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Tuesday 15 July 2014

The Introduction by Christine Murray to 'the king is dead' - Reuben Wooley (Oneiros Books)

songs of the redwet bones / the king is dead by Reuben Woolley

mountain poem

that idea here
safe. hold
on to it . your life
on the next word

the king is dead is a Promethean gamble that pays off for Reuben Woolley, a book that seems to be absurdly minimalist in its expression manages to body-cage and reduce universal themes to striking symbols that set into balance the agonies of existence along with a patient longing for death. Death is a transformative process that has some inherent physical repellence. Its leavings are everywhere, and can destabilise one for moments, or for eternities,


death came early this morning
I know . I saw her
she came strafing
quiet houses . slashing
infants with shrapnel
gutting the sick with bayonets . she said
I am only here
invited . I limit damage
remove pain . I am
the final cure

The body lets us down all the time. It is the site of the vagaries of coming age that Yeats may have hinted at, although he hardly put the cartilage and the blood-bag into a poem. He put a tattered coat upon a stick and allowed us to derive what symbolic meaning we could from it.

Woolley alludes to medical processes and to bodily experience and perception at the elemental level of being. Necessity advises the theme and subtext of this book. the king is dead is imbued with physicality,

I collect
the redwet bones
of recent unbuilding.

from prey

Here, an Egyptian longing to fuck everything and transform here and now into a sacred and simple animal that does not have all these complex nerve-endings and crosswires. I think of Hughes’ dung beetle symbol,

These bone-crushing mouths the mouths
That labour for the beetle
Who will roll her back into the sun.

From The Dogs Are Eating Your Mother, Ted Hughes (Birthday Letters, 1998)

Transformation from the plane of physicality is explored at an elemental level in the king is dead,

we eat
the hearts
of kings we kill . a
curious transformation . are
alchemical gold
black veils
become us well.

The eponymously titled series at the heart of the book explores the rage of human wastage and the necessity of physical and psychical transformation. There is a psychic economy to how mythos and ceremony are presented by Woolley,

& then
the final procession through all these changes
fast & lethal . a song for dawn
when the singer was elsewhere
wasting his stinking mouth
& from his back
the ritual firebird
in the sunshine crack

from the king is dead (iii)

Woolley discusses his approach to necessity and economy in the beautiful mountain poem, there is little left for the poet but the words that form images of phantasmagoric death queues and unearthly processions.

These are of little consequence when the stumbling bird, the carcass, the news-media act as revelators of the mystery. One need not look far because your death walks beside you at all times, best become his familiar, after all there is no eluding him/it  in the final moments of a life,


my deaths sleep with me
I shall not forge · I
do not step lightly
through bones · I name
all the faces
they are my necessary
ghosts · they fall
like fruit sweet
plenty · putrid
beds of richness · I am not
guilty · I just
survive · just
breathe and sleep

This is an excellent debut from a writer that I have become familiar with on social media. I have read some of his poetry and collaborative work on different media strands. It's excellent news that Reuben Woolley now has a first collection. Expect more and interesting work from him over the coming years.

A Preview of Reuben Woolley's 'the king is dead' (Oneiros Books)

king front cover

mountain poem

writing on the edge . an awe
full balancing , each word
tight . no room
for whims . no fears
of falling . finding footholds
hang by fingers . no
crampons , no ropes
alone , you & the wind . put
that idea here
safe . hold
on to it . your life
on the next word

unholy silence

living here 
is no pleasure . the death
of things , the stillness
they do not cry . they stare
with blooded eyes , unseeing
black hills run down
to blacker water unheard , ears 
pierced . the death 
of dreams

they are dry trees , stand
for no flame . no
red licks of bones

we lock these things away 
they will not return with stories
we cannot but hear . blindfold
they will not see
our secrets , our fumbling
games of wet flesh . hoping
for immortality , for
memory . our overwhelming


birds fly
over blooded land . it is
no matter . we
did not name
this place
singing hymns before
the sun . does not
rise . the shadow
makers came
before . stripped flesh
from all the living
stories , sucking 
details from bones . eyes
are choice
for rats & crows
            the nothing
that was done
casts long shade
& fear spreads cells
unseen . we do not
move . we are absorbed
in dark streets . we feed 
the screams of all
the silent children . red
meat hanging to dry . we
lost this game . there is
no replay , no last appeal


I grow arms
& legs . a face
will appear & I
shall learn speech

if bleeding is needed
I'll open
the veins , bead
this orchard red
it will grow bones

is my graveyard . 'm
behind these stones
with new lips . I grow
skin for these rites , coming
in profusion , renewing
dead earth

the king is dead (ii)

hero , you have sold your golden armour
for a night’s lodging · priest,
a lady has taken your robe for a pillow                         
the ventriloquist’s dummy
has stolen his words

& all our eyes
have been pierced
by the same silken thread

we will make
the same mistake again , all of us
when the time
comes again

those of you
who chew your food slowly
against the coming of the rats            
the king did not go short of food

the flowering tree
has been corrupted              
& the other parts of the body
fell off
long ago

'the king is dead' is available from Oneiros Books, here

Jonathan Butcher

 The Crawl

 Entwined with those cold winds, edging our way
 home; stoned, and wrapped up against the world that
 has yet to inflict its climatic evils upon us. We held
 our collected breaths, our lungs heavy under the onslaught.


 You, stood on the corroding brick wall, that surrounded the
 sky-rise flats, the lights of which stared down upon us like
 a thousand disapproving eyes. Each one however, seemed
 as blind as the last, raising their eyebrows at our

 every move.

 We left those squalid rooms of peeling tiles that curled
 at the corners like sun blistered, peeling skin. The walls
 as blank as they were damp, yet as inviting as the
 abandoned super-market, that our idle hands could never
 leave alone.


 At the bus stop we leave tags and crumpled Rizlas, the
 shelter at this time offering cover from the passing blue
 lights and neighbourhood watch. Our sly laughter offering
 a welcome distraction from any mis-interpretation, our
 hands never bound.


 As the breeze settled, through the transparent screens,
 that were shattered into tiny fragments like mud stained ice,
 we once again halted the orchestration of this shambolic
 parade, and again remain the drunken conductors of
 a soulless chaos.


 Hold Back

 The cut glass slices through the sole of my foot,
 through this dawn that carries its own stench, like an
 abandoned, un-manned sewer that drips its condensation
 down stained, broken windows.

 My back slightly bent from the powder's onslaught, that

 leaves its scars, each one a fond momentum and which are often
 often displayed to retell stories; a convenient replacement for
 unnecessary words.


 Another blind stare of anxiety; to hold onto those scattered
 thoughts becomes far too laborious; they fall like dice into
 gutters that reek of rotting carcasses, floating like pools
 of oil down cracked urinals.


 A painted solace, that offers the same repetition year in-
 year out. I hear the flesh stretch itself forward, no time here
 for false names, and again, I once more reiterate- I'm sorry,
 it's nothing really personal.



 Now even this chair has become stagnant. Myself,
 its ever compliant mould, I grace it with my presence
 each morning. My fatigue never extenuated enough
 to the point of collapse.

 The jagged keys remain as filthy as yesterday, their
 fading letters like a fisherman's rope, encrusted with dead
 skin and blood stained dust, that still seems to creep its
 way into my resisting lungs.

 That concentrated breath, that is focused upon each
 morning in this empty space. The bustle of voices and
 screaming lights delays my sensors like radio static,
 a situation you would avoid, like conversations
 with coppers or landlords.

 Over the clashing chatter my brain scrambles, a different
 picture each time, the limited light straining the vision.
 Each face here remains void, watching the clocks slowly
 climb that greased mountain, never reaching its summit.

Sunday 13 July 2014

David McLean

mirror cracked --

it is mirrors cracked and time shattered
life & a fragment this is interstitial
like memory mostly

there are numbers & loveless
it is puppies tumbling forgotten
like socks are adequate an absence

for here the night is thirsty
& the thrifty sufferers
are living their terrible inches

still; it is memory was
& time to kill

the dreary dialectic --

sun comes up a dreary dialectic
dread is memory

electric; this is awkward bowls
always she is carrying to forever

an extravagant dishonesty, bad
faith and faces to replace

like one's own special singular death
a slice of heaven of watermelon

a memory stopping, some skin
invisible, forgotten

not to tamper --

we are not tampering with the absences
& ascesis is no longer knowledge
just the pathetic surrender
falling into gods and idiot;

we are missing things
& nothing is all this living

surrendering self --

we are not voting for all the corpses
but holding memory like a weapon
to fold tomorrow into paper hopeless
a forgotten absolution
as libation to all the nobodies gone//
a homeless god, an ego outgrown
flesh is rotting home

Aubade --

& the sun comes up
oblivion, we are leaving psychosis

here is day breaking, meletē
thanatou and nothing is, maybe, naked
sweet is certainty//

it is not bodies we are leaving
yet, except the sweaty

we are leaving grim ghosts
alone, the anxious unanswerable
& the outgrown madman//

thus are we absent

praemeditatio malorum --

& it has always happened already
the worst/

the unimaginable is not Lovecraft's
unnamable behind a gravestone
& cold

here is good grown homeless//
the duckling is pushed from the stick
by his siblings


the dead men are ignorant
already, we have never been them//
stop it is nothing,
a good thing