Literature: Poetic licence

A third of the way through Iain Sinclair's third novel, Radon Daughters, just reissued by Granta, there is an extended account of a poetry reading at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, happened upon by Todd Sileen, the one-legged, X-ray-addicted, failed novelist hero.

Each word is weighed with such savage, hilarious precision that the description starts to admire itself, in a manner that pays mimetic tribute to the anonymous poets: "Has it begun? Is this a poem? Or is it the preamble, the excuses? He's quite tall, Sileen thought, for a poet. Drooping, sub- eloquent, weak-necked: a Stalinist Noddy. A dead-voiced, language-abusing crooner. A gesticulator. A stopper. A starter. A self-eraser. A manic autodidact. A Charles Fortean assembler of inconsequential facts... Take a grip. Sileen was running away with himself. He was becoming a poet."

There is more than a hint of self-mockery in this passage. For one thing, Sinclair was a published poet long before his novels, and last year's non-fiction magnum opus Lights Out for the Territory established him as the arch-chronicler of nether London. But it's also a coded riposte to his critics, those who marvel at his compacted, adjective-crammed and verb-thin digression, but find it troublingly opaque, even obscure.

"The self-absorption of the poets is a comment on myself as much as anything," Sinclair explains, "but it touches on the way fiction and poetry get ghettoised. I'm interested in forcing different narratives into one form. They don't need to be exclusive." He is currently working on a follow-up to Lights Out, based on a walk starting at the Millennium Dome and zigzagging round the M25.

Sinclair, quitting TS Eliot's wasteland for Betjeman country, leaves a post vacant for a poet laureate of the inner city - one which all 15 of the versifiers converging on Islington International Festival, from Patience Agbabi to Jem Rolls, are eminently qualified to fill. All, that is, except for John Cooper Clarke, long lost to the wilds of Colchester.

Iain Sinclair reads on Mon at Frenetic Poetics, Highbury Fields, N1 (0171-288 6700), and on Wed at Waterstone's, Islington Green, N1 (0171- 704 2280)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

    £16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

    £40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy