Vessel, CD BoylandThe jacket is a warm blue colour. No images. All text is yellow and centred. First the title in medium sized caps and in the top two inches. Then the word 'Poems' in very small white italics. The author's name, in yellow lower case, sits just above centre. The name of the press is at the foot of the jacket.

Red Squirrel Press,  2022    £7.00

Juxtapositions and ‘dissassociated semantic constructs’

This beautifully presented publication contains twenty-one prose poems. Each is a fully justified single paragraph, concluding well before the foot of the page. The poems start with a capital letter, end with a full stop. The text comprises unpunctuated phrases, or short word groups, separated (or perhaps punctuated) by double pipe symbols ( || ). Every third poem is followed by a right-justified ‘chorus’ that reads

Ey-aye ey-aye am / Ey-aye ey-aye ay
Ey-aye ey-aye am / Ey-aye ay

In an endnote, the poet describes the work as ‘an attempt to either commune with or conjure spirits’, and credits ‘the aleph of Jorge Luis Borges’ story (a point in space that contains all other points)’ as the inspiration.

So — yes, this is an unusual collection. The double-pipe symbols disrupt syntactical flow (I think deliberately), although some phrases link across the pipes. But as I read, I find myself balancing one word-group against the next, juxtaposing them as much as trying to connect them. Juxtaposition is a fascinating technique.

Here’s a section from ‘Gods’, to give you the idea, starting at line 4 (of 18):

[ ... ] || pages wet with tears || always at the wrong end of your microscope || a fly-speck on your thoughts || neck stiff from dreaming about you || looking back over my shoulder || to see if you are watching || you are always watching || from behind the curtains in your high-flats’ windows || from your wealth of mountain-tops || in every baker’s shop || trays of pastries shaped like hearts

I’m reminded of the psychotherapists' technique of word association, the way unconscious links assert their own logic. In the quotation above, the microscope attracts the ‘fly-speck’. The stiff neck attracts the ‘shoulder’. The ‘watching’ attracts the idea of ‘windows’. The ‘mountain-tops’ — perhaps through rhyme linkage — draw in ‘baker’s shop’. And so on, like a construction held together by magnets.

Reading in this way, ‘What does this mean?’ seems an irrelevant question, although to some extent it is answered by the concluding phrases of the next poem,  ‘Clouds’:

[ ... ] root-networks of interference & bad file-names || an unhappiness of data-packets || all woven together || dissassociated semantic constructs || what once was solid melting into air.

Helena Nelson