage (“and sitting straight across from me...”)

November 18th
Israel bombing places where journalists have been transmitting information they don't like, including targetting specific floors of a building as they have done where the West Bank's Palestiinian-Authority funded Ma'an news agency and the Russia Today Arabic channel were operating.
Harry Fear video stream off air his twitter text feed from Gaza continuing here (2pm)
Video stream back on again now here (2.30)  Continuing reports of areas of Israeli bombing and casualties.
photo removed

November 17th
The Harry Fear live video stream from Gaza has been back on air with interruptions for his sleep and rest. He is continuing (this at 5pm) to give sporadic overviews of the situation with reports of incidents when and as they happen in the so-called "Pillar of Cloud" Israeli bombing assault. So far there have been 900 air strikes on the strip. The live stream is here
November 16th

The Harry Fear live stream from the hotel in Gaza went dead shortly after midnight. The electricity had been first cut off and a generator had been in use.

Fear had said he was operating from what a friend had said the Israelis had assured would be one of three hotels in Gaza that would be spared any of the bombs. In other words there were other, pro-Israeli, journalists holed up inside.

This was the same scenario as in Tripoli when the Canadian Mahdi Nazemroaya was the only non-Nato source of information providing a link to the outside world from a hotel that also contained pro-Nato BBC, CNN etc so was not a Nato target. Nazemroaya eventually managed to get safe passage out of Libya on a boat though his life was under threat in the process, and one report showed him evidently in fear. His reports from Libya throughout were at one point the only source of counter-information to the world of “information” that forms a crucial part of the structure itself of the Nato-Israel-UK-US-Gulf States killing machine. Falluja, Sirte, Tripoli, Gaza, it is all one, not a “war zone”, but a bombing-field, overseen by a killing machine that has been in an almost permanent state of bombing for the past two decades. The information structure functions to “inform” that this is otherwise, that there is a two-sided “war” episodically breaking out. That is its essential role in the structure, a role in which its proclaimed “independence” from the structure is part of the essence. That at the broadsheet end. At the tabloid end, there is the Murdoch-led "heroes" nonsense. The poppies blanket hysteria. The military lobby's "human stories" daily on electronic media and press.

I remember in October 2011 being part of a reading for “National Poetry Day” in Glasgow on October 9th. I felt like the man in the moon on a visit to the earth, for all the connection I had to what was going on around me. At that time the town of Sirte was under bombardment and destruction, its bombardment and destruction ignored in the array of “information” outlets consumed in people’s daily habits or “lifestyle” to use the current word. It was bizarre, totally bizarre, having a sense of consciousness totally distinct from the sense of people’s focus around me. Complete dissociation.

Gerald Kaufmann former Labour foreign minister was out of government and in opposition during the last main bombing of Gaza in 2008 when 1500 people were killed and over 5,000 injured. “A gang of thugs led by war criminals” Kaufman called the Israeli cabinet from the parliamentary back benches. He would never have used such language or even criticism when in office. In office, he was an essential part of the killing machine, at that time in Iraq,  just as William Hague, Susan Rice, British “even-handed” media et al are at the moment part of the killing machine in Gaza —and Syria.
November 15th
21.55 pm Live video feed just now from hotel in Gaza by British activist film maker Harry Fear as Israelis carry on their bombing and have started re-invasion. Brave man who asks that anyone shares this feed at once in English on Twitter and Facebook. The feed is here "The beginning of the grand invasion confirmed on three fronts." Reports of numerous explosions from bombs.  Bombs falling on Khan Younis refugee camp. Fear reminds just over half the population of Gaza under eighteen.
22.16 Tanks entering Bethlehem in West Bank also Khan Younis in Gaza.
harry fear
Screenshot of Harry Fear live stream from Gaza Hotel
A sense of powerlessness listening to this account of Israeli current bombardment. The reporter though is a real example of journalistic integrity, an actual war reporter for god's sake, unlike any whatsoever in the corporates on the Palestinian situation, though how many pretend to be. Israel banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza earlier today, the usual accompaniment to an escalation of their violence.
Harry Fear previous filmed reports and interviews on YouTube are here
November 14th

Words like mainstream or progressive fall into the sand when somebody can actually write a poem and make it fresh, what Pound meant by what counts is the quality of the emotion, what Schoenberg meant by There are still plenty of good tunes to be written in C Major.

The writer Hope Whitmore contacted me about an essay she’s writing, and in looking at her website i see she referenced the poet Geoffrey Holloway who was born in 1918, died in 1997 and lived the greater part of his life in Stavely in Cumbria. I had never heard of him, he being another poet whose work is a thread through a succession of small presses. Hope Whitmore particularly mentioned the poem “The Lovers” which was one of those appended to Geoffrey Holloway’s online obituary.

I’ve now ordered the Collected Poems which is published by Arrowhead Press. If none of the other poems are as good as “The Lovers” it will still be worth having.

November 1st

Am reading on Saturday night at 7.30 in the Alloa Tower with Kathleen Jamie and Drew Milne. There’s a reading there on Friday night including Peter Manson and other readings by poets Saturday morning and afternoon. Details on pp 10-15 in the inappropriately named Clackmannanshire Storytelling Festival brochurehere


October 29th


October 24th
drone war

October 23rd

Olson’s Mayan work and Rothenberg’s native/ millenial anthologies: new world American poets aiming to run a bypass past a supposed European cultural “line” (dead-ended by Eliot) to pre-European, pre-Greek cultures presented as “total” (through myth) beyond and outside a linear narrowness;

linking to now similarly “total” not-confined-to-page-line poetry practised by the poet-pedagogue himself, and peers. The mainstream seen as of the old linear, “closed” and narrow field.

I get energy from both; but when bound up with pedagogic mapping, inclination towards overall alternative prescriptivity makes it uncomfortably near to being just another self-advancing colonising drive. Renaming the world, in retrospect, in one’s own chosen image-as-poet: the “true” course of world poetry just happening to be passing through the poet himself at/as the current gate.

In the seventies a little American publication called Pocket Poetry ran through twelve issues maintaining as its basic policy that it gathered for reprint, with author permission, items seen in small press poetry magazines which the editors had liked. They asked for permission to reprint my dialect piece “Honest”, and in the 1978 issue of Pocket Poetry that then published it, these two pages by the Native American poet Wendy Rose appeared.


wendy rose


October 19th
its new snp
October 18th
Have added a link in my links page to my publisher Etruscan Books. The press has been publishing progressive UK and American poetry for years under poet Nicholas Johnson. Their site can be seen here . At the moment you can also download there a pdf with info about a poetry festival being held November 2nd-4th in Hastings where the publisher is based.
October 14th
party conference

October 10th
home thoughts

October 8th
As Far as I Can See is published by James Robertson's Kettilonia Press at £9. You can buy it post free here
October 6th

Talha Assan, the London born poet who has never been to America and who has never been charged with an offence in Britain despite spending years in custody, has now been despatched on an extradition plane to the America he has never seen. He can expect neither justice nor freedom. He is accused of association with a website “whose server is based in America”, the catchall clause used by the Americans to implement their outrageously unbalanced “treaty” with the British Government.

Last year in drawing attention to the widespread campaign for Talhal Assan’s release highlighted on a website about him here, I cited the poem “This be the Answer” that formed the title of a published booklet of his work. Here it is again. This is the quality of poetry of a man that the government imprisoned for seven years without charge, and extradited without themselves offering an iota of criminal evidence.
talha ahsan



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