"...he does not depict appearances but the forces that shape them and the possibilities they contain."
Jeremy Hooker, writing in PN Review
My author page from the Shearsman website.
Published in Fortnightly Review, 29th June 2014
Living in the Shadow of the Weather (Kawabata 1984)
Ancestral Deaths (Stride 1985)
Decoded Chronicles (Stride 1987)
St Catherine's Buried Chapel (Taxus 1987)
The Invisible Children (Stride 1991)
The Mute Bride (Stride 1998)
Trespasses (Trombone Press 1998)
Ha Ha (Shearsman 2007)
Josian in Ermonie (bending oeuvre 2009)
Bonehead's Utopia (Smokestack 2011)
Hegemonick (Shearsman 2012)
Poems to do with things that happened on, or near, or below the surface of Portsdown Hill in Hampshire (UK). I lived there during the 1970s, my local pub was the Portsdown Inn. The hill, a long east-west chalk ridge, overlooks the city of Portsmouth (home to most of the Royal Navy's surface ships).
Portsdown Hill is a centre of military mysteries; it is encrusted with derelict and still functioning bases and research facilities and it is riddled with tunnels, bunkers, cavernous oil storage reservoirs, sealed up subterranean hospitals, vast bomb shelters and the complex from within which the allies planned Operation Overlord. It is a place of secrets; it is a kind of hinge upon which history has turned; it is a place where individual lives were lauded and made null for the greater good or to gratify the dominant principle, the hegemony.
Everything in the present tense is occluded, occulted, a giddy blur; from Portsdown Hill you can only look back into a past filled with terrors or forward into a view that is equally sublime. Hegemonick is an attempt to bring the present into focus.
Published by Shearsman Books in February 2012.
Paperback, 114pp, 8.5x5.5ins
There is a sphere of power—the centre is beneath
like a bubble over Portsmouth and the harbour,
its hinterland and marine approaches. It has an edge,
it forms a dome, and everything is washed and rewashed
by radar, the endless monitoring and the chatter within.
from Farlington Redoubt
From the blurb: Hegemonick is a ‘free history’ of the war against children, something unearthed; it is a delusional narrative, an ode to oblivion; a hymn to the goddess, the once and future porn queen; a therapeutic journal, partially rewritten; a decoy (but not a plan).
“This is astonishingly powerful writing. The hair
on the back of my head rose. It is a great poem sequence.”
Peter Philpott, Great Works
Along the way the poems explore the context of the 'Paulsgrove paedophile riots' (August 2000), they go deep below ground and, although it might seem odd to some, they go Inside Mary Millington. Mary Millington was the UK's first shameless hardcore porn star. She was a mighty goddess and we love her very much. She committed suicide in 1979.
Hegemonick is not a cosy book. It is meant for grown up adults to read, which means that people on the 'poetry scene' probably wouldn't like it. If you think you might be a part of a 'poetry scene' don't read this book.
Hegemonick: reviews and comments
"A creepy journey through sunlight and dampness, ending
in an Armageddon of sorts. This book creates an atmosphere of rare beauty
and horror that has stayed with me for days."
Claire Lewis, International Times
". . . it is courageous and discerning in its abstract
thought as much as its ventures into holes in the ground or closed military
ruins, in its disclosure of institutional harm at ground level as much as
meticulous detailing of topographical forms which translate into mental acts.
There is a particularly effective long walk in the middle, a release of comparative
calm, cultivating disorientation and vision. It is a passionate writing and
at its heart is the shaping power of perception."
Peter Riley, Fortnightly Review *
"Jordan's poetry obsessively walks and rewalks the
forts, perimeter fences and archaeological sites, recalling childhood memories,
obscure histories and urban myths, as a means to try and make sense of a secret
Owen Hatherley, The Guardian
". . . part-autobiographical about growing up in the
1970s, part-travelogue around militarised Portsdown Hill, part-history, part-mythic,
part-psychogeographical analysis of how our environment (and its secrets)
affects how we think and how the past affects the present. Hegemonick has
the grandiosity of an epic film, full of characters. It is ambitious and hyper-vivid
. . . it is an important, ambitious book."
Andrew Napier, Hampshire Chronicle (1mb PDF file)
" . . . a richly allusive, sometimes cryptic, and
encrypted poetry that, in spite of its hugely ambitious conceptual leaps and
conceits, carries the attention of the reader through the sheer prosodic accomplishment
and imaginative use of image and phrase . . . Such poetic technique reminds
this reviewer of the levels of poetic confidence achieved in Eliot’s
Four Quartets – albeit with much of the apocalyptic and semiotic attributes
of the latter’s most pored-over melting-pot of avant garde high style,
The Waste Land."
Alan Morrison, The Recusant
"Jordan engages with topics of political radicalism,
with the damage done to children, with paedophilia - a minefield which most
avoid discussing or negotiate indirectly - with a whole host of dark materials,
in fact, including an astonishing section on the hounding of the unabashed
porn star Mary Millington . . . This is not a book for those of a nervous
Steve Spence, Stride magazine
" . . . a book of uncommon power and resourcefulness
. . . "
Laurie Duggan, graveney marsh (blog)
"Andrew Jordan's Hegemonick is unlike much being published.
One section deals with Mary Millington, the porn star . . . I'm puzzled as
to how a porn star can be a revolutionary . . . "
Alan Dent, Mistress Quickly's Bed (full text)
"The status of the Underground as an 'imagined village'
where everybody knows each other has brought about stability - and compromised
the forward dynamic written into its charter. This describes, at least vaguely,
the role of the malcontent. No-one is more malcontent than Jordan. And it
describes also the feelings evoked by Hegemonick. The 'affective dissonance'
is unpleasant. I am unwilling to describe Jordan's poetry as good. It doesn't
take you anywhere. I had qualms about publishing it and I have qualms about
putting it over as major poetry in a book. It is full of bad feelings. But
Andrew Duncan, From A Poetry Boom 1990-2010
Shearsman Books, published November 2015
Chapter 10 of the book is here, Partially Coded Fields and Bastions of Exaggeration: Andrew Jordan and Nonism (140kb PDF file)
"I think more of the book than you simply because of
its will to stand up to the force of its own pessimism, in this a kind of
complement to the really negational horror cinema of the 1960s: scream and
scream again? But your Marstonian diagnosis of malcontentedness has some truth:
there is something Jacobean in this kind of dark rhetoric, a deliberately
premodern invocation of the muses of dread which does apply to Sinclair for
confirmation but transcends him by seeing death as actual extinction and murder,
not merely a Travelodge on the Spirit Path to literary celebrity. (Some of
Jordan reminds me of the dark side of you . . . )."
Kevin Nolan to Andrew Duncan
(published by Andrew Duncan on his Angel Exhaust blog)
See Notes around ‘A Poetry Boom’, 13th December 2015
". . . an extraordinary interrogation of an obsessively-drawing,
manipulated-to-destruction landscape, imprisoner of such entities as constructed
essence of martyr pornstar Mary Millington."
Steve Sneyd, Data Dump 192 (full text)
A scan of page two of Data Dump 192 is here (1.4mb PDF file)
* Peter Riley's review of Hegemonick is also available in a selection of his reviews published in book form by The Fortnightly Review under its Odd Volumes imprint: The Fortnightly Reviews: Poetry Notes 2012-2014 (ISBN 978-0692373057). The review is included in the chapter entitled 'Forms of Difference', see page 51.
Hegemonick on the internet
Hegemonick readings and field trips
There will be a number of readings and field trips to do with Hegemonick in 2013. Please go to the events page to see details of these.
The Future Shape of Children
Amongst the various elements that underpin the narrative force and structure of Hegemonick is the assumption that 'globalisation' and deregulation have fundamentally altered the condition of children. This is true everywhere of course, but Hegemonick addresses its reader through a ground that has been 'lost and found', that of Portsdown Hill, near Portsmouth. The whole is addressed, as well as I am able, through a part.
In The Future Shape of Children, a notional Everychild, a global citizen, is imagined within and containing a city somewhere in the UK. This poem explores the context within which that child lives and the forces at work within and around it.
The poem is influenced by thoughts I've had about ideas to do with Ivan Chtcheglov's Formulary for a New Urbanism (1953). The poem was published on the International Times web site in April 2013.
Read the poem here.
Hegemonick gets a mention on marymillington.co.uk, "the official website of Britain's legendary sex goddess". The site, an online celebration of Mary Millington, is edited by Simon Sheridan, author of Come Play with Me: The Life and Films of Mary Millington. The listing, entitled, A Poem for Mary, includes a link to the poem Inside Mary Millington on the Great Works web site.
Poems from a Southern Arts residency at HMP Haslar, an Immigration Removal Centre near Portsmouth.
In these poems a fictional ‘Haslar’ is imagined after it has rebelled and declared independence. It is a fairytale state, an ideal world, a state of disjuncture. It welcomes all — but to what?
Published by Smokestack Books in February 2011.
Order Bonehead's Utopia from Inpress.
Bonehead's Utopia: reviews and comments
"Jordan's very fine HMP Haslar socio-fantasy Bonehead's
Utopia is essential reading."
Owen Hatherley, Nasty, Brutalist and Short (blog)
" . . . it is political poetry in the most imaginative
and intelligent sense, a deeply philosophical collection of poems . . . "
Alan Morrison, The Recusant
"From his anger he has crafted a powerful series of
poems . . . it is a genuinely unsettling book.”
Andrew Napier, Hampshire Chronicle (1.42mb PDF file)
"Jordan is heartening in his subtle assertion of democratic
rights, his insistence that institutions have no right to dispose of the lives
of individuals. The writing is strong, clear, clever and witty . . . It is
more important than anything our so-called leading poets have written over
the past quarter of a century."
Alan Dent, Mistress Quickly’s Bed (40kb PDF file)
" . . . easy to read, although not necessarily an easy
read. It lingers long after the book has been closed . . . "
Emma Lee blog
" . . . a genuinely unique and transformational collection
of polemical poems which subverts the notions of imprisonment and society
through stunning tropes and aphorisms; supremely imaginative stuff."
A.S. Gill comment (Guardian, Books for giving)
Bonehead's Utopia on the internet
Inside the Outside An article published
in Poetry Review
(Volume 94, No 4, Winter 2004/5)
A PDF can be downloaded from The Poetry Society by those who use their app, otherwise click here to download my pdf (100kb file).
The Haslar residency is referred to in an article called It's just not cricket which was published in The Guardian on 10th January 2007. The article, which is by Richard Lea, expresses a scepticism about writing residencies that I find myself in agreement with. As far as I have been able to see, most residencies and similar such projects tend to be for the benefit of the 'creatives' who lead them.
Mine was an exception. HMP Haslar went to me because all the usual recipients had already been funded to create their own 'artist-led' residencies under a scheme called Year of the Artist. With the Haslar job, Southern Arts kept the 'artist-led' nature of the scheme a secret. They lied throughout the setting up of the residency, even arranging a fake interview (the librarian in the prison, who was persuaded to play along, confessed all later). It was no consolation to me that I had been picked in advance and that there were no other 'applications' as no-one else knew about the Haslar prison project. Although I sometimes wonder why arts administrators behave as they do, I know there is no point. (See Note below)
What follows are extracts from the Guardian article (my bits). Robert Potts had already published Inside the Outside, an article about the residency, in Poetry Review (see above for details); I did my best to express myself clearly when I spoke to his journo.
The poet Andrew Jordan, who found his only residency at Haslar detention centre for asylum seekers “difficult and demanding”, also has reservations. “I think arts administrators like residencies because it helps them to justify their existence,” he says. “The whole thing is phoney and writers of integrity are compromised if they get involved with it. I have no doubt that some good writing comes out of residencies, but from what I have read, most of it is rubbish.”
“There are all manner of unmet needs among detainees in Haslar,” he says. “They did not need a poet. They needed interpreters, advice, information, legal representation and healthcare, including, for many of them, help with coping with the effects of torture in their country of origin and the effects of being detained without trial in the UK.”
“Some detainees told me things that were difficult to hear. I didn’t encourage this as I could see the dangers of playing the therapist, but it happened anyway. In Haslar, nobody wanted to listen to the detainees. Some of them really needed to talk to somebody.”
To read the whole article, click here.
Note It might be that things are done differently in other parts of the UK. My knowledge of arts administrators is restricted to the central south of England.
From the blurb: These poems explore the remnants of a system of ancient narrative trackways that criss-cross the landscapes of south and south west England. These flows of energy underpin the hermetics of enclosure. They are explored here for the first time.
This book might be a strategy – a self-help manual for the ontologically dispossessed – or just an encouragement to trespass in the newly enclosed purlieu of the self.
Tell it how you want, emblematic landscapes – and how we perceive them – can mirror identity and relationship, creating a cultural space within which both can become tenable.
Published by Shearsman Books in 2007.
Paperback, 98pp, 8.5x5.5ins
Ha Ha: reviews and comments
"Jordan's writing has a fine lyrical streak . . . There
is an almost-symbolist, 'high-art' method to his tracing of the landscape
which is constantly undermined by the bathos of his asides and deconstructions.
Quite how he achieves this 'effect' is difficult to pin down . . . there simply
isn't anyone else around writing 'about' landscape in this manner."
Steve Spence, Tremblestone
The full text of the review is here.
Andrew Jordan's landscape . . . is strongly marked by history
and myth, and its 'figures', as well as the male speaker and his female companion,
are landscape features, such as enclosures, barrows, stone circles, chalk
hill-figures, and weapons establishments and cold war bunkers - all symbols
of power. He brings a radical politics to bear on the power of myths of place.
His is thus a poetry of suspicion which uses post-modem strategies, deploying
quotation marks and italics, juxtaposing romantic and ironic perspectives,
and subverting narratives of identity. The play of an acute sceptical intelligence
pervades Ha Ha."
Jeremy Hooker, Source unknown
The full text of the review is here.
Ha Ha on the internet
Palimpsest - first published in Angel Exhaust 15
The Antiquarians - first published in Angel Exhaust 15
poems in Great Works
Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural
Sabotage and Semiotic Terrorism (Serpent's Tail 1997)
Stewart Home (Editor)
The Equi-Phallic Alliance and Poetry Field Club contributed
Issue 1 of The Listening Voice newsletter to this anthology.
"Mind Invaders is a commercially published book that
consists principally of texts that had previously been distributed non-commercially.
This resulted in some glaring contradictions which the publisher found difficult
to accept. For example, a number of texts written by diverse hands are attributed
to the multiple identity Luther Blissett . . . The publishers also disliked
what they saw as the more 'difficult' material I'd included - suggesting in
particular that I might remove a piece by the Equi-Phallic Alliance. I resisted
this and the Serpent's Tail gave way. I am sure they would have been more
intransigent if they'd understood what the piece they found incomprehensible
was actually about."
Stewart Home, from ON THE MIND INVADERS ANTHOLOGY
A talk originally entitled 'Mind Bending, Swamp Fever & The Ideological Vortext: How Avant-Bard Satire Blisters the Cheeks of the Aparatchiki'
Contributors include: Luther Blissett, International Gravediggers, Outer Spaceways Incorporated, The Temple Ov Psychic Youth, Preliminary Committee for the Founding of a New Lettrist International, Nigel Ayers, Alph The Shaman, South London Association of Autonomous Astronauts, Workshop For A Non-Linear Architecture, Anti-Euclidean Action, Gruppe M, Decadent Action, Matthew Fuller, John Fare, Equi-Phallic Alliance, Campaign to Abolish the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Mandy B, London Psychogeographical Association, Monty Cantsin, Ross Birrell, BD, Inner City AAA, Neoist Alliance.
Andrew Jordan: poetry & propaganda - a critical
The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City
Jonathan Charley, Editor | Routledge 2018
(See Chapter 12)
“This, I realised, was my first introduction to the work of the poet Andrew Jordan . . . He has created some of the strangest, most personal and most moving work on what the built environment does to people written in Britain in the last couple of decades.”
" . . . a created and curated England, that of the
National Trust and English Heritage, where power and its ruthless exercise
are softened into sweetness and light; and the other false landscape is the
imaginings Jordan tries to create to counter them. A working-class revolt
to save the Tricorn Centre, an immigration detention centre creating its own
Communist state, the people of Paulsgrove exchanging the News of the World
for World Revolution. These are exactly the same landscapes, and neither is
‘true’ – but one involves the people who live in them taking
control of them, and in so doing, taking control over their destiny."
from False Landscape Syndrome:
The poetry and propaganda of Andrew Jordan
From the blurb: "This Companion breaks new ground in our knowledge and understanding of the diverse relationships between literature, architecture, and the city, which together form a field of interdisciplinary research that is one of the most innovative and exciting to have emerged in recent years."