Posts Tagged ‘new writing’

Novahead, by Steve Aylett. Published by Scar Garden, 2011. ISBN 975 0 95665677 2

http://steveaylett.com/pages/aylettNovahead.html

A book full of crackling dialogue. All mood, atmosphere, attitude.
It is written in flows of rhetorical language, surfing on the edge of meaning at times; it is the created worlds and assumed allusions that pull it all together. His worlds are the further edges of dystopia; his intent satire. The language is so allusive, tight, I wonder about amphetamines, coke. The main character/narrator, Atom’s, drug of choice is Jade.
It’d disservice the ethos to review. The best I can do is excerpt.

Striking quotes so far:

Taffy Atom meeting Betty Criterion:
‘There you are, dangling from your head,’ she said.
……………………………………………………………….
‘The sooner I’m replaced by my corpse-in-waiting the better.’
‘Cushioned in loose worms.’
‘In a coffin, adjusting to my remains.’
……………………………………………….
With courtesies fulfilled, she stood, placed her pet ganglion on her throne….
(page 72)

And later:
‘Do you understand that when a collective identity is formed it has a very distinctive intelligence of its own, always lower than the average among its individuals?

………………………………………………………..

‘For millenia humanity’s been learning with the handbrake on… but a stopped clock never boils, Mr Atom.
… science has created the misery and systems of drainage that separate us from the barbarians…
(pages 92/3)

I’ve plenty more riches to read, yet.

Novahead is the last of the Beerlight novels.

We meet the young lad, Heber, the boy with a bomb in his mind. To render him temporarily safe Atom relocates him to The Fadlands, where nothing stimulating or lively happens; where nothing can spark off interest in his mind, and so set off The End. It is a place where everything, all energy and creativity, are drained from people.
Major metaphor, anyone?
I look out of my window, and… hmm…
Perhaps I’ll leave something interesting around for him to find.
But first, must read on.

For Philip K Dick, that’d be be the trap laid out for you, to draw you in to closed recursive mind-sets: see Lies Inc. For Steve Aylett the trap is ourselves: we are each the ampitheatre of our own ruin.

And I was reading on, and a character quoted some lines. I had to re-read that again,  What? I know that. It’s lines from an early song by a band, circa 1967/8. They are not credited, I noticed, nor permission sought – so I will not press this, other than to say I can’t think of anyone more remote from Steve Aylett.
Ok, why’s that? Well, Steve is cooler-than-cool, hipper-than-hip, to some readers. That is to say he is The Cutting Edge of present day, ‘and beyond’ (to quote Buzz Lightyear). And he also has been adopted by the bizarro movement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bizarro_fiction

Of course, once you start spotting things, it takes a hold.
So then, Heber, the boy with the bomb in his mind – was he part-suggested by an early Mark Leyner story (Ode to Autumn) from the short–story collection, My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist (1991), about the human bomb ? There is family-resemblance of style, too, with the early Leyner. Steve Aylett does far more with the concept.
There are passing/throw-away references to William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and no doubt loads of things I just don’t, but should, know.
Each of the three sections of the book concludes in a battle scene; all very laddish, perhaps. But even Atom, in the middle of it all, is circumspect: he begins to suspect this happens every night, not to win any fight, but just for the sake of fighting. A weariness sets in.
And the ubiquitous car chase – it is more Blood Drive than Wacky Races, though. And there is his fascination with guns – but here he develops it into sentient weaponry, guns, that evolve their own living species. Cronenberg is in this mix, and why not. But all this saved by the wit in the telling, and the fun in the multiplying exuberance.

His flows of language are more than vehicles for attitude, and ‘smart’: they reach.
They reach, and in mid-
air
achieve some amazing feats, grasp new-minted concepts, ideas, that are sometimes just a little beyond my own grasp; I see them sparkling there, but can’t get to them.

And then the mix changes, and new possibilities suggest themselves.
It is like watching a vast kaleidescope, that holds one configuration for a moment, and as we are busy spotting the patterns, it all changes again. The constituents are many and intricate, and so the patterns possible are endless, and all fascinating.
And it is 3-dimensional.

Steve Aylett:

sa

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SELECTED POEMS/POEZII ALESE by Richard Livermore
Copies available from the author, http://www.chanticleer-press.com/contact-page.html
£8.00 each, plus £1.00 p and p

This is a very handsome book.
Printed in Romania as part of their contemporary literature series Orizont Literar Contemporan, the production values are high. This is a book of which to be proud.

The cover carries a copy of a Munch painting, Melancholy. A gloomy subject? But the background colours are lovely: blues, olive, yellows, and a moment of white. The colour scheme of the cover uses this as its base, an overall black is banded with blue, and the main focus of white script.
On the back cover is a photo of Richard. Look closely, here again we see a similar mood, pose, and the colours in the background, out-of-focus, once again capture the overall range of the Munch.

Inside we have a Profil cultural, rather than biographical details. The focus is different, away from self, and towards how the writer has responded to place and time. The emphasis is on where self and cultural world interact. This is healthy, and does not engage with writer-status or celebrity.

What we are presented with here is a selection of Richard’s poetry from 1973 up to 2016. It is dual language book, with Ioanna Agafitei translating poems 1 to 12, and Elena Tapean 13 to 29. So, a dual-translator, dual-language book.
Richard certainly puts them through their paces at times. On page 23 for an instance, he gives Ioanna ‘…only when life is a was will it be.’ The poem is written in 5 quatrains with occasional end-rhyme and much alliteration and assonantal play. To cope with maintaining argument and form’s playful use of language, she gives us a 9-line stanza, combining the last two quatrains, and capturing the connotations.

***

If you were to send a message to Romania, knowing what happened in 1989, Christmas day 1989… what would you send? This is a generation on, but the question remains: what would you send?
What we now know of Romania, apart from tennis players, the old guard poets, are EU open borders, workers bringing their own interpretations of what they find here.
What can we say to them? More important, how can we say it, where would be the weighting and emphases fall? This is the West – what stories did they have of us? Officially degenerate, of course.
Whatever it was, it was fairy-tale.
For people to travel all that distance for work here, and to find austerity, closing borders, scratching round for low-paid jobs….
What can we say to them?

And this is where Richard Livermore judged his selection well, for what he sends are messages of recognition, of struggle, disappointment, of the value and worth of the person caught up in the machinery of time and place.

One commentator, Ian MacFadyan, called Richard’s work ‘dark star poems… shot through with bright images of wonder….’ And they are.
In form they are short, rarely over a page in length, and often two or three stanzas each. In structure we find full rhyme, alliteration, assonance, internal rhyme. Rhythmically tight, with not a syllable wasted and yet not stifled by that; the freedom comes from the audacity of image and movement.

They are supple, as well as subtle. If you look for heritage then think of Kant’s antimonies – the form lays down the argument, but then it pivots into an unexpected image, which unlocks its depths of meanings. And as you read you become aware of richness, of exploration, insight, thought. The antimonies give you the argument and conclusion, then present you with an alternative one you had not thought possible.

‘Here we are locked/ in a prison of words’, ‘Here’ begins (did you think of Dylan Thomas?), and ends ‘here life is reprieved.’ How it gets from beginning to end is through the vehicle of language, image and sound. Yet it is aware that this is a vehicle, for it is to the inner movement that our attention is drawn. This is where people meet, in their inner experience of the world, not the immediate-demand response.

We feel locked into our habits, cultures, socially trapped. In ‘Pi’ he writes ‘I know very well/ what  it is to be  Pi/ for they keep reining in// my potential as well.’ Who cannot empathise with that? How can we move from this position? The structure, use of modern knowledge systems, are subject to the mind’s capabilities. Quantum effects, he gives us, open up other possibilities to us.

Yet don’t think all the poems use this stance – there are tender poems, see ‘Engraved In the Stars,’ and poems of mythic proportion, ‘Hidden Agendas,’ and playful poems, and poems of serious play.
There are riches to be found here.

One of the many riches is in the glorious sound textures Richard Livermore creates. How translatable are they? Take, for instance, the following from the first poem, ‘Wind/Vant’:
the burly, brusque bull-whale/ of a wind with it’s buffalo’s/ biffing and bellow, billowing…‘ Notice how the use of the line’s pause steers the rhythm, creating excitement. The translation can capture the checked flow that holds and then lets go, but cannot mimic this alliterative dynamic. Elsewhere the translation gives, rather than takes, texture; in ‘Prophecy’ we have:
What is the cloud doing/ storming the sky/ and why does it want//to bring down the moon… The Romanian has: Ce face norul/ furtuna cerul/ si de ce doreste// sa darame luna –I cannot reproduce the accents.
The line length is shorter, the metre changed, end-rhymes introduced, and the lines’ internal chiming of sounds changed.
The structure on the page informs how we read: this is poem structure, and in each case we read for the line because syntax and rhythm instruct us to do so. I leave out the vexing discussion of whether the translation is an entirely different poem, or an extension of the source-poem.

‘I don’t see why  words/ should always wait table‘ he writes in ‘Words Running for Cover’, the last poem in the book. Words, language, are the vehicle for exploring self and world, but only a vehicle. Our engagement with, our  living in, the world is the real subject. Always.

This is a book that you will go back to, often, and discover new riches each time.