Walking to the supermarket today cost wild amounts of strength and energy, for which I am grateful to have spent now that I can eat nauseating Roquefort cheese in the hope of coaxing my numbed-out tastebuds to attention (so far semi-successful) with lathering of French mustard on wholewheat bagel. Semi permasick seemingly from something in the walls in me. MOULD. Watching the Easterheads peruse giant boxes with undersized, foil-wrapped eggs inside reminds me of a lecturer I had many years ago whose primary exam advice was to study always with such an egg by your side, because curved chocolate is ‘superior’. Trying to summon childhood memories of Easter and all I get is something hardboiled and glum, rainbow-painted free-rangers being rolled down the smashed-up concrete of Minnoch Crescent estate. What were you supposed to do next? Retrieve the egg. I forget. I roll over. I have to sleep on my side or something in my organs hurts; but I believe cats have healing powers and if a cat wants to sleep right on my chest, sure, I’ll sleep on my back and wake up better.
So I’ve been enjoying The Blindboy Podcast and recently the episode where he talks about the internet before it became, well, everything. The total bombardment. Blindboy has charming tales of what cultural scarcity was like before you could just shazam the shit out of any sonic phenomenon, google every micro-thought that comes into your head or find your brain rewired around the big-ass anxiety MMORPG that is Twitter. I’m geriatric millennial enough to remember this and especially tapes. I had a thing about tapes. I wrote about this already, way back in 2014, my thing for tapes. That was kind of before the indie tape revival (is it still going on?). Seriality in writing is irresistible to me. The backwards and forwardsness of it. Krapp’s spoolish jouissance. Bernadette Mayer’s tape recordings in Piece of Cake, Memory and Midwinter Day. The glossolalic Mr Tuttle in Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist.
Recently, editor, writer and absolute king [<3] in the poetry community, Aaron Kent, published a pocket-sized pamphlet called The Rise Of… (Broken Sleep Books, 2022). The back page features the familiar anatomy of tape reels encased in clear plastic. There’s a kind of Side One/Side Two vibe: a long essay-poem, ‘The Rise Of…’, which documents the process of coming to know what happened in the wake of a sexual assault; and a poem ‘Inkmist’ dedicated to ‘CRASAC group therapy; for saving me‘. This is a breathtaking work that doesn’t so much ‘confront’ its difficult subject as enter into a kind of ‘momentum’ capable of thawing the petrification of trauma. Of central concern to the speaker is the notion of hallucination, of letter-writing, of ‘difficulty’ itself. I opened it gently from the envelope as I once would a cassette from its casing, read the whole thing in one go and found myself at this point upside down on the sofa, blood rushed to my head, kind of too stunned to even cry. The fluidity and force of Kent’s words are such that all kinds of dormant synapses in my own brain began to take flight again. This is poetry which dials up exposure not exactly to ‘tell a story’ but to disclose the whole affect-storm of a writing that could approximate a traumatised consciousness — one that is at once deeply singular, embodied but also permeable within language itself. A writing that soaks up the residues of thinking’s trillions. It’s hypnagogic, syncopated, a rush; full of swerves, stops, broken clauses, syntactic mania. Forget punctuation. This is a book about the secret. About a wild undersong of constant, yet fluctuating pain. ‘I’m like a sponge i’m always shedding and if i don’t deal with it the pain won’t go away’. Anhedonia, itching, ‘something so simple and powerful’ about a scream. ‘There must be a word for losing melody’. In a blurb for the book, Day Mattar describes this not so much as ‘a stream of consciousness’ but ‘a flood’. There’s something mesmerising and unstoppable here. ‘I am the rapture!’ Buy this book.
When I was in London I also picked up Emily Berry’s new collection, Unexhausted Time (Faber, 2022), a book I’d hotly anticipated owing to Berry’s excellent previous titles Dear Boy (2013) and Stranger, Baby (2017) but also because the book cover perfectly matched the magenta of fred’s new iets frans tracksuit. I read this last weekend in a few turbulent, food coma type nights, marvelling at how my brain could just pick up a special Berry ellipsis, steal it for a dream and then awake to another suspension in the poem. This is a book full of ghosts and twisted souls, a kind of carefulness around utterance itself; spellbinding in the sense of a spine for holding together our weathering lives. A book bound by some kind of spell. You have the sense of a secret, and a holding back:
All statements purporting to be act
are true. Nothing goes away…
You carry it with you,
if not on your back, or in your arms,
then somewhere behind your eye…
So be careful…
See the ghost scratching at the door frame
for the note that will free her.
The past is parked next to me like a dirty van
with messages fingered in the grime…
(Emily Berry, Unexhausted Time)
These lines summon us but also disintegrate on the page as dust. I imagine the automatic typing of a super-intelligence gleaned from our messages. It feels intimate, uncanny. Where is this person speaking from? I want to take their advice seriously. There’s a lowkey lockdown hauntology, the house turned inside out by a kind of social toxicity. Anything natural is also sort of monstrous: ‘It always seemed to me a kind of madness, / the gardens all in flower year after year’. It’s sort of obscene to me that the blossoms are all out and I feel about as disconnected from them as if they existed purely as pixels. Is this disintegration of the senses a prefiguration to ageing? How do you stay involved with the big delicious ‘madness’ of the sensory world? The hyper-pitch of birdsong made audible by the lockdown of spring 2020 was lush, but also spooky. As if to be always in the dawn song of 5am, alone with the birdly chimeras — too piercing to surely be real? I miss it. The feeling of being wholly alive in waves. Write something to the ghost?
It always comes back.
And there are new messages…
The digital eeriness of felt presence. New messages. Poems in their seasonal palimpsests. I want that unexhausted time, a time we haven’t yet strung out, a time to be rechilded. A time for birds.
Happy pink moon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lastly, the new Ludd Gang arrived. Mark Francis Johnson:
Those birds of passage
present as fists.
I think we fauns may learn
more from those birds than
half-hours by the sea
In the summer the woodcutter
wanted to fell my home
and I let him.
(from The Faun Book)
You go stumbling, burned your pineal gland, phone mum. I keep the doors open in my dreams in case a deer walks in. ‘With my eye’, says Jesse Darling in the same issue, ‘I wanted to go / there, to the end of that road. With my whole body I wanted to go / there’.
Let the cold, curved chocolate fit the lip of my tongue, from the fridge.
Want also to melt.
Earlier I wrote something of our weathering lives. It’s the most beautiful and encompassing thing you can say to someone, becoming the spooky sweet hail in flux with sunbursts and mugs full of snow, a rainbow.
Something like an offering, snowballs of silver foil. Blossoms and more blossoms.
Again, from Ludd Gang (the last poem), Gloria Dawson writing for Callie Gardner:
hey, you were my weather
sometimes arriving at my door