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     Jacket 34 — October 2007              link Jacket 34 Contents page              link Jacket Homepage

Laurie Duggan

Two poems from ‘The skies over Thanet’

This piece is about 25 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Laurie Duggan and Jacket magazine 2007.


gathering swallows &c

a rabbit, crushed on the road, is removed within hours.

mown paths

words for the angled brickwork?

(tiled walls = pargeting)

to dive in amidst all this difference

            mushrooms, spongy underside, meaty consistency,
            found in Church Wood near Blean, a warm mid-afternoon

            today 80°, September’s hottest recorded?

            cleaners converse on mobiles in the shade

            the newspapers introduce nature liftouts

stillness, at 6 pm.
as though readying a season

I sit in the Gulbenkian
(the nearest boozer)

the numeral 19 amid
the verdure

                                     (large spaces, plinths with hewn objects
mimicked by insignias on bins
the trees so neat.

                        the 1960s
thought this the closest
architecture came to paradise

no gargoyles to mock aspiration

                                     a man
struck by lightning (timor mortis
conturbat me) on the side
of a generator

(on the upper branches
of a(n) [ . . . . .] leaves
begin to rot

the air thick with smoke
–is this place turning into Brisbane?

rabbits across the lawn

cathedral town in a haze

                    compost (this notebook)

                    vapour trails

a pleasure, to sit in the slight cool
viewing the campus.

a province (so close to London),
the land of Soft Machine and Caravan

some adolescent drama
— meaning costume drama — going on here, before me

a French horn emerges from the theatre

I have to do battle with Ron Silliman’s fake notions of ‘music’: that these make him seem not so unlike that same School of Quietude he denigrates. ‘Music’: shouldn’t it take care of itself? And the American sense of ‘expertise’? We are all inspired amateurs around here, dude!

National Insurance

(Sign on you crazy diamond)

                                                            A government department
housed on an estate in Chelmsford, Essex,
no shop for miles

The road signs don’t always work (lost between Ash and Meopham, having missed the A2). Each village signposts only the next.

rumori, thunder clouds over the campus
(though these move rapidly north-east)

a sense of rain

lighten up
(or tighten up–
Archie Bell & the Drells (or
loosen up–
The Nazz–
or the Alan Bown Set (a
different ‘loosen up’

                            (O’Hara understood
the importance of all this: a version
of flaneurie
                        with a misplaced accent
(mine? here?)
                         (Get the picture?
Yes, we see.

everything at ground level seems quite still

the language of trucks
en route from the tunnel

and news from Australia: the image
of Sasha, Denis and others
in pyjamas, reading books

timor mortis

                         (an influx from the drizzle,
                         the Gulbenkian’s barman collects the empties)

Sasha’s enthusiasms
(how could he write, an act
of solitude?)
            Harry Hooton
a bad poet, but one he cared about
–enough to see the work in print again

O’Hara would have written him up
had he had an O’Hara
                                         I remember him
disrobing to white underpants
–a piece about, was it Grainger?
also, retreating with me to the bar
when Gough Whitlam exceeded his brief
(launching Meredith Burgmann’s book about
    the Green Bans, but instead
             reefing pages from various documents
             to defend his own Prime Ministership
–this would be the last kind feeling
     either of us would have for Gough
(at that stage Sasha, walking, with aid
of a stick)

                     the rain is a false alarm (it doesn’t,
                     here in Kent, so I believe.)
                     but how do these old roofs keep out the water?

                     model aeroplanes in mist
                     over the White Horse

                     the poets gather
                     at the Dark Barn

                     (Rudford, Gloucestershire)

                     . . . outside the Barn
                     a monument to the Welsh
                     killed in 1643

                      — Gloucester stone

Like having to write a discussion paper on the new metal, I can’t wrap my mind round the book I’m supposed to review. My lamp, tested for electrical safety, is no use now (it’s broad daylight)

                                    I rage in a
white room at an institutionally coloured

                     unaccountably, the memory
                     of Kathy Kirby singing
                     ‘Secret Love’ and ‘Dance On’
                     from 1964.

The couple on the London train–brought together by an introduction agency? Comfortably middle-class, nervously drinking beer on their way to a blues (?) concert. They seemed patently ill-matched though unaware of this, filling each other in with their histories. He was obviously on the make and lacked a degree of self-awareness. She was quite possibly alcoholic, not wishing for sexual intimacy but not wanting to be alone.

On Radio 4 this morning, a debate between the presenter and a radical Muslim from London who keeps using the strange metaphor: Wake up and smell the coffee!

St Dunstan’s:     A corner of the cemetery reserved for small children. One grave features a black marble teddy-bear with the photo of a baby on its belly. Next to it, a parrot with wings rotated by the breeze.

the cathedral in the hollow; the army base on the opposite hill.

the light behind the trees
of, was it, Samuel Palmer
signalling an end to something,
the season, or more portentous . . .
late September the fruit
still falling

footsteps in the courtyard
the rattle of leaves on the path

those spade-like leaves
are they alder? (the fruit above
like candles)

‘are we here yet?’

bressummer–the beam across the fireplace

not ‘a floor you could eat off’, a floor
many people have eaten off

                                                       this limbo state

the origins of ‘goth’
(the Puritanism of the academy?)

answers to all these questions.

                                                Ken in New Zealand
                                                Pam in Limbo
                                                John incommunicado
                                                August settling back
                                                            in San Francisco

the gents stride back to the Registrar’s
carrying the kind of cases that ought to contain
    bundles of bank notes

Hürlimann / Braukunst seit 1836

The spread of architecture as landscape reacts against Piranesian compression;
it assumes ‘breathing space’.

I have functioned as though things put together stood for something, or rather become something other than what they were before.

the disjuncts become too great . . .

o.k. so Pound said mind is shapely
–my mind? I wonder.

the button everybody presses . . .
the sequence of genes . . .
elusive bar talk (eleusive, as in

it always seems to be more than the sum of its parts,
though destined as a repository of trivia

(a woman picks several leaves of the Alder(?) for
what purpose?)
–and one decays, blown in,
at the base of a table

my ‘worldly goods’ now somewhere in the
Indian Ocean?

There’s no place in a writing school for a poetic predicated on doubt.

                    a man
                    a map

a huge black & white cat crosses the plaza
& climbs the grassy verge of the library

a curved corrugated roof
begins to merge with the sky.

you figure why Samuel Beckett wrote in French

but what’s out there will always exceed art

rab éfac / amenic / ertaeht

remembering that line of The Angelic Upstarts:
I want two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please

back to the old drafts of a poem that
has lost its way

                                    the sky darkens
and everything seems quite still

diverse routines

across the road a fortnight ago
the bus shelter was stripped of flyers
and painted brown
                                 a week later
it was bulldozed.
                                an orange spotlight
directed at this building is often turned off
at night
                    this is the season
for mosquitoes

I like low ceilings, but not small rooms.

a pattern: the sky clears late afternoon
(it will be after dark when daylight saving ends)

Oxford: the Ashmolean

Tintoretto’s resurrection
Piero di Cosimo–animals fleeing a fire
An anon (?) work showing a French siege, where the armoured figures
                     inhabit flattened perspective like a Wyndham Lewis
Ucello–the Hunt
Sickert’s ‘Ennui’
the sculpted head of Lorenzo di Medici
A watercolour by Natalia Goncharova
Some old men in a work by, was it, Veronese?

Endless convulsions of the Labour Conference reported daily in the Guardian.


                  changeable weather
                  cloudbursts passing over
                  (last night, thunder)

time to read about the ‘poetry wars’

late afternoon the sky opens up
–I mean, lightens–the city below
revealed clearly, its outlying power lines
the military base diagonally opposite

how, by an almost complete avoidance
the matter of . . . .
                                 those who would spell it out

lose out

the matter of England?
the shadow of a football spinning from a knee?
Spitfire Ale? (how Kentish)

what would youth be like? I mean
how ironic are they? who look just like
I looked, are full, undeniably
of the same self-importance (mine, I suspect,
the more naïve)? I would love that sense
of centrality, of things being within my reach.
They’re not, of course. Though no further away
than from them, probably. (Notionally . . .
thanks Ken). Anyway, I wish them well.
It’s a harder place than it was.

I don’t miss my birthplace, yet. At least feel no more alien here than there.

1698–a decade after the ‘glorious revolution’

                    my scrawl
                    my screed

                    getting to the point

                    (or getting to the pint)?

harvest moon (due tomorrow
though possibly obscured by clouds)

the prisons overflowing
–why don’t they resume transportation?
or moor hulks in the Thames?

                                                 (they do)

drive through the rain
to Whitstable to eat vegan
(in my leather jacket)

a hatchet job on a poem
I cut and paste together again

suddenly moss is noticeable, in a pocket
on the south-east of this building–
it must have been there all along?

I’d reach for books
that aren’t yet here

(the harvest moon, full nearest
autumn solstice, would be large
on the horizon were it visible)

                      the head of George Barker
                      upside down on a bookshelf

                      the stars     (a telescope)
                      & electric guitars

                      the revised
                      solar system

                      the smiling face of
                      a telephone on wheels

                      an inverted funnel
                      on the head of a hippopotamus

                      all the bears, frogs and pandas
                      are asleep

                      somewhere in Cambridge

& Miró

tamed by Motown (tamed by Mottram?)
we lie on (someone else’s) bed

                    at the Granta
                     watching wobbly punts

                     the poetics, Cantab. 2006

In the morning paper: Britain really is a shrinking island (erosion).

dismember the poem (one-way ticket)
into ‘hills’ (& dales?)
                                         & date however

a coughing man on the stairs

a lit office in the Tizard Centre

the mizzle lifts from Faversham

At Oare Marshes the roadside thick with bird-watchers (tripods and telephoto lenses). The road peters out at Harty Ferry, tracks rise from the water on Sheppey, the other side.

Vittorio Sereni (tr. Peter Robinson)

                    a scaffold
                    at Escafeld

                    West House Books

the dissolving fabric

a site
for sore eyes     (this apartment)
its grimy carpets

rising damp
a state of life

here, in territory
described by a Londoner in Wellington NZ
as blooody tropical

                     everything verging
                     at equinox
                                                 the hiss
                     of remote cars
                                                       a spot
                     of rain

                                         imagining interiors
                     a house, circa 1750

                     in West St     (West House?)

                                    subject to
                    movement and associated distortion
                    over the ensuing period

the rabbits have disappeared


             (the big ampersand)
             a plug-in infinity

                                                the shadow of a creature
                                                on the upper branches
             (gaps in the foliage)

                                                our minimal décor

             notebooks, sheets
             in which a poem dismantles

             neighbours thump the floor above

Could ‘one-way ticket’ work as a small book, the gaps as sections or page breaks?

plants being built
in Indiana


it does work!

though laid low (chest infection)

the weeks pass quickly

a large spider
emptied into the garden

the grey, and why
a handful of leaves
should have coloured

the dream of cleaning dirty windows

a backward text
erupts through this one

maps show the way to markets
a scale you could step into

where to obtain these portions
these well-lit cover photographs

as Hardy’s soil throws darkness
back at the sky

a notice-board pieces our life together
as debt and adventure

the windows (begrimed casements)
impossible to clean

and now, a light from the street
visible through shifting foliage
an almost-silence, mid-weekend
(the denizens elsewhere)

illness is a kind of boredom
–like money is a kind of poetry?


                    the king’s reall or his
                    stamped face?

                    radio 4

                    the click
                    of plumbing

In the Guardian an item on bushfires & drought in south-east Australia. Another season’s stock lost. The Darling River almost dry.

So much is still ‘up in the air’. Our possible residence a tangle of legalities. We have the contents of four suitcases plus a small pile of books.

outlines of squirrels in the branches
like 1930s woodcuts by Eric Ravilious

The ‘one-way ticket’ piece began as a long poem, then after several drafts appeared not to work. But when regrouped as parts of familiar series (Blue Hills, Dogs &c) it was clear this wasn’t an option either. What another edit showed was that it would work as a loose grouping of pieces with the general title. It’s a little book (like ‘The Nathan Papers’ is a [not so] little book). What I wanted to do in the first place.

a haze over town

these glum bedsits
bred psychedelia

                             though the English
in their songs were always
home for tea

(blotting paper w. chips?)
mother . . . I’m in a field
somewhere in England
and I’ve lost part of my brain
                                                        (Jarvis Cocker)

children’s books were the oddest things
to fall back on
                            a hatch
in the back of a wardrobe
                                            (a way out
of the Home Counties

             extended summer period: the hottest since
             1629 (?)
                             66° in London at 6pm.

             Universities to ‘monitor’ Islamic students activities

The forecast today is ‘rain’, but Kent seems to defy prediction. The ‘weather’ happens elsewhere–or simply, this microclimate isn’t recorded by Radio 4

(Last night: in the station parking lot listening to a program about hedgehogs, frost on the car windows)

People leave (and enter) this building at the oddest hours. Doors slam at 5 am. Half the heaters don’t work.

I can’t read your poems,
I suffer from Silliman’s Ear

this farmhouse like a ship, beached
on a hillside in Kent (& these rooms
with all the disadvantages of ships cabins)

the large window faces north-west, a court
of decaying cardboard boxes, assorted junk,
a laundromat
                               the smaller one, south-east,
the university grounds and the forest, strewn
with food cartons and disposables
                                                              on either side
constant human traffic
                                                  inside, Elizabethan
beams, 1970s dormitory doors with faux-medieval handles, fire notices,
peeling paintwork, boot-sale furniture

a cracked mirror

timetables, council tax bills, various regional maps

an enormous fireplace

Some years ago P’s goods (from Australia) arrived at the Liverpool docks in time for a waterside workers’ strike. He lived out of a suitcase for eight months.

buy shoelaces


maintenance arrive in a van, then leave

il pleut doucement sur la ville

the steady bubbling sound of distant plumbing

Where is the lightning bolt? The implausible John Martin landscape? As they say in the badly-translated futurist movie: ‘Romanticism! You are finished!’

A bored DJ entertains himself, then steps out for a smoke. No-one is listening to the music, it’s just background rumble

The silhouette of a clock-face ticks towards 6 pm.

In the theatre mural figures disport amid curlicues of smoke–nostalgia?

I realise that in this English university setting I expect to see British actors as dysfunctional academics, but instead I get British academics who appear (slightly) like actors.

The new DJ ‘pumps up the volume’. Though no-one is really interested. It’s mostly techno though it could have been made at any time since about 1980. Friends seem to be photographing the DJ though there’s now almost nobody that end of the room.

                      diagonals of rain
                      earlier–the English
                      taking the sunlight while it lasts

                      (though this season has been
                      overly long).

                      I do not miss my country

                      squirrels nibble the damp course

                      & there is nothing
                      upon the long mantelpiece

                      (on the floor:
                      Not Everything Remotely;
                      Understanding Property)

Am I sentimental about the environment?
Why should I care about young people?
(somehow I do)

Poetry is a kind of ecological practice.
You want things to be around
(maybe not in 3. something million years
when the Milky Way collides with some other gaseous body,
but for a while at least, where time makes sense.
Does my desire for this render me an outcast?
or just a not-so-ideal specimen of
homo economicus?

two strawberries in Pewsey on
October the 11th 1906

a jar of Kentish mustard

scuds of rain
a collapsed umbrella

a maintenance man came hammering

                                                     just as next-door’s inhabitants
seem to shift furniture at 3 am
–maybe they’re making a bomb?

whom bomb?

& the overweight guy
who steps outside the door every 15 minutes to smoke.

is that precipitation
or just a fine coat of dirt?

there’s no spectacular ‘turn’ so far
just dead leaves
                            the laundry’s done at least

(those back room figures in Velazquez’ early paintings
–a sketchy Christ viewed through an opening–
as they wash bowls, prepare dishes
all of them looking much like the inhabitants
of Seville circa 1620.

The sad post-coital Mars a testament
to middle-age

Outside in the wet, Covent Garden, waiting for a train.

And the day before that, sheltered by cliffs at St Margaret’s, the Channel walled by container vessels.

And the day before that, a movie that my lack of narrative sense transformed into a raft of inconsistencies. I mean I hadn’t worked out who was telling the story and someone’s character changed unaccountably (‘Why I am not a movie critic’).

eat a banana (from Costa Rica)

possibly sleep

We have been here nearly two months, yet it seems much longer. Paradoxically, the days go quickly.

the promise of a cold morning
this record I keep
                                 Pam en route for Melbourne
the oddness of leaving; the way a habitation
becomes other, once packed; a space, once
of personality, something we’d think
hard to leave, gone, already
from memory.
                            & how many years yet
for Ken & Cath, in Adelaide?

it’s not a virtue of mine to be no trouble,
perhaps an inadequacy.

                                        a fire-alarm test
faults us badly, failing to take account
of a certain weariness, dealing with a situation
that’s as contrived as this is.

my friends in their various places, I think of you all
(hoping that Jenny is well in Wellington)

as I await the frost

(the fire alarm labelled: ‘Bardic #5’)

Some change in the form of life, gives from time to time a new epocha of existence. In a new place there is something new to be done, and a different system of thoughts rises in the mind. I wish I could gather currants in your garden.

                                                                                                                                  –Dr Johnson

                     increasingly dark afternoon
                     though ‘good news’
                     (= MONEY)
                     in the post

                     buy more books!

                                                                 it’s feeling
say the weather people, more like November.

transcribe notes
in the office up the hill
                                          (I can’t read
                                          my own writing)

the prognosis for the planet is not good

does any of this reach Australian newspapers?

do I turn the heater on?

1750–the date of Piranesi’s Fanciful images of Prisons, etchings published by Buzard in Rome, conducting business on the Corso.

                           of John Anderson,
his deep ecology
                                the thought of it now
buried in three small books in a container
‘somewhere in England’.
                                              a respite here
from the deluge, banks of cloud, moving
quickly, this room floored with sunlight

& this, in praise of the lost poets

                                            (the publishers
were not in love with diagrams
–seemingly crude maps
of connectedness

                                        now the effect
                                        of all things
only too apparent

                        bands of sunlight
                        on that chair, the map
of Canterbury crossed by shadow

& waiting

If I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman [cars & girls 1777?]

                                                                                                                          — Dr Johnson

                    the Stour and its tributary channels
                    gush about Deans Mill
                    and under St Radigund’s

                    a network of one-ways
                    it seems impossible to navigate

                    –other end of town, the old tannery
                    up for development, as back lanes
                    connect old pubs and uncertain sites

                    after a day of sunlight the grey blanket
                    comes down and everything stills

                    clocks set back to GMT

The Barbican
The Hayward Gallery
Tate Modern (for drinks only)

Josef Sudek: the detritus of lunch; condensation on a window

Stanislaw Witkiewicz: the self as multiple personality; the look outlasting
the looker

Henryk Ross: a scaffold; a melting negative

Jikka Hanzlová: the tint of grass-blades; luminous tree trunks

                        make something
                        out of eggshells
                        shadows of

                        the long hook
                        hanging from a cross-

                        dance of light
                        on a toast-rack

pipes with their ornate brackets, out
from the gutterings
a tradesman’s clatter
opening two doors

     nail holes
     in the wall

a former port, beached (or beachless)–a hill
in the levels, where every second shop
sells ‘antiques’.

a woman carries a jug of beer up the street

distant shapes of the nuclear plant (across Romney

the consequences of our inaction
will be irreversible

The train to Margate is a myth. Monitors show different times. People just sit on the platform patiently (in an icy wind). I get a refund and go to the ‘Goods Shed’ for coffee (the market). It’s 45 minutes since ‘breakfast’ and 45 before ‘lunch’.

The sense of a different time-frame. In 1992 when we spent three months in Britain it felt like a long time. We’ve been here now two months: in one sense it seems not so long at all, yet in another sense a great deal seems to have happened. In 1992 I kept a proper diary, a page at least of description every day.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but this is:
half-diary, half-what?    The opening of the

(half-man, half-diary)

We lived (1992) from suitcases. But I had plastered a wall of student residence with postcards and magazine cuttings (there seemed to be more art in ‘Arts’ magazines back then).

the lamp’s angle reveals brush strokes on plasterboard
a great sea institutional off-white
the odd dip and puttied hole

a Freudian ship

                                       in which we serve

Laurie Duggan, Britain, 2007

Laurie Duggan, Britain, 2007

Laurie Duggan was born in Melbourne in 1949 and currently lives in England. His most recent books are The Passenger, (UQP, 2006), Let’s Get Lost (with Pam Brown and Ken Bolton, Sydney, Vagabond, 2005), Compared to What: Selected Poems 1971–2003, (Exeter, Shearsman, 2005), and Mangroves (UQP, 2003). Shearsman have also republished his 1987 documentary poem The Ash Range (2005). A selection of earlier work together with critical articles may be found online at

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