Issue 22: Tim Atkins


When you have said all that there is to be said

When you have said all that there is to be said at a given time in exile in the writing space everything

Created during this half-century on this infertile soil under this unfree sky nonetheless serves to counter the dehumanizing processes of censorship and state oppression

Despite a despotic imposition in June you look up and see something you call nothing

Names being good in human terms and you open up and you open up

Because there are no such things as books you hear

Here you just go with the scraping of guns when once you were fluent and prolific and every trait of your character revealed a hidden truth

You make soup with it good bad corrupt soup critical received soup you have made all of it out of nothing

The inevitable process by which any single text comes into existence

Representing an ancient author’s original words mine

The sirens often come on when we are thinking and the firestorms in Slaughterhouse 5 you see that was me and the Vikings

The lines running out in rows where a letter erased on the farthest margins detains the eyes in ways that would be completely opaque to an auditor

When you have said all that there is to be said and you are putting on a clean shirt one day in autumn you catch yourself in the light from behind and realize there is more to be said

All of your old poems the same again different the hope and the love all stripped out as long as the causes persist

Your language fell out of you and it seemed endless now that it is gone

The loons on the moor and the fish in the flow a white pin in the arm of the sea

You are the artist formerly known as Ovid and the artist formerly known as Marina Tsvetaeva and the artist formerly known as Tim Atkins

Here I would like to be described between the immensity of our past love and the absolute nature of our present indifference

In the new world

Just to start with

If autobiographical fiction is a map of the self

And you find yourself misrepresented upon that map

Then you think I did come too quickly in a house in Osaka

The appeal located in pleasure domes

Protection from 100% humidity and protesting complete ignorance

When you love at least the idea of loving everything on a map which starts with the big bang or a cloud of unknowing

Your original face or some literary movement based upon asserting your superior knowledge and authority

Here in exile upon the topography of excluded culture and exploitation

There are wooden structures which you could live in ones of stone and others of felt

And there are gated communities located beside the Red and the Black and the White and the Yellow Seas constructed by venture capitalists

Cockroaches eating the possibilities of being human

You click to indicate your absence

In any meaningful discourse

There is a film starring Claudia Cardinale and you see her as the answer to your problems with genre fiction

You remind yourself that you need to be an I if you want to win prizes awards or attract serious funding in your latest publication

A group of musical clowns transforms your bedroom or space ship space into a circus in which the actors perform your life for five minutes

You have crossed whole seas constellations apart

And you have lost them in hospitals

You look at the map of superficial emotions without coffee you are way to the left

And the Black Sea is full of pinholes every one of which indicates an anonymous body

Just for one moment you think of Ornette Coleman meeting Don Cherry for the first time

And for the last time in your life perhaps

You need nothing else

If you are reading this letter in a letter and if

You are reading this letter in letter form perhaps you can still smell the river’s stink in the weave of the paper in summer though besides which I write this

Stinking least in August as it passes Parliament on its way to the start of the end of the water because

There is an absence in the house in this season of Johnson and in case you do not know it

From the distance at which you are reading in time or in miles this man is

Whose heart is a mansion looking over a gulag

This Johnson whose face is a cube with the surface removed and whose blocks reach pin fences

This thing to quote myself

With neither beard nor hair trimmed

Is a clock that limits time parting only to reappear in ordered cuts and this thing being deaf to the shadow the sun casts

Is this thing livid to the outskirts of a breeze art and proof in kind boiled down into a pill of college toxins

And wherever this thing lurches rock films and pennants of block

This thing filled with calcium in the voids of Eton

Gorged on excrement wads the floor of himself

A memory of waters during works in the ground dreaming ants

If you are reading this in a different century his memory tentacles

Staples through a hill shrinking ekes everything sadder as a result of this it is 

Harder to be human

His cup breaking magnets the way that glue sticks to acid

I am writing this letter before the things of force

Force me out of this language in certain spots occupied by smoke

I see the light of the planet being sucked and

I see the light of the planet being sucked into the blacker dimensions of his head 

I see him coming to bite my ball he is an insect the size of Middlesex

A vast beach filled with oil-covered bodies

Shitting himself upon the ceiling sheets

Only appearing to finger children with his thick blue fingers

The one in the middle splitting

Him covered with flag noise and handwriting

His posture composed of failure devoured by flattery in front of an engine before dressing

His memory average with chickens

If you are reading this letter without Johnson and

If you are on this planet without his felt over the period in shreds and bubbles

Consider yourself lucky in this lifetime his appearance contaminates

Toast hair liquid plaster old paintings dreams codfish pleading clinks blood leaps burn dressing ties hours and barbers

Is it any good to offer resistance through meditation it is

The author function reduced to a whisper in the presence of milk

Every time that I think of this

Johnson I see a hole the size of an orange

Coughing into the labyrinth

Tim Atkins has been a member of the summer faculty at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, and a member of Carla Harryman's Poets’ Theatre in San Francisco. He is the author of many books, including Atkins Collected Petrarch (a Times Literary Supplement and book of the year), Deep Osaka (a photobook), Koto Y Yo (all from Crater Press), On Fathers < On Daughtyrs (Boiler House Press), 25 Sonnets (The Figures), Petrarch (Book Thug), and Horace (O Books). He is also the author of a play: The World’s Furious Song Flows Through My Skirt (Stoma Press), and a novel The Bath-Tub (forthcoming from Boiler House Press).

He has read and performed his work in the Houses of Parliament (for Pussy Riot), in concert at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and all over North America and Europe. His work has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Catalan, French, and Lithuanian. Mother - a collaborative film-poem made with Graeme Maguire was a finalist at the Cyclop International Videopoetry Festival and at the Rabbit Heart Film festival in 2014. His poems have appeared in many anthologies, including The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem (2018) The Reality Street Book of the Sonnet, and Faber’s The Thunder Mutters (edited by Alice Oswald).

The founder and editor of the long-running international online poetry journal, onedit, Tim teaches Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton. His current work is the long poem NOTHING CONCLUSIVE HAS YET TAKEN PLACE IN THE WORLD THE ULTIMATE WORD OF THE WORLD AND ABOUT THE WORLD HAS NOT YET BEEN SPOKEN THE WORLD IS OPEN AND FREE EVERYTHING IS STILL IN THE FUTURE AND WILL ALWAYS BE and sections are appearing in poetry journals in the USA, the UK, and Canada. 

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Atkins, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.