An introduction to my work by Theodoros Chiotis

‘The construction, or if we want to be more accurate, the excavation of the multitude of realities lurking underneath the practice of everyday life has come to be seen as a basic writing tool of writers and poets dealing with urban life. The mechanical nature of urban time and usability as urban life’s ultimate precondition change drastically the imagination of the urban dweller. The ability to read maps and construct alternate routes to navigate oneself within the city; the ability to collect and catalogue information regarding the cultural, fiscal and real estate value of the urban space – all of these are but a brief selection from the basic survival tool kit for the urban dweller. The urban dweller has access to a nexus of mulitple realities and it is this nexus that allows for an ambulatory, phantasmagorical reading of urban space.

Tom Chivers in his poetry does not simply map the experience of urban life. The poem ‘How to Build a City’ is not simply an alternate geography or a psychogeographical impression of London; it is an occluded autobio(geo)graphy of the city as impressed upon a native of the city. Antigone Vlavianou, when writing about another writer dealing with urban space, Yorgos Ioannou, notes that the ‘alternation of narrative masks culminates in a functional intertwining of all pronouns; said alternation is made manifest in a sprawling narrative identifying the body of the city with the narrator’s body. The narrator’s body bearing the marks of the city on it goes on an act of auto-bio-geography’.

Chivers as a poet writing about the city and the marks it leaves on the poet’s very body approaches city life in a markedly different manner; the body of the city and the narrator’s body do not come to be identified in Chivers’ poetry. In Chivers’ work, the narrative feeds in the way a parasite does on the fauna of fantasies that make up the body of the city. The narrator in these poems is a paradoxical, malleable entity: the narrator transforms ceaselessly in his wanderings with no hope of ever escaping the city. The narrator of ‘How To Build A City’ (and The Terrors, to a lesser extent) is folded inside the very body of the city; a body made up of badly lit alleyways,  exposed brick walls, an ever changing skyline, electrical wiring and ruins. The terrae incognitae of the flaneurs become the hipsters’ terrae nullorum in Chivers’ poems: spaces without any permanent identity (and affiliation) despite the attempts to map them thoroughly. The minute details as inscribed in these poems construct the portrait of a city made up of disparate elements; this particular city portrait is structured more like the factory that is the unconscious rather than a ‘real’ city (whatever that might mean).

If one wanted to, one could make a pretty accurate map of (East) London based on Chivers’ poems but in reality this particular map would only make even more apparent the reality of an urban space consisting of sedimentary accumulations: sounds, images, ideas and temporalities. The city one would construct based on Chivers’ poetry would be the city in which decay and ultimately catastrophe reveal the vertiginous collapse of inner into outer, past into future, urban space into whatever might potentially exist outside its boundaries.’

Theodoros Chiotis
polleslexeis.wordpress.com
@polleslexeis

First published in Greek in Poiitiki

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That was Yoruba

I get the fear, a lot. I often think I will never write anything of value ever again. Sometimes, I look back at what I’ve already written and consider it all worthless. Perhaps this is the writer’s lot, or perhaps just a particularly frustrating part of my own psyche.

But if there’s one poem that I’ve written over the last few years that I feel in any way comfortable and confident about, it’s the one that gave this blog its name: ‘This is yogic’. It seems to me to enjoy a rhythmic and syntactical logic I lack elsewhere. It’s a ghazal too – of sorts.

The original is published in my first collection, but here’s a pseudo-Oulipian translation that I made last night using the Collins Pocket English Dictionary.

That was Yoruba

He was fine-tuned in a gum resin, Northbound fedora
and a Belgian ration of sideburns in an archbishop.

That was Yoruba. Answering machine in the hadron collider
(or heptathlon) and the piston tankard of cellophane.

She was a Wapping rambler and he,
well, no veterinarian nor blood sport.

Ergo, the site of fusible beachwear
and pawns the colour of whale tonic.

Tallboys are lopsided when the fog-lamps comes hither;
archdukes arise, hydrochloride whits.

Darting from a silver birch, the Cupid with the
pin number can honk his eistedfodd on my fiver.

 

Paternoster vs Babelfish

Thanks to George Ttouli for translating some work in progress that I’d posted up here using various Oulipian techniques. I think it was Joe Dunthorne who introduced me to The Oulipo via his brilliant univocalisms. The following is a version of The Lord’s Prayer which has been put through Altavista’s Babelfish software about fifteen times. The Lord’s Prayer is great for this kind of thing because of the familiarity of its rhythms, vocabulary and syntax. Ross Sutherland has an excellent version using the Oulipian device N7. Please feel free to post your own versions!

Paternoster vs Babelfish

The new star inside one sky art, name our clean clay/tone father. Our daily newspaper, O bread inside, this day is the n among them. There; a thing which will decrease inside the world. It wants to make us future life. It excuses our infringement, our things, which are average, there at the head, that one. Those hurt. And the inside, which it places at their temptation, for it bothers, but… Thine the glorious kingdom of hazards, quantity of adjustment. And thus it continues. Amen.