Poems by Tim Atkins

I grew up reading Japanese, French, Spanish, and North American (not English) poetry, writing in isolation until I met Eleni Sikelianos, Carla Harryman, and Kevin Killian on September 28, 1993, at Carla Harryman’s Poets’ Theatre in San Francisco — and this changed everything. I moved to the USA because I wanted to be in a community of poets and artists, and it was in San Francisco (and later New York) that I met the poets with whom I feel the greatest affinity — the closest being Lisa Jarnot and Eleni S.

My writing has models in cartoons, music, film, montage, and painting as much as in poetry. My original poems (as they said about Pound) are often translations — and my translations are often original poems. Collage, detournement, Flarf, lyric, translation, conceptual, homophonic, and plagiarized moments often happen in the same poem — the pleasure (hopefully) lies in the mess and the mix. (“Are you supposed to write only one kind of poetry? I don’t think so” — Bernadette Mayer.) I want surprise, play, passion, and engagement with the quotidian, and I reject the idea that I am teaching anybody anything. I hope to write open, happy, clear, immediate, political, personal, complex, inclusive, serious, lasting poems that testify to both the pleasures and horrors of being an international, utopian artist in an exciting, beautiful, hideous world.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s mix of text, figurative and abstract work, John Zorn’s energy and clearly differentiated projects, and Lee Perry’s dancing and mooing cows have all been important influences — as much as Bernadette Mayer, Issa, Mark E. Smith, Clark Coolidge, John Betjeman, Gertrude Stein, Alice Notley, Kenneth Koch, Hiromi Ito, Joe Ceravolo, P. G. Wodehouse, Mac Wellman, Joanne Kyger, and Wallace Stevens — not to mention, nowadays, UK contemporaries such as Richard Parker, Amy De’Ath, Jonty Tiplady, Sophie Robinson, Holly Pester, and Jeff Hilson. Poetry is a conversation among equals, be they 2,600 or twenty-six years old.

English poetry is suddenly in the happy state of being wide and generous enough to feel confident in its ability to draw upon art, music, the emotions, beauty, surrealism, language writing, comedy, the diverse strands of the New American Poetry, and, even (after a long time being banned by an academy which valorizes overwrought language and intellectual showing off) some kind of recognizable, erotic, and enjoyable LIFE. This is the happy and generous environment in which we find ourselves — at last! It has been a long time coming.



the innumerable years
full of nobbers
& the transitory habits of murkin
are forming the roaring Bospherous
Syrtes’ self-made minge of spinach
& Upton-on-Severn

Edgar & Johnny
clink to the raiders’ spunk
more splendid than the Starkeys’
thin pamphlets & halitosis
on the neck of

you know how no cincture of ropes
worry about you now I long to regurgitate
Bern stars and the sailor’s
KY, the seeps of whingers wax
shall worm to no other women, I —
more runched against than runching

(from Horace, O Books 2007)



Petrarch #120

I write to assure you that I have not yet felt   from whom I & all the world await   her final bites

Women who imitate birds

Women who assume knowledge in men when there are none

Women who are searching for some sense in the journey when they meet which may or may not happen

Women    unseen     may produce the same effect

Women who favor soap

Women who speak to animals in order to have sex

Women who remember the name of 9 to 13 sided shapes

Women who sleep and women who do not

Women nameless to the nearest twitter

Women whose love folds the hole in the stone

Women in Durer

Women adrift in an organ of something’s lightless glare   doubt-dried  & dreamless

Women who exist versus those in whose Laura     possibly      don’t

Women whose ovaries contain pearls    cars    broken off syllables      existence & great books

(from Petrarch, Barque 2011)



Petrarch #215
for — as all — for & for Koto & Yuki

When I was alive I would type like this  the three fingers of the right hand

And the two of the left   or hold a pear   thus  or

Take the skin off a cucumber with a device in the right hand and the pleasure

Of the white flesh and transparent seeds in a kitchen   for example

Forever cloudless   when I was dead    I was alive      it is a wind

Because this is the fashion   & the season is

In me     more than ever       & if heavier on the right-hand  spine side   

From excessive dancing in an empty room

Uncountable like     clouds from above     & I have seen them      here as a reporter

Unremarked upon   in human life   in the nose   in the eyes     Ha! — a Dad hand

Held in the man      when I was alive  

Let it be said it is enough to be in love  

With a daughter light      of whom there is but one     in this small poem

Of which there was but one    & to hold it all going              in this small room   & yet remarkable

(from Petrarch, Barque 2011)



Petrarch #325

Crayoned large enough to impress upon the world & the need to jump off it
at the edge of the eye where the cornea meets the A13
this hand is a wing and the other moving in front of the candle too thus painted
on the inside of Essex    is a bat or a bird
where music fears the ground of the strip malls of Romford & Barking 
& the light off the Cortinas & breast tops
touch the edges of the Thames Delta
in the detective novel      naked among warm summer leaves boys & goth girls
lovely to be fucking great for a while
lovely as patchouli oil on a woman called Lora from Birmingham
wearing white lipstick in markets & knowing the prices of the grapes & the melons
holding black orange pale blue & pink plastic products made in Hong Kong & not failing in conversation
reading Marx in the park & touching his cock
for all humanity beneath the shade of the trees
when we were French & were irresistible
when we wrote slogans about the necessity of roughage the sexual imperative & blowing
when we were doing this men in polyester in the Caribbean
& men in polyester in the shitty peninsular states between guessing & knowing
& men smarter than us in mixed fiber suits in lovely buildings
going about their business kept on going
without our illuminating the insides of unmanageable buildings
without sanction or knowledge fucking the destruction of workers’ collectives or non-competitive contact sports
without loving the money behind which they lay hidden
barking worked     in the way that a dialect caresses a language
& the tanks do not accept it
& the pixies & the fairies & elves then come in
& their little eyes rolling
& the confusion of police dogs
their shining fur
lovely for an instant
to both bite & be bitten
18 Alamo Road London SW19
finds all poets  (-ah)   sleeping
in fear of the washing up rota
well  sorted & thought   possibly
utopian  & thoughtless   forever
surfing & outraged
in shoes narrow or broad   & therefore
immune from this system
bacterial & hegemonic
       Is this hell & are we in it?



Petrarch #366

The boys are singing to drive away the noxious birds

Before women it is useful to practice on statues

& now I am here to tell you all that I have discovered

That living is one of the best things — there where I ripped it

That her eyes couldn’t have been more beautiful — I just thought they were

Driving my utopian car over the dystopian roads

I go over and look at myself

& look surprised

Because living is one of the best things     I go over

I stand there listening to the sunshine burning the grass

My horn a crumpled dream

Earthlings! Comrades! Adios!

Work out your salvation with diligence

As if all things were still possible

(from Petrarch, Crater 2010)