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Saturday 25 February 2012

‘Liquid Metropolis’, by Petra Whiteley: A Review By Dom Gabrielli

Petra Whiteley's defiant latest tome, The Liquid Metropolis, published by Erbacce Press, sets about a ferocious dismantling of the persistently flourishing Social-Christian tenets. Frame by frame, poem by poem, stone by stone, look by look, in a challenging long-metrage between diary and diatribe, poetic epiphany and novelistic dystopia, Whiteley walks the amazed reader through the post-apocalypse metropolis of misguided affects. The gaze of leering masculine eagles, the seething anaesthetic of cowardly hatred, did not waylay her from her task. No stone is left un-turned. This is a work of unabashed pride. To walk with these words is to understand the meaning of standing out in the rain, resolutely outside, where the rains do not feel the same, where something ripped from ugly becomes beautiful. From within the tree, poetry never abandons the reader throughout a thrilling conversation with the myths of cherished lies. Poetry emerges victorious as mind and body, as the seconds which exceed Time, as the bare statement which kicks and shouts as it is, in silence, as the nothing that lived and breathed, even these words, even the sun, even its fire, even the unattainable, which crawls 'as a syllable on a promised tongue/ forever no/thing.'

 I imagine this enterprise was not without risks and that therefore first it is our role as readers to salute the bravery of this author, who has paid no heed to fashion nor to commodity, but to has listened to her deepest sentiment and revealed with such harsh and beautiful invective, the bare bones of the post-capitalist predicament. 'The clock hands/ of my practical suicide turn/the light backwards, no outer/limits…'  Since Artaud, the necessity to un-live and un-think the colonial powers of Christian absurdities has been paramount. Here the manual to exist outside continues, in the rain and without lying. '(God's) endless fingers of words claw suicide/into the everyday smell of my flesh and its throbbing/is the only life left.'  Or better still:

 'I was there, playing dead for them, the oak of silence growing

into my lungs. Was noise a bruise that spread whitely into me?

Yes. In that poisoned room within the tree, I left traces of death,

lived backwards, the slow drip of birthday butchery.

So long to language and its pain!

Breathe to break the hush of words into music,

unconstrained and unshattering.'.

 Hope is for the misguided but love entertains the brave, a love you build between the slow suicides of souls whose de-mystified sexualities can start to sing a song of muscle and beauteous, poetic bone. Disillusions many ripped from the misfortunes of previous identities can be stripped in a kind of ritual post-mortem of manners and realities. Can one say, following such adventurers in the domains of the Spirit such as Artaud that another body is possible:

 'I wanted you to watch

Me die, to watch the trees growing from my hands

Into the stark digits of night and be the monument

Of my liquid sex. To

Witness the opiate orgasms

In my resurrection.'

 What for convenience sake we still call man or woman suffers here a keen and rigorous un-thinking. 'I am the void, the pain and the whiskey lie, a sucked bone, a flute,/and as I,/you will/(desc)end softly as a barren rattle sound.' The Liquid Metropolis is a book-machine in the great tradition of radical thinking, a book for new lover-thinkers, into the hope-less beyond of the naked end of the world. For those who, dare I say, have never bent their knees to kneel nor sheltered their eyes from the glaring truth of society's founding lies. This is a resistance song, a remarkable bottle hurled into the ocean of nought. To collect its messages is to accept that a book requires the reader to work, to pause for moments to collect one's whole intellectual history, to agree to be challenged, to be hurt, to be attacked by the anger of the author, to travel with her to the trees and the colours which sing on the other side: 'our laughter will echo like hard rain when we finally slip away.'

 We have become accustomed to Whiteley's unstinting intellectual rigour, to the beauty of many of her poems, but never has her true instinct been able to express itself with such uncompromising clarity and fire. The Liquid Metropolis is what the burning libraries of 2012 will need, an at times brutal poetic pamphlet whose language prepares the audacious for the trees which will grow from their hands, for a new laughter for the living who do not wish to postpone their desires and abdicate their enjoyments. 'I dream of Thames at midnight, where at least a rabbit can choose/ the softness of one's own never ever after and push hard towards/the dawn in the city.

 'Liquid Metropolis', by Petra Whiteley, should be purchased from Erbacce Press, here

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