And as editor of Grey Suit Editions UK, I very much recommend The Cross of Carl .
This extraordinary fiction written in World War 1 by Walter Owen, but only published in 1931 is a long-neglected classic of hallucinatory writing.
John Ashbery once said to me that he was interested in the byways of literature – for aspiring writers, these lesser known works of genius can be more rewarding, more inspiring than the canon of approved classics. Grey Suit intends to publish works such as The Cross of Carl whenever we come across a neglected book that deserves serious reappraisal.
Written by Mabel Haynes’s granddaughter following the fortuitous discovery of her grandmother’s connection to Stein, this is an innovative exploration of an intimate, complex relationship between three women.
While this book doesn’t follow a chronological form, its subject could be said to begin with Gertrude Stein’s first novel, Q.E.D., which was never published during her lifetime. Q.E.D. represents Stein’s attempt to deal with her first love affair with May Bookstaver, who was also the friend and lover of Mabel Haynes. All three were students at the same Boston medical school: “they came of age in the gilded age and were of a class that expected them to display themselves with the right cut of their garments, the right sort of bearing to carry it off.” While the impact and influence of these women on Stein’s writing has been examined, this is the first time the lives of the women themselves have been fully explored.
This fascinating study into the relationship between dance and poetry – the “step” of dance, and the “foot” of verse – presents a complex, intricate interlacing of disciplines. Dappled with personal anecdotes alongside probing evolutionary questions, historical depth and contemporary insights, it is at once thought-provoking and engaging.
The author’s experience as both a dancer and poet inform his unique investigation. He ascribes his long-held passion for both to a deep-rooted childhood awareness of rhythm: “Rhythm is common to both pursuits. Increasingly I have come to feel that dance is a language and that language is a dance.”
Iliassa Sequin was born in 1940 on a small island in the Cyclades, where her father was a high school teacher. Soon after the family moved to Athens.
With musicality in language uppermost in her concerns she developed an original poetic style and this led to her being befriended by Odysseas Elytis (later a Nobel prize winner). Family opposition to her career as a writer and an actress prompted her to move to Germany. From then on she flitted between Germany, Italy, France and Sweden becoming a friend of Peter Weiss and Susan Sontag, Giuseppe Ungaretti, André du Bouchet and Paul Celan. John Ashbery published her work in the Partisan Review, and a sequence of her quintets was published by Peter Gizzi in O-blek Editions. Later she moved to Britain, and married the artist Ken Sequin. Her work is notable for its musical beauty, its distinct structure and particular typographical decisions. She died in the winter of 2019.
First published in 1931, The Cross of Carl is a book describing trench warfare with a visionary intensity. It is a masterpiece of the imagination, and one of the most terrifying books you will ever read. The Times Literary Supplement review, on 16 July 1931, called the book “A war allegory” that, “brings back the ugly side of war psychology; it is a description of one of the ‘corpse factories’ of legend – an unbearably ghastly description… This record of what the author himself describes as “an abnormal pathological process” induced by the psychic perturbations of the War, is put forward in the belief that the experience may foreshadow some sort of development in the collective consciousness of mankind.” It was foresight, in a way, but of something more horrible, which would be the Nazi holocaust of World War II.
Just Visiting – Pamela Stewart lives on a farm in western Massachusetts with seven dogs and some other beings. Her most recent full-length book of poems is Ghost Farm (Pleasure Boat Studio, 2010). She expects, shortly, to arrange a small and delightful gathering of letters between the late poet Lee McCarthy and Guy Davenport. Published 2014 – ISBN 978-1-903006-06-1
Under her breath, she rummages for Christmas.
She pauses to watch the snow and thinks of sin and its wolf prints
on the slope back down to the barn. But that was then
yes, there’s always then and now and the snowscapes of in-between.
Her breath catches. Never bury a child far from the house. Smoothing
that red wool stocking stretched at the toe, she holds it to her cheek.
Never bury a child where she can’t hear you singing.
The Empty Quarter: poems by Fawzi Karim in versions by Anthony Howell after translations made by the Author. Born in Baghdad in 1945 and now living in London, Fawzi Karim is rapidly establishing a reputation as a major figure in contemporary poetry. Plague Lands, his first book of poems in translation was a Poetry Book Society recommendation for 2011. Anthony Howell’s first collection, Inside the Castle, was brought out in 1969. His most recent book of poems is The Ogre’s Wife, Anvil 2010. Published 2013 ISBN 978-1-903006-04-7
ON THE HIGHEST PEAK
On the highest peak,
The deer edge towards my retreat,
Soliciting a blessing
From the cradle of my newborn pain.
The deer kneel then turn away.
The eagle will not risk a restless wind.
Empty are the clouds that frequent my retreat,
Presenting fronts darkened by anxiety.
Passing through the clouds I peer down on the city.
Its roofs are stacked with the nests of storks
While its palms are fans for its siesta,
Lending it shade and a breeze for the streets.
There are boats unmoored on its timeless rivers,
But ages of sand drift across well known features,
And now it’s clear that the city looks more like a corpse
Hovered over by wings which end in claws.
Ice forms on my coat and freezes me to my seat.
The Wreckage – Born in Montreal, Kerry-Lee Powell has lived in Antigua, Australia and the United Kingdom, where she studied Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cardiff University. Her work has appeared in The Spectator, MAGMA and The Boston Review. A full collection of poetry will be published in Canada by Biblioasis Press in 2014. The lyric poems in this pamphlet were inspired by a shipwreck endured by Powell’s father during the Second World War, his subsequent struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, and eventual suicide. Published 2013 ISBN 978 -1-903006-05-4
If all is wrecked between us, it’s because
A pair of wing-tips on the other side of the world
Closed in prayer to make this small breath,
Like the breath of a child blowing a candle-wish,
That only gathered salt and squalls as it grew swift.
They say it often begins like this.
Now the ends of the earth are littered with our fragments
Like flocks of terns on an arctic ice-cliff,
Or like words on torn-up sheets of paper
In a language that I try not to remember,
Spelled out again like moths around the flicker
Of your face that often flares at me in strangers.
Look how I make the most of what’s at hand
Like a match-girl out for kindling in a windy land.
Early Morning – Donald Gardner has been writing poetry since the early 1960s. Recent collections include The Wolf Inside (2014) and The Glittering Sea (2006), both published by Hearing Eye. He is also a translator of poetry and his selection of Remco Campert’s poetry, In those Days (Shoestring 2014) was awarded the Vondel Prize for literary translation. Born in London, he divides his time between Amsterdam and Kildare. Many of these new poems started life in the early morning. First thing, before the mind steps in to remind you of more irksome issues, that’s when I usually write. ‘Early morning’ is not so much the theme of this book as the background music. Published 2017 ISBN 978-1-903006re10-8
of gaiety and laughter. A small hint from your eyes,
was enough for me to fall for you,
like the tower of a child’s building blocks
that a tug at a carpet hem may bring down.
This is the tower, this early morning.
Nothing stirs in the house.
Outside there’s the thunder of Saturday’s garbage round;
otherwise the stillness is uncanny. It’s early
in January. The day
can’t make its mind up whether to begin.
Muse of my heartbroken heart:
I have no choice but to fall asleep again or write
and I can’t get back to sleep.
Dialysis Days – Hugo Williams was born in 1942. His latest book of poems is I Knew the Bride (Faber & Faber 2014). The next will be Lines Off, forthcoming in 2019. He wrote the Freelance column in The Times Literary Supplement for many years and lives in London. Published 2018 ISBN 978-1-903006-11-5
A BRILLIANT TRICK
Being well is such a brilliant trick
with all its happy healthy fun.
Nobody likes you when you’re sick.
They think you’re being melodramatic,
trying to divert attention
from their own favourite trick
of appearing busy and energetic
all the time, so that no one
suspects them of being sick.
They can’t imagine your own chronic
ill health and depression
is anything more than a cheap trick
to deceive anyone sympathetic
enough to your condition
to think you might be genuinely sick.
You end up having to mimic
the way healthy people carry on.
Being well is a useful trick.
Everyone hates you when you’re sick.
Paper-Money Lyrics – Alan Jenkins has published six volumes of poetry, the most recent of which are A Shorter Life (2005) and Revenants (2013). He edited the Collected Poems of Ian Hamilton (2009). White Nights, a volume of his translations from French, will appear in 2015. He has taught in Paris and the United States but has lived for most of his life in London, where he works as Deputy Editor and Poetry Editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Published 2014 ISBN 978-1-903006-07-8
Basking in the Mayfair afternoon, The Killer Whale,
The male. Undersea light filters through the fronds
Of sea-grass—urban ferns and hanging-basket leafage.
He has come to feed, he lunches on small fry and crustaceans
Which he crunches, on gilts and bonds, on something by Jeff Koons
And the woman’s cleavage. There is a need for overpowering
In his hands, which prod her here and there, feeling
For the soft spots, the intimate recesses where
He can deliver hurt—there is a need for devouring
In his playful excesses, sea-spurt and sea-squirt!
Such vagaries of appetite, and only the ocean
To nourish him…Why her stunned face, why that commotion
In the shallows, that wave of indignation on the shore?—
Unrest among the bottom-feeders, clicking of iPhones,
Writing of leaders. You can’t fuck with someone’s head
In peace, in public, any more. It’s outrageous. It’s a bore.
Sonnets from Elizabeth’s – after Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. Rosanne Wasserman’s poems can be found in print and online, in the Best American Poetry annual series, Ek-phra-sis, Conduit, Jacket 2, Maggy, How2 and elsewhere. Her books of poems include The Lacemakers (1992), No Archive on Earth (1995), and Other Selves (1999), as well as Place du Carousel (2001) and Psyche and Amor (2009), collaborations with her husband, the poet Eugene Richie, with whom she runs the Groundwater Press, a nonprofit poetry publisher. She has written on John Ashbery and Grace Paley for Massachusetts Review; on Pierre Martory James Schuyler and Ruth Stone for American Poetry Review; and on Marianne Moore, Dara Wier and others. She and Eugene Richie co-edited Ashbery’s Collected French Translations (2014). Published 2017 ISBN 978-1-903006-09-2
What changes everything?
Sex, you say? Death sure doesn’t: life goes on
anyway, though you’ve got your toes on
a new front line, almost something
unexpectedly sweet, like swinging
chimes some wild wind blows on,
commuting the panic to marvel, an ozone
high. That’s why if anything
works for us, it’s us, and our lonesome past
points forward to each other,
as if it were a single crystal, orderly, fast
on its feet: and when what we call time’s over,
when we’re gone, they could cast
a model of how-to from us: friend and lover
Anchorage – Lorraine Mariner was born in 1974 and lives in London where she works at the National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre. She has published two collections with Picador, Furniture (2009) and There Will Be No More Nonsense (2014) and has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize twice, for Best Single Poem and Best First Collection, and for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize.
Review of Lorraine Mariner’s Anchorage – now in London Grip
THE RESURRECTION, TARBERT
Cousin Christie asks me to confirm
some talk he recollects, that my grandfather
was buried at sea. Now that I have toured
the graveyards of Ballylongford, recited
the family names chiselled into the stones,
I share his unease. I used to believe
in cremation, scatter me, maybe, close to my
rented flat on the anonymous grass of Blackheath.
Standing in the graveyard of St. Mary’s, Tarbert,
my relations lying two or three in every row,
for the first time in my life I would have sworn I was home.
If we do rise, Stanley Spencer style,
heaving the lids off of our tombs, blinking
in the perfect light, our naked feet ecstatic
on the green green grass, I would put money aside
to have my body transported here from a far city,
as my great aunt and uncle have done.
But my grandmother is not here.
She is lost, like my grandfather, in a Garden
of Remembrance in Croydon and it would not
be the same without her to make the introductions.
* * *
Chap-books are £5 each post free in the UK from Books at The Room, 33 Holcombe Road, London N17 9AS. Special deal – Three chap-books for the price of two – £10 post free in the UK from the same address. Include address to mail to and which chap-books you want.
Special limited edition chap-book with illustrations by the author. Published 1 February 2020.
Heron of Hawthornden is a sequence of dizains written by Anthony Howell in the Winter of 2017 – while on a residency at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. The castle was once owned by William Drummond, and the sequence recalls Drummond’s poetry and his gossip with Ben Jonson who walked from London to visit him. While writing the sequence the author sketched and painted every day – and the sequence (two dizains per day) is illustrated by 14 colour illustrations and 1 in black and white. Limited edition of 100 copies.
Available from The Room, 33 Holcombe Road, London N17 9AS – also available on ebay (seller – Tangoshiva).
All our previously published chap-books are still available: