online: 11 may 2001

7 may 2002 a modern performance

At a performance by Allen Fisher*... me these are poetic glimpses of what could one day supersede the repressive and antiquated forms of hierarchy and specialisation that still pervade industrial life and science fiction and almost everything 'manmade'...

The invitation to the performance included the following words as part of a painting by Allen Fisher:

Blake crossed out sweet desire,
wrote iron wire It was the
discovery of human electro-
magnetism made sign, opened
curtains, revealed the garden

Mouth perpendicular to mouth
energised desire

part 1:

Allen had set up six easels with their backs to the audience. He then drew with felt pens while not looking at the drawing but instead gazing at (small fragments of?) the audience and the room as seen from where he stood.

He did this twice or thrice on each easel - to the sound of the felt pens rubbing and squeaking on the paper - while the audience looked and listened in total silence - and fascination.

part 2:

He then read from the text of a new poem Vole Volespin** - inspired it seemed by the trapping of small animals like voles and mice and by the traps they are caught in - as well as by his wide readings and awareness of modern and ancient poetry and modern and ancient physics. In this I inferred a theme of 'the collective dilemma' of everyone in the present circumstance, cosmic, microscopic, human, and social... (a trap?)

part 3:

Interval, in which to drink wine and to look at Allen's drawings (done without looking at the pencil) , his water colours (to the metaphysical titles of paintings by Nicholas Poussin), some of his poetry books, and some actual mousetraps and a mole or vole trap - to the sound of a voice reading practical instructions for trapping animals.***

...I recorded my impressions of parts 1 and 2 on the handheld computer, as they happened - but then I accidentally deleted it (were the words escaping my trap?... perhaps it will be possible to recover them later?)...

So I recorded part 4 using pen and paper (omitting many words between each line and failing to catch the rhythm):

part 4: improvisation

(in which Allen improvised a new version of the text of Vole Volespin he'd read in part 2 while he listened to a recording of it through headphones):

...fugitive, no baggage the mists of paradise

...good night

...impatient of all misery

...extreme unction, Pan...

[that line was of words from his and Nicholas Poussin's paintings displayed at the performance]

...paradise beyond the control of law or public opinion

...demands counterpoint spacetime

(I feel that at some level Allen is thinking coherently though the words and phrases seem at first to be chaotic...

acosh, sacho, ohacs
mathematical permutations of the word chaos I remembered from Randolph Healy's poem Arbor Vitae****, read yesterday... )

...the demand is for reference to the welfare of the community for each other's freedom

...separates the prudent from the useful

...oh yes, hold on

...the mormon uses non-linear analysis to

...rodent population

...the amplitiude of the mormon

...a particle leads in a vertical direction the moment of prosperity

...wishing me the complement of

...spellbound at recollection

...has not got superiority (?) or numbness

(here he slows down - perhaps to order his words as they pour out - far more words than I'm recording)

...leaning on the tv whilst reading

(I remembered hearing that phrase in part 2 that he is now hearing through headphones - he said afterwards that he is interested in how much of what he spoke came from the original and how much was new)

...a governed whole into what end?

(and here the performance ended)

Note to Allen: I realise that this is only a fragment of what you said and did - and that it includes some of my interpretations that may well conflict with your memories of, and intentions for, the occasion. But I hope, nevertheless, that it is 'better than nothing'?... and I thank you for doing it - and for your so extensive, connective and questioning work over the years...

(if you wish to reply I will include it in a new version of this)

dear chris,

thank you very much for troubling to respond. always interesting to see what and if worked.

the materials for the drawing were thick charcoal and graphite pencils, not felt tip.

always good to you.



* VOLE VOLESPIN at Froebel College, University of Surrey, Roehampton, London, 7 May 2002.

** Vole Volespin is part of a long series of poems Gravity as a consequence of shape which has continued so far from 1982 to 2002. To be published in Neon Highway, Lancashire; The Gig, Willowdale, Ontario; and Fulcrum, Cambridge, Mass, USA.

*** Kreps, E. (1909) Science of Trapping, Columbus, Ohio: A R Harding, Publisher.

**** Randolph Healy, Arbor Vitae, Wild Honey Press, 16a Ballyman road, Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, 1997.

Allen Fisher was recently appointed professor of poetry and art at the University of Surrey, Roehampton, UK. He is one of an almost invisible group of 'new' or 'subvoicive' poets whose writings still cannot be found in commercial bookshops. Allen's work does appear in some recent anthologies, for instance Anthology of Twentieth-century British and Irish Poetry, edited by Kieth Tuma, Oxford University Press...

...see Sub Voicive Poetry, editor Lawrence Upton, assisted by Thomas Henderson, 32 Downside Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5HP, United Kingdom.

the work of the sub voicive poets can be obtained by mail order from:

Paul Green, 83(b) London Road, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE2 9BS, United Kingdom

Ken Edwards, Reality Street Editions,

There is a brief account of Allen's work at:

digital diary dates


© 2002 john chris jones

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