Let me tell you about two poetry ebooks from August last year.
Composed mainly of anagrams and rearrangements of words, Tom Duckworth’s Happy Fat Children and Protein Enhancers creates idiosyncratic, off-kilter poems out of road signs, bank notes and crisp packets. The author describes his poems as “mathematical problems to which I have found a particular solution for.”
It’s a very interesting concept, and I’ve never seen anything like this done before. When I interviewed Tom for the Philistine Press blog, I asked him why he found anagrams so appealing.
He said, “I’m fascinated by the butterfly effect and how one event leads to the unfolding of several others (I think the film Sliding Doors perfectly explains what I would try and describe here). With that in mind I thought about it in the context of just letters and words. I’m quite into the idea of somehow capturing a single moment where a collection of words has come together for some reason. I thought to myself, ‘why not try and create a poem to mark out the event of all these letters appearing together’. It then seemed fitting that the poem should only contain the letters that were present at the time and so my collection of anagram poems began.
“I did expand by using groups of words that didn’t necessarily appear together in a captured photograph, but words that somehow share a common link with one another. I also figured that perhaps more people would be able to connect with the poems if they were familiar with the words or letters they were built from.”
The queen stares! Across checked land,
Religious service rechristened at her side
Castles, limbs of stone, advance
soon shatter to ruled ruins
Sixteen hooves fight,
clash, rider spirit fiery
Royalty rooting sacrifice,
cop out & plot over coco
Read the full collection online, including all of Tom’s original source material.
Jay McLeod’s The Republic of Naught is a collection of sharp, funny, angry poems about the struggle to resist conformity while working through a string of dead end jobs.
One obvious influence for this collection is Charles Bukowski. Like Bukowski’s work, McLeod’s poems are drawn from his own personal experience but aren’t necessarily what you would call “autobiography”. If I had the chance to interview Bukowski from beyond the grave, I would ask him whether or not he considered the voice in his poems to be himself or an invented persona. I posed this same question to Jay McLeod.
Jay said, “I would say there is a minimum of artifice to what I write. I write because I need to. A persona would get in the way of that. The creative energy required to create and maintain a persona would detract from the contents of the poems – i.e. the images and events, etc would not be as fully realized because the focus would be inward (on the persona) rather than outward, or on the subject of the poem. I see the poems as largely independent of me. When writing I try to help them along as best as I can, and not get too much in their way.
“The poems aren’t necessarily factual or drawn from my own experience, but speak to the kinds of things I wonder about or am concerned about. I’ve got some poems about murder told from the point of view of the killer. I have never killed anybody (yet!) but curiosity causes me to write about it. The voice is mine, but the perspective isn’t – nor could it be.
“I see the poems as an extension of my “natural” being. The “me” that works my job is not discrete from the “me” that does housework or interacts with neighbours or writes poetry. If anything, these activities (and attendant states of being) all feed into one another.
“To put it another way: it’s all part of the same cloth.”
Notes From Abroad During Hurricane Season
they’re sleeping on their roofs
to get out of the water
a couple of lean months
half a world away
we bicker about municipal politics
and “The Return of the Sequels”
held in thrall by
faked celebrity weddings
a puppet government
fallen to insurgents
the hatchet man in another country
living off the rented time
of soldiers and pollsters
it seems anything but real from here
all the worlds a gas
when your home’s washed away
and you haven’t the wages to rebuild
at least the weather’s pleasant there most of the time
we maintain radio silence
we watch the damage in advance
the hurricane’s path
in the space of a single day
several thousand swept out to sea
failed by geography
the men and women
a generation now disappeared
from the edge of the world
beyond the verges
of anything we know
or would care to watch
for longer than ten consecutive minutes