One Hand on the Button, the Other Somewhere Else

A response to AMERICAN PORN
by Heathcote Williams

(Thin Man Press, 2017)



Picture two rooms, if you will. The first is obscene, bedecked in gold and clear plastic. Hung on the walls are false idols, mainly of its inhabitant, I’m quite sure. There are shadows here, too, slick with intrigue and filth, genuflection, while an unholy light too, is shining, granting the room a shocked glaze. Somewhere in this space, a man is hunched, masturbating; if not physically then in moments in which nobody near him can see. His eyes are obtuse, and although they seem to reflect human colours, they are in fact, spermed and clouded as the darkest fantasies bolster up from within. This alien currently squats in Washington’s White House, spunking his way across reason and staining whatever of the American Constitution is left.

In the second room, in a comfortable house in God’s Oxford, a man who’s been writing for over sixty years wealds his pen. He is sat in a room full of books, gathering dust, research, papers, a brain room, you might call it, from which he speaks to the world, usefully. His power comes simply from his means of expression; his way with words and the poems that have captured our age since his youth. He writes every day, tracts of reportage and transmission. He too was a squatter, but one whose point described freedom as the right for the disenfranchised to effectively live anywhere.

Heathcote Williams’ latest book, AMERICAN PORN, handsomely packaged and published by Susan de Muth’s Thin Man Press is the powerful bridge between these two rooms and will allow the reader to delve deeper into the moral and mental quagmire that Trump has begat. As I write, a programme is about to start on Channel 4 detailing Trump’s origins, coming as he does from a line of crooks. Brothel keepers and other exploiters of the human predicament, but you will find in this book and in Williams’ coruscating verse all you need to know, if you didn’t already, about a man who could well fit any Nostradamic prediction of the apocalypse you care to mention.

The title poem channels everyone from the venetian pornographer Amerigo Vespucci, through TS Eliot, Hitler, JFK and onto the great unwashed’s need to remain steeped in filth, as a way to remind us, that we often get the leaders we deserve. Just as Tony Blair seemed to fit the initial brief and marketed his own Britpop brand of small scale totalitarianism, so Trump has come on his demonic golfcart to knock us all into the tightest and deepest of holes.

Williams warns us that ‘saturation coverage of the US election can cause brain damage.’ And so it has proved, not just in its staging, but in the aftershow party from which we are still coming round. The range and scope of the poems is as impressive as ever. Whereas his previous book, Brexit Boris: From Mayor to Nightmare was a treatise on that rancid little would be despot as he rolls and careens his fat arse across the sheets of common sense, this one is an assassination worthy of a grassy knoll, ivory tower and Dumas like Jail window, as words aim towards the restoration of justice, a state of play that becomes the readers responsibility to initiate.

By taking us across the complete journey of incomprehension, in which the idea of Trump is worse than one of Thatcher still empirically ruling us, to the breathing graves we are all now lying in, this book speaks like no other. Among its varied plethora of exhibits;

A white house fly enters the chamber of privilege and isolation and gains a unique viewpoint on the madnesses on offer,

As a way of examining Trump’s approach to anti-terrorism policy, as well as reflecting on previous attitudes, the US President watches Snuff films showing the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein to fuel his vigour.

The nature of American films are examined as the search for the truly natural among them becomes an issue of extinction,

The Dalai Lama proves a more effective oppositional force against ISIS, than the American administration where a ‘drop of bloodshed can grown into lakes,’

And more importantly;

The Pilgrim Fathers are detailed as cannibals unearthing then feeding on the dead.


In this way and across all of this books stanzas and pages, America is seen not as the victim of some media madman’s frenzied scourge but as the breeding ground for him. Just as our generalised shallowness accepted Blair and spat Brown back, so the seemingly endless parade of Yankee ignorance has created its finest spokesman. Williams’ poems show how the need for effective language in the age of idiocy is more important than ever. He fuses quotation, prophecy and examination with highly skilled phrases that permeate and unsettle;


               ‘Was there a pashtun rumi amongst those the drones have crushed?

                 Was there an urdu Blake whose eyes will never open?

                 Were there some unwritten dervish poems thermobarically burned?’


Effortlessly showing how the cannibalistic horror of America’s beginning has not abated. We consume the flesh of our young on an hourly basis, if not faster than that, paedophilically, militarily, sociologically and in any other way you care to mention. The monster in effigy whose stuck on hair blows needlessly in the wind showing no acceptable means of adhesion is an emblem of the evils to which we have succumbed. The pornography of despair is more deep rooted than we care to mention. Even a sunny and summer riven day now has Trump in it. It had him before of course, but not to the extent where he could actually do something to truncate those blessed minutes and wrench the wormwood of death from the sky.

In the poem, THANKSGIVING , Williams relates that, ‘Thanks to PR the pilgrim Fathers belong not to history but to a quasi-religious ideal..’ and that this has created a holiday ‘of the unreal.’ This vital book is an attempt to draw us back into reason from the far shores of displacement that the unimaginable events of the last few months have sent us. Unreality is a telling phrase, as, in a sense, nothing is real now. Or if it is, that notion of reality must be constantly tested and re-invented. If real means that we elect or allow to be elected, without really caring, people who have no regard for us and no interest in representing or honouring even our most basic concerns, then the dream that the quantum ideal substantiates, is that we are simply in the wrong universe.

Perhaps somewhere further downstream – or rather in a parallel one – Heathcote Williams rules over a land of Poets, where manifestos for change obey tidy rhyme schemes and allow the readers as subjects to follow their trajectories clearly. In that universe, the writers of reason and change dominate. Keats and Shelley are there, pointing towards history and the heavens, Byron and Coleridge, also, with Wordsworth and Robert Frost both on their knees looking for worms. Walt Whitman is hungrily eyeing a beautiful young black man in the working fields, while Robert Lowell relaxes with John Berryman as a visiting Dylan Thomas dazzles all in the public bar of a nearby Hotel. Harold Pinter has broken his own rule of thumb and crossed over the pond to exhort and rouse the belligerent into making their positions more steadfast and clear, and Dante is retrospectively enjoyed as an amusing pessimist who missed the utopian sign. Over here, things aren’t as clear cut but we do still have this worthy sage of the fountain pen to at least try and show us what we should think about and how we should view all that is. The what that is what has never before needed such close perusal. And as ever, Heathcote Williams proves himself to be one of the world’s most adept journalists. His eye for detail and the level it reaches is supreme at all times. He knows and details all events and correlations, forging examples and connections from ancient history all the way through to the coming day. Bucolically housed, he is rarely settled. Williams scours landscape and uproots every tree. As Trump golf carts on, Williams walks behind slowly, his gimlet eye ever fixed on the changing colours of blood in the dawn.

From their opposing rooms these men stir. This book binds both together. The oppressive force on the one path, the voice of opposition right here. As the strange trail resumes the foot on earth marks the gold one. This book is an invaluable guide through the devil’s country and to the succubus who is currently ripping the roots of those trees from the soil.

Pornography, if nothing else, passes the time. As we all give suck to the black smoke from the end of this devil’s cock, let’s hope that somewhere down the line a soothing breast cools our fever and that a gentle touch restores our sense of purpose and place, wrenching us free from the societal gangbang and returning us to some bright saviour’s sweet and everlasting embrace.


David Erdos, April 5th 2017


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