TWO more


The Kisses

‘I want to kiss you till there’s nowhere left of you to kiss.’
               She appears to assent, so, holding her small body, he pecks a trail down her chest until she bats him away, one leg playfully outstretched.
               ‘God. I want to defile you.’
               She purrs. ‘Oh! The smell of your hair.’
               She is supine, legs open, yawning.
               Agile, she rolls & bounces to her feet.
               ‘Ha, all-fours! You want it that way?’
               Her arsehole seems to wink at him. He lunges to take her, but she pads sideways, dismissing him lazily with a flick of the tail.

For One Two

Tom, Clare—they did everything together.
               Even sex, though they were siblings.
               And they were happy, if their story is not.
               There were some thought they couldn’t be happy. They hadn’t been together like Tom and Clare.
               These men wanted to cut what joined them. They said Tom was killing Clare; because he was weak, the join was killing.
               They said Clare should live; she didn’t see how. Their arguing made her dizzy.
               All she knew was they wanted to put them apart.
               Tom said he would leave for her, but since Clare loved Tom, just as Tom loved Clare, they decided he would not.
               They understood what’d happen. They did everything together.


THE Parable of Critics

‘To be or not to be’, the book reads.
               The critic frowns, & picks up his pen.
               He writes: ‘Hamlet questions the value of being.’
               He crosses it out, unsatisfied, & stares at the words.
               After a think, he tries: ‘Hamlet exposes the founding human choice as starkest antithesis. To take unbeing, he asks, or being – this is our quandary.’
               He gets up, paces about, rereads it.
               ‘Christ!’ he shouts, frustrated he can’t get this right.
               Then his features relax. ‘Yes,’ he whispers, ‘finally!’
               He writes: ‘To be or not to be’.


Trinity Term

Undergraduates in summer
    Having sex and playing sport
Grow sick of their diploma
    And the lectures they are taught

Sick for idleness and sunshine
    Sick for soggy chips and beer
For the moped streets of London
    For a flat and a career

Oxford is over, and overdone
    Only the Old will preserve it
But we, my love, we are Young
We did nothing to deserve it.
by Paul Abbott


BUSH & shooting

From The Guardian:

The tragedy at Virginia Tech shocked and saddened the community in the state and far beyond, and once again raised issues about America's relaxed gun laws. George Bush went on air to say that when the sanctity of schools was violated, "the impact is felt in every American classroom and community".

But earlier in the day his spokeswoman in Washington was forced to justify his opposition to tightening the rules on handgun ownership. She said the president believed in the right to bear arms, but equally that "all laws must be followed ... Walking into a school hall and shooting people is clearly against the law".

So, what's the Bush administration's response to the apparent paradox that, on the one hand, guns are good, and on the other hand, using guns is bad? Simple: a reminder that 'all laws must be followed', plus a clarification on the legal status of mass murder, for all those who haven't studied the ins and outs of it: 'Walking into a school and shooting people is clearly against the law'.

Now that's been cleared up, let's hope all psychopaths with government sanctioned access to machines designed to cleave flesh from flesh will think twice before going out and commiting such clearly illegal acts. But just to make absolutely sure, here's a radical suggestion for how to prevent this kind of thing happening again. Henceforth guns should come with a 'clear' reminder on the box about responsible and irresponsible use, such as:






If anything this is a reminder that, despite arctic weather, impending smoking ban and our royal family not only still having heads but using them, constantly, to appear in newspapers, there are still some good things about Britain. Not least the fact that if the local nutjob decides to go on a spree of violence at a nearby school, s/he has to attempt it using, say, a frying pan, or a batch of custard pies, or a really pointy stick. I don't know if this makes up for having to read Prince Charles's views on homeopathic medicine, or the Daily Mail, or chavs, or £5.50 for a pack of fags, or Chelsea FC — but it's something.
by Matt Hill


AGAINST being against

(on ‘Against Email’)

n+1 is the only magazine that strikes me as being of the 21st century. It is also the only magazine I’ve read (and I hope this isn’t merely the result of having read not many magazines) more than half of whose articles induced in me a sense of exhilaration – of exhilarating relevance, and of exhilarating disclosure. By this I mean that n+1 tends to tell or show me things about life which I had not known or seen before. I think this can probably be put down to its ethic of challenge, its will to disestablish, which is like scepticism, but more rhetorically forthright, and more emotional. The magazine will have itself seem to discern that set of implications, or that kernel of falsehood which accounts for the rot of the whole concept – and which no one else has either noticed or had the courage to identify openly – so that its take on the matter will then become heroic. We, the impression is, are the rescuers. From our attained vantage we can tell you the box you think you’re in isn’t cuboid, but spherical, and is rolling fast towards an abrupt precipice. In literature I might compare this to the strain of historicists who in fevered prefaces cast themselves as the farseeing uncoverers of a lost political tradition, which only their skill has salvaged and only their wisdom may restore. Or, less obviously, those critics who rankle Stephen Booth in his edition of the Sonnets: There is one way to read 146 (they say), it is my way, attested ideally by my examples – the other guys are just wrong. An artefact of rhetoric? Perhaps. But Booth’s rhetoric has sounder, subtler grasp of our sympathy when he comes close to arguing that 146 is at the same time Christian and non-Christian, because he was right.

I’m starting to sound like a detractor. Youth probably disqualifies me, though, because those who dismiss the magazine’s gnarly refusal not to think do so by caricaturing it as that kneejerk disaffection from the world in which adolescence is supposed to consist. That is a doddery position indeed. My hesitation is different: a propensity, heroic or otherwise, to againstness is like any other bias, since it distorts. A generously studied disinterest of approach might have found better things to say about email, if such was desired. (My tutor used to fret even about praising a writer, because implicit in the contours of praise was the shape of his reservation.) If not bald excitement, then at least an air of anticipation would have made as fine a response as distaste to the birth of this new form. Will scholars twenty years hence busy themselves compiling Roth’s Collected Letters and Emails, for example? Imagine having Joyce’s inbox preserved for all time, in noughts and ones. (I do concede the difficulty of judging whether digitisation will prove more or less permanent than paper as a means of storage.) The very informality, the current instability of email etiquette, which n+1 laments, as well as its changed circumstances of composition (the typed rush of lax grammar), make of email a new mode of writing – and powerfully so in its slight discrepancies from what used to prevail. While n+1 is right to position itself against the social irritations of email, it does not consider that these irritations (‘She begins – irritably – to develop’) are temporary and symptomatic of its fluid lack of time-earned entrenchment, instead generalising them carelessly into email’s future. Which I think is where this position comes more to resemble cynicism, than scepticism.

Email brings everyone closer to rejection. Having our crafted paragraphs of rakishly punctuated lowercase, each of which concludes with a stinging punchline, ignored by their audience of one has to be an experience we dread. But if we had friends already, who liked us for what they knew away from the screens’ glow, those unanswered brilliancies should be able to be forgotten, just, and new ones tailored to suit friendlier readers. If we suspect that over email intimacy is too easy, that, like torrenting is the new theft, the Sent folder could be the new diary (fully searchable, and with dates of composition pinned to the second), we need only remember that we never kept a diary, and that intimacy is anyway impossible at such remove – as illusory as it ever was between paper correspondents, however the penstrokes quivered. To oppose email is to oppose what people have found useful and have enjoyed, as much as what has pissed them off. If you try, taking sceptically the resort to againstness, to determine among suggested reasons for its viral spread what good it offers, the exercise of disclosure should disclose truth (while not so heroically at odds with the opinion of others) a little less conspicuously stylised.



A fraction of PITCH is sad. (The others are somewhere in Hampshire, or London.)

Always the hireling of our audience, we were saddened to find we had none. This information, presented by Google Analytics with its cold uninvolvement, we found a grim affront. Though it may be blameable on our infrequency posting, PITCH would prefer to think our heterodox, no-prisoners take on modern poetry has riled a silently conservative critical public to studied inattention. You’re listening by ignoring, see. You bastards can’t evade our voice.

So (because we thunk our way out of it, like WS in his Christian /non-Christian 146 thinks his way away from Death), this was not the occasion of our downcast temper. What also could have caused it?

If you were to guess, you might try Thomas Day, who weeks back reviewed A Worldly Country in the Saturday Times’ book section:

[Ashbery’s] is not the difficulty of a poet such as, say, Geoffrey Hill, who tends to view the reader as an enemy, making burdensome demands of us, unforgiving of our weak-mindedness. With Ashbery there is no guilt trip, only gentle encouragement not to give up: ‘Still at it, friend?’

Christ, is Day deaf and blind? Hill’s words are first, before all beautiful. The effect of their beauty is to surprise, to shock:

In the Orchard palliates my distress
with slender familiarity. So much
for schooling of the eyes. I could show rather
unstudied transformations, although rare.
Rare for me, I mean: wreathed encounters
on the threshold of late friendships, things
unrecovered, even if unrestored, sad
Succoth, the feast of booths. Can you stand

cleft but in the spirit, as a tree
by lightning, close to the shored heart?

[...] Survivors
live out their lives as though by will
and freedom, with or without fulfilment.
Not that is matters now: such frequencies
largely dispersed, the myriad-
faceted black holly of endurance
itself, keeping sombre-bright clusters
exilic. By the way, this
has to show winter in its boundary,
Goldengrove laid bare, becalmed,
lightly sketched in snow; peacock
and peahen treading the white grass.

We often fear the fault of Hill’s detractors is they haven’t read him, or haven’t read him well for like all great poets he’s more experienced than read. If you’ve the resources to see out the wet weather of resentment, see through the stratus of doubt which gathers especially as you tread, stalling, through the tense, hushed early books, when you approach Mercian you should find light begins to break the squall; by Tenebrae you see the landscape with altered vision, are ready for the late work’s close wood. Is the pleasure of challenge not known to Thomas Day? we ask. Hasn’t he known the joy of absorbing a single Sonnet for hours, the just awe of accepting that, yes, it means both this, and its opposite? I’m confident he has. What Day dislikes is Hill’s persona. People have called it ‘crabby’, which is a low slur on age. PITCH agrees his way is to be rebarbative, to keep his intellectual fists clenched and chest-high, bespeaking insecurity. Others’ trouble understanding him, which somewhere he regrets, has become a topic to fire his ballsiest stanzas. We don’t know that enmity is there: of course wariness, even fear, but the reader is less his enemy than his sparring partner. To believe otherwise is probably to mistake rhetoric for open statement. The burdensome demands are Hill’s drama. If you love his beauty, this is your access to ease with the dramatised self which seeks unserious competition (with those who’ll listen), and you start noticing jokes where before you’d known unsmiling composure. His beauty, his language, is what persuades. Finally we strive to understand him because we love his music so, because, being aesthetes to the ankles, we’ve fallen for his style.

Abruptly the sun’s out, striking a new
cleave; skidding the ridge-grass, down steep hangers;
buddleia in dark bloom; a wayward covey
of cabbage-whites this instant
׀ balanced
and prinking, the light itself aromatic.

Sad. We were going to write about the piebald LRB (fun on politics; boring on fiction), and perhaps the serendipity of the dopamine muse; but minutes press. We have not begun our Malory.