Constructions [Konstrukce], Joshua Calladine-Jones
tall-lighthouse, 2021 £8.00
Non-standard and new
This pamphlet is very consciously playing with language, and at is at its best when the play fits the subject matter.
The first of its three sections, ‘Konstrukce / Constructions’, uses fragments from conversations with people whose first language isn’t English. The opening poem introduces a key idea, namely that ‘incorrect’ language sometimes gets through to us emotionally or intellectually in a way that standard language can’t:
It takes on two days to prepare
and you must taste each of them.
It’s like we can love each day,
it’s like open door, who wants
Section two, ‘Zkresleni / Distortions’, presents us with versions of canonical poems that have been translated back and forth between languages from the original. For me, ‘lament’ (from Shelley’s ‘Ozymandius’) is the most successful, because the original’s themes of time overturning human assertions (like ‘Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!’) and the life of art beyond the artist work so well with the new version’s distorted language:
Nothing. The land, huge and naked, extends a great distance.
There are notes explaining the methods used, and I’m glad to see one of the rules is that word choices should be made ‘for the sake of style, poetics, and narrative continuity.’ Well absolutely. You can feel that style in delicious phrases like ‘stars falling, flies in a glass of milk’ in ‘psalm’ (a version of Wordsworth’s ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’).
I also very much enjoyed ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’ surviving almost intact in the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ version, ‘pastoral’. The original poem is slightly, enjoyably, beyond my comprehension, so the elements of nonsense in this version work well for me as a reader, and the address halfway through to a ‘shape in the loft’ is an endearingly bathetic link back to something concrete I can recognise. I like how the ending undercuts Keats’ certainty:
Who said these words — beauty is truth, truth is beauty — that’s all?
Do they live in the world with everything they need?