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Cluster index: Ian Seed


Ian Seed: ‘Just a few hours before, we’d tried to make love. It’d been coming on for weeks now, part of the unspoken reason that Monique and Julien let me stay there. Julien had confided in me once that he could no longer get an erection with Monique. They’d been together too many years, sweethearts since their days in high school in Zurich. He had another lover.’

Seven small fictions.

Ian Seed: ‘Free now, I wondered where I could live without being thought of as useless and strange. Perhaps in Rome I would find work explaining to foreigners the meaning of pictures for sale along the river embankment, some of which had been painted by an Italian friend before we lost touch.’

Five poets remark on prose poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘To avoid endless problems of definition, it would help if they were called “short prose pieces”, which is one thing they undeniably are. This was Eliot’s idea (who hated them). ‘

More new translations from ‘The Dice Cup’, tranche 4.

Max Jacob: ‘When I went inside, two women wanted to know which of them I liked best and I liked both of them best. A fine gentleman showed us how to dance the English Chain and the lesson went on and on. While the dance was being organised, the gas lamp (did we have a gas lamp?) was turned down and then the flame was increased as the music grew louder, thanks to a technical innovation as bold as it was ingenious…’

Even more new translations from ‘The Dice Cup’.

Max Jacob (Ian Seed’s translation): ‘He had come down…but how? Then couples larger than life descended too. They came from the air in cases, inside Easter eggs. They were laughing, and the balcony of my parents’ house was tangled in threads dark as gunpowder. It was terrifying. The couples settled in my childhood home and we watched them through the window. For they were wicked.’

Back in the building.

Ian Seed: ‘Things went downhill for Elvis with tragic momentum after 1974. I have to admit that for a few years I didn’t listen much to his music anymore. I couldn’t tie in my discovery of poets such as T.S. Eliot with my admiration for Elvis. ‘

New translations from ‘The Dice Cup’.

Ian Seed: ‘In 1894 Jacob left Quimper to study law in Paris, but abandoned his studies two years later to become an art critic. In 1899 he decided to become a painter, supporting himself through a series of menial clerical jobs. When he met Picasso in 1901, the two became friends immediately. Picasso expressed his admiration for some poems Jacob showed him. From this time on, Jacob regarded poetry as his true vocation.’

Discovery and rediscovery.

Ian Seed: ‘It feels like cheating. I have not had to struggle with my narrative prose poems in the way that I do with other kinds of writing, and yet I believe that the best of them are the only writings of mine that are somehow genuinely themselves. They have needed just a little nurturing from me in order to make their own way in the world.’

New translations from ‘The Dice Cup’.

Ian Seed: ‘Max Jacob’s father was a tailor and the owner of an antique shop. Jacob’s large family, including uncles, aunts and cousins, often make an appearance in his poems. In 1894 Jacob left Quimper to study law in Paris, but abandoned his studies two years later to become an art critic. In 1899 he decided to become a painter, supporting himself through a series of menial clerical jobs. When he met Picasso in 1901, the two became friends immediately.’

Nine small fictions.

Ian Seed: ‘They pointed up at us and laughed, but the laughter had anger in it. I led my wife by another alleyway back to the hotel. I hoped they would not follow us, but a large crowd soon gathered outside and began to shout and shake their fists.’

Pierre Reverdy’s ‘non-novel’.

Peter Riley: ‘The uncertainty between poetry and prose in the early works makes sense when you realise that the fully poetical writing he first reached, principally in The Thief… itself, is basically in prose. That is to say that however much disjuncture there may be among the little separate pieces of language which float around the page, each piece is itself written in perfectly normal syntax, in sentences or parts thereof, in which the parts of speech maintain their proper functions. ‘

Five poems.

Gëzim Hajdari: ‘The stones along the road are silent,
the bitter grass in the field trembles.
Under a sky always dark
naked, orphan trees.’

New York Hotel.

Ian Seed: ‘Here I stopped because I could not remember how to conjugate the verb. In any case, I had an excuse not to continue for at that moment a military parade appeared at the end of the street. It was led by a general in a jeep. ‘

Italian Lessons.

Ian Seed: ‘Yesterday evening when I stopped as usual to say hello and try out a little more of my Italian on Tiziana, I saw, from the corner of my eye, Anna walking down the street hand-in-hand with her fidanzato, her tall, blue-eyed, but (thank God) balding beloved. She was smiling at something he’d said. I tried not to look at her, but when they passed, Anna turned her head vaguely toward me. Her green eyes caught mine for a moment, then turned away.’

Nine very short stories.

Ian Seed, from ‘Ex-Pat’: ‘I was walking back to my Paris flat from the metro. Someone sprang at me from a doorway and tried to grab my wallet from my pocket. More than frightened, I was ashamed that he’d dared to attack me, for he was only a scrawny youth and, though his eyes were vicious, his lips were pretty and feminine. I grabbed him round the neck and wrestled him to the ground. The smell of his sweat was sweet. I held his trembling body against mine until the police arrived.’