John Seed was born in 1950 and brought up in the North-East of England. He discovered a copy of Basil Bunting's Briggflatts in Ultima Thule bookshop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne one Saturday morning in 1968. It cost 10 shillings and sixpence. From this starting place he bought and read volume after volume of the Objectivists and the Black Mountain poets, one by one. And then Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. He sat in the dark corners of many Morden Tower poetry readings and subsequently met Ric Caddel, who first encouraged and published his work. He also corresponded with Charles Reznikoff and met George Oppen on a couple of occasions.
A friend, a postgraduate student at Keele University, said he had a lecturer who talked about some of the same obscure American poets. And during the miner's strike of 1972, in a cold candle-lit pub in Newcastle-under-Lyne (or was it Hanley), he met Andrew Crozier who pointed him to the work of some contemporary poets, especially those associated with Ferry Press and Grosseteste Review. He also found Nick Kimberley's poetry bookshop in Compendium Books in Camden Town - the best poetry library around at that time but expensive to visit.
He lived and worked in Yorkshire from 1972 to 1983 studying and working at the Universities of Hull and Leeds. He also played dominoes and drank many pints of Tetley's bitter with John Riley -- with whom he disagreed radically on almost everything.
In 1983 he moved to London and has taught History at Roehampton University since. Here for several years he was lucky enough to have Allen Fisher as a colleague. He was also lucky enough to find in the mid-80s, moving through the shabby upstairs rooms of various West End London pubs, the Subvoicive readings -- and to be part of a discussion group which met for several years at the Tooting house of Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell.
This narrative seems to be organised around a series of lucky chances - but the bookshops, the reading groups, the small publishers and the committed poets were there for me to find, or to find me. So to all of the above - and to Bill Griffiths too - an opportunity to say thanks!
North London, 2005
This recording was made on 6 June 2005, at a flat in north London.
- 'After Walter Benjamin 1'
- 'After Walter Benjamin 2'
- 'Brick Lane Market'
- 'Cloud formations shift in the evening air'
- 'Divided into One' I
- 'Divided into One' III
- 'Divided into One' IV
- 'Divided into One' IX
- 'Divided into One' V
- 'Divided into One' XI
- 'Divided into One' XIV
- 'Divided into One' XVII
- 'Fifty thousand nights'
- 'in the morning isolate we'
- 'In the Sweet Dark'
- 'Lines in Wasdale Head'
- 'Out of the warm continuous rain'
- 'Prague Sofia'
- 'Shadow of the gable end'
- 'The river flutters and seems to flow all ways'
- 'To Wait by the River'
- Pictures from Mayhew IV iii
- Pictures from Mayhew IV iv
- Pictures from Mayhew IV v
- Pictures from Mayhew Preface I
- Pictures from Mayhew Preface II
- Pictures from Mayhew V
- Pictures from Mayhew XII
- Pictures from Mayhew XV
- Pictures from Mayhew XV iii
- Pictures from Mayhew XVIII
- Pictures from Mayhew XXV
- Pictures from Mayhew XXX
- Pictures-from-Mayhew IV i
Books by John Seed:
- Spaces In (Pig Press, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1977)
- History Labour Night. Fire & Sleet & Candlelight (Pig Press, Durham 1984)
- Transit Depots (Ship of Fools, London 1993)
- Interior in the Open Air (Reality Street, London 1993)
- Divided into One (Poetical Histories, Cambridge 2003)
- Pictures from Mayhew. London 1850 (Shearsman Books, Exeter 2005)
- New and Collected Poems (Shearsman Books, Exeter 2005)
- That Barrikin: Pictures from Mayhew II (Exeter: Shearsman, 2007)
- A Various Art, eds., Andrew Crozier & Tim Longville (Carcanet, Manchester 1987)
- Other. British and Irish Poetry since 1970, ed. Ric Caddel & Peter Quartermain (Wesleyan University Press, Hanover and London 1999)
- 'An English Objectivist? Basil Bunting's Other England', Chicago Review 44.3&4 (1998):114-26.
- 'Irrelevant Objects: Basil Bunting's Poetry of the 1930s' in Rachel Blau du Plessis and Peter Quartermain, eds, The Objectivist Nexus. Essays in Cultural Poetics (University of Alabama Press, 1999).
John Seed (in the middle) reading with John Riley (on the right) at the Coalpitts Hotel in Durham in December 1977. Ric Caddel is sitting on the left. Photograph by David James.
From DIVIDED INTO ONE in NEW & COLLECTED POEMS (2005)
a million hours ago
parlours in pier-glass doubled
golden through muslin
outlined in light a
million specks dancing
bright patch of carpet
clawed foot table
sit where here was
child in love with
maps the nations
at sunset heartbroken
from PICTURES FROM MAYHEW: LONDON 1850 (2005)
Last year I helped a man one day
& he did so well on fruit
for he got such a early start
& so cheap he
gave me 3d. extra
to go to the play with
I didn't go I
has no amusements
I'd rather go to bed at seven every night
than anywhere else
I'm fond of sleep I never
wakes all night I dreams
now & then but I never
remembers a dream
There is an online interview with John Seed about Pictures from Mayhew on Intercapillary Space.
For some online reviews: