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The Last Hundred by Aaron Kent and William Arnold, Published by Guillemot Press – Quick Review

This collection- presented on long postcards held in an old-style photo album sleeve you’d get when you picked up your almost entirely blurry disposable camera holiday photos from Boots- is a multidisciplinary collaboration of Aaron Kent’s poetry and William Arnold’s photography, produced and published by the fantastic and always innovative Guillemot Press.

Focused on a selection of locations in rural Cornwall, Aaron Kent’s poetry rings out with a contrapuntal voice equal parts university professor, ancient kraken-fearing sailor, myth revering child, and soapbox doomsayer… and It’s cool as fuck; a linguistic identity dysphoria- or confluence- that yields extra-ordinary results.

Kent’s work is rife with the best kind of contradiction. It is equally historic, delving into his subjects storied pasts for language and concepts, as it is modern in its execution and style. his reconstruction of environments is as much subjective and personal as it is matter-of-fact, brokering a parley between memory, and existing structural remnants and geography.

Arnold’s photography captures landscapes so wind-racked, the wind itself seems to present itself as an object or ghostly figure in the shots. From misty fields with sprays of wildflower, to darkling dells and the immutable spumy ocean, Arnold offers an ambience, a stage for the poetry to live and breath around like a murmuration.

The words and images pair up to provoke a darkness, a folk-horror dread. If it were possible to soundtrack books, this project would howl with dissonant strings trying to resolve into a harmony, never quite making it. Individually, the poetry and photography would be quite striking; all involved are deft in their art, but together, they present such ethereal and mythic lands tinged with the macabre of prototypical fairytales that you must remind yourself throughout are real places.

A truly beautiful project, The Last Hundred is a monochrome satchel with contents that lift the silver halide lens from the past, colouring and intensifying it, blowing the dust from attic beams into sklents of sun, and the birds in the brush back into the stormy Cornish air.

Erasure

The image of you in my head
is fraying,
tailing into anemone fire.
Your crisp lines jittered like
sutures on a skull.

Never just one burial ground.
The rot happens
in that Manchester grave
and the head.

First
there is this Picassion mutation,
a steady morph
then acid baths,
and I’m left with:

Objects – colouring books,
foot operated
ash tray, pocket knife.

Details – a comfy femur –
my throne,
your elbow bend
on the arm of the chair
I could express
mathematically with triangles
and degrees on squared
note paper.

Sense memory –
voice that soothes my mother,
voice –
god of my god,
smell of stew.

Bigger things –
warmth and awe,
cloudish serenity.

And I wish it hadn’t taken
so long to admit,
but it’s okay.

You dismantle,

patch after patch, blacked out
over time
in the primordial alluvium
of thought,

and I’m left with
the raw materials;

the sweet erasure
poem of your soul.

Eyewear Publishing’s Christmas Fortnight Prize.

I found out yesterday that I’ve been shortlisted along with 17 other poets for Eyewear Publishing’s Christmas Fortnight Prize. This is the first time I’ve submitted to an award so I’m overjoyed they saw something in my work.

Eyewear are a small independent publishers based in London making some serious waves right now.

For the Soul of Your Mother

An evil of colour
this sundown
bedraggled with cloud-rips.
Lost I’d say, or left behind-
red-sided
garter snake ecdysis;
vixen smeared
over an oily road;
or that thrift shop cardie
you’d never wear,
but for the soul of your mother,
can’t take your eye off.

Flu and a Great Cloche

These chronologically challenged fortune
cookies started life on my side
table. Covered my books, todo lists, tickets,
picks; bulged a drift against my lamp,

In the evening nuclear
waste prophesies burned
citreous through the wraps,

telling my past and present.
Delicate pins of red sulk
in plasma like blown glass. The
origami doomsayers

spilled onto my carpet. At times
I’m delirious enough
to think they’re

white roses, or spare
stars, forgetting that reactor
core balled in
threatening meltdown.

I’ve had thoughts of you, S.Lee.
How these chemicals have been
on my skin, my clothes, inside me.
Where are my super powers motherfucker?

If I were not thinking this
I’d swear I’d become object
set here to drip as
salt lamps, stalactites. Inmates

are warming,
have talked to me,
told me jokes.

Orange MK II has noticed
my voice tuned down
an entire minor third.

B I believe.
Asks if I’m into drone.
Sometimes, I say. This guy’s
alright says African

redwood hippopotamus.
And I wonder at his Brooklyn
accent, and absentee tail. I tell
him thanks. The ugly bowl

of pennies/misc. threatens blades
sometimes, but I’m not worried.
He’s mostly just pennies. Graduation
llama asks if I still write.

I am, I say.
Now? As we speak
Champ.

The grandmother clock
we salvaged from a dead woman’s home
asks me who am.

Atlas hatbox knows
very little of geography but a great
deal of the seasons,
and storm formations.

Doesn’t know how talking
about the weather became a
faux pas. Believes it to be
the closest thing to real

magic after art, the relative strength of ants,
and a great cloche.

Top Heavy

You fell so often
your skull developed craters
and was moonish,
fizzing lunar transients.

Grit asteroids revised
your cranial map.

Maria flowered darkly.

Mountains surged from plate faults,
and basaltic valleys whirled beside
your blood orogeny.

The sun dripped away
behind your swell of horns
and lit you – a theatre
of bones –
and I sat beside you,
eating moonlight sweet from knives,
then dissolved into orbit.

Still, They Knew Him from the Flock

Inside the beacon, someone
found the blue eyed lamb hung;
throat frilled as gunnysack,
sea-cold,
in the first field of the coming sun.

Atlas and Axis disengaged;
both strung and trapper.
Music of death-rattle.
Selena’s tracks between used
rubbers, and chocolate wrappers.

How many nights before death,
caught in mooring rope,
the stars washed in so low
a tall man might knock his head;
the moon stooped enough to hang his coat.

The Beautiful People’s Dead Poems

In Notre Dame there’s a bookshop
with stickers over every price and barcode,
marking each book up five, ten, twenty euros
because it’s famous.
If you buy a book
the grotesquely literate till lady asks
“Would you like a stamp”?
And every customer looks worried
and quietly asks
“Does it cost extra?”
It doesn’t, so every person says
“Yes, I’d like a stamp please”.

It’s always full of beautiful people
wearing their very best writer outfits.

Up the stairs to the left
there’s a little old piano
in a small enclave
and you’re allowed to play;
if you’re able.

Opposite the piano is a wall of post-it notes
with bits of poetry
all written by the patrons;
all in different languages,
Each one assiduously chosen
by their writer as the line
that communicates their purest essence,
waiting to be seen by a holidaying editor
who will storm the world in search of them
to publish every sick and sweet word.
But they just sit there in a sort of dogged rest,
looking somewhat cemeterial,
twitching each time somebody opens the door;
perfectly ignored
by everyone that walks by.

I picked up a book
read a page
saw the price
put it back
and played a note
for the dead poems
as I left.