New Cartography

Chuffed to have an essay in the latest incarnation of The New Wolf – New Cartography.

Have a read (my contribution is on p.53).

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En Route in Edinburgh

So, whilst I was in Edinburgh I took part in the site-specific walking tour of the city: En Route. The ‘show’ is the brainchild of Melbourne-based collective one step at a time like this. It goes like this. You meet in the foyer of the Traverse Theatre in a group of 2-3. Someone takes you half-way up the road, splits you up from the group, gives you a set of headphones, straps an iPod to your wrist, takes your mobile number, and tells you to cross the road, walk down a set of stairs and wait for further instructions. Orienteering, then, crossed with a treasure hunt, and with dashes of psychogeography.

What follows is a 70 minute (?) tour of Edinburgh which leads you down dark alleys, across busy roads, into a Hotel lobby, a shopping centre, and up to the top of a multistorey carpark. Instructions are received as texts on your mobile phone, from the soundtrack on your iPod, are discovered in envelopes behind garage doors and in record shops, daubed in chalk on the increasingly slick pavements.

All the time you are being shadowed, discretely, by your ‘helper’ – ie. the person who fit your iPod/headphone gear. In my case, the shadowing was less than fluid as I failed to receive the first few instructions by text, meaning that I ended up hanging around rather aimlessly. I didn’t mind this though. In fact, it was the interaction with my ‘helper’ – as well as the sense you are being watched over – that gave this experience depth of meaning. I’m pretty au fait with psychogeography/Situationism/derives &c. so all that ‘looking at the city differently’ stuff, whilst fun and important, was hardly new to me.

 

 

The sense that you are being ‘controlled’ (however benevolently) also, inevitably, leads to the temptation to rebel against that control – even in small ways. At one point I caught a glimpse of my ‘helper’ behind a wall trying to find me, a fantastic role reversal which gave me a brief moment of pride in my urban strolling.

At one point you are led into a backstreet where a hidden wall has been covered in chalk graffiti (by previous participants). You stand here for a few minutes’ contemplation, and are asked to add your own.

Sometimes, you spot other participants; your journey through the city coinciding with others’.

Edinburgh in August, you hardly stand out amongst the street artists, lost tourists, pipers and performers running to shows in full costume. Moments of recognition, though, are compelling – a passing glance with someone who’s “in” on the trick.

You are instructed, at one point, to wait in the lobby of the Balmoral Hotel, and make a phonecall to someone.

… and then into a shopping centre, to browse the cosmetics department of John Lewis.

There are some nice tricks too. In the multistorey carpark, you come to an abrupt halt, at which point you pick up the path by using a flick-book, which animates a woman towards a door.

The experience ends with wonderful views of the sea (no need for Arthur’s Seat, then), and then back down for a complimentary cup of coffee – at which point I took off my headphones, and started to interrogate the barrista about the deal the cafe has made with En Route.

Chingonyi on Chivers

Having previously written on The TerrorsKayo Chingonyi has now turned his critical eye towards my collection How To Build A City.

In his review for Eyewear, Kayo has lots of very interesting and acute things to say about my poems, particularly the 7/7 sequence ‘Rush Hour’ and the title poem.

He concludes (I repeat this for my own vanity):

Chivers shows himself to be a poet of genuine range. […] How To Build A City shows him to be firmly at home among the many talented writers that make Salt Publishing’s list one of the best in British Poetry.

Cheque in the post, Kayo.

This might also be a good place to draw attention to the continuing plight of Salt Publishing. To help keep them afloat you can buy How To Build A City for £10.39 direct, or why not order it through your local bookshop. They probably need your custom too, given the perilous state of the book trade.

Poem by Iain Sinclair

Considering his prolific output in the realms of fiction, non-fiction, urban satire and – as he puts it – ‘documentary fiction’, it’s sometimes easy to forget how significant and exciting a writer of poetry Iain Sinclair is. I’ve had the Penguin Modern Poets book (Vol.10, 1996) in which he appears, alongside Douglas Oliver and Denise Riley, on loan from the Poetry Library. Here’s a poem from that, hoping that neither Iain nor Penguin will mind the reproduction. Iain’s latest Selected Poems, The Firewall, is available from Etruscan Books; his Hackney tome was published by Penguin last year. Both are excellent in very different ways.

~

sub (not used): Mountain

prize cicatrix suspended in oil
charts flapping proud from damp walls
which are themselves charts
of islands where swamps are undeclared
the superseded house
brutish topiary of the illegitimate bride
weather systems registering a pigeon shed
my lord at his grouse table
filing his second rank of teeth
will you risk the caretaker’s gamey tape
the black worm that lives reluctant in altar bread
an hermaphroditic pope whose lard fingers
slip their rings

strapped into rented ligatures
he stomps the town
dragging Kent & all her oasts behind him

~

The cities we walk through

autumn_lo

My copy of the Autumn issue of Poetry London popped through the post today (Post, you say? Oh yeah – ) and lo and behold it contains a review – the first in print – of my book How To Build A City. I’m pretty ecstatic. That horribly talented Luke Kennard was tasked with perusing my poems, and found them… to his taste.

Here are some choice cuts:

Worse luck, How To Build A City is so good it scares me. It’s a debut collection which is angry, vital and constantly surprising with a pleasing earthiness to the language.

Chivers’s writing feels refreshing and necessary, a genuine, lyrical appraisal of contemporary life, something about the mediated layers of reality we experience every day.

The lazy reviewer in me just wants to write something like from spam email to urban foxes, Chivers has his finger on the zeitgeist. Which is exactly the opposite of what the work’s trying to do, which it seems to me, is to stop us blithely using terms like zeitgeist at all.

I really admire Luke’s work, so it’s great to get this kind of praise. I still have some signed copies of the book, so message me if you’d like one – and I’ll include a new original poem to boot. Alternatively, nab a copy from my publisher (which is also Luke’s… conspiracy theories start and end here).