W.G. Sebald on the art of writing

From W.G. Sebald’s essay ‘Death draws nigh, time marches on. Some remarks on Gottfried Keller,’ in his collection of essays A Place in the Country.

The art of writing is the attempt to contain the teeming black scrawl which everywhere threatens to gain the upper hand, in the interests of maintaining a half functional personality.

Ideal Landscape with Trees. Gottfried Keller. 1849.

Ideal Landscape with Trees. Gottfried Keller. 1849.

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for Sam Hanner

I waded into the shallows and passed my hand through
the water’s skin to pick up what I thought
was an old binocular lens, fallen from some ship
or washed up from some other beach.
It shimmered then popped clear from the sea
like an amniotic sac – not a lens but sea glass
polished convex and rounded by the tide,
and I realised for the first time
I was not the moving water
but the cloud of sand curling beneath it.

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in an infinity pool so you can look out

over the sea like you’re in

the top-flight in the battle against relegation

previous flatmates have all been musicians

or creatives of some sorts and

I would love to keep it that way

with a base coat and 10mm acrylic on top

ive got my little lad on the tools already.

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The Retail Park


He had the dates
1914 ~ 1918
shouldered (?) on the side of his cab bit
at the front on the door and an airbrushed picture
of a face beneath it that had been done
very nicely
It had the air of an airbrushed
illustration of a Disney character
or the Terminator on the side
or some waltzers at a travelling fair
set up in the rubble wasteland next to the
race-course car-park.

The soldier’s face was painted very brave.
Very brave, it was a realist depiction.
The lorry was strong; its driver was brave.
The man was very strong and brave,
like a lorry, remembered like a lorry.
The British soldier looked very strong, brave
and smart
and the lorry driver
in the blue glow of the LED lights behind him
that spelt out DAF
which is the name of the lorry manufacturer
was very proud.


Outside the supermarket next to the roundabout
the man pushed a pram with his shopping
strapped into the seat and his eyes
focused intensely on mine for a second.
His t-shirt rode up over his guts
in his mouth was a device
that looked a bit like what we
used to call a plastic applicator.
It was in fact a smokeless anti-
smoking nicotine device. And
he dropped his gaze after a
second or so and kept walking
the plastic tube puffing in his
lips puffing and puffing and he
never pulled it out just smoking
on the tube pushing the pram seat
that bulged downwards with bags
for as long as I watched him pushing
and pulling and rolling and sucking
the tube in his mouth with every
breath because he was quitting smoking,
he was taking control of his life with a quit smoking
aid, using a quit smoking aid
taking control and it was no
longer unhealthy because it
wasn’t a cigarette it wasn’t
smoking and it was actually
good he was taking control
and it was actually good
it wasn’t burning it wasn’t
a cigarette it was actually
good and with every breath
he was completely in control.

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The Student Experience

The Student Experience

A decade and a half after
the milliennium in the summer
we all had done so well
that we threw up
our rental hat in the air
in a photo and hand on hip
stood with mum and dad who
smirked and loafed around
like graphic designers, who knew
the whole story and did
it themselves before
we went out for drinks
and got the whole thing
on their phones and wanted just to say

I would just like to say (!)
Thankyou London, Thankyou Oxford
Thank-you Manchester, Thankyou York
Thankyou Loughborough, thank you Leeds,
Thank You For The Memories
An Incredible Experience
Once In A Lifetime 2-FOR-1
hand on hip
I’ve done so well
we’ve done so well
big smiles we’ve done so well, all
sitting for a pub lunch, I’d just like to say
thankyou Durham, throw
my hat up in the air
paused in the photo beneath
the stone bridge

(Slow roasted lamb shoulder          12.5)

with the hat paused in the air

I’d just like to say quiet everyone
I’d just like to say
guys – guys –

the sun and the shadow
turn away from the camera
look down at the floor
it was really nothing
it was such hard work
I look so vulnerable
it was easy it wasn’t easy

I’d just like to say
Thank you!
because I’ve tried so hard
I’ve done so well
and it was really worth it

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Outdoors in Black and White

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Interiors in Black and White

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Colours of Nunhead and Helsinki


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