“London in the dark end-times of the late noughties; escaped war criminals and their hired thugs scavenge like hyenas amid the city’s smut and glitter, the system appears in nonchalant free-fall and words drop cheaply as grimy metropolitan rain. With this dystopian backdrop, where language is spun, redacted and renditioned, McCabe and Reed’s gritty riposte performs an angry and elegant resistance.
The result of this psychogeographic collaboration between two of modern poetry’s most distinct voices is this – a poetry chain-letter that seeks to interrogate the city at one of the most peculiar and sinister points in contemporary history and to map the capital on foot, under their own light; poems as foundlings; the weight of language and place obsessively and voraciously explored. Beneath flagstones, in river silt and on the top decks of buses, the strange, dark energies of the city find their way into this electrifying exchange of poems.”
“McCabe and Reed’s wide-eyed, X-rayed Cubist vision of London is more than a cultural mapping. It is a significant addition to the poetry of London. Partly a response to Whitehall’s warring, it uncovers deeper historical and psychogeographical interplay within the city. Horizontal and vertical layers of story are contextualized and abstracted to reveal multifarious states of being, control and flux. These anchored, edgy scripts of multiverse unearth deposits in angular localised texts that make you smile, laugh, wonder and leave you wanting more. A tour de force in every way.”
– David Caddy
Chris McCabe was born in Liverpool in 1977. His previous collections are The Hutton Inquiry, Zeppelins and THE RESTRUCTURE (all with Salt Publishing). His work has been described by The Guardian as “an impressively inventive survey of the uses of English in the early 21st century”. He has recorded a CD with the Poetry Archive and has had work included in numerous anthologies including Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010), The Captain’s Tower: seventy poets celebrate Bob Dylan at seventy (Seren, 2011), Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins, 2012) and Dear World & Everyone in it (Bloodaxe, 2013). His plays Shad Thames, Broken Wharf (also published by Penned in the Margins as a limited edition box) and Mudflats have been performed in London and Liverpool. He works as the Poetry Librarian at The Saison Poetry Library and teaches for The Poetry School.
Jeremy Reed has been for decades one of Britain’s most dynamic, adventurous and controversial poets; The Independent called him “British poetry’s glam, spangly, shape-shifting answer to David Bowie”. He has published over 40 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, winning prestigious literary prizes such as the Somerset Maugham Award, and, on coming to live in London in the 1980s, was patronised by the artist Francis Bacon. Amongst his fans are J.G. Ballard, Pete Doherty and Bjork who has called his work “the most beautiful, outrageously brilliant poetry in the world”. His poetry publications in recent years include Heartbreak Hotel (Orion), Duck and Sally Inside, This Is How You Disappear (both Enitharmon), West End Survival Kit (Waterloo Press), Bona Drag (Shearsman) and Piccadilly Bongo with Marc Almond (Enitharmon), and his most recent novels are The Grid (Peter Owen) and Here Comes the Nice (Chomu Press). Jeremy Reed also works and performs with musician Itchy Ear as The Ginger Light.
A black network in London’s thalamus,
a landscaped-over solid trawl
licking a trace into Dead Dog Basin,
like a path-lab procedure,
a subterranean autopsy
of body parts in soup, bottles and dogs,
a swirly ooze down to Kentish Town loch
and under to St Pancras,
furred arteries pushing to King’s Cross
as cold bacterial soup, a mucky rush
that puddles on the road sometimes
in thunder-rain at Holborn and Blackfriars
in think-bubbles, the river’s secret life
come up to be decoded like intelligence
and splashed through by the tube exit,
I’ll never know I’ve walked it home
in squidgy traces on the floor
at South Hill Park like a liquid barcode.
We talk about the river’s drop
at the Magdala, drunk out of the rain
in leaf-slidy November, the street
wallpapered over by stripped orange leaves;
and someone claims they’ve fucked beside its source,
the bottomless pool by the aqueduct
power-pointing into the river
to feel its drive into the underground,
but it’s not clear where water starts,
unlike a road, its shoplifting impulse
traffics into a dark gritty corridor.
We stand above it as we talk,
a disturbed system of tunnels and tubes,
aquifers, islanded from the rain,
and I can feel the drop under my feet
into the Fleet pit, as I buy a round
and feel the fourth or fifth light up my brain.
Wapping Old Stairs
A lighter, a camera, a PLUMS bottle
— MACKINTOSH BROS. —
washes in the tide at the Old Stairs :
I smash the bottle against ceramic & brick
— no message but ink —
the content oozes conger black
slicks wet in ebony nox
gluts in chunks its obsidian soup,
the river’s bed condensed to wet ash
— no message —
the camera ejects the card,
digital images crust in wet clay
embedded with the river’s source.
I take the lighter & camera —
past Tower Bridge a courier sits
on the pavement — head between knees —
opened envelopes around his feet,
two Latino men shine the bullion
of the Tate & Lyle logo
— out of the strong came forth sweetness —
as cigar smoke rises like cremations
of vermin. At Dark Horse Walk
a payroll manager stares out the tide’s volta,
pockets an Identity Card, folds up collars —
I scratch the wheel of the lighter :
its wet flint adds nothing to this
(depleted uranium mix)
The 5pm sky’s like rainy sapphires
a blue toxic hydrocarbon blanket,
and you’re my pick-up, bite my lip
to redden like a strawberry.
It’s later in accelerated endgame time
by 600 seconds than when we met
at the compressed Starbucks on Hollen Street,
you a Beijing space-time interloper
put into a blonde-bobbed Eurasian mix.
The psychopathic jackal Tony Blair,
four blacked-out Range Rovers gunned
through town, a war criminal’s carbon tail
choking polluted haze, his handgun grin
cold as forensics, czar to every war’s
genocide, the killer autocrat
smeared in depleted uranium, Gulf blood,
the meltdown hedge funder — the commandant
guarded 24/7 by thugs in suits,
Glock pistols in their Paul Smith repertoire.
We watch his cars open a corridor
into a cannibalistic future —
Blair crunches Cherie for a final meal.
The day builds on us like a pyramid
of neural info — love me to the end
of Soho village — there’s no other way
sighting those tyres that leave blood on the bend.
for Kelvin Corcoran
It’s the music of what matters
it pulls me this way always
across Waterloo Bridge
in search of the poet
— revenant of sliproad hymns —
the Isle of Dogs smatters
its SIM cards to the stars
as Westminster descales
in the Counting House
of the river’s pummelling,
the Aldwych arcs a scythe against
Bush House & pushes me north
— in search of the poet —
through the contented Squares
of Tavistock, Russell, Bloomsbury,
where my mind lost its trace —
night air around Gt. Ormond St
when my son was strung with fluids
like a doll in a rockpool
I walk that way through reduced serotonin
to the glyphs of SWEDENBORG HALL
inside the poet sings
with a haemorrhage on his mind —
adds his message to the city’s signs :
the dark enfolding road we leave behind
A blue light-box, deep sea ultramarine,
an Yves Klein shot with toothpaste blue
(Colgate Oxygen) faces out
on Broadwick Street, a rainy Sunday fuzz
pixelating beadily, a damp glow
grainy Soho 4pm 30/11 chill
we take inside from reflective windows
of Cowling & Wilcox opposite.
(I make adjustments for altered place states
in my sci-fi Soho novel The Grid)
and find immersion in 150 teas
and choose a Pau Dragon Orchid, scent
written into the name, a gold sauna
poured in a cup, a steamy tangy trick
turned on the palate — it’s your green tea cake —
three leaf-green suitcases pitted in mousse
like baggage angled on the carousel
arrests my eye, an arty rococo detail
designed to tease the bite: the Cantonese
next to us fork venison puffs
and lobster dumplings, slowly, incisively
like surgery, a serious graft
of separating textures, while I stare
out at a 6ft strip of afternoon
leaked in with shop lights, frontage, drizzled smear,
a Broadwick Street industrial grey different
from any other Soho grey
and feel the transient suspense, the last
shot-down blues bled out of the winter day.
Alderman Stairs, E1
Under Alderman Stairs chains latch
to brick, moss-covered steering wheels
of Volvos silenced in the woods
— interiors hushed with vines —
an anchor rigged with a rope of horsehair
and matted with sponge. The city’s
urgencies close-off above, quaint
as tea-rooms from the debris & crush
of this basement shoreline, a cellar
of thanatos drinking games. A shingle
of dud electrics glint the base of a glass
like a monocle that blinds, the petrified
crust of a stout bottle holograms
an eagle in the tide’s dispensary — we drink
to ooze these toxins merrily. What sunlight
the city takes in early March is caged here,
like the underside of a disused pier, ribbed
with blackened timber & splintered barge-
beds. I walk like a hangman that scattered
the revellers as the grey beach rolls
under my treads on an axis of lichen —
finger-nails hook damp wood for gravity.
A trickle like coins from a hostelier’s
pouch counts itself in crustaceous syllables
from under the stairs : there, like a kissing
chamber enclosed in the corner, a stream
runs from a lost river or a leak from
an ancient watermain, choking back
to its source. My shadow sprawls on the
bricks beneath, as if to attach itself to itself
and multiply under stalactites in this unit
of storage the city fails to lease, a hub for
rats & disused fibre-optics. There is enough
space to sit inside & for the river to rise
and cancel this bucket of oxygen, closing
London back to ground level as the detritus
swirls to the surface for the tea-drinkers
to watch — swirls of champagne corks,
consumables — that submerge again & rise
with the broken glass & the bladderwrack.
from Whitehall Jackals (Nine Arches Press, 2013).
Order Whitehall Jackals.
‘london bacteria is virulent: writing whitehall jackals’ by Chris McCabe.
Whitehall Jackals reviewed in Stride and Sabotage.
Visit Chris’ blog.
Visit Jeremy’s website.
Jeremy Reed’s work is mesmerizing. He seems like great person to be stuck in the rain with. Lovely work
I’ve been playing with the idea of buying W J for a while. you may have settled the matter. Long admirer of Jeremy’s work, Chris an unknown quantity which I will now soon rectify.
Thanks for this – enormous thanks!
I highly recommend Chris’ work. I’ll be featuring another of his recently published collaborations, Pharmapoetica: a dispensary of poetry (Pedestrian Publishing, 2013), within the next couple of months:
Thanks so much for your comments.
Will look forward to it greatly. Many thanks.