The Glue Ponys by Chris Wilson: Tangerine Press, 2016 Republic of Consciousness Prize Long List* 

‘Larry was the first to wake up.  It was raining again and with the fever he couldn’t figure out if he was boiling or freezing.  His few remaining teeth were bouncing a tattoo off each other as his jaw played out the rhythm of the infection.’

These perfectly crafted short stories each give a fleeting glimpse into the lives of the transient outsiders whose lives are forged daily on America’s streets, in prisons, in run-down hotels and rusty old cars.  Heroin addiction is a uniting theme that runs like a thread through the highs and lows, the comedy and the tragedy, of each of these instant snapshots of the forgotten and unseen lives just beneath the surface of respectable city life.  Frequent details of places – street names, hotels, city quarters – serve to highlight not only the reality but also the close proximity of people whose existence is so often barely noticed by their parallel city-dwelling counterparts.  The sharing of common space between people whose lives are so vastly alien to one another calls into question the routine invisibility of the stories’ characters and those like them.

Wilson’s prose is measured, well-paced, with a sense of immediacy and brevity that makes every encounter sting with the sharp barb of honesty without sentiment.  These stories are not designed to evoke hand-wringing sympathy or provoke the reader to want to change the world.  They present important stories that Wilson is well-placed to tell, having lived on the streets and in prisons in the US for many years before returning to the UK and becoming drug and crime free in 2001.  The stories present the matter-of-fact realities, told through exceptional prose-fiction, of lives little glimpsed by most readers – each with its own dignity, desire, sadness and humour.

‘But there was another part of her, way down somewhere inside, that just wasn’t going to let her break and it held her and it lifted up her chin so that her eyes met with the eyes of the drivers coming down the freeway and she raised her right arm into the air with her fingers balled up in a fist and stuck her thumb straight up and into the heart of the blue morning sky.’

The Glue Ponys is a book worth reading for many reasons – both its style and its content are fresh and enriching.  In addition to the standard paperback edition, Tangerine Press have also produced a number of limited edition fine press copies of the book: 100 numbered collectors editions and 26 individually produced artwork copies with bespoke artworks by Chris Wilson (now sold out).

Click here to visit The Glue Ponys page on Tangerine Press.

About the Publisher:

Tangerine Press publishes poetry, prose and photography in handbound, limited edition fine press books.

Review by Sally-Shakti Willow

Sally-Shakti Willow is researching for a practice-based PhD in utopian poetics and experimental writing at the University of Westminster, where she also works as research assistant for the Contemporary Small Press.   The Unfinished Dream, an experimental collection of words and images by Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans was published by Sad Press in October 2016.  @willowwriting

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