[a mimetic introduction, cut-up from the following intro]:
WiTH 25 is the latest anthology of writing from students at Falmouth University, and it yet again reflects and celebrates the creative spirit nurtured through its English degree courses. This is a collection of what seems predominantly experimental writing from found poetry and narratives to cut-ups to humuments – with other playful escapades and journeys. As someone who always enjoys such writing, including the teaching of it – and being actively engaged in writing a sequence of cut-ups from discarded sonnets – I have a strong interest in and affinity for this kind of challenging work.
As a broad selection from various writers, and because I have a personal leaning to poetry, this review will necessarily focus on some writers at the expense of others but it is genuinely the case that all of the contributions represent a high and consistent level of creative focus and at times intensity. Credit therefore goes to every writer for making the impact of the whole, and the student editors as well as Senior Lecturer and editor Rupert Loydell must have enjoyed their rich resources.
That experimental spirit is evident from the off, Mel Johnston’s tirade of verbs generating interest through their shifts and juxtapositions across physical and mental human attributes, whilst Kieron Nightingale’s Finding the mostly abstract is a linguistic tapestry of, I am guessing, found writing and expressions from the contemporary world in which we live, especially social media, and as fragments from this or as a re-presentation of its ideas/ideals with satirical to caustic asides.
As a fan of humuments [research Tom Philips for origins] I was pleased to see a smattering of fine examples of these from Nicole Donegan, Charlotte Kirkpatrick, Bethany J Noall, Jodie Chapman and Jodie Palmer [back cover, excusing the blurred reproduction below]. There are varying degrees of securing readability in these: whatever experimental process one adopts, the writer can own the rules – I know that sounds paradoxical for such approaches – but crafting should always be a key following to the initial exploration, and with humuments I was always rather anal about making sure the words selected from a text were clearly visible/readable when obliterating the rest. Just saying.
Greg Fiddament’s The Flushing Ferry seemed at first more formal/conventional, but its cut-ups are carefully and cleverly constructed with rhyming and repeats, as in its increasingly alliterative last line in each stanza, concluding ‘Still the fucking ferry’s fucking running just fine’.
There is, by the way, quite a bit of fucking and other expletives [and yes, crudities] playfully asserting their found presences throughout this collection. It makes one imagine the prime resources were eclectically wide and diverse….
Whilst earlier emphasising my proclivity for poetry, I did enjoy particularly Anna Cathenka’s radio play Eloquent Pebble, and would love to have heard this recorded/performed as it is an aural delight, even extrapolated from the writing on the page.
I called this collection a ‘challenging’ read as a whole, and it is. When it comes to experimental writing [sweeping statement alert] I don’t expect meaning to be concrete, certainly, and am personally incredibly tolerant of the most tenuous gestures. If I have no idea, I am still content with the walk-around of trying. So I enjoyed Ben Kritikos’ Vegan Tories, not understanding much but enjoying the view of most; and I think ‘challenge’ embraces that risk of reaching the potential limits of some readers’ acceptances, so the crude playfulness of Felix Kingerlee’s poem tickled my fancy but may bristle with some, though that latter sounds like I am trying to emulate the ‘hairy’ effects of the poem’s occasional content. Anna Cathenka seems to weave the literal within engaging word patterns in her poem daytrippers, and again, it is the importance of impression over the literal that matters in this reading.
Another tangent from my pro-poetry focus was the considerable pleasure I got from reading Gavin Hughes’ Columbian Tuesday. Its two pages of gangster/crime narrative contain many bright re-creations of the echoes of this genre, for example the emotively languid cynicism of this paragraph,
Lapping at the opposite bank of the river is today’s colonial atrocity. Nineteen naked tribal bodies, bloated and bloodied, limbs all overlapping and interweaving like some exaggerated art installation, and somewhere out in the dense jungle a pair of Franciscan priests whose faith weakens with each step
as well as the Chandler-esque quip of
He taps a strange, shifting rhythm against his legs and grins at Hanlon like a donkey with a mouthful of cactus.
Mel Johnston’s Mule and Charlie Onions’ ‘neath both exemplify the thematic pornography I’ve intimated as existing throughout the collection, and the former is a potent cut-up of defiant, sexual assertions, with the latter expanding on its similar eruptions within a wilder narrative full of richly machine-gun shifts and trajectories.
The selection doesn’t conclude on but there is the inclusion of an academic essay near the end about the use/significance of the ‘pastoral’ in both Milton and Marvell by Sarah Cave – convincingly done – and this helps to illustrate the breadth of the contributions to this book.
I was going to conclude myself by composing from another cut-up, this time from the rest of the review, but the reconstituted text was much too long, so, in a different kind of found empathy, I thought, fuck it.