David Berridge: The Moth Is Moth This Money Night Moth review

This review was originally published in Department Magazine, issue 1. A number of ammendments have been made from that version. David Berridge reads at The Other Room on August 24th.

This is better read as a PDF to see the layout of the poem.

The Moth Is Moth This Money Night Moth
By David Berridge
The Knives Forks and Spoons Press
Reviewed by James Davies

David Berridge’s The Moth Is Moth This Money Night Moth is a real delight. The work seems to me to mix minimalist and expressionist concerns.  It is a work that chooses and places words which stand for themselves and also work pragmatically. Words also often seem to stand for the materiality of other words. This is achieved in misspellings, use of brackets and asterisks, thus extending the connotations within a single set of graphemes much in the same way that Geof Huth’s ntst does and some of Aram Saroyan’s seminal work from the 60s. So for example the second page reads:

gleen gnouth fnow

t (longue)   l (lake)

night (night)

The words in the poem are easily readable as other words. So that gleen =  ‘green’. gnouth = ‘mouth’. fnow = ‘snow’ and ‘for now’ as in ‘f’now’. t (longue) = a long tongue. l (lake) can be read as an example of stuttering, perhaps a reconfirmation that the word on the page, and that the image denoted, is indeed ‘lake’ – maybe a specific lake to Berridge but in leaving the lake unlabeled it is very much the reader’s lake, whether that is a named lake or the concept of ‘lake’.

The book reads as a sequence, not of fragments but as a whole; a sort of narrative. Yet the memories are not totally cohesive. The events are blurred or disguised in order to make the sensations stronger for the reader and make the experience far more democratic. It is the reader’s responsibility to choose whether they make the work confessional or not; confessional from Berridge’s point of view, or whether Moth triggers an event which the reader remembers. By this I mean that ‘lake’ in this poem seems to be a romantic symbol. By not being labeled it is so open that it can be substituted for any other romantic symbol of the reader’s making: beach, hill, bedroom, etc.  With leanings towards romance (and also Buddhism) one is transported into one’s own memories – not Berridge’s. A minimalist poem has this power – we are the subject. DB gives something to me. A gift. However Berridge’s experience is clearly in there and thus Moth has expressionist tendencies too.

Moth is a world full of sense and cross-sense sensations, of feeling the inner light of the body or that of another’s body. On page 1 it is suggested that the body is integrated with/within the lake:


feet lake green lake mouth lake felt lake night night lake tongue lake


Reading left to right 13 words are strung across the page with every other one being ‘lake’ until the pattern is broken on the tenth word with ‘night’ replacing ‘lake’. This could be seen as the lake disappearing from eyesight as the night falls. ‘night’ is also the ninth word and this also promotes the idea that night falls. But ‘lake’ then reappears as the eleventh word. Perhaps this represents the coming of morning. Or perhaps a viewer focuses on ‘night’ and then switches his gaze to ‘lake’. The lake then reappears out of sequence and is taken over by the twelfth word ‘tongue’ and then consumes ‘tongue’ in the thirteenth word ‘lake’; surely an erotic image. Also ‘lake’ coming out of sequence is a glitch; again the reader chooses the implications of this glitch. It could be read as the haziness of memory or perhaps the way ‘perfect events’ have ‘wobbles’ in them.

Page 4 in part reads:

wnow        outh

These work as heavy signs for ‘wow’, ‘snow’, ‘now’, ‘know’, ‘south’, ‘mouth’, ‘moth’ where again the reader chooses referents whilst being aware that what is actually on the page is actually a nonsense of no semantic value. As we move through Moth there are recurring motifs: ‘night’, ‘green’, ‘tongue’, ‘star’. But there are intrusions: ‘money’ and ‘fashion’ which appear often after page 4. A Money Moth by the way is a moth which is often associated with bad luck as it eats crops. This use of the word ‘money’ and its association with ‘the moth’ is a sudden negation, and imperfection, into what has been up until now idyllic landscape and mood; there is no such thing as perfection it suggests, all joy is transient.

However these intrusions never dominate in Moth. If we look at part of the middle pages:




we see a visual play of snow falling on the tongue. And later on the same page:


snow = star

Snow is star and vice versa. The mass noun of ‘snow’ stops this image being personal as it is not fixed in a particular moment. It is about the idea of ‘snow’ and therefore we have to read star as the idea of ‘star’; perhaps their equivalence and perhaps combination. The reading of this short passage is made more difficult as it could be we are meant to assume an article is attached to ‘star’ and if it is we are not sure if ‘star’ is definite or indefinite. The same ambiguity applies to ‘snow’ as it could be ‘the snow’. This again shows that we can take the objects/words in Moth for what they are and also for what they could be.[1] 

It is true that a sadness pervades here and there in the collection, Berridge’s landscape is not completely filled with joy – ‘money’ and ‘fashion’ interrupt ‘snow’, ‘stars’ and ‘lakes’ – but more regularly than not we move beyond colour , and experience happiness. That’s good. The Moth Is Moth This Money Night Moth is a really fine book. Go experience it.

[1]  Similarities to other poems immediately occur. Yoko Ono’s poems/proposed performances in Grapefruit memorably use these two key elements of snow and star: yellow and white; the celestial. And Robert Grenier’s drawing poems are also connected. See http://www.parametermagazine.org/grenier.htm for my take.

Alec Finlay at the Tuesday talk series

11.00am – 12.30pm, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester, free , no booking necessary

The Tuesday Talks series invites leading artists, thinkers and curators to explore the driving forces, influences and sources of inspiration within contemporary art. The series is programmed by Professor Pavel Büchler and Bryony Bond, and is supported by the Manchester Metropolitan University.

10 May

Tuesday Talk: with Alec Finlay

Artist and poet Alec Finlay offers an insight into his work, through his own driving forces, influences and sources of inspiration.


Scott Thurston’s Internal Rhyme now archived at PENN Sound

Occassional Readings, Furzeacres on Dartmoor in Devon, UK, July 4, 2010

In this performance Scott Thurston reads the entirety of his book Internal Rhyme (Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2010). Divided into four sections, the book comprises a sequence of eighty poems in total, each constructed in four four-line stanzas which can be read in a vertical as well as in a horizontal direction. For this performance, Thurston experimented with reading two of the book’s sections in both directions. Taking the poems in groups of five, he used two approaches: firstly, reading all five in one direction and then returning to read the same five in the other direction and, secondly, reading each poem in one direction immediately followed by the other direction.

Internal Rhyme develops Thurston’s preoccupation with time and process as compositional elements, as seen in his previous book for Shearman, 2008’s Momentum. The subjects and themes are diverse and include poems responding to Blake, Klimt and Twombly alongside refigurings of the theoretical works of Alain Badiou.


Thus &: An Erasure of Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets out now from if p then q

Ted Berrigan’s seminal The Sonnets is renowned for its famous use of cut up technique and reconfiguration throughout the sequence. Derek Henderson’s erasure Thus & eliminates all words and typographical duplications. In addition to the strikingly beautiful, often minimalist, sonnets created by Henderson, Thus & asks new questions of each Berrigan sonnet and the sequence as a whole. Thus & reveals (conceals) not only the clusters of phrases/lines that were cloned by Berrigan but also words which he repeated; many obviously subconsciously. What is left in Thus & is part skeleton, and underbelly, of maître-sonneteer Berrigan’s The Sonnets and part alien remix by techno-magician Derek Henderson.

Sampler & Concordance


Tom Jenks * now published

Tom Jenks’ second collection is out now:

Tom Jenks’ second collection is an open system interaction with the world and all its contingencies. Using fragments from mass media, signage, management doublethink and myriad other sources, the work slips between inner and outer worlds as they suggest themselves, with the * symbol acting as a wildcard to select everything that is the case.



Beyond the Book

This is a course i’m teaching in Manchester. It’s good to see the Poetry School venture into such things. Please pass on if you know anybody who’d be interested. The details and blurb are below as well as a rough weekly schedule. There will also be a class website.

Beyond the Book: alternative approaches to writing
Tutor: James Davies
Venue: The Tai Chi Village Hall, Manchester
Duration: 10 weekly sessions
Day & Time Tuesday’s, 7.30-9.30pm
Start Date 12th Jan 2010
Cost £99.00 (£76.00 concs)


The blurb reads:

These days, there are endless exciting opportunities for writers in the way that they write; and how they publish, experience and share their work. On this course you’ll do a number of exercises exploring alternative writing styles (including those spawned by the internet), consider the myriad of possibilities of collaboration (both with real and virtual bodies), and think about blogging, social networking and alternative methods of publishing work other than the traditional book.

Weekly schedule:
1. Internet as playground
2. Internet as resource
3. Internet as resource pt 2
4. Systems
5. Translation
6. Tanslation pt 2
7. Collaboration
8. Interventions
9. Class filming, audio and archiving
10. Class production and distribution

if p then q calls for manuscripts


Duck-Rabbit_illusion1The imminent issue of if p then q magazine issue 4 will be the last so that I can concentrate on doing more full length collections. I am therefore encouraging more manuscripts to be sent. Please see the lowdown at www.ifpthenq.co.uk or more specifically at http://www.ifpthenq.co.uk/contact.html for what the house style is. Replies will be reasonably quick although there is no definite time proposed.

At the moment I only publish around two/three collections a year; so please bear that in mind but I’d love to see stuff.


Ray DiPalma – The Ancient Use of Stone

Nick Piombino reviews…

While contemporary poets and critics opine and debate about whether or not originality is still possible, contemporary poet Ray DiPalma has been quietly at work on a project for 10 years that demonstrates that not only is creativity and originality by poets alive and well, but Otis Books/Seismicity Editions has presented The Ancient Use of Stone, DiPalma’s superb new book, subtitled Journals and Daybooks 1998-2008, in a form that defies comparison with any other book of new writing for sheer visual and typographical beauty.

Read more


“A prose work in 23 sections, mislaid for 35 years and then found in an attic, this is a classic Raworth text from the era of Logbook: fast, profound, knockabout, intense, tricky, brainy, daft, those were the days once again…”

A5, 28pp (price £4.50 including P&P)

Cheques to ‘Equipage’

c/o Rod Mengham, Jesus College, Cambridge, CB5 8BL

You can also buy via Salt Publishing.


The Logoclasody Manifesto

“Ours is an age of anxiety, of dissociation of sensibility, of pessimism, cynicism, incredulousness. Our state, our condition, is a constant “fight or flight.” We are a matter of excretions. Our wets. Our arts. Our poetry. Excretions, anxieties, this enormity, this Behemoth.

Ours is the age of canned laughter. (There is an analogue for this in poetry.) This has been imposed on us. We — we poets! — must struggle to be free of this.”