Codes of Conduct, Neil Elder
Cinnamon Press, 2016 £4.99
Full disclaimer, I went for a lovely couple of pints with Neil after a recent book launch.
It’s always a surprise to find out what you don’t know about people when something hitherto submerged rises to the surface, and what I love most about this pamphlet is what is not said.
Codes of Conduct seethes with the unspoken and held-back emotions. I read it feeling like a viewer to a soap opera (NB: this is a good thing) shouting at the telly to implore someone to tell another person how they really feel.
In ‘Work Experience’ we get a sense of the regret that runs through the book’s central character, Henderson, as he concurs with the young work experience lad, who ‘…makes clear / he does not want to work in an office; / Henderson says he never wanted to either.’
It’s not just Henderson with the unsaid issues; we have Amy from Accounts leaving notes and gifts on his desk.
This cactus may be a little spiky
but it flowers from time to time. xx
Outside the Henderson sequence, we see someone who would ‘…like to lie down on the kitchen floor / and howl like a dog.’ They are unsure how the person they expect to find them — I assume a partner — might react. They second-guess themselves and their partner, hoping it’s the discovery in this situation that allows them to ‘…tell each other / exactly how we feel’.
It’s hard to know if Elder’s real-life work colleagues should be worried. Should they be checking these poems for secret messages? Do they need to be careful what they say in the staff room and round the water cooler? Either way, I’m pleased his ear is attuned to the world of work —and I’m glad to note here that he went on to explore it further in another pamphlet, the Black Engine Light Room publication, Being Present.