A Philistine Press Round-Up: Reviews of “Dark Horse Pictures” by Andy Hopkins, “Valve Works” by Rob Sherman, “The Birth of Taliesin the Bard: A Tale” by Richard Britton, and “Entertainment” by Mr If

Spencer Dew

The meat and bones that start as dust will end up dusty in
the black
or blackly thought in backs of minds by mindless boys and
mindless girls
the world that keeps us warm at night is burning bones and
dusty bones
the crap we talked on ending days like ending men on
ending chairs
Monday starts with seven shades of this.
Monday starts with seven shades of this.

This is from the re-release of 2007’s Dark Horse Pictures, by Andy Hopkins, one of four new free PDF chapbooks from Philistine Press. Hopkins’s collection wrestles with the frustrations of teaching, the work of Guy Debord, and the discourse of evil. Along the way, there are poignant engagements with text messaging and fresh takes on the “Victorian guts” of sewer lines–“shallow modern/ intestinal cuts, gulping duodenum and plastic abject shadows./ There is a grid on grids, a grid of grids, a grid with grids.”–or a puddle of dying tadpoles, “prefrogs”–“a spill, a slick of apostrophes pooled;/ commas exiled/ from a dialogue that should have happened/ elsewhere. Or else never. They are at first a delight, a/ wonder./ Then a realisation. A souring miracle: they are unfrogging.”

Rob Sherman’s Valve Works pairs poems about different organs or body parts with sketches from Sarah Ogilvie and dictionary definitions, such that we can contrast the more literal take on the hallux (or big toe) with Sherman’s amusing rant at it: “You fat twin pig, gout-sponged, you spread/ Take your real estate from the less fortunate./ You bloat, you block, you foul menstruate.” Sherman dissects the anatomy in energetic swipes, from the heart–which looks “like a dog’s head, panting”–to the liver and the spleen. There, in the spleen, the poet sees mostly “a line of bumping, clumsy blood, quaking and true./ Past their use, rejected and obtuse, marching to their death in/ you.”

Richard Britton’s The Birth of Taliesin the Bard: A Tale offers straight narrative, albeit it fantastic, from a fabled past:

At the city of Emrys the priest arrived,
The city of pyromancers, where red-bearded
Druids converse in koine with turbaned
Alchemists and draw potent symbols
In the shell-sands for far-eastern sages
And fakirs from the valley of Indus,
Who sweat water from the Ganges,
As they lean over their kilns and forges.

This world of hemorrhaging pink moons, cuttlefish daggers, and metamorphosing, larger-than-life characters, the great bard is ultimately born, his origin story a parable for literature itself.

Of these four free PDF chapbooks, Entertainment is more defined by its vibrant authorial voice, which declares, “This took me roughly the same amount of time to write/ As it’s taking you to read./ You might think it’s flimsy, and a load of bollocks,/ But it’s the best I can do,/ And I think it’s quite good,/ So fuck you.” In a special “note to my readers” he writes, “You may think you know something about me because you’ve read these poems. I’d just/ like to say, you don’t know anything about me…. I would like to say I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, but that’s not true. I want people to read these words over and over until they are dizzy, until they are sick.” Here is a representative sample, to test the effect, the poem “Fiona,” in full:

I did it doggy style with my friend Tony’s pregnant wife, Fiona. I ran my fingers over her spherical belly and felt their kid kick. We had to stop halfway through so she could go to the bathroom. I sat her down and held her hand while she went for a shit. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, like watching a butterfly flap its wings. For a brief moment, I wished I’d been that baby’s father, but I knew I wasn’t.

Official Rob Sherman Web Site
Official Richard Britton Web Site
Official Philistine Press Web Site

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