January 10, 2009


Sophia and her mother on Innis Mor




Waterloo Press, 2009
114 pp
Paperback with flap
£8.00 plus postage and packing


Foreword from John Stezaker

Introduction from Andrew Rawlinson

available via Lighthouse Editions Limited
email order to sophia@gurdjieff-books.net

UK £10.00

Europe £11.00

USA £13.00

dispatched on receipt of order and payment



Twisting From Within tracks the episodic descent of the poem as it falls onto the screen interrupted by mundane flows of daily life, by fears, dreams, stories and memories in an unending desire to question and understand, to settle once and forever the uncatchable flow of events, offering the microcosmic falls or drops which result from bailing with a sieve.

Tripidium takes its title from the name of an ancient liturgical dance of two steps forward and one back. The poem explores this pattern of dance in relation to the darting back and forth in relation to time, memory, emotion, pulses, tidal flows, cycles of weather, through a series of stories, instructions and conclusions, dictating responsibilities that alternately lull and disturb our awareness.

Senseless in the Empyrium is an ontological awakening to moments of presence and explores the fiction of separation between inner and outer, self and others. It acknowledges senselessness both as absence of awareness and the inability to make sense of this.

And in my Flesh focuses on experiencing the physical body’s functioning in relation to breath and emotions; liminal states between sleep and waking; changes in the body made during the reception of memories; the dance of the body as it seeks flexible, stability of functioning within and amongst these flows of life.

Here is the beginning of Tripidium:


One day when extremely ancient,
my dance creaky, I may be blessedly
deaf, to the cracking and snapping
of the small parts of me which are
still mobile, I will continue as now
to dance the tripidium, not some
thing you seek to learn, not the
imitation of the heavenly dance,
the tripidium angelorum of St Basil,
but the opening and closing of doors,
the involuntary entrance and inexplicable
exits that occur, and there is no making sense
of them except in the beat of their flow,
the change of vision that they offer.
Forward, forward, back,
forward, forward, back,
as in the lapping of the tides,
the displacement of sand and seaweed
the taking away and the bringing back

There were two youths who will now
be old, or dead, one hovered on the
verge of our group, in an ontological
shiver, and his drawings were the same,
never quite there, once we met him
at the edge of the heath and he said
he was drawing from walls and flames
as Leonardo recommended, his spirit
lapped palely in his stolid body.
The other had protruding eyes rolling
between the curtaining folds of his lids,
he had a damp atmosphere, a brackish
smell, these fragments of them are
among the thousands of similar ones
in my dark larder of jars;
held as specimens, not for
medical or criminal record, but stored
there for some future use, which seems
to be this, a re-gathering or an inner census,
which brings everyone home even if
incomplete, in body bags of memory,
bits of them left on the field with
their scarlet jackets absorbing
and obscured by mud.
Some are Pana-Vista-Chroma-Vision
wide-screen people like Napoleon,
or other actors, indistinguishable now
from former clipped and silent
beings whose total lives are lived
outside the one tracking shot I
have of them.




Here is a collection of striking images and finely honed observations. Sophia Wellbeloved has the knack of charting the inner through the outer, making the processes of the world and the traces of history hieroglyphs of our hidden selves.

The poem which rose last night is waiting
to be skimmed, or I am waiting while the poem
lips to the skimming spoon…

The opening words of this collection offer alternative parabolic readings of mysterious and overlooked process in the outer world, (rising and skimming in kitchen or pantry) as a key to the interior and mysterious processes of writing and reading. In almost every poem thereafter a concrete image or an every day process takes on a second (sometimes a third or fourth) life of its own inside the reader. Sometimes the images are skimmed from the everyday; hats, motes of dust, grains of salt or sand, sometimes they rise the arcane, esoteric and disturbing. But either way the images in this poetry are neither random, nor explained but seem to be pressing themselves towards something interior in us.

MALCOLM GUITE was born in Nigeria and raised in Africa and Canada, he is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge, where he also works as a priest and academic. He has published two collections of poetry; Saying the Names 2002 and The Magic Apple Tree 2004 and has also published poems in Radix, The Mars Hill Review, Crux, Second Spring and the Ambler. He has collaborated with Kevin Flanagan on jazz-poetry and also the oratorio ‘The Ten Thousand Things’ for which he wrote the libretto.


January 4, 2009


Now Published
Foreword John Stezaker
Introduction Andrew Rawlinson
Waterloo Press, 2009

SOPHIA WELLBELOVED was born in Dublin, the flap photo on the cover of her 48 Trojan herrings &Tripidium shows her with her mother on Innis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, where they went to live when her father went to join the navy at the start of WW2. They lived in the cottage used in filming Robert J. Flaherty’s 1934 film Man of Aran.

She was a member of the Gurdjieff Society in London for about fourteen years, and her academic interest in western esotericism led her to explore Gurdjieff’s writing at London University. She has published Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales, (Solar Bound, 2002) and Gurdjieff: the Key Concepts (Routledge, 2003), she is director of Lighthouse Editions, a small independent publishing company, a director of the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Western Esotericism and lives in Cambridge, UK.


Tulsi Sahib


Here we have the long and the short of it. The single voiced utterance, not unlike Ella Fitzgerald at her finest, deft and effortless. Metaphysical metaphor: the chanter of beads, recurring enlightenments filled by seeing. I am making events my mother. Condensed darkness – turning over slowly and without comfort – and mighty display: My worlds swing out from me like spider babies. This is the poem as snowflake but tinted, running with hues; perception as interactive force fields. Maybe memory, too.

Tripidium has people with names (Sal and may, Paul and Ted) and stories but they’re all kept in a dark larder of jars. Whole orchards rather than solitary fruit. I, too, have come across degenerate, violating zeuses (but kept my distance). Soon they were whirling together bound by their own emanations. Ah, yes. Yet the clear, cool distillation is still there: Watching her attempt to become the Martin Luther King of the laundry room, though giving out an atmosphere of an unpredictable Caligula was a wonder for me. I love the stream god and his toll system. Only the children go toll-free.

The short poems are like diving into soft pools and there’s nothing round about except sky and the close bushes and the cry of unseen birds. Tripidium is a river journey with all the widening out and narrowing down that destiny brings.

By happenstance, as I was writing this, I came across a declaration by Tulsi Sahib (North Indian mystic, early 19th century):

The soul hears a wave of sound and rhythm that becomes visible from the west. It opens the door – unspeakable, indescribable. Going beyond rhythm and sight, one enters the gate of the tower of emptiness, where by means of the two doors of sight and sound one finds the level of highest reality (parbrahma). Then one sees the sound current issuing forth hundreds of universes, and sound penetrates to the middle of them all, their crown jewel, which is tiny as an insect.

Yes, it’s a bit strange, a bit technical. Yet it rings with direct seeing. Sophia could have written it – and she’s never heard of Tulsi.

Praise be.




January 4, 2009

Charles Baudelaire: Les fleurs du mal – illustration Henri Matisse (1947)


Wellbeloved’s poems read like prose, and it is tempting to describe them as prose poems. Their subject matter would suit it too. Baudelaire saw such a form as suited to the de-contextualised encounter with the fragmentary experience of everyday life. But where the street is the locus of the everyday for Baudelaire, a space in which to escape his poetic soul, for Wellbeloved, the fragmentary and the liminal are experienced in seclusion. While her poems touch upon the commonplace, they take the form of a retreat or retraction from the micro-experiences of our contemporary world of communications.

My hands appear on the keys, the right hand
nails are longer than the left and their half
moons are visible while only the thumb on my
other hand has any moon at all, the rest are still
dark, the moons awaiting defragmentation before
they edge, made new again, into the crescent of
my cuticles, never to rise fully, but true to moon
iconology and myth, to remain partial, veiled,
hidden, the names of my moons are: Unseen,
Unheard, Unspoken, Unthought, Unknown,
Unfelt, Uncertain, Unlived, Unlike, Undone.

The hand hesitating over the computer key, opens up onto the unknowable and also to destiny, the Fortuna of the crescent moon rising from the cuticle. It is in this sense that the fragment is close to that of the romantics: Novalis’s ‘secret handwriting of eternity’; Blake’s ‘infinite in everything’, or Boehme’s ‘signature of all things’. By contrast Baudelaire’s fragments can be seen as escapes from self into the imaginary crowd of the commodity. In Sophia Wellbeloved’s poems the minutiae of the phenomenal world are occasions for both an introversion and a return. They are not ‘invitations to a voyage’ , but imply a return to the inescapability of the body.

Wellbeloved speaks of flow, and her language encourages swiftness in reading, but only to trip us up, to return us to the hesitant and fractured. She celebrates the power of language to create a cosmos, while making us aware of its limitations.

This is Orphic failure, and poetry, as Blanchot points out, succeeds in failure. Orpheus must always turn too soon and lose the muse, the inspiration of his song. The poet is guilty of impatience and this noble failing brings us into confrontation with the chasm which opens up between language and the world. Wellbeloved’s poems have a sense of transcendence and of Fall, of the Fall within the language of flight.

Yet joy is not unknown, I know the sense
of it singing in correspondences between
the outer and the inner, and yes, singing itself,
the processes of it, the transformation of the air
the flights of sound forming ephemeral worlds,
spirals lifting then leaving my body its cells
as galaxies moving apart from each other;

or there is something fast within, racing
like courting swifts across my field of
vision, or the sight of water gleaming
over stones, stroking the mossy surfaces,
its sounds wrapping and turning
around obstructions or forcing release
from between them, fanning towards
my ears entering the small bones of my skull
running down to my feet.

(from Tripidium)

London, 2008



August 24, 2008

There are forty-eight short poems here are some of them:

All poems © Sophia Wellbeloved.


Her emanations ring like a child’s glass
harpsichord, her eyes and skin are clear
she offers a set of small domestic
difficulties on a porcelain plate
and I take one.


The halo of light cast on the ceiling
is reflected in the window-pane,
projected out into the dawn sky.
Within its radiance the twiggy
top of a tree rests like Japanese
calligraphy on porcelain. Hours
of dazed looking into glass cases,
and centuries of bowl making come
together in this moment.


I call upon the most high and the most
high comes into being. Like a sliver of
new moon it augments the night sky.
The ends of branches open and close
like gills letting the sky flow through
blue and speckley, everything I see
strokes my skin. lets me be.


The poem which rose last night is waiting
to be skimmed, or I am waiting while the poem
lips into the skimming spoon, or my waiting is
the skimming process, or else the skimming
is the poem, the writing a trace of procedures.


Five a.m., I see particles of dust
shining and swirling, pulled
into the shade of my
reading lamp, and expelled
smartly, floating at different
speeds. It is a shock to see them,
as though the dead were
suddenly and briefly made visible.


Seven grains of salt sit on my right
palm like a constellation, they shine
translucent without glitter, I picked
them up idly with the tip of my left
hand middle finger and put them
there prior to throwing them away,
when I turn my hand from the light
they shine more brightly.


What is a story? If a man’s hat blew off,
That would be archaic, hats don’t blow
off now, still, it would be an incident,
and if the hat were to be run over by a
bus that would be an extended incident,
but, if the hat began singing as the bus
ran over it “my eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord” that could be
the beginning of a story. If the hat blew
off and after a while the man forgot it,
that would be a whole story, archaic
and tragic.


Titles of Short Poems

1. The poem which rose last night is waiting
2. Five a.m., I see particles of dust
3. Seven grains of salt sit on my right
4. What is a story? If a man’s hat blew off,
5. As I stir in my chair it makes
6. God forgot to teach us how to turn and spin
7. If I had a clay pipe I could suck on it
8. The seventeenth reminds me of my brother,
9. When I came home covered in blood my mother
10. My hands appear on the keys, the right hand
11. Subjects go by like minor stations as
12. Waking from a dream of being lost
13. In separation we can be distinguished,
14. Still wrapped in sleep I open the door, looking
15. These gods could not be anything but Greek,
16. A decade ago in Berlin there were women
17. Clouds as lonely as a single person in the park
18. In here the air is thick, dusty with darkness
19. Long ago my heart’s gates were made secure
20. I am
21. Time chews on me like a locust:
22. It was unexpected your head coming down,
23. I might be more pavonine, now that I know
24. All rivers run towards their own oblivion
25. Into the ghostly body of my mother I
26. Every now and then I do not long for
27. You took your own toenails out with pliers
28. Now that the tide has gone out we could
29. This Uccello bird sits
30. So the narrative is a snake skin
31. She looks lacy, frail like a plant
32. His words come whirling out, fast
33. In the library, or the sitting room
34. When I talked to her on the phone I could
35. I get the sense of a leaden worm within her
36. Her emanations ring like a child’s glass
37. There are other ghosts, the ones who live
38. Thursday is the right day to set out on long
39. The halo of light cast on the ceiling
40. The topmost fan of the tree undulates
41. The roof has an heraldic diagonal
42. O Plum! I fear you are not as the label
43. Finding skewed evidence of an old world *
44. The interval between these beings’ *
45. You see the golden hills, not the rucked tracks
46. What the music does is spit itself
47. Hundreds and hundreds of milk-green
48. I call upon the most high and the most
49. Note re Praying For Flow
50. Tripidium

*note: these poems arose from seeing found images in John Stezaker’s 3rd Person Archive, forthcoming Walter König, 2008.