Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sean Bonney

I went on Facebook late yesterday and realized from all the activity something unusual must have happened in the corner of the poetry world I inhabit. It had. News had just broken of the sudden death of Sean Bonney in Berlin -- by "tragic accident", no further details as yet. The UK (and US) poetry communities were alive with shock and sorrow. A lot of people loved Sean.

So I'm breaking two of the unwritten rules of this blog 1. Avoid topicality: news stories, anniversaries, International/National Days, etc. 2. Avoid following straight on from a recent post. In this case I'm thinking about the one about Lola Ridge -- because Sean Bonney's poems are overtly left-political too, though in many ways the two poets couldn't be more different.

I've always meant to, but have never got round to, reading his poetry in detail. But I've been reading some today.  Here's two or three recent things that I've copied from his blog:

[Sean had recently begun another blog (, which I was on this morning but now can't get to.]



Mustapha Khayati, I got a question. When you were writing your dictionary, did you have any sense which words might be snitches and which might be scabs. While the Eiffel Tower continues to mean what it does, sending out signals no-one could ever translate, these questions continue to matter. Mustapha Khayati, say something. Fascism does what it does without a need for language.


Jean Genet, if alive today, would be somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, entwined with all the other human bones. No-one would say his name. His fingerprints would be stored in an obscure data-mine. But his hatred for your world would be the same. His fist, his knife, his negligee. As the final oceans evaporated, his bones would begin to move. The kindness in his eyes long gone.


If it turned out that Dante’s cosmology was true all along, then I would like Artaud to be the guide to Hell. He’d know how to deal with the tourists. He wouldn’t say a word or look you in the eye, and the screaming in your ears would be your own. If you were lucky, he would grasp you by the wrists. Somewhere, far from where we were standing, the earth’s final clock would explode. Basic flowers.


If all of the letters in all of the alphabets of the world were pronounced simultaneously, they would not spell out the name Arthur Rimbaud. That name was taken out of commission some time ago. But still, try it backwards, in the hour before dawn. Watch the statues erected in his honour as they do not implode. Listen to his poetry, as it wanders the ruined cities, invisible to our sight.


Baudelaire you knew it all along. Your skeleton compelled without question to scrape the earth forever, to ward off the bitter need that comes on it like a living clock. Smack makes death eternal, you know that well. As does its respectable twin, wage labour.


Mustapha Khayati's On the poverty of student life (1966).

Our Death 28 / Dancer (after Emmy Hemmings)

I guess they’ve probably got me on their death-list somewhere. Probably quite far down. Not that I’m bothered - I’ve always been fairly careful inside my life, am quiet and am often frightened.

One day they smashed my heart. Since then I’ve been getting sicker. So what. The Angel of Death - if that’s what they call it - is on my side. I’m going to keep on dancing till they get me. They can nail me into whatever filthy little grave, I’ll never snitch on anyone.

All these banners and people and songs. Its like I’m flying through caverns, through grottoes and mythical tunes. I have bit-parts in other people’s dreams. I interpret their faces. The old, the sick, the beautiful, etc, none of them mesmerise me. A black cross in the centre of my room.


Emmy Hennings' Wikipedia entry, which quotes her poem "Tänzerin" / "Dancer".

In Fever: Notes on Les Chimères de Gerard de Nerval

 for Eva Collé

Don’t wait up for me tonight, the sky will be black and white

Yeh I’m in a bad mood as well. Cops are everywhere. But we know that - we murdered them. Lets talk about black stars.  Something stretched strings between them, and now they flutter like chords. Stars, a very bad mood. Pasolini wrote about singing, called it the “divine wind that doesn’t heal but rather makes everything sicker”. This is the fifth day of our fever. Cops make everything unreal. Songs get sung outside their cellular systems, from the centre of some kind of secretive world. Whisper those songs, then scream them. After that, kill all straight men. You know they want it.

Was thinking about that for a while this morning, then I thought about the human world. I’m sick of it as well. Was thinking that murder in the suburbs is the only real expression of the continued need for human love, where everything is turning to ice, yet everything is frozen in gold. When the sun hits the earth it shatters into all human data, calendars of the places music goes when its notes disappear. The same places the dead live, I guess. But this has little to do with what we say when we’re wasted, and everything is flooded with animal light. The human horizon covered in ashes.

A guy walks into the ocean. Kill him. The gesture is futile. He walks out of it again. Won’t shut his mouth, talks for several centuries about the devil and the hunger of screaming birds. Don’t waste your sympathy. The sky is packed with them, terminal birds that screech of all the terrible things that might happen. And behind them, timeless bells transforming all to the metal stains of what has already happened. And behind all of that are stars tracing out the fixed raptures of what ought never to have happened. There is no death anywhere. Our hatred of the rich is entirely justified.

Toward the end of his life Antonin Artaud wrote a poem complaining that no-one ever touched his body. But he seemed to think it was a good thing, that if anyone did then it would split to a million fragments and fill the known sky. Poor Artaud. Little did he know this goes on every night. There are bodies that fragment each dusk, that split into countless wild lenses that fall to earth at dawn and form a strange calendar of imaginary incidents, frozen cities, addictions, etc. What this implies is not utopian. The straight world never touches anything. It’s victims never do anything else.

Because I’m fearful the sky will shatter I would like to turn it to stone, to turn it to seven pebbles, each to mark a day of our fever. As in set fire to cars, put glue in locks, sugar in petrol. Also include bodies. Also include the shock and the curse of our loss. As in recite that curse, until the voice becomes a song, or the word becomes something outside its borders, the barricades we built across this life of great mourning in which the seeds of our hurt would bloom. The fascists who murdered Pasolini are now the owners of the world. Do not mourn or forgive. Shriek one time. Shatter glass.

The thirteenth returns, and everything we once thought inaudible. There is gunshot, there is fire in the suburbs, the fixed stars falling like cops or roses, the darkened rituals of the middle class. We replace them with pinpricks, with new forms of arson, and the dreams of a thousand archers haunting Trafalgar Square. Nothing returns. Our bodies, the names of stars. But nothing is forgotten, everything falls. Thirteen the only number, the sounds of thirteen fevers crackling inside our dreams. There are no dreams. We never sleep. An unknown light in the corner of our room.



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