Grosvenor Road Books, 2006 - £1.50
MOLESKIN MAN IS AN ODD LITTLE PAMPHLET. It’s the poetry equivalent of lo-fi. The words are typewriter typed, with
page-numbers scrawled on in pen, some of the pages misaligned and the poems (free verse) interspersed with scrawled drawings and photocopies of moles. Not just any moles—condylura cristata, the star-nosed mole—a species bearing twenty-two pink fleshy tentacles on its snout.
In this context, then, readers are presented with the simultaneously mundane and surreal life of Moleskin Man, a confusing entity who lives a perplexed existence amidst supermarkets, special offers and the latest girl. His world is visionary, tuning in and out of metaphorical, uncontrolled
bald-headed traffic wardens,
trains underground, cancerous growths spreading
beneath their arm-pits like mushrooms
Part of the fun of the pamphlet is the puzzle of Why, Who or What is Moleskin Man? Why the obsession with moleskin clothes?
The character seems to be an unbalanced, obsessive, potentially schizophrenic employee of the Royal Mail (“now Consignia”, as the poet adds, typically deadpan) and yet also a figure in demand with the local ladies (“handsome”, “triumphant as Caesar”) but comic, silly, unable to avoid pathetic association with the animal-man superhero cliché.
The writing perspective slides unexpectedly from third-person to first-person midway after four poems, reinforcing his strange—even invasive—charisma. The poetry often climaxes on lines that resonate emptiness and alienation, but do so with a light tone and a subtle appreciation for the absurd. The overall effect skirts close to uncanny, with the illustrations of star-nosed moles, familiar, alien, ever-present and creepily beautiful, acting as the focus of an uncertain atmosphere.
The purposely tatty production is effective, making the collection feel more personal, enjoyable and unsettling than a professional finish might. A weird, funny meditation on emptiness and estrangement, Moleskin Man is an off-beat success.