Veer Books / Xing the Line / Writers Forum Workshop (New Series) and The Blue Bus have come together to celebrate the life and poetry of James Harvey, who died last month. This memorial reading will take place at Birkbeck College on Thursday 19th July, from 18.00-21.00. The address is Keynes Library, Birkbeck Centre for Poetics, School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD. (When you come in to the foyer, ask the person on the front desk who will give directions – it’s a room on the first floor overlooking the square.) Readers/performers will include Carol Watts, Will Rowe, James Wilkes, matt martin, Jeff Hilson, Holly Pester, Michael Zand, Stephen Emmerson, Juliet Troy, John Gibbens, Keith Jebb, David Miller, Antony John, Edward Carey, Peter Philpott, S J Fowler, Elizabeth Guthrie, and The Children (Armorel Weston and John Gibbens).
James Harvey (1966–2012) studied biology at UCL before becoming a full-time poet in the thriving experimental and innovative poetry community in London .
His interest in science, especially biology, extended into his poetry. James took part in a forum discussion with Rae Armantrout, Amy Catanzano, John Cayley, Tina Darragh, Marcella Durand, Allen Fisher, Peter Middleton, Evelyn Reilly and Joan Retallack on the interaction of poetry and science, hosted by Jacket 2. He was fascinated by the potential of ‘science in poetry to dismantle existing structures, and then put them back together again, build them up “mechanically” while at the same time each level of complexity is acted upon equally through “the forces of nature,” questioning the integrity of the structure.’
The importance of ecology in his work is evident in one of his best poems, ‘Mackerelling’. This was published in Veer Away (Veer 2007) and subsequently became his first book (Intercapillary Editions 2009). The poem ‘is a movement through water … an exercise in naming as pattern’. As James explained: ‘Marguerite White sent me cardboard cuttings out in the shapes of sea birds she had used for one of her installations, I had been watching David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet and the idea for the poem came shortly after. At the back of my mind was also Bob Cobbing’s poem “alphabet of californian fishes” … one of my favourite poems.’
James was a regular at Writers Forum Workshop and many of his poems have a strong visual element, showing Cobbing’s influence. Part of his poem ‘Living Rock Ode’ (in Freaklung 2010) included a diagram of a marine plankton that he sounded when reading the poem. James read in honour of Jennifer Pike-Cobbing in 2010 with his work featuring in AND13 (Writers Forum 2010) produced to mark the event. Later he was part of Writers Forum Workshop (New Series), his work appearing in its first publication (Writers Forearm 2011).
Veer published a chapbook Temporary Structures in 2009 and included his work in Veer Off (2008) and Veer About (2011) in addition to Veer Away. He was published in the Openned magazine (2006) and Openned Issues 2006-07 (2008). In 2009, Openned brought out an e-pamphlet, Parts Composers, and Kater Murr’s press published a broadsheet From Marx’s Capital. James was featured in the anthology In the Company of Poets (Hearing Eye 2003).
James’s readings in London included the Blue Bus in 2008 with Nina Zivancevic and Vahni Capildeo and in 2010 with Harriet Tarlo, David Miller and Ken White. He read at Crossing the Line in 2009 with James Wilkes, Jon Clay, Antony John and Out to Lunch.
James was also part of a group of poets who travelled to Newcastle upon Tyne to celebrate Barry MacSweeney in a reading at Morden Tower in 2010. James read from his Japheth series, written in collaboration with Edinburgh-based poet Jow Lindsay. Other work appeared in Herbarium (2011), also with an associated reading, or were published online in Greatworks and Jacket, with work also appearing in Brittle Star magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review and the Morning Star.
James Harvey discussing poetry and science with other poets in Jacket 2 is here http://jacket2.org/features/archive?page=1
James Harvey’s poem ‘Mackerelling’ (2007) can be downloaded free from http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-harvey/mackerelling/ebook/product-4880571.html;jsessionid=2AF6BA9D292AC56685B11016B5DC1DCF
Video of James Harvey reading in honour of Jennifer Pike-Cobbing in 2010 http://www.openned.com/writers-forum-jennifer/?currentPage=4
Veer About (Veer 2011) can be downloaded free via http://www.bbk.ac.uk/cprc/publications/Veer_Publications/Veer037
James Harvey’s work in the Openned magazine (2006) is here http://www.openned.com/epubs/2009/9/28/openned-magazine.html
James Harvey’s work in Openned Issues 2006-07 (Openned 2008) is here http://www.openned.com/epubs/2009/9/28/openned-issues-2006-2007.html
James Harvey’s Parts Composers (Openned 2009) is here: http://www.openned.com/epubs/2009/9/28/parts-composers.html
Video of James Harvey reading at Morden Tower in 2010 (including ‘Living Rock Ode’ and Japheth poems)