Sunday, 9 May 2021

Odds and Ends: Essays, Blogs, Internet Discussions, Interviews and Miscellany

Here is a collection of my essays, blogs, internet discussions I've taken part in, interviews I've had, and miscellany, from 2005-2020.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Lawrence Upton RIP

A few days ago, I was saddened to hear that the poet and director of Writers Forum, Lawrence Upton, had died on the 16th February 2020. For about a year early in the last decade, I corresponded with him via email, discussing many things relating to the UK avantgarde poetry scene, and also about his association with the poet and founder of Writers Forum, Bob Cobbing, with whom he collaborated on a number of projects.

Around the time of our email correspondence, I published his Commentaries on Bob Cobbing as an ebook with Argotist Ebooks, which can be found here:

I also published a poetic work of his, Memory Fictions, which can be found here:

He said he wanted to also write an article for The Argotist Online about a (then) fracas concerning Writers Forum, in which he felt that certain people involved with Writers Forum were attempting to remove him as its director. He’d written about this on Writers Forum’s blog but felt that a formal and detailed article by him concerning the situation would better advertise the unfairness of his treatment. And that as The Argotist Online reached a wider readership than Writers Forum’s blog did, it would be the best place for his case to be heard.

I said that I’d be interested to read anything he wrote, and would likely publish it once the aforementioned ebooks had been published. Unfortunately, after they had been published he changed his mind about writing the article. I think by then he might have had a rapprochement with the various parties involved.

Here is his Writers Forum blog post about the situation:

And just in case that link becomes redundant at some stage in the future, here is a link to a PDF of the blog post:

I belatedly found out about Lawrence’s death from a post on the British and Irish Poets Listserve, which I only occasionally log into these days. One other subscriber to that list, the poet Cris Cheek, posted the following regarding Lawrence:

‘Please help bring pressure to bear so that Lawrence Upton's papers and collections do not become landfill fodder. The situation is precarious. Lawrence has no next-of-kin (as far as we know) and might have died intestate. We need to gain access to the building to ascertain if there is a will and to begin to assess the condition of the mountain of materials inside his house. It is currently boarded up by the police for security and possibly in danger of being declared a public health and safety hazard by the coroner's office. Time is in short supply. This petition seeks to demonstrate the importance of his materials for future research by scholars and practitioners:

I echo his sentiments and urge people to sign this petition.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

An Old Poem I Wrote

Here's an old poem by me that I just came across again after many years. I wrote it around 1991. It's never been published.

The Threshold of Jove’s Court

I told them to enter
and see the lamenter
who was a repenter
and became an assenter
to fall to the centre
and become a consenter
and be a frequenter
noble dissenter
and upset tormenter
and bookish augmenter
to make the restrictions
and get the convictions
to cause the new frictions
to burn the sad fictions
like Los's predictions
and all his old dictions
and Ida's depictions
and Milton's inflictions
and Beulah's conflictions
she turned to transfixtions
as she came to the confidante
who showed her the miscreant
who made her feel elegant
with the power of lubricant
and the eyes of the vigilant
and the thoughts of the postulant
and the cowardice of the reverent
and the diplomacy of the celebrant
and the hatefulness of the ignorant
and the safety of the inhabitant
and the words that are blighted
and mediocrity knighted
or the men who are not righted
or the women who are frighted
and soft voices that are spited
with the opinions that are slighted
and the warnings that are lighted
to the ones who feel plighted
as the stalkers who are sighted
turn out to be heighted
for the simple publicity
that crowns our great city
with its glass walled cubicity
and its sky bound toxicity

Friday, 25 October 2019

Review of Christopher Plummer's Memoirs

Christopher Plummer's In Spite of Myself is one of the best showbiz memoirs I've read. It's very long (over 600 pages) but never boring, largely due to Plummer's narrative skill, wit and charm.

A large part of the book reads like a Who's Who of the American and British theatre of the 1950s and 1960s, with Plummer having worked with most major theatrical figures of those decades, from Elia Kazan to Peter Hall. And his friendships have also ranged widely, including figures such as Noël Coward, Rex Harrison, Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Raymond Massey and Jason Robards. He is always generous towards everyone he mentions, even to those who have treated him unfairly, either professionally or personally; and he is always self-deprecating.

He is, perhaps, better known for his film work (particularly in The Sound of Music) but a major part of his career has been in the theatre, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 1960s, he was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, living in Britain for a large part of that decade. And amongst the major theatrical classical roles he's played throughout his career are Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry V, Richard III and King Lear.

The book is also full of interesting detail about Plummer's more personal life: his visits to different countries (he's extremely well travelled), his favourite hotels and restaurants, his house moving adventures, and movingly about the deaths of his pet dogs, which he kept in the 1980s and 1990s.

As you can imagine for a 600-plus-page book, there is far more in it than I have been able to touch on here, so I highly recommend it—especially to anyone interested in theatre and film of the past 60 years.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Interview with me at The Wombwell Rainbow

Here is an interview with me at The Wombwell Rainbow:

The interview is part of a series of interviews with poets and writers about their approaches to and methods of writing.

Initiated by Paul Brookes, to date it is an ongoing series, and Paul is looking for more poets and writers to take part. So if anyone is interested you can contact him at:

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Monopolisation of Avant-garde Poetry

Here is an article by Tim Allen called ‘The Kiss of Life? The Kiss of Death? Some Thoughts on Linguistically Innovative Poetry and the Academy’:

Tim wrote it in connection to a feature at The Argotist Online concerning the relationship between academia and avant-garde poetry. The feature is several years old, and was an attempt to get a discussion going about what appears to be an increasing tendency within the English departments of some academic institutions in the US and the UK to monopolise the practice, discourse, dissemination and publication of avant-garde poetry, thus creating a sort of “gold standard” by which avant-garde poetry is to be measured, validated and approved as being “worthy” of academic interest.

I thought the best way to start this discussion was to do a feature about it for The Argotist Online, consisting of articles by US and UK academics responding to an article by Jake Berry that was critical of academic encroachment into the sphere of avant-garde poetry. The feature can be found here:

My original hope for the feature was to get responses to Berry’s article from academics closely involved in this monopolisation process. To that end, I approached many academics, both in the US and the UK, who were involved, to a greater of lesser extent, in this process. Few replied to me, and the majority of those that did, refused to take part in the feature. One or two did initially agree to take part but later changed their minds, for such reasons as having lack of time or having more pressing deadlines for other projects to meet. Consequently, without the involvement of these academics in the feature, the feature was ignored, and failed to garner any online interest, despite being viewed thousands of times within the first few hours of it being online.

Recently, Tim and I were discussing these issues via email, and I suggested to him that he formulate his opinions on the subject as an article, so that they could be accumulated in one place and read by others. He readily agreed, and consequently wrote the article mentioned above. 

My thanks to him for taking the time to write it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Survey of How Poetry Can Be Read and Written

I’ve just come across a feature I'm included in by Peter Philpott for his site Modern Poetry. It’s a survey of various ideas held or rehearsed by poets and academics about the reception and production of poetry. I'm included regarding various articles I’ve written that advocate reception theory as a useful tool for appreciating poetry. Others included are:

Matthew Caley, Will Rowe, Ian Davidson, Johan de Wit, J. H. Prynne, Joe Kennedy, Harriet Tarlo, Philip Terry, Lawrence Upton, Brian Kim Stefans, Sheila E. Murphy, Tim Love, Andrew Duncan, Willian Watkin, Peter Riley, Reginald Shepherd, Marianne Morris, Ira Lightman, Robin Purves, Sam Ladkin, Christopher Funkhouser and N. Katherine Hayles.

It can be found here:

My thanks to Peter Philpot for his generosity in including me in this line-up.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Pirene’s Fountain Interviews

Here are two interviews with me, conducted by Ami Kaye for Pirene’s Fountain in 2009 and 2010, about online poetry editing and online poetry publishing. My thanks to Ami for allowing me to re-publish them at The Argotist Online:

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Influence of Coleridge on Wordsworth

Here's a free ebook drawn from material in my PhD thesis:

The Influence of Coleridge on Wordsworth is an examination of the ways in which aspects of Coleridge’s early writings and philosophical concerns permeate the poetry and poetic aesthetic of Wordsworth, especially in the composition of Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads, of which Coleridge said, ‘It is most certain, that that Preface arose from the heads of our mutual Conversations […] the first passages were indeed partly taken from notes of mine […] for it was at first intended, that the Preface should be written by me’.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Michelle Greenblatt RIP

Just heard that Michelle Greenblatt, a poet and editor friend, died last Monday. She was only in her early thirties. I hadn’t had contact with her for some months, and assumed that this was due to her fibromyalgia, which she suffered from terribly. I’m very shocked and saddened. My thoughts are with her husband and family. Rest in peace, Heavenly. 

She was poetry editor and music editor for the website Unlikely Stories:

Here are some of her poems at that site:

Here is an ebook of her collaborative poems with Vernon Frazer I published in 2011:

Friday, 24 July 2015

'Carrier of the Seed' now an Argotist Ebook

My long poem, originally published by BlazeVOX, is now an Argotist Ebook.


‘All the way through to the poem's conclusion, with its implied continuation, the reader will have embarked down an extraordinary route of languages, registers and vocabularies, which function to arrest, surprise, disrupt, flow together, collide and cut across each other's current like a plaited waterway. In turn, this flow has been enriched by the assimilation of artefacts from different generations of writers; these deepen the work, interlacing it with echoes and experiences from different times and cultures. The integration of so many disparate elements into one cogent construct is the poem's triumph.’ (John Couth)

Available as a free ebook here:

Full Argotist Ebooks catalogue here:

Friday, 3 July 2015

Limited Poetic Meaning and the Wordsworthian Legacy

Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago, which attempts to show how the Modernist innovations in poetry in the early years of the twentieth century became marginalized as serious poetic techniques, in favour of a more realist sort of poetic style that was largely influenced by the poetic aesthetic of William Wordsworth.

‘Limited Poetic Meaning and the Wordsworthian Legacy’:

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Critique of Conceptual Poetry

A critique of conceptual poetry: interviews with David Hadbawnik, Joseph Hutchison, Don Share, Andrew Peart and Bill Friend at The Argotist Online:

Friday, 3 January 2014

Wordsworth's Empiricist Poetic and Its Influence in the Twentieth Century

For anyone who might be interested, my PhD thesis, ‘Wordsworth's Empiricist Poetic and Its Influence in the Twentieth Century’, is available online here:

It’s a sort of literary “unified field theory” as to why we have the sort of poetry we have today.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Coleridge’s Early Empiricism

The new ebook from Argotist Ebooks is Coleridge’s Early Empiricism by Jeffrey Side


This study examines the influence of empiricism on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poetry up until 1800, at which time he deserted it for transcendentalism. This is not to suggest that he was completely an empiricist before 1800, but that his empiricism was somewhat tempered by transcendentalist influences. Therefore, the relationship between “empiricism” and “transcendentalism” in his thinking with regard to poetic composition is problematical. Coleridge became a transcendentalist poet and thinker, whose Biographia Literaria was partly intended to demonstrate the malign effect of the Locke tradition on poetry. Even so, that book is partly a work of self-correction. There is ample evidence of Coleridge’s immersion in empiricist philosophy in the 1790s, as well as in the kind of scientific enquiry that was thought to be congenial to that philosophy.

Available as a free ebook here:

Full Argotist Ebooks catalogue here:

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Shadows of the Future

Shadows of the Future, an anthology of Otherstream poetry, edited by Marc Vincenz with an Introduction by Bon Grumman, has been published by Argotist Ebooks, and can be downloaded here:

Argotist Ebooks’ catalogue can be found here:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What’s in a Name?: The Art & Language Group and Conceptual Poetry

In his essay, ‘Charmless and Interesting:What Conceptual Poetry Lacks and What It’s Got’ Robert Archambeau asks: ‘In what sense is pure conceptualism poetry, beyond the institutional sense of being distributed and considered through the channels by which poetry is distributed and considered?’ The answer to this question would clarify the relationship between conceptual poetry, conceptual art and the generally accepted definition of poetry as being specifically a literary art whereby language is utilised aesthetically and evocatively.

That some of the concerns and practices of conceptual poetry are not new in the world of conceptual art needs no extensive repetition here. However, it is interesting to note that in relation to conceptual poetry’s use of texts and lexical elements to comprise its works, a fairly recent historical precedent already exists. This can be seen in the theories, practices and works of 1960s conceptual artists such as Lawrence Weiner, Edward Ruscha and Robert Barry; and also in the theories, practices and works of the conceptual art group known as Art & Language, which was formed by Terry Atkinson, Michael Baldwin, Harold Hurrell and David Bainbridge in 1968. Others affiliated with this group, included Ian Burn, Michael Corris, Preston Heller, Graham Howard, Joseph Kosuth, Andrew Menard, Terry Smith, Philip Pilkington and David Rushton. These artists were among the first to produce art from textual and lexical sources.

The notable similarity between the theories of this group and those of conceptual poetry’s is that the group developed, extended and championed the conceptual theories that were initiated by artists such as Marcel Duchamp. The group also held the view that the practice of art should be systematically theoretical and entirely separated from concerns relating to craft or aesthetics. These and other ideas appeared in the group's journal, Art-Language, the first issue of which appeared in 1969.

A direct parallel with the works of these artists and those produced by conceptual poets is not my intention here. There will be differences in scale (both physical and theoretical) and presentation between them; suffice to say, that the common element they share is that of a conceptual approach to their works, and as such, this leads us back to Archambeau’s question (‘In what sense is pure conceptualism poetry, beyond the institutional sense of being distributed and considered through the channels by which poetry is distributed and considered?’), and also one that I would like to ask. If it is at all possible to agree that both the Art & Language group and conceptual poetry share similar theoretical stances and working practices, then in what sense is the work produced by conceptual poetry more suited to be called poetry than that of the Art & Language group?

In one of the two Facebook discussions I took part in recently about Archambeau’s question, it was mentioned by someone that the term “poetry” was merely an honorific one, conferred by the academy on what it deemed was poetry: the logical extension of this being that if the academy should deem, for instance, a text-book to be poetry then it would have to be accepted that a text-book was, indeed, poetry. In response to this, someone else mentioned that the approach of the literary theorist Roman Jakobson was more reasonable, in that Jakobson saw poetry as marked by specific functions in language rather than by an arbitrary redesignation by the academy of general texts. I agreed with the latter.

In light of this, it seems to me that given that there is no significant difference between the work of the Art & Language group and that of conceptual poetry, for the work of the latter to be designated as poetry whilst that of the former is not, seems a peculiarly inconsistent and whimsical act on the part of the academy. It seems to me, that neither the Art & Language group nor conceptual poetry can accurately be described as producing works of poetry, given that they are both operating from within a conceptual art aesthetic and theoretical stance.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Ann Bogle Apologises to Me—Sort of

Ann Bogle emailed me recently to apologise for her part in a public dispute we had with each other last year. For those interested, here are links to my blog posts where the dispute is explained:

Response to Ann Bogle:

Second Response to Ann Bogle:

Third Response to Ann Bogle:

In her email of apology Ann said:

“I apologize to you for an event that led to other events in August last year. I hope you will accept my apology, in particular for bringing up Bobbi Lurie's email correspondence with you in the OtherStream thread. It was not appropriate to bring it up there or to air it. It was in a flaming thread that you initiated because I had persisted in adding comments about Prosetics (my coinage) in poetry contexts, most particularly, in The Argotist Group.

Country Without a Name will become a book this year to be published by Veery Imprints. Acknowledgement of Argotist Ebooks as its first publisher will be included in its pages. I appreciate your steadiness in working as an e-publisher and your own poetry, when I can find it, and I wish I could find more of it. We were indeed allies and I hope you will view it that way once again.”

In response to this, I replied:

“Thanks for your apology. I can only accept it, though, if you are willing to make it a public apology. I will then accept it publically.”

Ann replied:

“I will post my apology, first, along with this note, mine, second, in response to yours of today, July 5, 2013, at Ana Verse as a Page (rather than as a blog entry) called “My Apology to Jeffrey Side” -- unless you have had thought of de-posting the several blog posts that critique me and Bobbi Lurie. Then our posts will not be permanently available on the Internet, as per Bobbi's request. Perhaps you plan and prefer to leave your critiques of us posted as an explanation of part of history.

In keeping with the artistic design of Ana Verse, the related entry I wish could remain at Ana Verse is “American Candid” -- that I view as a spontaneously-written collaborative play and that I de-posted at the request of Bobbi Lurie, who has asked both you and me not to use her name publicly in any connection with the word “psychotic,” for reasons she had stated in a comment she at first allowed to be posted at Ana Verse following my single-entry response to you and that she later asked me to de-post because her name appears there in connection with the word “psychotic” -- as do these THREE or FOUR emails.

Please let me know your wishes.”

She then posted her apology at her blog, notifying me thus:

“Jeff, there I posted my email to you verbatim:”

I replied:

“I am satisfied with your posting your apology email at Ana Verse but please amend the sentence:

‘I hope you will accept my apology, in particular for bringing up Bobbi Lurie's email correspondence with you in the OtherStream thread.’


‘I hope you will accept my apology, in particular for bringing up Bobbi Lurie's email correspondence with you in the OtherStream thread, and misrepresenting what you said about her in relation to the word “psychotic.’

And also amend the sentence:

‘It was in a flaming thread that you initiated because I had persisted in adding comments about Prosetics (my coinage) in poetry contexts, most particularly, in The Argotist Group.’


‘It was in a thread that you initiated because I had persisted in adding comments about Prosetics (my coinage) in poetry contexts, most particularly, in The Argotist Group.’

Also please remove my email address from the header of your apology email.

Once you have made these amendments (and not reposted “American Candid”) I will post your apology at my blog, with a note saying I accept it. I will also remove the several blog posts that critique you and Bobbi Lurie.”

She replied:

“I'll amend the Apology I posted without the word “flaming” in it as a compromise; otherwise, STET, no mention of the word “psychotic.”

STET, for those who don’t know, means: “let it stand”, and is used as an instruction on a printed proof to indicate that a correction or alteration should be ignored. So here, Ann has agreed to remove the word “flaming” from one sentence, but not to amend the crucial sentence:

"I hope you will accept my apology, in particular for bringing up Bobbi Lurie's email correspondence with you in the OtherStream thread."


“I hope you will accept my apology, in particular for bringing up Bobbi Lurie's email correspondence with you in the OtherStream thread, and misrepresenting what you said about her in relation to the word “psychotic.”

I replied to Ann:

“I can’t accept your apology without your mentioning in it the reason why I was in dispute with you in the first place, namely that you said that I had called Bobbi “psychotic”, when in fact I only said her later emails to me were. It is perfectly possible for someone’s writing style to be “psychotic” when they themselves are not. I made this clear to you at the time.

Without your apology being amended in this way, I can’t accept it, nor can I remove my blog posts regarding the issue. For me to accept the apology as it stands, would mean I would have to leave my blog posts in situ in order to contextualise your apology, which you probably wouldn’t like.”

Ann, however, was adamant that no further compromise on her part should be made, replying:

“Jeff, it's okay to me if you do not accept correct apology, but it's a shame in terms of peace and friendship.”

Her apology (albeit without the inclusion of the word “flaming”) can be found at her blog here:

In this apology, she also links to another part of her blog where she has reproduced fully the thread from the Otherstream Facebook group that initiated my dispute with her. That she should do this after both Bobbi and myself requested she not do so, demonstrates a lack of consideration, especially towards Bobbi whom, as far as I can tell, Ann has no grievance with. Incidentally, as far as I know, no one who has taken part in the thread has given her permission to publish their private comments in it. This probably constitutes an infringement by Ann of Facebook’s privacy policy, which she might or might not be aware of.

Given this, and her apology being incomplete, and possibly insincere, I am in no reasonable position to accept it as an apology.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Nothing New under the Sun

Here is an article written by Kenny Goldsmith praising Richard Prince who has made a facsimile copy of The Catcher in the Rye, inserting his own name in place of J. D. Salinger’s.

Goldsmith writes:

“A few months ago, a friend pulled off her bookshelf a new appropriation work by Richard Prince, one so radical and so daring, that I almost couldn’t believe it was by the same artist. The premise of the book was achingly simple: a reproduction of the first edition of The Catcher In The Rye, identical in every way except the author’s name was swapped from J. D. Salinger to Richard Prince. The production value of the book was astonishingly high, a perfect facsimile of the original, right down to the thick, creamy paper stock and classic typeface.”

It is peculiar how Goldsmith forgets to mention his own book Day (another work of “unoriginality”) being similarly appropriated (though in a far more ironic and conceptual manner) by Kent Johnson, a few years ago, who, I think, might have been the first person to do this sort of thing with a published book.

It appears nothing is original in conceptual art anymore, even when it’s trying to be unoriginal.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Chicago School of Poetics Scholarship Program Appeal Campaign

Poet and founder and director of The Chicago School of Poetics Francesco Levato, has asked me to spread the word about the School’s scholarship program appeal campaign, which I am very happy to do. He also mentioned to me that he and Larry Sawyer, the School’s co-director, have been teaching from Argotist Ebooks’ catalogue. This is great news, and shows great faith in the ebook format as a serious medium for the presentation and of poetry. This is what he says in his email:

"It's been a while since I last emailed, and I believe it was about teaching from Argotist Ebooks at the Chicago School of Poetics. Both I and my co-director Larry Sawyer have taught from your catalogue, and, of course, really appreciate the work you put out. I'm writing now to ask if you might consider helping us get the word out about a scholarship campaign we are nearing the end of for the School. We're trying to raise funds to offer full scholarships to poetry students in financial need. Do you have an email list you regularly send to where you might mention the campaign? If this is something you wouldn't be comfortable doing I completely understand".

Here are the full details of the campaign:

With your generous support, the Chicago School of Poetics will be offering full scholarships for Master Classes (with poets like Eileen Myles and Charles Bernstein) and regular 8-week courses for the 2013 school year. Just $10 can help students in need attend classes. Please donate at:

The campaign ends February 22nd.

"This is what a school truly should be—think of Black Mountain College—beyond all the boundaries & borders". (Ron Silliman)

The Chicago School of Poetics (CSoP) is an online and on-location school that offers compelling poetry classes without the MFA time commitment, pressure or price tag. With an emphasis on craft, instructors at the School focus on the merits of student writing on its own terms. It’s not the typical creative writing workshop! Courses offered at the School allow students to refine their work in a collaborative—not competitive—environment. We don’t teach creativity. Courses allow students to understand the writing process from the inside by observing firsthand how the instructors work in order to gain the critical distance necessary to write more resonant poetry. The School also offers genuine community. On-location courses offer valuable face-to-face contact and online courses offer valuable access to the vibrant community of Chicago poetry for anyone worldwide.