Saturday, 29 August 2009

A Work in Stasis

For a long time I have been bumbling around with another novel, which keeps falling apart as soon I look at it. Writer's cramp would at least help me to get a grip on the disintegrating fragments.

It's a near-future dystopian frayed yarn but somehow it wants to move beyond surreal gooning and gurning in the ruins of the West.

There's a strand about an elderly unemployed nuclear weapons designer looking for a new life in a Britain that is becoming rapidly post-industrialised and polarised around various fundamentalisms .

There's another strand set in a town on the Anglo-Welsh borders(hey, hey!) where an alternative neo-pagan culture is evolving. But it's fragile, fraught with internal dissent.

There's a techno strand, entangled around a corporation that creates virtual reality environments as escape zones for an increasingly disturbed urban populace. Cyber-entities may emerge from the digital soup...

And I've tried adding yet another sticky strand, drawn from the entrails of my first novel The Qliphoth. This revisits my protagonist Lucas a decade or two on, when the trans-dimensional energies released at the end of the first book have permeated daily existence, heightening its unpredictable & apocalyptic quality.

Somewhere there's a pattern from which a structure will develop , but I suspect it will have little to do with"what the characters want", as the plot-gurus keep reminding us. Their drives will become apparent, on the road, as it were. I have a feeling some of them may become retro-drives, into a kind of hyper-flashback.

Last week on a random impulse I bought a copy of the original "Scroll" version of Kerouac's On The Road, the first draft he wrote in three weeks on a long continuous roll of paper, which he glued together and fed through his typewriter. The myth of course, is that the whole book was conceived in three weeks, whereas he already had numerous discarded false starts, fragments and years of notebooks; and the Scroll mss was subsequently heavily revised and re-drafted. Yet the Scroll gave him the direction and focus he needed, to keep watching that narrow paper moving in front of him like the white line on the middle of the highway. The man was on a roll...

So that's what I need - a Holy Rolling Scroll. And a voice in my flaky ears...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Interviewed by Arlene on Winterspells -the thoughts that got away...

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Seattle writer & occultist Arlene De Winter, who generously gave me audio blog-space to discuss the genesis of the play Babalon and the various occult/paranormal themes that keep surfacing in my work. Arlene is a good listener (as well as a wise woman ) so I spoke freely for over an hour about the mysteries of the Babalon Working, conspiracy theories about the death of Jack Parsons, the influence of Thelema and so on - with the odd digression into the magickal pataphysics of my novel The Qliphoth

The red wine was flowing and the thoughts were flying or at least flipping. The sub-text of the uttering might have been something like this:

We live, in quantal blips, amid the multiverses, constantly generating alt.models of ourselves, and perhaps merging/mutating with entities whose activities are leaked into this reality-level via dreamfeed, vision-mixing and the various rites and writs for exploring the luminous wound of expanding consciousness.

To cope with all this, not to mention the mess of materiality, that mutha of means, Uncle Aleister said you and I need " the method of science, the aim of religion".

But the polyverse is perverse and elusive ( polymorphous as love) , incessantly bifurcating into duality, as expressed in the split-screen experiment.

The source of all being, the ontological ground-zero, is random flux-ups, a magickal manifestation...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Writing Workshop Debate

The British & Irish Poets List began a debate on the function of writing workshops, creative writing MFAs etc. I found myself rewriting my experience at UBC 68-70:

I'm going to crawl out from under my philosopher's stone and add my tangle to the thread. "Workshops Saved My Life!" Well, maybe not, but my stint onthe Creative Writing MA at the U of British Columbia ( 68-70) certainly changed it.

It got me out of the UK academy (by chance more than design) and plonked me into a new environment, gave me time to write, plus a tiny pittance and afocus on the actuality of writing. "I'm gonna thrash your Oxonian ass," said Prof J Michael Yates, my supervisor, "if you don't buy a fucking TYPEWRITER!" I suppose that was an early form of career development.

There were furious debates between West Coast Neo-Surrealists ( my faction back then), Regional Ruralists, Black Mountaineers, and Concretists. There was a seminar when I presented a poem intended as a vatic probe into deep space-time, where I ended up howling with hysterical laughter along with the rest of the room. There was a translation workshop where I made 123 mistakes in ten pages of a text by Andre Breton. There was the prompting to try new forms of fabulating and signifying. There was a campus radio station where Igot to play with tape recorders. There was a group script-writing project that spawned a rhythm and blues show, which actually made me a living on real radio for a while. There were marathon readings - to full auditoria - and much partying (with the occasional fight) And of course, there were the workshops, weekly psychodramas, a kind of cerebral battle of the bands.

Energy levels were high.

In retrospect, the ritual of the workshop was less important than the fact that writing was meant to be central to one's existence and that people actually read it and argued about it. One-to-one sessions were more useful, especially with one tutor's more reflective and laid-back explorations." I enjoy our talks, Paul. But I'm not sure if you were supposed to be my student?" Assessment was flexible. I was once assessed on Form in the Novel in the Faculty Club, orally, over several large whiskies.

It was, of course, a time of cultural upheaval and the Dept was relatively new and raw, in relatively uncharted territory. Iowa had been running for some years but there was nothing like this in the UK.

There were odd paradoxes. When I interviewed Jackson McLow for local radio (can you imagine interviewing him for local radio now in the UK?) it was under the aegis of Warren Tallman in the English Dept, which had an uneasy relationship with Creative Writing and its allegedly European tendencies, fostered by Yates. I think the usual campus politics were at work.

So what did it all mean? What became of us all? One of my contemporaries stayed on and rose thru the ranks to become Head of Dept and Poet Laureate of Vancouver. A couple of others got teaching posts in other universities. One guy became a successful radio producer. Another was last heard of pushing a miracle diet food. One chap attempted to murder his wife. One guy

went to jail in a dope bust, came out and wrote a successful memoir and relaunched a journalistic career. Yates quit academia altogether and worked as a prison guard for a few years ( not in the same joint) He wrote a memoir too. I blundered back to the UK and foolishly stuck my head in the jaws of the further education system.

UBC certainly helped me to to teach myself. But there are no gurus, no magic( or even magick) shortcuts. You just have to lurch onwards and sideways.

As I face the start of a new academic year, I can't help comparing my lifeexperience at UBC forty years ago with the kind of micro-managed bean-collecting that now represses teachers in UK further ( and sadly higher) education. Brother Peter Philpott, a great worker in the mill of avant-poetics, puts it well: the utterly reductive target-culture which dominates all aspects of British education, and distorts everything within education.

Next week I have to record my "continuing professional development" for the Institute For Learning which monitors "good practice" in teaching and learning. I can't help wondering if it isn't yet another tool of surveillance and control...

To Evoke Pharaoh Sanders

Thothman calls the Pharoah
(aetheric timewarping in memoriam)

So the Pharoah screams forward through time
howling and hauling my ass backwards
New York August '68 242 East Third Street Alphabet City
where the scribe was inscribed in his depths
after the yellow cab over potholes, garbage bin, grilled door,
goggling on the blink in the blackness of Slug's Saloon
beaking a pale nose through fuming blackness

big Afro-Sheen dashiki brothers guarding the bar
check out my white threads, my queasy minder
(attorney bro-in-mob-law from Tudor City)
who expected Dixie jazz in hats
not the bullroarer tenor raising funk demons
blazing pyramid of percussion avalanche piano
a long yodel mastering the universe

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Reviving the Blog

The Archives have been abandoned for over a year. One aim of the blog - to promote The Qliphoth - has faltered , as the book now seems doomed to float into the infinite void of history i.e. sales have been on the nano side... Other projects have manifested directly on-line or in print elsewhere, so the notion of using the blog as a kind of testbed for new work hasn't been followed through.

Maybe there's been a half-hidden reluctance to commit ideas and experience to the web. In the privacy of the scribbly notebook, the squiggly secrets and the wavering sigils operate in a protected zone. But now maybe it's time to get out a bit and air some of this material, in real-time, not horde it like a fat green dragon on a heap of fool's gold...