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David Kennedy

Alum Raptures

in memoriam Jack Beeching 1922–2001

I – A Renunciative Artifice

Turbid the chrism, my farded mascot,
a punnet of wind in her bessemer hair...
Spliced licks reconstruct,
from lexis down to deictics,
a period code:
poetry as agonist alembic;
the self hurt into utterance
and so making utterance hurt.
A renunciative artifice
where opacity and resistance
in seemingly steady lines
draw the reader into
performing meaning
as a struggle against
whatever normativities
she’s internalised.

II – Stay Bitten

A quarry takes a bite out of a hill:
economics’ fierce desire
and the poet’s own
to say the never said
and have it stay bitten
into language
via an isomorphous,
register: emetic,
astringent or styptic.
Snake-hunter poet, stalking nouns,
adjectives his graspers.
Capture’s metamorphosis:
unhanselled girl and caponizing bomb
strike like a vine or dry stick
stupid feet make viper. Few escape.

III – Name Your Own

Blurred borderlands
between surrealist, apocalyptic,
late romantic as in ‘missed’
the last nightbus from Fitzrovia.
Negative-leaking names,
tagging excess at best
a fever treatable with etiquette;
at worst corrupt delusion.
Here is a strong stream
obscured not stopped
by rational poem-cities’
neat heritage, neater commerce.
Dip your kerchief, clean the blur:
rediscover excess as risk;
name your own ‘main path’,
your own ‘way mislaid’.

IV – Post Mortem Manifesto: How To Write Poems

Rehearse your own last rites.
Flirt with mock.
Mode of speech: spasm.
Assume the muse is
a spin doctor sexing up dossiers.
Mystification hotter than the news.
Monosyllable weights on
fulcrums of symbiotic doubletalk.
Degrade the vigil.
Assume the muse is
a street recruiter for fascists
– raise your stick!
Crazy as a surd.
Move to the Med.
Food fight.
Live in what transfigures you.

V – The Afterpoem

The afterpoem,
real and made-up mingled:
Beeching treats Malley
in a roaring pub.
This dream because
both poetries are like drinking,
getting God’s clarity
via, say, Pieprzówka or Źubrówka,
risking one more
and one more until
one downs you.
Some die before they think,
says Jack. Says Ern:
I was a haphazard amorist
caught on the unlikely angles
of an awkward arrangement. Weren’t you ?


Jack Beeching’s poetry probably received its widest readership via Penguin Modern Poets 16, first published 1970. Each section of ‘Alum Raptures’ therefore has sixteen lines and sixty-four words excluding titles.

With the exception of the last three lines of section V which are taken from The Darkening Ecliptic by Ern Malley, the italicised words and phrases in ‘Alum Raptures’ are taken from Beeching’s poems in the Penguin volume.

The reference in section IV to raising a stick against a fascist street recruiter refers to an encounter Beeching had in his early 70s with a recruiter for Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front.

Pieprzówka and Źubrówka are brands of Polish vodka, flavoured respectively with pepper and bison grass (hierochloe odorata).

David Kennedy’s most recent publication is The President of Earth: New & Selected Poems (Salt, 2002). He lives in Sheffield where he works as a freelance writer and edits the poetry and poetics magazine The Paper.

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