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Friday 10 May 2013

'In Damage Seasons', a review by Christine Murray

Not Bell-Jar, but Cylinder: In Damage Seasons.

Not Bell-Jar, but Cylinder: In Damage Seasons.

A reading of In Damage Seasons, by Michael McAloran, published Oneiros Books 2013.

‘Clear the air! Clean the sky! Wash the wind! Take

the stone from the stone,

take the skin from the arm, take the muscle from

the bone, and wash them.

Wash the stone, wash the bone, wash the brain,

wash the soul, wash them wash them!’ 

                       The Chorus, from Murder In The Cathedral by T.S Eliot

(we convulse in sun light there are skins to trace and there is flesh to caress in some sudden dawning where the sudden shakes the boundary's clasp....)                    

                                       Scene Forty Two, In Damage Seasons

The structure underpinning Michael McAloran's In Damage Seasons is palladian (a.b.a) or a quasi-triptych. It isn't however an altar-piece or a pleasure-dome of a book. The three sections of In Damage Seasons are: Onset, In Damage Seasons, and nothing's bones-. These individual sections do work as stand alone pieces without compromising the unity of the book's thematic structure. Indeed, I have re-read nothing's bones- a number of times.

The thematic thrust of the book which fully comprises 130 pages interspersed with kaleidoscope images, is barely contained in the second section eponymously titled and consisting of fifty individual scenes. Onset opens the book setting the myriad kaleidoscope theme, and nothing’s bones-  the third part of the work, is a paean. It forms an accumulation and gathering of the essence of the book. It is a beautifully written after-death, where life itself is the exilic-condition.

Onset and nothing's bones- could represent ostensible hinged sections of the overall triptych (or palladian super-structure) that is In Damage Seasons. They are as splattered with blood, torn nails, ejaculate and shit as the Hieronymous Bosch nightmare mid-section of the book.

Make no mistake, Onset and nothing's bones- barely enclose the mid-section of the book and do not make for a sense of containment let alone comfort. Their purpose is to articulate the wolf howl of loss and an uncompromising poetic-voice that sometimes feels oxygenless. nothing's bones- consists of a disembodied voice that has deranged from its centre and meaning.

In visual-terms the book is the raw howl of a lost generation. McAloran is too consummately skilled  in image-making to drop his theme (the howl) and he works it with a fine acuity. 


‘sing spun alone till dry of speech the asking of the

prayers from the hollow entity unto some foreign grace

traceless depth will in end no end in depth sing spun

alone till speech evaporated’

                                                               from nothing’s bones-

The dystopian landscape and setting of In Damage Seasons is dense with image and requires the reader's full concentration. Here the wusses may leave, it is not for you. 

‘an amber nocturne and the force of blue stun a

silhouette a shadowing a trail of dead words scattered

behind in retrospect of hollow oblivion’s benign claim I

or we/eye dead of yet but once heart meat heart less...’ 

                                      Scene Twenty Five (is dead meat heart...)

The walls of a cylinder form occur throughout In Damage Seasons. This cylinder has polished metal sides, and an interesting kaleidoscopic window detail. Sylvia Plath often described the rarefied air of her bell-jar, and her reader knows that its breach involved the fatal-wounding of her panic-bird. She described her artifice, her work, as the blood-jet of poetry. 

In McAloran's case its blood-jet, ejaculate, tearing, bruising, incision and excreta. It is loss, torture, violence and pain.

‘the blood comes to the fore and there is nothing....’

Colours inherent in the book are amber and blue, a streak of red, and shades of metallic. One minute the writer is imprisoned in the doom of the non-working affair, the next he is shattering the funnel against a stone-wall and walking through the shardings of glass barely observing the beauty he made. It is meant to wound his feet, his hands and his body. We read rupture, derangement of form, and the screaming voice.

‘kicking convulsive in the reek asking of the breaking

night’s dissemble through the cortex mirror a sheen of

black iris flowerings a kaleidoscope of burning

carousels spun alone reaching for none...

the blade asks of the final wind the death inhaled the

caress of some vital wound ask of till subtle bound

some stasis somewhere other than sung aloud in glint

of darkness...’ 

                                    Scene Forty Two (is stillness to brace...)

There is no piety to the howling of this poet. There is a type of tenderness and wry acceptance which could not be called compromise in any way, shape or fashion. This is strong and assured work. It is unrelenting for the reader. 

' and there the blind terse the fettering of all spun

till head of till spire of spine recorded as if to un-know

hence laughter cracks the ice like some obscene 

symphonium trace of desire still the living clot in the

eye the tongue torn out silenced of all ...

...ah break the bones of it there'll yet be asked of till

splendour held in mockery of stun shards of bone and

foreign silences child's toys fragments the walls peeling

in the artificial light...  

                                                                             from Onset , 5- 

The sense, or aftertaste of a book gives it its meaning. I tend to leave down a McAloran book with a sense of altered-reality. To me that is the meat of the poetic work, and it is often absent from the canon due to a mistaken sense that poetry should lack violence, or maybe it should do something pretty. Like possibly adorn the margins of a chocolate-box culture bent into its own restless consumption.

If your taste runs to Bataillesque, then this is the meat for you. In Damage Seasons is post-apocalyptic with a hint of tender. The apocalypse inherent in the book’s imagery is of body and of mind. It contains the reality of violence worked on the body and told through the disembodied mouth in the brilliantly written nothing’s bones-

            'the stone breath of it till speech resigned asking of no

            longer no more

           ah there'll yet be afar no nothing of the afar the hands

          foreign  the rat pulse of the scum of all here or there

          hereafter drawn out till claim renounced echoing out

          from scream till silence breathless 


          ashen the sealed eye of nowhere dragging its blood

          throughout the memory of never having been ' 

                                                                                                                                       from  nothing's bones- #10 

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