Katabasis, Jay G YingThe jacket is dark purply blue. No images. Some of the text effectively IS the image. Bang in the middle in huge textured letters, like grained, shiny wood, are the words (huge) NEW / POETS / PRIZE, each on its own line. New is in lavishly ornate italics. The other two words in thick bold caps. Below this (in the bottom third of the page) the name of the pamphlet appears in white lower case. It is tiny compared to the word 'New' above. And in slightly greyed out letters the name of the author is above the title: small sans serif caps.

Smith/Doorstop, 2020    £5.00


In about 2008 I remember being desperate to capitalise Time and Death and other such abstracts. But it was unfashionable — a real NO, even if you were going through a mild Milton phase.

It was with some envy and irritation, then, that I read Jay G Ying’s Katabasis which swivels deftly round a personification of (and capitalised) War.

It works. Doesn’t feel old fashioned but fresh. The imagery is excitingly grotesque. Here’s a cracker from the first page:

War’s lost heads cracking their jewels on hollowed-out houses
searching for a neck to hang from inside.

Gets more brutal with ‘Animal Vegetable Mineral’:

And God I stared at what I had brought up in that toilet bowl almost halfway back to life

My black phlegm was as rotten as one long civilisation just ended,
marbled by that crude blood inside, veins not flecks, a leaf, never a jewel

Dizzyingly vivid, Katabasis lurches through an underworld of ancient and modern, interrogating the monster of War through the context of the descent of Inanna (see next OPOI for more about this goddess), and by capitalising War, Jay G Ying adds authority and menace to the abstract.

Nell Prince