ART AND SELF – A New Show at the Room in Tottenham: Ian Bourn and Anthony Howell

Grimoire – Ian Bourn
Sketching – Anthony Howell


An exchange – Ian Bourn and Anthony Howell

The Double-Mirrored Self and Self-Included Watercolours


Full details:

Ian Bourn: “In 2-Mirror Self-Portrait, Version 5 ‘Grimoire’ (2016), I became preoccupied with the ‘hand trying to paint the hand painting itself’.  Its ‘book of spells’ title comes from the growing awareness of my ritualized actions, and refers to an older meaning of ‘art’ in which magic is performed with wand/pencil/brush.  The ‘artist’ both paints himself into the picture and paints himself out.  The end result is a black canvas, whose visual history lies buried under the layers of over-painting.

This exhibition, originally planned for two years ago, was suggested by Anthony Howell after he saw my nominated presentation at the Juda Foundation Award in 2019. This led to many an interesting conversation between us regarding reflexivity in art.” IAN BOURN – further images here: Bourn works ROOM’21opt

Anthony Howell: “In the early years of this century I went on several trips to lands where more sun was to be found than in the British Isles, including the Costa Verde and Fuerteventura in the Canaries. I became interested in contrasting the vertical pole of the parasol with the curve of the beach and the curves of the body, and this led me to see that my pencil was another vertical which might be used. This prompted me into including my own hand, my own knees etc in the drawing as I sketched. As I did this, I was reminded of the paintings of John Bratby – of the artist painting a picture – which included the hands of the painter.” ANTHONY HOWELL – further images here:

The exhibition will include a display of the books, including those of J.W. Dunne – who wrote The Serial Universe – as well as Reflexivity in Art and Literature – from Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard – by Robert Stam. On another tack, describing the sense Bonnard’s presence in several of his paintings as a fugitive self, Tim Hyman sent me this essay a propos our show.

Timothy Hyman lecture on Bonnard

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Torpedo Fair – an eclogue

Howell torpedo at the Naval War College Museum in Newport, Rhode Island

An eclogue is a poem written as a dialogue between two voices. Torpedo Fair is a poem of this kind which is now published here in The Fortnightly Review.

The first voice is the voice of the battlefield. The second is that of the court.

Certain images in the poem are derived from The Life of Edward, First Lord Herbert of Cherbury – written around 1643.

The title is a quotation from a love poem written in that era, but I can’t remember who wrote it – Herbert of Cherbury, Drummond of Hawthornden, or possibly Fulke Greville. I would be grateful if any reader who manages to find the phrase would add the reference to it in a comment below!

The Howell Automobile Torpedo was the first self-propelled torpedo produced in quantity by the United States Navy, which referred to it as the Howell Mark I torpedo. It was conceived by Lieutenant Commander John A. Howell, United States Navy, in 1870, using a 60 kg (130 lb) flywheel spun at a very high speed (10000 to 12000 rpm) to store energy and drive propellers.

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‘I’m not here! I’m not here!

Only the sky is here,

In three blends of herelessness

Next to the M1:

Blue, grey and in-between.


There is no me,’ says Amazon

As the lanes go roaring on.

‘Rivalling the sky now,

More publicity is poor publicity.

I’d rather be the sky instead.’


‘Where am I?’

Wonders the sky.

‘I seem to have been eaten

By a shed.’

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The blog of Grey Suit Editions UK

Enjoy the blog of Grey Suit Editions UK

New reviews of several of our publications, descriptions of our books, extracts and more.

Grey Suit Editions began as a video magazine in the 1990s. This featured avant-garde performance art, poetry and experimental film and music. Today we host an archive of the video footage as well as publishing innovative books of literary interest and poetry chap-books.

And here is the website of our Canadian series editor Kerry Lee Powell.

Kerry Lee Powell

Please note that all sales for Grey Suit Editions are now through the link at the top of this post (Grey Suit Editions UK) or through our distributor:

Phoenix Publishing (

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Governance and Polemic

William Burroughs

William Burroughs once described himself as an antenna. The writing was conducted to the page by some apparatus that picked up what the air-waves carried his way. I find this notion relevant to my own practice. When I try to direct the flow, it is likely to fail. I can have preoccupations, concepts that intrigue me, even messages I long to get across. But in the end I must trust in the apparatus I have set up for myself. That apparatus is put together out of a technique. For Burroughs, this was the cut-up – collage – a phrase from one source grafted onto one from another source. 

And this is surely what technique is about: constructing an antenna for oneself. For Walter Sickert, it was painterly skill, the absolute control of his medium which, in a sense would dictate what subject matter might be appropriate, causing him to “letch” after a painting he envisaged as the servant of this skill, that then needed to find its “eye-catch” for the viewer to be held. This eye-catch is what Roland Barthes defines as the “punctum” in his book Camera Lucida. Sickert’s robust notion of letching after an image might also be analogous to Barthes’ “studium” – the element which creates interest in the image (which for Sickert is that which interests him directly – indeed lecherously).

Walter Sickert – Camden Town Nude

I may letch after a message I wish to “get across”, or after a concept I have for a poem, but in the end I have to put my trust in my technique, in that antenna I have developed that picks up what is in the air, senses a possibility and to a considerable degree dictates the poem to me. It may seem instinctual, but it is actually the result of the acquired practice becoming so deeply embedded in me that what flows out onto the page seems to be happening unconsciously.

The same can be said for jazz improvisation or for dancing or for great acting or gymnastics. What begins by being learnt “consciously” becomes innately there for the practitioner – and only after the technique, the role, the back double-pike becomes innate, only after that can the flow be discovered that makes the sequence, or the drama or the poem work.

I sense that this idea is out of fashion, that for today’s trends, the studium is the message. The artist must be in control of what is chosen as the material, technique has been downgraded and what the practitioner represents and what the practitioner wishes to communicate is far more important than what any antenna may pick up. The artist is now in charge, whereas, for me, with my old fashioned notions, the art is in charge – or no one. 

These thoughts have come to be articulated here in response to my own quandary as to how I came to write my two most recent poems. One called Polemic and the next called Governance. They seemed so utterly different, the one from the other. And yet they were written within a day of each other. I had been stuck for a while, wanting something from a poem – letching perhaps too much – struck by the utter emptiness of certain works by Algernon Newton – known as the “Canaletto of the canals” – for his paintings of buildings reflected in the still waters of London’s canals. Some of his landscapes are even more still than these waters.

A Gleam of Sunlight – Algernon Newton – Tate Gallery

But I could not see how to “get” that emptiness in words. Then I went an hour earlier than expected to Alan Brownjohn’s ninetieth birthday party at the Refreshment House in Golder’s Hill Park, in order to walk up to the pergola there, which I had never visited, and a poem came into being for me:



How do I write a poem as empty as an Algernon Newton,

Making irreducible the union of appear and disappear?

It would require a calming of space in time or at least

A narrative of stasis – but then, who is in charge


When one is no more than an antenna? The lightning conductor

Can only conduct what strikes it to the ground, albeit

In a civilized manner. But what is the apparatus that

Can register inertia in some uplifting or even ecstatic way


Now, now when everything is so questionable that

The fact that it is questionable also falls prey to doubt?

Repetition may agree to go hand in glove with surprise,

But where does this leave stillness? Here in this upper-class park


You might observe it in that shallow rectangular stretch

Of water graced with reeds which idles below a pergola.

Not in the pergola itself, which is taken up with a fashion shoot,

But between the columns of its arcade Algernon Newton-type


Clouds barely move along to the next interval. Like Morandi,

One might fill a poem with empty things. Things like boxes or

Vases, only useful on account of the emptiness they contain.

But then there are those sponsored benches, set in the nooks


Between shrubs, perfect for first-date flirtations, trees of all shapes

And sizes, leaves of every colour, sweeping here and weeping there,

And the poem fills with detail – why? Because there is nobody

In charge. I don’t want to walk on the lawn, says the sane rich


Asian. Just trying to be kind to nature. Who could resist

Recording it? Morandi? Algernon Newton? White

Water-lily blooms pay homage to the flimsily flowing cotton

Smock that matches them as an Indian lady kneels behind the reeds.



The next night, I watched Al Jazeera News appalled at events taking place at Kabul airport, and then I watched a movie called The Twelfth Man – in which Nazis searching for a Norwegian saboteur tear sofas apart in front of terrified women as they search for clues as to the fugitive’s whereabouts. Around five a.m., I woke up and began to write: 




We have taken up our knives to disembowel your upholstery,

Sure you are carrying secrets, in your vagina most probably.

Therefore we demand that you strip now, in front of us.

Today we will sink you into a scalding tank. Tomorrow, when

We make you take your dip, ice will have formed on the surface.

As you freeze, be certain, we will be rooting out your children.

Nipples such as yours constitute a crime against humanity.

What you call your mind is actually a cancerous deformity.

Apologise at once. Accept that you were wrong and that you are,

Built the way you appear, being both too fat and too thin,

As if reflected in a hall of mirrors: hideous, distorted and typical

Of one with such a skin. Guilt is inscribed on every inch of you,

Blemishing your nakedness, like some unfortunate tattoo.

Taking the cat o’ nine tails to your back, penitent in the chapel,

Will not help you expiate the crime of being the crime itself.

Weak, you are, vulnerable and inferior. You mean nothing to us

Since you are no more than an interior, or what one calls a maw.

Your choices are ill-chosen. Whatever your desires may be,

They set the wrong example – renounce them and denounce yourself.

For you are sin’s original, the Babylonian uber-whore.

Your third eye must be excised along with your clitoris, for

You have no right to challenge us, and very well you know it.

Therefore your sex will be obliterated. Once we master auto-breeding

You will be flung forth onto the heap, another redundant item.

Men, and only men may roar. Only men may patronise the stadium.


As I say, no one is in charge.

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Had I been born in Germany in 1945,

Had my mum been Marie-Antoinette,

Had I been trapped, champing at the bit,

Pulling Pharaoh’s chariot further into the flood.

Had I been a Neanderthal or a dinosaur,

I might have experienced before

This burning in the ears, lowering of demeanour,

Well and truly caught with trousers down.


I must admit the knickers are the mistress’s

As I now seek my face in vain;

Not so much robbed of esteem

As made aware that it has been confiscated

Along with my dignity, my influence, my station.

The ancestors are ashamed of me,

And what am I to stand on? Not a leg,

And not a shred of anything resembling mitigation.

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South Dakota

Bikes asnort in Sturgis for these riders of the purple sage.

Bikes like praying mantises. Vintage Harley Davidsons

Cruising here through Rapid City, down from Portland, Maine,


To line-up tight on Main Street. Folks admire the horse-power

Rearing each machine, forked weaponry foot-plate,

Legendary name – Goldwing, Brough Superior –


Parked where once stood mustangs resting hooves,

Palominos hitched to rails idly whisking tails,

And bow-legged hands in chaps swinging through


The lattice doors to check their holsters at the bar.

Sure the saloon’s still here, but now it’s biker leather.

Helmets for the Black Hills’ wide-brimmed hats,


While buxom girls in bikinis share the honours

For devotion to a proper shine, grooming up a lather,

Keen to hose the sleek beast down, applying Amsoil to your nuts.

x x x

Sturgis Bike Rally 2021

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Tottenham Marshes, last Sunday

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Tango at the Room – Improvers/advanced class and Practica

Taking a break in November only – please check original posting for updates


NEW at the Room!


10.30 am – 2.30 pm

Tango Class and Practica, guided by Anthony Howell, at The Room, 33 Holcombe Road, N17 9AS. Between Bruce Grove and Tottenham Hale stations…

Plenty of Room to dance and practise after the class.

Map can be found here:

£10 per person for the two hour class followed by an hour practica – contact 0208 801 8577

The Room has a sprung dance-floor, a fantastic sound system, and it is the nicest space to dance in town. Refreshments can be made upstairs in the kitchen.

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Tottenham Marshes: a slideshow

Here is the first draft of a new slideshow – Tottenham Marshes

No titles – as it works well when it repeats.




Was there ever a book that was censored because

It was a pack of lies? It will be the eagle’s choice,

His, and his alone. What we say, what we read,

And what we are will soon be what we were,

And sold for scrap, each superseded pylon here.


As some brave admiral in former war

Witnessing the decadence of an empire

Stuffed by the elevation of its fashionable minorities,

Tend your own garden. Spin the web that supports you

Out of your own innards. Shrouds fail to cope.


Banal signs inundate the web. Crowds hunger

Under a sobbing grey. She felt obliged to mask her joy.

But then, or now, the tense changes. Everything enlarges

And becomes normal. Doris barges past the other barges.

A strong breeze creates waves among the trees.


Poplars bring the sea to the canal. A pram’s on the loose!

Tall dead stalks cling on. Hardened nettles occupy

The foreground, the middle-ground. Cranes pose

Like herons, predatory, overlooking the reservoir.

Up go the blocks, ever less distant. This is a horizontal


Stretch defined by the edge of that great grass-surrounded tank,

Its bank raised some twenty feet above the towpath.

The Drum-sheds, it says, on the grey sheds on the other side.

One whole tree has gone yellow below the pylons

That lope across our straight lane for barges and on,


On, over a chill prairie of nettles and docks

Punctuated by hawthorn or a teasel.

Look how the lines are etched onto a dying day,

The clouds bleeding into a soft whirlpool.

Practise breathing through the nose during your constitutional.


Further slideshows:

Clouds and Cranes

Earlier slideshows

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