“A poet of fantastic inversions.” Poetry London

“Multifaceted, mega-fabricated, louche architecture.” Magma

“Voraciously experimental, precociously accomplished.” Poetry International

The Mimic Octopus


The Mimic Octopus is a new anthology of the imitative and derivative from 13 Pages, edited by Richard Osmond and Will Harris, with illustrations by Aisha Farr.

It includes a poem by Anthony Adler which mimics the form and content of my ‘Near Extremes’ poems from School of Forgery, as well as a contribution of my own, ‘The Submission of Alan’. While most of the imitations and pastiches in the anthology are respectful, affectionate, even admiring, ‘The Submission of Alan’ is from a sequence of poems I’m writing which use the imitative mode as a form of criticism (or ‘imitation as impertinence’, as I put it when reading at the launch last night). The target of the criticism is the predilection establishment-sanctioned male poets have for writing sleazy poems about women, particularly when these are dressed up as some else, like, say, revelations about the nature of beauty.

This particular poem is a travesty or burlesque of a section of ‘Missing’ by Alan Jenkins, in which he pictures a former lover planning to betray him while she bathes. It’s fromĀ Harm, which won the 1994 Forward Poetry Prize, and which I picked up cheaply in Scarthins, Cromford. Jenkins came to my attention because he was one of the more prominent figures on the board of the Poetry Society a couple of years ago, when they managed to oust (and later, under pressure, reinstate) their director and expend worrying amounts of public money hiring a well-known law firm to spin the story in the press so that it became about two warring women who had to be separated, rather than reconfiguring the Poetry Society to serve some alternative purpose.

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