The experimental writer, artist, and musician Stephen Emmerson has been running a podcast entitled “Post Apocalyptic Poems.”

Post Apocalyptic Poems is a new series which imagines that an unspecified event has taken place which forces families to take shelter in underground bunkers.You can only take 6 books of poetry with you. When you emerge from the bunker after 3 or 4 years these books will be the starting point from which you can help to rebuild culture. You can also take one novel and one non fiction book. What would you choose?

The recording/discussion of my bunker poems (with one fiction and non-fiction) is available over here: Post Apocalyptic Poems Episode 2


Eileen Myles gives me hope. Not necessarily for money for poetry. Although I did get paid £50 for my poems in Tin House and that felt somehow a little validating. Even more than the money was having poems in Tin House and the generosity of poet friends. Eileen Myles, like many I would imagine, gives me hope with her openness. And for feeling less ashamed and guilty for being a poet from working class background etc. etc. I want to feel less guilty for writing and art and to stop thinking I should be doing my real paid work when I am writing and doing art yadda yadda. Working class ethos. I can’t afford to slum it and be a radical East or South London art school hipster (no safety net or backup whatsoever) but I feel the radical ideas of the middle class artists and thinkers and art school graduates. At least some of it. It is nice to see someone with a similar working class background get some cultural capital. Although I am realising it is not common. Still seems there is a hard to climb class system in publishing and the art world. But also grateful, somehow, to end up going to university and to have time, minus the guilt and feeling unworthy, unentitled and like an imposter, and via very simple living with no children, car, pension, property, and piddly savings, to do the art. I want to feel less guilty abut taking up space in the world. It all depends where you are looking and what you are comparing yourself to. I am lucky.



“Too hip for the squares and too square for the hips is a category of oblivion which increasingly threatens any artist who dares to take his own way, regardless of mass public and journalistic approval. And how could it be otherwise in a supremely tribal civilization like ours, where even artists feel compelled to band together in marauding packs, where the loyalty-oath mentality has pervaded other Bohemia, and where Grove Press subway posters invite the lumpenproletariat to join the underground generation as though this were as simple a matter as joining the Pepsi Generation which it probably is.” (from Obituary essay for Frank O’ Hara by John Ashbery)

I write mainstream poetry. So did Frank O’ Hara. So does John Ashbery. So did Allen Ginsberg. And Diane di Prima.

All my heroes are mainstream poets.

They are writing squarely in their time (this is sometimes mistakenly called AHEAD OF THEIR TIME)

They are/were at the centre of contemporary life.

NY School poetry is sometimes called neo-avant garde. Or non-oppositional avant garde.

The branding of avant garde, bohemian, underground, alternative etc. has increased since the 1960’s. In music. In clothing (see Brick Lane in East London). And yes, in poetry, even though it is barely a blip on the radar of contemporary British culture.

On the other side, the so called mainstream, maybe 80% of the so called mainstream British poetry is stuck in the 19th century. The other 20% is just plain boring!

But that might be slowly changing as people might be reading poetry after Eliot. Outside of academies (And A levels and whatever levels).

There is not much interesting British poetry in the later half of the 20th century so maybe that’s why so many poets are still attempting to write like the British Romantics. Or very narrow confined identity driven poetry. YAWN!

But an in-between is happening here. See Nathan Hamilton’s anthology Dear World & Everyone In It.

It has potential. It might become interesting.

The anthology got criticised for not being true to the avant garde tradition in British poetry. For not being true to mainstream British poetry.  For mixing shit up. It was doing something different. Playing a different game!

NY School poetry was playing a different game too!

Of course, there were problems with the anthology in terms of decontextualizing the communities of poets. Community is vital to the arts! Always has been!

But . . .

It seemed a move in an interesting direction!

 Frank O’ Hara, and all the poetry I look to, moves beyond the narrow confines of this or that category. This or that branding. They try to take in everything in their poetry. Contemporary life. The world.  EXPANSIVE POETRY.

Most British poetry is narrow, small self identity driven and pastoral etc.

But most of all IT IS DAMN BORING! Unfortunately a lot of North American poetry is getting more and more boring too (via professionalization competency driven creative writing programs and professional organisations and the contest/award culture).

But maybe that is the way it has been for a very long time. Most poetry is YAWN  despite the hundred of thousands of books of English language poetry published every year. WE JUST HAVE EVEN MORE SHIT NOW THEN EVER. ALL THE GOOD SHIT COMES FROM IN-BETWEEN JUST LOOK AT THE SANDWICH.  POETRY IS NOT BREAD IT’S JAM! JAM MORE POETRY!


Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick is opening a space for me to exist in. To move around in. She says,

“Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill- getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.”

And that’s when I feel most alive. Expansive writing. Expansive reading.

But the so called personal is there. And that’s what NY School poetics, Eileen Myles, Michelle Tea and others have given me. A space. A permission. A recognition of the complexities of being male. I’ve never been an insider of those big powerful worlds of writers and artists. I hadn’t felt completely at home inside those insulated walls of power. The towers of HSBC or the towers of Cambridge university.

“Because we rejected a certain kind of critical language, people just assumed that we were dumb” says Alice Notley. These spheres. These permissions. In Revolutionary Letters, 1971, Diane di Prima wrote “I just realized the stakes are myself.” And that’s where I am. The self is performative. The personal is critical. Men are taught to move away from the personal into the universal. The objective. To find and unlock the big secrets of knowledge. The greatest secret is that there is NO SECRET!

Since the death of my brother, the personal has become more and more the subject of my art. And not the personal as locked in place. But moving. In motion. And full of doubt and questions. The personal full of uncertainty. An attempt to move closer to reality. Intersubjectivity. I am wrong a lot. Being sure of your self is a sign of male power. It is the president of whatever country. And that power is also a prison. Is certainty a freedom? It might be a privilege but it’s a trap. It’s not freedom. “Isn’t the greatest freedom in the world the freedom to be wrong” writes Chris Kraus in I Love Dick. And I say yes. I cannot mansplain. I never been one for mansplaining. Acting like I know something. I see it all the time. It is not limited to men at the university where I teach. Where does it come from? This need to be objective? Science. Hard science. Why is hard better than soft? Why is aggression celebrated and softness a weakness? Stubbornness and conviction a sign of strength and uncertainty and doubt a weakness? Do we all need to become hard to survive in this world we have created?

When I watch a Brooke Candy video it makes me feel because I have more freedom to move. Like the role of aggressor and predator in being biological male is less static. It’s being played with. It is reframed somewhere else. To the point of absurdity. But absurd for who? Are these gender codes being questioned in a Brooke Candy video? Or is just flipped onto other side of coin and thus the same coin?

Men need to part of the discussions on gender. It is a whole system of traps and signs and straight jackets. But we need honesty. The media perpetuates data. It is trying to be hard science. Hard facts. Us versus them in whatever context.

How do we get out? What are we getting out of? Duty? I want to get out of my duty. To my gender. I am between genders. Between classes. I can pass for the dominant one.  A white male. Almost middle class. But not really. The complexity is a simple one. It’s a spectrum. Can we go there?

What if everyone woke up to the game? Then what? End of game. No game. Another game or end of life.

We keep trying to fix this game. It’s not working. Can we play another one? How much of life is performance? All of it? What isn’t performative?



“We are two poets, Sarah Maguire (Bristol) and Marcus Slease (London) that to put it mildly are sick of traditional intellectual, stiff, PHD driven British poetry and feel obligated to do something …anything ….to make a change. “






"Žibutė" / 9 / Eileen Myles in Vilnius

Eileen Myles reading in Vilnius. Terrific! Expansive and open and generous. Her confidence is contagious. I think she opens up the space and all the people in that space. So many poetry readings feel closed and sometimes suffocating. We need more open spaces (in body, mind, and spirit). We need more expansive poetry and art. NY School poetry has many expansive places for us. When I returned to London in 2010 it is was NY School poetry that gave me space to breathe and start my life long nomadic writing project. A nomadic surrealism. There are too many straight jackets, including gender. So many boxes we are supposed to tick. I am borderless, transient, a nomad from the milky way. It is the best place to be but not always easy. A nomadic surrealist life project.


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Ewa is making chapbooks for my Victorian toilet bowl reading with Richard Barrett this Tuesday. Drawings by David Kelly-Mancaux. The Chapbook is called IT POPS. Ewa made a chapbook a few years ago with nail varnish for the cover called Balloons. I think there is a theme.