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.

For the Soul of Your Mother

An evil of colour
this sundown
bedraggled with cloud-rips.
Lost I’d say, or left behind-
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.

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.