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Review by Chris Brownsword

gnOme Books
ISBN: 978-0692334799
130 p.
$8 at gnOme Books
In an age where the author has become just another marketing tool whose name is of greater importance than what they might have to say (perhaps a sign that 'we' value not so much the content of a book as the brand itself; moreover, that too few writers actually have anything worth saying and are therefore capable of little more than self-aggrandisement), it is refreshing to encounter a publisher such as gnOme Books whose project is the production of clandestine works by anonymous writers; and in the case of the unidentified M., it is almost as if a process of dehumanisation has been required in order that one is again able to approach the question of what it might entail to be human, to stand naked rather than be dressed up by corporate profiling, and to turn away from the absurd cyber-dream of a Singularity so as to accept the irrevocable frailties and limits of the body:

'...in stun light of bled ember embark viscid endless
...marked trace of scar scar's out-breath of reach emptier than
...dead spark of wound collapses headless viper taste attrition.'

So begins this impressive sequence of prose poems, and what follows evokes the feral shriek of one of Francis Bacon's figures whose pitch remains at a nerve-jarring constant throughout while here and there gritting teeth against a starkly exquisite image: 'a lung locked suitcase full of carrion.' For the most part, however, the tone is one of harsh alliteration ('voice no longer rapture closed fist slash breath lack endless collapse vicious') or the type of jagged repetition which brings to mind Gertrude Stein's Stanzas in Meditation ('of the eye extract it cannot detraced no it not a of the eye's detract it cannot be detraced' or 'locked bone nothing severed ever nothing none of nothing less than none that is or of the naught said without'). Elsewhere, as in the second part of the book, 'It' sequence, in which abrasive vowels swarm around a nexus of incantatory permutations, Samuel Beckett is recalled: '...it/yes it will/wills/it will eat you alive/wills not/it has or does not it will and can/it will cease/resent/it returns it will forever be/yet no/never was given the benefit of lack/in the redeem still it exists yet spits blood from a mouth full of broken teeth.'

Eden, Eden, Eden
by Pierre Guyotat, Kenji Siratori's Blood Electric, the post-Poems output of J. H. Prynne, the early novellas of Kathy Acker, the almost untranslatable final poems of Paul Celan, and the dissident texts of the original L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E movement are all conceivable referents, but the sequence itself directs the reader to Georges Bataille, William Burroughs, and, indeed, Francis Bacon. It is interesting to note that in speaking of his portraits, many of which inspired nausea and loathing in their subjects when they were at last revealed, Bacon related something to the effect that he found it necessary to distort the image in order to bring it back to reality. Likewise, there are moments in Un-Sight/Un-Sound where it seems as if the hold language has over our perceptions is being, if not broken, then at least distorted enough for us to catch a glimpse of the world that lies behind our makeshift descriptions and definitions - 'the dogs devour the tears shed as of skin sanguine in lapse of momentary lack of resolve cast out into negate of the redempt': redemption here is denied, for without the Christian belief in the fall of mankind there is nothing for humans to be redeemed from, that is, we are no longer strangers thrown into the world but only an ephemeral contingency of it.

Nonetheless, for all its dissonance and fragmentation the sequence cannot help but now and then assemble itself into an almost melodious refrain ('sound simulations gripped by breathless/soon to dissipate/songs of un-being/traceless violet songs in bloom/distillate to point of never having been/all purpose shredded/white lung till breakage'), as if some kind of tenuous equilibrium is straining to be recognised amidst the chaos, even though, as the reader is reminded, where by chance it appears, this harmony is 'soon to dissipate.' Yet the fact that this brief intercession of musicality appears to arise by accident rather than by design somehow makes it all the more fragile and beautiful. In its condensed form, the passage mirrors the Japanese haiku poet Issa, who wrote: 'Never forget:/we walk on hell,/gazing at flowers.'

Appropriately enough, the sequence ends in a squall of disjointed 'shards,' after which we ought really to be rendered mute to appraise it. After all, to search for meaning or reason, while among the strongest of human impulses, is to neglect the possibility that life is there simply to be experienced, nothing more. So, too, is this book to be experienced, for like the human organism itself, it seems to have no core, no cohesion; rather it is composed of strata and detritus, bits and pieces that by the purposeless drift of evolution happen to work together while forever exhibiting a tendency towards disintegration: '...the naught cancels all,' runs one particularly exceptional passage, 'glimmer hope and I/else the retraced footsteps seeking outward step/words drained in dissipate/sands blown across erasing the tidal of...'


Christopher Brownsword is the author of two collections of poetry, 'Icarus was Right!' (Shearsman Books 2010) & 'Rise Like Leviathan and Rejoice!' (Oneiros Books 2014), a novella, 'Blind-Worm Cycle' (Oneiros Books 2013), and a novel, 'The Scorched Highway' (Oneiros Books 2013). His latest work 'Throw Away the Lights' comprises a novel and a novella and will be published soon by Oneiros Books. His most recent book reviews have appeared in 3 A.M. Magazine and Word Riot.