Deteriorate, Michelle Marie JacquotThe jacket is just a pure black rectangle. That's all.

Self-publication, 2021 £6.00

Working the title

You won’t find the title, Deteriorate, on the jacket — nor any other text, apart from the bar code beneath the ISBN. Glossy-black, anonymous, devoid of detail or distraction, this cover is the visual equivalent of what deterioration leads to: oblivion, darkness, the end.

Part of the irony in this collection — and irony has a key role — is that you can’t see this unless you have already opened the book to find out what’s going on.

The paradox is set out in the opening poem —

I hope you enjoy this e-book
about hating anything “e”

and signed off by ‘The Irony / and Me.’ We’ve already had the unmissable information (or warning?) printed across the page ‘THIS BOOK WAS CREATED ON A COMPUTER’ and so the reader is aware that technology has opened the door to this counter-argument, one in which we’re all implicated.

I don’t know what it would look like as a e-book; fortunately I had the print version, which — apart from the cover — is reassuringly old-fashioned. Poems sit on the pages, sometimes in conventional formatting, sometimes in innovative word-bursts of scattered and disrupted text. I can read them without having to charge anything electronic. I can look at the page and know its appearance is exactly what the poet intended.

That’s how I notice how the poet lets the physical, tangible world fight back against the digital. Dance and music — real-world activities — play a part in a number of poems. For example, ‘Maybe I’ll start a garage band / called The New Attention Span’ is the opening of ‘The New Attention Song’, while the closing poem, ‘Your Advantage’, opens with the positive observation

Now is the perfect time
to learn how to dance
as if they’re not watching

What is deteriorating is the quality of human attention. Even predictive text can undermine a poet’s work, as in ‘Correction’ where the poet complains about how the keyboard changes ‘the word porn / for the word poem’.

The poet, along with poetry, is in a constant battle against deterioration and its causes.

D A Prince