I write an annual account of my literary/artistic and publishing activities largely so I have a record of the what and when, but also in the hope that other people might find it interesting. As ever, I’m keeping it brief, and where possible providing links to publications. I strongly recommend you check out the books by other visual poets I have published through Steel Incisors this year.
Nothing to see here: January was a quiet start to the year, in which I prepared various Steel Incisors books for publication.
Shortly after publishing ReVerse Butcher’s extraordinary, exhilarating Kaleidoscopic Erasures through Steel Incisors, I put together a revised and greatly expanded version of (dis/re)membered. I felt that the original edition (published in late 2020) now seemed incomplete, given the large number of remixes I had created of most of the visual poems it contained. So the new edition reproduced the ordinal book (with some minor tweaks), followed by two new sections: re-dismembered (a large selection of remixes); and The Sea as a Metaphor for Death, a cycle that had developed as an offshoot from one of the original visual poems in (dis/re)membered.
My one publication in March was a monochrome visual poem called “crEYEsis”, published online by ToCall. Meanwhile, through Steel Incisors I published Kenneth M Cale’s visionary chapbook, Greater Vegas Bleeds into the Dreams of My Cryogenic Slumber, as well as Emma Filtness’s sumptuously beautiful The Venus Atmosphere: Collage Poems.
I was invited to contribute some visual poems to Buzdokuz. The first of them (a piece in which I played with musical annotation, using the score of Scriabin’s Black Mass Sonata as source material) was the cover art for the April edition. Another piece from the same series (Frozen Meat, of which more later) was published at around the same time in Beir Bua Journal. At the end of the month I published Nic Stringer’s Persephone: protect from damage whilst in transit, a highly original take on an ancient myth, organised in a suite of lyrical triptychs.
A visual poem from Frozen Meat appeared in Streetcake Magazine.
In many ways, June was the most eventful month of the year for me. A major highlight was an event I organised with Paul Hawkins at Eachwhat (his art/performance space in Bristol), featuring readings, performances and film poems from a wide range of artists, most of them published by Steel Incisors. I called the event “hands: free?” as a reference to a copyright issue I’d encountered when trying to publish handsfree, a vispo reimagining by Martin Wakefield and Paul Hawkins of Man Ray and Paul Eluard’s seminal surrealist collaboration, Les Mains libres. I’m glad to say that the French book is in the public domain as of 1 January 2023, so handsfree will be out a couple of days later!
Another memorable event was a pop-up poetry evening at Christie’s in London, in which I played Astra Papachristodoulou’s Jenga poetry game with the poet herself, read from my Salò Press chapbook Rites & Passages, and presented a couple of film poems. It was quite something to perform in such an opulent environment, surrounded by Chagalls, Warhols and a casual, moneyed audience who were there largely for the champagne but proved very appreciative of the poetry. Simona Nastac, who curated the event, had wanted me to perform as the Bird King, but Christie’s vetoed the idea when they saw a video of me screaming in the latex mask, so I went as me – though I did manage to smuggle the mad avian monarch into the event via one of the film poems (which you can watch below).
Frozen Meat was consciously influenced by Francis Bacon and Antonin Artaud, though it bears several other involuntary influences too. This is how I described the little book when I blurbed it:
Frozen Meat embodies the paradoxical stasis and explosiveness of language. The written word, fixed to the page, convulses with the volatility of meaning. The human body, categorised zoologically, biologically, socially, philosophically, is a sigil forever thrust into newness by the violence of life processes, and by the limited conscious control we exercise over its movements.
Frozen Meat could be considered a musical score, the static expression of acoustic events unfolding in time.
The sequence of visual poems is structured in distinct movements containing unstable motifs, punctuated by little deaths, moments of silence.
The reader is encouraged to read these corporeal and linguistic symbols in silence or out loud, or to perform them in any way that comes to mind, as paroxysmal theatre, howling stand-up routine or dissonant symphony.
Stephen Sunderland’s Eye Movement, a kinetic collection of psychologically probing visual poetry, was the month’s smash hit over at Steel Incisors.
RIC Journal published four “red poems” from Frozen Meat. And through Steel Incisors I published Cosmologorrhea, an anarchic vispo collaboration with Richard Biddle, one of the most exciting and inventive visual poets currently active. The book was the beef-flavoured icing on a tottering, garish layer cake that had been a decade in the making, and I was delighted that it had finally attained physical form!
Towards the end of the month Chris Boyland’s unique, inventive Smc_ was out through Steel Incisors.
August was my quietest month, one of the few this year in which I did not publish a book through Steel Incisors. FATHERFATHER included a visual poem from a new series called Hot Flesh in their Poetic Realism issue, and three visual poetry diptychs from Bloods Dream appeared in Volume 3 of the Oomph! Anthology, alongside several writers I greatly admire.
September’s Steel Incisors publication was Argo-0 by Brian Baker, an inspiring erasure/augmentation of H G Wells’ ‘The Chronic Argonauts’.
At the invitation of Dan Power, I made a film poem for Trickhouse Films called “the poem exists, the book does not,” in which I used a green screen and multiple shots of a volume of Paul Celan’s poetry to destabilise the materiality of that most revered artefact, the book.
SJ Fowler invited Richard Biddle and me to perform at a Poem Brut event in the stunning venue of Kingston University Town House, where we celebrated our collaboration Cosmologorrhea thorough a largely improvised display of poetic folly.
The end of the month was marked by the last Steel Incisors publication of 2022, Ava Hofmann’s Delta, a fresh take on asemic writing as a tool for bibliomantic divination. Meanwhile, Beir Bua Press published a vispo calendar for 2023, featuring work by me and Michelle Moloney King, for which I recorded an introduction, which you can watch below.
The new issue of Buzdokuz included two new vispo diptychs from an evolving sequence called 21 Blank Spaces.
For me, the big event of November (and, in many ways, the year) was the publication by Hem Press of Cosmic Horror, a slim book of poems and visual poems in which I explore voice, body horror, and quantum gravity theory. I think it’s my best work. I wrote a brief blog post about the book when it was released.
The last month of the year saw diptychs from 21 Black Spaces appear in the inaugural issue of Sparkling Tongue Press, issue two of Cutbow Quarterly, and an anthology published by Corrupted Editions, Living with other people: an anthology for indefinite times. The sequence is in part a response to Arnold Schoenberg’s expressionist cycle Pierrot Lunaire, and work is ongoing; I hope to complete it early in 2023.