A couple of years ago, after reading some Eliot and watching some Jacques Tati, I thought it would be a smashing idea to write a parodic blend of the two and it started thus:
The Hulot Men
Mistah Hulot—lui mort.
We are the Hulot men
We are the French men
Smoking togetherPipe bowls filled with straw.
but it didn't get much further, thankfully. But another entanglement of poetry and Tati has come together in this image of Monsieur Hulot's brother-in-law's swanky new car in Mon Oncle:
for the cover of Heather Phillipson's new book is inspired by this vehicle. Regardez-vous:
and this cover has already had an article devoted to it in Art Review (one of the perks of being a practising artist as well as a poet).
The reason I mention all this is that last night was the London launch of Instant-flex 718 (Bloodaxe) at the Art Review Bar just off Old Street ('Silicone Roundabout' as almost nobody calls it) and the great and the good (although I prefer the term 'the out and the about') gathered to start up this gorgeously hued vehicle and drive it away.
The first words I heard out of Heather Phillipson's mouth, back in 2007, were:
The only men it's safe for me to love are dead –
O'Hara, Stevens, Berryman.
when I read with her at The Poetry Café in Covent Garden and I became a fan at that moment. These are the opening two lines from 'Devoted, Hopelessly', which appears in the book. By the way, the title refers to the type of glue used to bind the book. I could talk about how the title and some of the poems inside speak of the materiality of language as used by the poet. But I won't.
What I will say is that this debut collection contains many hilarious, touching, surprising, and intriguing poems with wonderful titles like 'German Phenomenology Makes Me Want to Strip and Run through North London', 'Red Slugs in Every Irrelevant Direction', You're an Architect and I Want to Make Dinner for You' and 'Actually I'm Simply Trying to Find My Dressing Gown Sash'.
I like a launch to be more of a party than a reading and Heather chose to read a single poem, pushing the needle of the 'launchometer' almost as far away from the 'reading' end of the 'party – reading' scale as it is possible to do. But she left us wanting more, which is always a good thing.
Another good thing is that four of us peeled off to eat fish and chips at Kennedy's on Whitecross Street, which is worth a visit if you're ever out East.
So. As Monsieur Hulot departs at the end of Mon Oncle to allow his nephew to bond with his formerly stuffy father, Monsieur Arpel, so must I depart at the end of my week as guest blogger. It's been a pleasure and there were many other things I wanted to write about, like how can we get people to stop saying "x won the Internet"? but perhaps I will continue with these over at Mo' Worse Blues.
Au revoir. I leave you with an apposite poem from Heather Phillipson.
The Distance between England and America
Much could begin like this: a large man,
tie slackened, voice buoyed up by altitude.
My mind's elsewhere –
the air-conditioning. It's cold.
Above the Atlantic he bellows long vowels to me,
and I'm cabined, window-seated, polite.
With my English tone, I'm inadvertantly provocative –
No more salted pretzels for me, thanks Jeff.
At the sound of Charles Darwin's bassoon,
earthworms, apparently, writhed.
Jeff booms: Pittsburgh, golf clubs, his search for a wife.
I twist in my seat – suggest something,
in my movement, of all evolution.
His blanket folds back like an invitation
to navy shadows and polyester.
Heat and anything could happen under there.
Oh, take your loafers off, Jeff –
throw them in the aisle.
Your gusto can conquer my boredom, our bed can be the sky.
It's warming up. We won't be sleeping.
For almost nine hours beneath United Airlines covers
we'll share everything but thought.
In the morning, white bread rolls and Columbus, Ohio.
Women distribute plastic cutlery in the night.
For more information on Heather, click here.