The Street of Lamps


In Madrid there is a street called the street of lamps. It is called the street of lamps because they sell many lamps. It is also a street with cold floor cafe with sawdust and old medieval style damp alleyways with flowerpots on the balconies. I sat there, in the cafe, after wandering the street of lamps and wrote the above. It is part of my new book of prose poems and flash fictions entitled  The Green Monk.



Another childhood micro story. From my novel manuscript The Autobiography of Don Whiskers.

A micro tale of a six year old boy from Northern Ireland in London in the early 80’s. He is always unlatching the gate and singing songs in old English pubs along the river. He is a pub storyteller. Everyone loves his wiggle.




Folk surrealism. Experimental electronic. Magical realism. Immigrant stories. Outsider art. A journey!!

A collaboration between UK musician Stephen Emmerson and Madrid-based writer and performer Marcus Slease.

Available over at Bandcamp:


(album cover by outsider artist Grzegorz Wroblewski)



The Grand Tour, back in the day, we based on John Dewey and experiential education, at least partially. It was also based on ideas of high culture, and the lack of it in England. Also class and privilege, since mostly it was some aristocratic females and of course upper class males. Get out of the classroom and experience your culturally rich education. Come back to England and show it off with your culturally rich mind and artefacts to prove you have been there, on the continent, and have become a gentleman, or in some cases a noble lady.

Of course a dose here and there of so called high culture is fine. I also like the idea of experiential education. But not The Grand Tour. The Grand Tour evolved into a kind of package holiday, a list of famous sites to see, take a selfie, and tick the box.

The experiential is not separate from the imagination. Science is finally catching up, at least partially, with the science of the mind in the east. And also the imagination. The imagination can also be swallowed up by measures and testing. The ultimate enlightenment masculine dream of control (e.g. the idealisation of science).

Wallace Stevens understood this. And after him John Ashbery. Both influenced in varying degrees by Surrealism and Romanticism. It is the interplay of so-called reality and so-called imagination. But, as usual, we are naturally bi-polar as a species, swinging from one extreme to the other. But that’s OK. Sometimes we find nice interplays. We need an out there and in here to bounce off each other. When one loses touch with the other, we lose our grounding. This goes for dry scientific reasoning and objectifying and measuring everything, as well as imagination without any grounding in the everyday.

Stevens wrote, “The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real… There are degrees of the imagination, as, for example, degrees of vitality and, therefore, of intensity. It is an implication that there are degrees of reality. ”

Yes there is Naples, all fine and dandy, but there is also NAPLES! And the Naples of one influences THE OTHER NAPLES! There are many Naples. Why try to limit yourself to just one. The one that was prepackaged for you.

Imagination, it seems, is being downplayed in education. Science and technology, and of course the world of buying and spending, are numero uno. We need imagination. Maybe we need to become more like children (not actually children maybe). Maybe that is one of the cures for what is ailing more and more. At least, that’s what I have found!

The ultimate travel involves the active imagination. It is very powerful, and many children, before it is drilled out of them, travel freely from place to place.What is travel anyway? The actual movement of the body from one place to another? Perhaps. But you can also travel alone around your room. See A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre. And also many others!










NOMADIC SURREALISM, the spirit of the bathtub

When Ewa and I first arrived in Madrid, Christian Pérez, his wife Megan, and their son Oscar welcomed us. Showed us around their neighbourhood of La Latina, lollies and neighbourhood festivals with sweet meats, up on their rooftop terrace, an introduction to mighty fine Spanish olives, wine, and cheese. And much much much more. They are great friends!!

Christian is a terrific musician, so versatile and expansive and curious with his instrument, it is more than an instrument, both Ewa and I love attending his performances. One of the first ones we experienced, and experienced is the right word, it is fully immersive, you feel it with your whole body, expansive, was at the old tobacco factory, a kind of network of cave street art and music, a lively place, and Christian and other musicians collaborated with dancers, improv, the dancers moved in and out of the instruments, around them like snakes, slithering and bendy, it was all very sensual, and also beautiful.

Last Sunday, 3rd June 2018, Christian played some terrific improv/free jazz with some visiting avant-garde musicians from Canada, Francois Carrier and Michel Lambert, and it was a spaceship, my pineal gland was vibrating.

The concert was at Cafe El Despertar, one of my very favourite places in Madrid for experimental music, tons of pictures of various legendary jazz musicians on the walls, and the room for concerts is intimate and cosy, there is direct interaction with audience and musicians, a nook.

At the beginning of their second set, Christian invited me on stage to read my balloon poems, from my latest book The Spirit of the Bathtub, an improv collaboration with these stellar musicians. It is just what the doctor ordered, feeling that energy, something larger than small mind self, by the time I started the second poem I was letting go, feeling the hula hoop, it is the best kind of nomadic travel. I am still riding those waves!

jazz poster madrid 3rd June 2018









Super happy to have my poem “Feedback” in Poetry magazine. It is part of my manuscript The Green Monk, forthcoming from Boiler House Press in November 2018. It was composed while ingesting everything written by the great Lydia Davis. I can’t help wondering if some of her approach to writing leaked in there, but also other writers of course, there are always others, and also whatever was happening around me, the influences, how can we frame them. What is influence anyway? It accrues and accrues, but does it disappear? Who gets to decide who is influenced by whom? Readers feel some influence of maybe something else they have read or watched or experienced, the writer feels the influence of some writers. We need an audience to hold up the mirror. And also the artist is a mirror. We are all mirrors reflecting each other’s influences. Of course art, like everything, never occurs in a vacuum, it is interdependent. You can choose how you want to frame the influences. Forget about the isolated romantic genius. Originality is a collaging of influences.

It seems maybe there is red hot writing and there is cool writing, and then there is lukewarm. Or maybe a better way to think of it is some distance. This poem “Feedback” has some distance, via the style and framing of feedback, although the content has some fire, some lyricism. It was partly collaged from feedback on a friend’s slipstream novel in progress. William May and I met in Greensboro, North Carolina, during our days in the MFA programme, and have kept in touch, on and off, since 2005. His novel in progress is a nomadic surrealist journey, with many great mysteries. Without worrying about creating a poem I collaged some of the feedback I wrote for his novel, added some more layers, allowing for some chance operations, and called it feedback.

Isn’t feedback a kind of influence. I am also thinking of feedback in terms of sound.  That rumbling, whining, or whistling sound resulting from an amplified or broadcast signal (such as music or speech) that has been returned as input and retransmitted. As in a feedback loop. Our brains are a feedback loop. How do we get out of the loop. That wheel of samsara, as Buddhists call it. And what about the connection between the inside and outside. We have a brain. It goes and goes. And also there are various stimuli happening outside of us, all around us. What do we do with it? Does all it get in there, either into the so-called conscious or unconscious brain. The surrealists, inspired by the breakthroughs of Freud, wanted to tap into the unconcious and create a holistic person. It was an optimistic avant garde movement. How many layers does it take to get to the centre of the onion. I don’t know what is behind our layers, or our words.

Feedback” is out there in the world now, echoing, maybe reverberating with all the other sounds of poetry, and I hope some folks find some use with it. I hope the words are touchstones for the creation of a reader’s journey.

And yet, how much time do we have, really, to read words. It is my main activity, in terms of my art and life, and yet I get so tired of them. These words. They are never enough.