Posts Tagged ‘Philistine Press’

A Review of “Happy Fat Children and Protein Enhancers” by Tom Duckworth

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Jessica Maybury

It’s never a good sign when a writer prefaces a collection with an apology. It’s best to skip it and come to the poems with no preconceptions.

This collection from Philistine Press is a delight in the way that some professional photos of babies are a delight. Most professional photographs concerning infants are disturbing travesties, but every now and then you get one or two that work. Happy Fat Children and Protein Enhancers smiles up at you from the Internet with an uncomplicated glee that I can only compare to Neil de la Flor’s excellent Almost Dorothy.

One thing that caught my eye on the first scan of these poems is Duckworth’s use of sound effects. I was going to use the word ‘onomatopoeia’  as a descriptor here, but it doesn’t exactly fit. Not as complex as Joyce’s thunderwords in Finnegan’s Wake, the words nevertheless splat off the page as sound rather than language. The title of one poem is “The plane went Bang! pvff cLK”. The text of another is:

End tune

A fly gaped, size of me bewildering,
He smiled too,
insecticide immune


Um … gutted

Other things that charmed me? The line and sentence lengths vary, creating a rolling rhythm that carries the reader to the last poem on its own momentum. The language is fresh, serving up a view of the world perceived with new eyes. I’m not going to talk about the contents of the poems, the themes, the tropes—I am neither a Structuralist nor a believer in the idea that the poetry of this post-modern age has to be ‘about’ anything. Each image materialises on the page utterly detached from its fellows; it stands alone to be turned every which way, and admired. Some examples include, “Walkers pack logo bag before them, / the sun rains a dry flavour,” “Sixteen hooves fight, / clash, rider spirit fiery,” “Survived the blur of watching shoals, / Constantly surfacing to pinch at all the fleshy parts,  of gruesome, dishevelled bodies.”

There are many things I could continue to pick apart and display from this collection. If I did, this review would run on longer than I intended. Text on the Internet should be short. So we come to my final point. The collection is bookended with a strange collection of text taken from signs. There are photographs of each sign, apparently taken on the way to and from Duckworth’s walk to university. I read the texts through quickly, thinking it was a cool idea to present texts like these as poetry. After a few days, however [I’m not the brightest bulb in the box], I noticed that the title of each text corresponded with the title of a poem in the collection. A ping! moment  reverberated in my brain. On studying the similarities and differences between the poems themselves and their corresponding texts, I was reminded of Pale Fire. Anything that makes me think of Nabokov gets my vote.

So, how would I sum up this collection? With a glimmering smile and steely teeth:


Official Philistine Press Web Site

A Review of “The Republic of Naught” by Jay McLeod

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Jessica Maybury

What can I say? Because this is a polite publication, there will be no expletives in this review. All I can really tell you is to never read this. For the sake of brevity—because this really is a wearisome subject—I will list all the reasons why for you below, dear reader.

This collection should never have been published. Why should McLeod’s travesty never have been published? Well, dear reader, it’s clearly not finished. So why is it on the Internet? I am an understanding person, I would hope to think. An open-minded reader, as it were. I appreciate half-light, sketches, details. This could have been any of them. It’s not: presented as a completed work, there is really no excuse I can make for it.

This is the first collection published by Philistine Press that I have ever read, and on that first introduction alone I decided to boycott them forever. Luckily I read a charming collection by Tom Duckworth next. It restored my faith in humanity.

Form. I’m sure at least someone out there appreciates a good structuring device. There isn’t one here. He doesn’t change from blank verse for the entire collection. A stanza here and there would have been nice, some tongue-in-cheek rhyming, perhaps, some experimentation—some depth, layering, allusion, anything. Call me old fashioned. I’m not talking villanelles, here. I appreciate modern poetry, I do. But surely to break the rules, one must know them first—and judging by this collection, McLeod appears to have never read a poem by someone else in his life. What we have here instead is meandering drivel that mumbles itself out of existence well before the last line of the piece.

Linguistic tension. There is no muscularity to the sentences: they are flabby, uninspired and no effort appears to have been made to ‘craft’ anything. Isn’t poetry supposed to be about an aspiration to something higher, or a new perspective, at the very least? Case in point:

The supermarket
Is the heart of commerce
Many folk write letters and e-mails
Of support and diligently
Follow the sitcoms
And reality shows

Some punctuation would have been nice.

For the sake of balanced, unbiased criticism, I shall end this review with two things I liked. Two short quotations, included so that I can minimise the mean e-mails I might find in my inbox.

I only liked these two sections because they reminded me of somebody else.

From “At the End of a Line”:

I will borrow your manner
Murmuring something
About the weather here

From “Planes, Trains, and Dishpits”:

I’ve been taking planes
every year or so since then
and I still don’t know how to drive
a fucking car

Out of context they make no sense, which surely isn’t a promising sign regarding the immortalisation of this collection.

Official Philistine Press Web Site

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

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

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

A Review of “Fitting Parts” by Kenneth Pobo

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Spencer Dew

The black-suited ministers that populate this free PDF chapbook have their “crossword-puzzle God / figured out and written with ink.” Theirs is a religion of certainty and bigotry, a religion of “Hate, / a mosquito spray fog,” that leaves us “all coughing / asthmatics,” in a world where “the ambulance always late.”

The “Fitting Parts” of the title are explained by yet another of these sinister ministers in terms of divine design: “God didn’t intend / homosexuals because / our parts don’t fit.” The hatred, not the stupidity, is what’s focused on here. Pobo rages against the dehumanization of homosexuals. As he writes, one certain people “define me / as a lifestyle choice– / the rest comes easily.” Indeed, the real threat, as Pobo sees it, is in parents who “strap down / their kid’s brain…so the kid grows up / to be like them, / flat, / hateful– / anxious.”

These poems are “speaking out” and expressing something of the human reality of those who feel their existence disregarded by the world of black-suited ministers. Yet there are moments of awe and humor–appreciations of Sappho and Whitman, musings on cocks stalking men in dreams–amidst the anger. And Pobo tries here to voice an alternative to, for instance, the path taken by one character, whose situations expresses the stakes in play for this slim book:

Steve turned himself into a lie
to satisfy them, hoped to die,
hoping his death could stop the threat
of violence. He hid so well,
but felt that everyone could tell.

Official Philistine Press Web Site

A Review of “Isotropes: A Collection of Speculative Haibun” by T. J. McIntyre

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Spencer Dew

McIntyre shuttles us off to other planets, leads us through retellings of fairy tales, plops us into petri dishes, and conceals us at the edges of sacrificial ceremonies. This free PDF chapbook, while scattered in its subject matter, relays scenes of horror that, for all their variety, have a certain similarity. Tentacles uncoiling through the salty fog, the hiss of static on a dead station, apocalypse in general, with all the trimmings–McIntyre offers all this and more, and as some readers will appreciate the faint trace of diluted Lovecraft, others will admire the book’s engagement with traditional form:

unhinged deities
the worlds we try not to see
the veil is so thin

Many readers, alas, will find the writing shoddy and the collection incoherently arranged, a patchwork of not-so-fresh corpse-bits that fails to convince. Here, for instance, is a representative sample, a stream of narration from the perspective of a lost and hungry child beholding a sight of wonder in the woods:

The house on the horizon looked unreal. Candy glazes sparkled in the growing sunlight. A puff of smoke emanated from a licorice chimney, and we knew that inside there would be warmth. We knew it might be a trap. Anything too good to be true usually is, after all. But, by that point, we did not care. We just wanted to be warm.

There’s little warmth or life here, though the “unreal” is given a fresh glaze in each poem.

Official T. J. McIntyre Web Site
Official Philistine Press Web Site