Why Vandalism? E-Bookpress, 2007 - Free online from www.whyvandalism.com
Chris Major is an original. He produces two kinds of poem. His The Lowest Level, published by Whiteleaf Press last year, contained several of the first kind—gritty little free-verse pieces that are literally word-pictures, using the resources of the ASCII code to make inventive designs. Are they poems? Are they concrete? Are they Art? Probably, but does it matter? They’re clever, they’re often funny, and they’ve got something to say.
The grimness of Major’s more conventional poems is found in these pieces too, as in ‘Self Harm?’ which runs, in its entirety:
Sleeve tugging back as I took her // / X \ \\ \ // hand
Or the ‘3 Word Suicide Poem’ which goes
Other pieces use ASCII symbols to draw cartoon pictures—the tyre tracks left after an accident, a bird of prey hovering above a mouse, an anorexic’s bloated self-image.
Not all are grim, though—a bubble trace of wandering letter ‘o’s reveals the whereabouts of Nessie, and the pair of voluptuous breasts supposedly printed off on a photocopier suggests that someone at least in this world is having some fun.
Chris Major reminds us of the physicality of text and the textuality of our world. His pictorials disrupt the flow of our reading, but then the flow of our life is only too likely these days to be interrupted by
SS//POLICE LINE///DO NOT CROSS///POLICE LINE///DO NOT C
The best of these pieces enlarge our sense of what a poem can do, and encourage us to look at our urban world with sardonic un-illusioned eyes. As he says in his ‘Poem For Those Who See Peace For 2007’:
E T Y
O U R E
Y E S T E S
T E D P L E A S E