Monday, February 20, 2012

Norman MacCaig

For some reason this video won't embed but the link below works a treat. Nice vignette about the Scottish poet Norman McCaig. I'm new to his work and already in awe. I recently read one of his poems about gannets and I just had to read it again and again and again; drinking in its brilliance. A rare and wonderful treat. Each reading blowing me away with its still fresh language, genius line breaks and imagery that is at once subtle and powerful. This video proves his brilliance!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nathan Englander on writing

There's no such thing as writer's block. I don't know anyone who's sitting there typing actively who can't get the work done. I know people who are so overwhelmed they walk away from the machine and can't engage. And I think so much of it is about waiting for the moment where whatever is cooking is cooked and you can just execute it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

You had to be there ....

A HISTORY of Ireland in 100 Excuses.

1. Original sin.

2. The weather.

3. The 800 years of oppression.

4. A shortage of natural resources.

5. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

6. Red hair.

7. The Celtic temperament.

8. He stole Trevelyan's corn/So the young might see the morn.

9. It was taught badly in schools.

10. The Modh Coinníollach.

11. Peig.

12. The questions didn't suit you.

13. No-one shouted stop.

14. Johnny made me do it.

15. Oh no! 'Twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning/That made me love Mary the Rose of Tralee.

16. That fella has a bad drop in him.

17. Her father didn't like me anyway.

18. I have to see a man about a dog.

19. Don't mind me - I haven't been myself lately.

20. And then he lost the head altogether.

21. Lehman Brothers.

22. The Christian Brothers.

23. Biddy Early.

24. Benchmarking.

25. We only did it for the crack.

26. April Fool's Day.

27. Halloween.

28. Stag parties.

29. The stony grey soil of Monaghan.

30. The rocks of Bawn.

31. The hungry grass.

32. The pipes (the pipes) were calling.

33. And that's the cruel reason why I left old Skibbereen.

34. Come all ye young rebels, and list while I sing/For the love of one's country is a terrible thing/It banishes fear with the speed of a flame/And it makes us all part of the patriot game.

35. He must have got it from his father's side - it couldn't have been from us.

36. "Your health!"

37. "Cheers!"

38. "Sláinte!"

39. "Is it your round or mine?"

40. "Last orders!"

41. "I suppose we might as well have one for the road, so."

42. Ah, you're drunk you're drunk, you silly oul fool, still you cannot see/That's a lovely sow that me mother sent to me.

43 - 48. See 42, excuses relating to drunken nights two to seven, inclusive.

49. I can resist anything except temptation.

50. The Old Lady Says 'No!'

51. Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, etc, etc/But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

52. I loved too much/And by such and such/Is happiness thrown away.

53. But I being young and foolish with her could not agree.

54. If [ Mrs Nugent] hadn't of poked her nose in between me and Joe, everything would have been alright.

55. Home Rule is Rome rule.

56. Yes, but what about...?

58. This Bill seeks to provide an Irish solution to an Irish problem.

59. It was a bizarre happening.

60. An unprecedented situation.

61. A grotesque situation.

62. An almost unbelievable mischance.

63. I never had to concern myself about my personal finances. [ Des Traynor] took over control of my financial affairs from about 1960 onwards. He sought, as his personal responsibility, to ensure that I would be free to devote my time and ability to public life.

64. We get here and the skips containing the team's training gear are missing.

65. The pitch is like a car park.

66. We had no goalkeepers for the five-a-side.

67. Packie [ Bonner] said that they'd worked hard. Alan [ Kelly] said that they'd worked hard. I said: "Do ye want a pat on the back for working hard - is that not why we're here?" I did mention that they wouldn't be too tired to play golf the next day and, fair play, they dragged themselves out.

68. We're the Irish team. It's a laugh and a joke. We shouldn't expect too much.

69. I had to attend my grandmother's funeral

70. No, not that grandmother, the other one.

71. All right, then - I never wanted to play for Ireland anyway.

72. I must have had a bad pint.

73. It was either that, or the curry on the way home.

74. Nasal congestion.

75. Heavy bones.

76. A bug going round.

77. The 5.15 from Thurles has been delayed due to leaves on the line.

78. We made those pre-election promises in good faith. It was only in government we realised how bad the country's finances were.

79. It was a complex but legitimate business arrangement.

80. The money was only resting in my account.

81. You try running three houses on my salary and see how you get on.

82. I regarded it as a loan.

83. I had no bank account at that time.

84. I won it on the horses.

85. But the tent is only a small part of our annual fund-raising operation.

86. The banks were throwing money at us.

87. We were hit by a perfect storm.

88. Don't blame me - I was only the taoiseach.

89. Lehmans had testicles everywhere.

90. The Welsh just seemed to want it a bit more than we did.

91. And we were going so well all week in training.

92. That wasn't the real Ireland you saw out there today.

93. I'm off the beer for Lent.

94. Yes, I took out gym membership in January, but I'm off that for Lent too.

95. I can't believe it's that time already.

96. The day just ran away with me.

97. It started out as a joke.

98. There was drink involved.

99. One thing led to another.

100. The dead man was known to the Garda.

Taken from An Irish Man's Diary on the

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Guerrilla Poetry

The artist vandalising advertising with poetry

Q&A with Scottish artist Robert Montgomery whose latest exhibition opened in London today

Scottish artist Robert Montgomery goes about at night illegally plastering over advertisements with posters covered in his poetry. His very pleasing verse is presented in white typography on a black background, screaming out ideas about beauty, consumerism and hypocrisy, among other things. The elegant words, and their sparse presentation, have been appearing on hoardings for the last ten years. But Montgomery, who trained at Edinburgh College of Art, and whose intellectual basis for working tumbles out in glorious verbal torrents, is not really a street artist. Although he has been somewhat embraced by the movement. Instead, he thinks of himself as following in the wake of the Situationists, a group of European revolutionaries in the last century who constructed artistic situations (which today we might call guerrilla installations) in unexpected places, to promote their ideas.
Montgomery spoke to about his first solo gallery show in London, at the KK Outlet in Hoxton:
My studio is in Hoxton, so it’s quite nice to be showing locally. The show is essentially three billboards on Old Street and a sign made with solar panel LED light on the front of the gallery, which is called Recycled Sunlight Pieces and uses very, very low consumption LED lighting.

Have you had permission for the three billboard pieces on Old Street?
Yeah, we have in this case. I sometimes work without permission, but I didn’t want to get the gallery in trouble [laughs].

How does it work when you’re doing the pieces without permission?
We are literally dashing around at night. Often, there are only two of us. People respond to it really well. Lots of people pass by. Ordinary people just really like to see billboards covered up with poetry. They find it really refreshing I think. So, we’ve never really got into any trouble.

Have the police ever come up and asked you what you’re up to?
Actually, no. They have driven past quite slowly but they’ve never actually come up to me.

Is that because you act like you’re supposed to be there?
Not really. We don’t dress up in workmen-like clothes. There was a funny episode the year before last when we did a few coverings of Cameron’s campaign posters –quite amusing because it was a bit of a stupid campaign- and we did one close to the Mayor’s Office. It was quite high up and took a long time and I really thought we were going to get in trouble. But, you know, every single person who walked past was appreciative and we got away with it.

What do people do to show their appreciation?
Anything from smiles to hugs. I’ve been hugged in the street several times [Laughs]. It’s really nice. I meet a huge cross section of people. It’s nice to sell my work in galleries, obviously, it’s nice to be at the Venice Biennale, but this way my work reaches ordinary people which is a more fundamental thing to me. Normal people in the street are much more intelligent than society gives them credit for – and they are not at all conceptual art-phobic.

You’re obviously working in a way resonant of street artists, but you don’t seem to have a street art perspective. You’ve got training behind you which street artists, graffitists in particular, tend not to have. Has the street art scene embraced you?
Yeah, I’m working from a more academic background on the streets, but I do feel an emotional connection with street artiVasts. In fact I’m doing a collaboration with an East London graffitist from Bow, called Krae. He’s a classic graffiti writer, grew up on a housing estate, is very much from the street streets. This piece that I showed in Venice called All Palaces Are Temporary Palaces really resonated with him, so he asked me if he could use it for a T-shirt.
I did at a certain point do some work that was like writing. It wasn’t graffiti art in its strictest sense, but it was writing the words with spray paint. I decided that it was easy to ghettoise that. So I decided to work in a way that was visually very simple – all with black backgrounds on the billboards, all with white text- so that it won’t be categorised as graffiti art and written off before people have read it. At the same time, it’s a very unspectacular style, so it’s evident that it’s not advertising too.

Tabloids use white on black typography to make things stand out on their front pages – is that what you were going for?
[Laughs] I want the words to appear almost like statements from the collective unconscious, in a sense. They are quite subtle ideas, and poetic ones; sometimes political points mixed with poetic allusions. The words can be complex, so I want them to look as straightforward as possible. If I was to tell you what I thought of the tabloid press it would probably be unprintable.

Well, let’s move on. Do use particular poems or extracts of text for particular places?
Sometimes. One of the ones I’ve just done in Old Street (pictured) faces towards Shoreditch House which is where, until recently, Occupy was installed. I was actually planning to do a collaborative piece with them, but they got turfed out on 25 January so that didn’t happen. But one of those texts is very much a testimony to the positive things I think Occupy are doing. It starts, “There are wooden houses on land in far-away places that don’t cost much money, and strings of lights that make paths to them gently, and do not turn off the stars. And 100 black flags of anarchists held up at night 100 miles apart.”
It’s the idea that rows of tents in front of St Pauls are guarding our future – or trying to. I find that whole thing very moving. I found Giles Fraser resigning from the Church of England in support of the Occupy movement, incredibly moving. The church taking sympathy with what they’re doing is really significant. It shows that the concerns of middle England are not too far away from the concerns of Occupy. I worked a lot with the Stop The War coalition over the years and I did several pieces with them and some of the marches. It was lots of middle class, middle-aged people from the home counties marching.

You’re coming at art from a fairly politicised context. How does that fit in with your Situationist influences? There is a big parallel between the general strike in Paris 1968 (when the movement was at its height) and what’s going on in the UK now.
The Situationists certainly have been almost a point of obsession for me since I was at art school. I think Guy Debord’s idea of society as a spectacle – he comes from a post-Marxists perspective, but he analyses the coalition of capitalism and the media and predicts, what he calls, a “Spectacular” life where humans will feel disconnected from the things we make. A society where we live divorced from real life, surrounded by images designed to sell us things and give us paranoia. I think we are now living in the Spectacular age. The Situationists’ contribution to the May 1968 uprising was to write poems on walls of the campus of the Sorbonne. They saw poetry as an agent for political change, which I find fascinating.

You sell smaller works via galleries, of course, but have you ever sold one of your billboards?
No, I’ve never sold a billboard. They just cost me money. [Laughs] But I do think they’re the most important thing in terms of what I do. All I want to do in life is to be able to pay the rent and make the billboards. That’s my complete and utter ambition.
It Turned Out This Way Cos You Dreamed It This Way is at KK Outlet from today until 25 February,

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