Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Propositions, Amy McCauleyThis is a photograph showing a part of a stack of copies of the book. You see about two thirds of it. The jacket is very dark blue, There is a pale blue line outlining a vertical rectangle the same shape as the jacket. The title in large pale bluey white letters appears on top of this white rectangle and occupies its full length The author's name is not visible in the picture.

Monitor Books, 2020 £10.00

Dog biscuits

What my language summons for others is the ruins of
my language.

What my language summons for others I cannot say.

I am unable to say what the language of Amy McCauley may or may not summon for other readers, only what it summons for myself.

On page 32, the poet makes two propositions (or possibly one proposition followed by an illustration):

The moral of language is there is no moral.

One might hear ‘anguish, for instance, and mistake it
for ‘sandwich’.’

The first proposition overloaded my ears with a hiss that drowned out meaning.

With the second proposition, I have to agree this scenario is possible. But as the hissing died away, a voice in my head repeated ‘unlikely … unlikely …’ while offering no evidence for such an assertion.

Page 14 also presents two propositions, though they are phrased as assertions:

Don’t make me laugh is a thing people say when another
person is not making them laugh.

No one laughs when they’re screaming.

Step forward, please, all the people who can confirm this is true.

Before I take a position on the matter, I would like to hear for myself what they are actually proposing. And I am absolutely convinced people of all ages and creeds laugh as they scream. Whether the difference between a laugh and a scream matters is a totally different proposition.

And whether the poem ‘Syntax’ is a proposition, or indeed a poem, strikes me as being neither here nor there. It made me howl with laughter. Or maybe what you would have heard is me screaming. Here is the poem:


He gave her dog biscuits.

On page 7, the poet argues as follows:

If the question of how to think clearly is a linguistic one, what
is the question of how to use one’s language clearly?

It is impossible to say anything with my language except that
which can be said with my language.

My language is not the same (does not mean the same) as
your language.

Maybe. Maybe not. But whenever I weary of carousing with propositions that are practically strangers, I just return to him, her, the dog and the biscuits.

Sue Butler

A photograph of two pages from the pamphlet showing fragments of text. You get an impression of the propositional nature of the work.