Updated: Jul 1


In Lisa Baraitser’s Enduring Time, she mines the term ‘psychosocial studies’. She quotes Judith Butler from the foreword to Psychosocial Imaginaries.

But what if the relationship between the two terms (psychic and social) cannot rely on a causal or narrative sequence?...the analysis of their relation is one that tracks forms and effects of permeability, impingement, resonance, phantasmatic excess, the covert or implicit operations of psychic investments in the organization of social life, the way that organization falters or fails by virtue of the psychic forces it cannot fully organize, the psychic registers in which social forms of power take hold?

The announcement of an uneasy compatibility reminds me of Maris’ mode of linking material. Language is stripped of any potential musicality. The absence of rhyme and metre creates an immediate voice that makes an impression through the light touch regulation of sexual politics. To all the effort of ‘the labour of Adam’ Maris might have Eve respond ‘oh really?’ This attitude is evident in a somewhat blasé approach to organizing text. I’m reminded of Craig Raine’s insistence that the line is the ‘unit of sense’. Here the possibility of a ‘unit of sense’ seems too prescriptive. The lines finish within other lines. There is a concern with authority already inherent in language. One response to this situation is to freely borrow and re-purpose lines from other texts. The serious playfulness yields entertaining poems with a fresh edge.

Instead of opposition, betweeness or collision there’s a different mode of arrangement. Things are layered in easy stanzas or simply placed side by side. The Baraitser essay opens with the definition below. It seems apt to import here to describe the general mode of working material.

Trans –


< Latin, combining form of trans (adv. and preposition) across, beyond, through.

Collins English Dictionary 2009

The link below leads to a very interesting piece by Maris. Also mentions Craig Raine. I've included an excerpt.


Hayes: Exactly. It might have offensive stuff in it, but I would not use “offensive” as an adjective for any piece of art that I’ve ever made. Transgressions and transcendence, that’s really what we want, when we think about art. The status quo is real, the main floor is a real floor, but then there’s transgression, which is like the basement […] and then there’s the attic, which is transcendence. What else is there?

Updated: Jun 16

Surge - Jay Bernard

An archive of black radical British history is explored against the backdrop of the Grenfell and Windrush scandals...

A key element of the project is Bernard’s exploration of black radical British history in the George Padmore Institute’s archives, against the backdrop of the GrenfellTower tragedy, the xenophobia of the Windrush scandal and Brexit. This interrogation of the tensions between “public narration and private truths” is found throughout Surge. Bernard, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they”, reminds us that the self is an overlaying of multiple identities, comprised not just of what is remembered and forgotten, but of how one is located in the wider questions of belonging, memory and solidarity.


Sandeep Parmar Sat 6 Jul 2019 09.00 BSTLast modified on Sat 6 Jul 2019 11.06 BST

I once wrote an essay comparing and contrasting Kamau Brathwaite with Derek Walcott. The main difference between them was that Walcott took western forms and worked within the flow, whereas Brathwaite honoured his own Caribbean rhythms. At the time I argued that Walcott's project was more impressive, taking on a colonial history and creating a new space for himself. Maybe I was biased, the forms he played with were more legible to my eyes, whereas Legba wasn't. In hindsight, it was a leading question. I can't recall any lines from either, I'm just left saddled with the memory of a name : Legba, a god of the crossroads.

When I read Jay Bernard's Surge, I had no revelatory excitement compared to that celebrated in the two previous posts. In fairness those moments are rare but at the same time, you are on the lookout for hints of that capacity. Heaney says - a poem must have it's own 'snake life'. He's great for the clarity. I must admit I couldn't tune into the potential 'snake life' of Surge. And I was all too ready to dismiss the value of the work. Then I watched Jay Bernard's performance of her own work, it sings. I don't want to make the point that the work is lesser because it is improved by her own voice. Rather that upon my own internal review, I could recognise that poetry is more synthesis than analysis.

Sunday 14th June, was the three year anniversary of the Grenfell fire. At the same time an inquiry found that 'racism contributed to disproportionate UK BAME Coronavirus deaths' and furthermore this finding was suppressed. Meanwhile Black Lives Matters protests are ongoing in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

Boris Johnson has promised a commission to address inequality.

Mosses and Lichens - Devin Johnston

These are poems of 'subtle transformation and transfer', following Ovid. I was attracted to this book because of the title. I've always thought there would be much to mine in mosses and lichens. Writing about such material is not necessarily an exhibition of wilful indifference to contemporary reality. Especially since today, the ability to know how to hold a book for a photograph, is a political act. But that said, I think that overall, these poems are a bit too safe.

Updated: Jun 1

Assisi - Paul Celan

Again, the surprise of something that seems to bypass my conscious understanding yet lives happily ever after somewhere in the brain. This is twelve or thirteen years later and I’m in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway, always a great place to browse. I pick up a book Collected Poems By Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger. I’d never heard of either poets before. I flicked through and stopped at the poem Assisi, included below. I read it once and I was stunned. I couldn’t account for it. I tried some of his other poems but they didn’t even start to have the same effect.

Writing about this event automatically invites an analytical voice to justify the significance of the poem. It would naturally follow that I should trace the influences and identify the allusions beneath the text. Of course there is the horror of the Holocaust haunting his biography. But the joy of reading this poem survives intact without realising such consideration. At the same time I don’t want to just plonk it here.

What happened?

Firstly, props must be given to Michael Hamburger’s translation. I doubt you can improve something through translation, instead it’s far easier to desecrate the original. Especially if that something is as delicate and nuanced as Celan’s poem. I think Heaney said poetry happens before words happen or something to that effect. And I feel, albeit acknowledging my inability to verify, that Hamburger honours that early impulse of the poem.

The simple repetition is effective in creating a solemn mood and drives the poem down and in. The attached information is worked through to arrive at a new epigram which gives the impetus for the next round. Together they operate like the declension of some verb. Which in turn facilitates the impression of a grammar as opposed to a narrative. Its like the verb for the earth in the location of Assisi. This may or may not explain the profound impression this poem made. Altogether, I feel that a rare generous sensibility came through and still does to this day.


Umbrian night. Umbrian night with the silver of churchbell and olive leaf. Umbrian night with the stone that you carried here. Umbrian night with the stone.

Dumb, that which rose into life, dumb. Refills the jugs, come.

Earthenware jug. Earthenware jug to which the potter’s hand grew affixed. Earthenware jug which a shade’s hand closed for ever. Earthenware jug with a shade’s seal.

Stone, wherever you look, stone. Let the grey animal in.

Trotting animal. Trotting animal in the snow the nakedest hand scatters. Trotting animal before the word that clicked shut. Trotting animal that takes sleep from the feeding hand.

Brightness that will not comfort, brightness you shed. Still they are begging, Francis – the dead.

Paul Celan reads his poem Assisi (1955).

Michael Hamburger translates:

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