Born in London in 1949, Halsey ran the Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye for almost twenty years before marrying fellow poet, Geraldine Monk, and moving to Sheffield, where they still live. He works as a painter, collagist and book illustrator/designer, all of which inform his prose poetry. Halsey’s work has moved progressively towards the graphic and his most recent major project, Memory Screen, a text-graphic, was shown at the Bury Text Festival in 2005 (it is included via cd rom in his latest book of collected poems, Marginalien, West House Books, 2006).
Halsey is a media magpie. His work, where it appears in its original page settings, as opposed to reprints, which tend to extract only the verbal text, appeals to the eye, the logic and the memory. His words are playful in sound and meaning, giving a vibrant dynamic to the texts. As visual objects, his ‘documents’ seem to reveal their internal structures: graphs, doodles, illustrations, photos, cut-ups, prints and design-drafts lie beside, within or instead of texts. With an antiquarian gentility, but a contemporary nous, Halsey mixes his materials until the work is emptied of even a post-modernist grin, but is hostage to the author’s glue and scissors. This is a controlled aesthetic.
Halsey’s prose poems show a penchant for fragmented texts, ancient and modern: from maxims to graffiti. Fittingly his language is also influenced, more recently, by the materiality of its context: the computer and geek-speak. Indeed, he has been described as a “light-fingered anti-lyricist, lingering among keywords and search engines” (Tony Lopez).These works swirl around the most harmonious elision of (historical) graphic and text in the figure of the emblem, as distinct from the symbol or the sign.
“In the end, one is brought back to Halsey’s enormous respect for words and their antonyms, echoes, ghost histories, spectral futures. He continues to create a kabbalah of cultural signs, a dictionary of linguistic possibilities, a stylish verbal music, in his essential role as a courteous gadfly,” wrote Paul Merchant in the Chicago Review.
Alan Halsey is the publisher of West House Books and, together with Geraldine Monk, of the Gargoyle Editions imprint of pamphlets.
Marginalien: Poems, Sequences, Prose Texts, Graphics - 1988-2004, Five Seasons Press, Hereford, 2005
Not Everything Remotely: Selected Poems 1978-2004, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, 2006
Selected list of prose poetry available on-line
The Text of Shelley’s Death
A Robin Hood Book
Fit to Print (with Karen MacCormack)
West House Books
prose poetry available online:
Fit to Print
Excerpt from Memory Screen (2003)