Tag Archives: emily dorman

The Claudius App, being in a poem and a twitter challenge.

I’ve intended to write about Claudius App IV since it first appeared on the interweb. I enjoy writing about CA because it contains some of the best contemporary work currently being written and therefore deserves as wide a readership as possible. One of the reasons (I tell myself) for not writing about issue IV is the fact that my name is used in “the flesh called fwan” by Francis Crot, Idaho Pistols, Nat Raha and Verity Spott. Section 41 is:

In 'the scene' getting reviewed by John 
Armstrong means I can eat. He would hate
this. What Paterson fails to realise. It's
                                         supposed to be shite
                                  like coal (???)
A faggot slugabed I can't protect you with.
London wilts bye tranny lavic totter on
Ankle nodule St Vitus circa Sleeping
Beauty enchantress. In 'the scene' getting
reviewed by your ft inside me. Hobo fat.

Now it might be possible that this is referring to some other John Armstrong or an entirely fictional John Armstrong were it not for the fact that I was told I was in this poem by Verity Spott via the Twitter gizmo.

I’ll get back to this in a moment. What has prodded me into CA-related action is that my gmail account tells me I have received these two mentions on twitter: “@zackzee, Emily Dorman’s calling Bebrowed at bit.ly/1eGp2sx with texts on the “scariest poet on the planet” for you. Dare to blog?” and “@zackzee, @VanessaPlaceInc, be browed, be very browed” – both of which would seem to be some sort of challenge.

There is some background to this, as I recall I took a previous poem by Emily Dorman to task for not being very funny about Ms Place. I also had a bit of an anxiety-laden rant about Emily Dorman which was then referred to on the CA Facebook page. Obviously I’d like to reply to these two via twitter but it currently seems to be out of action. Obviously, I’m beginning to regret referring to Vanessa Place in this way because this one-liner does seem to keep on coming back at me, I’m much fonder of my pithy one liner on Caroline Bergvall.

Anyway, I am delighted to be mentioned by some of our brightest young poets and am equally pleased to be mentioned by the only poetry site that I pay attention to. It’s just that I’m not sure how best to respond.

It’s now time to address the smoke and mirrors problem. My first involvement in this came about by placing a forum on a disability-related information site. The idea was to promote the development of a community which could challenge societal and cultural attitudes towards those with a long-term health problem. This was about twelve years ago and was a mistake becuse people can pretend to be other people and can say things whilst pretending to be other people with the intention of creating chaos. This salutary lesson has remained lodged in my brain ever since. This has some relevance because I’d previously (foolishly) assumed that was a single human being but it transpires that this might not be the case and the whole Dorman persona may be an indulgent dig at a variety of different poetries. At which point I think I stop caring, a disinterest to that encountered when reading the first 500 lines of Marvell’s “Last Instructions”. In short, it’s all a bit sixth form.

With regard to “the flesh called fwan”, I don’t hate it but I’m not sure that I want to be thought of as a reviewer of poetry. I like to think that I write about my relationship with a poem or a poetry which allows me to be provisional, subjective and inconsistent, not the qualities that you want from a reviewer. I don’t write at length about work that I don’t like (with the exception of Sir Geoffrey Hill’s more recent material) and have this odd tendency to be very enthusiastic about the stuff that appeals to me. Essentially, I write about what interests me and am constantly surprised and gratified that others seem to enjoy the inside of my head. As for ‘the scene’, I’m not aware that there is one although my definition of a scene (free jazz, activist, arthouse) may well be hopelessly outdated. Having said that, the tone throughout seems reasonably playful so I’m not going to argue. Think I need to venture a guess that Idaho Pistols may also write under the name of Timothy Thornton and that Francis Crot and Jow Lindsay may be similarly intertwined.

We now come to the CA challenge and in particular the swipe at “Tragodia”. I’m taking the Dorman rant s a little tongue in cheek but also with a sense of indignation- “But Eliot didn’t publish his account books, nor Stevens his policies, nor Williams his prescriptions. Place repurposed her profession into poetry through a bare relabelling,…” This might be okay in an interestingly witty self-referential kind of way but you do need to do this stuff from a position of strength. There are many (many) things that just might be wrong with “Tragodia” but a ‘bare relabelling” isn’t one of them. Unlike most of the increasingly popular Kenny’s stuff, this trilogy needs to be read from covers to covers sequentially and should be judged (intentional(ish)) by what it says and how it re-adjusts many disparate frames at the same time. It can be criticised for its initial subject matter, for the quite deliberate selection of appeals and its main focus on genetic evidence but, by it’s nature, it can’t be castigated for the initial conceit unless (of course) we’re living in some kind of late modern utopia where the only standards are those set by Eliot, Stevens, Williams and the rest.

The odd thing is that I’d like a debate about “Tragodia”, I’d like someone to argue with my recently expressed view but this isn’t it.

I’d like to finish with the observation that there are many high-profile poets on both sides of the Atlantic that are drably mediocre. Perhaps Ms Dorman would like to cast her glance at those British dismalities that some of us know so well.

The Emily Dorman Problem part 2

I was going to start this with a list from ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ with a list of people I didn’t know, followed by a list of people I’m aware of but have never read followed by a list of people the I’m fairly (reasonably) familiar with and then point out that I’ve never heard of Dana Ward but I have been making use of his site intermittently for several years.

I was then going to ask readers of this blog to mentally do the same with the lists (this would make me feel better) and then to read the poem. I’ve decided not to do that but instead write about Readerly Anxiety. This is a phenomenon that I’ve probably experienced for years but have only just recognised it as a condition. RA is different from the anxiety of the self-taught (which is not the condition as described by P Bourdieu) because it has no straightforward resolution. RA is about the nature of the text rather than the codes and references that trouble auto-didacts and ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ causes me deep RA because there are many things that I admire about it but I’m not sure how much of it is satire and how much (if any) isn’t.

The audio recording compounds rather than eases this worry. The anxiety is whether or not it is deliberately bad or parodic. I’m also not entirely sure of the ‘status’ of the image of the concrete slab that accompanies the text – although I have spent a few moments looking at images of the shiny new building in Chicago.

Vanessa Place comes in the third list and I have looked up both Zucker and Zapruder before I decided that I wasn’t interested enough to follow this through. I don’t think the last sentence is funny enough but I’m prepared to accept that the rest might be hilariously acute.

RA would be more manageable if all of this consisted of weak in-jokes some of it is both inventive and accomplished and there’s the rub- I’d rather have it as all good or all bad but this fretful middle doesn’t do me any good at all. Anyone who can write “Hephaestus loves Carol King with tongs. But no-one writes songs” has got to be good.

Of course, readerly anxiety may just be a sub-set of the bipolar and the problem may well belong exclusively to me but I’ve noticed RA twinges with ‘Kazoo Dreamboats’ too but that’s about trying to position it in what I thought was the J H Prynne project. RA isn’t pleasant, it’s nothing like the Pleasure of Bafflement whereby there’s things that the reader looks forward to doing in order to reduce/alter the degree of unknowing. RA is much more scratchy and queasy than that, more like ‘The Conversation’ than ‘Histoire(s) du Cinema’.

Enough of this, I’d like to draw your attention to the wonderful neediness of the ‘letter’ to Hamiri and the ‘being with’ device applied to both Van Gogh and Ruskin although much more fun could have been had with the otherness of Blanchot and Bataille even if (s)) is a nice touch.

I’ve just read the comments to the earlier part of this and I accept that my knowledge of most things North American is woeful and comes wrapped up in a cacophony of prejudice, I also accept that I’ve managed to steer completely clear of all things flarf and consider this to be an achievement. So, this should come down to frailties in my sense of humour or the inevitable resentment of the self-taught in direct collision with biting satire that is beyond my reach.

However, I don’t think this works as well as the first. To give a brief example- a riff on the ‘integrity of the fragment’ could have been very promising but any wit/satirical intent is fatally undermined by ‘grok’. Perhaps this is due to my ignorance but how many of us are familiar with the works of Thomas Percy?

I started this over a week ago fretting about fretting- now I’m of the view that ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ is a step backwards, except for the reading which remains completely glorious, obviously.

The Emily Dorman Problem Part One.

masouleh, iran

This is not in any way connected to the Paul Muldoon problem or the almost resolved Clavics problem, it may be a sub-set of the not liking Sub Songs dilemma but it is causing some unease.

The problem begins with the publication of ‘Towards a New Critical Vocabulary’ in the first issue of the Claudius App which is startling and funny and inventive and made me smile a lot. This was followed by the usual 5 minutes worth of web research which revealed that Emily Dorman was better known as Mrs Ernest Shackleton but very little else.

So, I did intend to write something more detailed about ‘Towards’ but got sidetracked until the advent of the second issue of Claudius which contains ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ and appeared initially to be disappointing. So, I was going to write a compare and contrast thing pointing out in forthright fashion why ‘Towards’ is much better. Then I played the audio and the problem became apparent.

Starting with the obvious, in-jokes are only funny to people on the inside (hence the term), the use and enjoyment of in-jokes remains in my head as a sixth-form thing akin to the enjoyment of ‘Private Eye’. Poets are overly fond of writing for the cognoscenti, the first part of Marvell’s ‘Last Instructions’ was written for a specific coterie who would ‘get’ the jokes.

Moving on to the less than obvious, the reading of ‘Super Poem’ is wonderfully and seriously inept which makes the poem appear in my head to be much less self-regarding and clever. I was then struck by a fairly depressing thought- am I more impressed with ‘Towards’ because I’m old and British and recognise more of the names that I do with ‘Super Poem’?

So, the problem becomes one of my background and prejudices rather than the work per se. It can be argued that this is always the case but it is rare for me not to like stuff because I’ve never heard of Zucker, Zapruder and co. I’m going to try a section by section response starting with ‘Towards a New Critical Vocabulary’-


This is amusing and a reasonably accurate portrait of critical excess, the inclusion of Girtin is a nice touch and the faux quote is good, I like the use of ‘sleazy’ because it points to a quite complex line of attack. ‘Writerly constipation’ seems a bit too easy in this context but I am intensely fond of the sunspots. The notion of a pamphlet retaining its mortality is one I intend to keep alive on this blog even though the raze/raise thing is as bad as Prynne and Hill at their worst. The last sentence is a bit flat but that might be because I’m not entering into the spirit of things.


The Nigerian scare trope works but, although stupid, isn’t perhaps stupid enough. It does take a little while to realise that the detailed ‘scam’ (consummated or not) doesn’t make sense although the tabloid prose is a nice touch. If this was a lit crit piece then I’d feel obliged to poke at the integrity or otherwise of the italicised numerous. But it isn’t. It also happens that I know at least one Ghanaian poet in Ghana and he’s writing poetry.


We’ve all received these, the Saddam reference ties it in to 2003. The deliberately poor use of English in these things is done in order to lull the recipient into a false sense of superiority, is it over-reading to suggest that something similar might be going on here?


This is really good, I wish I’d written it. I’m reminded of what John Matthias has written about manifestos and the elegaic neediness that lurks blaringly within. In it’s entirety this should be read to every post graduate student every single day until a clear appreciation of the ‘now, on the shore’ device is demonstrated. This is good because it is understated, measured and the degree of neediness is perfectly judged -‘it will’.


This is set out in verse form with two long lines followed by one short. I’m taking it that ‘they’ refers to both answers to the question discussed in the previous section and that the car that is being followed is the answer to both questions that has been ‘reduced’ by the critic.

At first sight, the placing of this seems odd, almost as a superfluous verse afterthought to what has gone before but I do like the cinematic quip at the end which serves as a kind of ironic stop to the pastiche that precedes it.


I’m struggling to know whether this is ironic or not, it’s more obviously philosophical rather than literary but also feels quite personal. Of course, concern about the passage of time involving a degree of decay rather than progress is common to both poetry and philosophy. Whether this is ironic or not, the first paragraph is more successful than the second which is too convoluted, even though that may be the ‘point’.


Here’s a confession, prior to reading this I’d never heard of Millard Filmore and don’t feel sufficiently motivated to find out if there’s a connection between the 13th president of the United States with bear baiting and/or Wall St. I’m going with the supposition that these are reasonably random and serve to underline the overly technical nonsense that is being lampooned.

The riff on overly technical analysis is good, I’m particularly fond of the ‘sforzando of dental plosives’ which is the kind of thing that pervades some commentaries of 16/17th century work- and gets in the way. I don’t understand and therefore cannot judge the accuracy or otherwise of the ‘2 train’ quip and I don’t intend to find out, The demented aunt and the $500 Michael Hamburger is a bit of a jarring end. Are we referring to a $500 Hamburger collection (there weren’t many) or a translation or another Michael Hamburger altogether?


I like Barbara Guest, I don’t think she’s well enough known/read in the UK. If this is meant to be a parody or ‘in the manner of’ then it’s not very good. The faux title isn’t good/shocking/witty enough and seems a bit lazy.


I like the idea of appropriating headlines of accumulating a barrage of headlines. If this is parodic then it needs to be a bit more pointed, i.e. it either needs to be more banal or more dramatic to hit the target.


I can speak with some experience of responses, none of these reflect that stuff that this blog generates, nor do they echo what I’ve seen in other blogs. Perhaps I should pay more attention….

I do take an interest in the use of English in spam which I think is more worthy of creative attention but this only acquires ‘meaning’ if you know how blog spammers are paid.


This is excellent – it’s what caught my eye on the first reading. It captures the tone and the deliberate incoherence wonderfully and all post graduate students should be made to recite it every single day. My only query is about lesser/Lessing- although I don’t know what reputation she has in the US.


  • bellying wave;
  • the intentionality of the prefab;
  • march ends;
  • muscular crusts;
  • shuttling into silhouette;
  • extrapolating that the agape of the Greek;
  • any sparks of chant;
  • let night be an allegory;
  • a clef signifying the displacement of free play;
  • the Beethoven;
  • time is function of a concept of collusion;
  • “missing a composer” won a continent.



I’m taking this as a riff on ‘criticism as rock journalism’ or perhaps there really is this kind of stuff written be people who are just aching to be cool. I’m not familiar with either so I can’t comment other than to observe that it seems reasonably efficient.


This is intriguingly odd- earlyish philosophy contrasted with the most important film director of the last fifty years. I have an interest in both and don’t really think that the first section is strong enough (except for ‘she likes doctors and they like her’) The Godard is more successful, especially the phase/phasing device which is used consciously.

I’m still not sure why these two should be put together, Godard attracts an entirely different genre of pretension than the Neoplatonics….


The first paragraph reads like something I might of written in a moment of low-grade mania and the second points worringly toward the in-crowd problem that I’ve already referred to.


I’m not from Kansas but I am living Somewhere Else. This appears to be a parody of a type of poetry that I’m not familiar with but the fourth and fifth lines do seem quite adept / clever.


I like this a lot, I think it’s both clever and complicated and it makes me smile.


I like this, there ought to be more of this.

Perhaps there is.

The next post will contrast ‘Towards’ with ‘Super Poem Future Machine’ (in both print and audio versions) and ask whether part 2 is a progression or a step backwards.

The Claudius App, compare and contrast.

The above is the set list from a recent Gillian Welch gigs at the Rogue Theatre in Grants Pass, Oregon. It’s a poem because I say that it’s a poem.
I was recently sent a link to the Claudius App which contains new work from Simon Jarvis, Keston Sutherland and Joe Luna. Given that it contains both UK and North American poets, I was going to write something about the vast superiority of the Brits over the cliche riddled mediocrity of our American cousins. Then I read the poems and realised that this strategy won’t work in this instance. This isn’t because the British poets aren’t any good, Sutherland, Jarvis, Luna and Lisette are some of the very best that we have but rather that some of the American poems are very good indeed. This came as quite a shock as the vast majority of North American stuff strikes me as being hopelessly poetic and a result of some creative writing course somewhere on the eastern seaboard.
Like Geoffrey Hill, I’m against the teaching of creative writing especially in the field of poetry and am of the view that the proliferation of such courses is responsible for the mediocrity that is threatening to kill poetry as a means of expression. In my head, North America is the home of the creative writing phenomena and therefore all North American poets who are the product of this system can’t be any good.
So I approached the Claudius App with the intention of concentrating on the British contingent but then started to look at some of the Americans. I want to set out some initial responses-
Vanessa Place is officially the Bebrowed scariest poet on the planet because of the challenge that she presents to the rest of us and because she really does mean it. Her readings are an absolute joy and her work is exceptionally challenging. In a recent interview, Kenneth Goldsmith has again ‘explained’ conceptualist poetry as stuff where the idea is more important than the content and goes on to say that Place- “is taking legal briefs that she writes during the day in the law field. And she doesn’t do anything to them, she just represents those as poetry.” Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Place output will know that this is more than a slight distortion. For example, Place’s contribution here is based on the ‘Statement of Facts’ but large sections of it have been blocked out. I’ve written about the original ‘Statement’ for arduity where I think I’ve made it clear that this is work that we are meant to read and think about. The current contribution also shows that Place is now ‘doing things’ with the original material. The extracts from Juliana Spahr and Steven Fama and the statement that this is a response to the “negative reviews” of Statement of Facts might only be helpful to those who have actually read the original work, to Place virgins what follows may appear as needlessly gratuitous. So anyone with an interest should read ‘statement’ first and then come to judgement about what’s presented here. I may be in a minority but I’ve always felt that a respectful silence is the best way to respond to adverse comment and it does seem that stripping the rapes of any kind of context demeans the original work.
So, given that Place scares me to death (in a good way), I’m not entirely sure why she should choose to respond even though that response is typically extreme. These reservations do not in any way detract from my view that she is one of the most important poets currently practicing and cannot be ignored.
|Kent Johnson in my head has always been the slightly contrived bad boy of American verse. I’ve followed some of his interventions in debaters on the other side of the Atlantic and have gained the impression that he adopts this contrarian stance purely to gain a reaction and thus what he says shouldn’t be taken seriously. His piece here however reflects what many of us must be feeling about Jacket2 which already has become a very pale shadow of its predecessor. I don’t want to launch any kind of attack on this entity but to register my personal sorrow that an essential destination has been replaced with something so weak. I’m guessing that Johnson’s wry description of the politics behind this is reasonably accurate and it really is sad that this kind of empire building can lead to such a loss. I’m taking care to refrain from giving specific examples of this loss, suffice it to say that I for one am missing the original- which wasn’t perfect but contained stuff that was worthy of consideration and attention.
Emily Dorman. I know nothing at all about Emily Dorman who seems to be absent from most of the web so I can only assume that this is a contribution from the American side of the divide. “Towards a New Critical Vocabulary” is one of the cleverest things that I’ve read this year. It could be argued that I’m biased towards the clever and am often prepared to be impressed by cleverness for it’s own sake. Whilst this may be true, this particular piece manages to combine oddness and deliberation to produce something that is staggeringly good. It manages to make me smile and (at the same time) to turn most of my thinking processes inside out. This is a good thing. I’m particularly impressed by section 7 and the immortal sentence: “Some readers may gripe that the ideas in the sequence are overcooked (‘a moment’s monument’ walks lockstep with mommy poems for instance) but the technique leaves few bones to pick”- which manages to speak enormous volumes about the entire lit crit business. The word ‘lockstep’ is particularly brilliant. I’ve read this four or five times and each time I find something else that makes me smile in admiration. So, if anyone has any more details on Emily Dorman, I really would be very grateful.
Daniel Poppick is a product of the creative writing machine yet manages to avoid the writerly nonsense that seems to infect most of his peers. I think I’d better try and qualify this, without doing an in-depth survey of the stuff currently being produced, I think my main concern is about the misuse of the adjective and the faked inability to be clear coupled with an odd determination to be wry and cool at the same time. Poppick manages to avoid all of these and to put together lines that are very good indeed. This is unusual because I’m not usually attracted by poems that are as direct as this but I don’t think anyone can deny that there are some bits that are breathtakingly strong. I would cite the second and the sixth stanzas of the first poem and all of ‘Sucking the Sherbets’ as being particularly effective. Poppick seems to have that knack of making the uncanny seem very familiar and vice versa, this is very impressive material.
Michael Thomas Taren is also a product of the creative writing machine who seems to be able to create quite distinctive voices for his work. I’m ignoring the first because I can’t be bothered to think about it but the second two are poems that are both striking and very confident. What I find most appealing is Taren’s readiness to take risks with language and to write lines that shouldn’t make any kind of sense- “and I answer that my neck is looking now like light in a swimming pool” is deeply attractive. In my experience it is rare to find poets who can sustain this level of quality but both Taren and Poppick seem to manage it.
We now come to Joe Luna and an introductory disclaimer. Up until last week or thereabouts the only thing that I knew about Joe was that his blog sends more people to this blog than any other site in the known universe. I have no idea what if anything this might signify but I am nevertheless grateful for all the traffic that I can get. So, I was intrigued to see one of his poems included here and have since been provided with others. having acknowledged some potential bias, I now feel able to state that ‘For the White Lake Blot’ is one of the best poems to be published in the last three or four years.For those of you who may wish to doubt this I suggest the following strategy-
1. Read the poem, start at the beginning and read through to the end, read all of the words, do not skip bits that seem superfluous, do not re-read bits that may seem obscure or difficult.
2. Try and remember what you have read.
3. Read the poem aloud, do this three or four times.
4. Read the poem to yourself again.
Following this strategy will lead you to an appreciation of both the depth and originality of this sequence. There are a couple of moments when it seems like Sutherland’s influence is going to take over but this isn’t sustained- what emerges is something where (and I am struggling with this) the gaps, the what-isn’t-said is as important as what’s on the page. This isn’t to demean what the poem says but rather to point to the unsaid stuff that seems (struggling again) to lurk between the lines. The sequence is full of stuff that is clever, challenging and intriguing, I’m particularly fond of the conversational voice that’s used to say some quite ‘deep’ things. Right now I’m busy reading more of Luna’s work and can confirm its consistency in terms of strength. I’ll be writing more about Luna shortly.
The same goes for Francesca Lisette.
I wrote all of the above about ten days ago and have spent the intervening time having a bit of a struggle with despondency and confidence which is annoying because I’m supposed to be recovering. This unwelcome interval has been spent amongst some primary sources for the last decade of the 16th century – narrative history remaining the best distraction when my concentration is shot. The period has also been marked by an odd sense of unease about poetry that requires attention which I do intend to write about. Returning to the two Lisette poems today has restored some confidence. I have read some of her other stuff and am awaiting the arrival of some more but the two on display here are simply outstanding and challenging on a number of levels. I’m still getting my brain around some of the finer points but would wish to draw your attention to “living underground with stockings made of rain / my free fucking watercooler wrung hands of all / authority;” which is both startling and clever and “mantra dies off / in the bread of giving up we rose / caulked and feckless” which is almost perfect. It is stuff like this and the Luna poem that restores my faith in the future of English verse whilst also managing to challenge the ways that I read and think about poetry. This is a good thing.

The above is a set list from a recent Gillian Welch gig in San Francisco, it’s another poem in the ‘tour’ sequence because I say it is.
With regard to the three Jarvis poems, I’ll obviously need to give these much more attention after I’ve negotiated the various threads in ‘Dionysus Crucified’ – I’ll have more to say once I’ve got my brain around both the depth and the breadth of the Jarvis project. Incidentally, looking at the background to George Herbert has led me to ‘Godly sorrow’ and John Donne on kenosis which may shed a little more light on the dying god theme in ‘Dionysus’ and on “or voiding inside their once barbarous pageants of national violence and love” from Z.15. It could of course be yet another example of over-reading and leaping to conclusions that aren’t actually there. I’m not at all sure about ‘Barcarol’ mainly because of line length but I also accept that I need to pay this much more attention.
As for the Sutherland contributions, I’m of the view that the selection from the Odes contains one of the weakest bits of the sequence, the excerpt from ‘Ode 4’ is a little too controlled and rational for my taste and (probably) not ‘superabundant’ enough. The bit from Ode 5 gives a much better idea of the quality of the sequence as a whole. I’m also a little puzzled as ‘Living stops to fit the empty” was once part of the ‘Odes’ and probably makes more ‘sense’ in that context rather than as a separate poem. Does anyone know when/if the sequence will be published?
I realise that this may cause offence but I’m bored of kettling poems and becoming bored of austerity poems (unless they are really, really good) and ‘The Clearance’ is a kettling poem, it’s a clever and clearly heartfelt piece of polemic but there are much bigger fish to fry…

Welch, Toronto, Monday night, the final poem in the sequence.