top of page

A response to Now At Once by John McCartney

Tell me young fellow me lad do you ever open a book, do you know what a book is

Yes I open several books every day and a book is a vote given to tombstones

(feedback About a piece NOW AT ONCE From a piece of the audience who thinks he was all There But is open To the possibility he wasn’t)


And what could he write if he had not been asked to the way Anna did so that he felt he couldn’t, though flattered in a ghostly way at being asked. And yet she said we enjoy reading it a royal we and possibly to be construed as a compliment and yet the feeling his hypersensitive self registered was a slight exclusion as to not being one of the we. So then in case and just because and lo and behold here it is and herself to blame.

Well there was Barry. And the lights and music a surround making it more of a Beckett contrast to the light light dance and movement and quiet voice of My, (pronounced Me by me until a future now and despite correction maybe after because of me liking of it sounding so, so tat twam asi) 


It really or unreally, the piece that was or wasn’t, that began or didn’t, produced an effect like Marie Laurencin’s paintings all pastel and an elongated triangular dog and a domestic quiet scene and eyes looking out that breathe a pure serene… 


 Echo Echo is like the boulevard cafes of her time. With Braque and Matisse and Juan Gris and Picasso etc. all talking ideas a mile a minute and trying to live it as it occurs and it occurred to me earlier when My was snuggling up on Kelly in a confluence which was the modus vivendi of those of them who were and weren’t geniuses producing masterpieces which as Gertrude points out are difficult to spot and far and few far and few like the land where etc. and there was a Demi-monde flavor like Colette’s Vagabond, not Proust’s Odette. 

It was a nice fantasy, a memorable fancy. 

And across the water in Charleston Vanessa and Duncan and Virginia and E.M. And T.S. And a lot of self deception and sad suicide all jolly decent and stiff upper lip.  And all the omega that is alpha arts and crafts, a more staid and sober version of the same modernism tempered with a Puritanism and envy of the real thing not being able to realise themselves as themselves simply different so that Ulysses was to them inter faeces et urinas but not in a good way. 

And I know this is uninteresting to many for a modernist poem I recently wrote got only two likes and eleven views from my writing group and I wrote a comment which caused a greater stir than the piece so that I promoted the comment to a prose poem on the strength of it. That’s how modernism I think works, a stepping back to take a breath and a wider perspective. And of course I could be all wrong though trying hard to be right, far out as a lighthouse but what does it matter, not a jot, ever tried ever failed no matter try again fail again fail better and this is what you learn in Echo Echo, give it a go before you go..

Anyways that’s My impression and faraway from the metaphysical but really it isn’t when you think Becket that most metaphysical of writers was writing in a way Picasso was painting and his best part the novels one of them Murphy set in London, but not a Foster London oh no not the London pride that isn’t a flower. Anyway they shared the idea of raping the audience’s mind though in England it was disguised more as a seduction and this had to do with good manners and breeding and not rocking the boat too much in other words class and politesse.

So to get back to the now at once.

The Now for Me is the razor’s edge, the tipping point or linear invisible where the water becomes a waterfall and the real the true the blushful soft border, the grenzsituation vanishing point where the past becomes the future. That’s really more than enough about what the Tao Te Ching says can’t be talked about and then goes on and on talking about. it. The world of paradox that is metaphysics where nothing is what it seems unless understanding and an earnestness come to the rescue for you cannot overestimate the importance of being earnest in these matters, keeping on keeping on despite the shouts of cynic and supercilious old cunt inclining you to think the notion of teachers having guns not such a bad one after all.

There is none of the shitiness of Becket in My’s now at once. Yet it wasn’t kitschly denying it either which is all to the good if you’ll excuse the experiential patronage. And this was why Marie Laurencin’s painting came to mind, Steve mentioning an invisible quality to My’s presence and yes that cloak was there, a ghostliness in the old sense when it was thought holy. Not the holiness of the meek members of the resurrection who spend their lives in the sarcophagus of moral virtue. More the holiness of a bird, a sea bird whose life is a shape of water, (nothing if not topical you sea). For metaphysics are dangerous waters even an old timer like St.Thomas coming a cropper with his ex nihilo nihil, not so much letting the cat out of the bag as not realizing that nothing is the bag, the holdall glue and clue to life the universe and everything. Nothing isn’t nothing it’s the ground without which something cannot exist which is something considerable. Don’t stand your own ground be your own ground ground down until all the equilibria become an unstable from which your horse is constantly bolting.

 So how does this effect come into being, the effect of a ghost, a being there and not there at the same time, a palpable and important nothing. It comes from composition becoming explanation. The compost from which the flower grows becomes outstanding in its own field. The compost is the flower the flower is the compost all is one quod or quad, erat demonstranded. This is achieved by no answer being allowed, for in that way the question cannot exist. The question is turned into its own answer i.e. converted into a statement. Anyone who can be bothered to go to look at the piece sees how true this is. To assert this metamorphosis of the interrogative has become very important to certain artists since it seems the only way to give an existence an independent existence to their art works. In many works the effort is to jolt the audience out of the stupor that won’t allow the practical preeminence of metaphysics in everyone’s lives. 

In My’s piece you see this, the main ways it is done, the repetition of the question, the subterranean magic that is creation in action an appearing and surprise, the teasing that is the raping out of thought, the unwillingness to name a beginning and therefore logically an end. It is Prospero’s insubstantial pageant faded without Prospero there to tell you what is happening.

For really what is frightening about such an approach is the simplicity of the categories. Beginning Ending In Out Through With Within Without All Some Or Piece How Why , you get the picture if you can allow the mystery making confusion to settle, a big deal being made of the minute and a minute deal being made of the Big Issue, all the little words become big pregnant with their wonderland meaninglessness and reveal themselves as the burthen of the mystery. By paring down like this the mind is denied the substantives the building blocks that keep it feeling secure. Like Russian dolls the play is within the play and that play within another until all that is left is play. 

Emily Dickinson puts it better and why wouldn’t she her being a genius and all in 695:


As if the Sea should part

And show a further Sea -

And that - a further - and the Three

But a presumption be -


Of Periods of Seas -

Unvisited of Shores -

Themselves the Verge of Seas to be -


Needed that breath of sea air was, was getting claustrophobic there a bit.

The challenge in this art becomes more shockingly less easy to avoid. So the mind police are called in to put it under arrest or it is marginalized by being ignored. The scandal that is Ulysses, Nexus Sexus and Plexus. Yet it works away subverting until it is recognized after a decent interval has happened Between and To its immediacy and then its beauty has lost its irritation. This is how if it is one of the few, a masterpiece, happens and if it isn’t a mulch and necessary leaf mould.

Me loves it me does and could go on and on and on a long way rhapsodizing about it and will, if provoked.…


Thanks to Anna and thanks to  Alice B. Toklas…


And to hell with it to everyone involved, My, Kelly, Paul, Barry, Steve, Kate was it, Maddy, the young man with the beard and Kelly’s son.....

And all the ghosts who came, Guillaume Apollinaire, the douanier Rousseau, Jordan B. Peterson, Verlaine, Anais Nin, Saint Exupery, Oscar Wilde, Willie Yeats, and brother Jack, Lewis Carroll, Noel Coward, the Lady in the Van, The Third Policeman, The Beal Bocht, Virginia and Leonard, Tom and Viv, Vanessa and Duncan and Etc.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              By John McCartney 28 February 2018

bottom of page