Tag Archives: Collaborations With Adam Stark

Letters To Palestine

 

Postscript Two

I’ve been meaning to write
To you again
Need to spell out a few things
I regret these letters
Their false starts
Cut out my tongue
It starts
I’m sorry I wrote you
This letter
I deplore its forged nostalgia
Its staged retreat
Its black logic
Its entire lack of yelping dogs
Last year when the roofs
Were knocked in Gaza
Inside the letter
Moved hands of mowed up grass
Tonight my prisoner kissed
The ground of their cell
Tonight in Aida Camp
That glowing stone
Its starlings and its shrikes
In the presence of friends
In their bodies
In their seams of loving scars
You have two minutes to leave your life
Get out of your house
So I give you tonight
And every single other night
To say, Free Palestine
Against the occupying army
Against their petty checkpoints
Their poems of racist laws
Say, Free Palestine
Against their wall
That field of profit
Their webs of ordered silk
Their humiliations, prisons
Their slow control of faucet’s
Poisoned water
As in 70% of your body
And then with what remains
Of your flesh say
Free Palestine
Against the tourist, the thief
In a hail of stones
In a certain hail of peace
In endurance
In boycott
In Oslo
Say, Free Palestine
And these are your only words
Free Palestine
At Arizona’s border
Inside David Cameron’s hemlock soul
In Balfour’s bleeding ear
In the ventricular halls of England’s colonial heart
Say Free Palestine
It ends in music
Yes, it ends in frozen coins of blissful glass
Say Free Palestine
It starts in your mouth
It ends in the streets
Say Free Free Palestine
Say its been good writing to you
Say it clear as hell
And then say it again
Free Free Palestine
Go on I know these words are in you.

 

I wrote this poem for a performance with Rumour Cubes at Bar Bloc Glasgow (11 March, 2015). It responds to the first version of ‘Letters To Palestine’, which was recorded with the band three years ago. In the new version ‘Letters To Palestine’ was followed by ‘Postscript Two’, which was performed over a pulse of clanging sound.

As well as performing the new version of the song in Glasgow, the song was also performed in Newcastle and London. No recording of the full version exists. ‘Letters To Palestine’ is part of the much longer Living In project.

1871

Go straight to the digital companion project to 1871: These Cuts Cut Too Many To Name (requires flash), or read on for the full story of the poem. 

“We’ve got a song for you”, they said, as I walked into the studio on Curtain Road, and after the obligatory buzz of pedals being powered and the occasional hit of a snare, they played it: the form was fast and fragmented with gaps left for poetry.

‘As the law peals from the far edge of a glove darkly at night how everything turns/ In and to the white snow/ Turns’

Here’s the back story: Rumour Cubes, a band I’ve been working with since 2010, had been booked to play a gig on 18 March 2011 at an Arts Uncut event at the Bull and Gate (Kentish town).

That date, eighteenth of March, sound familiar? It did to me. The gig coincided with the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune. The show, not the Commune, featured comedians like Josie Long and speakers like Steve Hart, Regional Secretary of Unite the Union. It wanted to open up the anti-cuts movement to a wider audience and Rumour Cubes were going to help.

Continue reading 1871

(CODE_WORDS)

“Firm_cyborgs_plotted_phylum_zap_arsenic_bind” (from Code_Words)

In 2006-7 I collaborated with Adam Stark (for the first time) to make the procedural poem (CODE_WORDS). The poem recoded a speech that was already highly coded: ‘On The Three-Part Comprehensive Settlement’. This was delivered by American Secretary of State Dr. Condaleeza Rice in Israel on the 31 July 2006 during the war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Some political commentators described Rice’s speech as a ‘coded message’ directed towards the Israeli administration, letting them know that they only had a limited amount of time until international pressure would make a cease-fire necessary.

Code_Words
A visualisation of the poetic form (a finite state automata)

In the poem/program (visualised above) pressing ‘Pause’ in the GUI activated a ‘replace’ function where the start word ‘birth’ was replaced with a pre-selected word from Rice’s speech. ‘Stop’ activated a ‘delete letter’ function, where letters from the previous word were deleted and then reordered to form a new word, and ‘Play’ operated a non-deterministic function where the computer chose, through psuedo-chaotic means, between two pre-programmed options where letters were added to the previous word, and then reordered to form a new word without any letters from the previous word being deleted. In other words,  every word within the finite state machine had four other words leading from it.

(CODE_WORDS) can be downloaded here. It’s pretty lo-fi, and only runs on Windows, but it was 2006 and our first collaboration.

Continue reading (CODE_WORDS)

The Gove Curve

‘The time for sitting is over and the revolution begins. “Gather your weapons, grab what’s at hand, there’s an uprising and we’re all gathering”, the music seems to cry. Then, when everyone is gathered we hear the clear and articulate reading of a poem by Steve Willey. As the words end, the crowd stands there in sad and silent reflection. There will be no revolution today. It’s a non-Hollywood ending and I like it.’ (Echoes and Dust)

To make sound and live performance a central part of a poetics means to make poems where the external context of the performance becomes a creative element in the poem’s internal form.

rumour cubes art work
The Gove Curve (cover art version for The Narrow State, the album by Rumour Cubes)

In a live, improvised, or even practiced performance the form of the poem is located in the space where that performance happens. The poem is filled with history. Working with Adam Stark and Rumour Cubes has allowed me to enter new spaces, reach new audiences, and orientate myself and my work in different ways to the history that is unfolding around me.

The space in which The Gove Curve was written and performed was a space in which Conservative MP Michael Gove was proposing and initiating a series of education reforms. He was doing this in the context of economic cuts to Britain’s state and welfare institutions.

The Gove Curve was a protest against these reforms and the hostile ideologies that motivate them. To an extent, the logic of the poem rests upon one single pun: ‘school’ refers both to the interactive, social groupings adopted by fish and the educational institution used by humans. The Gove Curve describes and dissects them both.

Post Rock, Solstafir, Rumour Cubes
Performing ‘Gove Curve’ at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes, 22 Jan 2015

The Gove Curve has been published by Critical Documents in the International Egg and Poultry Review (Cambridge: 2011), and by Max Czollek in the German language online magazine Kultmucke (2013). It has been performed with Rumour Cubes in venues across the UK.