Just catching up…

Infinite Lives – Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
through the entirety of which the Working Men and, especially, their wives talked loudly.

But nevertheless was an excellent event from the Homework boys. Passionate and witty sermons in poetry and prose by Joe, Tim, Ross and Chris, exploring the netherworld of computer gaming; the virtual worlds of pixellated hedgehogs and supercharged ninjas. Ross in particular made a strong case for gaming as a new and important metaphorical landscape, a way to reconfigure and imagine our own, real worlds. His Streetfighter sonnets a case in point. Well done, chaps. It has reminded me to write that sequence based on the Matrix Trilogy.

Poetry and Place – The Battle of Ideas

On Sunday I took part in a panel debate on Poetry and Place with Shirley Dent, Glyn Maxwell and Dave Bowden. There were also readings by a number of poets, including Sid Bose, Inua Ellams, Jay Bernard, Leela Gandhi (yes) and myself. Glyn read an excellent piece at the end: a Medieval Mystery Cycle set in his hometown, Welwyn Garden City. I’ve published an excerpt of his play Liberty in the new Litro. It was a pretty fierce debate. As expected, I clashed with Shirley on a number of points to do with the nature of poetry, language and the role of the writer. I think I put my points across, which is all one can hope for.

Reading – Comma Club, Oxford

Went down to Oxford on Tuesday with Sarah. It’s been a few years, and always a fairly surreal process as I spent three years there at university. In chronological order… hung out in Blackwells’ Urban Theory section with some Spanish academics; bought Will Self’s Liver; had a huge lunch of Steak & Ale Pie at The Turf washed down with a pint of something local (Sarah had the Fish & Chips); met up with my old friend and fellow Medievalist Alex at Rose’s on the High Street; perambulated the parks (joggers, why oh why?); nipped in to St Anne’s for no particular reason; spent two hours drinking and reading in the Royal Oak, one of our favourite haunts.

Then it was off to meet Jamie and head up to Keble College for our reading at a new student-led society called the Comma Club. The organiser, Jack, was very nice and efficient and we were ushered into a large vaulted room with paintings of former principals (or rectors, or whatever they call them) on the walls. The audience was 100% student and (I think) mainly non-poetry fans. Though Jay was there, and also Charlotte Geater who’s a former Foyle winner. I read ‘this is yogic’, ‘Iconic’, ‘How To Build A City’ (short version), some of ‘The Terrors’ and ‘The Voyages of Ottar and Wulfstan’. Jamie read postcard poems, review poems, his brilliant fashion poem and a couple from Ex Chaos. He got me up to help with his eggbox poems, the medical questionnaire and (with Sarah) ‘Score for a Nocturne’. Very attentive audience and some nice comments afterwards, especially from a bubbly girl from Essex who used to sleep in some kind of stone hideout near Liverpool Street. I think the Comma Club’s a grand idea, and wish it well. Sold some books. Had some wine. Then stumbled towards the train station via Bangkok Palace where Jamie, Sarah, Jay and I had a quick meal. Caught the penultimate and practically empty train back to Paddington, where we discovered the tubes had stopped earlier than expected. Night bus home. Obama elected.

NB: Whilst in the Gents at Keble, I stumbled into a rather amusing if predictably mysogynist conversation between 2nd or 3rd year male students about the practice of ‘sharking’ fresher girls. Like old times, it was.


  1. Alex says:

    Good to see you it was indeed. I’m wondering whether there is some sort of ex-medievalist collective, a self-help group for those of us who have stumbled out from under the shadow of Chaucer or Langland, a kind of twelve step programme (I’m still a medievalist, but a day at a time I don’t have to pick up Lydgate anymore)? Having said that, I look forward to a heavy Barlaam and Josaphat session at some juncture. Would that constitute a relapse?

  2. I think that’s an excellent idea, Alex. Can’t wait for some Barlaam chats. If we read from my eighteenth century edition, we can pretend we’re not not medievalists.

  3. Amiri Baraka says:

    Excellent Chivers you marxist agitatator calling to overthrow unfairness and inequality by the power of Poetry.

    How did it go with Shirl and the other dangerous republican communists voicing their subsuidised seditious crazee talk?

    How did the excellent Keeble College rebels take to the verse? When are you storming the gates of her jammers gaffe? Let them eat cake Chivers, its the Eliot for you in four yrs mate, that brain of yours housing incredibly excellent Ideas the Institute commandos will be head-hunting you for the next incredibly important and pressing debate on Politics and Poetry, Freedom of speech and its great to know the fairness is safe in the hands of they who got to the top by talent and ability alone. Thank god the old imperialist network’s been smashed. Your going to top the achievements of Michael Rosen. Excellent, really, really stunningly marvelous.

    Don’t let the aristo’s deny you of your socialist rights soldier.

    Superb, and then you’ll never guess what cwuddles said..tulips, ha ha ha, a bit awf, but hey, we’re the jolly well oppressed, and it’s a total disgrace they stole the Newdigate, the rotters had a shoo in, not like us what, what, we’ll show them blighters and one day Tom, the tip of that sword, arise Sir Chivers, your mind deserves a bit of recognition, it’s only fair those beastly cheps and gels don’t get away with blatant appalling behaviour, coz we the street yah? safe. yo ma blood clot, awfully excellent, as always, yr loyal servant


  4. Desmond says:

    Thanks for publishing the above Tom. It was just that being under moderation by you, and that my current take on the reason for contemporary English Poetry being in such a weakened state; is due to the fact that until very recently, to be considered a poet in the modern English tradtion meant ollamhs had to attend Oxbridge and thereby excluding 99% of briton’s who don’t go there — and then you sort of confirming this in this post, and Rosen, Motion et al. singulary failing to inspire the youth, i loosened off a satire. But that you let it through is very commendable as it shows you are not like the majority who brook no dissent.

    The recent Poetry and Politics bloggers, i wrote one response to some post blathering on about the importance of Freedopm of Speech, and it was deemed whatever enough to remain unpublished, in a freedom of speech blog talking about poetry and politics.

    Gordon Brown has just blogged for the guradian on comment is free (cif) about how inspiring Obama’s historic victory is, and I managed to leave a post summing up my feelings on politics in the UK.

    The Guardian will not have me on the blokes bog, because of *problematic content*. This was after *monitoring the behaviour* of me as a *user* there, and i only found out after a call from the bloggers about moderation policy after their campaign of siliencing me by removing all trace of anything i say about poetry.

    The *problematic content* is basically, airing the truth of the bardic tradtion, and reading betwen the lines, because i am also a human being who believes we are all equal and the reason for the proliferation of PC lingo is tied to the fact that as long as there is a monarchy, (who i think should retire and go private), who is the elephant in the room of Labour Britain who claim equality and fairness for all is their core belief, regardless of race, gender and sexuality, unless your name is Windsor and then the rules do not apply — there will be no equality. And this is reflected in the Poetic culture and tradition, founded on the two colleges being training grounds in which thrusting neouveau riche courtiers trained to prasie their boss, on the hope of cash and reward.

    And for centuries the poetry tradition has been little more than an extension of Oxbridge common rooms, reflected in the prize culture, where the trajectory os top win the Newdigate, Forward, Eliot any prize you like, and this is the measure of poetic success, rather than the native bardic one. We have everyone pretending to be moved by Greek myth, that Homer is somehow the national poet instead of Taliesin and the competiton use this myth to fioght it out in verse who is most poetic.

    But as soon as i come and start talking of bardic lore, which i am now expert in through hard intellectual graft, knowing also greek lore, the poetic establishment in the face of the guardian, do not like it to the extent it is laughable, and i am treated like some unclean lepor by a load of idiots whose deepest complexes have been moved to the extent i am treated in the way i am as a poet who knows more about native british lore than nearly everyone i know.

    But i am flying and having a ball, as i know i am a first, arrogant? OK, but i live in a bedsit and have beaten the best with brains alone and been excluded every step of the way, not by ppl like you, but plastic English ppl pretending they know what they are on about, but really are only after reputation by reward, elevated in a reflection of how Engliosh life is, fairness a lip service word,. the truth being a small Oxbridge clique, get all the plum numbers and pretend it aint so, mostly. You’ve heard the hoo ha with Rosen, how he got upset he as the official Child Laureate wasn’t given enough repsect on a school trip and slunk off in a huff?

    And Motion moaning about a job he took on, his hubris getting the better of him?

    This is coz, poetic beleif cannot be conveyed into us by another person, only we can find that within, and the text i discovered which was first translated in 1983 and is the fundamental document underpinning the whole bardic enterprise, allows the poet to do this, as it explains from the pov of a 7C poet, with (say) 1000 years of poets beihnd them and 100 years ahead in print, what poetry is and how it works.

    You’d think this would be of interest to poets? nah, and the reason i am the one who must not be talked of, as i upset other ppls dreams about themself, just because i am me.

    great innit?


    sed yall

  5. Dole Poet says:

    Thanks very much for publishing this chivers, how come you didn’t publish the post which puts it in context, please?

    Talk the talk but can’t walk it, hey pal?

  6. Hey Desmond, why the negativity? I can’t do everything at once! I work pretty much 7 days a week on this literature lark. I would earn more stacking shelves than I currently do. Not sure I quite deserve the slur re. Oxbridge, but hey, if you wanna wall to hit against, Oxbridge is always there – the big Satan. Yours only slightly peevishly..

  7. Dole Poet says:

    thanks very much Chivers.

    sorry for sounding like a grunter i the dole poet post, but the great thing about the Amergin text, is s/he who understands its relevance, need not have to look to any other for validation, but affirms from within.

    I found the Erynn Rowan Laurie translation of this untitled 7C Amergin text, which modern scholars called – the Cauldron of Poesy.

    This text, faithfully copied through the centuries in the original Old Irish, is found in a 15C Harleian (Robert Harley, 1st earl of Oxford) manuscript 3.18, one of the Irish legal codices now at Trinity College, with the identification tag: MS 1337.

    This text was only translated in 1983, and when i first clapped eyes on it three years ago, thought this cannot be, as – on the face of it – it explains what poetry is, where it comes from and how it humanly works; from the point of view of a 7C bard, who had (say) 1000 years of druids behind him or her, and 1000 years of bards and filidh poets in print ahead of them, and it has no title, i am guessing, because it needed none as it was the first poem the grade one fochloc (sapling) was given at their first day in bard school. A/the touchstone text of the whole bardic enterprise, my instinct immediately thought and after 18 months sniffing round the biggers doing their very important biz of public reading at book launches et al, asking if they knew of it, expecting the higher ups to of course know it, it became clear this text is all but unknown and it was only when Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill agreed my hunch was correct after 18 months of asking, i stopped asking as that was proof enough for me.

    At a stroke, this text does away with the What is Poetry? question, or rather it is a text that no Milton, Wordsworth, TS Eliot, Pound, or any other figure in the history of English language poetry, is gonna persuade me they are speaking deeper than Amergin.

    So this touchstone text of the whole bardic enterprise, you’d think fellow bluffers would be interested in it, as it is clearly very very significant? Not at all, far from it, i have been tossed out of every gaffe going, for trying to share and speak of it, and what for?

    Well that’s all past now, as my latest research has gone back to Minoan civilisation and conquered Hesiod, as all these Greek fellas, were only men Tom, they weren’t infallible and the war, war, war, oh what a lovely Poetic to have, is – according to Graves who of all the poets, had the most comprehensive grasp of Greek myth, and so the 8C BC Theogony underpinning the whole short lived English tradition, is just Hesiod’s – one person’s synthesis of many local myths, written at the end of the Greek Darg Ages that ran for 300 years from 1100 – 800 BC, which began with the Levante Iron Age, around the time of the Iliad, when all the cities of the Egyptian, Hittite, Greek world were destroyed when the prolifiration of iron weapons, lead to an orgy of violence.

    And when Hesiod comes along, the Appollo was top dog woth Zeus, but before that, in Minoan civilisation which ran from 2700 to 1500 BC on Crete, frescoe and statuary evidence shows a huge majority of only priestesses and/or goddesses, with nothing which could remotely resemble a Minoan god. The frescoes at Knossoss show bnoth men and women engaging in the same sports, the supreme deity was a Mother Earth goddess, and the Minoan’s had no warrior caste as they had a very sophisticated trading network with the other levante and greek empires and were totally mercantile, and with matrilineal succession of kings, it is theorised, but once the Mycenaean – Achaen of the Iliad, invaded Crete after Thera, the island known now as Santorini blew up in 1500 BC, 70 miles north of Crete – the theory of Graves is they binned of this 50/50 equal poetic, and elevated male gods to the supreme dieties. So by the time Hesiod comes along, the Greek world has known nothing but male gods and war culture for the last 700 years. Writing stopped, the equivalent of a nuclear meltdown of society, and another of his three extant works supports this thesis, Works and Days, in which the five ages of Man asre detailed, the first Golden age, were men and women live at peace with the gods and it is all super jolly, could it be the memory of Minoan civilisation?

    Graves calles this poetic the *unimprovable original* and posits it ran back to the old stone age, this mother earth magical poetic language in which fertility goddesses ruled, and so all this *intellectual homesexuality* Graves blames Plato for, the know alls we have as the men who cannot be wrong (they were only human chivers, and without the magic IT we have to gather info) as they were trapped by history and war, into erastes eremenos, the bum boy brigade, which grew out of hard butch men on a war footing and underpins the whole western thought, which is why when someone acts appallingly, it is – go, go never return. As though once thou has sinned, said summat awf, one is forever a sinner.

    And the Amergin poetic doc, tends to support the Graves 50/50 theory as everything is symmetrical, the structural dna of the narrative, and thios last outpost of the magical moon-age stone air sea lingo, the last place in Europe it lived, it’s still here and that is why you can call each other a twot one mo, and the next be higgy and kissy. Minute by minute things change chivers, so sorry, i owe you a bum..sorry, kiss full on the lips and maybe all the extras, for 350 quid? whaddya reckon?

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