Redell Olsen

London Calling:
New and Emerging Work from Britain


Wembley’s white metal arch splits the household
from “Wind Up”, Andrea Brady, 2005.

London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared - and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
from “London Calling”, The Clash, 1979.

Recent highlights amongst publications ranging and circling out from this city’s nomadic household include: Andrea Brady’s Embrace (Object Permanence, 2005), Caroline Bergvall’s Fig (Salt, 2005) and Elizabeth James’ Base To Carry (Barque, 2005). This section brings together new and emerging work from writers based in and around London who have not yet had a major collection of poetry published. For some of these writers the page-based book will not be the final destination of this work and so it seems all the more reason to gather them together here in a temporary snap-shot-gathering of various textualities which seem poised to continue in lines of allegiance both towards and away from the book.

While Critchley and Morris seem more committed to the exploration of poetry in relation to a pliable line that can be reshaped and redistributed page-wise, Fierle-Hedricks, Robinson and Kreider seem more liable to treat the page as a temporary and provisional landing place, something that could be reconfigured for the context of the gallery wall or the digital screen. “My environment is contingent,” writes Kreider. The processes and varied methodological approaches to the question of how to go about writing proliferate. In “collection” Krieder recontextualises a collection of handwritten notecards that were given to her mother, indeed the finding of writing that is already written and the reframing of it is an important trait which is shared by many of the writers featured, as is the mistrust and readiness to deviate, blur and play across the weighty categories of art and poetry. While some of the writers here seem as much concerned with the traditions of the ready-made in art via Duchamp and Pop to the neo-conceptual text and image works of Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer, others are more concerned to engage at the cross-hatch of influences which appear to score London in a big X and could be chalk marked for future reappropriation and addition as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Cambridge, Bob Cobbing and an earlier generation of women writers happily already represented by How(2) and However.

In keeping with this contextual background for many of these writers both the semantic structures and the visual manifestations of language are approached as spaces of renegotiation rather than of certainty:

land becomes line
dimension compressed
tracks followed
in case of unknown
“To Be Looked Out Of”, Rosheen Brennan

Brennan and Kruk are each involved in working through the surface and typographic limitations of the page. Kruk describes how she intends her poems “to splat and dribble into [the] controlled space” of language, representation and culture in some kind of “sticky resistance to clean structure”. A “resistance” which seems to come from the radical deployment of chance and accident that takes place in the processural development of the work and passes through stages of illegibility, disgust and spill on its way to being written. The reading, like the writing of these poems is dependent on conditions or occurrences not yet established as “proper”. As Morris writes “there's no getting away from real estate”.

We are not only dealing here with; “Language bawling / prey to the calm / blight of abstraction” (Hedricks) but also with the very real contingencies of our own social and political landscape in 2006; “No wonder the fog and (the) oil skies and carves you (up) now. It will do worse as time (collects)” writes Critchley and “How do you cope now / with decay, else by biting down heavily”? asks Morris. Like Robinson, who baulks at the apparently persuasive and “compulsory heterosexuality” of the culture around her, Morris swerves in rejection of enforced conformity of language and self:

I feel so slowly hunted,
lashings of formula stretching over me.
“Females Full of Formulae”, Marianne Morris

In this contingent of assemblages language is not a Utopic refuge; it is at once a domestic “lying place” and also itself a “lying place...coerced and manipulated to sell consumable objects” (White). Faced with this as a proposition the reader might feel herself on shaky ground but she might equally allow herself to be pleased by the engendered fissures shaken through the conditionings of language lived as represented by these writers. In Singspiel White imagines the audience / reader as:

““You”, the “keepers”, who are rained down upon by “Bell glass”[..] millions of tiny tear-drop containers) holding “infinitesimal infinite” (the millions of sounds produced by the singing chorus)”

This is London Calling: a fractured, factured and contingent chorus of bell(e)s sounding out the structural and adaptable possibilities of all available historically constructed and ready-made textual containers.


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