B–SIDES, BOOTLEGS AND HEARSE
Music Today, eds.
Mike Ferguson & Rupert Loydell
(116pp, £11.00, Knives
forks and spoons)
Nicky Mesch (135pp, £9.00, Knives forks and spoons)
Oranges in January, Pansy Maurer-Alvarez
(119pp, £9.00, Knives
forks and spoons press)
Ada in the Shells, Kate Duckney (44pp, £7.00, Knives forks and spoons)
Walking Sequence and other poems, William Oxley
(35pp, £6.00, Indigo
Purple Notebook of Raquette Lake, Aaron Tieger
(20pp, £6.50, Open House
Anne Frank's Fragments from Nowhere, Bernard Kops
(35pp, £6.00, Indigo
Aphrodite and the Weatherman, Julia Gaze
(27pp, £6.50, Open House
There's a cliche regarding social etiquette
to never discuss politics or religion with anyone you genuinely like, the
implications being that bad blood is always the outcome, usually minus a few
friends. More so, I have always felt that the two main dividers of opinion in
life were music and poetry. There is a certain intoxicating; almost dizzy,
ticklish feeling looking back at the time you first discovered that band or genre. It is
addictive, there is never anyone who seems to understand just how deeply this
speaks to you, and you will inevitably encounter purists who will more than
happily educate you on what true music/poetry actually is.
This is why the anthology, Yesterday's Music Today, which merges something way more
personal than mere religious belief or which way you lean, politically is
such an intriguing concept. With the recent outpouring of shock in the wake
of recent deaths, music can, if nothing else be the only thing that truly
comforts us in the end. It can be the start of a journey, or utilised as a
sudden full stop in the middle of a chorus. Something previously always deemed
a continuous beat now a confusing death rattle.
This was a collaboration with the sole purpose of tantalising that part of
your brain still yearning to play on bad amps in dimly lit clubs, to travel
halfway across the country to hear that song; and to experience something this
collection does well; unity.
It reads like a mix tape; seldom are two poems the same flow or theme, every
genre represented with aplomb, and the excitement only builds with each turn
of the page. The quintessential 'mix tape' has been printed and certainly,
just like all good music, it's more the passion the instrument is played with
than the actual precision of getting every chord spot on.
Relive every smooth drop of vintage crooner whimsy, courtesy of Robert
Sheppard in 'Angel at the Junk Box' sharing:
Breath betweens the sext
quakes against the
battlements of the tier;
lute song off the blames.
maze blazing of cries
in the mids of my faces..
We are offered a pitch perfect encapsulation of blues chord progression on
Mike Ferguson's '14 Bar Blues', where your own internal cadence will be
reading along in any key you see fit, followed by battle cries against the
consumerism of disposable pop fodder, and doses of ska. Tender odes to
well-loved vinyl, barely spinning, still clinging to the dead skin and
memories of that moment you felt someone truly spoke to you permeate between
the liner notes.
Through the reverb and showmanship lies the very backbone of any good music;
a well-oiled rhythm section holding it all together, the glue of this
collection. Behind every poem there is a joy in feeling the pure volume of
other people's passion, whether you count in their time or dismiss the genre,
what makes this such a unique experience is knowing that feeling of craving
for what once was, recapturing the surge of being born again, baptised in
three chords and phlegm, or the slow howl of a distant saxophone. To relive
those moments through other people's instruments is uplifting, despite the
spat nails and calloused pick fingers liberally matching the nostalgia.
The danger is always in growing tired of an anthology with a theme, in the
wrong hands such an idea could come across as bitter, tawdry, or in the worst
case way too saccharine. Worries are few and far between, and a poem that can
perfectly summarise this book as a whole can be found
'Listening To Bach's B Minor Mass in the kitchen' by Elizabeth Burns, who
And I'm wondering, as all
those voices fill my kitchen
with the mass, if this is
what he means:
the sense of time and
place dissolving, so what divides us
from the past and
elsewhere, and from each other,
falls away, and
everything's connected and we are all
drops pf water in this
enormous breaking wave.
Like any good album, this benefits from repeat returns. Favourites will
immediately shoot at you on the first read. However, others may take some
time to truly resonate. Amusing, endearing, bittersweet and at it's very core
a celebration. You can't recreate the past, you can sit back and reminisce
with a collective heartbreak and unabashed joy of music.
Nicky Mesch, meanwhile, has made something of
a minor miracle in prying bastardisations of Hans Christian Andersen yarns
from Walt Disney's bloated blood tinted claws and resuscitated a long hung
drawn and quartered classic with her experimental epic piece, Ice Bound. Within the classic fairy tale, The
Snow Queen, a
frosty canvas is immediately set and in the mind's eye of the reader, a vast
world spreads. Amid the antiquated architecture rest solid bricks of
predominate gender norms, which Mesch erodes and grinds against with valour.
Within the fabric of Father/Daughter and gender authority, intricate
stretching tests the resolve of pride, fear, and coming of age. The brisk
landscape and duality of scorched earth surges of passion thaw any concerns
over a lack of human resonance to cling and relate to. This truly is a
journey, charged forward by a confident writer with a style as sharp as any
tooth, tusk or sword.
Male suitors ('He can't forget'), challengers and paternal measuring sticks
of morality crack and heal, such as in 'Men':
The village pastor
who lectured me monthly
from the far end
of the long corridor
my uncle the king's
to see if
I look like my mother-
that night at the castle
princes and noblemen
bristled the ballroom
was it any wonder I ran?
This is a love story, reassembled and repaired from the broken shards of
preconceived notions and family ties. Nicky Mesch juggles morality and whimsy
with poise, never losing track of the magic and flourish of a fairy tale
whilst keeping a surgically skilled finger on the pulse of modern reflections
within the story.
The poetry of Pansy Maurer-Alvarez will be a much more intimate affair for
each reader. Voice, image and scents are liberally scattered amid stanzas,
half tastes of familiarity and dejavu, casting unusual and unfamiliar shadows
within each line. As twee and cliche as it may sound, there is an immersive
sense of wonderment and splendour, though you may have to do the majority of
the exploring yourself to actually mine those bones beneath the colourful
smoke and sweet scents.
Surreal pictures are painted and displayed on slowly melting frames. There
are moments where it genuinely should not work, yet always ripples with adept
skill into a continuous personal loop. In regards to fluidity and flow, you
really feel part the immersive dripping words as they trickle over one
another gently. There is a through line of ambience, but never without the
duty to stare at the painting and really absorb it, a vibrant museum of
sumptuous interior, calming yet constantly pushing forwards.
In terms of pure page turning, it is obvious there has been significant
thought given to where each poem lives in this gallery. Time has been taken
to carefully place dedications of wide eyed wonderment and youthful joy of
nature and life, maintained behind a glass casing of world weary experience,
maturing and in the books strongest moments; questioning.
Joy exudes, even throughout pulpier and easier to spot minefields amid the
happy trail (In memory of the unclaimed) the past despairs of history or life
are held up to such light that it never feels heavy and distracting from what
can always be built out of something that has been destroyed. Rebelliously
celebrating love, art, human nature and history without ever seeming to
chastise, Oranges in January offers a living breathing canvas to step into and search for
Ada in the shells by Kate Duckney is a jarring
stupor of anxiety. Her words don't guide, nor saunter to a general feeling or
notion to contemplate once the dust settles; her words collide, with impact,
fragments of life and death splinter into breathless panics. There is a
somewhat secret guilt with each page, as if we have discovered a very private
journal and eagerly read before we are caught snooping.
Paradoxes of well-guarded raw layers slide and spin downward. All that is
seen as innocent and natural seems to restrain and click into shackles,
broken promises and despair. One thing this lengthy poem masters is
brutal honesty; there is never a sense of an insincere moment, it bleeds in
gushes before clotting and scabbing, only to catch another jab and split open
Every page is a specifically thought out and well-presented piece on its own,
yet it rushes through the anatomy of something much larger and daunting. We
may not have been there for the growing pains of birth, trauma and anguish,
but we are present at the gasps of hopelessness and search for somewhere to
fit within parameters set by powers above young restless stations.
/the game glitter
he has it in his eyes
like some curve-spined child clicking 'death
by flies' watching the
pixelated family fizz to the bone in a foam
If you enjoy the
type of journey that was well planned but executed in a frantic gusto of
emotion this is a sharp left turn for over forty pages, resulting in an
existential brick wall. Within the shell is little in the way or safety.
Whiplash pulls you into a birth canal and swirling down a dizzying rabbit
hole to either sink or swim.
Unfortunately, the previous review also serves to shine a light on just how
flaky and dry other collections can be. In his most recent pamphlet, Walking
Sequence and other poems, long standing poet William Oxley brings a well formatted but totally
deflating recollection of walks, observing nature and enjoying the
Although understated and never self-indulgent, these pieces plod along at
their own pace, seldom actually saying anything. It really is as simple as
that. If you enjoy poetry that celebrates the great outdoors and adheres
rigidly to its boundaries, perhaps this is your lucky day. However, it is
somewhat missing the adventure on the horizons it so often points to and
promptly avoids. By the numbers and ultimately unsatisfying, the collection
plods along aimlessly and monotonous.
Purple Notebook of Raquette Lake by Aaron Tieger is another pamphlet, this
time an open account of a trip to said lake. Tieger spares no detail
regarding his daily routines, juxtaposed with wide pockets of sky and sparse
gaps within the actual fabric of this getaway. Tranquil and certainly well
written, there is little in the sense of urgency save the odd flash of
anecdote regarding the author's perception of the weather.
It is an odd feel. Descriptive, yet lacking any sensory flesh or picturesque
mind's eye to hang these memories on, whether intentional or not, by the
tenth page you are savvy to the authors, musicians and dietary requirements
of a lakeside trip, but not much in the way of what the campfire holds, minus
a few stray gratifying embers. Potentially endearing through some respectable
writing, its grip is lost through too much smoke wood and not enough roots.
Bernard Kops dutifully spits in the eye of Father Time and presents a
gleefully youthful collection in his latest release, Anne Frank's
Fragments from Nowhere. It's refreshing to see Judaism celebrated with such energy and
simplicity. Without smoke and mirrors, this is a proud shout of pride in
working class resolve throughout trying times and savage persecution. At
ninety years old, there is no looking back in sorrow at a life void of
opportunity and prosperity from Kops. He leaves nothing to interpretation and
brings a collection that is as much about the warm embrace of his religion as
he does the cold barrel of history and fate's cruel hand.
I want a bomb, my own
private bomb, my shalom bomb.
I'll test it in the
morning, when my son awakes,
Hot and stretching,
smelling beautiful from sleep. Boom! Boom!
As with Shalom Bomb above, there is constant coiling of war and love, memory of poverty
and bigotry, yet within these, proud heritage and life affirming childhood
games, love and eventual peace of heart.
In Aphrodite and the Weatherman Julia Gaze brings tender and delicate
offerings to be carried away with the elements. Predominantly punchy and
fragile declarations of love backscatter a landscape of private jokes within
jokes, heart on sleeve ponderings of fruitless romantic endeavours and
existential keepsakes. It agonises and dances over love, a hybrid of adventure
and yearning but never fully chasing that skyline, always keeping one knowing
eye on the past, throwing no caution to the unmerciful wind. The collection's
moments of rumination also bring in an outsider's perspective to the secrecy
and uncertainty surrounding those couples we pass daily, arms welded, basking
in the smug glow of love's sun. Moments within 'Why Lovers can't be
bittersweet and infinitely relatable as Gaze's unapologetically naked style
leaves little for interpretation.
This is a proud reminder of tumultuous enamour and the ramifications of
nothing, focusing on those deeper moments, the flashes of passion we endure
and the climates they inspire.