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Elizabeth James

Elizabeth James


Grew up in Cardiff and now live in London, working as a librarian at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Involvements include(d): 'English Literature', art history and criticism, creative-writing teaching, the internet, book history; in poetry: performance, audio/radio, and electronic work. Collaboration was liberation, and a ball. Still never sure where the next text's coming from.

Contact: c/o National Art Library, V&A, London SW7 2RL


Stamford Hill, North London, 2006

This recording was made on 15 March 2006, at a house in Stamford Hill, north London.


  • Base to Carry (Barque, 2004) (includes 'poem (frames)' and 'words of the weak' read here)
  • Recognition (Writers Forum, 1999)
  • two poems (Form Books, 1998)
  • World of Interiors (Vennel Press, 1998)
  • 1 : 50 000 -- 16 Short Poems (Vennel Press, 1992)
  • by Frances Presley and Elizabeth James: Neither the One Nor the Other (Form Books, 1999)
  • by Peter Manson and Elizabeth James: 'Two Renga' in RENGA+ (Reality Street Editions, 2002)

A couple of the poems read here should appear in Angel Exhaust magazine, no. 19.

Sample Text

How distant? (24 xi 03)


Hearing about this, long-since-finished
returns enforced separation
resigned, but not to leave the country
flushed upstream, or peeled off
and put somewhere threatened
a former departure lounge
overwhelming memory
we don't want any of
sliding by

Scenes of jubilation, strangers embracing
in the midst of our rubble, the British
divorce rate mutually recognised
leaders do cut-and-run, blaming
difficulties they have to negotiate
dreams of bringing them back
a two-state solution
we have to learn
to love

This industry is global, representing
people in language similar
to my own
re-evaluates one's sense of belonging
on the edge of the market
a battered pram
smoking in a doorway
totally transformed one's belongings

In the end it was poetic, a long walk away
staring at something very distant
meaning would take a few days
to sink in personal decision
withdrawn under dark-grey
sky in container vessel girl
translates new shoes
she voted for, like
calm traffic

Gun Detox (from Words of the Weak)

A 'cure' of the word is never certain ...What lets it succeed?
                          Denise Riley, The Words of Selves (2000)


tears torn steered twenty thousand characters in search
                                               of a change of blood
metonyms planted openly on the grass
                                        a slower gun - pipe or hose
homes they could return to safely
                          what was it to 'stop', in what name
marching, from Marcus, a hammer, damned                    mad
                                                     if I can't samba ...
if a bad word isn't bad          twenty-four hours                dumb

dad carried out          laser-guided                                  damn
new arms you can play with, urgent
nursing, a tongue check, mail wash                                 damn
a Gatling gun the size of the family
indoors all burst into flame                                             damn

under the dome
the echo answered for almost a minute                           no long-term
                                                                                       long term
possibly from the woman's name, Gunhild                        the word
sparkling or stilted      its inbuilt capacity to self-irrigate


'Gendered, precise equilibrium, well, no, the shock of recognition in James' work is a language aftershock, you're busy delighting in the word stream and then get hit. Not a truck. Not a fist or a knife. More a sonic birth of recognition -- an alteration in one's sensibility at the perception of the event surge, of time and time's countenance, of Badiou's immanence for itself. James' work is the total product of her unusually striking sensibility ... .' Chris Hamilton Emery

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