personal essay//’Snatch valentine’

This personal essay was commissioned for BBC Radio 3 show The Essay, as part of the ‘Weird England’ series. It was broadcast on 21 December 2018.

Decades later, Valentine season arrives and finds me in Norfolk again, this time as my time living in Norwich dwindles to nothing. I feel a warm Valentine-glow for the city, just as I am released from its care. I plan five, eight, ten-mile walks around the city and its edges, saturating my palate with the fields and ridges and broads, with the crumbling edges of the battlement walls, resting uneasily beside Chapelfield Mall where you can buy pink balloons, lovehearts, and plastic bunting. I love tracing the rural map beneath, scarred and salted, but still visible. I moved to Norwich two years ago. But I have struggled to embed myself into a county so different to the industrial spaces I am used to. As the time comes, I find that I am ready to leave, to return to my hometown in the Midlands. But Norfolk, this weird county, has a hold over my imagination: flint, icy blue beaches bathed in the light of a hostile sun, bells tolling every Tuesday from the church beside my flat. 

poetry review//Hackers by Aase Berg translated by johannes göransson (2017)

This review of Aase Berg’s Hackers translated by Johannes Göransson was published in 3AM Magazine.

This melding, of the human and the technological, is neatly encapsulated in the image of the starfish, a weird sea creature that can auto-graft new limbs when violently ruptured and rebuilding itself under only the most intense trauma. In ‘Hackers’, Berg reminds us that “[t]here are three ways of handling danger: Fight, 
Flight or Play Dead”. This serves as a subtle gloss on rape narratives, where survivors are disbelieved if they cannot prove that they fought, even though playing dead is the response most likely to offer a chance of survival. Rape, of course, is less clear-cut than this formulation accounts for, and in the cases of serial rape, intimate partner or familial rape, or date rape in particular, the issue is lack of consent, or coercion, rather than imminent and immediate physical danger. “Playing dead” can encompass a range of emotional labours and protections from harm, and the “playing” can turn into something more insidious, the necrotic trauma zones that become unreachable, locked, dead.

poetry review//the necropastoral by joyelle mcsweeney (2017)

This review of The Necropastoral by Joyelle McSweeney was published in Entropy.

For The Necropastoral, the vampiric action of capital can be reclaimed through conferring centrality on the ghostly and the spectral as a foil to finitude. This interstitiality means the dead acting like the living and vice versa; it scrambles chronologies. Media, death, and art all register with equal weight in The Necropastoral as do bacteriality, parasitism and death. Where the classical pastoral insists on separation and containment (country vs. city, gods vs. men) the necropastoral posits super-saturation, leaking and counter-contamination: “Rather than maintaining its didactic or allegorical distance, the membrane separating the Pastoral from the Urban, the past from the future, the living from the dead, may and must be supersaturated, convulsed and crossed. The crossing of this membrane is Anachronism itself.”⁠

poetry review//wild heather by sian s rathore (2017)

This review of Wild Heather by Sian S Rathore was published in Entropy.

Rathore’s poem ‘Alison Device (1594-1612)’, named for a Pendle witch, is a beautiful meditation on mortality and desire. Rathore describes Alison carrying ‘a lamb’s heart/ studded with thorns/ in her left-breast pocket’ and shows her watching ‘her cat harry a neighbour’s rabbit/ tearing it’s stomach first, then/ feasting on the organs inside.’ Rathore cleverly invokes the carnivorous brutality of nature, asking the reader why it is of note that a woman might engage with these violent skirmishes. But the killer line comes at the end when the narrator thrills at the danger of underestimating this woman, this witch: ‘Alison Device/ nails the lamb’s heart to my door/ and I will tell you:/ I should be scared.’

Poetry review// SKIN HORSE BY OLIVIA CRONK (2016)

This review of Olivia Cronk's Skin Horse was published in Entropy as part of their New Canon project. This was also printed in the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog. 

Skin Horse is deeply committed to the dismantling of binaries. Not only does the poem refuse to distinguish between separate categories of the plastic and the static, the authentic and the fake, but it also insists on a specific kind of futurity which relies on the melding of the banal and the sacred through lines such as: ‘A crystal ball flyer in my bag’ and ‘What lipstick lights. Through a branch, one creeped to scream.’ The crystal ball flyer is the perfect example of the sacred throwaway object: both the flyer and the crystal ball it represents are plastic objects — the flyer is made from cheap, toxic materials and the crystal ball is a symbol of the plasticity of future and present. The weight accorded to the occult potential of the crystal ball is undercut by the tackiness and commerciality of the flyer. The ‘lipstick lights’ that call to mind a cosmetic artificiality are somehow luminous. This image of bright, glowing, colours illuminating a part of the forest where one ‘creeped to scream’ is unsettling, the childlike innocence of the lipsticks are displaced by the potential site of violence and trauma invoked by the scream.

small press review// Action books (2014)

‘The Register of Candied Decay’ is a review of three books published by Action Books. Published by 3AM Magazine.

Action Books has a reputation for aesthetic radical experimentation, and Carl-Michael Edenborg’s Parapornographic Manifesto is no exception. The concept of the ‘parapornographic’ provides a way out of the porn / anti-porn dichotomy, offering an exciting new framework through which to read cultural production. Tytti Heikkinen and her translator Niina Pollari have created poems by curating online google searches and found material. The resulting collection (containing poems from both The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal and Fatty XL) is nauseating, wild and arresting. Lara Glenum’s Pop Corpse tackles head-on the misogynistic hypocrisies inherent in fairy tales, which represent perfect essences of the sexual double standard.

ART review//  I COPY HER I REPEAT HER I TERMINATE HER: Reproduction in Sara Tuss Efrik’s Persona Peep Show (2014) 

‘You’re faking it. That’s just a copy’ My contribution to Montevidayo's discussion of Sara Tuss Efrik’s ‘Persona Peep Show’.

This film is a reproduction that draws attention to its status as perverse copy – as defaced art. The poem-film examines what it means to reproduce. There is a heavy emphasis on the female body in the language and visual imagery of the piece. What we are seeing in this film is both a reproduction of Bergman’s Persona, and an interrogation of the ways in which reproduction happens culturally, artistically, and biologically. Efrik reminds us that reproduction is an uncanny act, that to reproduce is always to die. Reproduction exists as a means to protect the dwindling, fragile object which is replaced. In the case of Persona Peep Show, Efrik resituates Bergman’s original film within a contemporary political and artistic context and allows it to be disseminated anew. What she also does is to set up a series of psychoanalytic and feminist concerns around the nature of reproduction.

Art review//Turn Into Me by Nathalie Djurberg (2012)

Entropy hosted this review of Nathalie Djurberg's Turn into Me.

Djurberg addresses this collapsing of boundaries by presenting a female figure who becomes a home, womb and tomb for the animals in the forest where her corpse rots. Rather than showing a conventional narrative of feminised victimhood at the hands of violent masculinity, Djurberg instead shows a scene of death, decay and transformation that offers a redemptive, biological, non-reproductive futurity and satirises the nature/culture binary.