‘Static Gleanings’ by Tom Cowin – The Red Ceilings Press

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My pathway into and connection with the evolving exploration in this collection of EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) are the two lines

‘voice is the connective membrane
between your blood and horizons’

I take this to mean what we find in anything that prompts meaning/meaningfulness, and I further take this in the sense of found poetry (which Cowin’s writing here isn’t) where such meanings are random but suddenly connected – ‘blood and horizons’ seeming a potent way of putting it.

I may return to clarify this.

I was also liberated a bit in my engagement with the whole through the lines

‘Then the theory is / that the spirits / that manipulate them / will be so delicate’
(these four lines range across their actual page).

The concept of EVP is entirely new to me and whilst I am creatively open to any sense of finding personal meaning anywhere and anyhow, I am less inclined to acknowledge the reality of ghost voices and similar in the sounds of electronic voice phenomenon recordings. And I do think this view of mine is neither here nor there for anyone else engaging with Static Gleanings.

I like the beginning of the text where sounds are found in a ‘park’ and are a ‘general tenor’, appreciating in this latter the most expansive pun. When we move to the following

‘this device is basal
ganglia firing
in the true dark
under the ash canopy’

apart from the neat beauty of this, I hear the richest connection of the literal to the metaphoric in its concise writing, and this thread moves to the ‘white noise’ of EVP which is a ‘human voice’ that is ‘chirping’, though it may be the ‘singing of wild birds’.

However, maybe I forced a finding of that link back to a literal reality? It doesn’t matter – it is what Cowin finds/hears, or is discovering as possibility.

Reading on, I am/we are reminded it is the recording that matters, not the initial sound. This is of course interesting because we can all hear beyond any actual moment – but to hear within a recording, and to be able to play again and again and to analyse is quite different.

The elaboration of this continues often quite beautifully/lyrically in the ‘could be’ and ‘maybe’ of the possibilities. Perhaps an expected wider unwillingness to do so is expressed in these lines,

‘paranoia is a general air
that we are connected’

and the two pages these lines open are a wonderful example of Cowin’s lyricism as he expands on this.

Most importantly is how Cowin’s exploration of EVP moves with but also past the ghost voices to declare it

‘in a two way conversation with the living’

As with all of The Red Ceilings Press chapbooks, this is a compact read yet it is also deeply engaging. The movement of the poetry across a page and across pages brings continuing surprises as well as spaces/pauses for reflecting – a time to take in the impact of such carefully crafted positionings: this linked (if obviously in poetry!) to word choices, but also the grammar of a playful moment

‘loud contact with the unseen
could be
soon that something was going
to maybe
to happen anyway’

For more information and to purchase, go here.

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As an additional, and on the sound theme, Tom Cowin is a fine songwriter and musician. I recommend Animals, Animals, Animals – a sweet folk album with songs written and arranged by Lucy Day and Tom Cowin, and the album has harmony vocal provided by Rachel Weymss.

Get here.

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