(erasure from Chapter 12: Jacob’s Ladder – Philosophy and Fun of Algebra by Mary Everest Boole)
I’ve been looking forward to James Roome’s follow-on collection from his debut Bull – also with The Red Ceilings Press – which had signalled a distinctive absurdist voice and way of seeing things.
I have not been disappointed.
This too is a visit to the bizarre normalcy of Roome’s poetic world, and there is plenty of playfulness throughout, not least the statistical extrapolations that begin this collection in A study has shown.
But don’t be fooled by the child’s craft-box book cover design. The background colour is clearly a universe on fire, burning a deep and beautiful red. And the crocodile-green is no doubt eco-friendly, but then there is the poetic prevalence of grey*: the grey scales and the grey teeth, sharp and deadly. And the eyes? The sclera is grey too, and we know how they follow and stalk. These are dangerous prose poems snapping at our laugh-or-cry heels as we read, running on to the next disturbing eyeballs of Ms Maytree.
Be prepared for the delightful evacuation.
For more details and to buy, go here.
My review of Bull is here.
*if you’re seeing a hint of blue, you are not paying attention…
(for Isobel and Chris)
A number of questions to ask myself are –
was I irreverent in 1972;
did I write a collection then of poetry and prose,
and if so, how many rooms in unknown
houses did my book haunt their surrounds;
did my voice in this palpable project
beautify its derisions; would the voyeurs have
read with a sense of regret at their invasion
or had insights into the privacy of my candour,
and if this can be found in the here and now,
or even another Borgesian reality, is it too late
to publish once more and revive better times?
‘Existing’ from my found poem sequence &there4 is here today at International Times – with thanks to them and Rupert.
When I said Yes, it is a story
I meant it was a helluva story
and I mean just like the way it’s written
because that is how I would have said it,
expressed with that emphasis, rather
than appeared to simply confirm it as
narrative / account / prose – just those
dry bones I had turned into a poem:
a found poem, and the story as prompt,
with recognition of its interest value,
and my corroboration, losing its shared
significance in an email exchange.
Had it been something more meaningful
overall, that kinduv lack of clarity and
engagement can lead to all kinds of (sic)
polarities between the spoken & written.
Youth’s trumpet song,
and though unable to speak,
one can still gander.
foreign bodies: honk if you’ve heard
this one before.
The sound of a
single baying hound, bereft of
the pack and feathers, and
when little boys swallow,
curiosity kills the goose that lays
a golden vocal.
It goes in and out
and in and out and in and out
and in and out:
there are ways
to talk without, but you will
never fly again.
(In 1848, a German physician, Dr Burrow, removed a goose’s larynx from a boy’s throat. It was the fad at that time and place for children to blow through the larynx of a recently killed/slaughtered goose to imitate its sound. Aged 12, the boy had accidently swallowed the larynx in this playing around, and nearly died before it was surgically removed. It is recorded that before the operation, when the boy exhaled – with great difficulty in trying to breathe – he sounded like a goose)
~ Satan Calling Up His Legions – 1805-1809, by William Blake
The Red Ceilings Press chapbooks are delightful things (with an admission of interest, having the pleasure of being previously published by them, but also collecting and reading many): they are usually, though not always, quick reads; being focused, they are immediate/impacting – although as Ian McMillan observes in his back-cover blurb for this one from Seed, ‘Here is simplicity that, the harder you look at it, becomes endless and profound.’
They can be read in a moment, as I did today: before going out for a walk, the post arrived with ‘I Remember’ which set up expectations, and on my return I sat in the garden and read these autobiographical snapshots in a perfect pause from all else.
The poems are split into two sections, each using the ‘I remember’ list poem device – or whatever you want to call it – and the repetitions build in their collective reminiscences. The first section is autobiographical across time, recalling childhood experiences as well as growing up and beyond. They are candid, at times suggestive rather than stated, and are familiar and surprising so also relatable and engaging. I won’t quote because they should be read in that whole moment, but I like the yearning for sideburns and the recall of being read extracts from a pulp crime novel. And of course, Elvis gets a mention.
The second section is about a special friendship – In Memoriam Gerald – and this is perhaps more expansive about Seed’s life as writer and other lifelong shapings, and it is affecting as well as poignant.
I don’t know that these were written in lockdown (note: since writing I have found out they weren’t, though my following point remains one I want to state), but I do know this has been a period where many will have had the time and need to reflect on their own lives, finding how personal re-discovering makes sense of the isolations, and taking a different kind of communion in exploring one’s own thoughts internally as well as sharing with others. That’s what I suggest readers can and will take from this.
And if I leave it there I am being faithful to the simple spirit of this fine collection, which I do recommend. You can read more details and get it here.