This is a book that haunts and is haunted by a nouveau roman, restaging Robbe-Grillet as a sensational ritual, an infernal video game.
Even the most experimental poems still have that irresistible beat that continues throughout the magazine. They are the kind of poems that could be performed in a manic slur of words.
I had strange imaginings of the Weimar Republic in Germany while reading it and then considered that this is the sort of stuff that would have been condemned by the Nazi Party with the contents burnt and the editors chucked in a concentration camp.
This issue is marked by titillating writing, across the spectrum of lyrical/musical (see fossil by Florence Reynolds) to coarse/grating (X by Tom Snarsky), and is held together by tactful editing with a strong, piquant vision.
The way Dalton Day can make a poem feel more like a memory of something I’ve never experienced, or the way he can turn a cloud into a book of poems, is heroic.
Day writes joyously. He is passionate even when discussing the most commonplace things. He doesn’t just love the you in these poems, he loves the you who is reading them…
Dalton’s words are the kind of wonder I hope I never get used to and this book is the kind of magic you never knew you needed.
At a time when writers are praised for being raw in a sense that means they are being open about their darkness, something lovely comes from a writer revelling in their own light.
Siobhan shows that language is a deeply political and sensitive manoeuvre. She is a careful host and guide: we are not simply looking at a forest of constructions. We are looking at the work of construction itself.
Father, Husband explores through the slightest pricks at the sentence how we build and where we come from and what it means to come from others and to exit ourselves. It feels like philosophy, like lessons lived and not trying to teach but maybe just to retain past within the present.
Siobhan has forged a singular, expansive, incantatory voice that rolls and crashes like waves in the night; one is not sure where one is, but there is a sense of overwhelming immensity just ahead.
A Galaxy of Starfish certainly offers a diverse selection of Surrealist works. Those that are firm in their logic – that create a world or situation that is believable and concrete – work best. At times, the Surrealist techniques utilised can alienate with constantly shifting images, but this does, of course, capture a dream-like state which is often the subject matter…
A Galaxy of Starfish is the metamodern ephemera untainted. The alt-lit experiment celebrated. Sexy cerebral automatism. Rivers of poems that flow directly into the sub cortex of our true function and thoughts. This is not just a book of surrealist poetry but documentation of a superior reality, our weird thoughts and inner being.
The Plural Space is Eerie rhythm exploring a density, an expansiveness that surrounds you so closely you blur or speak. This book is a layered / precise glance at Sound created by body or machine / at Sound as it hangs between / as it travels between those who use it to communicate / commune / those who struggle with its complex presence. Do you listen / Do you watch it. How can bewilderment be calm. Darkening water? How can sound and speech and listening distort shape / nature / sentence? The gathering thickness of these poems is terrifying and necessary, totally blood filled and churning / a ribboning and beautiful space.
Linguistically, the opportunity to explore the plural space is a treat for Mahaney’s readers. In navigating his readers through the plural space, Mahaney demonstrates a grasp of sonic fluidity that is rare in contemporary poetry.
Both umbilical & polymorphous, this procession of text engineers its own swarm intelligence that invites the reader to decode the blueprint for an empathic witness. This is not a spectator’s sport. This asks you to uncostume your bystander’s vantage & enter the dark wave as it is being snakecharmed. This asks if desire is truly a direction uncoupled from the aftermath of a bodied place. To perform this rune through its plurals, its fractals, its schematic hexes, its voluptuous amor fati as it cracks open the hourglass of its own critical intimacies. Owen’s work incarnates an elegant sharpness while plotting mini explosions throughout the cadence of its sprezzatura.
I can comfortably call the eye driving these poems indefatigable. And it is an eye that drives, more than a mind, more even than a heart; Everything, Desire is a space for seen architecture, seen plastic art, seen bodies to grow into / being complicated bodies. Line to line, fracture is regnant, as it is with eye-organ’s first encounter. To those who dare live in these poems, then, recalibration will be richly rewarding, if no less factious: ‘a curtain of / lowing and lowing
If Whitman and Adorno had a knife fight on the ruins of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, The Shape of Things would be the perfect voice over. Which is to say, though it’s not a pretty scene, there’s pleasure and beauty to be found in the action and music of the syntax and in following the wild movements of this poet’s mind. Truly original, dazzlingly smart and game for anything, Fest writes of lives and desires torn apart by the neoliberal security state. Jolting between paranoiac rage and orgasmic bliss, between all-out negation and Wordsworthian swoon, these poems describe the awful implications of a contemporary moment in which “we have made ourselves a gallows of a house.”
To call The Shape of Things “post-apocalyptic” would be a mistake: its poignant present tense anxiety unfolds in the apocalypse now. Ataris and hunter-gatherers lean together over the edge of time, commingling in harrowing yet pleasurable ways. But this is no book of “detached mirth.” Hear in Fest’s singing the quiet pathos of humans and machines out of time. While Fest’s human creatures have lulled themselves into submission — ”There maybe something (virtually) / on fire. More likely our expectations are being met . . .” — his work nudges middle class late capitalist culture awake into the disturbing awareness that “a prolonged adolescence is the shape of things.”
There is often a discomfort when writers or poets vocalise something that your own mind has been wrestling with, but though there is a presence of that discomfort here, there is also a comfort in the shared experiences. These collective emotions and experiences offer the ability to reduce any alienation that the reader may experience. The works can then offer a connective quality that can often be seen lacking in non creative writing. Books such as this one boast a real privileged freedom of expression that we are lucky enough to have and should dearly value including with support for small publications and alternative outlets.
Sphinx, the impressive debut poetry collection from Cat Woodward, is a surreal and unsettling book. These poems explore what it feels like to exist as a female subject in language, in all its wonder, violence and strangeness, or as Woodward puts it in the poem “I Have Seen This Before IV”: “in her brayed ugliness-song I am a me”.
Sphinx is a truly urgent, original, and electric new collection. The poems here are raw, addled, gorgeous and fizzing with anger and tenderness. Woodward has forged her own uniquely strange and affecting language, addressing knowledge, feeling, nature, and lived experience with the dazzling, futuristic sharpness of a robot mystic. These poems smell like violets and plastic, like what is to come – I urge you to read them.
Pick this book up from the table before you, virtually or in the actual world, then flick to any page. Now, have you read a poem like this recently? No, no you haven’t. Poetry is supposed to rework the boring utility miracle of language into something that has no communicative use, but do most poets do this? Cat Woodward does, her poems within Sphinx are magically unique. They are exciting, warm hearted and hateful, ebullient and intimate, powerful and fearful. They are hers alone.
Every poem smacks me in the face with words and the titles are like poems in themselves.
Chris Kelso has brought together a handful of indiscretion tongues with their masked stories of antics of transgress wholesome goodness.