Tuesday, 20 November 2012


... With author Craig Wallwork is published on 3:AM Magazine today.
Read it here. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Review of "Death of a Ladies' Man"

Yann Rousselot’s review of "Death of a Ladies' Man" right here... 
“… Stylistically it delivers clean, sometimes stark and always measured prose, a narrative that stays close to the protagonists and takes it’s time without being long-winded, a pleasure to read.
I was fascinated by the relationship between Adrian and his estranged, cynical wife, a matured (almost rancid) sort of love tainted with disdain and desperation that I felt was all too real; the shortcomings they both seemed to accept in each other: the politically-correct alcoholism; the prescribed narcotics; the adultery (it’s a hard knock life for the upper-crust…). The London setting is not just a backdrop but a relevant character that comes through strongly, giving us a portrayal of England that is dark without being depressing, sometimes even comical in it’s brush with satire, and speaks volumes in between the lines.
There is something tragic about this tale (well, obviously, it’s about death and disgrace and some generally despicable people) but Spens is forgiving in her portrayal, giving us the ugly but also the softer side, the frailty beneath the cold, hard surface of things. After all, even the worst of us are only human.”

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Death of a Ladies' Man Published...

Here it is! 

DEATH OF A LADIES’ MAN follows the rise and fall of politician Adrian Lowe, and the effect of a sex abuse scandal on his family and close friends. Exploring Adrian Lowe’s debauched past as a student at Cambridge and early marriage to his girlfriend from university, as well as their move to London in the late eighties, the book shows Adrian's increasing loss of control, as his behavior threatens to destroy his marriage, career, and people around him.
The book explores themes of sexual abuse, freedom of expression, personal privacy, and sexism in British politics.

Available just here, from 3:AM Press... Print to follow early next year. Author royalties going to charity UNSEEN. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Danser Sa Vie - and other poems

I made this series of little poetry books (hand-bound and hand-written), using some poetry I wrote when I was living in Paris... Going to be selling them (and other collections) soon... 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sincerely, Fiction.

I have a poem published on Francine Toon's new project, Sincerely, Fiction, just here.  The idea is that poets send in poems on the back of a postcard. There's already a really interesting collection!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Menacing Hedge Poems

I have three new poems published in the Fall 2012 edition of Menacing Hedge, available here.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

LETTER FROM THE FRINGE: Arrhythmia and Blues

[Published on 3:AM Magazine]

As is normal in the summer in Scotland, I awoke to torrential rain and clouds so dark it might have been night-time already. But I had not overslept ‘til the evening; the whiskey had not been that strong. It was only ten in the morning. Black boots, jeans, leather. Layers in case of sun. 
By noon, the weather had made it’s first shift, as the train scuttled along the Forth Road bridge, past waves sparkling like granite and grey clouds now brushed with white. I kept looking at this familiar, tempestuous view, trying to lift myself in mind if not body from the crammed, hyper carriage. The Festival does that to Edinburgh-bound trains. The recently brought in alcohol ban doesn’t start ‘til nine at night. Hours to go ‘til then. Drinking in the morning has been made a socially practical thing to do now. The Scots are pragmatic like that. 
I had an unfortunate seat near the toilet, where men dressed in leotards on stag weekends would conspicuously cram into the grimy little space in pairs. As we got closer to the city, and passengers rolled their eyes, bored of the farce already, a naïve, impatient man, who had only just wandered in, asked out loudly: “Is the door broken? How can it be engaged if a man just walked OUT?”
We hurtled into Waverly, only after yet another awkward moment upon the switch to VACANT. Men in leotards swigged canned Guinness. Dancers picked up their bags. I ran for a rare cab, got through the crowds to Summerhall within the hour. 
Before I had a chance to see any exhibitions or shows, though, I bumped into Robert McDowell, mastermind behind the phenomenal new venue of the Summerhall Arts Laboratory. The day got it’s glamour back, the sun brightened, and wine was served. We talked about cross-dressing, Paris, Ireland and malady. It was indeed, my new found “arrhythmia” that let me to my first show. I had been telling Robert about my irregular heart (what a surprise!) and reminiscing about the fleeting concern of my family, (which I put a stop to quickly by singing “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion – didn’t want them to get too upset about my exaggerated likeliness of dropping melodramatically dead). – When along came the producer of a libretto about neurosis and illness called, “Dr. Quimpugh’s Compendium of Peculiar Afflictions”. Quickly and cleverly, Robert saw a cure for my panic, and got me a free ticket to go with the wine. And it worked: seeing these characters even more melodramatic than myself cured my own libretto-suited ailment in a shot.
And the libretto – by composer Martin Ward (Royal Opera, ENB) and librettist Phil Porter (Royal Opera, RSC) – was brilliant aside of being a cure for the oddness of my heart. Telling the story of a brilliant but neurotic Doctor and his long career of diagnosing rare afflictions of the mind and body, the libretto was perfectly at home in the venue, which was until recently the University’s Vetinary School. This must have been an old lecture hall, and I was uncharacteristically (I promise) in the front row.
Particular high points were the patient with the “Alien Hand” who hilariously sang of how her independent-minded hand would ruin her life by randomly groping authority figures and stabbing her lover. She was convincingly tragic and remorseful as she sang: “Oh my alien hand / gets me in terrible trouble…”  
Also ingenious was the depiction of the “walking, talking corpse,” who sang, “My heart was the first to go,” before railing off his other organs and singing of his “Illogic immortality / oneness with infinity / it breaks my decomposing heart”.
Up next was a pious, chaste girl from Yorkshire whose mother despaired when she unravelled into hysterical orgasm upon recollecting the churches and art she visited on an education trip to Florence, and which the Doctor could not cure (though he seemed to identify, vocally).
            By the end the Doctor was in crisis himself, having only diagnosed, and never cured, his ridiculous patients. But judging from the enraptured audience, his neurotic song had medicated the crowds to happiness, if not medical enlightenment. I certainly enjoyed every moment of the original and delightfully silly libretto, which balanced quite perfectly the playfulness of the libretto with its comically neurotic subject matter.

            After the libretto, the weirdness continued, as I got lost trying to find an art exhibition. After wandering around empty, windowless corridors for a while, I met a nice technician (with a special access key / card thing) who proceeded to give me a secret tour of the old buildings, taking the long route to finding my way out. Certainly it’s a fascinating old place: we saw old animal cages (where they used to clone things, apparently), dusty old pill bottles, a model of a decomposing sheep, and more cages. Eventually, these cages became frames for art installations for the Fashion Festival’s “Syn / Aesthesia” show. At times it was hard to tell what was old animal hospital, and what was fashion-as-art. I do mean that as a compliment too: there was something perfectly Gothic about this subtle merge between the medicinal and the creative.
            Eventually, we opened a door onto the main courtyard, where we met some nice Polish technicians, who were arranging an old car for a stunt show later on. He wouldn’t tell us what would happen, but, “A person being run over is a given, of course.” There were bottles of cheap Russian fake champagne, which he said we could have a bottle of if we came to the show, but sadly we never got to taste this sinister concoction.  Moments later, I bumped into Michael from Tangerine Press, Joe Ridgwell and Jenni Fagan, who were in town for Jenni’s reading for the Neu! Reekie! Event. This was pretty brilliant, with Irvine Welsh, Kevin Williamson, John Hemingway and others also delivering energetic, at times aggressive performances.
We sat in another old lecture theatre, sipping wine as Chicago and Edinburgh battled it out (Edinburgh won). Never been to a more intense book reading, that’s for sure. More Fight Club than Eng. Lit – with a mixture of Welsh-ian profanities and Hemingway family histories of cross-dressing and tuna fishing. They competed for varying ideas of masculinity and similar pitches of aggression – followed by more stories of guns, prisons, and women being treated badly. When the door opened onto the breezy summer night, it was a relief to be released, just as the catharsis of all those endings set in. The best writing makes you feel free – so however aggressive, maybe that’s what those writers, in that evening, managed to do.
I had to get a train home, anyway, so I left soon after, and went to Waverly. I got refused a drink at the bar because of the pedantic ID insistence, despite clearly not being seventeen (one day I’ll miss it, I guess). But two girls from Manchester – Emily and Emily – came to my aid with gin and coke and good conversation. As I ran for my train, they ran to the night; it was only beginning for them. And so the cycle of visitors and trains and rounds and shows went on, in the ever-magical festival where night is day and day looks like night. My odd heart beat played up a little as the train set off; perhaps my arrhythmia is only the city’s, perhaps I am a Fringe child at heart.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

New Book

My new book is coming out soon on 3:AM Press... (It was previewed on 3:AM Magazine earlier this year.) It's about a corrupt politician called Adrian Lowe, and concerned with issues of freedom of expression, sexism and British politics.
Proceeds from the book will be donated to the charity UNSEEN, which tackles human trafficking in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Panopticon

This review of Jenni Fagan's "The Panopticon" which is published on 3 A.M. Magazine:


From Lochs to hallucinations, from mental hospitals to police vans – from “therapeutic canoeing” to the dire Children’s Panel: “The Panopticon” is an adventure through all that is most grim and entertaining about growing up in Scotland.

 The novel’s anti-heroine, about to go on trial for knocking a policewoman into a coma (though she doesn’t remember if she did it because she was on ketamine at the time) runs and plots her way through life in the Panopticon, a sinister, supposedly ground-breaking care home. It’s a familiar hell.

 And it is a brilliant adventure, from the start. With humour, beautifully timed writing, and intensely involving scenes of frustration and transcendence, Jenni Fagan expresses exactly what it feels like to be fifteen and growing up in Scotland. I got a particular, personal thrill, from vicariously witnessing all the crimes committed against school and police property. Those familiar, patronizing voices. Those inept police. Those dry, dead souls. They’re all here – anchored to the grim authority of the world that is just built to escape.

 Fagan nails the fleeting (but seemingly eternal) grimness of childhood in the Borders. She recalls the joy of rebelling, of enduring, of running away – and also the sadness of the regular failure of that adventure. All with humour, though:

 “Maybe Brendan is cement under a patio right now. What a waste, ay, he was a fucking great shoplifter.”

 Of course Anais’ circumstances take boredom, misery and trauma to the extreme – but never in a way that seems unrealistic, gratuitous or exaggerated. That goes for the fantastical, hallucinatory aspect of the novel as well. The passages of grim and magical, of oppressed and let free – follow from one another naturally and consistently.

 That is partly the cleverly perceived reality of being fifteen – that disconcerting sway between imagination and ground. I’m reminded of “Nausea” and “L’Etranger” more than anything. But the spirit of Jenni’s novel, of her protagonist, struck me as more victorious than either Camus or Sartre’s novels. Anais doesn’t care that there’s no God or that she feels a bit sick; she just wants a train ticket out of Scotland, rather than a tangible point to it all. The world still excites her.

 And it’s that ultimate sense of optimism – of victory over this disintegrating reality – that makes the book so much fun, so accommodating and brilliant. Anais is a hell-raiser – but she is vulnerable and aware of it. She is bad, but it’s deserved. We enjoy seeing the police defeated and pathetic at this child’s hand. We enjoy the stories of school minibuses on fire and revenge by the Loch.

 Perhaps we enjoy this bad behaviour in part because it is so hard not to feel close to Anais. There is a real, and sustained intimacy in this book. Sometimes childish, sometimes weary, sometimes drunk, sometimes sad. From the beginning you’re right in there – fifteen again – angry again – rebelling, once more.

 “I drove [the minibus] intae the wall both times.”
“But something was different about the second time, Miss Hendricks?”
“The second time it was on fire.”

 While “The Panopticon” is entertaining in its rebellion, it is also a serious book. It doesn’t shy away from anything (I don’t think I’ve ever read rape written about in such a clear and accurate way). But it remains subtle, never gratuitous or sensationalistic where it shouldn’t be.

 “The Panopticon” treads just right the fine line between impassioned anarchy and elegant control. Jenni Fagan is not only victoriously, wickedly honest, but also a brilliant stylist. The words pause and tease and stop just where they should. The hallucinations fade into the ironically therapeutic Loch-side just in time. It kicks just where it should, and it’s gentle when it can be. Just when it might be getting too dark, there’s something dry, something sweet, to balance things out again. The little drags of comedy and delirium cleverly punctuate those weightier stretches.

 It is so rare to read a book and to feel accepted by it, welcomed – vindicated by it, even. To be reminded of the best people you’ve met, and missed. Cathartic and nurturing, incredibly funny and victoriously escapist, there is really no doubt about it – “Panopticon” is a triumph – and an anarchic, endearing one at that.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pére Lachaise & other poems

A collection of about sixteen of my poems will be published later this year by Fiddleblack - in their first annual edition, "Apparitional Experience". More information to follow. Meanwhile, you can see their latest journal here: www.fiddleblack.org

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bob Dylan at Cité de la Musique

My review of the Bob Dylan exposition at Cité de la Musique, for Art Wednesday is here...


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Marrakech for Pleasure

[I wrote this travel piece last year, just found it again... Definitely want to go back now.]

As is usual for recent Philosophy graduates, in the months after leaving the library-shaped cage of academia, I began to slip into existential crisis after existential crisis, and balk at the freedom I had craved for so long. After the initial euphoria at never having to study Logic or Nietzsche ever again, I settled into that clichéd listlessness, listened to Rolling Stones songs, watched films about other graduates feeling confused (“Lost in Translation”, “The Graduate”, etc) and began to wonder if I would ever be satisfied. I assumed that having escaped the rules and bars of before, that I would be happy – but it became clear as summer faded that I was on the verge of becoming one of the hopeless essay subjects I had spent three years loathing: “the vacuous hedonist”, “the bored Stoic”, “the unfulfilled masochist”.

I left London in September, partly because I no longer had anywhere to live, no stable job – and also because my closest friends had disappeared to rehab, prison, New York and Cambridge – making London seem empty.
But going home to Scotland didn’t take me away from that emptiness, and if anything compounded it, with whiskey and a little bout of writers’ block to make the situation all the more clichéd. I knew I should escape somewhere a bit more exciting, but it didn’t occur to me when I booked flights to Marrakech that this was just an obvious extension of the Oxbridge-waster narrative, until my father reminded me, “Oh isn’t Marrakech where Sebastian in Brideshead goes to be desolate?”

Of course the crucial difference, I insisted, was that I wasn’t going to Marrakech to be a lush. I was going there to do some charity work (orphanages, schools), not float around in a hashish haze with someone called Kurt. At least, that was the plan. Until my sister told me to stop dabbling with martyrdom and just have a good time, and I realised I hadn’t just had a good time in ages. My previous pleasure seeking had not amounted to much to remember, being so often about trying to forget.

And so a trip based round volunteering became a quest for pleasure, in a wider sense. Could a hedonist become happy? Would I need to chase pleasure or resist it? So those old essay subjects travelled with me, at the back of my mind: “Does Happiness Require Morality?” – “Why Suffer?”

Why suffer, indeed? Well perhaps some suffering is necessary for pleasure, judging from the experience of going to the local Hammam. I went with my friends Jess, Keri and Louise, the former two having already experienced the delights of what Jess referred to as, “A lot like a woman’s prison, at first” – but worth it for the perfectly smooth skin. The Hammam – or large steam room – did seem quite shady and dank at first. Naked women drifted through the shadows and steam – dispassionately wandering through their Underworld – barred into this ritual by religious discipline to a beauty regime.

But things soon lightened up when a woman tried to make us pay to leave our bags in the first room, snarling at the steaming entrance when we refused. Jess knew, after all, that this was just an effort to rip us off, and so we refused to pay the twenty Dihrams they wanted – which led to haggling in bad French, while stripping.

The angry lady’s demands were translated by another woman from Arabic to French, who then argued to Louise, whose French was best, who translated to English. As all this was going on – a circle of Arabic / French / English demands, dismissals and exclamations – we were undressing, giggling, and exclaiming, “Non!” while unbuttoning shirts. Eventually, when the French-speaking Arabic lady also got the giggles, and Louise stated, “Non! C’est cinq dihrams, ou – rien!” – the lady finally accepted, “Fin! Finito! Pas de probleme!” And, naked and giggling, we went into the first room.

A lot of scrubbing, hot water and more scrubbing followed, for about an hour, before we finally left our little adventure to find our bags still there (amazingly), and our skin smooth and rosy from the extreme exfoliation. The suffering – or at least, the nervous laughter – had been worth it after all.

But pleasure need not involve even slight discomfort, as I discovered a little later in the trip, when I went to the French-influenced New Town for a couple days. All the donkeys, crazy mopeds, rams being carried around – all the pushy selling and spices and chickens and dust – were replaced by tall fountains, palm trees, and French fashion. And so happily I wandered the leafy, lovely streets, drank good coffee in the beautiful Majorelle Gardens, had lunch on the pretty roof terrace of Kechmara, and then bought a copy of “Marat / Sade” at the minimal, sultry Café du Livre.

Although I was on a detox, New Town, with its relaxed alcohol license (compared to almost teetotal Medina) is the place to go if you do feel like letting go, and revelling in a Sebastian-from-Brideshead descent into oblivion. The local hipsters drink red wine, argue passionately, and flirt with passing journalists; old lushes discreetly smoke marijuana with their mint tea at the little cafes dotted around. And then there are the bars and clubs that make Marrakech a pit-stop for the chic and the restless; there is even a Pacha (“Biggest club in Africa!”), though I must admit that it sounded a little too sleazy-Riviera, and I didn’t go in the end, despite rumours of circus acts and monkeys. Why go to Pacha for that, when you can go to the centre of the Medina? New Town in general, while glittering and fresh, lacked the magic of the alluring Old Town, which has a way of drawing its visitors back.

Wandering the Souks with friends, dismissing and inviting treasures and beauty with each step, was unexpectedly thrilling (I have never actually enjoyed shopping before, perhaps because of those dull fixed prices of the west) – as was simply taking in the scene, the stylish wanderers all around. The winding streets were peopled by a combination of Hippy Trail, Nineties Eurotrash, and Glam-Islam clad crowds; people wore beautiful kaftans, scarves, flowing silk, embroidered pinks, violets, emerald greens. The French blues mixed beautifully with the dusty reds, ocres and deep pinks of traditional Marrakech… Just wandering around was a pleasure, in the hot November dusk, as the sky filled with smoke and colour, and music played. Drinking mint tea with intriguing strangers, trying on jewellery with new friends, and getting lost in the Souks were the most entertaining times, and the most content.

So while Marrakech now has a reputation as a decadents’ paradise, as indeed it can be, those seeking happiness rather than dissolution should turn away from the European-style bars and clubs, and enjoy the easy beauty of the original city, and the characters inhabiting it. Enjoy the brief encounters in the gardens and cafes – the games with the kids, the women in the Hammam, and the occasional escape to New Town for espresso and ice cream, for Yves Saint Laurent’s Majorelle Gardens, and mint tea by the fountains.

I realised when I flew back to England, that I met more friends in a few weeks in Marrakech than during three whole years at university. Cambridge taught me a lot of things, but it never taught me to be happy. But Marrakech, a place of every kind of pleasure and beauty, somehow opened me to another route, another, better way to solve those much-debated problems, and a happiness that turned out not to be fleeting or vacuous, but peaceful and playful.

Of course it’s a cliché to turn around like this, to find freedom on the hippy trail, but it’s perhaps a better cliché to embrace than the old dissolution of Sebastian, better to see how idyllic a city can be in spite of its problems.
And of course, that impression of Marrakech has a lot to do with the children we looked after – the youngest generation of the city, whose playfulness and optimism, in spite of their circumstances, made it impossible to find Marrakech anything but beautiful and in bloom.

And so the hedonist became happy, and suffering became something not to dwell on but simply to try and solve – a baby to cradle or a walk in the park. And all the noise of a philosophy degree was not, in the end, drowned out by music in a club, but encouraged to stop screaming, calm down, lay back, and enjoy the hot Moroccan night cast its heady spell.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Death of a Ladies' Man 1


The first installment of my novella, "Death of a Ladies' Man" is published on 3 A.M. Magazine today. It's named after the Leonard Cohen song and is about a corrupt politician called Adrian Lowe, and the effect of a sex abuse scandal on his family and friends.

Friday, 30 March 2012



My article for Art Wednesday on the LOUIS VUITTON-MARC JACOBS exhibition at Les Arts Decoratifs is up now... Really nice show!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Death of a Ladies' Man

♥ Leonard Cohen!

So much so that I am naming my novella after this song. It's just about finished now and will be serialized on 3 A. M. magazine from April onwards... It is about a politician.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Socialite Manifesto

Spotted! [Available in Urban Outfitters, Society Club Shop, and various other bookshops]
[It's a book of illustrations, caricatures etc. Published 2009 by Beautiful Books.]

The Wrecking Ball

Photos from the launch party etc, in 2008

Friday, 23 March 2012

Praise for 'The Socialite Manifesto'

At the "Companions in Guilt" exhibition to accompany the launch of "The Socialite Manifesto"< Emanual Ungaro kindly attended and described the drawings as "reminiscent of the early work of Tracey Emin and Allen Jones... The book is a game, a beautiful game." Nice of him!


Nice Fitzgerald story, nice bit of failure:

You can read it here:

Thursday, 22 March 2012

love this scene


Carlos Amorales

My review of Carlos Amorales at Yvon Lambert Paris, for Art Wednesday:


Monday, 19 March 2012


I'm revising all of these poems now...

Friday, 16 March 2012


We would drive around a lot and
smoke Cloves, listen to the bands
You wanted me to like,
To be a little more like you.
I loved the music more when you left me,
But not in the way you liked it,
I don’t think.
I don’t know – you were only twenty-two and
I was seventeen and there
Weren’t enough hours in the day
For driving around.
We could never go far enough away
From Memphis, Tennessee.

I was never the escape
You wanted to be getaway driver
For, I was never allowed
To cross state borders
Without a note.

You couldn't understand why I loved
the smell of gasoline so much,
The dry green trees, soft dirt
Those deep blue skies
Where you saw only planes.


The baby rebels cradling round
Suckling soft on rolled up silver
Dribbling eyes and fading smoke
From their new found
Mothership: A piece of foil
with charcoal smears.
Curling edges, folded corners,
Creasing surface,
Creasing conscience.

Childs play – a tiny boat on
An origami ocean
Make-believe painted silver and
Pale baby blues,
It takes you back
To the warmth that you lost,
And it's hard to know whether that
Was a dream or this is
For they seem alike
In dissolving you
And your fears all at once.

But even here you still feel sad
So have a little more,
More little sparks, inhaled emotion
Creasing reason, rolling motion
Watch the wave, chase the wave,
Try not to drown too long.

A golden cross on the wall
Was once a decoration, but now bears
Down on us, its edges defined as the hours
Pass by and the sky is only
Walls around us
Closing in.


I needed a friend, in London,
When I first went back
And he opened the door, tall and sarcastic,
And smiled, and we talked for hours.
There were books coming out and addictions to
fight, and memories to erase, (unless there’s an
advance) and a lot to do, for us lay-abouts.
We went to the Colony Rooms and Blacks and
Met writers, drank Bloody Mary’s and irritated people.
We went to a Lolita exhibition in character, and
entertained people, for a little while.
The memories came back, then the drugs came back,
Then we irritated each other.

He said that lives on cocaine and lives on heroin
Weren’t compatible, really,
And we didn’t speak for a few months.
I went to Vienna, went blonde, and went silly
For a while, and met someone else.
Eventually we talked again and went
Back to being friends but
It had all ended really.

When I went to see him he was painting again
But he was sad, and everything in his flat
Was chaotic when it had always been neat.
Torn sheets, scattered books, dry paint, dirty sheets.
Poetic throes or rehab? Modern art, laying in.
He started smoking again. He needed twenty pounds
For art materials. He needed needles for an installation.

I was sad when I left him, as I had never been before.
Maybe I knew it was over, and it was the last time
I would ever see him. He said he’d been happy to see me
But nothing was making him happy
Art wasn’t working, these days.

In June, I was at a garden party with Nina
When Robert called. “Sebastian’s dead. I just
Had to say it – I’m sorry. I know you’ve had your
Ups and downs. Crack and heroin. This morning.”
I looked at Nina and I told her and then I looked around
At this perfect garden, blooming and easy and pale
With the light. Nina said, “I’ll get you a drink.”
We drifted through the rest of that afternoon.
I got sun-burnt and we went to a party and saw James and
Everyone and I said to him, “I can’t take it in right now,”
and I drank some wine and had an odd time,
almost ready to crash myself.
It was the day after that other scandal,
which seemed to matter little now.

There was a lot of black lace at the funeral, of course.
There were a lot of girls and artists and writers
and Soho. I sat next to my publisher in the church,
and cried, though I thought I wouldn’t.

I wasn’t sure what to do with myself afterwards.
I met a little girl, seven, called Kuki,
And ended up spending most of the wWake with her.
She had a little black Puritan dress with Doc Martins
and we chatted about this and that
and she said she wanted to be the next
Kate Bush, and I said, go for it.
The hours went on. At midnight, Laurence called a taxi.
We’d been sitting on a velvet chair for some time.
Laurence said it was the last place he’d seen him.
It was all very strange.
He didn’t know what to do either.

I took the taxi to Chelsea and as the girls were there.
So was Peter, and he gave me a hug. I was still floating above it all
Possessed by the deathly party,
The costumed denial
That the coffin was real
And he was too close to the light.
And we were not close enough.
It was dark now, and about to rain, and we got another cab.
And kept going, more cabs, talking about casual things,
Entirely adrift. I left London soon after.


I did not know how
To say goodbye to all of them
At once. A funeral, a break-up, more deaths,
More disappearances. Two murders.
All in one year. I was twenty-two.
That summer, I lay on the lawn at home,
And counted all the people I had loved
Who were not here.
And then I tried to think of new people
As if that would make it better.
It didn’t, so I tried to work as if that
Was as important as all I’d lost
But it wasn’t.
And then I left the country and spent
Some time in New York with my runaway friends
And that was nice
Until one found another girl
And another found drugs
And then I’d lost them too.
I ended up spending my last week in New York
With two women I’d never met before.
They were very kind but I was sick of
Always ending up with people I didn’t know
And standing on another balcony with a cigarette
And a stranger’s wine glass
Wondering what it would be like to
Have friends who didn’t run away
Not realizing then that I had
Just become one.

Cambridge 2.

I had been under for the past few terms
And then I met you and we drove
To the river and your freedom
So clear, destroyed anyone else’s
Attempts to drown; your flight was mine.
Hours and days and months passed,
Fresh green waves, escape, wet skin,
New dark blue nights and marks on me.

When you came back you weren’t there anymore,
You had withdrawn, your freedom taken away in
Mind as well, it seemed to me.
Slowly back to letters, words, and wishing well
green waves lapping up and
fearlessness, a best friend, I never see.


I had breakfast alone with the other
Guests and then I went and stood on the balcony
With some coffee and looked down and
vaguely, thought,
“I used to dream of this height.”
I left breakfast and went back to my room
And tried to figure out what to
Do with myself.


Elise took the floor and
We sorted out a way to tie the door shut
Since it wouldn't close otherwise.
It was a red scarf, tied a certain way.
We shared wine and chocolate until
A Russian man got on at Spandau
And Elise had to leave and go back
to her own compartment.
The man didn't speak very much but
smiled nicely and had dark
blonde hair, blue eyes.
But the door kept opening because
Elise took her red scarf,
And he played classical music on
his laptop.

I gave up on sleeping early on and
Decided to worry about work later.
Germany got dark and lights were rare
And the other lady slept

The Russian kept trying to fix the door
Which involved a lot of slamming.
I tried to explain the previous solution
but it was pointless to tell him that.
He just wanted to fix it.

Again he'd try as the German lady
tried to sleep and I offered him a chocolate
for trying anyway.

The door opened again,
But this time he ignored it.
I turned on Bryan Ferry.

Later on he gave me a clove
The first one I'd had in six years
Since Memphis probably.
This one was golden, kind of,
And in the back of the train
With two French boys
smoking Camels.

He said I could take up two seats
If I wanted.
The German lady kept sleeping
The door kept opening
Then everybody slept
'til Paris.


You push me down, I start to wonder why
I like this so much more than safety, softness,
love and easy
All the things that felt the hardest,
Felt the death of doubt and blindness, seeing strength
All ending light. Not hard but easy, easy rest
Just rest just rest, my head by yours
Just rest, hard floor, soft fall, soft fall


We talked about movies and I
Pronounced things wrong and we laughed
About those things and his impression
Of actors, and another man said,
Look at the stars,
We all looked up but there were no stars because
Of the fog. We laughed more, his
Game was up. People in the bar
Down the street started singing and
Someone brought out more rum.
The Sacré Coeur was lit up and
He said, Have you taken photos and shown
All your friends? And laughed at me
And I said Yes, but it makes
Me feel guilty. I wake up every day and it’s
So big and glowing and all.
But why does that make you feel guilty?
I thought about it and
I didn’t feel guilty anymore
After all. It was gone.
The church was just beautiful, if looming,
And we turned back to the party
And decided to go to some exhibitions
Go visit the painters who had
Always been my true gods really.
Their gold leaf and new perspectives
Were my loves.
In mourning people I had been so taken with
Their grave stones and talk of hell that
I forgot about the elegies
And art works and the light
Still on.

STROPHE [Toby Zeigler's new show]

Biblical figures fade
Beneath pale rose spheres
Past obscured, then lightened, briefly
As lands empty out beneath

Women sulk behind their graphics
Monks bleached almost to negatives
Of photographs
Of how they were once captured by the Masters,

Or to clouds – forgotten
Details of past attempts at art:
Revolution – provocation,
(Now remembered)
Between circles of light and pale pastel
Paint marks.

Virtual reality nostalgic for
All it is obliterating:
Compelled idea, tempting canvas.
Beauty and death, at endless play,
Recreated on spent card.
Computers and Old Masters'
Pornographic off-prints with delicate graphics –
A coup, of a kind.

New voice and light to near-dusted subjects,
Blank spaces, lost titles –
“Dying artist defeats another’s” past by
painting over it
With appropriations of
Computer graphics.

Viewer, judger, Saint:
Be taken in and pushed aside
By pattern obscuring
All’s that’s near-been taken down.


Blue paint and lost limbs
Wine sprayed with the movement
All over closed eyes:
Dark paint, smudged life.
Burlesque with a lasso and
Health, to good health
Come die little moment,
‘fore dancing's rebirth.

"Yves Klein, we love you!"
So sprinkle gold dust
With your worldly sky
Figures on walls
Their moments of leaping, and
Nietzsche’s lost love,
has bound breathlessly with
us too.

In thrall with your death –
white lights, black eyes, green wine,
strung words, and hold:

Keep dancing, keep falling
“Pretend it’s a dance”
Keep falling, keep catching,
Distortion, relax.

My birthday, you caught me,
Then threw me around
All the bad things I'd heard
Were untrue
Happy Birthday, not Deathday,
Keep dancing, sweet girl
Keep losing your limbs and
Your head to it all.


In the flickering leaves and the
Tiny wine glasses, stories spark up
All over again, and lying on lawns
Pale coloured as absinthe
We fall apart
So happily gone

Thoughts beat at the coat-tails
And golden-haired lost
Things, cerulean nightmares are
Shrouded in fire
And you say it’s a drawing
But it’s really the future,
Two hours from now we’ll be
Watching for land.

Pére Lachaise

Some were alcoholics, others it was opium or
Maybe cocaine for Jim Morrison, now with
Bubblegum stuck to the tree next to his
Grave, by teenage girls.
Whiskey bottles, too, taped
To the trunk, and dead flowers.
“Maybe they were tired.” Someone says,
after hearing all the stories about the artists
dying young, all the
affairs, jail, disease, work,
dance. Tired enough to die of it.

Victims by choice and gambling
Souls, lovers of all and each other
Now withdrawn beneath life, oblivious
To the glory days of their Parisian spring,
Of love in hindsight and selected histories
And undeclared love in vague elegies,
In requiems for the ignored.

Wine and sleepiness, despair becomes
just neat dissent
and stories to tell.
Erect that grave, dig them in. We
Walk on, past dead flowers
And candle lights
Floating on, bearing back
Lights and crosses, bars, rebirth.