The Bow-Wow Shop Salon: Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Coleridge, painted at the age of 42, by Washington Allston 

The Bow-Wow Shop has dived, quite fearlessly, into new waters. And at such a time of year too! We are now hosting a bi-monthly salon at Omnibus, Clapham, the finest arts centre this side of Irkutsk. 

Join us there on 6 March, at 7.30pm, for an evening which will be spent in thoughtful celebration of the man no human being of intellect and/or heart and/or judgment can afford to avoid: Samuel Taylor Coleridge. There will be poetry. A well judged selection of Coleridge's own, of course. There will be a talk by Martyn Crucefix about Coleridge the man. Tom Lowenstein will be reading from In Culbone Wood, his magnificent piece of Coleridge-haunted ventriloquism. There will be song. There will be art – an entire exhibition of two-dimensional work on the theme of A Stately Pleasure Dome, that deathless phrase from the second line of 'Xanadu'... 

Does this portfolio by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska include one of the lost preparatory drawings for Ezra Pound's hieratic head?


Ezra Pound once declared that Henri Gaudier-Brzeska had done 'hundreds' of preparatory drawings for the head of him that Gaudier sculpted in marble. Was he exaggerating? Just nine of them survive. Now we may have spotted a tenth... Here's how it came about.

After the Great War had ended in general exhausted misery, what did Ezra Pound do with the various bits and pieces that he had acquired from the tempestuous sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brezska, his much lamented, recently deceased friend with the unpronounceable surname? Well, he took the marble Hieratic Head of himself off to Italy, where it lived in his garden in Rapallo for years, braving the elements, and doubtless eavesdropping upon many conversations about the unwobbling pivot and usurious skullduggery. Now its home is the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

But what of all the other stuff? Last week we came across a portfolio of twenty drawings by Henri Gaudier once owned by Pound in Peter Ellis' marvellous bookshop in Cecil Court, W1. Not the originals, alas, but a rare copy of a publication in which they were reproduced. It was called, quite simply, H. Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915, and it was published by the Ovid Press in 1920. Above you can see its cover, propped up against a decent edition of Walton's Compleat Angler, and also featuring, deftly squeezed in top left, a glimpse of the poet Marius Kociejowski at the plastic key board in partially distracted mood.

Here are those drawings. Have you every seen this drawing of Pound before? Have you seen any of these drawings before? We neither. Look out too for the rapid likenesses of Basil Bunting, with the fierce goatee beard. Sooner or later there will be a catalogue raisonnée of Gaudier's drawings. Let's hope that these drawings are included in it. 



















 The Evolution of a Melodious Idea 

Ryan Mosley, Seam Birds, 60 x 50 cms, Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery 

Dispassionate scientific research can lead to surprising outcomes. It can also happen quite by chance. The Poetry Society in London's Covent Garden has recently been monitoring stress levels at poetry readings in its basement. The editor of Poetry Review, Maurice Riordan, happened to bring into the office one day a small aviary containing his recent purchases from an open air market on the Ile de La Cité in Paris, where fowl - including the dinkiest of small birds - of almost every description can be purchased.   

It so happens that the aviary was left in a far corner of the basement, well within sight of the microphone, during a long evening of readings by guest poets, all Tatars from the Crimea. Most of the audience - which largely consisted of the poets' immediate families - remained fiercely attentive throughout. As one might expect. The birds' collective response was utterly different - as you can see from this painting by Ryan Mosley, who was guest artist there that evening.

Here we see the birds ninety minutes into an extraordinarily strident reading by Slobodan Skrofnik. Their heads are noticeably slumped, as if in a half-sleep or coma. When the condition of the birds was noticed, the aviary was quietly removed from the room, and each of the birds laid out, side by side, as if in some tender scene from Gone With the Wind, along the length of the editor's desk. Fortunately, there were still some random droplets of beer remaining in a bottle in one of the various crates beside the editor's swivel chair. Ryan sprinkled each of their heads in turn, as if asperging them, and they began to revive, albeit briefly.

Desperate to find a solution, his eyes happened to light on a book by Soren Kierkegaard that was weighing down a hefty sheaf of postal submissions to the magazine - the Poetry Review will have no truck with emails, and we applaud them for that resolute stance. The book was called Fear and Trembling - which seemed to summarise precisely the mood of those birds trapped in that reading room.

Kierkegaard was a new discovery for Ryan, and what pleased him most - it came as something of a welcome distraction from the misery of all those supine creatures - was the name of the author, which struck him as quite extraordinarily mellifluous. To such an extent that he began to say it out loud, in that rich North Derbyshire voice of his, repeating it over and over until it transformed itself into a species of mind-numbing mantra of sorts.

As this was happening, the birds not only began to revive, all raising their heads and violently blinking in collective wonderment, but they took up the chorus to such an astonishing degree that Ryan whipped out his notebook and recorded the sounds that they made as they took that delicious name apart and reassembled it, fragment by musical fragment. It was the evolution of a truly melodious idea.

Kee! Kee! Kee! Kee! Kee!

Kir! Kir! Kir! Kir! Kir!

Krik! Krik! Krik! Krik! Krik!

Kir! Kir! Kir! Kir!

Kee! Kee! Kee! Kee!

Kirk! Kirk! Kirk! Kirk!

Kierk! Kierk! Kierk! Kierk!

Kierk! Kierk! Kierk! Kierk!






Gaard! Gaard! Gaard! Gaard! Gaard!

Gaard! Kee! Gaard! Kir!


Kir! Gar!  Kir! Gar! Kir! Ga! Kirk!


GaKierk! GaKierk! GaKierk! GaKierk!

Kirkga! Kirkga! Kirkga! Ga!

Gaark! Gaark! Gaark! Gaark!

Gark... KeeKeeKeeKee...

Kierkag Kierkag Kierkag Kierkag

Aar! Aar! Aar! Aar! Aar! Aargh!

Aard! Aargh! Aaard! Aaargh! Aaaargh!

Kierkaga Kierkaga Kierkaga Kierkaga

Kagaar Kagaar Kagaar Kagaar Kagarrrr...






 The Bow-Wow Shop: the Conundrum within the Cabbage Leaf


What exactly is The Bow-Wow Shop? And by that we also mean: what is it for? The first question is answered relatively easily. It is the greatest global poetry emporium in the world. Many impassioned readers living within the emotionally straitened environs of South London agree on that. And as for the second question?

The Bow-Wow Shop exists to help you deal with all your poetry issues. Are you an aspiring sonneteer who can never quite finish the job? As you reach the end of the thirteenth line, does the pen begin to tremble and falter, and a strange miasma descend? We can help you bring that sonnet to a state of successful closure - like the click of the box as it shuts. Or are you a poet of unsurpassable gifts who always seems to write too little? We may be able to help you increase your productivity by goading you out of your torpor. Or do you perhaps write too much, gushing forth interminable streams of partially coherent poetical effusions? We may be able to work with you to chop away all that dross, with all the speed and the efficiency of the skilfully wielded machete. We are, in short, many things in one: an all-seeing critical eye; a sun-bathed consulting room; an emollient; a perpetually ambulant rhyming dictionary; and, last but not least, a perpetual source of gentle chastening and rigorous solace.

We want to encourage you to write and to read good poetry. We believe that reading good poetry will help you to write all the more effectively. Here, for example, is a great piece of work by the poet Robert Herrick, chosen by our correspondent Alistair Davies. Here is what Alistair says about this poem: 'It strikes me as a poem where the seeming simplicity conceals an incredibly rich combination of genres - the carpe diem poem, the pastoral, the love poem, the elegy, and where the whole energy lies in its performance as a gallant address to the vanishing blooms.'


To Daffodils

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see

         You haste away so soon;

As yet the early-rising sun

         Has not attain'd his noon.

                        Stay, stay,

                Until the hasting day

                        Has run

                But to the even-song;

And, having pray'd together, we

Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,

         We have as short a spring;

As quick a growth to meet decay,

         As you, or anything.

                        We die

                As your hours do, and dry


                Like to the summer's rain;

Or as the pearls of morning's dew,

Ne'er to be found again.

Narcolepsy and the Public Subsidy of Poetry Presses

Findings of a research paper published today in the latest edition of The Lancelot reveal what many poetry-watchers had long suspected: that there is a direct correlation between narcolepsy and the public subsidy of poetry presses. Cases cited are recent, but the researchers persuasively argue that the problem may have persisted for decades, here and elsewhere in the English-speaking world. Let us hope that other countries will feel that it is worth their while to examine the possible emergence of the same phenomenon in, say, Oslo, Reykjavik or even Brutgeblenner.

One recent case jumps out at us. The publisher of a poetry press based in London received a manuscript from one of his own published poets. Several volumes by this same poet had been published in the past, all well reviewed, all significant loss-makers. So far so good then. The poet received no acknowledgement whatsoever from his publisher. He wrote once, with geniality. He wrote twice, a mite more sternly. He wrote a third time, spittingly. Time moved on apace. A cold blustery spring slowly transmogrified into a cold and blustery summer, which was eventually replaced by a bone-chillingly cold and blustery autumn and winter. And still the poet heard nothing. Can this be credited?

Incensed, he decided to make contact with a representative of the security company which provided the majority of the CCTV cameras in the building that housed the press (in its basement). In exchange for a handful of limited-edition signed copies, the manager of the security company gave the poet unrestricted access to CCTV footage of the publisher's office over a twelve-month period. After intensive trawling through grainy images collected by a camera situated directly above the head of the publisher, the poet established beyond a shadow of a doubt that whenever his particular manuscript - in its distinctive translucent pink folder - was seen moving towards the publisher's desk, borne there by the lissome hand of an eager, young Oxbridge intern, the publisher would wipe his hand across his face, and ask that she lay it on the desk and leave the room.

Once she had left, the head would begin to nod and the publisher, within seconds, would fall into a deep sleep. This happened on three separate occasions over a period of nine months - the presentation of the manuscript, its seemingly gracious acceptance, the kindly dismissal, and the serious narcoleptic episode.

Why is this tragedy happening? Do not blame the publisher - it would be far too easy to do so. Do not blame the poet either. This is not a poet who has ever struggled to hold an audience at a public reading. The disease, evidently, is the overwhelming psychological burden of the presence of mammon itself. What happens, we can only speculate, is that at the very moment when the publisher touches the proffered manuscript, various complicated responses find themselves at war within him: he becomes aware, all at once, of the terrible balancing act that faces him. As soon as the spectre of the possibility of a new book rises up in front of him, he begins to think of everything that needs to be in place before the manuscript can even be read. How much of a drain on that budget will the launch party, the poetry consultants, and the pressing, everyday needs of the publisher's family represent? Clamorous voices come at him from all directions. The only solution is sleep, death's sweet substitute.


The Sheer Doggedness of Alfred Lord Tennyson

Would you like to read the key facts about Lord Tennyson and his dog? Of course you would. Here they are then, courtesy of the Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey, a sometime rural idyll of a place whose rustic hedges are now smartly trimmed by a major road, and where this maquette still looms over any unsuspecting visitor who happens to tiptoe into the gallery's sculpture studio. I quote some words written by an unidentified other (hence the italics):

This memorial statue of the great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was begun by Watts when he was in his eighties, having already painted his life-long friend six times. Born in Lincolnshire, Tennyson began writing poetry at the age of eight, later becoming Poet Laureate in 1850. When Tennyson died, Watts created this statue, the first of his colossal public works. The bronze now stands outside Lincoln Cathedral. Without payment, he began with this model of gesso grosso, a mixture of plaster, glue size and chopped hemp, which could be modelled when it was soft and carved when hard. He worked in his special sculpture barn, close to Limnerslease, but died before the bronze was completed in 1905.

Various questions arise. Why is Tennyson's dog included? And what was its name and breed? Originally Tennyson held something in his left hand. What might this have been? A dog biscuit? A tin of Winalot? A copy of Homer? A photograph of Browning's dog? Emily's shopping list? A sealable plastic bag? And why did it fall off when he was momentarily distracted by one of Watts' tedious and interminable jokes? We think we know the answers to some of these questions.

The dog was called Sirius and it was a Newfoundland, a kind of mastiff. Being a big dog, it was occasionally pressed into service to pull a cart which often contained the brothers Tennyson. Occasionally the dog would be told to halt so that the brothers could recite a poem or two dedicated to the Lincolnshire Wolds. The dog itself inspired a poem, which you may wish to learn by heart and recite out loud when you are next on public transport. Toss aside your shyness. The public recitation of poetry could scarcely be more important.