Wednesday 15 November 2023




The Chartered Institute for Personnel & Development believes in nothing & hates everything

The cover promises visionary outsider art, Satanic mills being destroyed, recalling the artwork of early Fall albums. Inside is blistering political poetry that does some very exciting things with its language. The register is by turns feverish and still, grotesque and tender, setting up a space in which those tones of voice collide, speed up and slow down. The poem circles some of the injustices we take for granted either as our reality or the background to it: the grim merry-go-round of crap jobs and worklessness; jobs that don't pay, benefits that aren't paid and people who are sanctioned; 2008 and the hollowing out of both "safety net" and workplace protections that have happened since. There seems to be more space in it than in Denyer's previous book In Boiling England, room for different tempi and sudden weightlessness. The writing swings from political causes to effects and its more dazed personal mode. Here it locates itself in the particular nightmare of the lyric I and a shadowy yobbo dual.

I seek death & reasonable adjustments to my workplace immediately o god on farced o go & do o god o o o god & in competences are a billfold bound & burnt

One of the themes is obliteration. Not annihilating but striking through events and individuals to undo them whilst marking and preserving the act. The poem needs to stamp out in this way: Peter Cruddas, the criminal Tory millionaire; Mark Kennedy AKA Mark Stone and a long list of his fellow undercover police, who infiltrated all kinds of protest groups in the sleaziest and most exploitative ways; various parts of itself; the person claiming sick pay; the author; the entire poem (via its title) and its publisher.

Peter John, O.B.E J.C.B affordable rent over the road & so we must work closely with local enforcement authorities & the glass in my eye hurts, like full of sand so we must work closely

It has got me thinking about revenge in poetry. The strikethrough is not a straightforward thing. When the poem aims it at itself we have, maybe, an image of self-recusal and of the wounds that generate the work and remain in it. When it is directed outwards, naming then cancelling agents of the state, it puts the poem into this interesting tradition of poetical violence. I'm sure it must be fully ancient but some immediate references are in the work of Sean Bonney and Verity Spott. In 'after Rimbaud' Bonney (apparently) urges the reader to cut the throat of Tories in the street. Is that OK? A Tory MP was indeed killed with a knife last year, how about that? Is offing pigs still radical? Was it ever? This line of concern (trolling) is the result of a bad naturalisation, "an attempt to reduce the strangeness of poetic language and poetic organisation by making it intelligible, by translating it into a statement about the non-verbal external world” (Poetic Artifice, Veronica Forrest-

Thomson). That is not to say that the contents of such an outburst shouldn't be taken seriously: revenge poems need to be taken seriously and on their own (poetic) terms. Spott's 'We Will Bury You' consists of a litany of the lurid fates inexorably approaching certain MPs. Rather than a vindictive green ink letter, Dylan Williams hears "a furious, livid scream against our political present […] gesturing to the limits of language and poetry as vehicles for material change." 1 Something similar can be said of CC DEATH: there is a complex but deceptively light distancing structure that makes the whole thing much more than a cri de coeur. So the meaning and status of verse that may be judged truculent, spiteful or even callous depends on the success or failure of its entire context. (And it goes without saying that the actions of politicians also need to be judged in the right context – the world outside of poetry.) Of the unruly interventions mentioned Denyer's may be the least likely to be taken out of context, as that context is too dense to easily give up its contents piece by piece. Despite the seething content and form the violence done is typographic, and not less trenchant for that. As for the bathos of militant poetry and whether or not it “makes nothing happen”, another bad naturalisation. Everything happens in the paracosm erected by the poet, in which, as we’ve seen, Tory donors and undercover police are erased. And once in a while one of these barbs escapes its world and is heard in the wild, like Bonney’s Fuck the Police mantra, which is as much as anyone could expect.

J.B (unpublished)