Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Completely Concealed by a Sheet

There follows a sequence of four things which I read a year or two ago at the Lemon Monkey in Stoke Newington. It was for a lovely reading series run by Katy Evans-Bush. The Lemon Monkey was a sort of delicatessen cafe with girls in pencil skirts and blouses darting up ladders to fetch potted cheeses and oils which cost more than the things you're going to cook in them, but maybe that's the point or something.

I had intended to read one or two of the 'Self Promotional Strategies' and then some trusty old pieces from my books for the rest of the set but, for the first time ever, I had left my books in a pile by my front door, completely concealed by a sheet of paper with DO NOT FORGET THESE, CLOTHEARS! written on it. So I had to read the whole sequence instead and left feeling that I hadn't given a terribly good account of myself. Anyway, the other day someone mentioned to me that they kind of liked the 'Self Promotional Strategies' sequence and whatever happened to that and was I planning to finish it? So, given that it's such a beautiful day, I thought I'd dig it out and post it below and maybe even finish it next week before DISSERTATIONAGEDDON hits and I can only communicate in numbers between 55 and 78.

A Cruel, Unnecessary and Assumptive Thing


When I made figurines of myself out of Foam Rubber XVI – a malleable material that returns to its original shape when pummelled or squeezed – I marketed them as the World’s First Poetry Doll. I was able to use the publicity I had already garnered from prize nominations and newspaper articles as a foundation from which to build a rudimentary ‘media-gurney’, from which I hung a ‘media-cauldron’ from which a small ‘media-slew’ of further articles about my publicity stunt poured forth. I was photographed in the factory where the dolls were produced. I had to pose with a quill pen by a Foam Rubber XVI Implicator Machine with a thoughtful expression on my face. And then I had to pose side by side with one of the poetry dolls – which was a simplified version of me, rendered in Foam Rubber XVI. Journalists asked me questions such as: ‘Where did you get the idea to make the World’s First Poetry Doll?’ and ‘Were your parents upset when you decided to make the World’s First Poetry Doll?’ and ‘What, for you, makes the perfect poetry doll?’

I answered the questions by squeezing the World’s First Poetry Doll’s tummy, activating a tiny voice synthesiser within, similar to the voice synthesisers you find in talking greeting cards. The doll answered the questions: ‘I have a really itchy patch of psoriasis on my shin,’; ‘In the future maybe museums will look around us!’ and ‘Trepanation,’ respectively.

Then poet and blogger Jonathan Rail heard about what I had done and wrote about it on his blog. Jonathan Rail said on his blog that it was tragic to see I had turned myself into a commodity.

And I was like, ‘Oh, really, Jonathan? Is that what I did? I had no idea that was what I did when I LITERALLY COMMODIFIED MYSELF was to turn myself into a commodity. Heavens to fucking betsy, Jonathan, is that what I did? Made myself into a commodity when I commodified myself? Because if it is I feel really silly now. I feel like the man who went through three years of police training and emerged, to his dismay, as a policeman, Jonathan, is what I feel like. Jonathan. Jonathan. Jonathan. Your name has lost all meaning.’

A small magazine asked me to retaliate to Jonathan Rail’s “accusation” and I said it just showed what a credulous fucking moron Jonathan Rail was.



This was great as I was totally able to use the small magazine interview to wage war on Jonathan Rail who responded with what he hoped might be perceived by his readers as honour and restraint, drawing attention to my use of swearing and capital letters and deducing that I must therefore be unhinged. ‘Which would be all very well if Jonathan Rail HAD any motherfucking readers!’ I wrote on my blog which I had recently set up. There followed a lengthy exchange containing many passive-aggressive phrases such as ‘I find it interesting…’ from Rail and out-and-out aggressive phrases such as ‘buttock risotto’ from me. ‘Because that’s all you are, Rail,’ I concluded. ‘Buttock risotto.’

Soon Masters MacAndrew felt it necessary to weigh-in on her own blog – but instead of taking sides she chose to come on all worthy and use it as a metonym for ‘The problem with the spectacle of machismo in contemporary poetry’ in a post entitled, ‘The Problem With Contemporary Poetry’, beginning, “The problem with contemporary poetry is that high-octane rows and disputes (such as the current testosterone-fuelled spat between Luke Kennard and Jonathan Rail) tend to obscure – by dint of they are more interesting – the work itself. It is akin to the spectacle of peacocks fighting.”

I didn’t like the heavy-handed attempt at implication in MacAndrew’s ‘opinion piece’, but by this point I was warming to my role as the “Bad Boy” of English letters, so I wrote to MacAndrew: ‘You even know what a fucking metonym is, Masters MacAndrew, you fucking idiot? Because from here it looks like you don’t. And what kind of name is Masters anyway? You name yourself after your postgraduate degree or something? It seems unlikely that you have one as you capitalise the with in titles and write clauses like “by dint of they are more interesting”. What exactly is the subject of that sentence, Masters MacAndrew? The OF or the ARE? Rest assured that when ambulances pass you, their sirens are saying to you MOR-ON, MOR-ON.’

Masters MacAndrew ignored my statements as she was still going for some kind of “saintly forbearance” thing in front of all six of her blog readers. ‘Wake up, Masters,’ I wrote in her comments field. ‘The only reason anyone reads blogs is to see people wailing on each other with three-foot word clubs.’

Next I changed my name by deed-poll from Luke Kennard to Like Kennard. ‘What do you think about that, Masters?’ I said. ‘My name is a fucking simile.’



The Luke Kennard Poetry Doll was selling steadily, but it wasn’t going to provide any lasting awareness of me as an artist – I was under no illusion about that, whatever Jonathan Rail and Masters MacAndrew thought about it. (They thought I was under an illusion about it).

In order to continue to be recognised as relevant I would require some form of movement – a movement which would become synonymous with pulling crazy shit like the World’s First Poetry Doll. I began to survey the territory of contemporary poetry, but found it largely boring. I couldn’t shake anything up by recruiting from the very pool the surface of which I was trying to disturb. I mean I couldn’t, could I?

So then I just called a couple of my friends, Rob and Joe – and said, ‘Guys, I’ve always liked your work, and recently I’ve noticed that we share certain unignorable aesthetic parallels.’

‘What work?’ said Rob. ‘I haven’t done anything since we were sixteen.’

‘But you could do some more, Rob,’ I said. ‘That stuff you did when you were sixteen on your Chemistry folder – that had real energy.’

‘You know,’ said Rob, ‘I probably still have that Chemistry folder somewhere.’

And so a new movement was born. (Joe would play his guitar). We called ourselves the New Threat and quickly set up a magazine and a reading series in the basement of a pub and a blog.

Anne Neithers pointed out on her blog that T. S. Eliot had sold a limited edition series of T. S. Eliot rag-dolls to his closest admirers so my doll wasn’t really the world’s first poetry doll after all.

‘You wait, Neithers,’ I said to her in her comments field. ‘That doll is old news now. The New Threat are where it’s at.’

‘”Where it’s at”?’ said Neithers. ‘Like the Beck song from the nineties?’

‘I like the cut of your gib, Neithers,’ I said. ‘You’re in!’

And so the first female member of The New Threat was inducted. This was important because otherwise we would have looked sexist.



I hadn’t expected the blogosphere to react well to the New Threat – our very purpose was to shake people up and if there’s one thing people don’t like, it’s being shaken up. You can tell because if you translate the metaphor literally and go up behind a complete stranger and grab them by the shoulders and shake them, they don’t like it.

Sometimes it struck me that shaking people up was therefore a cruel, unnecessary and assumptive thing to do, but these feelings soon passed. It was a mean, impolite world now, and that was what the New Threat stood for – that and being new and threatening.

The first people we had to shake up were old guard ‘wannabe mainstream’ poets like Jonathan Rail and Masters MacAndrew – both bourgeois appeasers of the highest order.

Like a Standard, Cylindrical

When I haven't posted anything to this blog for a while, it may be tempting to assume that my life has fallen appart. Failing to maintain your internet presence, like failing to maintain an adequate skin-care regime, is the first sign that all is not right on the inside, in your brain, is the kind of opinion I imagine you holding.

I was eating a Major Cheddar (you know, those giant Mini Cheddars which come packaged like a standard, cylindrical packet of biscuits - what japes!) and suddenly bit down on something hard and marble-like, which turned out to be a piece of tooth and a large lead-like filling which I'd had installed around 15 years ago when they still made tooth fillings out of crushed thermometers, moon dust and cyanide.

The resulting pain was something I can only describe as "whistly". So I registered with a charming dentist who discovered another filling that needed replacing in a tooth which wasn't even hurting yet!

'Bit of a sweet tooth, sir?' he said.

'Ung,' I said, trying not to rustle the qtr. of Kola Kubes against the qtr. of Coughing Candy in my jacket pocket. I am always on the back foot at the doctors, etc., as a result of just having lied about my weekly alcohol intake (especially as 1 unit = standing near a quiz machine, 5 units = receiving communion, 10 units = a small serving of trifle).

'It's quite deep cavity. It's probably fruit,' he said. 'You eat your six a day, right?'

[Thinks: SIX?!]

'Oh yeth,' I said, noticing, as I formed the words, that there was sherbert on one of my shoes.

'Do me a favour then,' he said, 'just zush them all up in a blender and drink it all down in one go. It's much better for your teeth.'

Joke's on him, of course, as I'm lucky if I eat six pieces of fruit a week and most of the things I drink describe themselves - with charming self-deprecation - as a "juice drink". It's a shame that even the things that are good for us are actually bad for us as well, eh?

In other news, there's a stunningly lovely review of Planet-Shaped Horse by Alex Campbell right here. It is the kind of review which more or less makes up for all the crappy reviews I've ever received in that it shows that another human being who doesn't know me completely gets something I've written, thereby proving that all the stupid critics who've written stupid bad reviews in the past were just doing it because they were stupid! That was why! Because they were stupid! I almost feel silly for not having seen it before. Why lose sleep over the opinion of someone who is stupid? Ooh, I hope I get that job at Stupid Land! I wonder what the stupid interviewers thought of me? I hope I answered their stupid questions properly! WHO DOES THAT?! WHO WOULD EVER WORRY ABOUT THAT?!

More PSH bonus content to follow. I've sold the last fifty copies and have just received a new bundle today, so keep those orders trickling in to I'm off to the post office. As Harold from Neighbours once appeared to say when I was watching it with the sound down, "We are two great seabirds."