Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nothing in this Life: Nick Cave and the Romantics

The latest Horizon Review is out, assembled by the able editorial hands of the poet Katy Evans-Bush. Among the poems, essays, stories, and interviews lies an essay of mine called "Nothing in this Life: Nick Cave and the Romantics," about the special bond between Nick Cave and poets, who seem to adore him. The essay takes its title from the lyrics to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' song "There She Goes, My Beautiful World," and it begins like this:
Not long ago a pair of young poets approached me and asked if I’d like to contribute to an anthology they were editing. I write prose quickly, but I’m a slow poet, and don’t keep much ready-to-publish material on hand, so I was a bit wary. “What’s the theme?” I asked, as a series of possibilities for an anthology in which I might belong flickered through my head. Rapidly graying poets? White guys who could lose some poundage? The last generation of poets to get on the tenure track before the general derailment of academe? It turned out to be none of the above: the young poets wanted to put together an anthology of poetry inspired by Nick Cave.

When I mentioned the project to the Scottish poet Roddy Lumsden, he didn’t miss a beat. Nick Cave? Lumsden had written a poem for Nick Cave and, through a series of events too complex and unlikely to present here, he’d heard from an octogenarian friend who’d lunched with Cave that the great man himself had pored over the little chapbook in which the poem appeared — pored repeatedly, apparently fascinated, but inscrutable. There seems to be some special connection between Cave and the poets, and I think I know what it is.

The rest is online here.


  1. (Except for the ultimate product placement) I really enjoyed reading this essay, Bob. The notion of a double movement marching in grubby sneakers warmed me so I lowered the setting on my electric blanket. But isn't it a double double movement? Yes, the beautiful girl comes and goes, but the stuff moves too, Bob. Maybe it's all this object-oriented ontology I've been reading at Larval Subjects that makes me focus equally on the non-human actors, but the stuff is to be sent both "down" and "all around the world" in its own double movement. Makes it all the more dynamic as we move away from stasis.

  2. Me, misplace a, comma? ,Never!

  3. You're more than adequate in the punctutation department; you're one of my heroes actually. I'm going to print this out and send it to Nick Cave's label. I bet he'd realy really love it!

  4. Aw, gosh. I'm digging your ontological business, by the way.

  5. So glad! I find it enlivening and, politically, am pretty much betting the (Malthusian) rent on it. As so much of what people know, or think they know, or have access to knowing, is delivered corrupt from the get-go, or is soon corrupted, why not give ontology a whirl and let epistemology have a needed time-out, at least for a period of reassessment?

    I've been reading Levi Bryant and the gang at Larval Subjects for a year and a half, and I do think he's "all that." He was previously a Lacanian psychoanalyst and is most welcoming to non-professional philosophers.

    For literature, OOO is potentially super-invigorating: POV, voice, character, all the categories are blown all the way open. And perhaps the greatest boon is that it lickety-split extracts us from the quicksandy realism v. post-modernism "debate" we're all so very sick of, and for some of us, I would argue, from.

    Life is new again.

  6. That's a kind of making-it-new I can get behind. And Bryant goes on the reading list!

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  8. I know it doesn't have much to do with Nick Cave, but thought I'd give Bob A. the chance to say the American news of this got broken here, assuming the curious fact hasn't been noted before-- maybe it has, I don't know.

    But has anyone noticed this previously? That Hart Crane's "Emblems of Conduct" is almost wholly composed, and with no acknowledgment, of collaged lines from several poems by Samuel Greenberg?

  9. Ha! We go from making-it-new to making-it-news, but I'm not sure it qualifies. This site documents the connections.

    Maybe Crane owes Greenberg a posthumous Sonnet of Apology?