Wallace Stevens and his Poetry…


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Heading north on the 2nd of September to see family. The blog will continue, but without the daily update.

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The Links

Britannia rules the raves again

Poetry Of Wallace Stevens….

(A big thanks to Erik Davis)

Art: Francois Schlesser


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Britannia rules the raves again

Partying like it’s 1989? These days, as rave veteran Sarah Champion discovers, the kids are as young as 12, the drug is laughing gas, the venues are forest glades and the music is harder and faster. One thing hasn’t changed, though – trying to keep one step ahead of the police…

Is this it? We pass a Little Chef and turn off the A road into a shadowy lay-by. It’s the second to last Saturday in August, yet as dark as November with a steady drizzle. Our beams illuminate a chain of parked cars. One flashes in welcome, as if to say, ‘Yes, you’re here.’ We take a slot near the rear of the convoy. A figure in a rain jacket moves along the line, urgently barking: ‘The police have blocked the road, we’ve got to go now.’ A 100 or so shapes emerge from steamed-up vehicles, bass blasting from each. The buzz is infectious, everyone primed for action.

This is the culmination of a day’s frantic texting and posting on internet forums. I had to find out for myself whether there was any truth behind the headlines declaring a rave revival this summer. Their eyes on the drinking mayhem in our cities, the police appear to have been caught off guard in the past three months by a series of well-organised raves that arrived out of nowhere. In May Cornwall police broke up a party of 2,000 in Davidstow, seizing £3,000 in cash, drugs worth £40,000 and 12 lorries loaded with sound equipment. More raves followed. Was this another summer of love? Or a bunch of old clubbers who never went away, joined by bumper crowds due to July’s heat wave? As a veteran of the 80s scene – both as a clubber and dance music journalist – I was curious.

With tomorrow’s bank holiday signalling the last blast of the hedonist season, police have been warning of giant illegal parties kicking off. One local paper printed an appeal for anyone who has ‘seen large numbers of vehicles gathering near woods or rural car parks, fliers advertising raves, or broken padlocks on access gates’ to report it immediately. Hoping to stay one step ahead, the organisers of a gathering in Kent moved it forward to last weekend.

All we know, as we cruise through the Blackwall Tunnel at 10.30pm, is that Kent’s ‘big one’ is to happen in a forest between Canterbury and Dover. Our driver is a Lydd Airport party veteran, our photographer was at World Dance, and I grew up on raves. So we’re sceptical about what we’ll find. At 11pm a text directs us to the lay-by near Maidstone.

There a voice yells, ‘Go, go, go!’ as if we’re leaping from the trenches into battle. In clusters of five we sprint across the wet Tarmac and jump the central barrier, unnerved by blinding beams of oncoming traffic. Someone’s pointing to a gap in the undergrowth, ‘Down there, over the barbed wire.’ We scramble down a muddy bank and suddenly we’re in a cornfield, and I’m excited and laughing. Yeah, this really is something like the old days.

The night has flashbacks to the cat-and-mouse games in pursuit of ‘orbital’ acid house parties in 1988. Personally, I experienced the dawn of the movement indoors. At the Hacienda in 1989 I danced in a haze of dry ice and lasers to Chicago house tunes and the British music inspired by it (then called ‘acid house’, the term ‘rave’ not coined until the Nineties). After closing time at 2am word would spread of warehouse parties in Lancashire industrial estates or in derelict mills on the outskirts of the city (later they’d all become designer apartments).

At 14 I’d fallen for the punk and indie bands my hometown of Manchester was famed for, but my life was transformed by these events. I didn’t listen to another rock record for 10 years. I followed the party to London and out to the fields where I would find myself dancing to early trance and techno on wasteland near Dagenham or hillsides in Sussex.

A decade on and it’s suddenly like being back there. There’s a stile, a hill, more barbed wire and then we’re in verdant woodland, emerging into the most perfect party spot I’ve ever seen: a lush green hollow surrounded by trees.

It’s a gem of a location for Kent’s biggest illegal outdoor shindig of the summer. Typically parties attract 100 to 300 but this aims for 1,000 ravers. It’s to feature five or six sound systems led by local psytrance legends Section 63, Beatz & Freakz and Maidstone’s electro-house crew Rebel Beat Faction. A party called Little Green Man at this site two years ago drew 2,000.

But tonight something’s wrong. Sound rigs are erected around the clearing but they’re all ominously silent. Then we see the police. We’ve been beaten to it. We’re gutted.

‘We had an incredible line-up with eight or more name DJs and live visual mixing but it was scuppered by the Old Bill,’ says Matt, aka Morebuck$, Rebel Beat Faction’s VJ. ‘The reason we were doing this party was to take it back to the underground and away from commercial clubs where what you’re wearing is more important than the music.’

In the centre of the field a policewoman is besieged by teenagers. ‘Don’t stop the music,’ they beg. ‘We’re stuck out here till morning.’ The crowd is pushing and shoving. I’m bumped from behind and fly into her. She spins round with her pepper spray. The police are tired and irritated. One is overheard saying: ‘Right, I’m sick of this – let’s nick the dreadlock.’ In the end there are no arrests and the crowd disperses peacefully. Later I learn they terminated the rave at the landowner’s request. A police spokesman tells me raves are ‘not a problem’ in mid-Kent.

That contradicts the picture emerging of a low-key but determined revival of rave culture right across the South, pioneered by a new generation. What’s different this time is that the kids possess their own ‘rigs’ – portable sound systems with amplifiers, speakers and turntables. They take them out to woods, quarries, fields and beaches with a small group of friends and dance all night at often nameless events. It’s free, anti-corporate and anti-fashion.

The culture’s guerrilla nature – remote locations, publicity by word-of-mouth only – has kept its propagation, from Cornwall to Norfolk, fairly invisible. The raves hitting the headlines this summer have been those where these small crews have come together to create giant ‘multi-rig’ events.

Many of these party organisers were still at primary school when acid house first made ‘shock horror’ headlines. Some were not even born. ‘This is my first rave, and it’s not going to happen,’ a disappointed 12-year-old tells us. His elder sister, 15, says she’s been going to raves for two years but this was going to be the biggest. Most of the crowd are in their late teens or early twenties, an eclectic mix of dreadlocked middle-class sixth-formers, party-crazy university students, twentysomethings with office jobs and teenagers in baseball caps and sneakers.

Tom, a 20-year-old who has hosted parties near Canterbury, says the new rave generation is ‘coming out of lots of little towns. In East Kent there’s 500 to 600 of us wanting to party every weekend. It’s a family, we look after each other.’

The comeback is a triumph for a subculture almost exterminated by the last Conservative government after ravers connected with the hippie/squatter circuit in the early Nineties. If the authorities disliked acid house, this scared them even more. The battle between the state and those wanting freedom to travel and/or dance outdoors finally came to a head at Castlemorton, a traveller camp on common land in May 1992 that became a week-long rave attended by upwards of 25,000. This led to the Criminal Justice Bill’s clauses banning gatherings of more than 10 people listening to ‘music characterised by a succession of repetitive beats’. Zero-tolerance policing and the new measures drove many of its proponents, such as Spiral Tribe, to the continent.

With the travellers long since driven off the road, the new wave of free raves is being led by ordinary teenagers, students and day-jobbers from small towns who simply want an alternative to commercial entertainment options. It’s not (as yet) a political statement but more simply a rejection of the current, bland, drink-dominated pub and club culture.

Kelly, 25, a customer service adviser who’s a veteran of the free party scene around Bristol and Plymouth, says: ‘Even I feel old at some of the parties. It is the next generation who are coming up and getting into it like my 16-year-old sister and her friends.’ The appeal is simple: ‘The atmosphere in clubs is bad. People are there to drink and pull but at free parties everyone is there for the music.’

Darragh Poynter, 23, who runs a property maintenance firm and hosts free parties around Exeter, says the partygoers ‘range from managers to people running their own businesses to people who are doing monotonous day jobs, who really let go on weekends.’

The secret of holding a party that isn’t busted is getting the numbers right – not so many that you attract attention but having enough people at the site before the police arrive. Tom, 19, from Faversham, says: ‘If they figure it’s organised, peaceful and far away enough from houses, they might as well let it run.’

The official police view is that they are prepared to use all laws available to stop raves going ahead. Sergeant Alan Mobbs of Devon and Cornwall Police tells me they can call on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, the Anti Social Behaviour Act of 2003 and recent changes in the licensing laws. However, the choice of remote locations is making it harder for the police to stop events. ‘There are some raves that we only know about two or three days later because they’re in such a remote spot that no one has complained. Action is determined on a case by case basis. If it’s small and out of the way, we’re not always quick enough to stop other people arriving. Then it’s difficult to stop it – but that doesn’t stop us arresting the organisers as they leave. That’s the time we look at seizing equipment.

‘If the landowner has consented and it’s not causing a nuisance that’s fine, but there are other considerations, like health and safety – things like no fire precautions – that are a danger with parties that suddenly appear from nowhere.’

Back in the Kent lay-by, rumour is spreading that the six sound systems will be setting up in different locations. One is close to the original site. This is not the end of the night but the beginning. We follow the motorcade down a narrow lane until we reach a pub car park with 20 or so cars, people milling around but no music. We’re wondering whether to call it a night when … boom! The beats begin in a nearby field. The DJ is spinning house and techno; they’ve got disco lights and a little marquee. This suits me fine as one of the older generation who likes tunes with uplifting piano breaks and grooves, music with its roots in black America. The kids aren’t impressed. The anthems I danced to – the ones that created those visions of an entire dancefloor thrusting hands skywards and a life-affirming feeling in your chest that stays with you for ever (I’m thinking classics like A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Voodoo Ray’, 808 State’s ‘Pacific State’, ‘Ride on Time’ by Black Box) – feel so slow and lightweight to this crowd, they might as well be the Bee Gees. They want their music hard, loud and fast. And then harder and faster and trippier still.

For the new rave generation, hard techno, acid techno and psytrance are where it’s at. The unrelenting sound of psytrance evolved in the mid-Nineties on Goa beaches and at Brixton squat parties and has become one of the most global and enduring dance cultures with scenes from Israel to Estonia to Brazil. It’s the utilitarian soundtrack for a journey from the dark into the daylight, reaching its menacing peak in the dead of night then becoming lighter as the sun creeps above the horizon. ‘You’ll never hear this in the mainstream,’ says Darragh.

If acid house was a rebellion against Eighties blandness, what’s happening now is a reaction to the equally banal corporate chain-pub culture with its bouncers, mainstream music and drunken violence. There are few takers for the budget French beer and alcopops being sold from a car boot. Clearly much Ecstasy has been ingested, and the biggest queue is for an entrepreneurial pair with giant tanks of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) at £1 to £2 a balloon. It’s not currently an offence to ingest the dental anaesthetic once likened to the ‘air of heaven’. Many have come prepared with their own supply of gas in whipped-cream dispensers and metal propellant pods. If there’s a ‘new’ drug accompanying this chapter of the rave movement, this is it.

‘The party’s not here,’ someone says. ‘The party’s in Hoo. At a mansion.’

More texts, circling of roundabouts in Thames Estuary suburbia, and at 3.30am we find the Isle of Grain ‘mansion’. Down a remote track in a power station’s shadow is an abandoned nursing home, now a squatter encampment and regular weekend party venue. In the yard a green laser lights up the dancers while many sprawl on straw bales, skinning up. The DJ, whose soundsystem has also relocated from the first party, plays a slouching funky house that they complain is too ‘chill-out’. ‘The party’s not here either,’ people tell us, even as we arrive. We resume the chase again in a seven-car convoy. We career, lost, around Kent. The destination is finally located deep in a forest near Tunbridge Wells.

Here, and seemingly unnoticed by police, it’s finally ‘going off’. As sunbeams penetrate the foliage, 200-300 kids dance into a fresh day to the banging psytrance they’ve sought all night. The mission is over. It’s not the ‘big one’. But, they assure me, there’s always next week.

· Are you involved in the rave renaissance, or does the idea fill you with dread? Join the debate and share your eighties memories here.

· Sarah Champion has edited a number of drug-culture fiction anthologies, including Disco Biscuits (Sceptre) and Fortune Hotel (Penguin)

(The Eternal Mandala)


Poetry Of Wallace Stevens….

(A big thanks to Erik Davis)


Metaphors of a Magnifico

Twenty men crossing a bridge,

Into a village,

Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges,

Into twenty villages,

Or one man

Crossing a single bridge into a village.

This is old song

That will not declare itself . . .

Twenty men crossing a bridge,

Into a village,


Twenty men crossing a bridge

Into a village.

That will not declare itself

Yet is certain as meaning . . .

The boots of the men clump

On the boards of the bridge.

The first white wall of the village

Rises through fruit-trees.

Of what was it I was thinking?

So the meaning escapes.

The first white wall of the village…

The fruit-trees…


Continual Conversation With A Silent Man

The old brown hen and the old blue sky,

Between the two we live and die–

The broken cartwheel on the hill.

As if, in the presence of the sea,

We dried our nets and mended sail

And talked of never-ending things,

Of the never-ending storm of will,

One will and many wills, and the wind,

Of many meanings in the leaves,

Brought down to one below the eaves,

Link, of that tempest, to the farm,

The chain of the turquoise hen and sky

And the wheel that broke as the cart went by.

It is not a voice that is under the eaves.

It is not speech, the sound we hear

In this conversation, but the sound

Of things and their motion: the other man,

A turquoise monster moving round.


Looking Across the Fields and Watching the Birds Fly

Among the more irritating minor ideas

Of Mr. Homburg during his visits home

To Concord, at the edge of things, was this:

To think away the grass, the trees, the clouds,

Not to transform them into other things,

Is only what the sun does every day,

Until we say to ourselves that there may be

A pensive nature, a mechanical

And slightly detestable operandum, free

From man’s ghost, larger and yet a little like,

Without his literature and without his gods . . .

No doubt we live beyond ourselves in air,

In an element that does not do for us,

so well, that which we do for ourselves, too big,

A thing not planned for imagery or belief,

Not one of the masculine myths we used to make,

A transparency through which the swallow weaves,

Without any form or any sense of form,

What we know in what we see, what we feel in what

We hear, what we are, beyond mystic disputation,

In the tumult of integrations out of the sky,

And what we think, a breathing like the wind,

A moving part of a motion, a discovery

Part of a discovery, a change part of a change,

A sharing of color and being part of it.

The afternoon is visibly a source,

Too wide, too irised, to be more than calm,

Too much like thinking to be less than thought,

Obscurest parent, obscurest patriarch,

A daily majesty of meditation,

That comes and goes in silences of its own.

We think, then as the sun shines or does not.

We think as wind skitters on a pond in a field

Or we put mantles on our words because

The same wind, rising and rising, makes a sound

Like the last muting of winter as it ends.

A new scholar replacing an older one reflects

A moment on this fantasia. He seeks

For a human that can be accounted for.

The spirit comes from the body of the world,

Or so Mr. Homburg thought: the body of a world

Whose blunt laws make an affectation of mind,

The mannerism of nature caught in a glass

And there become a spirit’s mannerism,

A glass aswarm with things going as far as they can.


Nomad Exquisite

As the immense dew of Florida

Brings forth

The big-finned palm

And green vine angering for life,

As the immense dew of Florida

Brings forth hymn and hymn

From the beholder,

Beholding all these green sides

And gold sides of green sides,

And blessed mornings,

Meet for the eye of the young alligator,

And lightning colors

So, in me, comes flinging

Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.


Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania and attended Harvard, after which he moved to New York City and briefly worked as a journalist. He then attended New York Law School, graduating in 1903. On a trip back to Reading in 1904 Stevens met Elsie Kachel Moll; after a long courtship, he married her in 1909. In 1913, the young couple rented a New York City apartment from sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who made a bust of Elsie. (Her striking profile was later used on Weinman’s 1916-1945 Mercury dime design and possibly for the head of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar.) The marriage reputedly turned cold and distant, but the Stevenses never divorced. A daughter, Holly, was born in 1924. She later edited her father’s letters and a collection of his poems.

After working for several New York law firms from 1904 to 1907, Stevens was hired in 1908 as a bonding lawyer for an insurance firm. By 1914 he had become the vice-president of the New York Office of the Equitable Surety Company of St. Louis, Missouri. When this job was abolished as a result of mergers in 1916, he joined the home office of Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company and left New York City to live in Hartford, where he would remain the rest of his life. By 1934, he had been named vice-president of the company.

In the 1930s and 1940s, he was welcomed as a member of the exclusive set centered on the artistic and literary devotees Barbara and Henry Church. Stevens died in 1955 at the age of seventy-six.

Stevens is a rare example of a poet whose main output came at a fairly advanced age. Many of his canonical works were written well after he turned fifty. According to the literary critic Harold Bloom, no Western writer since Sophocles has had such a late flowering of artistic genius. The Auroras of Autumn, arguably his finest book of poems, was not published until after his seventieth year. His first major publication (“Sunday Morning”) was written at the age of thirty-eight, although as an undergraduate at Harvard he had written poetry and exchanged sonnets with George Santayana, with whom he was close through much of his life. (from Wikipedia)


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