Penetration: Edmund Davie Talks

Art & Culture

The founder of the “bedcore” genre, London man Edmund Davie releases drowsy electronic albums on the Adaadat label under the moniker oMMM
Davie’s only “proper” employment to date came shortly after he graduated with a French literature degree 17 years ago. He was in Camden jobcentre when a casting agent offered him a job acting in a McDonald’s advert, where he was chased down the street by a giant cheeseburger. It was an experience that has clearly affected his ability to function as a responsible member of society, although it may have helped with his making of bizarre music and poetry.

Almost two decades into his career as a professional idler, Davie is about to release his first collection of poems with indie publisher Morbid Books called 100 Haikus about Penetration. It’s a bizarre, dissonant take on the ancient Japanese nature poem that works as a companion piece to Morbid’s other book in the series, 100 Haikus about Haemorrhoid Cream. Both are available from major and small retailers, and come highly recommended as Christmas gifts, for that miserable bastard in your life.

We sat Davie down with his publisher, Lewis G. Parker of Morbid Books, at the New Rose pub in Islington, and let the doves fly.

Is there a difference, intellectually, between electronic music and poetry? 

One is assembling mindless noises into rhythms designed to whip hedonistic addicts into ever more antisocial paroxysms of delirium. Electronic music is more complicated but equally addictive.

Do you think electronic music is a form of poetry?

No. I think poetry is a form of electronic music.

I prefer the more general term, literature, because the poetry that hasn’t been colonised by bourgeois weaklings is trying so hard to be music. Like all that rotten “spoken word” and “slam” stuff.

If you dislike it, how come you have a house full of it?

It’s a dirty habit. Can you remember what got you into it?

You’d been doing some of it just before I met you in Stoke Newington Wetherspoon’s a year or two ago. I wanted you to read my novel because I thought you might be interested in publishing it. I’d just got out of being homeless, so I could only afford to print one copy. I did it in the smallest font that was readable, with extra narrow margins to make it cheaper. But when I gave it to you, you took one look at it and said, “I don’t read anything in a sans serif font. It’s against everything I stand for. Print it again in a serif font,” and threw it at me. So I guess I’m curious to know, why the aversion to sans serif fonts, and what exactly is it you stand for?

For me, reading text without serifs is like listening to a stereo record in mono. For anybody with taste, it’s simply unthinkable to take the edge off like that. Morbid Books is for leaving the edges – or rather, the serifs – on.

Then you told me to write poetry. You said write some poems, and if they’re any good, you’ll earn enough money to print out your novel. Which you’ve still not read.

And you’ve not printed.

Help me. I have needs.

What attracted you to the haiku, and the theme for your debut collection, 100 Haikus about Penetration? 

By this point I was in competition with you and your books about bum cream and suicide. If you remember, I had nothing better to do at Hay Festival. Nobody liked my hexagonal acrostics [a poetic form Davie claims to have invented]. You guys were getting all the attention, so I went off and did my own thing. 

You went off to the campsite and did some Penetration?

Yes, with my typewriter.

You say all the haikus are about sex, even though I can’t find a single reference to it anywhere in the book. 

I resent all accusations of piety and morality.

Does writing poetry fill the void you otherwise occupy with drink, visits to sex workers and cheeseburgers? 

Reading and writing poetry widens the void. But talking of black holes, why the obsession with haemorrhoid cream, Parker? Do you have haemorrhoids?

No, but some of the contributors to that book have confided in me that they do. Some of the readers also. It appears to be a hidden epidemic. But for me it was just a silly parlour game, to try and come up with 100 haikus on that subject. 

I am all in favour of this book, and parlour games.  

Good. What’s your favourite poem?

I forget the title and the author but it’s about a tiger. Also that French one I showed you.

Any more facetious answers and I’ll eject you from this interview.


You recently translated a Michaux poem about a weasel. Which one is better, this poem or Blake’s poem about the tiger?

Undoubtedly Blake’s poem about the tiger.

I’m intrigued to know why you think that, Davie, because I much prefer Michaux’s poem about the weasel

Come back to me on that one.

The one about the weasel has a great twist. The first few lines are generic and totally uninteresting. But then the weasel appears and it has the same effect as a real-life weasel would: surprise and chaos and intrigue. To what extent do you think these qualities are the currency of poetry?

This reminds me of that conversation between John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch in your book of Ashbery’s collected prose, where they debate whether the purpose of poetry or art is to be ambiguous. 

What did they conclude?

I don’t know. It was too ambiguous.

I’ve had enough of this. 

Me too. I have to go back and feed my neighbour a crabstick.

One more thing before you go. Is it okay if the magazine prints one of your poems?

Go on then, the politics one, because I know it’s your favourite….


Gunpowder in the
Barrel: stand back, I'm going
Into politics.

– Edmund Davie





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