Introduction: TALKS Series London

Hilda Bronstein


The TALKS Series was established by US writer Bob Perelman during his year at Kings College London 1997-98. Perelman was centrally involved in the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E movement in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1975 and has been Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania since 1990. His purpose in developing the TALKS in the UK was to replicate the San Francisco Talks 1which he founded and curated from 1977-1981, and which brought together scholars and practitioners in various art-forms to reflect on issues relevant to contemporary practice. Perelman was keen that the fortnightly meetings held in London should continue after his departure and, accordingly, a second series ran from February to July 1999, and a third between January and May 2001, both curated by Professor Robert Hampson of Royal Holloway College London and Frances Presley.

The talks at that time included Mark Leahy's ‘Tina Darragh: performing the familiar sentence', which appears below. In 2000 the TALKS moved from Kings to their current location at the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre Birkbeck College, where they have been coordinated by Professor Will Rowe, with Robert Hampson continuing as curator. It was during the later series that the other talks originated that are published here: Nicky Marsh's ‘Go Grrrl: The Zine and the PostLiterary' and Alison Croggon's ‘Specula: Mirrors from the Middle Ages'. Nicky Marsh is a lecturer in English at Southampton University; Alison Croggon is an Australian poet, and writer of prose across an array of genres including fantasy fiction and drama; Mark Leahy is a writer/researcher and visiting lecturer in performance at Dartington Hall in Devon. Although they represent but a few of the speakers who have contributed to the series, their participation demonstrates the way in which the TALKS continue the enactment of community exchange begun by Perelman, enabling encounters and interactions among those interested in going against the grain and extending the possibilities of artistic and linguistic radicalism

There has always been a certain eclecticism about the TALKS. As well as providing a platform for the presentation of academic papers on topics ranging widely across the fields of contemporary writing and the visual arts, the London TALKS have also become a research resource for practitioners, a space in which individual working practices or works-in-progress might be presented and discussed, demonstrated and/or performed. Participants have recently included a number of young innovative poets and research students in the field of poetic practice. Stimulating post-talk discussions continue to spill over into the more extended exchanges which take place later during drinks in the local pub. Indeed, the spontaneity and performative nature of some of the TALKS sessions suggests the necessity for a renewed interrogation of the highly complex genre of ‘the talk' — a process already begun by Perelman in his 1998 essay ‘Speech Effects: The Talk as Genre'. 2

While the papers which appear here share a common interest in women's innovative writing, they also demonstrate the diversity of the topics covered by the TALKS series. For Mark Leahy, the elusive quality of ‘the talk' and the possibilities of the talk as genre is central to his piece on the work of radical US poet Tina Darragh, and to his exploration of tensions in her writing between the procedural and the personal. Nicky Marsh's writing on the self-publishing culture of the ‘zine' and ways in which women were able to operate within it is provocative in its account of women's contemporary engagements with public/private media. In an interesting parallel to this account of women's activities within a twentieth century counter-cultural movement, Alison Croggon considers subversive writing strategies of women mystics in the Middle Ages, by which they were able to avoid the male orthodoxies which prevailed at the time. She suggests that their creativity and ingenuity in ‘throwing off linguistic constraints in the midst of the very act of bowing to conventions' provides some intriguing ways of looking at women's contemporary poetic practices. I am grateful to Alison Croggon, Nicky Marsh and Mark Leahy for taking the time to rethink and transcribe their talks for HOW2.

The current season of TALKS (2003-04) is being curated by Redell Olsen of Royal Holloway College. To obtain more information concerning this season's programme of TALKS you can contact Redell at or Robert Hampson at They will also be pleased to hear from you if you are interested in the possibility of giving a talk. I understand that there are still openings for the Autumn 2004 series.



1. See.Bob Perelman, ed. Writing/Talks (Carbondale: South Illinois University Press, 1985).

2. Bob Perelman, ‘Speech Effects: The Talk as Genre' in Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word , ed. Charles Bernstein (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

BIO: Hilda Bronstein lives in Berkshire, England. She is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College and an Honorary Research Associate of Royal Holloway College, University of London. She recently completed her Doctorate on the writing of Mina Loy and the Problematic of Gender for Women Poets of the Avant-Garde.

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