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Lawrence Upton, a photograph by Tristan Hick, 2011, ©
Lawrence Upton is a major figure in contemporary British poetry for whom appreciation has been tardy but growing; partly due to the belated, but now blossoming, publication of his work outside a previously small Londoncentric appreciation; and partly due also to the diversity of his practice, which tends to delay reception and absorption, but whose breadth is becoming increasingly understood.
Many of Upton's enthusiasms had been significantly filtered through, or gleaned from, those spaces which Bob Cobbing was instrumental in carving out. However, his participation in Mail Art postal networks and an in-depth knowledge of mid-late-twentieth century computer science are both important influences, as is his concern with exploring the impact of transformational syntax, both on narrative eruption and subject-identity displacements.
Upton's exploration of choreography in relation to writing, shared by Cobbing, became a named focus in their jointly edited Word Score Utterance Choreography, an important anthology of approaches to performance notation. [cris cheek, Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry , 2012]
Upton's writing doesn't try to hide behind vague over-used academic styles and cliche precisely because it doesn't need to -- there's something there, at the same time as it engages with prism-like philosophical concepts in a way which (a) is often coffee-sputteringly funny and therefore keeps the reader completely engaged, and takes them out of their neutral gear, and (b) is clearly informed by a long and in-depth engagement with form and doing. I think the lack of need or interest in ponderous abstraction in Upton's writing -- although it is also always very far from simplistic or naive proposal-wise -- is an indication of confidence and veracity. I have a good bullshit detector. My bullshit detector never goes off reading his material. [Steve Hanson, July 2012]
To Lawrence Upton, performing in real time,or reporting back, is meat and drink. No absenteeism here, but an emphasis on live presence. By presence, I mean to perform, to make available, to put himself in the text, between you and its legibility. To read aloud, to voice and bring the gutteral of sound, the noises, glitches, abrasions of language to the fore as meaning carriers, as great Joycean thunderclaps. Reading, aloud or otherwise, is, obviously, where you come in; reading is in some sense the actual act of making; of the text's animation; or, more to the point, where Lawrence Upton has been coming in for many years of poetic commitment -- a live receiving transmitter. His performances on the boundaries of music, cinema, theatre and poetry, often exist, to paraphrase [Pam] Brown's poem, in the moments between a book and a poem. [Duncan White, introduction to wow wow wow receiver]
Yours is a towering contribution to Writers Forum and to poetry in general. You have not received the credit and recognition you deserve for your work. [Jeff Hilson, Sean Bonney, Johan de Witt, Stephen Mooney and others, unsolicited testimonial, September 2010]
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