Friday, 4 February 2011


I was walking down Portland Place the other day and there it was, a big handsome brass plate: ‘Anaesthesia Heritage Centre’ Opening hours were given but with this caveat: ‘An appointment is recommended.’ Well you would need one wouldn’t you? The website recommends ‘Blue Plaques and Buildings: a history of anaesthesia walk around London’.

Ah yes, the ‘anaesthesia of heritage’. I first came across this institution on Beverly Rowe’s website where, among other things, he has an extraordinarily comprehensive list of museums in London. I’m sure it was the ‘Museum of Anaesthesia’ then, but we must move with the times. When I was teaching in East London, pupils’ ‘mother tongues’, Bengali, Punjabi or any number of others, were referred to in official documents as ‘heritage languages’. It’s a deeply ambiguous term.

Raymond Queneau is part of the ‘heritage of modernism’ I suppose. Beverly Rowe has updated his diabolically ingenious English versions of Queneau’ sonnets. He writes: You can now get new randomly-selected sonnets at a set interva. I describe it as a slide show. When you select that option, the poem is refreshed every two seconds but you can change the interval. . .With the extra sonnets and line shuffling, there are now 261,245,548,225,364,000 possible different sonnets.

I suppose this raises the question whether there is perhaps a ‘crisis of productivity’ in poetic output? I was struck by this comment from Laurie Duggan on his ‘Graveney Marsh’ blog: In its rhetoric of constant innovation it resembles nothing more than the ethos of late capitalism, where redundancy has no connection with utility.

Sunday, 30 January 2011


Amhurst Republic where no one is illegal . . . well it’s in Amhurst Road in Stoke Newington, just round the corner from me, and it was launched the other day with a party in artist Souheil Sleiman’s studio. (It’s Souheil’s sculpture ‘All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go’ that appears on the cover of my most recent Shearsman book, ‘Visiting Exile’). It was a great party and you can see and read more at

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Resuming this blog after a long break it is sad that the subject of my first post should be the death of the poet Roger Langley, who died suddenly at his home in Suffolk following a heart attack on 25th January. When I spoke to him on the phone a couple of weeks or so ago he sounded energetic and very positive – he was just getting to the end of a course of medical treatment – and his death came as a great shock.

Roger was one of those life-changing schoolteachers. He taught English and Art History at secondary schools in the Midlands and it was Nigel Wheale, a close friend and former pupil, who became his publisher, bringing out ‘Hem’ (1978) and ‘Sidelong’ (1981) under his infernal methods imprint. There was also a pamphlet from Equipage, ‘Jack’, which appeared in 1998. Then in 1994 Nigel published ‘Twelve Poems’ which attracted the attention of Carcanet who went on to publish two collections, ‘Collected Poems’ (2000, and published jointly with infernal methods) and ‘The Face of It’ (2007). This latter includes the poems I had published in ‘More or Less’, which was the last thing I did under the Many Press imprint. There was also a pamphlet, ‘Twine’, which came out from Landfill in 2004.

Roger was among other things a very accomplished draughtsman and there is an extraordinary intensity of seeing in his work, whether engaging with varieties of natural phenomena or with painting. This is evinced everywhere in his ‘Journals’ which appeared regularly in PN Review and in collected form from Shearsman (2006). And there’s an interview, first published as a pamphlet by Peter Riley and then included in Angel Exhaust, which gives a remarkably open and detailed account of his poetic method and practice.

A friend of Prynne’s from student days, a particular talent of Roger Langley's was to combine some traditional English preoccupations - landscape and natural history, visiting country churches - with a rigorous modernism. He was still very much occupied with writing - a poem Nightingale appeared recently in the London Review of Books - and will be sorely missed as a writer and as a friend.