states of mind autumn 2011
illustrations Matt Cruickshank & Anna Trench short story Eley Williams in the psychiatristâ€™s chair Stephen Grosz essay Rob Sharp fiction Neel Mukherjee poetry Rachael Allen & Toby Martinez de las Rivas at the coalface Philip Birch desk anxiety Antony Gormley, Clara Farmer & Edmund de Waal â€“ photography Numan Oguzan writers' habits Xiaolu Guo
night and day
Welcome to Night and Day Perhaps it is a natural reaction to turn inwards as evening starts to blacken the windowpanes of the office. The world turns into its axis and we find ourselves falling headlong into autumn. What is there left to harvest but our thoughts, what else to cultivate but ourselves? For this issue, we attempted to pry open the human head by inviting a response on matters of the mind. We start with a phrenological map by artist Matt Cruickshank, which acts as a Rorschach test, if you like, for your own state of mind. We've found we identify heavily with Anxiety. Journeying inside: Eley Williams throws us headfirst into the rush, colours and sounds of a new love with her original short story, ‘Synaesthete, Would Like to Meet’; while Neel Mukherjee takes us to the brink of human endurance with his remarkable fictional offering. Rachael Allen’s poems turn over a birth, a death,
and the overwhelming awkwardness of a phallic pepper grinder, while Toby Martinez de las Rivas gives us three cerebral poems of a mind both castigating and chastising. Psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz invites us onto his couch and disentangles a state of mind with characteristic grace; ‘At the Coalface’ examines why one young mind left a promising publishing career to pursue what he calls ‘working with his brain’; and we momentarily sidestep into a revealing portrait of the artist, Lucian Freud, through one of his last sitters. Those unfortunate enough to endure the travails of office life will be familiar with the term ‘desk anxiety’ – the battle to maintain some sense of order, and a strange tendency to compare and contrast the state of your own desk to that of your fellow colleagues. If one’s desk is a reflection of the state of one’s mind, then with the editors of this esteemed magazine 1
the difference is night and day: one is orderly to the point of a medical condition; the other looks like the aftermath of an earthquake site. Our photographic essays of a sculptor and a potter – Antony Gormley and Edmund de Waal – and Chatto publisher Clara Farmer, is desk anxiety on a bigger scale. What is it about the actual, physical site of creative minds that is so seductive? They kindly let us pry into their working spaces as we try to find out. So whether you reside in Ye Little Town of Doubt, hang eternally in the realms of limbo or are lucky enough to inhabit the welcome state of contentment – this issue attempts to bring you a cross-section of the psychopathology of everyday life. Remember: these tests are highly subjective. Tom Avery and Parisa Ebrahimi
synaesthete, would like to meet
Synaesthete, Would Like To Meet This is intended as a warning of sorts, but first things first. When I was eight my sister dropped a copy of the Yellow Pages on my head. I was too busy retrieving my tooth from behind the radiator to notice any immediate change, but the next day I do remember that reading the letter ‘B' caused a green light to flare directly behind my eyes. My mother's explanation was that I had been staring too long at the magnetic letters on our refrigerator, associating their shapes with the corresponding colour of the plastic. This could not explain why an ampersand was suddenly a guttering black for me, nor why asterisks had become accompanied by a foursecond howl. ‘Neurological synaesthesia' is an unwieldy phrase to sprinkle into conversation so I prefer to describe it this way: the part of one's brain concerned with processing sensory information should be like a highly efficient switchboard. In mine, by comparison, it is as if someone has swapped the wires around, blown some fuses, taken a mallet to the bodywork and possibly gone to town with a soldering iron and a big jug of water. Apparently I'm a very rare case, featured in so many medical encyclopedias – with labelled photos and everything! – that I've had to hire a publicity agent. Get me. A number of people experience similar synaesthetic aspects: they associate colours with days of the week, for example, and some even endure specific tastes when they hear certain sounds. My condition, however, is complete. Dawn's light through my curtains stinks, my first cup of tea is an orchestra tuning-up whilst the sound
of birdsong outside my window tastes of rosewater and it is scalding. This reaction to birdsong amply demonstrates the way in which my condition isn't at all logical. In chorus the birds taste of rosewater but individually the pigeons' coos are a soda-stream, the starlings taste of double-mint chewing-gum and the blue tits' warble comes, weirdly, with the smell and bobbly feel of pork crackling. The number ‘three' is orange for me and ‘ten' smells of buttered bread, but add them together and – rather than a compaction of the two – 'thirteen' gives the sensation of smoothing snakeskin against my upper lip. Glancing at your number now, pencilled onto this napkin, I read a line of digits that are gawky and spavined, slightly flushed and buzzing like clarinets. Other synaesthetes describe their experiences as pleasant but for me 2
it is a constant sensory overload. Back to the switchboard simile, I have it on good authority that when something overloads it tends to crash. My life is now an unmanageable series of sensations. Pick up any cheap paperback that uses too many mixed metaphors and that's my day-to-day: attempts at clarity squandered by confusing, muddled leaps of imagery. I see fireflies when a tyre screeches, smell fried onions when I step on an upturned plug. In an attempt to process fewer sensations and block out the worst unexpected repercussions of my surroundings, I have taken to wearing tinted shades even when indoors. I'm well aware this makes me look like an idiot. As you can imagine, always wearing shades and looking either wary or disgusted whenever I leave the house can be pretty lonely. This is why I chat online: I don't have to shield my eyes or stuff up my nose nearly
night and day
so often when faced with pixellated words. Online dating still marks a huge step. I found the profile I created disgusting â€“ reading through it, I found the paragraphs smelt like tar and it was full of chewy, draught-stout words. Your email back, however, smelt like a sea breeze. That was all it took. I didn't have to read about the interests you listed, your hobbies or your star sign: it was purely that sea breeze smell that convinced me to organise a meeting. I chose near Piccadilly, in view of Eros and the Criterion. I like Piccadilly Circus. The exhaust fumes and the chatter present me with a fresh inky blue, almost precisely the colour of the line on the tube map. To me the flashing adverts sound like a barbershop quartet suffering the giggles which makes me smile, and the tourists' different accents sometimes bring amusing neurological
autumn spring 2011
responses. The taxi drivers' swearing is accompanied by different shades of silver, squeaky and lickable. The rain made a pink overture against my jacket. And your colour, when you introduced yourself? You must not be insulted, but you were blank. A soundless, tasteless, brilliant blank. There was no poetic extension, no misfiring of fizzing neurons as you said your name and shook my hand. You led me to the cafĂŠ, and as we spoke our coffee tasted of coffee and your cake tasted only, gloriously, of cake. All the unnecessary colour and clamour had drained away when I met you: an oil-spill's fringe of rainbow fading into pure water. We swapped numbers and arranged to meet again. Then you were aboard your bus and all the colours and sounds and smells rushed back at me.
I can tell you that as I watched your bus turn the corner the rain was singing a sweeter, brighter note. But here is the warning. Since knowing you my synaesthesia has become more intense. Once back home I noticed the semi quaver of a stray eyelash had settled on my shirt, one that you had blown unthinkingly from your finger. It was the loudest thing I had ever heard and it almost threw me across the room. Every thought of you sends me reeling. So: when we meet again tomorrow don't tip up on your toes, or let the sun anywhere near your hair; don't laugh off-guard, or gnaw at your fist or smoothe your palms against your elbow in that way I've noticed when you are frustrated, and as sure as hell don't you ever kiss me again because I cannot promise you will not leave me blinded.
on wanting the impossible
On Wanting the Impossible Psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz on how we can misread a state of mind. Some details have been changed in the interest of confidentiality. My patient, a professional middleaged woman named Rebecca, folded her coat over the back of a chair and arranged herself on the couch. For five minutes, she was silent. Then she said, ‘I’m going to have to talk about sex today.’ This was on a Monday. Rebecca had started coming to see me the year before, shortly after the death of her older sister. She was surprised by the intensity of her feelings of loss and anxiety. These feelings had lessened, but she was now more aware of her own mortality–‘I’m not living my life as fully as possible,’ she told me, ‘but I’m not sure what I’d like my life to be.’ Her relationship with her husband seemed better but sometimes she worried she’d made the wrong choice. Rebecca and her husband Tom had spent the previous night in–sushi, some leftover champagne, and an episode of Mad Men. They took a bath together and spent a long time making love. “I had a great orgasm,” she told me. Ordinarily, this would have guaranteed her a solid night’s sleep. Instead she woke at 4.30 am, and, unable to get back to sleep, decided to masturbate. Soon after, she fell asleep and had what she called ‘a sex dream.’
masturbation would have been enough – what’s going on with me?’ We talked about the days leading up to her dream. On Saturday night, she’d had a party at a restaurant to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. Her parents had come down from Scotland. Georgia and Anne, her daughters, had helped to arrange the dinner, and had chosen the menu. Her youngest son, Oliver, was to make his way to the party from his university in Sussex, but he’d never shown up. Rebecca’s husband had spent a good part of the evening outside the restaurant trying to reach Oliver on his mobile. ‘We left his place at the table all evening,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know whether to be worried or furious.’ Rebecca had finally reached Oliver the following afternoon. He told her that something important had come up at the last minute, and that the battery in
During our session, she tried to reconstruct the dream. ‘It was about a man, maybe an old boyfriend from university, he was pressing against me,’ she said. ‘He held – no, he patted my waist. I don’t remember much, just that he wanted me.’ She woke up feeling bereft. ‘You’d have thought the sex or the
his phone had been dead, so he hadn’t called. Rebecca assumed that he’d simply decided to spend Saturday night with his friends. ‘To be honest, I think he just couldn’t be bothered,’ she told me. For Rebecca’s husband, the night at the restaurant seemed to confirm his feelings of estrangement from his son. ‘Tom says he’s just waiting for some disaster–for the police to show up at our door,’ she said. Rebecca remembered Oliver’s daring, his wilfulness as a child. Once, she told me, when he was very small, he slipped out of the house while she was running his bath. She hadn’t given him a Mini Milk after his tea, and so he’d crossed a busy road to the newsagent’s to get one for himself. Listening to my patient, I began to think that her sexual behaviour was a defence, a reaction to the sadness,
night and day anger, and anxiety that her son had provoked. I suspected, and she did too, that she was using sex, as many of us do, as an antidepressant– a means of momentarily replacing emptiness and fear with the excitement of being desired. She pointed out that sex also helped to blot out disturbing thoughts–like the idea Tom had planted in her head, about Oliver’s recklessness one day leading the police to their door. But this wasn’t quite right–for while her sexual behaviour now looked to both of us like a way of defending herself against certain feelings, it hadn’t felt like that to her at the time. Rather, she had felt the whole night that she was searching for something. Masturbation followed sex, and the dream followed the masturbation, because there was something that she wanted, not something that she wanted to get away from. She’d gotten out of bed feeling bereft, not depressed. But why? What did she want?
autumn 2011 Suddenly, jostled by a memory, she shifted on the couch. She began to tell me about a sunny day she’d once spent in the park with Oliver and her mother. Oliver was three at the time. They were all sharing a blanket, watching older children and their parents fly kites. Rebecca was showing her mother the card Ollie had made for her at Nursery School, for Mother’s Day. On the front of the card Oliver had carefully coloured in a steam train. On the inside of the card, where he’d clearly laboured most, he had drawn two long rows of X’s, for kisses. Ollie leaned against her, hugged her from behind, then wriggled into her lap. “Why do you let him use you like a climbing frame?” Rebecca’s mother had asked her. Rebecca was taken aback–it had never occurred to her that he shouldn’t. After a pause, she told me, ‘Ollie was always touching me. He couldn’t bear it if I was out of his sight. If I was on the phone or speaking to someone
else, he used to do this thing to get my attention, he’d pat my waist and say, “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy” over and over—’ At once, we both heard those words – he’d pat my waist– and remembered her dream: ‘he patted my waist, he wanted me’. And we both realized that the dream wasn’t about an old boyfriend. ‘My dream is about Ollie and me, isn’t it?’ she asked. Neither of us spoke. ‘I miss him being my baby,’ she said. Though her longing was physical, it was not sexual. She longed for something impossible: a time when she was held, climbed on, kissed, nuzzled, loved by her three-year-old boy. She longed for Oliver’s insistent demands on her attention–Mummy, Mummy, Mummy–to feel his hand touching her waist, and to feel that he needed her again.
article with freud sitting
jeremy rob sharp lewis
Sitting with Freud
Night & Day
Through a chance meeting at the V&A, Ria Kirby stepped into the frame of not only Lucian Freud’s paintings but his personal life. rob sharp looks at the intimate relationship between the great late artist and one of his last sitters.
Ria Kirby is easy company. She is wellspoken, forms words thoughtfully, honestly, and puts people at their ease. She lives in Friern Barnet, north London, with her partner Joel and their young baby, and is currently expecting her second child. Educated at ‘nine different schools’ – some religious, some state, some private – she trained at Camberwell College of Arts before working at the V&A. It was here, in April 2006, that the 25-year-old art handler was hanging the work of two of Britain’s greatest painters, Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach, when she met the late Freud himself. ‘I almost backed into him and said something naff like...“your work’s great”,’ Kirby says. ‘After I’d come back from lunch the head of painting asked for a word with me. He said Lucian had asked whether I would like to sit for him.’ The following day, she telephoned Freud’s assistant, painter and photographer David Dawson. Within twenty-four hours she was posing naked in Freud’s Kensington studio. The pair launched into a formidable schedule: she sat for five hours a day, seven days a week, for the next sixteen months, totalling around 2,400 hours of lying on her side. Kirby held down her job at the V&A throughout, taking just four days off during the process. The artistic result was Freud’s Ria, Naked Portrait, 2007, and one of the most time-consuming works of the painter’s latter years. It sold for $15m (£9.3m) in 2008, and will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in February 2012, on loan
from a US private collector, as part of a major retrospective of Freud's work. At first Kirby was anxious. ‘I didn’t know if it was going to be nude,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know whether I would sit there once, or whether it would carry on. So that first evening was quite awkward. We had a kind of preamble for about half an hour. A cup of tea and a chat. And then we went up to his studio. I still didn’t know what was I was expected to do. So I asked him whether it was a naked portrait and he said, “Yes, if that’s alright,” and was so polite. Time seemed to go quickly, because I was quite nervous.’ Yet the sitter was also a painter herself, and soon impressed Freud with her commitment and punctuality. In the early weeks she reluctantly cancelled social events and a planned trip to see her parents in Greece to maintain the painter and subject's allotted times together. And within months her life had transformed. It had gone from cycling home after an eight-hour day at the V&A to leaving work for a different, transient world: one in which she juggled painting with Freud's social commitments, which he fitted in during breaks in the painting process. She now had intimate access to the 6
trappings of Freud’s life: attending society openings, dinners, lunches, even meeting Damien Hirst, who was keen to impress on Freud a shared love of Francis Bacon. The pair went to the ballet and travelled to countless events with Freud’s extended family (he had at least fourteen children). She had Christmas lunch with Freud and Auerbach (‘a simple meal, lovely conversation, between two extremely old friends’). Often invitations would be addressed simply to ‘Lucian and Ria’. ‘So sometimes it was wonderful and amazing,’ she says. ‘Meeting people that were lovely and going to exquisite restaurants or exciting events. Other times it was something very intimate like a birthday party for a granddaughter I had never met. I found it very difficult that it was assumed that I was comfortable to sit there and talk about myself and answer questions.’ So why was it then, that an artist, but also a man, then eighty-four, asked a woman he had never met to pose naked for the best part of two years? And why did she oblige? She says it was always ‘purely business’. ‘I’m not daft, I know his reputation,’ she says. ‘And I’m sure that only less than a
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decade before, some of the people who were sitting for him may have been having a relationship with him. The legend and rumours of Lucian Freud and women have some truth to them. But in my mind, when we met, it wasn’t on his mind so much. He was conscious of time running out and he wanted to get on with painting.’ He channelled his efforts into Kirby’s canvas, which was extended twice. Her face was reworked for many months. She says Freud would spend an entire evening mixing one colour for a single brushstroke, and insisted on her presence even if he was painting the background, say, and not her body. He wanted to capture ‘who the person was, not what they looked like’. There was never anything suggestive about his approach, although she says it was common for people who didn’t know her well to ask her whether the pair were romantically involved. Perhaps it was her commitment to the project – akin to any marriage, and beyond any job – or his reciprocal commitment to her. ‘People who knew Lucian wanted to spend more time with him and,
from the archive
A Such eyes, so noble a brow, with its brown hairs thinly scattered; so symmetrical a profile, so expressive a mouth, so fine and glowing a complexion; such a combination of manly dignity and beauty, were never before seen nor since, as were combined in the face of that short, slight, active youth... B He looked like an elegant and slender flower whose head drooped from being surcharged with rain... His gestures were abrupt, sometimes violent, occasionally even awkward, yet more frequently gentle and graceful. His complexion was delicate, and almost feminine, of the purest
some perhaps, questioned why I was prepared to go there every night,’ she says. ‘Everyone wanted to know Lucian.’ During their many dinner breaks at the Wolseley – Freud’s preferred dining establishment on London’s Piccadilly – Joan Collins, Hirst and former Tatler editor Geordie Greig approached them to press the flesh, penetrating a ‘forcefield’ of waiting staff who intercepted unwanted fans. But – as one suspects was often the case – their working relationship ended as quickly as it had begun. For several months she suspected the painting would soon be finished, as they would frequently discuss its progress. For weeks she thought each sitting would be her last. ‘In the end he just said quietly, “Yes, you know, I think that will do...no more to be done here”,’ she says. ‘I leapt up and said, “That’s great, let’s go to the Wolseley and have a wild time,” and he was amused by that and indulged me and we went and had a drink. But for him it was the end of that painting and the beginning of the next.’ They
discussed another painting together, and even started it. It sounds like it would have been huge – but Kirby said she ‘needed her life back’ and couldn’t commit to full-time sitting. The conversation to end their working relationship took just ten minutes. Within days he was working without her. Her life returned to normal. They met up afterwards and Freud seemed to have forgiven her. Sitting for Freud was a ‘life-changing experience’ which left her ‘uncompromised’ and with no regrets. These days, Ria Kirby finds it comforting to imagine Freud painting in his studio – a ‘picture of him doing his thing’ indelibly animated inside of her. ‘It’s the unknown which becomes weird,’ she concludes with a smile. ‘I didn’t feel it was a loss, after we stopped working together. Because it wasn’t important that it was me sitting for that painting. If it was somebody else it would have been just as good. It would have gone on just as long... it’s the painting that’s important.’
Who Were the Sitters? red and white, yet he was tanned and freckled by exposure to the sun... C Her glossy, waving hair was parted on her forehead, and terminated on the sides in rich and luxuriant auburn curls. There was a dove-like look in her eyes, and yet a chastened sadness in their expression. Her complexion was remarkably clear, and her high forehead looked as pure and spotless as Parian marble. D Her person is full, but preserves all the fineness of an admirable shape... and her complexion (an unusually fair skin with very dark hair and eyebrows) 7
is of even a girlish delicacy and freshness. Her dress of blue satin... was cut low and folded across her bosom in a way to show to advantage the round and sculpture-like curve and whiteness of a pair of exquisite shoulders, while her hair, dressed close to her head, and parted simply on the forehead with a rich feronier of turquoise, enveloped in a clear outline a head with which it would be difficult to find fault.
A. Sydney Smith B. Shelley C. Mrs Hemans D. Lady Blessington
the lives of others
The Lives of Others PROLOGUE March, 1967 A third of the way through the halfmile-walk from the jotedar’s house to his hut, Nitai Das’s feet begin to sway. Or maybe it is the headspin again. He sits down on the field he has to cross before he can reach his hut. There isn’t a thread of shade anywhere in the lifeless fields that stretch away. The March sun is an unforgiving fire. It burns his blood dry. It also burns away any lingering grain of hope that the monsoons will arrive on time to end this third year of drought. The earth around him is beginning to fissure and crack. His eyelids are heavy. He closes them for a while, then, as sleep begins to take him, he pitches forward from his sitting position and jolts awake. Absently, he fingers his great enemy, the soil, not soil any more but compacted dust. Even its memory of water has been erased forever as if it has never been. Forced by his wife, he has begged all morning outside the jotedar’s house for one cup of rice. His three children hadn’t eaten for five days. The meal they had had last was a handful of hay stolen from the jotedar’s cowshed and boiled in the cloudy yellow water from the well. Even the well was running dry. For the past three years they had been eating once every five or six or seven days. The last few times he had gone to beg had yielded nothing except abuse and forcible ejection from the grounds of the jotedar’s house. In the beginning, when he had first started to beg for food from the jotedar, they used to shut and bolt all the doors and
windows to him while he sat outside the house, a square, impenetrable, brick castle, for hours and hours, day rolling into evening into night, until they discovered his resilience and changed that tactic. Today they had set their guards on him. One of them had brought his stick down on his back, his shoulders, his legs, while the other one had joked, ‘Where are you going to hit this dog? He is nothing but bones, we don’t even have to hit him. Blow on him and he’ll fall back.’ Oddly, Nitai doesn’t feel any pain from this morning’s beating. He knows what he has to do. A black billow makes his head spin again and he shuts his eyes to that punishment of white light. All he needs to do is to walk the remaining distance, about 2000 hands. In a few moments, he is all right. Some kind of jittery energy makes a sudden appearance inside him and he gets up and starts walking. Within seconds the panting begins but he carries on. A dry heave interrupts him for a bit. Then he continues. His wife is sitting outside their hut, waiting for him to return with something, anything, to eat. She can hardly hold her head up. Even before he starts taking shape from a dot in the horizon to the form of her husband, she knows he is returning empty-handed. The children have stopped looking up now when he comes back from the fields. They have stopped crying with hunger too. The youngest, three years old, is a tiny, barely moving bundle, its eyes huge 8
and slow. The middle one is a skeleton sheathed in loose, polished black skin. The eldest boy, with distended belly, has become so listless that even his shadow seems dwindled and slow. Their bones have eaten up what little flesh they had on their thighs and buttocks. On the rare occasions when they cry, no tears emerge; their bodies are reluctant to part with anything they can retain and consume. He can see nothing in their eyes. In the past, there was hunger in them, hunger and hope and end of hope and pain and perhaps even a puzzled resentment, a kind of muted accusation, but now there is only nothing, a slow, beyondthe-end nothing. The landlord has explained to him what lies in store for his children if he does not pay off the interest on his first loan. Nitai has brought them into this world of misery, of endless, endless misery. Who can escape what’s written on his forehead from birth? He knows what to do now. He picks up the short-handled sickle, takes his wife by her bony wrist and brings her out in the open. With his practised
night and day
farmer’s hand, he arcs the sickle and brings it down and across her neck. He notices the fleck of spit in the two corners of her mouth, her eyes huge with terror. The head isn’t quite severed, perhaps he didn’t strike with enough force, so it hangs by the still uncut fibres of skin and muscle and arteries as she collapses with a thud. Some of the spurt of blood has hit his face and his ribcage, about to push out from its dark, sweaty cover. His right hand is sticky with blood. The boy comes out at the sound. Nitai is quick, he has the energy and focus of an animal filled with itself and itself only. Before the sight in front of the boy can tighten into meaning, his father pushes him against the mud wall and drives the curve of the blade with all the force in his combusting
being across his neck, decapitating him in one blow. This time the blood, his son’s blood, a thin, lukewarm jet, hits him full on his face. His hand is so slippery with blood that he drops the sickle. Inside the tiny hut, his daughter is sitting on the floor, shaking, trying to drag herself into a corner where she can disappear. Perhaps she has smelt the metallic blood, or taken fright at the animal moan issuing out of her father, a sound not possible of humans. Nitai instinctively rubs his right hand, his working hand, against his bunched-up lungi and grabs hold of his daughter’s throat with both his hands and squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until her protruding eyes almost leave behind the stubborn ties of their sockets and her tongue lolls out and her thrashing legs still. He crawls on
the floor to the corner where their last child is crying its weak, runty mewl and with trembling hands covers its mouth and nose, pushing his hands down, keeping them pressed, until there is nothing. Nitai Das knows what to do. He lifts the jerry-can of Folidol left over from three seasons ago and drinks, his mouth to the lip of the plastic canister, until he can no more. His insides burn numb and he thrashes and writhes like a speared earthworm, thrashes and writhes, a pink foam emerging from his mouth, until he too is returned from the nothing in his life to Nothing.
An excerpt from his forthcoming novel, The Lives of Others.
toby martinez de las rivas
Poetic space here signifies page in London, a language I only half speak. Áh, Blanchót, these heaving galleries, rats in tortoiseshell nerd-glasses, reproduction Jacobite war-apparel and spadrilles, pathetically self-indentured. Re-imagine all the bitter works of redemption as cheap aesthetic, historical suffering assuaged as literary trope, Purcell’s death chants piped over the duct-taped rubble, and you glimpse hell as it really is: not swathed in fires, but overflowing with diversion, its connate bankruptcy and anguish or whatever it denotes, this tenacity of loss.
O life force of supernalness of
Párasites. But yóu, wiped, polychromatically hungover, the exposed décolletage manifesting slight sun damage falling and lifting, cowled swan-head of the pubic bone, eyes, that ópen, were of such a violent and comely blue, my own reft self in the spectral disk of each iris, clósed. Christ, through these daytimes I have bleated after thee, missed you, fetched a species of hell down on my folks. Lá, d’you remember how the rain stumbled down on us, and we dumped the others and scuttled home through it. Óh Tóbe, why can’t you shut yr goddamn hole for once.
world, o supernalness, decapitated
mice upon the tracks, o ear muff
From O Life Force of Supernalness of World
by lisa jarnot from her book Ring of Fire (Salt, 2003)
night and day
Nór euphónicalness, nór rápturous headwind
That there is no Black Madonna at Haltwhistle, nor Handenhold, nor in the hundred of the heart, subjugate holding sterile with late wheat and shot. Broken fold, barren as justice or the torsion in it that tends to mercy, nothing shelt, nor my little sons. Beautiful is the day stretching áll the way on up to Gateshead and furthermore, Blyth. Roads slice through it sheerly, and division, the din of jets making munching sheep tumble, stamp outward from the retinue. They shall be bonny, battering things, my little sons, fodder to the government in its trial, hands hardened by brick and, the eldest, salt.
Each shape the eye clings to loses itself in the collusion of far hills: alas, bearless. Massachusetts in the Fall, I am told, is blood-red, laid low with particular foreign berries and hawks, the lost grave-cut of the quiet feminist. I dreamt a hunting kestrel as the god of love, silhouette akin to ús in its falling, cry the aural correlate of light, a penetration and assault. Hinterlands of rain, hegemonic September our due and only season, a descent into, únshining. That it will be dark, or there will be none to touch me: I dó fear that. I dó still fear the dark as cypher and foretaste of hís nightfall.
Poor, purblind John of Bohemia, flailing left and right across the back of a plunging horse. Beserk, love works its way in me, both near and far-sighted, the blows ringing on visors, crushed pauldrons I might straighten and don after, or stand out in the rain, triúmphant in. Black Francis I fell for at the sudden sheering of his voice, like rent tin, and that he ís not humourless. Some words I recall of Nehemiah, about the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, and in the song of songs on the wildflowers of Northumberland, are here with me nów.
I fall toward you as the kettenmorgenstern: arc of winter, deathbell, apostle of pine trees and snow
toby martinez de las rivas 11
paddy mortsworth's work experience
night and day
Milestones Your hands were balled when they dragged you out, sopped in jelly, bold enough not to cry, and a daft, pearly blue about your lips, like you’d dressed up in there only to arrive half done, swollen and shining. Your eyes were fists for seconds, your hands in static, shoving soft, cold folds of little foot to the floor, in the hope you’d stand. As hard and dark as petrified wood, you slid through as though on water, Charon’s swift sling quicker than any doctor,
Impotence I thought it might be the waiter bringing me the telephone as they do in films to tell me my mother had been hit by a bolt of lightening or that war had broken out and we needed to go. How I prayed for this. It was the waiter, opening up his grinning arms to the erect pepper grinder, as large as his leg, asking us ‘do you want some?’ You decline, I agree. the grinder like the champing of teeth on a wild sexed baboon. In silence we wait for the final crunch. I mention we should get one that big, you nod. Glancing around, I chew in questions, everyone around us has taken everything to talk about so that suddenly, after years, we have nothing left to say.
the one who bows his head long before we’ve even begun to let you go.
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Coalface In my last year in publishing an American executive gave a speech to the company I worked for. She ended by declaring there were two types of people in publishing, book lovers and book sellers, and in her opinion book lovers should stick to buying books rather than working with them. It was a rhetorical flourish but it confirmed something I’d been thinking for some time: I wasn’t really doing the work I loved. Reading books was a hobby not a profession.
I remember my state of mind when I signed my first contract. The position was editorial assistant in a non-fiction imprint, and I’d cheerfully agreed with the HR rep that the job would be ‘what I make of it’. Hearing those words I suppose I saw my career like an ambitious carpenter sees a nice piece of wood, as opposed to friends of mine who’d fast-tracked their way into business consultancies and whose career paths were laid out before them like the instructions in a flat-packed wardrobe. It was possible my piece of wood would turn out to be less useful and enduring than the wardrobe, but there was a chance I would make something unique and fulfilling of it, and most importantly the work would be creative. I had imagined sitting side by side with prize winning historians, politicians, philosophers and journalists, and helping them shape their great works. Of course I was getting a long way ahead of myself but after being encouraged for three years at university to spout off about Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot this fantasy didn’t seem beyond me. I was fortunate enough to work for an editor who let me use my red pen on some of the books he published, and who allowed me the time to find my own authors and search for new projects. This was the creative work I craved.
But such were the administrative demands of the job I found I had little energy left for it. Mostly I was absorbed by the infinitely capacious software systems I had to tend. I realised I was slowly becoming the typing part of my computer. In a remarkable stroke of irony one publishing house recently put out a book called The Case For Working With Your Hands, in which the author argues that office work of this kind is essentially a de-skilling profession: that it’s far more fulfilling to be a plumber, for example, and to be presented with a different problem every day. Once I was used to the routine demands of the job it became work that required little thinking. Then I went to an introductory night at my local Samaritans branch and spent the most interesting three hours of my life talking to strangers about suicide. Before that night I’d thought of suicide as a word not to be used, one that preceded a lowering of heads and a clearing of throats and stumbling attempts at moving on the conversation. But within a group of people who were not used to talking about psychological conundrums – a retired clothes designer, a Polish swimming instructor and an estate agent among them – I was amazed to find that questions about what to do with someone who is suicidal, whether it’s preventable, whether it should be prevented, the state of mind of someone who contemplates it, whether we have in fact all contemplated it, inspired some of the most original thinking I’ve heard. I saw people sitting on the edges of their seats, scratching their heads, trying to negotiate a problem that seemed to be too complicated to answer while acutely aware of the feelings of others in the discussion. The image of spinning plates in a china shop comes to mind. I felt at once what 15
The Case For Working With Your Brain I had been missing in the day job, a discussion that brought me closer to a common human experience, which is what I value in the novels I love. I had always been interested in Freud and modern psychoanalytical writers such as Irvin Yalom and Adam Phillips, but the Samaritans experience and the training I undertook encouraged me to apply for a place on a psychotherapy course. From the beginning of this course I was put in rooms with circles of strangers and made to talk and think about the process of thinking with people who seemed to share only a sense of not knowing exactly what they were talking about. This was very different to the acquisitions meetings I had attended in my publishing life, where every statement was shelled in years of industry experience. Because I was talking and thinking about the experience of not knowing, rather than what I thought I knew, I found my brain working harder than it had done for a long time, and it felt good. As with any course there is also theoretical writing to plough through, which covers mental development from the womb to death, family dynamics, group and individual behaviour, and the golden nugget of psychoanalysis: dreams. I have to spend an hour a week being analysed myself, which can be destabilising. But when I think about the difference between working as an administrator, working without thinking; and training to be a psychotherapist, which is work about thinking, I am sure the latter is at the very least more enlivening. For some reason Philip Larkin comes into my head: ‘Life is first boredom, then fear.’ Perhaps if Larkin had done less admin he wouldn’t have thought so.
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Antony Gormley, sculptor
edmund de waal
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Edmund de Waal, potter
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Clara Farmer, publisher
from the archive
from the archive
Literary Types: The Unpublishable Poet
He abounds in all parts of the country. Week in, week out, from John o’ Groats or Land’s End, comes a steady dribble of verse. Its uniformity of ineptitude enables some conclusions to be safely drawn. Clearly, for example, the unpublishable poet is a kindly soul in a hostile universe. As such he puts forward a claim for admiration. But whether he writes in his normal mood or whether (which is more probable) he conceives it necessary for the composition of poetry to plunge headlong into gloom, he projects a personality which would call for sympathy if the call were not too often repeated.
from the archive
have often been inclined to doubt whether authors, however querulous, are in reality more miserable than their fellow mortals. The present life is to all a state of infelicity. Dr Johnson If any state be enviable on earth, 'Tis yon born idiot's, who, as days go by, Still rubs his hands before him, like a fly, In a queer sort of meditative mirth. Meredith Life is arid and terrible; response is a chimera; prudence useless; reason itself serves only to dry up the heart. George Sand One way of getting an idea of our fellowcountrymen's miseries is to go and look at their pleasures. George Eliot In this world nothing is more rare than a person who is habitually endurable. Leopardi A man that would call everything by its right
On the evidence of his verse, he has no – or very few – friends. ‘I wandered lonely in a crowd’ – with variations, that is a familiar misanthropic boast. What keeps him company is a gnawing grief or a similarly active and ubiquitous sorrow: ‘Here on the primrose bank grim sorrow saps my blood.’ In these circumstances he is often driven to commune with Nature: ‘“Great Mother,” cried I, “wiltst thou hear my call?”’ As an asker of questions he is indeed indefatigable. His wistful verses are apt to begin with ‘How?’, ‘What?’, ‘When?’, ‘Why?’ or ‘Where?’. But his twenty questions are asked in vain. Answers are never forthcoming.
He is also a great demander. ‘Give me’, he cries – anything from the open sea to the rolling heath or the bleak mountain top. He seldom indents for anything useful. With a few startling exceptions, he is a timid lover. ‘As your fair finger tips I touch’ – rarely is he more enterprising than that. If his passion is ever unleashed, he seems to follow it on foot, far behind. He is happiest when contemplating his sad childhood. It is a condition from which he has never completely escaped.
The State of Infelicity name would hardly pass the streets without being knocked down as a common enemy. Halifax
What trifling coil do we poor mortals keep; Wake, eat and drink, evacuate and sleep. Prior
It is hard for a pure and thoughtful man to live in a state of rapture at the spectacle afforded him by his fellow-creatures. Arnold
Being pressed upon this subject and asked if he [Dr Johnson] was really of the opinion that though, in general, happiness was very rare in human life, a man was not sometimes happy in the moment that was present, he answered, ‘Never, but when he is drunk.' Boswell
Amusement is the happiness of those that cannot think. Pope What a time it is when we must envy the dead in their graves! Goethe Of what is man certain? What lasts? What passes? What is chimerical? What is real? Every body drags its shadow, and every mind its doubt. Hugo The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets successfully through many a bad night. Nietzsche
What purgatory may be to any of the dead I cannot tell; but I see it as a paradise to a great portion of the living. Landor Youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain. Hardy Well, such a life at least makes Death A welcome, wished-for friend: Then, aid me, Reason, Patience, Faith, To suffer to the end. Charlotte Brontë
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xiaolu guo was born in a fishing village in south China. She studied film at the Beijing Film Academy and published six books in China before she moved to London in 2002. Her first novel written in English, A Concise Chinese–English Dictionary for Lovers was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, and 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, published in 2008, was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Nourishment:
Distraction of choice:
Definitely strong coffee: a big mug first, either with or without milk, no sugar. I have a big one at home first, then go to a café to have another, then I start work, provided there are no domestic distractions. But there are normally plenty of distractions inside or outside of the café, which I kind of like...
I like the internet, windows and open spaces. I am not a stoical writer, not a Russian writer. I love distraction and new things happening around me. The outside world is very important to engage with, even in an abstract way.
The commercial value of writing, or writing for writing’s sake. I think the pressure of publication is sometimes very harmful for producing a great piece of literature. Or, put another way, literature does not have to be "great", but needs to be able to inspire people, to provoke in a good and revealing way. A perfect work means little to me, or sounds very suspicious to me. I trust more of a faulty but inspiring work, same for other art.
Music: I don’t need music in the morning, only in the afternoon or the evening when my body gets bored, or my brain’s not working. But I do like the unexpected music playing in the background while I write, even the bad music, a sort of mental communication to me. Where I work: Normally I work in a local café. The best way is to change cafés at lunch time for afternoon writing. This way I avoid the domestic settings of my own home. In London, café writing life can be rather expensive if you eat and drink all the time, which I do. Most of my daily expenditure is on this. When I was in China I wrote a lot of the time in the local restaurants near where I lived. Chinese restaurants are less problematic than western ones and I normally stay there a very long time, sometimes even managing to finish a small chapter before I leave for home.
Inspiration [or, like Philip Roth, do you think ‘amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get to work']: Only writers from previous generations would say something so rigid. If all you need is to ‘get to work’ then one treats writing as a profession and I hate the idea of merely treat writing as a profession. Rarely has great literature been born from such a professional attitude. If you did, you’d end up like Georges Simone – a very interesting writer but never a great one. A writer without self-reflection and who hasn’t gone through a vivid reality, is a worker, a factory worker. Now you may dispute this: you will say Louis Borges didn't go through a vivid reality, but I come back to my point: only writers of previous generations have lived like that. Us younger writers live in a utterly commercial capitalistic society and we are forced to cope with this commercial reality – it is the end of spirituality, whether you like it or not. Exercise: Exercise is good, both mental and physical, but I do so little because of time constraints. 23
Relief: I don't understand this concept of relief. I’m not after relief or pleasure in life, unless it is medical. To live in the moment, to feel life, that is a big project. This is a very personal thing, everyone has their own way to feel the beauty or the sorrow of life. I think it is very important to know deeply what sadness is, what depression and darkness are.
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List of Contributors rachael allen was born in Cornwall in 1989. She studied English at Goldsmiths, University of London and currently lives and works in London where she co-runs the poetry and art collective 'Clinic Presents'. Her poetry has appeared in the Salt Book of Younger Poets, Mercy and Rising. phillip birch is a PA at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and an Honorary Psychotherapist at St Bart's Hospital. He worked in publishing for four years. He lives in London. matthew cruickshank studied graphic design and animation before moving to London. His interests extend to sculpture, painting and sketchbook work. http://crookiesblog.blogspot.com/ clara farmer is the publishing director at Chatto & Windus. In May this year, she was awarded Imprint and Editor of the Year at The Bookseller Industry Awards. antony gormley is an English sculptor. In a career spanning nearly forty years, he has made sculpture that explores the relation of the human body to space at large, explicitly in large-scale installations like Another Place, Domain Field and Inside Australia and implicitly in works such as Clearing, Breathing Room and Blind Light. He has also taken his practice beyond the gallery, engaging the public in active participation, as in Clay and the Collective Body (Helsinki) and the acclaimed One &Other
commission in London's Trafalgar Square. stephen grosz was born in Indiana in 1952, moving to the United Kingdom in 1975. He was educated at Berkeley and Oxford. A practising psychoanalyst for twentyfive years, he teaches clinical technique at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory at the Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London. He is married to the academic and translator Nicola Luckhurst. They have two children and live in London. numan oguzcan studied architectural and spatial design at Chelsea University of the Arts in London. He has been taking photographs of buildings for ten years, and is currently an associate at a thriving architect practice. www.numanoguzcan.com toby martinez de las rivas was born in 1978. He grew up in Somerset, then moved to the north-east of England after studying history and archaeology at Durham. He received an Eric Gregory award in 2005 and the Andrew Waterhouse award from New Writing North in 2008, and had a pamphlet published by Faber in 2009. His poems have appeared in a number of magazines in England, America and Europe. He currently lives in Cordoba, AndalucĂa. rob sharp is arts correspondent of the Independent newspaper.
anna trench was born in London in 1988. She read English at King's College, Cambridge, and was Levy-Plumb Artist in Residence at Christ's College, Cambridge. She has written and drawn for some newspapers, magazines and books. edmund de waal is one of the world's leading ceramic artists, and his porcelain is held in many major museum collections. His bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes , won the Costa Biography Award and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, the PEN/ Ackerley Prize and the Southbank Sky Arts Award for Literature. It was longlisted for the Orwell Prize and BBC Samuel Johnson Prize. Edmund was named New Writer of the Year at the 2010 Galaxy National Book Awards. www.edmundewaal.com eley williams is currently deputy editor at The Literateur online journal. Published in Ambit and the Mays 16 anthology, she sharpens her pencils as an alumna of the Royal Holloway Creative Writing MA and is a past winner of the Christopher Tower Poetry prize. She can also whistle and hum at the same time on demand (subject to availability). www.giantratofsumatra.com With special thanks to nicholas maltby, steven messer, will smith and evi bell.
Welcome to Night & Day: a periodical of books and personalities published quarterly from Twenty Vauxhall Bridge Road, London.