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Pushed by the desire to submit something freshly written during my first year of postgraduate study for the writing sample for my PhD applications, this past week and the one coming has been (and will continue to be) filled with reading and work around a few of Allen Ginsberg’s poems, starting with Howl (1955-56), and moving on through Bayonne Entering NYC (1966) and Memory Gardens (1969).

This project initially started around the idea that Drop City and the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood could be seen, and analysed, as sites of encounter, in the Lefebvrian sense, with particular emphasis on the idea of ‘the street’ as the site of this encounter. Reliant on Peter Rabbit’s Drop City (1971) and Hunter S. Thompson’s The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies (1967), I came to realise (after a protracted two days of banging my head against the idea) that I was attempting to impose a study onto something that wasn’t resisting the idea, but simply didn’t contain the grounds for it.

'Drop City' by Peter Rabbit

So, after a bit of thinking, I decided to expand the idea out from just encounter to thinking about some more of Lefebvre’s ideas in relation to ‘the semiology of the city’ (see Writing on Cities, p.114), and began thinking about ‘the utterance…the language…[and] the writing of the city’ (ibid. p.115), in relation to Allen Ginsberg. Despite being one of my favourite poets, I’ve never written on Ginsberg before, and certainly never thought about him as a distinctly ‘urban’ poet, but this project has quickly grown into looking at the city as dialectic, with Ginsberg’s imaginative discourse both helping to and indeed representing the point of synthesis and sublation. While the early draft–though with significant work–will be going off with my U.S applications for PhD as a sample of writing, the piece is intended for one of my MA modules and will follow much the same course as the draft. But this idea has propelled my thinking forwards, and stemmed two ideas for other projects.

First, I am framing Ginsberg’s ‘city’–nominally New York City, but also ‘America’ as a wider concept–as a sacrificial city, and working on an abstract for a Call for Papers put out by the Canadian Review of American Studies special issue, ‘Death in the Cityscape’. That CfP can be found here. Second, and taking the idea of sacrifice in a completely different direction, I am preparing an abstract in response to a CfP by the Cambridge Countercultural Research Group. The one-day symposium is titled The Alchemical Landscape: Counterculture, Occulture, and the Geographic Turn, and will be held at Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge on the 23rd of March, 2015. My abstract will be focussed on the parallels between Stonehenge and Manhattanhenge, in light of Ginsberg’s urban concerns. You can find a copy of the CfP at the end of this post.

So a busy few months coming up, with all this alongside the last few episodes of Tripping In Babylon radio show, as well as my election to the position of Librarian and Archivist with University Radio York.

Counterculture, Occulture and the Geographic Turn

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge
23rd March 2015

An interdisciplinary symposium presented by the Cambridge University
Counterculture Research Group

“If any one book put ley lines on the map, re-enchanted the British
landscape and made Glastonbury the capital of the New Age it was John
Michell’s seminal 1969 tome The View Over Atlantis.” —Bob Rickard,
Fortean Times, 2009.

In an age of vast ecological crisis and a widespread re-calibration of the
arts and humanities towards questions of eco-criticism, an increasing
number of writers, artists and film-makers are re-investing the landscape
with esoteric and mythic imagery. From the revival of ‘Folk Horror’ to the
cross-over between magical and artistic practice, this ‘enchanted’
representation of the rural works as both a link to the past and an
articulation of pressing contemporary concerns.

This special one-day symposium at the University of Cambridge seeks to
explore the creative, aesthetic and political implications of this
‘geographic turn’.

300-word proposals for presentations of up to 20 minutes are invited on any
aspect of this theme.

Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

– John Michell, T.C. Lethbridge, J.A Baker, T.H. White, Helen Macdonald,
Paul Devereux, Andrew Collins, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Alan Moore, Derek
Jarman, Penny Slinger, Arthur Machen, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Dennis
Parry, Sven Berlin, Geraldine Monk, Michael Bracewell, Gary Spencer
Millidge, Alice Oswald, David Pinner, Diana Durham, Charlotte Hussey, Brian
Catling, Janni Howker.

– English Heretic, Ghost Box, Drew Mulholland, Julian Cope, The Outer
Church, Pye Corner Audio, Matt Shaw, The Sinister Insult, Phil Legard, The
Geography Trip, The Wyrding Module, The Haunted Shoreline, The House in the
Woods, Wyrd England Gazetteer, The Soulless Party, A Year in the Country,
Wyrdstone, Scarfolk, The Old Weird Albion, The Sons of T.C. Lethbridge,
Psychic Field Recordings.

– The Stone Tape, Children of the Stones, Quatermass and the Pit, A Field
in England, The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw, Antichrist, Voodoo
Science Park, Robinson in Ruins, On Vanishing Land, Cobra Mist, The Living
Dead at the Manchester Morgue, The Owl Service, Robin Redbreast, Penda’s

– Mystical, visionary and imaginative landscapes, folklore, hauntology,
alternative nostalgia, psychogeography, speculative archaeology, inner
space, psychedelic pastoralism, the contemporary bucolic.

– The creative potential of magical thinking, Fortean phenomena and
parapsychological practices: crop circles, dowsing, residual haunting,
remote viewing, geomancy.

Proposals can be e-mailed to: thealchemicallandscape@gmail.com

Deadline: 5th January 2015.

Please include a short biographical note with your submission.


Yvonne Salmon FRSA FRGS FRAI
Preceptor, Corpus Christi College
Lecturer, University of Cambridge

James Riley FRSA
Fellow of English
Corpus Christi College
University of Cambridge


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