Karlien van den Beukel

Working Note

The poems published in this issue of HOW2 are from a group of poems with the working title “Balletomania.” The poems are inspired by talking with those who were part of the 1930s and 1940s London ballet circle. It is said that Arnold Haskell, who was part of that circle, introduced the nineteenth-century Russian term “balletomane” into the English language.







The light lets itself fall

                                     on the Thames

                                                like the Monet repudiation

                                                                                                it is.


Its body abrupted

                        from marriage, vocation and Westminster

                                                reflects momentarily

                                                                   on the state it’s in   

                                                                                                & then is gone.

How light loses its lilac plumes


                                     rushing after the cart

                                                            of  great ideas

            with such aplomb


                                                it recommends you

                                                                                    to misery:

                                                                                                like real rain.

The inexorable sound of glass & cinders

                                    stretched itself out - you have heard it before -

                                                 a discursive valency

                        across the Embankment

                                    released its identikit on the foreshore.

The amateurs running their hand down

                        the fetlock to unground the iron


                                                read the light going by the wayside

the light to waterlily,

                                                            white lit lilies in the water,

                                                                                    and into iron lilies,

                        as due to you,


                                                            your doing

                                                                                                those rounds.

O, I like the big picture,

                                    but I don’t like having to make up

            what happened

                                                in the daily before me

                                                these metempsychotic lilies, a serial                                     

gross ineptitude -


                                                that sudden bewilderment of line when

                        the use-rhythm strikes

                                    one as odd

                                                behind the curve, the traindoor closed,


                                                                          the feet mismanaged into


                          cabriole en arri鋨e en troisi鋗e arabesque                                                               

                         excuse my French

                                    but now none of that circuit board will work.

                                                Not that those who modeled the austerity

                                                of their cognition on the prima assoluta

                                                partook in this industrial philosophy—

                                                that basic circuit, the routine transmitting

                                                the status of who we are to ourselves,

                                                proprioceptive, then, and others causal

                                                to our relation with the everyday disappear,


                                                and what we do have in hand tells us so,

                                                and tells others of this, when we go laden

                                                with the heart-felt posy to some destination

                                                which those transported also know to affect

                                                important on ocassion, leaving the doors

                                                so we don’t have to misspell its opening.

We had the this and the that

                                                recorded in the stance of passersby,

                                                each look and attitude that worked


                                                the given into the face was taken

                                                elsewhere and left to drift away.                                    

When the memory imbues the later work with such impatience and regret

                                                                                    you wonder about

those Nymph嶧s,  

            and what awkwardnesses are smoothed                            

                                                     whether they are shock-absorbers, brake-pads,

                         resistors to the flow of things.


It is that dark entrance,



                                                and I should just go change

                                                the fuse, a sense of undertaking.

                                                I didn’t want to see that, but I was

                                                detailed to make light of her part in it.

Then, for the moment,

                                    I should hold

                                                            back from lyric indictment.

I am no longer sure I did see the light

                                                            go to pieces on the water

                                    so the air could come

to reason with its whistler,

                                    nor that the sound gave itself

                                    up to my pathetic detection—


what happened seemed not

that the line collected itself

so it could turn a cartwheel

as she went under the skirt

of the lilac-plumed horse,

nor that she had therefore

lost her shoe. As it so was

                                                        in the abruption one felt

                                                        but the shiver and took

                                                        to one’s chores before

                                                        the curtains were drawn.



Things were drawn to our movement,

                       slowly, as we took the floor. O, we had

                       taken to politics and other lovers before.

We took ourselves to it and it was

                       luminous now as then we kept our head

                       in it, our foot light and our fingers clean.

Fling and rush we did, all

                       the mr muscle that has taken on form. Fling and

                       rush we did, all the fairy that has he brunt.

Fling and rush we did, all

                       the things that have taken the biscuit, and

                       then the brillo pad that took note of it.

That was our movement, as we took the floor.

                       What is there left to sigh for, left to limp to, left to see,

                       when light our head, our foot in it, our fingers clean?

Fling and rush we were all

                       the glade taken by Yeats. Fling and rush

                       we did all of the lovers all over the place..

And the time it has taken the world,

                       flush we were with it, flush as we took to the floor

                       all we had taken to politics and other lovers before.



            Delirious with paraphrased hatred     

            for the simple historical put down

            of it, the white columns around

            foliaged squares, Belgravia gives

            Rob a bad turn. Where daily tours

            an obsession these portilicode vistas,

            in memory of henchmarks & blind


            that turn, the simple put down of it,

            like civic salt on streets,  the school

            run, the post round, to me seems

            natural, almost green,  and white

            the colour. Though not true, your

            name has come to the attention

            as a good opening under the political

            light. Camelias are just gorgeous

            so I let you have it, you were the best

            *  with your one-bit hands, your

            two-tone shoes, your green-backs,

            your back-handers, your maiden

            aunts who said well I never gave

            head to another man nor was made

            to lose it. If lyric were unhampered

            by the natural I would bring a fabulous

            spread to the sink estate, for I know

            the trade is yours and history my

            elected interest in the mistake on

            the surveillance tape —  a number

            of them were dealing as a metonymic

            identity; but your face was erased

            as if a trauma counsellor had had

            a good go at it. Well, then, mansion

            blocks arranged into its moment

            proportional space; inside low down

the cello scroll rose &

a drum roll

                                                                         stepped into the picture —


                        to announce, grandly, the half-lit arrival of veuve cliquot.           

                                    Like the foliage should be greenery


like the observed should be scenery

                                    I’m not going to step to it,

             dissolute in a bad doric mood,

one back, and then


leave it to

                         the tornado

coming through the clouds of civilised letters

                                    pumping elbows in aviators and lagerfeld sweaters

            I know where’ve you been;


Give me the lowdown,

                        marshalling the facts, I was detailed

                                    to my formal base:

the red curtain

            desequinned at your behest

                         adored what was

            thrown about

                                    flame throwing my points

about to raze the ineluctable

            to the ground

                        and so regain the opening

                                    and when it impedimented me, it rose.

A mini linear libretto


                                    whatever one has to be mindful of

                        a choric identity

                                                in the bones

a kinetic memory          

                                    of the doileyed frontage of a cakewalk

                        whatever that is,

                                    something drawn by Marlene Dumas,

something ripped off a homeboy’s pad,




Give me the lowdown


                        the diminution of love


low down like reading


                        a  poem

            d’annunzio had left on the divan

                                    at Il Vittoriale

for capitalism to lose a lot of interest in;



            each finger pressed to palm


                                                in measure

 flew off the red curtain


                                                a fan of slush ‘n blur

                                                                        and flush against that

I took it

            and traversed

                        as if the air could still be traversed

            with the torque of tulle

                        Ione dead the long year.

                                                                        Did take that

 pause as birthright

                                                a voluble little breath

gautier incensed it


            too generous

                        the airs I gave

 to my punctuation,

                                                like so many occasional commas

             the rat’s foot,

                                    the rattle of the love-rat’s foot,


                                                            eking & eking


                                                                        in the orchestral pit.


            And reading all about it

            your maiden aunts said

            well I never, well I never

            corrupted like she did.


Bio: Karlien van den Beukel lives in London. Her poems have appeared in Angel Exhaust, Talus and the anthology Foil: Defining Poetry 1985-2000. With Lucy Sheerman, she is co-editor of rempress, the Cambridge-based poetry imprint which has published Beth Anderson, Lisa Jarnot, Fiona Templeton, Jennifer Moxley, Caroline Bergvall and others.

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