Poet; sound and graphic artist; performer: has been making poetry for over four decades, prolific in a variety of genres. Previously a computer professional (networking, database design), he has been a full time artist since the mid 1990s. Now, he divides his time between London, where he was born, and emptier places, particularly west Cornwall and Scilly, where his family originates. He continues to perform his poetry.
He made solo and collaborative sound works (1970s) at Fylkingen, Stockholm, then West Square Studio, London. Co-Founder jgjgjgjgjg, Bang Crash Wallop etc. Collaborations with cris cheek, Erik Vonna-Michell, Lilian Ward, Bob Cobbing, Alaric Sumner, Rory McDermott, John Levack Drever and others.
Upton worked extensively with the late Bob Cobbing in the 1990s until Cobbing's death, producing 12 collaborative poem / books, including the long visual poem Domestic Ambient Noise; and co-editing the acclaimed Word Score Utterance Choreography in visual and verbal poetry, a primer on the performance of visual poetry, all from Writers Forum. 2 terms as Deputy Chair of The Poetry Society in the mid 1970s. Directed Sub Voicive Poetry from 1994 for ten years. Now co-convenor of Writers Forum Workshop and co-director of Writers Forum press since 2002.
Stamford Hill, North London, 2006
This recording was made on 27 February 2006, at a house in Stamford Hill, north London.
- 'I-Wrack 2'
- 'I-Wrack 4'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 11'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 14'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 16'
- 'Contact Sheets'
- 'Elderly Woman'
- 'I-Wrack 11'
- 'I-Wrack 12'
- 'I-Wrack 13'
- 'I-Wrack 14'
- 'I-Wrack 15'
- 'I-Wrack 16'
- 'I-Wrack 17'
- 'I-Wrack 3'
- 'I-Wrack 5'
- 'I-Wrack 6'
- 'I-Wrack 7'
- 'I-Wrack 8'
- 'I-Wrack 9'
- 'I-Wrack in the Garden'
- 'I-Wrack Repetition'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 1'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 10'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 13'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 15'
Use the player to listen to 'Page from a Book of the Dead 15'Player will appear here
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 17'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 2'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 3'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 4'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 5'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 6'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 8'
- 'Page from a Book of the Dead 9'
- 'Single Figure Not Quite a Human Being'
- 'Snapshot St Ives'
- 'The Back of a Bus'
- 'Walking 1'
- 'Walking 2'
- 'Walking 3'
- 'Walking 4'
- 'Walking 5'
- upton-lawrence_Page-from-a book-of-the-dead-12_brunel_2005.mp3
All Writers Forum publications available here.
- Sculptural calligraphy; Writers Forum; 2006; ISBN 978 1 84254 603 1 ["Visual poetry"]
- Cumbria #7 as a possible audio dance score Writers Forum; 2006; ISBN 978 1 84254 622 8 ["Visual poetry"]
- HUMAN TISSUE: Sad Songs Writers Forum; 2006; ISBN 978 1 84254 376 8 ["Visual poetry"]
- Slow violence, Writers Forum; 2006; ISBN 978 1 84254 382 2 ["Visual poetry"]
- 3 karben poems; Writers Forum, 2005; ISBN 1 84254 478 0 2005 ["Visual poetry"]
- QEV; Writers Forum, 2005; ISBN 1 84254 485 3 ["Visual poetry"]
- possibles; Call this poetry, UK; 2004 distributed by Writers Forum
- networking; Writers Forum; 2004; ISBN 1 84254 599 X
- the group splits apart; Call this poetry, 2004 distributed by Writers Forum
- San' housepress, Canada; 2003 distributed by Writers Forum ["Visual poetry"]
- Wire Sculptures Reality Street, UK; 2003
- Initial Dance – housepress; 2001 - later reprinted in different versions by Writers Forum & World Visual Poetry, St Petersburg ["Visual poetry"]
- Game on a line PaperBrainPress, USA; 2000 out of print ["Visual poetry" + essay]
- Meadows Writers Forum; 2000; 2nd edition 2002
- huming / queuing Writers Forum; 1999
- Letters to Eric Mottram and some postcards Form Books, UK; 1997
- Unsent letters Writers Forum, 1997
- Collaborations for Peter Finch with Bob Cobbing Writers Forum; 1997
- Messages to silence Writers Forum; 1995
- (Eddie goes to a) house, warming Pointing Device, UK; 1994 temporarily out of print
- Domestic Ambient Noise with Bob Cobbing Writers Forum; 1994-2000 temporarily out of print
- Pictures, Cartoon Strips Sound & Language 2006 (forthcoming)
- Scat songs Xexoxial, USA ("visual poetry") no date yet
Editing etc. (selected)
- Alaric Sumner: Documentation of his writing and other artistic and related output; words worth books / Writers Forum, 2004; ISBN 0 906024 24 2 & ISBN 1 84254 525 6 Revision forthcoming
- Remembering Alaric Sumner: a retrospective 2004 in Masthead # 8
- Word Score Utterance Choreography in verbal and visual poetry (Writers Forum, 1998; 156pp; ISBN 0 86162 750 4) co-editor, with Bob Cobbing. Preface by Cobbing and introductions by Upton (+ statement by Upton in body of book) and Robert Sheppard; (Writers Forum, London, 1998)
- Companion to Maggie O'Sullivan Salt - forthcoming, nearing completion 2007
- Selected Poems: Bob Cobbing in preparation; no date yet
- Companion to Bob Cobbing in preparation; no date yet
Talks, essays etc
- A Note on Choreographed Utterance published P-Queue [Excerpted from Regarding "Choreographed Utterance" (unpublished)] in P-Queue , Buffalo, USA September 2006
- Writing "Close to the literal 2"June 2006 Sonic Arts Network Expo, Manchester [interwoven by a complementary talk by John Levack Drever, the co-maker of "Close to the literal"]
- Why I am not "an experimental poet"
- Writing Close to the literal 1 November 2005 Notation, Improvisation and Performance Conference, Goldsmiths College, London [followed by a complementary talk by John Levack Drever, the co-maker of "Close to the literal"]
- Bob Cobbing and the book as medium talk Re-visualising Writing: Page, Canvas, Screen conference at Centre for Cultural Poetics, University of Southampton 2005
- Some initial responses to "Waves on Porthmeor Beach" 2005
- Holding up consciousness, Poetics Conference - Design of Poetry, May 2004 - Birkbeck College, London, UK
- hot mazing on time in Pores 3, 2004
- Alan Sondheim - talk on Sondheim introducing his presentation on his recent work at Incubation 2004, Nottingham Trent University
- Poetry and dance in The Paper (ISSN 1474-8037) edited by David Kennedy, 2003 - includes comments on Upton's I.D. Research Workshops at Chisenhale Dance Space in London in 2001
- Bob Cobbing talk given at BoatTing on 29th September 2003
- Any language cannot be foreign talk at West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA, epoetry 2003
- Bob Cobbing: a worker in progress published on Lollipop in October 2002
- Performing "Textscapes" talk + performance given on 16th July 2002 at Incubation 2: 2nd trAce Conference on Writing and the Internet. 15-17 July 2002, Nottingham Trent University
- How accessible and democratic is the net and does it matter to artists? given on 15th July 2002 at Incubation 2: 2nd trAce Conference on Writing and the Internet. 15-17 July 2002, Nottingham Trent University
- My recent multivoice texts
- A LOT IS POSSIBLE: Sub Voicive Poetry in Words Out Loud: ten essays about poetry readings; edited by Mark Robinson; Stride Books, 2002; ISBN 1 900152 84 3
- Poetry as choreography talk given at Fifth Sub Voicive Colloquium, 29 September 2001, Birkbeck College, London; published as HOW DO THEY PERFORM THAT? POETRY AS CHOREOGRAPHY: an essay on the performance of visual poetry by housepress, 2001
- Tilting the world by Cauldron & Net 3
- Willing suspension of belief talk given at E-Poetry 2001, SUNY Buffalo, NY, April 2001
- Bells, whistles; and sounds and words in Cauldron & Net 3 (edited by Claire Dinsmore)
- Words in a hedge in Cauldron and Net 3
Writers Forum - Life by 1000 books (in A Book of the Book: Some Works & projections about the Book & Writing, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Steven Clay, Granary Books, New York, 2000); Paperback ISBN: 1-887123-28-8. Cloth ISBN: 1-887123-29-6.
- Utterance and notation of poetry in Riding the Meridian 2 October 1999 ISSN 1525 3228 (edited by Alaric Sumner)
- Finding another word for "experimental" in Riding the Meridian 2 October 1999 ISSN 1525 3228 (edited by Alaric Sumner)
- Co-editing "Word Score Utterance Choreography" given at Unpacking the anthology: a conference on Anthologies, Anthologists and Anthologising in Literary Studies at Edge Hill University College, 16 July 1999. Text published by housepress Canada 2001
- Interpreting the visual in poetry? "Kings Talk" - at King's College, London, 28 June 1999. Part of the text being published in Open Letter as "Two Concepts of Normalisation" by Vaclav Havel in Open Letter, Eleventh Series # 7, 2003
- How does one utter that? Talk at Second Sub Voicive Colloquium, Centre for English Studies, University of London 18 October 1997
Talks, essays etc - forthcoming
- Walking, interference in Occasions of Poetry: Essays on Elegy, Walking, and the Spiritual edited by David Kennedy; Stride, Exeter
- Talk at Pressure to experiment conference at University of Southampton 28th and 29th September 2006.
- Talk An insect on a leaf, an acoustic reading and a related talk in Live Garden Initiative on 18th November 2006 at Goldsmiths College, London
- Electro-acoustic performance in collaboration with John Levack Drever at Live Garden Initiative on 20th January 2007 at Goldsmiths College, London
Interviews etc with Lawrence Upton (selected)
- Interviewed by Jane Marsh 2004 - Neon Highway 8
- Interviewed by Jim Bennett, as PK Featured Poet
- Interviewed by Martin Spinelli 28 5 99, ubuweb
- Interviewed, with Bob Cobbing, regarding their collaborations, by Martin Spinelli on 20 5 99 ubuweb
- In discussion with Bob Cobbing and Alaric Sumner, 1999 in Riding the Meridian 2 October 1999 (edited by Alaric Sumner) - published as a pamphlet by Writers Forum [ISBN 184254 585 X]
Lawrence Upton - Collaborations with John Drever
- Notts he and free; 14 minutes; 2 channels; text Lawrence Upton; live voice Lawrence Upton; additional sound elements John Drever; sound treatment John Drever; Interlace concert April 2006
- Cobbing's "Kurrirrurriri" - A version; 20 mins approx; 2 channels; text Bob Cobbing, versioned Lawrence Upton; live voice Lawrence Upton; additional sound elements John Drever; sound treatment John Drever; Fluxus Orchaestra Performance, Goldsmiths College, March 2006
- Close to the Literal; 20 mins. 15 secs; 8 channels + graphic projections; text and all images Lawrence Upton; sound treatment and spatial design John Drever; pre-recorded and live voice Lawrence Upton; October 2005, e-poetry 2005 London; performed again Goldsmiths College Notation Conference November 2005; performed again June 2006 Sonic Arts Network Conference; presented as a 2-channel studio piece (April 2006) + projections, FILE, Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2006.
- crowded; 20 mins approx; 8 channels + graphic projections; text and all images Lawrence Upton; sound treatment and spatial design John Drever; live voice Lawrence Upton; January 2005, Camden Peoples Theatre
- error studies and Portraits; 45 minutes approx; 8 channels + video; text Alaric Sumner; pre-recorded and live voice Lawrence Upton; sound treatment / design John Drever; dance (on video) Zoe Wilton; video direction / production Rory McDermott - September 2004, First Alaric Sumner Festival
- Text out of image (Sandra Blow); 8 channels; 1 hr 15 mins approx; text Alaric Sumner; sound treatment / design John Drever; pre-recorded voice Alaric Sumner; live voice Lawrence Upton - September 2004, First Alaric Sumner Festival
Other activities (selected)
- Exhibitor in Visual and Electronic Poetry International Exhibition, 4th to 11th, November, 2005, Itu, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
- Exhibitor in SoundVision/VisionSound III 7 July-6 August 2005, The Nave Gallery, Somerville, USA
- Curator Alaric Sumner - Graphical Texts. Foyer exhibition at Camden Peoples Theatre. 10th September - 1st October 2004 (extended to 6th December 2004). For details see Alaric Sumner: Documentation of his writing and other artistic and related output (Writers Forum)
- Director of / participant in First Alaric Sumner Festival at Camden Peoples Theatre 10th - 12th September 2004.
- Performance of TRACHEA, made with Rory McDermott, at Incubation 3, Nottingham Trent University 2004 - pre-recorded sound, live sound-singing and performance, still and DV movie projections
- Participant in TEXTLAB, November 2003, Nottingham Trent University, a residential workshop using digital resources - Lawrence Upton finalised the roughcut of his DV film "boat", and other pieces
- Convenor I.D. Research Workshop at Chisenhale Dance Space Autumn 2001 - January 2002
- Performer in workshops on and three performances from Cardew's The Great Learning in Saxony; director John Tilbury, August 2000
- for a performance in as at Dartington College of Arts, June 2000
- Exhibitor via Writers Forum in Repetivity: platforms and approaches for publishing, Plymouth Arts Centre, 26 February to 26 March 2000 - 15 booklets from Domestic Ambient Noise with Bob Cobbing. Catalogue of the same title (ISBN 0 901437 50 6) from RGAP, Derby
- Exhibitor - Domestic Ambient Noise duo exhibition with Bob Cobbing, KlinkerKlub, London. 1st April 2000 - 30th April 2000, extended to 31st May 2000. An exhibition of the whole DAN project, featuring the approximately 2300 images, 98 wall-mounted, many reworked for the exhibition and most of them in new contexts, and all in their 300 booklets.
- Exhibitor via Writers Forum in books by artists at University of the West of England Bristol, 21 - 30 September 1999. 17 booklets from Domestic Ambient Noise with Bob Cobbing, + catalogue of same title published by Impact Press, ISBN 0 9536076 07
- Participant Fax Heart, VLV Gallery, Novi Sad, Jugoslavia, 1994 - photographs of Upton's contribution recur in Domestic Ambient Noise - catalogue of the same name
- The Poetry Harbour - Upton's installation at Space Composed festival, London, 1988
- Deteriorating Texts - solo exhibition of two and three dimensional works at LYC Museum & Art Gallery, Cumbria, November 1981 - catalogue - performance during the exhibition as one of The Great Escapists
Marcus Vergette St Ives Jazz Club 2nd August 2006
He gets verve. He works it.
Gets it as one might a kettle.
Drums it. Rumbles it.
Subjects to analysis.
Extends. Tends to words
he voids -- unverves -- varies
verve reverses it. Reverses it, voices, it
heavily overtoned, heartily
overturned an upside-down crate
of applause. Ability. Gets vast. Wakes it.
Makes it conscious, conscious of itself, conscious is it
functional in extremes, well-
redolent; well, really well
He closes fingering as easily as the grave backs into a face
Life defies the easy and the written determined by the hidden to reveal the exact
The exact is only perfect here, in an imagination
His choice of words is sharp and well-fashioned.
What he writes is widely-recognised art,
the subjects pertinent -- do you understand me?
I recommend you read him right away.
Bristol, July 2006
from a monotype by Geoffrey Soar
almost overtaken by system instability
skull getting out of skin
space filling out flesh infill
face under mud or ash
and drowning in observation
head addressing all four winds
front knot of comet all fuss and rush
falling between spheres
seashore, rock pool
wave swamped, draining
till the tide's risen
Quantocks, June 2003, this version 2005
as he watched, he was hit, strength a matter of urgency. sorts of jealousy. tags of it; obstacles he might put in there himself. silence and uncertainty. common dread to muster arms around. part of him still. and he was hit. a hit. his own discomfort.
Buxted, Sussed, 2006
Snapshot St Ives
Bulky in top, and shorts and logos,
tanned round skull shaven to the brain,
it grins at the woman who's near it.
This is an automat gesture --
as a dog looks round, mapping itself
on to the moving pack, as a bird
flies because another bird flies.
Lacking a sense of higher power,
it may be violent, may think
itself feral. It's dressed to fill
several familiar old images.
One sees the space as a pet, or a child,
glimpsing a common jeopardy,
jam-packed by courage without great risk.
this version 2005
Affection remains, to be another identical twinkling, an awareness, a delusion, several bodies in a dark hood.
Depiction of personae, worlds to inhabit outside of the carcass, an illusion meaning, my favourite beauty, autonomous; biospheres becoming legal flesh in irrational talking.
Error as affect, a disjunctive synthesis. The basic logic. Free interest. A fearing each moment. This has computational function. A repetition that is working out with political activity - a simple man to produce code and names, naked, electric coincidentally and totally.
Lee Valley, Autumn 2004, this version 2005
This is a terrible landscape really
what is beautiful
to gain food by stealth and cunning
whilst the hunt becomes a recreation
for less hungry times
[all quotations made with permission]
"Upton's work crosses a number of boundaries, which makes classification difficult; to which one should also say that classification is an irrelevance and that one should simply deal with the work at hand."--Tony Frazer, Shearsman 55, 2003
"Poets often draw close to other mediums, as form, as metaphor. Geoffrey Hill has written Hymns, Fantasia, Song-Book, Canticles, Requiem and 'Funeral Music'. Basil Bunting wrote sonatas. One thinks of Ian Hamilton Finlay as an artist/poet. Now the industrious Lawrence Upton... has published Wire Sculptures."
"This is truly "awe-full" poetry: an urban awe ("spirits of place born in piss alleys"), half appalled but still energetically threading a voice out and wiring it in to the world ("clip on the British landscape plug"). Language, in this book, retains its force, its ability to be affecting, to gain political agency, reflect on itself, almost but not quite fall apart. The gallery-goer revisits the favourite sculptures then closes the cover on the rooms within. It is a beautifully produced little volume highly recommended. Don't forget to put it in your pocket the next time you go, well, outside... "-- Edmund Hardy / Terrible Work, 2004
"As Lawrence develops his performance he becomes more focused, more inventive... These permutations of a single phrase have resonances for me with Brion Gysin's work but Lawrence develops these into jazz riffs, growling rumbles, falsetto songs, extending from meanings possible from words and their order into meanings possible from sound beyond the words ... I often get the sense that I might see him make an absolute prat of himself by throwing himself into something beyond his physical capabilities, or just risking something way beyond what he knows will work...."
Alaric Sumner, PoetryEtc Discussion List, January 2000
Re Upton's realisation of Game on a line
"Regarding Game on a line I'm really impressed. I don't think I've seen visual work on that scale/in that format before and the quality of the reproductions is excellent. It's a really readable book and I was amazed at the transformations of my text until it got to the point that I could scarcely remember the original. The poetics is great too - I feel very privileged to be involved. I must admit one further note however in that there is a later edited version of that poem which has the line you used as the last line and omits the last two lines in the version you published... I think this illustrates just how well your eye/ear 'caught' that line - it certainly has the rhythmic qualities which make it a good ending I feel. So, thanks again!" -- Scott Thurston email to Lawrence Upton 6 9 2000) - Game on a line (PaperBrainPress, USA, 2000) is a setting of some lines from Scott Thurston's "Two sequences" (RWC)
"Lawrence performed his fractured and entirely demented homage to E. Nesbitt (ending ".. and we'll all be lamb's-wool rich"). This was proclaimed an instant classic by everyone present." "There was more work with slides -- some of the work was projected twice, once in the afternoon and once in the evening, and the interplay of consistency and innovation in interpretation was just amazing." "Lawrence processes his voice through a child's karaoke machine, then suddenly interposes the booklet between mouth and mic, so the live sound bounces off the back wall... Someone pounds the piano and Lawrence delivers an astonishingly good 20 seconds of garage punk." "Minute by minute, the work alternated between the viscerally scary and the riotously funny." "I learned more about soundtext performance this weekend than I did in the preceding five years, and had a brilliant time." --Peter Manson British and Irish Poets List, April 2000, speaking of the final performances of Domestic Ambient Noise
"Upton is in performance as deft as a weathergirl."--Chris Goode, UKPoetry
"I am reading a short essay by Lawrence Upton. It is an essay that sings the pain of living and breathing despair, a worldly despair that oozes from the very structure of the times." --Pete Hay in Famous Reporter # 24
"Astonishingly crafted. Read like a movie one might be watching. Lyrical episodes wafted into my consciousness. Read and reread phrases built up layered images mingled with memories, learned and unlearned. As if, just that aspect, just that nuance, was exactly like that day when... Memories stimulated, moved once, twice, jolted, examined: tangible, universal..." -- Reader's private response (anonymity requested) to Snapshots, 2003
"For many years, Lawrence Upton has been consistently inventive and quite staggeringly prolific. Particularly, perhaps, he has never got trapped in ideological zeal, that is, in frumpish notions of what can and can't be done in cutting edge poetry."-- Gilbert Adair / introducing a London performance by Lawrence Upton, 1995
"[Wire Sculptures] is a pleasure. I read it end to end over supper and kept thinking, blimey, why didn't I think of that? You have the knack of putting "ordinary" material into fresh situations and structures so that even abstracts seem sprung, dynamic. "I hear you" as a great man once said.... I sure as hell hope you find a berth for this great collection." -- Ric Caddel / private letter, 1998
"[Stone Head] plays three voices speaking a text which has been dredged from the innards of cybertech, forcefed into mind and regurgitated through fingers. Passionlessly arbitrary at first reading, passionately pertinent on later readings. Transformed in performance, the three voices interweave with presence, intonation, improvisation."-- Alaric Sumner / unpublished essay, 1998
"I think I mentioned to you (I hope I did) how impressed I was with your own performance at the workshop the previous Saturday. I'd not been aware that you were continuing your sound explorations and was impressed with your technique."-- Paul Dutton / letter to Upton (published on SVP website), 1998
"Upton's inventiveness seemed an easy (in the sense of 'competent' not 'facile') access to surprising himself within a large frame of sound and language (bounded only by the formats that he sets himself)."-- Alaric Sumner / British & Irish Poets' Discussion List, 1998, re a performance of Domestic Ambient Noise [or DAN]
"Lawrence Upton is now a major figure in contemporary British poetry. That increasing stature is partly due to the belated, but now blossoming, publication of his work outside a previously small London-centric appreciation. Partly due also to the diversity of his practice, which tends to delay reception and absorption but whose breadth is becoming more appreciated, indeed he describes his own practice as "restless"..." "[He has a] very diverse range of writing practices, much of which is concerned with exploring the impact of transformational syntax, both on narrative eruption and subject identity displacements. More recently he has been exploring choreography in relation to performances of writing..." "DAN can be understood as a dialogistic network of writings processed and produced through performances 'between' a late Bob Cobbing and a mid-career Lawrence Upton, with Upton's practice in the ascendancy. "-- cris cheek, British Electronic Poetry Centre, 2004
"[Domestic Ambient Noise] interrogates conventional boundaries of consensual meaning formation and in the process of so doing it establishes a construction site for potentially unassimilable proliferations of meaning... It positions the performance of writing, in the extremely late twentieth century, as a complex ontological navigational tool, that territorialises, deterritorialises and reterritorialises, models of linkage. Writing is links! That's how it's made, from one constructed moment, one articulated space to another, not necessarily the next, but certainly another."-- cris cheek / Third Sub Voicive Colloquium, 1999
"[In Domestic Ambient Noise,] The procedures of Cobbing and Upton are well-matched and productive, because dissimilar. Whereas Cobbing's variations are quite precisely versions... on the text of Upton's selected, Upton's 'variations' involve the addition of new material, possibly in response to the theme, but possibly to counterpoint Cobbing's procedures... And Lawrence may well take one of these to process himself or to use a springboard for new material or - as he alarmingly did in April's 587 - to re-introduce Cobbing's processing of his own 'starter" from the first booklet (558)"-- Robert Sheppard / FAR LANGUAGE: poetics and linguistically innovative poetry 1978-1997, Stride 1999
"i will continue to suggest [Domestic Ambient Noise] is a major work - in its time and of its kind of course)"-- cris cheek / British and Irish Poets' Discussion List 03 April 2000
"If a work disturbs me to the extent I don't trust it, I am sure it is doing something I need to look at - I can't yet cope with it... exciting. I could say "persuades me to keep reading" but it doesn't, I have to persuade myself to keep reading despite my discomfort - because it is doing something to me. But if a work persuades me, comforts me, agrees with me, what am I getting from it that will shift me somewhere interesting?... I am comparing [Allen] Fisher, Lawrence [Upton] with work that risks less. You can get disturbance in other ways. For example, I would argue Lawrence [Upton] often gets the same sense of danger in his less apparently risky work… [Is this the crux of the question? Persuasive work v. Challenging work?"-- Alaric Sumner / PoetryEtc Discussion List, January 2000
I should like to draw attention to some extraordinary writing (huming/queuing by Lawrence Upton) as it now becomes available
The first seven paragraphs of huming, ascribed to Narrator, in one reading slip into reverse from "Easy auto" through scrambled anathemas and Edenic idyll back to Creation and out again on a reduced, more "huming" scale, before linguistic elements begin to recombine and develop: "spreading" and "multiplying ... from any point to any other point", as Upton puts it in the here republished Preface to the on-line version. His concern with humming - "Not speaking, not singing, but near both of them" - is as much to the point as the radiating thematic developments in these pieces "written firstly rather than more for the sound of their words". They were certainly not written less for the sound in my reading; as I attend to them I am repeatedly reminded of the section on "writing aloud" in Roland Barthes' "The Pleasure of the Text" which posits a text in which "we can hear the grain of the throat, the patina of consonants, the voluptuousness of vowels ... the breath, the gutturals, the fleshiness of the lips, a whole presence of the human muzzle". For Barthes it was necessary to speak of such a writing "as though it existed"; to my satisfaction, it manifests here:
"None proof-readers guard co-sign rune. None opining corn tarnish wax cashes. Cosmogony cover soon viceroy flies screwing toughens. Traces science fiction cunt idyllic fit. None knifes depend damson. None denies sin dim diminutive daisy is continuities. None deplores dovecote so chefs rope down avionic duvet. Man eleison lift tiff cash humanity. Rex merger. Pate pious story plastic node go et et cetera."
But the pleasures of luxuriating in a subvocal reading of the text are problematised almost as soon as they have established themselves by the arrival of various personae, including Upton who speaks next. When he was a near-neighbour, Steven Berkoff, urging me to follow his example, claimed to be a poet who divided up the lines of his poems between characters, and one wonders if, albeit in terms of a more sophisticated poetic, something of the sort is going on here. Upton's impressively fluent, but in Barthes' terms, as geno-text, appropriately undramatic reading when he launched this edition at the Writers Forum Workshop gave nothing away. His note to queuing provides suggestions for performers from "measures of pausing" down to stage-Welsh and stage-French accents, and the dramatic is certainly not absent in that piece, as the absurdist cameo involving Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal on p 23 witnesses. Against this one must weigh his permission for performers to read paragraphs attached to different names in non-dramatic combinations, along with the lack, for the most part, of any obvious matching of vocabulary with character or accent.
Whether the introduction of characters is a brilliant ruse to disrupt a flow that might otherwise overwhelm all but the most resolute or the development of an operative dramatic dimension remains, I think, undecidable for the work as a whole. I suspect for most of what is here published - and there is more to come - the movement between speakers is an integral part of the writing process, and Upton's statement that "the names of the characters are to be considered part of the text" does not disallow that view; the extent to which it is inadequate can only be revealed by further readings - and I shall not begrudge the effort. There are generous returns to be had from these pieces even for the literal-minded if they recognise letters may spell the body of the text that is Barthes' "body of bliss". Such have we here." -- Adrian Clarke / British and Irish Poets' Discussion List, 2002
"Lawrence - perhaps he won't very deeply mind me saying this - is, in his nine-men's-morris turbulence, such a fine poet, and such an exceptionally good lie detector."-- Chris Goode / British and Irish Poets' Discussion List 04 April 2000
"Lawrence [Upton] has produced an enviable body of work in his career as a poet. As well as challenging perceptions of what poetry is, his work is always engaging and innovative... representative of the best of other poetics."--introduction to PK Featured poet #5 Lawrence Upton, 2001
"Your work has always embodied phenomenology, dialog and dialoging on a serious level that I don't see much of, and that's really necessary. There's a political urgency in it that's all too lacking elsewhere. You remind me of Blanchot, Levinas, Kraus at times."-- Alan Sondheim, November 04, personal letter
"I don't know if anyone else has spotted the recent visual poetry Lawrence Upton has posted. I think the extracts from NAMING, in particular, are superb." "Lawrence seems be running rings around his own previous practice: a formal vocabulary which grew up in one medium (photocopy manipulation, say) being expressed through quite other means (photoshop, overlaid text, painting, it's hard to tell). I want to see these things on paper to figure out how they're made, then I realise the jpeg compression is part of the work, just one more layer of processing... I feel as if I've been walked through a complex argument about form, function and following, and Lawrence hasn't said a word."--Peter Manson, November 04, UK Poetry
"Lawrence Upton & John Drever collaborated on a very accomplished total environment piece. A succession of melting, solar, neon and hyperhyper images appeared as Lawrence & John growled and snuffled from a perimeter of speakers. Much of the time the noises "read out" the images, an enforced scrutiny of the collaborations and continuities between language and everyday materiality. Because it encircled us, & because of its scheduling towards the end of the conference, it felt to me like a gifted critical space."-- Jow Lindsay, November 05, UKPoetry re Close to the Literal
"Close to the Literal was a complex audio-visual collaboration by poet & artist Lawrence Upton and composer John Drever. Colour images, deriving from coastal landscapes and letter-forms, provided a text/score for vocal performance: pre-recorded, live, and live-re-processed; thus both participants contribute both prepared and improvised material. The room was professionally wired (this takes hours) and the sound was fantastic. Think Dylan & Lanois (Oh Mercy). The piece was essentially episodic but a subtle architectonic seemed discernible over its length. A substantial achievement."-- Elizabeth James, UKPoetry 3 October, 2005
"The electronic poetry field is wide between purely programmed art... and all alternatives of computer-assisted art. I think in particular of the new breath gained by sound poetry, masterly performed by Lawrence Upton. It was to me an enthusiastic illustration of what can be done by mixing analog and digital media."-- Patrick-Henri Burgard on e-poetry list, 2005, re Close to the literal, presented at e-poetry 2005