Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hallowe'en | Poetry | All Souls' Night

Hallowe'en is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than with the finest Hallowe'en-poem of all time? No, not that one. I am referring here to Yeats' 'All Souls' Night'. Muldoon delivers an excellent commentary on this poem in his Oxford Lectures as Professor of Poetry.

I have always been fascinated by Yeats' idea of 'mummy-truths' in this poem, and think it to be a fine metaphor for the very essence of poetry; truths which urge you to unwrap them and interrogate the very essence of what lurks beneath the bandages.

We hope you enjoy the poetry just as much as we do.

Happy Halloween,

Silkworms Ink

All Souls' Night
by W.B. Yeats

Epilogue to 'A Vision'

Midnight has come, and the great Christ Church Bell
And many a lesser bell sound through the room;
And it is All Souls’ Night,
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table.  A ghost may come;
For it is a ghost’s right,
His element is so fine
Being sharpened by his death,
To drink from the wine-breath
While our gross palates drink from the whole wine.

I need some mind that, if the cannon sound
From every quarter of the world, can stay
Wound in mind’s pondering
As mummies in the mummy-cloth are wound;
Because I have a marvellous thing to say,
A certain marvellous thing
None but the living mock,
Though not for sober ear;
It may be all that hear
Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.

Horton’s the first I call.  He loved strange thought
And knew that sweet extremity of pride
That’s called platonic love,
And that to such a pitch of passion wrought
Nothing could bring him, when his lady died,
Anodyne for his love.
Words were but wasted breath;
One dear hope had he:
The inclemency
Of that or the next winter would be death.

Two thoughts were so mixed up I could not tell
Whether of her or God he thought the most,
But think that his mind’s eye,
When upward turned, on one sole image fell;
And that a slight companionable ghost,
Wild with divinity,
Had so lit up the whole
Immense miraculous house
The Bible promised us,
It seemed a gold-fish swimming in a bowl.

On Florence Emery I call the next,
Who finding the first wrinkles on a face
Admired and beautiful,
And knowing that the future would be vexed
With ‘minished beauty, multiplied commonplace,
preferred to teach a school
Away from neighbour or friend,
Among dark skins, and there
permit foul years to wear
Hidden from eyesight to the unnoticed end.

Before that end much had she ravelled out
From a discourse in figurative speech
By some learned Indian
On the soul’s journey.  How it is whirled about,
Wherever the orbit of the moon can reach,
Until it plunge into the sun;
And there, free and yet fast,
Being both Chance and Choice,
Forget its broken toys
And sink into its own delight at last.

And I call up MacGregor from the grave,
For in my first hard springtime we were friends.
Although of late estranged.
I thought him half a lunatic, half knave,
And told him so, but friendship never ends;
And what if mind seem changed,
And it seem changed with the mind,
When thoughts rise up unbid
On generous things that he did
And I grow half contented to be blind!

He had much industry at setting out,
Much boisterous courage, before loneliness
Had driven him crazed;
For meditations upon unknown thought
Make human intercourse grow less and less;
They are neither paid nor praised.
but he d object to the host,
The glass because my glass;
A ghost-lover he was
And may have grown more arrogant being a ghost.

But names are nothing.  What matter who it be,
So that his elements have grown so fine
The fume of muscatel
Can give his sharpened palate ecstasy
No living man can drink from the whole wine.
I have mummy truths to tell
Whereat the living mock,
Though not for sober ear,
For maybe all that hear
Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.

Such thought—such thought have I that hold it tight
Till meditation master all its parts,
Nothing can stay my glance
Until that glance run in the world’s despite
To where the damned have howled away their hearts,
And where the blessed dance;
Such thought, that in it bound
I need no other thing,
Wound in mind’s wandering
As mummies in the mummy-cloth are wound.

                Oxford, Autumn 1920

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Swamp | Music | Somebody saaaaaaaaaaaave me from Remy Zero's other songs

So, True Blood eh, eh, pretty sexy right? Pretty naughty? Pretty fucken outrageous? Move over Twilight, let’s have the grown-ups come and play for a bit, eh? Who needs vampires as symbols of 19th century Christian (or, indeed, 21st century Mormon) sexual repression when you can have sexy vampires doing sexy stuff through a veil of HBO production values, eh, beautiful lighting and a script so knee-deep in irony and literary camp it springs a boner you can be proud of, eh, a boner to talk about in seminars, eh, eh, know what I mean, more like semi-nar, know what I mean, eh?

Maybs. The one thing we can all agree on, however, is that the True Blood title-sequence is the tits, an intent-laden feast of well-chosen filters, asymmetrical fonts, and impeccably cut (see, say, the superspeed rotting fox) flashes of ridiculously atmospheric footage both reliant upon and inverting Louisianan cliché – y’know, hicks, gospel churches, SWAMPS, that sorta thing. Along with Jace Everett’s rattlesnake-flecked crooning on ‘Bad Things’, a song we’re all pretty sure is as rad as the cinematography it accompanies, because both halves gel so well. A sultry, dirty, swampy song representative of all of the best things about naughty, sexy, exotic True Blood, then.

Maybs. Listen to one of the three Jace Everett albums on Spotify, though, and you might, like me, begin to suspect something different. Because they’re just not very good. His tracks have names like ‘More to Life (C’Mon C’Mon)’ and ‘Lean into the Wind’ and sound like a cross between Louis XIV, mid-noughties strutting tweeny gimps Rooster and (the admittedly achingly romantic) Chris Isaak. (Chris Isaak, it should be acknowledged at this point, puts in a sparkling turn in the otherwise mediocre Twin Peaks film, Fire Walk With Me, a fact which might become more relevant a few paragraphs down, but that I mention now in order to scream the following from Rooster’s proverbial rooftops: PEOPLE SHOULD TAKE CHRIS ISAAK’S ACHIEVEMENTS MORE SERIOUSLY.)

Which makes me think that perhaps ‘Bad Things’ isn’t very good either. It makes me think that ‘Bad Things’ was, in fact, an excellent choice for a show that endeavours to cartoonise Louisianan culture (albeit ironically, amusingly, sexily and so on) because it is, in fact, a cartoon, synthesised and soulless version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival swamp-rock and low-slung blues influence that it wouldn’t exist without.
But it’s become so jumbled up with the content that it parenthesises – content far better, in many ways, than it – that we listen to it differently and, more important, hear it differently. People assume the relationship that exists between a title-sequence track and a show/film/whatever is almost entirely an issue of establishing mood, of utilising the atmospheric power of music (and, invariably, visual bricolage) to do what would require mindblowingly good writing if it were to be similarly done with dialogue or action in an equivalent thirty seconds (see Generation Kill, a title-sequence-less piece that did just that). And certainly, when only a fragment of Everett’s song appears in a context that means one doesn’t ever really listen to it properly, it does, as ‘arry Redknapp would have it, a job.

But the relationship is, surely, just as much about a show/film/whatever’s plot, and an individual’s response to slash memories of it, imprinting themselves upon the title-track to the extent that they begin to read it as much as they listen to it. It goes, I think, both ways. Indeed, such songs as Jace Everett’s ‘Bad Things’ strike me as an important example of Music As Reading occurring without Music As Readers being aware that they're even doing it. With that in mind, this week’s mixtape will be a collection of tracks so well-suited to their show/film/whatever that this process can only occur. But before constructing that, let’s break this idea down a little further.

The OC is a perfec example, a fact attested to by the Simpsons’ curious take on the show what aired as part of another just-not-quite-right new(ish) episode last night. One wouldn’t have actually known that it was supposed to be a satirical reference to the show if it wasn’t for the music, such was the sequence's arbitrariness – Wikipedia seems to think it features a guy dressed up as Snoopy because Ryan Atwood played Snoopy in a school play once or something. To be honest, maybe it wasn’t about all this at all, but with the opening chords of Phantom Planet’s ‘California’ such a tidal wave of OC connotations flood one’s consciousness that, assuming one spent their mid-teenage years caring about such things like me, it’s impossible to think of anything else.
Dreadful song though. By a dreadful band – like Mr Everett, one need only listen to an entire Phantom Planet (I mean, really, ‘Phantom’ fucking ‘Planet’, who thought that was a good idea) record to realise that. But I can’t bring myself to despise it. See also Remy Zero’s ‘Save Me’ off-of Smallville, a show I don’t even like that much. Sounds like somebody emphasising, in song-form, all the worst things about U2 but again, one can’t help but read it differently to other music. It’s this, I think, rather than the ‘burden of having one song everybody knows’ that's usually discussed, which makes the rest of bands like Remy Zero’s music unlistenable. It is, in fact, universally unlistenable, but one doesn’t actually listen to that all-important ‘exception’.

I guess The Wire is the most interesting way of testing this theory. Does (can?) one draw an education-focussed narrative out of Domaje’s version of ‘Way Down in the Hole’ (Season 4) or a political emphasis out of the Neville Brothers’ version of the same song (the preceding season). Not explicitly? Not surprising, really, considering David Simon’s opinions on the relationship between music and cinematography:

I hate it when somebody purposely tries to have the lyrics match the visual. It brutalizes the visual in a way to have the lyrics dead on point. ... Yet at the same time it can’t be totally off-point. It has to glance at what you’re trying to say.

And is there not a pretty substantial GLANCE behind the fact that Domaje are five Baltimore teenagers soundtracking the Wire series specifically about teenagers – a musical glance, indeed, designed to act as a vessel for a viewer’s specific responses to that series?
Twin Peaks is another important example. I was explaining to somebody the other day, half-cut, my own theory regarding Twin Peaks’ uniquely obsessional appeal, namely that something within its extraordinary textured atmosphere fuses with what’s going on in one’s own real life, parallel to your watching of it for the first time – to the extent that in one’s memory a gorgeous fragment of art that you’ll never see for the first time again becomes entwined with a part of your life that you can’t reclaim, whether happy or bleak. The combined effect representing a great remembered shimmering donkeypunch of nostalgia – and one is therefore compelled to return to its source, again and again.

Well, when I stumble across Julee Christie’s ‘Falling’ (seldom by design, it hits me too hard) I hear within it Laura Palmer and Dale Cooper et al but also the week I spent revising for my finals and watching Twin Peaks with my girlfriend in a little house in Leamington Spa. I honestly do. I read the song in order to tap into that narrative. Whether I like it or not. I haven’t read Maria del Pilar Blanco’s recent collection of essays, Popular Ghosts: the Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture, but I can only assume this concept is the background to that book’s decision to dedicate several paragraphs to ‘the haunted soundtrack of the Twin Peaks TV series.’
Romanticised nonsense y’say? Maybs. Really, this was all just a very long way of introducing the only question anybody’s got any business asking this week, so such a judgement is a bit of a moot point: WHY THE FUCK HAS NICK CAVE ALLOWED FUCKING HOLLYOAKS TO USE ‘RED RIGHT HAND’ IN A FUCKING TRAILER FOR ITS FIERY LATE NIGHT HALLOWEEN SPECIAL THING? That is an imposition of a narrative onto a song that makes Wilhelmus de Rijk’s bread-knifing of Rembrandt’s Night Watch in 1975 look like a favour to us all by comparison.

Sam Kinchin-Smith
Music Editor

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Swamp | Fiction | Swamp Thing. You Make My Heart Sing. You Make Everything...Oozy.

To Seamus Heaney, bogs and marshes are a touchstone symbol (his enemies would probably claim, an overused symbol) of the unconscious mind. He’s forever peering into them, digging them up, unearthing horrid monsters of the collective mind’s past. To him, though the swamp appears to be a wasteland quagmire, there are ancient treasures to be found within – but also dangers, strange and troubling truths that the conscious mind fears to face. These artifacts, however – Tollund Men, and the poet’s own reflection, disturbed by a rat - always serve a greater purpose; that of reminding us who we really are.

“As if he had been poured

in tar, he lies

on a pillow of turf

and seems to weep

the black river of himself.


For Samuel Beckett, the unconscious is also a swamp, but he feels less ambiguous about its potential merits. (It should be noted that both Heaney and Beckett have shown in their work that they have, at the very least, a working understanding of Jung). In Happy Days, the ‘swamp’ – the quicksand into which Winnie gradually disappears over the course of the play – is literally oblivion. The unconscious is unquestionably a place of de-individuation, and the ambiguity comes from Beckett’s own feelings towards that loss of the self; is it to be feared, or embraced as an end to the constant atrophy of his characters?

The fascinating thing is that this complete opposition of views comes from the action of the swamp rather than the nature of it. Heaney sees the swamp as an opportunity for enlightenment; his, appropriately, is the rising action, a shift from the Dionysian towards the Apollonian – or, to put it in the more accurately Jungian fashion, a shift towards the Apollonian using the Dionysian – a “night journey”. Beckett views the swamp as something to sink into, and, in consequence, something to lose oneself in. It’s the end that Hamm longs for – and that only finally comes to Winnie after a play’s worth of total bodily and mental decay.


Obviously, it’s the Beckettian viewpoint that makes me a little troubled about the surprisingly widespread quicksand fetish. Wikipedia suggests, not unreasonably, that a great deal of the phenomenon’s influence is due to the widespread exposure of quicksand, and the thrilling peril that came with it, in the old vintage adventure serials that permeated their way into a young generation’s consciousness. A cheerfully open-minded Slate article eloquently points out that the niche is split between “sinkers”, who enjoy the actual sensation of being submerged themselves, and the voyeurs who have the desire to see others being immersed. It goes on to note, using the data collected by enthusiastic fetishists who are attempting to every scene involving quicksand, swamps, bogs, marshes, that the peak era for the swamp in Hollywood cinema was not, in fact, during the age of the adventure serial, but in the 1960s – where, apparently, jaw-droppingly, 3% of all films contained a scene in which someone fell into a viscous liquid and couldn’t get out. (Don’t look at me like that, it’s their statistic.)

I’m very strongly resisting the urge to point out that cinema has never before or since shown anywhere near such an impulse towards swamps as in the decade most famous of any decade for its embracing of the Dionysian ideal.

...No, I can’t do it. I can’t hold it in any longer. What I just said. In the Sixties, the era which perceived itself to be about collectivism, orgies, and drugs (even if the overall reality was quite different), the symbol of someone being immersed in a quagmire shot up dramatically in the public consciousness. Additionally, as an aside, one of my favourite movies from the Seventies, Don’t Look Now, which is very much about psychological illumination, features prominently the repeated symbol of a body being raised out of muddy water. And, if I really wanted to push my luck, I might argue that one of the most famous Dionysian characters in the mainstream is called Quagmire.


Jon Ware
Fiction Editor

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Swamp | Poetry | Interview with Niall O'Sullivan

Our interview this week is with the prolific poet, live-event host and web-writer, Niall O'Sullivan.

Phil Brown: Good afternoon Niall. Would you mind starting things off by briefly introducing yourself to our readers and telling us what it is that you do?

Niall O’Sullivan: Hello readers, I am a poet, event host and editor. I've released two collections of poetry with Flipped Eye, who I also do some editing for. I've come from the live poetry end of things rather than the Creative Writing Course end of things. I've been reciting poems to audiences since 1997. I've also been hosting Poetry Unplugged, the weekly open mic at the Poetry Cafe, for just over five years.

Phil Brown: And it was there at Poetry Unplugged that I first met you... and as a result felt compelled to buy your books. Do those nights generate a lot of interest about your own writing?

Niall O’Sullivan: I've no idea. I must have sold a few books because of Unplugged, I always feel a bit strange trying to hawk my product after people have already paid to get in. It's not really about me as a poet. A lot of people do come up to me at some point in the evening and ask if I write poetry myself.

I put that down to me not being the big shot I make myself out to be and the fact that Unplugged tends to draw in Joe Public and Joe Public doesn't know that much about the scene that we poets always get our knickers in a twist about.

Phil Brown: And you do genuinely present yourself as a 'host' at those nights rather than a 'poet with a product to push'.

You mention the year 1997 as when you started reciting poems to people; is there a specific moment you have in mind where it began?

Niall O’Sullivan: I was writing a lot of poetry at the time I dropped out of art school. I lived in a YWCA hostel, lots of women and a handful of men, while working as a landscape gardener. In the end, I found myself writing more and painting less. One of the guys I worked with, Tony, was a middle-aged veteran of the Rhodesian civil war. He knew I was into writing and I told him that I was considering heading uptown and reading at an open mic.

Looking back, it felt like a really big decision that took a lot of guts. Tony gave me a bit of a pep talk, his slogans tended to consist of metaphors for shagging. If I remember right, his words were "You've already popped the cherry mate, now it's time to go out and give them multiples."

I went and read at an open mic at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. My hand shook, my voice trembled, I died on my arse. I didn't give them multiples.

Phil Brown: Which is a far cry from the confident persona you have in live events today. What made you come back for more?

Niall O’Sullivan: I guess I knew I could have done better. Poetry Unplugged was the second night I read at and I was a lot more confident. By my third reading I had started to memorise my work. The rest of my young career was about giving it too much as a performer and things really only started to happen for me after I learned to hold back a little.

Phil Brown: You and Rhian Edwards are amongst the few live performers I have seen who are able to memorise their work without it becoming a cheap pantomime. How do you strike the right balance between entertainment and gravitas?

Niall O’Sullivan: Rhian was definitely another case of learning to reign things in in order to improve. If you watch her onstage these days, she hardly moves a muscle, her voice also quietens down in places. She knows how to draw people in rather than give it all that "look at meee!!" bollocks. Rhian trained as an actress and that obviously helped.

Michael Donaghy would also recite his work from memory, one reason being that he spent so much time editing them, they just lodged in his mind. It's kind of similar for me, the editing process tends to be what helps me to memorise work. I never really spend time pacing a room trying to memorise stuff as I once did.

A lot of spoken wordists and performance poets tend to write a ton of free associative sentences and have it memorised very quickly. They then paper over the weaknesses of the writing by over compensating in performance. Most general audiences lap it up too, so all power to them. Doesn't wet my wick though.

Phil Brown: The over-compensation factor is certainly something which we see on the live scene a lot.

Niall O’Sullivan: I've done it myself. Used to punch myself in the head a lot at one point.

Phil Brown: You suggested earlier that the two main routes into poetry could be seen as the ‘Live End’ or the ‘Creative Writing Course End’. As someone who is able to look at this from the outside, how could you spot a creative writing course poet in an open mic night?

Niall O’Sullivan: It's probably a massive generalisation but there are certain giveaway ticks. The poetry tends to be very clever but slightly hollow. Fine exercises in style but quite hollow of emotion. You get the sense of watching someone in possession of all the finest tools but not the materials.

A friend of mine that studied at NYU was told in no uncertain terms by his lecturer that the course would give him the skills, but he wasn't a writer until he went out there, did some crappy jobs, travelled a bit and had a few more disastrous relationships.

I guess there's a certain fire missing sometimes, a fire that the live poets have in abundance while lacking the stylistic skill and aptitude of the academic poet.

Phil Brown: Did you therefore have to become very autodidactic in acquiring the right tools for your material?

Niall O’Sullivan: Oh yes, I read a lot of poetry and was lucky enough to get lots of feedback from poets that had the tools. I also wrote a lot. I shared a flat with James Byrne for half a year from 2001-2002 and we shared an old laptop. When one of us switched the thing on, we'd find a few new poems by the other and therefore felt compelled to write a few of our own. James was a good source for finding out about other contemporary poets, as was Roddy Lumsden. It was Roddy that switched me onto August Kleinzahler and Charles Simic. Both were big influences on me.

Phil Brown: Living with James Byrne for half a year... do you think the idea of two London poets living together would make a good sitcom?

Niall O’Sullivan: Fuck, it was a nightmare. I love James, but I'm sure he's just as glad that we don't have to share a place any more. My abiding memory was a strawberry growing out of one of many ancient milk bottles. I also remember when my bedroom light bulb filled up with water after I flushed the toilet.

We were permanently skint. I dropped down to about ten stone at one point (I'm just under 15 stone now). Anyone who visited referred to the place as WithNiall and I.

Phil Brown: It would be disappointing to think that any accomplished poet hadn't had to live in the conditions you describe at some point.

You wrote on your website once, very entertainingly, of a heckler you encountered at a poetry gig once... what have been your most bizarre interactions with a live audience?

Niall O’Sullivan: Mick Fleetwood was a good recent one, well he wasn't actually Mick Fleetwood but he looked like him. He made a lot of noise leaving when I was reciting a poem, so I stopped and made a Fleetwood Mac joke. He then proceeded to have a complete mental breakdown for the next ten minutes. It's on youtube.

Another time I got heckled at the Windmill on Brixton Hill by some boho type. A builder came up from the back and lamped him one. The landlord told me that he liked my stuff but in the future I had to punch my own hecklers so the punters wouldn't get involved. I don't mind good-natured between poems heckling, it can be quite fun and brings more energy to the reading. There are always going to be the other kind on occasion, but they're not too difficult to deal with. I'd rather have one person shouting at me than a whole room talking over me like I wasn't there.

Oh, actually, there was one more time...

I had a really bad cold and took some of those sinus pills that make you drowsy before going on stage at a squat party. I went on a bit late and was therefore rather on the sleepy side. I told an audience of punkers that I loved them. They booed. I told them that their boos made the hair on the back of my neck go all nice and prickly. They booed more. I told them that they were at the wrong venue and had to go down the road, turn left and keep going til they reached 1977. That made them really angry. I was too high to care. They did fuck all about it.

Phil Brown: I'd imagine that ecstasy and live-performance makes for a slightly volatile social situaton. Have you ever heard of Heaney taking drugs before going on?

Niall O’Sullivan: Nah, he smokes a nice lump of peat. That guy's a psycho. I quite like Heaney. A lot of poets have sand in their fanny about Heaney, but not me.

Phil Brown: Do you ever specifically write pieces for performance or page, or do the two happily cross over in your work?

Niall O’Sullivan: I am an evangelical denier of the page/stage divide. there are only good poems and bad poems. I'm running a course at the Poetry School next year about that very process. I find that whatever makes something a page or stage poem in people's minds has little to do with poetry, be it beatboxing or acrostics.

Phil Brown: Two of my favourite poems of yours, 'Stock Footage' and 'empty cinema' have quite a philosophical element to them... has philosophy been an important part of your growth as a poet?

Niall O’Sullivan: Stock Footage makes me wince a little these days, because it uses the holocaust as a means of looking at the mortality of everyone. The poem is careful enough, only referring to film footage rather than trying to recreate the experience itself. I also got to discuss the poem with a Belsen survivor and found that he was less precious about it than others that said my treatment of the holocaust was "offhand". It is a bit of a "young man" thing to write about.

Empty Cinema is certainly tied up with Zen and the occupying of the moment. Eastern Philosophy has influenced a lot of my work, as have Eastern poets such a the Tang Dynasty poets. A lot of the philosophy in my poetry muses on the nature of the self. I'm not a believer in an enduring, non-corporeal self. Other poems have recently mused on the Hard Problem of consciousness, as David Chalmers has put it.

I park myself in the Neutral Monist camp on that one, though I was quite a hardcore Materialist for a while. A lot of eliminative materialists find things like Zen appealing because of how the philosophy points to the emptiness of things, I think those guys are missing the point though. I think Zen koans inform the kind of poetry I like to write, something flippant and silly in one sense but dark, compelling and paradoxical in another.

Phil Brown: I also notice that the word 'damn' comes up a few times in your poems - is this your American influences coming through?

Niall O’Sullivan: Could be, probably more to do with films rather than poems. I use the word "bollocks" a fair bit too. I quite like it when Americans use Anglicisms like "knackered" in their poems.

Phil Brown: You recently undertook a web-based project called ‘Sonnet Hack’ where you wrote a sonnet every day for a month. How did that come about?

Niall O’Sullivan: Sonnet Hack was a silly little idea I had when a representative of the live literature scene spoke about the sonnet as something synonymous with "crap, old poem" for the umpteenth time. I hope the fact that I'm not an accomplished formal poet and the videos that went with it helped get the idea across that poetry, and the sonnet, can be something that reflects on the everyday in the same way a news article can.

That kind of project wouldn't have been possible without the democratic medium of the internet. Since then I've been tidying the sonnets up and Flipped Eye are going to release it as a pamphlet. The poems will stay online though so that people can read the poems and have a resource that takes them back to the time the poems were written, the mood they were written in and see the initial raw state of the poems when they arrived in the world.

Phil Brown: With your website and with initiatives like 'Sonnet Hack' you have really embraced the internet's relationship with poetry in recent years. What effects do you think the internet has on the world of poetry?

Niall O’Sullivan: Obviously it has helped people to network. How many fliers do you see flapping about the floor at the end of a poetry night these days? All the promotion seems to be happening on Facebook, good or bad? Well, a little less spam would be nice but it's fun to engage with others on event walls and see photos and videos after.

Youtube has been the death knell of the performance poetry demo tape, a promoter can watch you perform online and make up their own mind, so be careful if someone tags you in a crappy performance. I've been bootlegged at one performance already, slagging off a big lit organisation before going into the poem. Thanks a lot to that guy.

Despite the grumbles of the Andrew Marrs of this world, the blogosphere is a genuine threat to mainstream journalism. The world of published poetry criticism isn't exactly huge, so I don't think it will take a long time for poetry blogs to be the main source of poetry criticism. If anything, it already is. Poetry blogging might just be the thing that many are crying out for, a consumer-led robust criticism. Anonymity might be key in this one.

Many people have reacted against a kind of cyber bullying in the poetry circles, but this has mainly come from the biggest shit stirrers on the scene who can't swallow what they enjoy flinging at others.

Phil Brown: I have written myself about the internet-based hissy fits of poetry world... why do you think they are so common amongst poets?

Niall O’Sullivan: Because poets are often a bunch of preening, narcissistic, neurotic tosspots. They tend to be insufferable when they're not doing what they're good at. Thank goodness some of the poets I love never had a blog. Could you imagine if Wallace Stevens had the outlet to whine to the world whenever he got drunk on his own at night? Thank goodness he didn't.

To quote another poet "The problem with poetry is that there's too much bitching and not enough fighting." In one sense, we all want a slice of the pie and the pie isn't very big. In fact, George Osborne's just made it a fair bit smaller. I get bitter about other poets all the time, but when I do I try and remind myself that maybe I should be putting that energy to better use.

I don't have a lot of respect for poets that bemoan their lack of laurels online. Though I often find them amusing. They have more in common with the blubbing reality TV rejects than they like to admit.

Phil Brown: if somebody wanted to write the exact opposite type of poetry to you, what would they have to do?

Niall O’Sullivan: They would have to envision poetry as an activity that is holier than others. They would have to envision it as something that could stop a war and bring malevolent forces to their knees. They would have to think that poems set on the continent, eating an exotic lunch with a terminally ill friend who looks up at the sunrise and says something profound in French is more fitting than a poem about pissing in a dark alleyway or old werewolf films. Oh, and the poetry would have to reveal all those painful moments of their lives and their loved ones' lives so that they can be relayed to humming, chin stroking audiences in a kind of emo pole dance. And remember: show, don't tell.


Phil Brown
Poetry Editor