Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Monday, 27 December 2010

a ravenous cavern
a cavernous raven

Friday, 17 December 2010

The duke of all anger wandered in, smelling of balls and toe jam. I'll have another, he said. And did.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

cavemannish newlyweds

Monday, 13 December 2010

New poetry up at nthposition

A selection of new poems are up at nthposition. December's offering features work by:

Matt Bryden
Dylan Harris
Simon Perchik
Kasandra Larsen
Ian Brand

Anyone wishing to submit work for next year should send a maximum of six poems plus a short autobiographical note (all embedded in the body of an email) to me at rquintav AT gmail DOT com.

The Reiver's Stone

I've got some poems in an anthology called The Reiver's Stone published by the Ettrick Forest Press in Scotland. For more details or to order a copy click here.
When I eat beef stew
I piss beef stew;
asparagus, asparagus.

Friday, 3 December 2010

the suburbs under snow
under snow the suburbs

Friday, 26 November 2010


7ème rencontres européennes de poésie

LE 26 NOVEMBRE 2010, Théâtre de CHOISY-le-ROI
Heure : 20h30

Le 27 NOVEMBRE 2010, café lecture médiathèque IVRY-sur-SEINE, Auditorium A.Arthaud
Heure : 10h30

Les vendredi 26 et samedi 27 novembre 2010 la Biennale Internationale des Poètes en Val-de-Marne (BIPVAL) organise ses septièmesRencontres Européennes de Poésie avec la participation de six poètes venant d'Albanie, d'Allemagne, d’Angleterre, de France, de Grèce et des Pays-Bas. Elles se tiendront le vendredi 26 à partir de 20h30 au théâtre-cinéma Paul Eluard de Choisy-le-Roi et le samedi 27 à partir de 10h30 à la bibliothèque-médiathèque d'Ivry-sur-Seine.
Poètes invités : Dieter M. Gräf (Allemagne), Rozalie Hirs (Pays-Bas), Féridé Papléka (Albanie), Georges Veltsos (Grèce), Rufo Quintavalle (Angleterre), Edith Azam (France).
Les poètes liront dans leur langue et les traductions seront lues par la comédienne Sarah Jalabert.
Ces rencontres-lectures permettent de traduire, de diffuser et de publier des textes issus de langues et d’horizons poétiques européens très divers. Elles offrent l’opportunité de confrontations passionnantes tant pour les auteurs conviés que pour les publics. En cela elles participent activement à l’élaboration d’une culture européenne, dans toute sa diversité et sa communauté.

Entrée : libre

Lieu 1 : Théâtre-Cinéma Paul Eluard (01 48 90 89 79)
Adresse : 4 avenue de Villeneuve Saint-Georges 94600 Choisy-le-Roi
Site Internet :

Lieu 2 : Médiathèque ( 01 56 20 25 30)
Adresse : 152, avenue Danielle Casanova - 94205 Ivry-sur-Seine
Site Internet :

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

almost amonth already

Saturday, 16 October 2010

whittling my hippocamp
............................................. chestnut
gathers to

Thursday, 14 October 2010

a flourish........abrief
and lovely....clearing

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dog, cock, ape and viper

October at Nth

New work is up at nthposition. You can see it by clicking here.

October features poetry by:

Nathan Thompson
Jacob Boyd
Kimberly Campanello

and the third part of Steven Fowler's series looking at contemporary European poets. This month the focus is on Greek poet, Kostas Ouranis.

If you want to submit work then please send me - rquintav AT gmail DOT com - up to six poems embedded in the body of an email.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Poets Live

Dylan Harris, Vivienne Vermes and myself will all be performing tonight as part of a new reading series called Poets Live. The event starts at 19h00 at The Highlander (8 rue de Nevers, 75006 Paris) and should run for approximately two hours. More details here.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Donnant du lait
à mon aphte.
Feeding my mouth
ulcer coffee.

Rule of thumb

If it asks you to die for it it's not worth dying for.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


...well maybe not right now as I've got plenty of other books in my "to read" pile and a second daughter on the way in October but this is the name of an interesting-looking book of essays that I picked up yesterday at a conference/book-launch at the University of London in Paris.

Perhaps a book review will follow but in case it doesn't here's a little resumé of yesterday's proceedings.

Morning session
Robert Hampson, one of the books co-editors spoke about O'Hara, monuments and cinema. Starting from the premise that O'Hara eschewed the monumentality of some of his near-contemporaries (Pound, Zukofsky, Olson) Hampson argued that the references to cinema in O'Hara's poetry partake of a shared cultural memory and hence serve the role of monuments. He also in passing picked out a couple of moments where O'Hara appears to be referring to passages in Wordsworth.

Olivier Brossard spoke next, reading extracts from a book in progress about O'Hara, cinema and the body. A lot of his talk was about money and O'Hara's attitudes toward getting and spending (he valued the latter). His talk was truncated because of lunch but he seemed to be building toward a conclusion where financial expenditure and a Whitmanesque physical dissemination meet.

These two talks for me were complementary, focussing as they did on remembering (Hampson) and dismembering (Brossard). Hampson's positioning of O'Hara as a poet of memory seemed the more startling to me - I had always him down as an American, down with history, live in the present moment kind of a poet. But will keep an eye open for Brossard's book when it comes out; money is too often considered a dirty word in poetry circles so nice to see someone discussing it.

Post-lunch session
David Herd spoke about the step in O'Hara's poetry, tying this to a Heideggerean notion of the leap (the German seems to have some of the word play of "spring" in English, as both source and movement), O'Hara's own gait (apparently many of his contemporaries commented on its grace) and William Carlos Williams' Spring and All. This was a dense paper but Herd seemed to be saying that the step is a unit in space not time and that the measure of O'Hara's poetry (and thinking) is a spatial and not a temporal/metrical one.

Tadeusz Pioro spoke about the new and the boring in O'Hara's verse and approached him through the trifocal lens of Pound ("Make it New"), Baudelaire (Spleen) and Benjamin (The Arcades Project). This critical prism makes O'Hara emerge as a dandy who manages to avoid the trap of modernist ennui, who uses the splendour of the city to stave off the menace of its endless and ultimately tedious novelty.

I would have liked a few more examples to help me understand Herd's argument (but you can't have everything in 20 minutes) - does moving through space make for spaced-out poems (as it often does in Williams) or is the step recognizable in O'Hara's poetry through a certain way of seeing the world rather than through mise en page? Perhaps there will be more when I get around to reading the book. Pioro's paper threw up so many associations that it was hard to pin it down but the role of boredom seems a fertile topic, even if it is notable mainly through its absence in O'Hara's work.

Concluding session
Andrea Brady performed a close-reading of the poem "Second Avenue" which sought to bring out an O'Hara very different from the light, insouciant, campy one we know from the Lunch Poems. This is an id-y poem, full of violence and of dark, wet, smelly images. It is also a prickly and at times unpleasant poem that seeks to repulse and insult it's potential readers.

Will Montgomery looked at the relationship between O'Hara and the avant-garde American composer, Morton Feldman. Feldman set one of O'Hara's poems to music and Montgomery played us two different versions of this piece. He also contextualized this collaboration by looking at O'Hara and Feldman's friendship and also at O'Hara's passion for absorbing other art-forms.

I admired Brady for presenting an unattractive O'Hara - he seems to be an almost universally liked poet among both writers and critics so it's always refreshing to hear a dissenting voice. Montgomery's presentation got me thinking about what you can and cannot do in different art forms - the moving/thinking in space that Herd discusses seems more easy to achieve in a performative art form like a concert which has a physical presence. Also made me wonder if O'Hara's real forte wasn't the collaboration, which permits one to explore ideas as fully and variously as possibly, rather than the poem which is always limited by its existence on the page? This could explain the apparent disregard he had for his own writing - the poems were notes towards a larger project rather than ends in themselves.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Reading on the 28th

I'm going to be reading next Tuesday, the 28th of September, along with British poet and photographer, Dylan Harris. Time: 19h00. Place: The Highlander, 8 rue de Nevers, 75006.

More details here.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Tonight the fruits of testicle size,
the jujube, the loquat, the nèfle.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Fall

The FallThe Fall by Anthony Cronin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bit like Bukowski these poems use short lines and simple, down to earth language. And like Bukowski there are a lot of bad poems hiding the brilliant ones. Unlike Bukowski these are mostly religious and meditative poems. I had not come across Cronin's work before but am glad I have - there are some real gems in here and I am looking forward to exploring his back catalogue.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Printing limbs


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collaboration between Hungarian author, Laszlo Krasznahorkai and German artist, Max Neumann, this is the latest installment in the beautiful Cahiers Series. The goal of this series is to explore new directions in writing and translation and this book certainly provides plenty of food for thought for those interested in this field - Neumann's original painting inspired a prose response by Krasznahorkai which in turn inspired a series of paintings by Neumann which Krasznahorkai then wrote further prose responses to. So painting begets prose which begets painting which begets prose. To further complicate things the work is presented in an English translation by Ottilie Mulzet who used both the words and images in preparing her version. So I make that four different acts of translation and three different modes of translation (visual art into words, words into visual art and art plus words into a foreign language).

While this project is certainly theoretically dense I felt that Krasznahorkai's prose was at times a little too predictable. So in section III he has the dog/beast who narrates the work describe how big he is:

"I extend diagonally around the Earth in every direction, I hang down from it, I extend around it so so much that I extend around it twice, I extend around it three times, I extend around it one hundred times, one thousand times, one million times, so that I extend around your Earth a billion billion times, then I extend all the way from the Earth to the Moon, so so big am I that I cannot even fit into the Milky Way, so so sooo big that I extend across two galaxies, if I want, and sooo so big that I extend across one hundred galaxies, so that I extend across every galaxy, and sooo sooo big ..."

And so on. Perhaps this sounds marvelous in Hungarian but in English it just sounds repetitive and predictably so (yes the dog goes on to extend around the entire universe and then outwards towards infinity).

By all accounts Krasznahorkai's other works are imaginatively rich so I wonder if the very act of creating in response to paintings made for a certain restriction of his creativity? Did he feel compelled to stick too closely to the images and did those images - with their themes of blindness, frustrated movement and imprisonment - produce a reciprocal stasis in Kraznahorkai's writing? Or does the mere fact of knowing that your writing will be published in conjunction with visual art allow you to strip out the visual imagery from your text? Would a richer, more imaginatively complex style of writing have detracted from the images?

This writing on its own would probably get three stars at best but I'll give the work as a whole four - it's a beautiful object (thick cream paper, classy fonts and the reproductions are gorgeous) and it certainly got me thinking about the role of translation/collaboration.

View all my reviews

Small hours

Dry air, hot pillow,
a triple-glazed room.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Breakfast al fresco

A glass of water and a cigarette and
the northern hemisphere's first apple

wurm im apfel

Off to Dublin tomorrow to take part in the wurm im apfel reading series. Reading starts at 8 o'clock at Exchange Dublin, an arts centre in Temple Bar.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

No and no and a hundred times no.

New poetry up at nthposition

The September issue of nthposition is now online, featuring work by:

David Lawrence
Ana Silva
Christine Herzer
George Vance
Janice Pariat

If you would like to submit work to the journal please send me up to six poems plus a short third person bio embedded in the body of an email. My address is rquintav_AT_gmail_DOT_com.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Remembered sleep

Monday, 30 August 2010


To find a way of moving in this world
that would be what sniff and dart is to the rat.
my best
my confusion

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The heavy air, the summer rain

As pigs instinctively
swim to land, I turn
to what once consoled me.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Coques et moules
vivantes, vivantes

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Reading in Dublin

I have been invited to read my work in Dublin on the 10th September as part of the Wurm im Apfel reading series; details below. Many thanks to Kit Fryatt and Dylan Harris for setting this up.

Rufo Quintavalle & guests

Exchange Dublin friday 10.9.10 @ 20h

Wurm events begin after the August break with the minimalist, poised work of Rufo Quintavalle. Come and explore "not so much nothingness itself as the moment where something and nothing meet. The bare minimum one needs to tip the balance away from nihilism and into something more positive..."

Rufo is a British poet resident in Paris, author of Make Nothing Happen (Oystercatcher, 2009), and poetry editor for the award-winning online magazine nthposition.

Also on stage:

Wendy Mooney, who is completing a PhD on William Allingham, the 19th-century Irish poet you should be reading before he goes global. Her poems have been published in Poetry Ireland Review, Crannog, and the Sunday Tribune.

Catspupil, international feline of mystery, prose writer and poet, recent TCD history graduate, writes most of her better stuff up her left arm.

Admission free.

Exchange Dublin is a temperance venue. No booze please, but tea, coffee and cake if you're good. Join us for nothingness, wit, wisdom, and poems on catskin.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Il y aura un aléa.


The caterpillars
ate the rose
there was
no rose
for the

Monday, 16 August 2010

Christian Dior

To make of life one long masked ball,
where nothing, not war or kids, can wake us.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Milk in the neon
all night store.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Ayant peu ou pas.

Campari, kinder and white wine vinegar;
the sweet smell of onions sprouting in the bin.

August poems online at nthposition

Nthposition's poetry section has slimmed down for the summer. The August issue showcases the work of three poets:

James Iredell
Claire Crowther
Alexander Maksik

Also the second essay in an ongoing series by Steven Fowler looking at European poets who deserve to be better known in the English speaking world. Last month the focus was on Gunnar Ekelöf, this month Fowler turns his attention to Russian surrealist, Daniil Kharms.

If you are interested in submitting work to the magazine send an email with a short biographical note and up to six poems embedded in the text to the following address: rquintav AT gmail DOT com.

Sunday, 1 August 2010


An interview with me has just gone up at Alex Boyd's online magazine, Northern Poetry Review. Alex Boyd, a Canadian poet and prose writer, is the author of the prize-winning collection, Making Bones Walk (Luna Publications, 2007).

Saturday, 31 July 2010

And yet we keep living, the earth
like a train won't let us step off.

Friday, 30 July 2010


absinthe tisane &
tincture of thyme

Thursday, 29 July 2010


So I dragged
... my ugly feet
a half mile
... down the road
and in a spinny
... shoes off, sat
and on a tussock
... sitting, slept.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I used to have the most wonderful dance;
I was like a beautiful silver fish, then one
day it left me and I was left jerking to the
backbeat, smiling dully at the hired help.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Here I am reading my poems in the gardens of the MAC-VAL (a contemporary art museum just outside Paris).

The video was produced to generate publicity for the 2011 BIPVAL (what is it with France and acronyms?), an international poetry festival in which I will be participating in May of next year.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Louisiane luisante et
Bastille sous la pluie

Friday, 16 July 2010

Another girl, another planet

Looking for grunt
sculpin in tacoma
"Perhaps I eat to persuade myself that I am somebody." John Keats

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

New poetry up at nthposition

July's poems are now online at nthposition. (Well actually they've been online for a while but I was over in London and taking a break from the internet.) This month features work by:

Ryan Ridge
Wendy Morton
James McLaughlin
Adam Fieled
Aichlee Bushnell
Trisha Bora
Masin Persina
Vidyan Ravinthiran

as well as the first in a new series of articles looking at European poetry by nthpostion repeat offender, Steven Fowler. The inaugural article examines the work of the Swedish modernist/mystic, Gunnar Ekelöf.

Summer is rolling around and in the autumn I'm going to be a daddy again so I've decided to scale back the poetry section at nthposition (at least for the foreseeable future). Up until now I've been publishing eight to ten new poets every month; from now until year end it will probably be more like three to five. Other than that though, the song remains the same: if you want to submit send a maximum of six previously unpublished poems plus a brief third-person bio embedded in the body of an email to rquintav AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, 2 July 2010


All the streets are named after cities
and radiate out from a circular square.

Last night tilapia

Last night tilapia.
Today? Today
strong coffee
and the shakes.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Auden like an iron lung

A sheet, a coat, an interval, a sphere,
and the bed contained Auden like an iron lung.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Another day

Her dog with a face like a wet vagina
leered at Bruce hungover on the bridge;
the barbecue, predictably, had carried
on till dawn and now where were they?
Another day, another strange oblivion
and all around the splendor of the crows.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Letter to a dead poet

You gave yourself totally to your art,
which meant the art you made was wrong.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

it's a
wonderful life

Monday, 7 June 2010

Total unemployment

Water enough, though little rain;
and all enjoy the benefit of doubt.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

an array of boots, of capsicum


It is night,
the street at last is still.

Tomorrow the flowers
will have grown

and I want none of it.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

New poetry up at nthposition

June's batch of poets have just gone online at nthposition. This month sees work from:

Helen Ivory
Bob Brooks
Gopi Kottoor
Ben Stainton
Richard Toovey
Gareth Storey
Martin Dickinson
Joseph Somoza
Phoebe Nicholson

If you are a poet and are interested in submitting work for nthposition please send a maximum of six poems embedded in the body of an email (no attachments) plus a short biographical note to the following address: rquintav AT gmail DOT com.

Monday, 17 May 2010

"In such a fashion, one fine day, were the foundations upon which the crofter had built his life swept aside; those almighty giants of commerce who stood with one foot in Iceland and the other on the Continent itself - one fine day saw them wiped away like so much spit."

Halldor Laxness, Independent People

to sing a life

to sing a life
to, like a monkey, swing

I have been North again:
shrunken pupils
and a heart at ease,
and licked the cobbles,
the door.
"It is because Baudelaire was morbid that poetry can again be healthy and glad. The romantics had infected their age with a vague melancholy and incapacity for living. Baudelaire took this on himself and lived it in its full intensity, so that what had been vague became precise and the malady, being thus exasperated, was taken away from us." Christopher Brennan
Upstairs at Duroc invites you to the second reading
in their new series
Pause on the Landing

with poets
Timothy Bradford, Christophe Lamiot Enos
and Nathan Thompson

At Berkeley Books of Paris
8 rue Casimir Delavigne, 75006 Paris, Métro Odéon
May 31, 2010 at 7 PM

Timothy Bradford’s poetry has most recently appeared in ecopoetics, Drunken Boat and 42 Opus, and is forthcoming in No Tell Motel. In 2005, he received the Koret Foundation’s Young Writer on Jewish Themes Award for his novel-in-progress, based on the history of the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris, and was a guest lecturer at Stanford University. From 2007 to 2009, he was a researcher with the Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent in France. Currently he teaches English at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Christophe Lamiot Enos lives in Paris after spending 14 years in the US where he taught French literature at UC Berkeley and at Rutgers. He is currently maître de conférences at the University of Rouen. His many publications include Des pommes et des oranges, Californie I – Berkeley (Flammarion, Paris, 2000); Sitôt Elke, illusion, récit en poèmes (Flammarion, Paris, 2003); Albany, Des pommes et des oranges, Californie II (Flammarion 2006); as well as his most recent part-French-part-English book 1985-1981 (Flammarion, Paris, 2010). His poetry is an exploration of lived experience, of the contours of emotion and the internal workings of the quotidian.

Nathan Thompson was born in Cornwall and studied at the University of Exeter, where he later lectured in musicology. He now lives on the island of Jersey and runs the PoAttic reading series at the Jersey Opera House. His first collection, the arboretum towards the beginning, was published by Shearsman Books in 2008 and Holes in the Map appeared from Oystercatcher Press in 2010. A Haunting, a collection of lipogram sonnets, is due from Gratton Street Irregulars later this year.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

County Cork

He lay that summer in the long grass,
and the rains ran off him and into the earth.

Monday, 10 May 2010


The river was moving
and the train was moving
so it looked as though the log
was standing still.

Friday, 7 May 2010

New York

I remember landing in New York
and staying drunk
three days.

That was ten years ago
but I shall not be sad.

The world has been so good to me,
it will destroy me if I do not give some back.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

May poems up at nthposition

New poetry is up at nthposition. This month's issue features work by

Oliver Dixon
Glen Sorestad
Michael Farrell
Feng Sun Chen
Steven Fowler
Simon Perchik
Beth Boettcher
Jesse Patrick Ferguson

Those interested in submitting poems should send their work to me at rquintav AT gmail DOT com. Full guidelines here.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Time and the
and the clock


Someone hit the big score,
They figured it out,
That we're going to do it anyway,
Even if it doesn't pay.

Gillian Welch, "Everything is Free"

It seems to go without saying that poetry should be a barely remunerated activity: book sales are tiny, magazines are staffed by volunteers and there is no admissions charge for readings. In theory this makes for a pure and democratic artform, untainted by commercial considerations and where all can participate on an equal footing. In reality it means that almost all poets are obliged to have a second career or to be independently wealthy. I am not totally sure how to change this - you can't force people to buy books - but I would have thought charging an admission to readings would be a first step. I have no problem paying to see a concert so why not do the same for an evening of poetry? Two possible objections:

1. Some very good poets are poor performers or write work that is effective on the page but not read out loud. Such poets would be discriminated against in a system where poets were rewarded for their performative power;

2. There is a lot of bad poetry out there. To be able to play in a band you need a certain level of technical expertise and hence there is a guarantee that in exchange for your ticket you will at least hear someone who knows how to play. With poetry there is no such guarantee. The idea behind punk was that you didn't need to know how to play to be a musician. With poetry this idea has become reality. There are a lot of poets out there who do not know how to write and it would be unfair to expect people to pay to hear them.

If one believes in the power of the marketplace then the second problem should sort itself out. If someone is bad then they will be unable to gather a following and hence be unable to book gigs. The first problem is more difficult but two possible solutions might be to have actors read the work of good but shy poets or to favour visual rather than oral representations for poets who work better on the page then read out loud. Nudging poetry readings closer to concerts or to gallery shows would also have the advantage of pulling in a wider, more diversified audience.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

And all before noon

It was one of those days;
what we lost in leaves
we made up for in light.

Friday, 9 April 2010


I sat down next to this homme d’affaires and we both ordered veal piccata so he said to me are you an artist and I said yes and he said oh and I said you wouldn’t like it and he said I’d like to try and I said it’s messy and he said you look clean and I said thanks and he said I mean it and I said it’s messy inside my days do not have the stately port of yours and he said I see and I said you do your thing I’ll do mine and he said mmm and then he said sorry

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Yes and no, she said. And mainly no.

April poems up at nthposition

April's batch of poems are now online at nthposition. The featured poets for this month are:

Changming Yuan
Elee Kraljii Gardiner
Marc Vincenz
Mark Leech
RC Miller
Ed Tato
Frank Praeger
Richard Dinges
Robert Cole

Keep the poems coming at rquintav AT gmail DOT com. Up to six poems plus a brief third-person biography embedded in the body of an email. Takk.

Thursday, 25 March 2010



This is from George Orwell's 1949 review of Gandhi's autobiography:

Close friendships, Gandhi says, are dangerous, because "friends react on one another" and through loyalty to a friend one can be led into wrong-doing. This is unquestionably true. Moreover, if one is to love God, or to love humanity as a whole, one cannot give one's preference to any individual person. This again is true, and it marks the point at which the humanistic and the religious attitude cease to be reconcilable. To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others. The autobiography leaves it uncertain whether Gandhi behaved in an inconsiderate way to his wife and children, but at any rate it makes clear that on three occasions he was willing to let his wife or a child die rather than administer the animal food prescribed by the doctor. It is true that the threatened death never actually occurred, and also that Gandhi--with, one gathers, a good deal of moral pressure in the opposite direction--always gave the patient the choice of staying alive at the price of committing a sin: still, if the decision had been solely his own, he would have forbidden the animal food, whatever the risks might be. There must, he says, be some limit to what we will do in order to remain alive, and the limit is well on this side of chicken broth. This attitude is perhaps a noble one, but, in the sense which--I think--most people would give to the word, it is inhuman. The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals. No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid.

And this is from Leonard Cohen's novel, Beautiful Losers
published in 1966:

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I had coffee not so long ago with the cousin of a friend of mine. My friend is a writer and his cousin a business man and they both live in a country with a rather sketchy understanding of human rights. I knew that my friend had written a book which was critical of his country's regime and asked the cousin whether this book had been published. He said no and then added that if one has relatives one has certain responsibilities. I took his point and changed the subject but have been thinking about his response ever since. If you stand up to a dictatorship but harm your family in the process have you actually achieved anything or have you merely betrayed the one group of people towards whom you have a clear responsibility? On the other hand if you let the world around you go to pot and only look out for your own kin then are you any better than the ruling clans and mafias who also do all they can to protect their own family interests?

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself
mindful of its limits


I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by false warmth

(Zbigniew Herbert)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Sweet and sour pork

That whether
it's an eyelash
or a pubic
hair matters
must date
from when
we moved
from four
to two feet
& our mouths
became closer
to everyone's
eyes than arses.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Reading this Thursday

The Paris literary journal
Upstairs at Duroc
invites you to a reading in honor of France’s Poetry Month
Le Printemps des Poètes
with recent work both in English and French (with English translations) by poets

Vannina Maestri
Rufo Quintavalle
Alexandra Sashe
Mark Terrill

When: Thursday March 18, 2010 at 7:30 PM

Where: The American Library in Paris, 10 rue du Général Camou,75007 Paris

Métro: Ecole Militaire or RER Pont de l’Alma.

vannina20maestri1_2French poet Vannina Maestri lives and works in Paris. She has published many books of poetry, including Vie et aventures de Norton ou Ce qui est visible à l'oeil nu (Editions Al Dante, 2002), Mobiles (Al Dante, 2005), and Il ne faut plus s'énerver (Editions Dernier Télégramme, 2008). Her work has been featured in many journals and anthologies. She was co-editor of the magazine JAVA, as well as participating in radio programs and poetry readings. She was the Centre National du Livre grant recipient in 2003.

rufoquintavalle_img_13193_2Rufo Quintavalle was born in London in 1978 and lives in Paris. He is the author of the chapbook, Make Nothing Happen (Oystercatcher Press, 2009), is on the editorial board of Upstairs at Duroc and is currently Acting Poetry Editor for the online magazine, Nthposition. His work has been widely published around the world and was recently nominated for a Puschcart Prize.allexandra_sashe7111_2

Alexandra Sashe, born in Moscow in 1976, graduated with a degree in English and Italian linguistics from Moscow University. Her work has been published recently in The Journal, The Delinquent, Equinox, Decanto, Paroles des Jours and La Reata.

markterrill20-20photo20by20moon1_2Mark Terrill shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, studied and spent time with Paul Bowles in Tangier, Morocco, and has lived in Europe since 1984. He is the author of 16 volumes of poetry, memoir and translations, including the Salvador-Dalai-Lama Express (Main Street Rag, 2008), Superabundance (Longhouse, 2008) and The United Colors of Death (Pathwise Press, 2003). Recently he guest-edited a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he currently lives near Hamburg, Germany, where he co-edits the poetry journal Full Metal Poem.

Monday, 15 March 2010

rentre, rien ne te retient

Thursday, 11 March 2010


It wasn't meant to happen like this. Real Madrid's crazy summer spending spree has propelled them to the top of La Liga but the real point behind buying Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema et al was to finally break their Champions League jinx (six early eliminations in the last six years) and win European football's most prestigious prize, the cherry on the cake being that this year's CL final is scheduled to be played in Real's stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu. In the event though it was in this same stadium last night that their dream came to an end, a 1-1 draw with Lyon meaning that the Merengues once again have failed to advance beyond the first knock-out round. Real were by far the better side in the first half of the game but they failed to capitalize on it. Cristiano Ronaldo's early goal meant the game was tied (Lyon had won the first leg 1-0) and the second half strike from Lyon's Bosnian youngster Miralem Pjanic saw the French side go through on aggregate. I felt Lyon probably deserved the victory. Real were magisterial in the first half but you expect that from a team of their calibre playing in front of their home supporters. What you do not expect is the way they folded after the interval. Apart from Ronaldo who looked dangerous almost every time he had the ball Real seemed unimaginative - it was almost as if they were biding their time and playing for penalties. Lyon started the second half much stronger and fought through right until the end whereas even after Pjanic's strike Madrid seemed unwilling to give it their all. Real Madrid are the richest club in the world and have a team sheet that is simply jaw dropping but as my coach at school used to say: a team of champions can't beat a champion team.

No real surprises in last night's other fixtures except perhaps the magnitude of AC Milan's defeat at the hands of Manchester United. Wayne Rooney who appears to have got his temper problem under control (is this a side-effect of becoming a new father?) has matured into a wonderful player and scored twice last night as the Mancunians obliterated their fellow European heavyweights 4-0 (7-2 on aggregate). Milan won this competition in 2007 but having refused to rebuild their team since then their defeat last night was no surprise. They have too many players the wrong side of 30 and while regular visits to the plastic surgeon can keep their president, Silvio Berlusconi, looking young and shiny (well, shiny at any rate) no such equivalent exists for professional sportsmen.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Najlae Lhimer

I don't know who (if anyone) actually reads this blog but for any hypothetical readers out there who don't have access to the French media here's a little story which is not important enough to have reached the foreign newspapers but which reflects well the climate in France at the moment. Najlae Lhimer is a 19 year old woman who fled Morocco in 2005 to escape a forced marriage (yes, do the maths, she was 14 at the time). She went to live with her brother in Loiret, a region in the centre of France. Her brother turned out to be no better than the other family members she had escaped from in Morocco and after being severely beaten to punish her for smoking she decided to complain to the police. She went to her local police station on the 18th of February and on the 20th February she found herself on a one-way flight to Rabat. Instead of listening to her complaint and prosecuting her brother the authorities treated her as an illegal immigrant (which she was) and exported her. Following pressure from the organization, Education Sans Frontières, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy decided to revoke this decision yesterday, an announcement planned to coincide with the International Women's Day. So King Nicolas the Short is the hero and the stupid local policemen are the villains, right? No, wrong. The villain is the government which created a new ministry of "Immigration and National Identity" (the running of which was confided first to Sarkozy's brown-nosing newt of a mate Brice Hortefeux and then to the Socialist turncoat Eric Besson) and which forces the police to perform a set number of expulsions per year. The police, guilty perhaps of a certain laziness, decided that the easiest way to fill their quotas would be to carry out identity checks in front of schools, at soup kitchens and, as it now appears, in police stations when victims come to complain of domestic violence. This is disgusting. And so too is Sarkozy's opportunistic show of magnanimity a few days before France's regional elections. Either the guy believes in the measures he has put in place or he doesn't but the situation at the moment is the worst of all possible worlds: a system where your rights depend not on the law but on the Neronic vagaries of presidential favour.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Unemployment is around the 10% mark in both the US and France, a situation blamed on the world economic downturn. But what if this relatively high level of unemployment in two countries who are often considered as polar opposites when it comes to attitudes to work is nothing to do with the crisis that rocked the banks and the housing market and just a reflection of reality? Is it realistic to expect there to be 100% employment? What was the point in all the technological advances mankind has made since the Industrial Revolution if everyone still needs to labour away to earn a living? A machine that can work more efficiently than a human will, and should, put that person out of a job. To say that unemployment is a natural consequence of human progress is not to deny that it is a serious problem; both at a national level - the government is picking up the bill for those technological advances through social security payments - and also because of the demoralizing effects it has on those without a job. So what's the solution? To keep on paying someone to stick at their old job when a cheaper mechanical alternative exists is to pass on higher prices to consumers. It is also a somewhat Luddite position which devalues the technical achievements of those who made this advance possible. To create new jobs? Renewable energy and the whole green economy is currently being heralded as a possible means to cut unemployment. If this works then that's fantastic - a cleaner planet, a smaller social security bill and fewer miserable jobless people. But the Green Revolution will inevitably mean the destruction of jobs as well and even if the overall equation works out positive (there will be more solar panel installers than there were offshore oil men say) the underlying problem does not go away - the whole point of progress (or at any rate an inevitable side effect of it) is to make people redundant. At some point the job creation phase of the Green Revolution will turn into a phase of stagnation and then job destruction as we invent means to do all that good green work with fewer hands. The only solution I can see is to try and spread that 10% around a little more fairly. Rather than having 10% of the population unemployed have the whole population employed at 90%. And stop considering work as an end in itself. Le travail c'est la liberté was one of Nicolas Sarkozy's election slogans. Work is freedom. Even without the Auschwitz-meets-Orwell pedigree of this phrase it is palpable bullshit. Work exists so that we can gain the money we need to live and human ingenuity exists to enable us to gain that money by working less.

Saturday, 6 March 2010



Friday, 5 March 2010


five windows and a bellyful of skate,
krill by the shedload, incandescent
krill, then lobsters, kelp and comfry

dishonest attempts at inclusiveness

Thursday, 4 March 2010


The French tendency to moan pisses me off most times I encounter it. But yesterday at the Stade de France to see the French national team take on the European champions Spain I have to admit I kind of admired it. The result of the match was something of a foregone conclusion and once Spain had gone two nil up at halftime there was never any doubt how the evening was going to end. Indeed Spain were so thoroughly in control they could afford to make six substitutions in the second half and still walk all over the poor Bleus. In such a drama free environment the only real excitement of the evening was in seeing the French fans turn against their own team like a SeaWorld killer whale. Their captain, Thierry Henry, who put in a very mediocre performance (among other things it was his error that gifted the Spanish their first goal) was whistled pretty much every time he touched the ball and when he was finally substituted to make way for the carthorse, Sidney Govou, was booed off the pitch. The lion's share of the abuse though was reserved for the national embarrassment that is Raymond Domenech. At one moment an image of the French trainer flashed up on the big screens hung above each goal mouth. It was only there for a couple of seconds but that was enough to have the stadium erupt in jeers and chants of "Domenech démission" which only increased in intensity as the evening wore on to its inevitable end. Leaving aside the gladiatorial pleasure of watching strangers suffer under the floodlights I think the two things I appreciated in this spectacle were:

1. I agreed with the criticisms. Domenech is an appalling trainer who should have gone a long time ago, and Henry no longer has the necessary moral authority to be captain. If John Terry can be stripped of the England captaincy for sleeping with a team-mate's girlfriend, an affair that has nothing to do with football, then why should Henry be allowed to keep the captain's arm-band after his flagrant spot of cheating against Ireland in the World Cup play-offs?

2. Football fans, for all the bad press they get, are a docile bunch who put up with a lot of crap a lot of the time. There were 80.000 people in the stadium last night. A sizeable minority were supporting Spain and there must have been a few neutrals as well but still 50 thousand or so were there to watch France. They had all paid between 20 and 100 euros to be there. That works out at something like two and a half million euros. As I said football fans tend to be a loyal, long-suffering bunch but if, with that level of investment, your team regularly puts in performances like France did last night then it is only right for the worm to turn.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

anothernew month

Monday, 1 March 2010

March's poems are now online at featuring work from the following poets:

Brentley Frazer
Joe Ross
David Caddy
Nathan Thompson
Morgan Harlow
John Findura
Michael Pedersen
Claire Trévien
Stephen Emmerson
Ricky Garni

New work is posted every month; if you want to submit then write to me at rquintav AT gmail DOT com. Send up to six poems embedded in the body of an email. No attachments please! We accept all styles of poetry. For more information see here or browse in the extensive archive.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

"Although it is a quality of the imagination that it seeks to place together those things which have a common relationship, yet the coining of similes is a pastime of very low order, depending as it does upon a nearly vegetable coincidence. Much more keen is that power which discovers in things those inimitable particles of dissimilarity to all other things which are the peculiar perfections of the thing in question."

William Carlos Williams

Saturday, 27 February 2010


fiddlehead and star anise;
shikimic acid in the ileum

Friday, 26 February 2010

Il la dépassa et disparut

Thursday, 25 February 2010

cubic ton
of petrol
in the po

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


I'm going to be reading my poetry tonight at 19h30 in The Next Bar along with French poet, Pascal Poyet as part of the Ivy Writers Series. More details here.

To mark the occasion here's a poem about ivy.


to to

This was originally published in elimae, Cooper Renner's excellent and elegant webzine.

Monday, 22 February 2010

In the night a night light

The Bottom Billion

The recent coup d'état in Niger made me think of a book I read a little while ago, The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier. In this book Collier, an Oxford economist and former Development Research director at the World Bank, looks at the countries who are trapped in severe poverty and seem unable to lift themselves out of it. He says that there are roughly fifty of these "failing states" with a combined population of approximately one billion people, hence the book's title. His thesis is that this is a radically different (but no less tragic) situation from the one we grew up with where there were approximately one billion rich people and the rest of the world was poor; there is still a wealth gap but many countries that were once grindingly poor (he gives the example of Bangladesh) are slowly getting richer. Collier goes on to describe four 'traps' which have prevented bottom billion countries from getting on the gravy train of global economic development: the conflict trap; the natural resource trap; the trap of being a land-locked nation with bad neighbours; and the trap of bad governance in a small country. This is the third coup in Niger since 1993, the country has large uranium reserves and is entirely landlocked with neighbours who range from the despotic - Libya and Algeria - to the destitute - Mali and Burkina Faso - to the downright catastrophic - Chad. I don't know much about its political institutions so cannot comment on whether it is a victim of the fourth of Collier's traps but three out of four would seem to be enough to condemn Niger to a future of misery. Collier's book is not all doom and gloom though and the final sections are devoted to examining what can be done to improve the situation. Some of his solutions are controversial: sending troops from the developed world into post-conflict countries and leaving them there for a long time. Others are not very sexy: heavy investment in infrastructure. And others are counter-intuitive: democratic elections which we tend to see as an absolute good can actually harm resource rich countries since the ruling clan will squander vast amounts of money on winning/rigging/buying the elections and will tend to ignore necessary long-term investments. Though at times I found myself disagreeing with Collier (sometimes he seems to enjoy taking deliberately provocative positions) I would nevertheless strongly recommend this book.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Tonight I drink the black wine from Cahors
and wake to cardamom, rope and birdsong.

Friday, 19 February 2010

In English you say I miss you; in French you say tu me manques. I think I prefer the French. You are missing from me. It sounds like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


Monday, 15 February 2010


Reading next week

Le 23 février, Ivy Writers présente
une lecture-rencontre en français & anglais avec les poètes

Pascal Poyet et Rufo Quintavalle

à 19h30 au Next (downstairs - au sous-sol)
17 rue Tiquetonne 75002 Paris
M° Etienne Marcel / RER Les Halles

Pascal Poyet, poète, éditeur et traducteur, a notamment publié Au Compère (Le Bleu du Ciel, 2005), Expédients (La Chambre, 2002), Causes Cavalières (L'Attente, collection Week-end, 2000), L'Embarras (Patin & Couffin, 2000). Ses textes ont paru dans différentes revues (Issue, The Germ, If, Action Poétique, Doc(k)s…), dans des catalogues d'expositions, et récemment dans l'ouvrage bilingue POEM : Poets On (an) Exchange Mission (Fish Drum Inc./Double Change, 2009) avec des traductions en anglais de Macgregor Card. Il a également traduit les textes de poètes et d’artistes américains contemporains comme David Antin dont je n’ai jamais su quelle heure il était a paru aux éditions Héros-Limite en 2008, Rosmarie Waldrop (Dans n'importe quelle langue, contrat maint, 2006), Peter Gizzi (Revival, CIPM/Spectres Familiers 2003); John Baldessari (Bars de rencontres et Montaigne, contrat maint, 2002), Charles Olson (Commencements, collectif, Théâtre Typographique, 2000), Abigail Child (Climat/Plus, Format Américain, 1999). Depuis 1998, il co-dirige avec Goria les éditions contrat maint qui publient des textes d’artistes et de poètes contemporains, des essais, des traductions et des textes de traducteurs dans des ouvrages brefs dont la forme est inspirée de la "litteratura de cordel" brésilienne. Sur son travail Eric Pesty note: « On pourrait comparer chaque livre de Pascal Poyet à un théâtre, où évoluerait un nombre réduit de mots-personnages : une colonie souple d’individus linguistiques, une structure de « résidents susceptibles ». C’est la sociabilité de ces mots-personnages qu’il s’agit d’interroger, leur capacité à vivre ensemble dans les phrasés proposés. (...) Chaque livre est le théâtre de cette sociologie, autant que le récit de cette expérience. Expérience utopique, vouée à l’inachèvement, mais qu’il reviendra au livre suivant, moyennant une nouvelle délimitation du théâtre et donc un choix différent du vocabulaire, de renouveler. »

British poet Rufo Quintavalle was born in London in 1978, studied at Oxford and the University of Iowa, and now lives in Paris where he is an active member of the Anglo literary scene. He is the author of the chapbook, Make Nothing Happen (Oystercatcher Press, 2009) and his poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Versal, Tears in the Fence, Great Works, Shadowtrain, The Wolf, The London Magazine, MiPOesias and elimae. He is on the editorial board for the literary magazine, Upstairs at Duroc and is currently acting poetry editor for the prize-winning webzine, Nthposition. About Rufo, poet Todd Swift writes: There is no other contemporary English poet quite like Quintavalle: from his extraordinary name (perhaps the most inherently exciting since "Ezra Pound") to his exotically-imagined, deeply-thoughtful, ruefully witty, and sometimes very brief, poems, to his slightly marginalised location across the Channel, he represents a different current - one that, should he continue to write as well over the next few years, will establish him, one hopes, as a key British poet of the 2010s.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


You can't open the papers without coming across an article about the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) or the PIIGS (same as above plus Italy). These are the countries whose economies are in such a parlous state that they threaten to bring about the collapse of the single European currency. Economics is a self-fulfilling science (if it is a science at all) so the more people who believe this and above all the more people who intervene in the financial markets based upon those beliefs, the more likely it is to happen. If 100 people bet that Racing Santander will beat Atletico Madrid tonight that doesn't make it any more likely that they will. If 100 hedge funds and investment banks bet on Greece defaulting on her sovereign debt however then they do increase the probability of Greece defaulting. These large financial institutions are not just pundits they are also participants; it would be like placing a bet against a team and then walking into their dressing room and kicking a few of the players in the shins.

At first I laughed when I saw the acronym PIGS; another little proof - like the Yummy Mummies who inhabit Nappy Valley in South-West London, the scrubbers with their muffin tops or the old dears with their bingo wings - of Anglo-Saxon verbal inventiveness. But now it is beginning to piss me off. After all, England's finances are hardly in great shape. As in the recent showdown with Iceland the prosecutor looks as guilty as the accused in this case. And all the tough talk from Germany about making Greece pay for its mistakes is irritating me as well. The argument here is that it would set a dangerous precedent if one EU country were to bail out another; this is the same line of reasoning that makes it illegal for the EU as a whole to do so. Fair enough but where was this argument when we were dealing with the banks? Apart from Lehmann Brothers it seems that every single troubled financial institution turned out to be "too big to fail". With all due respect to AIG, UBS, Northern Rock and the like wouldn't the bankruptcy of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain have rather more important consequences? It is a patronising and frankly racist mindset that sees the problems of the swarthy skinned and the potato eaters as being separate from those of the more "civilized world". There was a joke doing the rounds a while ago - "What's the difference between Ireland and Iceland?" "One letter and six months". I would say another six months might be all it takes for England with it's colossal debt to realize it is not all that different either. And then another six for the US of A.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Tied up in what must be the worst kind of fraud.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Drunk on Cala
trava bridges.


A friend of a friend has asked me to do some translations of Norwegian poems for the liner notes of a CD. I don't speak Norwegian so am using French translations of the poems and then using a dictionary to compare my English versions with the Norwegian originals. What I am discovering is that English and Norwegian have many similarities in both vocabulary and word order. So in an odd way the process of translating is bringing me closer to the originals. For instance the word "vaste" in the French translation which I had originally translated as "vast" turned out in Norwegian to be "vide" so I changed it to "wide". It is almost as if I am translating from the Latinate to the Germanic sides of the English language's large vocabulary. If it were a Venn diagram then English and Norwegian would overlap on the left and English and French on the right with a very small zone in the middle (Normandy) where all three languages touch.

One word that I cannot find an equivalent for in either English or French is "emne". A Norwegian speaker tells me that this word refers to the piece of material from which something is produced and can be added as a suffix to pretty much any word - so you can have a spoon-emne or a screw-emne or a sword-emne. Does an equivalent exist in English? Perhaps in certain technical fields? The idea is a lovely one - it makes me think of those last, unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo where in a privileged glimpse of the creative process you can see the shapes emerging from/contained in the marble.

There is an essay by Italo Calvino where he speaks of the local dialect in San Remo, the town where he grew up; the houses in this town (as is often the case in Liguria) were built onto the sides of steep hills. This meant that there was often a space behind the house which was too steep and small to do much with. The dialect had a word for this space, "chintagna", which was also the word for the space between the bed and the wall. English is such a big language - both in terms of its global spread and also its vocabulary - that it is easy to get complacent and think we have everything we need in it but we don't have "chintagna" and unless I'm mistaken we don't have "emne".

Thursday, 4 February 2010

war and plankton

The world's population will keep on growing until it hits a peak of 9 billion round about the year 2050. Most arable land in the world is already being used so how are all these new people going to eat bearing in mind that 1 billion people are currently undernourished? Increasing the efficiency of food distribution is one way - a lot of food is destroyed when harvested, spilt while being transported or allowed to go moldy in storage. Increasing people's wealth is another solution: many city dwellers simply don't have the money to buy food so producing more food or increasing the efficiency of its distribution will have no effect on them. Using non-arable land is another solution but this comes with heavy environmental costs: poor quality land needs a large input of fertilisers which consume fossil fuels and in the long term kill the soil. Another solution which I have already banged on about in the past is to grow plants hydroponically. I am still a little sceptical about the cost of this but with some government support who knows? Two more possibilities: one is to harvest plankton. Plankton are protein rich and need very little apart from sunlight in order to grow. There are a wide variety of plankton suited to different water conditions so presumably all parts of the world could find a plankton to suit their local waters. Don't know what plankton tastes like or how much you need to make a decent meal but with 9 million bellies to feed we can't afford to be picky. The other possibility is to wait for a third world war to cull our numbers.

Plough Prize Commendation

My poem, "How it ends" has been commended in the 2009 Plough Prize. So as to enable people to publish their work elsewhere the people who run the prize only publish the winners on their website and not the runners-up. They do however publish the judges' comments which makes for a rather curious experience. It would be fun to try and rewrite the poems based on what the judges say and then compare with the originals. Anyway, here's my poem and here's a link to the Plough website. It is far from being the most prestigious prize out there but the organizers are extremely generous with their time, giving feed back on all commended poems and offering free tick box critiques of all entries received before a certain date. And they clearly have impeccable aesthetic standards. Vive la Plough!

How it ends

It was the great wind down,
clocks’ ghosts being given up,
the beginning of the end.

At first it was barely discernible,
the noise of a plane on a windy night,
a roar a little denser than the hum;
and then when it was unmistakable,
it was as if it had always been there,
and that was the middle of the end.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

February's poems are now online at featuring work from the following poets:

Jocelyn Page
Iain Britton
Sarah Westcott
Sriya Narayanan
Colin Honnor
Frank De Canio
Aseem Kaul
Esther de Vries
Jason Sturner
Yuyutsu RD Sharma

New work is posted every month; if you want to submit then write to me at rquintav AT gmail DOT com. Send up to six poems embedded in the body of an email. No attachments please! We accept all styles of poetry. For more information see here or browse in the extensive archive.

Monday, 1 February 2010

December and January is the time when the Premiership transforms from a professional, cash-rich tournament into something altogether more amateurish. Players who are normally cared for like priceless works of art are forced to play several games a week on frozen pitches in rain, snow or Burnley. It is the time of Boxing Day craziness, FA Cup upsets (this year has seen Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all eliminated in the first two rounds) and season-changing injuries. Then along comes February, the Champions' League begins, the days start getting longer and everything gets back to normal. It is often the team that manages to navigate this chaotic period relatively unscathed that goes on to win the league and this year it is my team, Chelsea, who emerge into the February sunlight bleary-eyed and top of the table. This despite the fact that January was also the time when they were without several key players - most notably Didier Drogba - who were competing in the Africa Cup of Nations. While other international tournaments like the World Cup and the European Cup take place in the summer when the domestic leagues are over this tournament falls bang in the middle of the European footballing year. This was no big deal in the past when there were only a handful of African players playing in European leagues. But that is no longer the case; Chelsea have a particularly African-heavy team but most clubs in the Premiership have one or two African players on their books. Many African players also play in the French first division. Given that the ACN takes place every two years (as opposed to every four for the European and World Cups) this presents a major disruption to these championships and a potential handicap to those teams who have a large African presence in their squads. ( I say "potentially" because it does not seem to have had any effect on Chelsea but not all teams can afford to follow Chelsea's policy of having a substitutes' bench made up of international stars.) I personally enjoy the element of unpredictably that December/January brings to the grindingly commercial English Premier League but with the rise and rise of African football is it perhaps time to consider a winter break? It would be a shame if top clubs thought twice about signing African players because they would miss a month's football every two years and if there were no domestic matches taking place then a lot more people would watch the Africa Cup matches which would do a great deal to increase the visibility of countries who need all the PR help they can get.

Friday, 29 January 2010

OK, it's official. At the age of 32 I have turned into a grumpy old man. How do I know this? Because last night I celebrated Egypt's 4-0 victory over Algeria in the African Nations Cup not because I give a damn about Egypt - I have never visited the country, have no Egyptian friends and have never seen their team play a match - but because it would allow me to have a good night's sleep. So as not to turn into a racist old bugger at the same time let me state that my policy of supporting whoever is playing against Algeria has nothing to do with the country or the team but with their supporters' habit of celebrating victory by tooting their horns all night. My problem is not with Algeria in fact (French fans celebrate in the same way after all) but with cars. They are noisy and dirty and dangerous and in an ideal city they would have a very limited place. Boris Vian said as much in his 1958 essay "Paris est dégueulasse" where he set out two proposals to ameliorate the quality of the air and hence of people's lives:

1er projet de loi : interdiction dans Paris et dans toute ville de plus de 5 000 habitants d'utiliser des véhicules à moteur autre qu'électrique ou à air comprimé, et en général, tous véhicules produisant des émanations non respirables en tout ou partie.

2e projet de loi : obligation de conserver dans une ville au moins vingt mètres carrés d'espaces verts par personne. On entend par espaces verts des herbages, des taillis, des buissons, des massifs d'arbres, etc. Mais on ne considérera pas une voie de circulation bordée d'arbres comme un espace vert.

I would go further than Vian though. My worry is that the growth of the electric car (give it ten years or so, the time it takes for the price of petrol to go through the roof) will prevent people from seeing that the car itself is the problem. Sure an electric car would be cleaner and quieter than a combustion one but it would still be dangerous, would still block traffic for buses, taxis and delivery vans and would still be equipped with a horn that people would use to celebrate the victory of their national team at football. And while electric cars would be better for the environment what would be best for the environment would be for millions of people to realize that they do not actually need to own a ton of metal, glass and plastic.

But for that to happen will require not just new laws and better public transportation but a change in people's mentalities and an abandoning of the myths that the car embodies. Because if people were to consider the question rationally I don't think anyone in Paris would own a car. The time spent in traffic jams, the time spent looking for a parking spot, the money spent on registration, maintenance and fuel; all of this ought to have persuaded Parisians long ago to abandon their cars. It is quicker and cheaper to travel by public transport, to cycle or to walk. And if you don't like being exposed to other people or the weather then take a taxi. A new car costs somewhere in the region of 10.000 euros just to buy. Add on loan repayments, taxes and fuel and you could take a taxi to and from work for the next five years, by which time your car will have broken down and you will have to have it repaired. The appeal of the car is irrational and if one is to undermine that appeal one must attack not the car itself but the subconscious process that makes us consider certain human desires - autonomy, spontaneity, self-determination, family unity, sexiness - to be embodied in the car. I can feel a poem coming on.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Happy Birthday Mr President

Nicolas Sarkozy turned 55 today. His birthday celebrations will doubtless have been ruined by the news that his rival, Dominique de Villepin, has been acquitted in the Clearstream libel case. One of the first things Sarkozy did on coming to power in 2007 was to eliminate two of his most powerful opponents: the centrist Socialist politician, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was sent off to lead the IMF and the right-winger, de Villepin, who was sent before the courts. The accusation against de Villepin was highly complicated but the essence of it was that he had knowingly circulated false documents which implied that Sarkozy had an illegal, undeclared bank account in Luxembourg. The courts ruled that there was no way of proving that de Villepin had circulated this information and no way of proving that he had deliberately concealed its fraudulent nature. I am delighted by this outcome. Not because I believe passionately in de Villepin's innocence - he like Sarkozy is perfectly capable of playing dirty - but because a president who himself appoints the prosecuting magistrate and who benefits from judicial immunity has no place bringing cases before the courts. This whole affair was a colossal waste of money and more importantly a colossal abuse of the judicial system.

The Paris literary journal UPSTAIRS AT DUROC is proud to invite you to the

Launch Reading for Issue #11

Come hear exciting new work by four of our contributors:



At: Berkeley Books of Paris , 8 rue Casimir Delavigne , 75006 Paris, Métro Odéon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010, 7 PM.

Jérôme Mauche is the author of Électuaire du discount (Le Bleu du ciel, 2004), as well as of many other books and chapbooks, including Le Placard en flammes, La Maison Bing and Fenêtre, porte et façade. He directs the poetry collection "Grands soirs" with Les Petits Matins publishers, and curates reading series for the Musée Zadkine and the Ménagerie de Verre, in Paris .

Jennifer K. Dick, from Iowa , is the author of Fluorescence ( Univ. of Georgia Press , 2004), the chapbook Retina/Rétine (Estepa Editions, Paris, 2005) and the BlazeVox eBook Enclosures. Her poetry translations appear in the anthology New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008) and in journals. Several of her translations of Jérôme Mauche's prose poems appear in Upstairs at Duroc's Issue 11.

Richard Toovey is an architect and translator who has lived in Berlin since 1989. He helped found Bordercrossing Berlin magazine, chairs the Creative Writing Group e.V. and assists with the Poetry Hearings festival. His poetry, which has been commended in the Arvon Competition and nominated for the Forward Prize, appears most recently in Orbis, The Salzburg Review and The SHOp.

Bonny Finberg's chapbook of short stories, How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era (Sisyphus Press) was featured on the DVD 5 GuysRead Finberg. Her work appears in Evergreen Review, The Brooklyn Rail, four Unbearables Anthologies, Lost and Found: New York Stories from Mr. Beller's Neighborhood and Best American Erotica. She has been translated into French, Hungarian and Japanese.