Anthony Howell and his Disenchanted Sow

Anthony Howell and his Disenchanted Sow


They do say never wrestle with a pig,

you both get filthy. So, instead, strip

naked on a busy Belfast street,

assume the crouch of a submissive mate

– porcine-cubic, promising – to woo

(before you’re led away) a Tamworth who

has lovely ginger eyelashes. Anthony

tried this. The beast, unfortunately,

didn’t fancy him – she trotted off to sniff

the crotches of the crowd, an act which

made her vulva swell so much the local paper

featured, for the first time, genitalia;

and squeals from councillors, If this is art,

blah blah, ensured it was far more than that.


Keith Hutson


I am delighted that Keith has included me in his pantheon of troupers. Here is a statement about the performance from 1998:

I wanted to work with a large pig, and the opportunity came in Belfast this year, at the Fix Festival, organised by Catalyst Arts in June.  The organisers found me a very large sow called Joan.  I don’t know whether she was a Tamworth or some related Irish variety, but anyway she had ginger bristles and lovely ginger eyelashes, and she was immense.  I decided I no longer needed my suit, and performed sculpture for her which I thought a pig would appreciate, or at least which I thought I would appreciate if I were a pig.  The piece was called Pig Sculpture.  My mother, who was a vet and who died two years ago, would have been proud of me.  I made small, tucked up sculptures with my own body, then turned them on their side or stood them on their heads, sculptures which were never taller than the back of my partner.  I squatted on my hands, rolled over onto my back in the same position, holding each position for as long as possible.  This work was based on the performance cubism I have always been interested in, turning actions or positions through 90 degrees and now upside down or on their sides.  I had drenched my genitals in the cheapest cologne I could find in Belfast – very cheap it was too – and Joan seemed to view these with distaste, I’m glad to say, and became more interested in interacting with the audience.  She also made very good drawings with her bristles which she rubbed off against a post.  Finally, as the piece came to a conclusion, she let herself down onto her elbows and took a nap.  I thanked her for her participation, and just at that moment eight bullet-proofed members of the R.U.C. turned up in an armoured car, having heard that someone was annoying a pig in the shopping mall.

click the link for full text of this performance archive entry

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Penda’s Fen

Penda's Fen 2


Just watched David Rudkin/Alan Clarke’s film Penda’s Fen. Bizarre, terrifying masterpiece. Thankyou Caroline Ffrench Blake for lending me the DVD.


Set in the Cotswold Hills.

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In Defence of Obscenity


Interesting post here In Defense of Obscenity

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Shame and Shamelessness


My lecture on Freud, Gide and Immoralism  now published by the Fortnightly Review.

First given at the 2018 Conference on Poetry and Psychoanalysis. 

Thanks to Catherine Humble, Susy Lansman and Kathryn Maris for organising this brilliant event.

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Runaway Handicap



Considering a runaway selection,

If poetry can generate affection

A plumage fit for paradise entitles

Me to a mate enamoured of requitals.


My handicap’s an eloquence provoking

Offended editorial fits of choking.

It so incites the wrath of middle-management

Pretty Amanda’s quick to share my banishment.


“In the 1930s, the geneticist R. A. Fisher developed Darwin’s theory of sexual selection with the idea of ‘runaway’ sexual selection. Fisher suggested that if a heritable mate preference – for example, the preference for a larger than average tail – becomes genetically correlated with the heritable trait itself – in this case the larger tail – then a positive feedback loop will arise so that tails will eventually become far longer than would otherwise have been expected. This runaway selection may account for such features as the remarkably elaborate plumage of birds of paradise or the extravagant court­ship displays of the lyre bird.

For many academics, the significance of sexual selection as an evolutionary force only became apparent in the late 1970s, when Amotz Zahavi introduced the ‘handicap principle’. This was further developed in his 1997 book of the same name, which had the provocative sub-title A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle. Zahavi had recognized that for a physical or behavioural trait suc­cessfully to attract a member of the opposite sex, it had to impose an actual cost on the bearer. In other words, it must constitute a potential handicap to the bearer’s own survival. Otherwise, the possession of such a trait could be faked, making it wholly unimpressive.

The peacock’s tail that adorns the cover of Zahavi’s book is the classic example. Its impressive size imposes an energy cost on the bearer and increases the risk of predation: the larger the tail, the more noticeable the bird, and the slower it will be at escaping from dangerous situations. Moreover, to possess an elaborate tail fan, the peacock has to maintain itself in a healthy condition; it has to be good at finding nutritious food and fighting parasites. So, in the parlance of sexual selection theory, a large and colourful peacock’s tail is a ‘reliable indicator’ of particular good genes, since without such genes the bearer of this tail would either have been preyed upon or else would not have been able to sustain its elaborate nature.”

From Steven Mithen ‘The Singing Neanderthals’ – page 177


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Theatre Reviews



This page will be for theatre reviews and here is the first:

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

Very pleased to see this in the Fortnightly Review.

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Whistleblower Lit


Delighted that my review of Miles Goslett’s new book on the questionable details of the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly has now been published by the Fortnightly Review. Click on the link below:

Whistleblower Lit.

The review starts with a survey of selected Whistleblower books, and concludes with a more in-depth look at Goslett’s brilliant book – An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered Up the David Kelly Affair.

Interview with Miles Goslett


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