Guest post by poet/artist Alec Finlay from forthcoming book “Minnmouth”

Here is a guest post from poet / artist  Alec Finlay.

Image result for alec finlay

We are extremely pleased to host it.

From his forthcoming book Minnmouth


‘The poet’s justification is the richness of his vocabulary.’

Sadok sudei II, A Trap for Judges II, Russian Futurist manifesto , 1913, D. Buriuk, E. Gure, N. Buriuk, V. Maiakovskii, E. Nizon, V. Khlebnikov, B. Livchits, A. Kruchenykh

This post by Alec Finlay is from a forthcoming book, Minnmouth, which consists of two complementary elements, namepoems and tidepoems, and is accompanied by tidesongs, a vocal composition by Hanna Tuulikki and Lucy Duncombe, derived from the text. The visual poems in the final section of the book are a score connecting the contents of the book with the songs. The sea is, once again, a theme for our time. Our relationship to the coast is changing. Minnmouth bodes the threat of coastal inundation and promise of marine renewables. The poems are anchored by place-names; they utlize the regional languages of the East Coast of the British Isles, from the Out Stack of Unst to Great Yarmouth.

Russian Futurist or willbeist poets referred to themselves as wordmakers; I have proposed wavewright and windwright to refer to designers of energy devices, and speechwright, for makars who follow the precepts of tidalpoetics. Minnmouth riffs off Futurist poetics, especially the inspired wordmaker Velimir Khlebnikov, who grew up by the Caspian Sea among the Kalmyk people, ‘Mongol nomads of a Buddhist faith’. Markov explains that ‘the sounds of foreign tongues’ marked his poetry in terms of sense and sound: this project follows Khlebnikov’s use of neologisms, dialect, and ancient languages. The book concludes with this sequences of detached sentences propose a fluxus from poetic devices to energy devices; a sketched history, part-lost, part-imagined, whose origins lie in the experimental analysis of wind by the windwright, EW Golding, at Costa Head, Orkney, in the early 1950s, to the wavewrights working today, at Billia Croo and Fall of Warness, Orkney, and Bluemull Sound, Shetland. Were it to exist, tidalpoetry would have evolved in Newhaven, Edinburgh, Ancroft Street (Glasgow), and a gypsy caravan at Germoe, Cornwall. It represents the dream of forging an alliance of wavewrights & speechwrights, of energy devices and designers of poetic devices; to create inter-disciplinary spaces for energised speech production, counter petrolio, and forge a post-carbon culture, or, at least, devise a poetics for a drowned world.

after Khlebnikov we used to say…

the wave is a breath
(the breath is a wave)

a word is a bubble of breath

The Great Wave: Language

the flow of speech is a sequence of waves breaking   one   after   another

all speech is tidal: even the language that thinks itself a rock is no more than a tombolo of sand being shuffled along by the tide

language is made on the sea
(after Tristan Tzara)

the word has two dimensions: as sound sea / as thought land
(after El Lissitsky)

sometimes the sea is a sound and the earth a concept
sometimes the earth is a sound and the sea a concept
(after Khlebnikov)

in on the ear, out on the tongue – language evolves tidally

we have no way of knowing why different waves affect us in different ways
(after Reik)

poetics is a conception of Nature embodying the tide of Time

theregone: wave

these dark depths contain a soundworld that is quite other to everyday speech

poetry is present when a word is felt as a wave
(after Roman Jakobson)

poetry is language gone out beyond the land

Time is the sail of syntax

the poem is a wave crossing from time to space
(after Bely)

phonemes open mouths, form breakwaters, and release waves

phoneme: wave of sound
morpheme: wave of sound bearing meaning

phonemes give character to each wave and distinguish one wave from another wave

like a wave the phoneme has no specific meaning – but it remains meaningful

some phonemes are breakers marking boundaries within the sea of language,
others form the waves trough fetch, or spindrift

the significance of phonemes lies in mouths, bays, meres, and geos, not the ceaseless expanse of waves

poets can be divided into those who conceive the wave as a word and those who conceive it as a phoneme

a word is some letters with a wave washing over them

poet, sound a vocable until it opens out a swirl in your poem!

if I’m lucky poetry comes to meet me at the edge of the ocean
(after Gary Synder)

the poet dips his hands in the basin before composing

our first nine months are spent listening to tidepoems

in tidepoems sound rises and meaning flows

we speak and think before we have words, then we end up on the beach with a stick in our hand

a poem should emerge from the sea of locality

the oneline of the sea is composed of waves of simultaneity

the sea is more than notland – it is a linguistic element in which sound has a primary existence

a dictionary is a collection of waves – The Collected Ocean or A Concise Sea

a word’s potential energy is not defined by meaning alone

the poem is a device for transferring energy
(after Charles Olson)

poet: designer of devices

poems are capable of rhythmic variation, reusing found materials, condenser, and energy transfer

language is energised by the gyring of sound and sense

dialect is an energy resource

non-standard speech is technically innovative

dialect favours different angles of vowels
(after David Wheatley)

dialect is the order of words as much it is their orthography

as an element The Sea differs from region to region far more than The Air: a poetics of breath and tide naturally tends to favour dialect

a multi-dialect project blends currents within one sea

there is no universal language – only a daily struggle between dialect and textual authority

standard English seeks to eradicate dialect: nonstandard speakers innovate, adapting language and syntax generating energy
(after Manuel de Landa)

as with any efficient machine standard speech involves the minimisation of variation

the standardisation of language is a result of economies of scale – what is gained in terms of intelligibility is lost in terms of local accuracy

use makes language what it is – dialect is dialectical!

all languages undergo a sea-change – some coastlines erode, some survive

dialect’s drift / songs fetch

the flowering of energy production in wind, waves, & tides returns productive meaning to the sea, relocating the focus of poetics to coastal zones and their dialects

every region proposes a different relation between energy land-/seascapes, dialects, and poetics

the study of the sea and the study of the technologies of the sea are different disciplines, within one school

islands have played a pioneering role in the development of linguistic dialects and varieties of renewable technology

the relationship between the richness of Norn and the preponderance of renewable energy devices on Orkney cannot be proven, but it bears out Cunliffe’s theory that culture is at its richest where there is the greatest ratio – land : coast

islands are sites of experiment due to the demands of co-existence, limited resources, dangers of navigation, and stimulus of migration and immigration

decentralised solutions to energy: decentralised solutions to poetics

dialect before standard! windmills after petrolio!

General English, British Petroleum, Standard Oil

blades, tides, and consonants blow away the smell of oil

energy is not produced with waves but by the blades they turn

wind shifts the blades, sound shifts the sense – displacing existing knowledge, producing new meaning

the first windmill turbine was a helicopter propeller – the first zaum poem was a celebration of laughter

for Khlebnikov’s mystical Law of the Seesaw we now propose the Principles of the Wave

Schwitters was the Magellan of TidalPoetry

‘all poetry is is waves’
 (after Schwitters)

the noise waves produce is their time in space

each wave is opposed to the wave that follows it and the wave that comes after it

the amplitude of a waves of tidepoetry can be measured by the quantity of vowels and consonants

the sea runs deeper than the wave’s amplitude

not the poem per se, but the poem per sea

part of the res carried along in the ras
(after Charles Bernstein)

we do not sense the sea in the way we sense the land

in that Tidal Era waves became a measure of prosperity , heartbeats of human labour
ecopoetics of culture, and bright eyes the wellbeing of the nation
(after Khlebnikov)

not translation, but transliteration (Kulbin)
or transletteration (AF)

Khlebnikov interpreted each letter as an operation: the stroke of script a wave of energy

Khlenbikov analysed thought in terms of individual sounds and letter forms

EW Golding analysed the wind in terms of its stochastic complexity

Golding’s pioneering analysis of wind The Generation of Electricity by Wind Power was published contemporaneously with Charles Olson’s pioneering analysis of breath, ‘Projective Verse’

before wind, wave, and tide could by harnessed for the generation of power or meaning they had first to be understood in their natural state

a wavedevice is a product of the intellect which must survive in the storm of feeling

a poemdevice is an interlocutor between designed intelligence and tidal expression

poetic devices test the possibilities of writing

a tidepoem reaches beyond rational land into the immeasurable domain of the sea

an array of devices producing energy and meaning: book of poems

the tension between sound and sense is the means by which tidepoems produce energy

with typography the problem is always: how do you get the waves in?
with handwriting the problem is how to keep the waves out

the typographer can attempt innovative representations of breath and tide, but the sea always remains absent from the page

with only a handful of letters you can fill an ocean with sense and sound

sometimes sound drives a wave through the bay
sometimes the beach accepts its sense

old meanings lie scattered as so many rounded stones on the shore

every speech community is shipwrecked eventually

Khlebnikov’s beyonsense could be translated seasense or tidesense – it refers to language carried beyond the bay of reason

‘…his tidalpoetry was a blend of Roman Jakobson and Jákup Jakobsen
(Davy Polmadie)

tidalpoetics returns a productive role to sound

tidepoems are multi-directional
namepoems tend toward the line

glottal bays, hidden reefs, boiling waves, spuming rhythms: tidepoem

tidepoems are open source

tidepoems are led towards error, dream, and prophecy, by phonemes

tidepoems resemble the knitting patterns of traditional ganseys

in Northumberland patterns for ganseys were only written down after people stopped

making them
(after Katrina Porteous)

poetry can challenge the temporal legibility of language – the convention that a word has a time and a place and becomes obsolete from contemporary usage

the familiar problem of whether art should reflect new technologies thematically, or in terms of their manner of operations – whether to remain within the social world, or innovate in the linguistic laboratory?

some may speak of Tidism, dialect, dictionaries, and the renewability of the auld leid, but really we’re still struggling in the dinghy of the lyric trying to unclip our lifebelts

you can never step in the same poem twice

of course meaning belongs to the land but everyone needs to go for a swim or sail now and then

a poem can be splashed out or forced through the blades

a poet should be capable of paddling and summoning up a great squall

writing in dialect is a way to bathe – most poetry prefers to lounge by the pool

I like my poetry the way I like my sea: flutheran, cerulean, flecked with spume

There will come an in-shot tide with no ebb, a great flood of language inundating the land

Gansey: Sc., Scottish equivalent of Guernsey style fisherman’s jersey. The text draws on Velimir Khlebnikov’s theoretical writings, tr. Paul Schmidt, and the essays of Roman Jakobson, in particular Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning, tr. John Mepham.

BBC Radio 4 Programme about the ‘Pill Hobblers’; tidal river boatmen of Bristol-

BBC Radio 4 Open Country: The Pill Hobblers

Should be listenable to on-line for some months – but maybe only in the UK

“For this week’s Open Country Helen Mark explores the fascinating world of the Pill Hobblers – the ‘boat men’ who for centuries have risked their lives to keep ships safe on the River Avon.

The Pill Hobblers are known to have existed from at least the 17th centuary and still provide the linesmen who handle the lines for all shipping coming through the locks and onto the quaysides at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Docks. Alongside the ‘Pill Pilots’ (the skilled navigators who guided ships through the waters) the Hobblers of today still work much as they did hundreds or years ago, working the ropes to secure and release ships into the Bristol Channel.

The Hobblers are still required to live in Pill – the small North Somerset Village that generations of Hobblers have come from – to ensure swift access to the nearby docks so that they can be on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week to tend to the ships just as they always have been.

Whilst visiting the village of Pill itself and The Royal Portbury Docks, Helen meets with Hobblers and Pilots – past and present – to hear how generations of local men have kept ships sailing – and trade flowing – safely into the 21st Century, come rain or shine.”

Presented by Helen Mark. Produced by Nicola Humphries.

BBC Radio Programme about The Morecambe Bay 2004 cockle picking disaster. Online for 30 days

“Alan Dein visits Morecambe Bay to investigate the aftermath of the 2004 cockle picking disaster. How did the community cope when 23 Chinese workers lost their lives in the bay?

The third programme in the Aftermath series, which explores what happens to a community after it has been at the centre of a nationally significant event.

Morecambe faced its greatest tragedy in February 2004, when a group of Chinese cockle pickers drowned in a bay notorious for its dangerous tides. The event brought to the country’s attention issues of people-trafficking and illegal gangmaster activity. As the media of the world descended, reported and left, the shock felt by locals lived on. Alan Dein looks at how the community changed as a result.”

Some detailed descriptions of what happened –  and the tidal landscape itself. Link here