Jeff Nuttall: British Beat
I was looking through my old books today and stumbled upon a first edition, numbered copy of Jeff Nuttall’s Pig. Published in 1969, this weird little book of cut-up prose-poetry features a glowing preface from none other than the master of the cut-up, William S. Burroughs.
I don’t really know where I got this book, or when. It must have come along in my last blurry years at university. Possibly it was gift from my favourite tutor, or quite possibly I purchased it on his recommendation. He was a Burroughs fan and a lover of Beat literature and odd poetry.
Jeff Nuttall was considered by some to be a sort of later, British member of the Beat Generation. In spite of the sometimes wide ranging focus of Beatdom I’m not really comfortable with the term “Beat” being bandied around so readily. One may possess some of the Beat spirit, but that doesn’t make one part of the Beat Generation.
Nonetheless it is hard to overlook a certain Beat influence in Nuttall’s work. In the structure of his poems one recalls Gregory Corso; in the cut-up narrative, William S. Burroughs; in certain phrasing there’s a weird British version of Kerouac or Ginsberg…
Moreover it seems Nuttall is attempting to capture the rhythm of some kind of music in his words. The cut-up technique seems to have been used to great effect in producing a rhythmical, often cyclical pattern to the prose.
Here’s what Burroughs had to say on the matter:
“Jeff Nuttall is one of the few writers today who actually handles his medium. He moves pieces of it from here to there using the repetition techniques of recurring themes in music. His structures are essentially musical as is his prose… This is a beautiful and unique structure. Jeff Nuttall touches his words.”
If you can get your hands on a copy of his work, I’d strongly recommend doing so. If you’re already familiar with him, please let us know what you think.