Saturday 31 July 2021

What was Alternative poetry?

What was Alternative poetry?

The start point is a claim in Bloodaxe jacket blurbs that Ken Smith was “the godfather of the new poetry”. That obviously involves a belief about what the “new poetry” (of the 1970s and 1980s?) was.

The Association of Little Presses used to produce a Small Press Directory, and we had access to a copy of the issue for 1997. This lists all the publications of publishers who were members of the Association, and has the advantage of listing them in author order (as well as publisher order).
I photocopied half of the list to use as sample data. Crude total, for the whole list, is 1400 authors. Going through it entry by entry, to eliminate prose works, yields a projected total for poets of 602. Apparently, this is the total of poets active in the small press area – and can be used as a proxy indicator for the level of activity in the 1980s.
Great! But, a closer look at this data shows alarming problems. For example, Bloodaxe, Carcanet, and Arc were members of the ALP and some of their books are listed. It is difficult to see these books as Underground. In fact, Peterloo Press were also members – a publisher so conservative they made Poetry Review look modernistic. So the figure of 602 is unusable. So the list is not usable without further checks. Would this mean scrutinising authors one by one? Well, yes, but who on earth is going to scan those 602 people? The goal seems to be rushing away from us, but in fact the list does contain the names of 200 to 300 poets who can be seen as summing up the underground of that time.
The real count may be much higher. I suspect that quite a few micro-publishers were so small and anti-capitalist that filling in a questionnaire and writing a letter to join the ALP were not within their realm of activity. Ulli Freer’s set-up, Microbrigade, would be an example. Or Open Township. People who put out half a dozen pamphlets and moved on probably didn’t join the ALP.
The ALP catalogue was an attempt to sell poetry by post, to even up the odds. By definition, the Underground produced poetry which was unacceptable to the media and the retail world. It circulated more or less hand to hand. Its signal was weak. So it was likely that someone in (say) London would miss what was happening in Cambridge. The poets who are genuinely alternative are disparate. There were many of them and they were in many parts of the country. I suspect that the idea that they formed an organism in some way, or that they were visible to each other, is a retrospective projection. Only the diversity is genuine. It is clear that the “small press” world includes poetry of low quality, bumbling hedge-poets, grumpy old codgers, firms working as a sort of cottage industry which finds the modern world threatening. So, the professionals habitually write the sector off as being a haven for poets not good enough for commercial publishers. This judgement has also been applied to “alternative” poetry – because it lives in the small press world, it must be part of that amateurism and inability to produce for a market.
There is another figure, for the total of alternative poets over the history of the sector. I don’t have a way of making a list, but I guess 800 would be in the right ball-park.
I wanted to exclude Bloodaxe poets as being evidently conventional and non-alternative, but that offers us an argument, about the question “was Bloodaxe the future of the underground?” I can see that Simon Armitage (published by Slow Dancer) is not “alternative”, but the question is more difficult for quite a few poets. The blurred area is possibly larger than the clear area. Actually, in the opinion of the time Bloodaxe could well have been seen as Alternative poetry – anti-literary poets could be seen as a protest against educated poets, especially if they were anti-southern.
If we go back to Mottram's catalogue of the British Poetry Revival, it gives a fabulous list of poets in the New Poetry, at 1974. He omits Patten, Henri, and McGough. This was a key decision and was almost a protest against accepted opinion – at the time, the Pop poets were seen as a revolt against literary poetry, and wider opinion did not distinguish between Pop and the Underground.
If you dip into Bloodaxe propaganda, you see an image of what happened in the Sixties whereby it was the end of literary poetry and of the old middle class (and of reticence), where performance became pre-eminent over private reading and the immediate present became more important in poetry than learning and stored generalisations. This probably is what happened in the Sixties. However, there was also the acceptance that poetry could be about Ideas, the arrival of the New Avant Garde, the rise of higher education which meant that poets were expected to be intellectuals. All of this was happening. It is apparent that, in the 1970s, there was a split in the original unity of Sixties Poetry, and of the youth culture which produced it, such that pop poetry split off from intelligent poetry, and they became two different worlds. Bloodaxe only took on one of these. Elsewhere, you can see Mottram's definition of the British Poetry Revival, those 36 poets he listed, as being a way of making that split happen. He was defining a separate territory. The exclusion of the Liverpool poets from the poetry revival of the 1960s is almost incredible.
Mottram did include Jim Burns – it looks like a mistake but it also allows us to think about where he drew the exclusion line. Burns’ poetry probably worked when delivered live but it looks insignificant on the page. It has a sort of dry wit. He was a jazz fan but his poetry avoids any of the innovation or improvisation which that might suggest. It was similar to a great number of poets who did readings in the Sixties – he was less romantic, more pessimistic, than most. His pessimism about the possibilities of poetry is the striking quality. Anyway, it is difficult to claim that Simon Armitage was “conventional” if you are already claiming that Jim Burns was “alternative”. The gap between them is too narrow.
On the other side of the division, Bloodaxe did include one of Mottram’s choices– Ken Smith. He was probably their “house poet” in the first ten years. If that is true, we can locate the centre of Bloodaxe’s endeavour as being inside the British Poetry Revival. This looks odd today, but it exposes a genuine fact, viz. that Bloodaxe thought they were supplying an alternative poetry in the 1980s, and saw their line as rejecting the past – defined as academic and literary poetry and an atmosphere associated with the old middle class. New graduates, people who came from lower-class families but had gone through the State system to become a new middle class, were absolutely their staple. People who disliked the old middle class and liked the new middle class were Bloodaxe's ideal audience. That is the group they were identified with. A quick sniff around 'Poetry with an Edge' (1993 edition, not the original, I fear) indicates 54 British poets of whom only 7 had attended Oxford. A mere 13%. Apologies for what may have possible errors, but this does point to a new cultural policy. Lucie-Smith's classic anthology of 1970 still had 29% Oxford graduates. This admittedly rough proxy indicator is a telltale of a new attitude towards the poetic voice. Yes, everybody has a degree. They aren't romantic outlaws. But they aren't the southern elite.
(Actually, biographies are inexplicit and I can't check this – so maybe 13% didn't go to university, and maybe even more.)
So, in the flotsam of received opinions in the 1980s, the idea may have been current that Pop was the future of poetry, and Bloodaxe was the alternative to conservative academics and Cold War attitudes. This idea was not going to be disproved unless you actually read the poetry concerned. The counter-idea, that Pop had evolved into dumbing-down and had become conservative and conventional by about 1970, was a conceptual advance which circulated only slowly. Elsewhere, a lot of people thought “the future of poetry is dumbing-down”, end of story. That would apply to people who disliked modern poetry altogether, and to those who thought that Geoffrey Hill and Peter Levi, let’s say, were what really mattered, the Future Legacy. It could also apply to sections of the Left, where cultural differentiation was seen as a problem.
My feelings about Bloodaxe connect to negative feelings about Larkin. Larkin lived in a dour northern town, he was against cultural pretension, his poetry was obvious. He delivered Grumpy Realism. Bloodaxe poets also offered Grumpy Realism. I couldn't see this as having any liberatory charge. It wasn’t a break with the past, if you see the “central sound” in 1960-80 (roughly) as being ’The Whitsun Weddings’. Even many pages of it wasn't going to change anything. It was a sound developed by Oxford graduates, and the aim was at least partly to discourage optimism about political change. For me, if you list 50 significant new poets of my generation, so roughly 1975-90, none of them was influenced by Ken Smith. He may have been crucial both to Stand magazine and then to Bloodaxe, but his cultural plan had design flaws. There was a new poetry but Smith was not the godfather of it.

To return to our count: I do think that some people in the 1980s saw Bloodaxe as being a poetic alternative. They would then belong on the ALP list. Not everybody saw alternative poetry as being the Mottram line – some people went on seeing pop poetry as being the Alternative. So if I count 500 “alternative” poets, that relies on a meaning of the adjective which excludes Patten – or Simon Armitage.
Marketing texts try to set up ideological communities and recruit you into them, and people writing about the sociology of art tend to do much the same. I should emphasise that the big patterns may not be all that important to the life of poetry. The influence of the moon on your local pond may be real but too small to notice – however big the moon is, it’s a long way away. Local forces may be much stronger. We are interested in the history of poetry rather than the history of marketing prose.

Friday 30 July 2021

Muriel Box, scriptwriter-director

Muriel Box, scriptwriter-director (continuation)

If you read the classic work on British Cinema of the 1950s, they say that there is a 1951 film called White Corridors which is the best of the time because it continues the documentary style, and expands it into drama which also deals with the welfare state and the new society. It is morally mature and not rushing off into nostalgia and fantasy. But, the BFI decided to restore the very old and perishable negatives first, so they won’t get around to White Corridors for a long time. So it was a lost film, you couldn't see it. I posted about this several years ago. But – White Corridors is now on You-Tube. The first thing I noticed about it was that it was scripted by Jan Read, who wrote the story for Street Corner. Then – this is a great film. God knows how it comes to be on You-tube. It overlaps with “My Brother Jonathan”, if you like that kind of thing. And, yes, they are both films about the Welfare State, and explaining why it is a good thing.
Two of Muriel Box’s films seem to be about the nature of fantasy – so “The Passionate Stranger is a gentle satire on the conventions of the romantic novel and the perils of confusing reality with fiction. Directed in inventive fashion by Oscar winner Muriel Box, (sharing writing credits with husband Sydney Box), this hugely engaging comedy is made available here in a brand-new transfer...” and Simon and Laura [1955] “stars Peter Finch (in one of his first British lead roles) and Kay Kendall as an unhappily married couple who decide, for strictly financial reasons, to play idealised versions of themselves in a kind of quasi-fictional soap opera for the newfangled medium of television. The final act anticipates reality TV by around half a century, as a Christmas special broadcast live turns messily chaotic thanks to the machinations of mischievous child-performer Timothy”. This belief that fantasy is unreal is a sort of critique of conventional romance which sounds like the critiques you got in 70s feminism, or leftism in general. This is not to say that a Rank Film could ever be just like an essay in Screen, but the idea of staging the story in a pleasurable way while also analysing its remoteness from reality sounds like a brilliant solution to well-known problems. It sounds a bit familiar, as a lot of professional screen-writers want to tell a story which exposes screenplay conventions as brain-damagingly artificial. So Box accepted that fantasy had to play a role in film.
I now have a DVD of ‘Strangers’ and it is effectively unwatchable. Too much the Fifties Rank film. It definitely is a critique of romantic fantasy – and this is what we can connect with the Seventies. In the film, the female lead is a romantic novelist who has run out of ideas. A new chauffeur arrives, young and good-looking, she has the idea for a romance about an illicit love affair between a bourgeois heroine and a chauffeur. By accident the real chauffeur gets to read the novel. He tries to take her up on it. Just before this point the film shifts into colour and we see the novel story. The cleverest part is the adjustments the novelist (Margaret Leighton) makes to reality. She becomes a concert pianist – a few steps above silly romantic fiction. For her husband, the heightening invovles him trying to stop her from playing the piano – she is now in the right and has a Grievance. The maid, kind and demure in the scenes of ‘reality’, now becomes sexy, scheming and forward – heightening her role as Threat to the lead figure. All this is very good, exquisite even, but it is the kind of thing which appeals to writers rather than making for real cinema. The fact that the heroine has a total of three servants makes it difficult to take her seriously. Leighton has no personality. Patricia Dainton, as Emily the maid, produces the best and most contrasting performances- out-acting Ralph Richardson, in this case. She is also a lot prettier than Richardson. I admit to being an admirer of Dainton – although I am not sure she ever appeared in a good film. With “Passionate Strangers”, the content certainly involves the critique of art itself, the creative control certainly comes from a Left feminist – but the film is thoroughly conservative and reinforces marriage, wealth, and the status quo.
My conclusion, for the Seventies – if people in 1975 thought that a ton of reforms were inevitable and long overdue and utterly obvious, it is because popular art had been frozen for 20 or 25 years. It’s not that the new ideas were wrong, more that they had been available for a couple of decades and the business of popular culture had failed to do anything with them. Left culture was underdeveloped, although developing fast by 1975, because of funding problems – the culture industry conspired to block and repress it. ‘Strangers’ turns out to be pretty much a film about The Servant Problem.
Box’s film “The Truth about Women” may be the only feminist feature film made in the 1950s. I haven’t seen it and, frankly, it sounds pretty dire. But, as I suspect, every woman who graduated during the 1950s could have made a series of convincing and modern-sounding feminist arguments. It’s just that these weren’t seen as cinematic. Jill Craigie's 1950 short documentary about equal pay for women has got all the arguments, even if the Equal Pay Act took another 25 years. You could find ten Fifties films about the servant problem for every one about the Employer Problem. This is just not a reflection of reality.
An actress called Julia Lockwood played a teenage fantasist figure in two films, 'Please Turn Over' and 'No Kidding', where her fantasies are a significant part of the plot. I think this idea may have been copied from 'Passionate Strangers'.
“Muriel Box described The Truth about Women, at 107 minutes by some way her longest work, as “the film personally significant to me above all others”. It is a portmanteau affair in which an elderly aristocrat (Laurence Harvey) reminisces about the numerous ladies in his life, each episode making unambiguous assertions about gender equality and the wrongs of patriarchal oppression. The days of submissive spouses are over: a woman can and should be “an equal partner in the business of life”, as one character puts it.“
I really don’t much want to see this.

Thursday 29 July 2021

Did the counter-culture end?

I found some notes (from 1994 maybe?) on Martin Booth’s Driving Through the Barricades. It is a history of British poetry from 1964 to 1984. I didn’t reproduce Booth’s argument in my book on the 70s because I regard his book as necessary – I don’t need to repeat it. His story focuses on live performances – they were what made poetry writing come back to life, so that written poetry became interesting again. Small magazines amplified this because they had a very quick turn-round and were super open to new work – they were “almost live”, and dialogic, and social. So he has a vast network of readings sites as his subject, and he describes many of them, and the kind of person who would go there. He must have been giving dozens of readings himself, exciting experiences which make you hypersensitive to audience mood. He describes a boom. Things were good. He wanders the land being applauded. More than that, he applauds the audience. He’s right. But he has a tragic view of this: Booth refers to "the end of the exciting era from approximately 1964 to 1974" and, "In Britain, poetry has gone from being largely sterile to immensely virile and has returned to sterility within a decade and a half." - that would cover 1964 to 1979. “It [Second Aeon] stopped and the decline and rot set into British verse soon after. It is justified to feel that the demise of Finch's astounding enterprise led to the slowdown of the art.” Finch probably was the most talented editor of the entire period. This shift took place in early 1974. Crucially, the readings circuit collapsed in the mid-70s. And, there is a 1974 MacSweeney interview where he also discusses the collapse of the readings circuit as an established fact.
I have a feeling that Booth regarded what he saw and heard as being History Itself. But, every Friday night when he was at a reading getting into the ambience, there were a dozen other readings happening elsewhere which he wasn't at. So he wasn’t seeing history. But, other people may also have mistaken their direct experience for being the whole story, over the whole country. We can’t use their results. My feel is that there was a collapse. But, this represents someone getting high in the foreglow of a future of total liberation, the overflow of equity, self-expression, personal relations. It was actually too much. But a high is followed by a comedown – a physical necessity. The bigger the high, the bigger the comedown. But I don’t think this happened simultaneously to everybody, in every city, on the banks of every river. I think getting politicised, or getting poeticised, was like falling in love – people were falling into it all the time. Everyone is 18 once and there are always more 18 year olds coming along, with stars in their eyes. The Comedown is one of the big stories of the Seventies– but it didn’t happen in a particular month. If you list publications coming out year by year, there is no halt point. It never took place.
I think Booth’s own career may have hit a ceiling – not crashed and burnt, just hit a ceiling. He couldn't get a deal with a major publisher. And he began writing much less.
If you look at the row at the Poetry Society in the first months of 1977, this is three years after Booth says the scene had crashed into the kerb. So it may be that the row, with Eric losing his job as editor of Poetry Review, 14 people resigning from the Poetry Society committee, was not a significant moment. It was emotional for those 15 people and some more who were their entourage, their supporters and advisers, but it probably came in a cultural depression which was already at full bore, and it probably didn’t change the situation for poets or audiences everywhere else – except at the fatal Earls Court building. Conflict around one magazine does not scale up into a historical turning point. Not when you can count 200 magazines.
Did it all go wrong at that point? Well, possibly it didn’t all go wrong at any point. I have yet to hear someone say that their ability to work collapsed after March 1977. So I am waiting for evidence that anybody’s work collapsed. And if the work kept on pouring out, what was there to complain about? that the Arts Council doesn't love you?
I think we are looking at this the wrong way. We argue about “when did the counter culture stop” because many right-wing journalists have declared that as an event. It used to be so great but now it’s just drug-taking. Etc. etc. This is quite like “you don't need feminism any more” or “you don’t need affirmative action any more”. Probably we should accept that the counter-culture never stopped, look away from the internal position, and look at the pressure being put on it from outside. That is what you can date, I suspect. Or, "there was a poetic avant garde in the Sixties but it stopped". Did it?
I find it hard to evaluate Booth’s poetry. He did get a full-scale book out with Bloodaxe in 1983 – but then he wasn’t included in their flagship anthology, Poetry with an Edge. (At least the edition I have.) So he had a gift but something went wrong. I read several of his books for ‘Suppressed’ but I didn’t think he had got there. I am sure he did lots of readings, but the problem with them may be that he simplified poems to make maximum impact in the live situation, so that the work seems shallow and obvious on the page. It is almost terrific, yes. He also writes prose as if history were what he personally experienced. It's exciting because he was always there whenever anything significant happened, and he always knows the story. But if you look for what he didn't see, face to face, he doesn't want to tell you about it. So when he says poetry fell apart in 1974, I don't buy it.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Vanity presses

Vanity presses, exclusion, etc.

I have been looking again at Clifford's book on poetry publication, which includes price estimates from various publishers who could be interpreted as operating on a play-to-play basis. This exercise took place in roughly 1994. The prices varied from about £2000 to about £4000 for a book. There is a cheaper option available, he records. The figures are interesting because they show how you could have a successful business on that basis.
I searched the BL catalogue to get a count of how many books the publishers named by Clifford published during 1994. This raised a problem, because most of them did mainly prose. (War memoirs and interpretation of bible prophecies featured a lot.) I lacked the energy to disentangle which ones contained poetry. Less than 100 poetry titles, I believe.

My spreadsheets continue to grow and I now have a list of 7000 people who published at least 1 book of poetry during my chosen period, 1960 to 1997. This figure has limited use, since it certainly isn't complete. It is aimed at eliminating incorrect statements about the poetry business. It is a basis for a guess about the total – 8000 poets, I suspect. Of course that raises the question of whether there were another 5000 who didn’t get a book out and who were thronging round the entrances, unable to get in. I really don’t have that figure. The data can only answer certain questions and we don't get to choose which ones those are.
Data can exclude certain outlier theories. For example, theories about the poetry world being closed. This idea doesn't really run with a list of 7000 or even more names who did get included. The pattern is more like – editors turned down work they didn't like but there was a lot of work they did like and, also, there were a lot of editors. The industry did say “no” but you have to tune in to the 7000 yesses.
I can see in my lists several people who began with quite doubtful pay-to-play set-ups and then wrote excellent poetry which also came out from reputable publishers. With the vanity sector, I am thinking not just of artistic incompetence but also of people who lacked self-confidence and drive – and maybe wanted to focus on writing rather than on the door-knocking and marketing (and researching the labyrinths of stylistic loyalty). So a complete gap between vanity projects and “genuine” poets is just a theory and less real than most. I don’t feel like naming the people who made the crossover, but they are good poets and in a way that excludes naivety. I think poets as a group dislike rejection and a paying press is obviously going to spare you that part.

I don't want to start researching this, but I could quite easily list 1000 books which came out on a “pay to play” basis, and it is quite possible that some of them are really good. As, this is an area which the business traditionally overlooks. Also- a bet on poets being timid and avoiding difficulties is a winning bet. If there is a tier of ignored poetry, it is less because elitists all share the same prejudices than because some poets are astute enough to write the poem but not robust enough to send off dozens of submissions. I strongly suppose that if 200 magazine editors see a good poem, then one of them will publish it. In the negative case, evidently, it could be a bad poem. A bad sheaf of poems. But, I can't claim that a sensitive poet-thing can read 100 rejections without becoming hardened in a way which affects the reason why they started the journey.

I have just sent off for a copy of ‘Letter to Lao-Tze’, by John Smith, 1961. He wasn't obscure then, and in fact I know pretty well what this book is going to be like, but he is a writer who has been pretty comprehensively forgotten. This is my way of trying to remember.

I think all poets are a mixture of delusion and scepticism and I doubt that vanity press poets are essentially different. We all share the same belief that our work is really important. To update that a bit, some people like to refer to the “products” of creative writing classes as a separate class of being, as if their love of poetry and their path towards stylistic maturity were actually different from anyone else’s. Now that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who have spent time in those classes, you can see that there is no really findable division.

Saturday 17 July 2021

A follower of Spengler

A follower of Spengler

I chanced to look at an old text of mine, and this is something like a correction to what I wrote 30 years ago. The text is on my first website,, and one section of it is about a poem by Alan Jackson, in his 1989 Collected. Part of it runs:

“Alan Jackson writes, in "West Man":

between iron and gold still hammered,
each living one of us,
keen to jingle and cleave,
in the west, that is, that I know of,
where the wind is red.

Jackson is taking on nothing less than the West, via a string of crimes: science, thinking, rockets, pollution, etc., and especially: "The word's still: 'On',/ which means to The End", which is the effort to excel. This poem has two good things about it. First, its sheer scale: a terrific release from domestic realism. Second, its forcing together of two incommensurables. [...] You can't have insight into that many people; unless you believe that they all have the same mind, and that this central reality is visible to the Poet. Getting from "character" to "history" is not as easy as Jackson thinks. [...] The poem is totally indebted to prose statements about ecological disaster, something so familiar to the reader that it needs little explaining; also, it's implicitly normative, dividing the world into Good People and Bad People, and this supports a claim by the author to authority and knowledge. It's not a very good poem.[..]
Jackson's certainty comes from his sources: whether it was the ecologist Barry Commoner or some TV documentary, he takes "the West-logic- imperialism- disaster" as fixed concepts, and there is no trace in his poem of how this knowledge was reached. Most of the poets published in the anthology have a childike worldview, in which knowledge is guaranteed by an authority figure[...] This lack of interrogation process petrifies the poems they write. One wonders if anybody in this whole network has the faintest idea what Western art has actually been doing in the past 50 years. Maybe the "inquiring" style came to be the Establishment (in visual art, at least), and ebbed away, without most of the arts public knowing what it was.”

So far so good. But, what I didn't get at the time (1992?) is that the source is actually Oswald Spengler. Where Jackson says "The word's still: 'On',/ which means to The End", the idea is clearly Spengler’s myth of Faustian Man. In fact, the idea that there was a cultural unit called The West, and that it was embodied in a “psychological type”, comes from Spengler. This poem is much better than Jackson’s other poetry, and this just shows the whole continuing mythic power of Spengler. I am tempted to use the phrase “pulp philosopher”, because his core ideas are so vivid and so remote from historical research. The idea of “defining the West” is so compelling that many poets have wanted to do it, irrespective of deep ignorance about other cultures (say, Far Eastern, Islamic, communist).
Jackson isn’t a very good poet (and when he was in Penguin Modern Poets, number 12, they put three bad poets in one volume, the others being William Wantling and Jeff Nuttall). It has a drop-dead beautiful cover photo by Alan Spain, quite similar to a lot of other volumes in the series. I remember these covers from 1971 or so... they were just great. It seems to be a wooden wheel in a tree, seen from beneath and silhouetted against the sky. Possibly two wheels. It's quite hard to locate which direction is up, but I feel sure the blue is the sky and not the surface of water. The credits page to that PMP records "he is working on a book about the interaction of myth, dream and imagery in his own life and in our time". I wonder if that ever came out. My essay was looking at that belief that "my unconscious is the deep tier of our society" and some of the consequences of that. It is possible that dreams are just "narrative white noise" and not a source of knowledge. The essay is not very good.
For me this shows how little I knew in 1990. Actually reading contemporary poetry was probably a good idea, but reading the history of ideas (including bad ideas) would also have been helpful. A poet who recycled Spengler motifs in the 1970s was Peter Abbs, and those poems are actually rather good.
If you work in the education industry, the question “how will Moslem parents react to this policy” is quite important. Good government also means good government as it affects British Moslems. Spengler’s version of Magian Culture has nothing to offer here, it’s more like a joke than real cultural sociology. The whole post-Spengler thing was a solipsistic way of thinking about the West, not a way of gaining understanding of people from (say) Turkey or Pakistan. A false start. Spengler’s book was more like a trashy but exciting work of science fiction than a work of sociology. It should have been made into a silent film. "The Twelve Dreams of Dr Spengler".