Diisonance Launch

On Friday 8 September, a curious group of people met at The Gallery Café in Bethnall Greenfor the launch of Diisonance – a book of protest texts, art and collaborative experimental poetry. A solitary microphone stood among café tables in front of a curtain of lights. Paul Hawkins welcomed us, an intimate rabble, before swiftly tearing pages from his latest work Place Waste Dissent: ‘I’m not precious about my work,’ he said.
Place Waste Dissent – published by Influx Press in 2015 – utilises zine culture using ‘scuzzy xeroxed black and white images, cut and stark, pasted typewriter text, drawings and signs.’ The book commemorates a love and loss of Claremont Road, where government plans to construct the M11 Link road tagged every property for demolition and destroyed a flourishing community. Protestors formed a cooperative resistance, exercising their rights and causing dissonance between the community and the status quo. Place Waste Dissent ‘takes the aesthetics of poetry as seriously as the occupation and protests that inspired its writing’ by balancing narratives of occupying protestors
and original residents (notably Dolly Watson who had lived on Claremont Road since 1901) giving voice to those who otherwise were not given the opportunity to be heard.
In its turn, Hawkins explained, Diisonance responds directly to the social issues in Place Waste Dissent. Diisonance, he says, “is a culmination of how it’s affected us, our lives and the psychology we’ve been left with, as a detritus from the whole thing.” Voices come together to fight against social crises, such as housing that persists perilously today: with inevitable tragedies like Grenfell Tower, for example, and the looming demolition of Robin Hood Gardens.

Hawkins handed out the loose pages of his book, explaining that we were about to do something that has never happened before, and can never happen again. The room, rising to its feet, read aloud from the discarded pages of his book – glossy black and white fragments of experimental poetry, collage and text. The room filled with the sound of dissonant voices. It didn’t matter who spoke, sung, shouted or whispered: the text rose from the page into an electric air. Words dissolved in the noise of our many voices, our many fragments. Hawkins moved through the crowded space, the crowded noise, recording the moment that couldn’t happen again.

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To launch the book, a collaboration of writers read their work – Paul Hawkins, Tony White, Sarer Scotthorne, Gary Budden, Roy McFarlane – with an exhibition by visual artist Steve Ryan. Tony White read from his novel, Charlieunclenorfolktango, written twenty years ago and published by Codex, a defunct small press, in 1999. “This is probably not suitable for children,” White said, before galloping into a dialectic rant on the fifty ways a “mad fuckin’ killer” could break into your house and murder you: “so that’s why there’s got to be coppers” so you can “sleep easy.” Spitefully humorous,
the work accounts for ways the police protect and serve but enforce a system of inequality and injustice. Blue lights flickered across the walls of the café as a police car passed along Old Ford Road.
Hawkins gave a brief reading of his poetry. We learned of the police brutality that occurred during the events at Claremont Road, paying homage to lives and communities deemed worthless when the government approved demolitions for construction of the M11 Link Road, built to link the North Circular Road to the A14, northwest of Cambridge.
Sarer Scotthorne – poet, writer, staunch and radical feminist – read a collection of corresponding letters sent to Miggy Angel. She wrote to Miggy about the dissonance of sound and the human body. Letters, a nostalgic medium, collaborate separate minds that meet on the page. Scotthorne discusses divisions of the human body, reciting her letters as poetry: something private becomes public. The work picks and plucks at the idea of sound and dissonance between things through melodious poetic imagery: ‘the music, the world, all here at once.’ Scotthorne expresses her body oppressed, a body othered; the marginal being that harnesses her muteness to be heard: ‘can you read my silence?’ She incorporates binary code, “0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1,” shifting the atmosphere to a strange robotic default. Sound is intrinsically linked to the ‘mouth-sound,’ the ‘beetle-voice’ of female silencing. The female voice is other, alien and isolated but also continuously speaks up from the hushed prisms of the body – Scotthorne presents her silence, the silence of her sex, as a dissonance of self, a fracture of internal harmonies, that begins to use realms of silence in order to speak from the ‘silent maternal body.’ Try to imagine language in reverse: if we can speak in silence, phallogocentrism loses its dominance.
Gary Budden read from his new story collection The Wrecking Days which explores themes of nature and narcotics, writing from the margins of society ‘where reality thinned a little.’ His piece suggested that the artificial and the natural are not opposing at all, instead they are transcendent. Budden writes about youthful and reckless days spent on the London marshes. In such places of in-between, on the fringes of London, Budden writes about notions of being and belonging: the idea that ‘memory is a marsh’ as the world diffuses in mist and nostalgia. The marshes act as a psychogeographical jettison between two places, between city and country, between artifice and nature. Such spaces, as Budden presents in his collection, allowed them to explore their minds, without ‘shutting parts of yourself down.’ It was ‘a way of seeing the world for what it really is,’ to find their own version of what it means to be free: to be and belong on their own terms. But Budden acknowledged, through his tales of the wrecking days, that being able to see the world as it is can also pull you apart.
Roy McFarlane, a poet and playwright, rounded up the evening with two resonant readings from his recent works. The first reading, ‘Tebbit Test,’ reflected on the comment made by British Conservative politician Norman Tebbit, who suggested that immigrants who continued to support their native countries, rather than England, at the sport of cricket, are not significantly integrated into the United Kingdom. Such racial inequity led McFarlane to write about racism and politics in relation to sport. McFarlane reminds us of the cutting dissonance of racial injustice that is active everywhere. His second reading tempered with volumes of sound. The world to McFarlane, as it is now, feels ‘turned
up’ to the point of ‘cut, break, fracture, dissonance.’ As an alternative, McFarlane proposes, the volume of the times should be tuned down – ‘a discordant sound’ falling into a weightless void of silence. He conjured the image of water dripping into ‘a bottomless well of silence.’ McFarlane responds to our discordant times with a call for
silence; a call to listen for the ‘echo of love’ that falls, not like a drip but like a stone, into the water. These moments are lost in the cacophony of noise and noisy images. Yet, McFarlane suggests, these quiet moments have healing properties. They are ripples of time capable of changing social dimensions, from something static to something more fluid.

Overall, the Diisonance book launch explored spaces between binary constructs. Tony White mimicked the discourse between ‘us and them’ that resonated with Paul Hawkins aching reminiscence of creative communities in London, such as Claremont Road; sites where state ideology betrays human rights. Sarer Scotthorne dislocated ‘male and female’ and spoke about how silence is related to structures of gender. She picked at the social structures of male speech and female silence by tuning into feminine silence – and performing it. Gary Budden dislocated the ‘here and there’ of places of being and belonging, where the London marshes act as a safe space for experimentations
of selfhood. Finally, Roy McFarlane expressed the racial disconnect between ‘black and white’ as dissonance, as well as the implication of sound: a ‘lack of harmony between things.’

The Diisonance book launch was an evening of protest and resistance against oppressive forces that attempt to control our lives, that are an especially prominent part of life in the city. The writers acknowledge the present state of things – political, social, economic – expressed through their experiences in the past. Throughout their lives, they have seen things at their best, their worst and everything in between. Diisonance is a project among many that attempts to galvanise the hearts and minds of the people and restore the magnetic flow of life in London.

Click here to order Diisonance from Hesterglock Press.

Review by Kirsty Watling

Kirsty Watling is a writer, bookseller and recent Literature graduate specialising in twentieth century literature, visual culture and critical theory.

 

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Metonymy in Motion

HOMMAGE A GUY, Bruno Neiva: Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2017

Bruno Neiva’s most recent text work, HOMMAGE A GUY, is a book encapsulating images of the homonymous art installation created by Neiva as an homage to Guy Debord. The book, and the installation, become a poetic meditation on Debord’s words, layered in fragments which in turn compose a kind of open (w)hole. Arranged within the pages of the book, each piece’s title comprises precisely all the words it contains as a textual whole; while the combined titles occupy the verso page of every spread as though a single poem.  In a kind of metonymic abyss, there is no clear distinction between what constitutes the part and what the whole in Neiva’s project – with the relationships between poem and title, page and book, book and installation, source text and generated text in a constantly reflexive flux.

The reading here is open to interpretation – and much more so because of the language. Neiva presents Debord’s words in their original French without concession to the potentially monolinguistic English-speaking reader, intensifying the opportunity for one to experience alienation as a result of this challenging encounter. This is a work which, in homage to Debord, resists and defies ‘passive identification with the spectacle’ demanding instead ‘genuine activity’ in an attempt to (re?)-construct meaning (or a semblance of meaning) from its pages.

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Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) ‘is a polemical and prescient indictment of our image-saturated consumer culture. The book examines the “Spectacle,” Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity’. Debord explores the reduction of lived experience into commodified images which become increasingly consumed and substituted for the reality of life. He famously states, ‘The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images’ (4). Neiva works hard to resist the commodifiable and consumable image in these text works. Each page details fragments of text: words without anchor or context, written, painted, printed, stencilled onto surfaces formed from bits of everyday detritus. A strip of gaffer tape, a torn envelope, an empty plastic bag, discarded bottle tops, each stuck onto a dark grey background/wall as installed at the Torrente Ballester Centre in Ferrol, Spain for the 24th Máximo Ramos International Award for Graphic Arts, 2016. The images could hardly be less commodifiable, and yet they do suggest something about our relationship with the consumable – and its perpetual obverse, waste.

Neiva’s HOMMAGE enters into a relationship with its subject/object – Debord – both aesthetically and technically. Paradoxically, however, in the creation of this book from the original installation, the lived experience of visiting the installation at the gallery – in order to be made accessible to a wider audience after the exhibition has closed – must necessarily be reduced to a series of images representing the work itself. Yet these images don’t just represent, they also comprise the work in its new form as a book.  What remains, then, is resistance to the passive identification and consumption that defines ‘the spectacle’, demanding instead an active effort from the reader that perhaps, in some ways, might mark a return to a lived experience of the work.

Click here to order a copy of Bruno Neiva’s HOMMAGE A GUY from Knives Forks and Spoons Press

About the Publisher:

Knives Forks and Spoons Press is a prolific publisher of avant-garde poetry by internationally acclaimed poets and emerging young writers. ‘KFS is a forum for an extraordinary range of diversity and risk-taking artistic experiment.’

Review by Sally-Shakti Willow

Sally-Shakti Willow researches and writes utopian poetics at the University of Westminster.  She is Research Assistant for the Contemporary Small Press.

What’s a Word?

Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams: Influx Press, 2017

Shortlisted for the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize

‘what’s a sentence, really, if not time spent alone – ’

Eley Williams’ debut short story collection delights in the deliciousness of words – their taste on the tongue, their vertiginous proliferation of meaning, their resonant archaic hum.  Attrib. artfully weaves narrative textuality with metanarrative construction processes – the writer’s process of discovering and attributing layers of meaning to interesting and unusual words, or even mundane ones, becomes part of the narrative texture of these stories.  The reader is taken on a kaleidoscopic journey through language as these uncanny stories and bizarre situations shine a colourful spotlight onto a refracted mirror of contemporary life.

The title story, Attrib., focuses on the work of a Foley artist providing incidental sound details for an audio guide to accompany a major new display of the life and work of Michelangelo.  Following her through her ideas for sound effects to accompany the Creation of Eve, which include the use of a ‘day-old, tooth-stripped #34 Char Siu takeaway rib’, we are prompted to consider the word ‘rib’ as it sits within the larger body of ‘attribute’.  Then we might consider the proliferations of meaning depending on whether we take ‘attribute’ to be a verb or a noun – is Eve to be ‘ascribed to’ Adam, or he to her?  Or should we consider Adam to be the ‘cause’ of Eve?  Each of these meanings is suggested within Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary definition of ‘To Attribute’ as the book’s epigraph.  But what if we take attribute as a noun: a quality, feature or inherent part?  Does this make Eve a quality or feature of Adam?  Williams also casually drops a reference to ‘tributary’ – with all its constituent parts that bind it to the words ‘attribute’ and ‘rib’ – so we might question whether Eve is to be seen as a ‘tributary’ of Adam, either a minor part to Adam’s major, or the one who pays him tribute.  Consistent within this narrative is the repeated noun/verb ‘BAFFLES’, suggestive of the narrator’s response to the unequal treatment of Adam and Eve by the gallery commissioners, Michelangelo, God…

Attrib.

The stories in this collection draw inspiration from a wide range of characters and situations that are both singularly unique and intimately recognisable.  The catalogue and spotter’s guide to Rosette Manufacture, the synaesthete looking for a date or the rat trained to detect landmines would seem absurd but for Williams’ deeply human insight into her characters’ worlds into which she draws us through the weft and warp of her words.  The narrator of Smote begins, ‘To kiss you should not involve such fear of imprecision’ and continues to detail the nervous uncertainty around the giving of a kiss in a public place in front of Bridget Riley’s Movement in Squares – an image which perhaps informs the bold and striking cover design of the book – cascading into a breathless six-page stream without a single full stop.  The final denoument of this story contains the arresting phrases ‘and you stark me / and I am strobe-hearted’.

‘and you stark me / and I am strobe-hearted’

These are stories that are so repeatedly re-readable – for their humour, their humanity and their sheer revelry in the textual matter of the language from which they are made: the physical, pleasurable, palpable, enigmatic and unguent words and all they carry with them.  Eley Williams’ Attrib. is a book that I recommend to writers, readers, and anyone with a love of words and an affectionate soft-spot for the humans that are bound up with them.

Click here to buy Eley Williams’ Attrib. and other stories directly from Influx Press.

About the Publisher

Influx Press is an independent publisher committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction, poetry and non-fiction from across the UK and beyond.

Review by Sally-Shakti Willow

Sally-Shakti Willow, research assistant for the Contemporary Small Press, is a doctoral researcher in utopian poetics and experimental writing at the University of Westminster where she also teaches on the ‘Other Worlds’ module.   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

I unstitch [my] self

I unstitch [my] self

The Unfinished Dream: An Exercise in Awakening by Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans: Sad Press, 2016

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They are the same. Same words. Same books. Other tongues. Only meaning changes. With time. Broken narrative    out   of   bounds where is the meaning in [your] life now? Can you trace the line beginning to middle to end? How can I know [myself] without the story [of myself] to tell?

The collaboration between Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans has created a visceral and eclectic artist book that evokes a raw and provocative sense of textual and visual meaning. Willow’s experimental writing style powerfully plays with language, writing it anew as boundary-less and beyond the borders of constricting social constructs. Words drift and dangle from the pages, punctured by Evans’ illustrations or fractured by blank spaces filling the absence of words. The interlacing of imagery and text presents the reader with a tactile experience, where the pages are alive with the feelings, thoughts and senses they evoke.

The body is intertwined throughout the book, where the tenuous nature of subjectivity materialises upon each page. The narrative voice grapples with the sense of self found within words, fighting with the continual strain and clash of meanings one attaches to the body. The cultural, political, and social structures that enforce certain modes of being are torn apart as the narrator declares: “I give myself this new name to take [back] the power I never had.” One must bind, tie and lace the text with the body: “I must become [the body of] the text”. The body becomes the blank page waiting to absorb ink, boundary less, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I unstitch [my] self.” The body becomes open, as the only recourse one can take against the daily attacks on subjectivity. The style leaves space for words to breathe, to let in the world and fill one’s lungs with the breath of others, as an unbound self “open to the flow of things to come.” The voice resounds as a protest against those who act in someone else’s name without consent – an apt protest given the most recent events of Brexit and the Presidential election in the United States, and the hatred these have emboldened.

The poem, Straif, continues this sense of protest and how one must “insert into that space the steel edge of thorn tip scribing”. The space being that of the past and future, the in-between of “[your] page and [mine]”, which is a space ruptured from its timeline, re-written by the ink bleeding on a surface wounded by violence. Words must break the silence, must speak from this space created by violence. As “writereader” of this narrative, the words express the power one has to act and to write the story anew. This poem has also been published in an anthology, #NousSommesParis, which captures the responses to the November 2015 Paris attacks and the horror of this day. The pen lines scrawled haphazardly across each page capture the reckless, nonsensical nature of destruction, the wound of this event that stains each body affected, like the ink that stains each page with words. It poignantly grasps a sense of the collective loss, empathy and ways in which one must not sink to the levels of those who wish nothing but violence and hatred upon others. From this space, this rupture, must come change.

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There is a raw, earthy energy to Evans’ illustrations that incorporate imagery of stars, tree roots and varying symbols. The illustrations are evocative and cohesively interlace with each other; as the faint lines of a fractured face yet to be drawn completely on one page becomes a fully formed embodiment on a later page. Or the faint lines of an anatomically drawn heart and eye hint of their presence behind a solid moon, only to appear in sharp focus as the narrator reiterates notions of “[in]visible”, “[il]legible” words that fall on “[in]different” ears and lay mute and unseen. The cut and paste technique is similar to that of Kathy Acker, as photocopied notebook pages juxtapose pages left free of lines, barriers and rules where words become dismembered from each other and ultimately the sentence they belong to. The anarchy of the text – the use of spacing, shifts in form and style, as well as the break in punctuation and grammar – reflects the ruptured sense of self, of society, and yet through this perhaps a chance to change, to “overflow these pages” and find solidarity through being open to others. Ultimately, the artist book challenges the position of the “writereader”, emphasising how we are all both writer and reader of our own narratives and those we create together.

Section B: Writing, is set out in the style of a GCSE exam question, which beautifully articulates the think-less existence of present day culture; where there are so many voices that no-one is truly heard, drowned out by the noise of a system that cannot hear or see those who do not fit the sequences of a life lived only inside borders: “Facts is all they want”. If you are not coherent, structured, living the “right” way and doing the “right” things, following the stepping stones that life has laid out, planned in advance, then what becomes of you, when you have lost the “plot”?

Take this pill instead. It will mollify your dreams, dispossess you of desires. And it will keep you safely tightly numbly suffocatingly bound within these pages of your life. There is nothing outside this story.

Drugged and disillusioned, the narrator voices the absence of living, or of living in-between, on the borders of “plot” – the structured existence that strips the self of thinking for oneself. These pills, promising health, happiness and to make things better, instead turn the narrator’s world upside down, words stop, thoughts stop, breathing stops. Subjectivity stops. Pills numb the protest, create an absence of self, living “between my life and your world”. Ultimately, the self that lives beyond the “linear syntagmatic narrative” cannot be fixed by a pill, but must learn to think, feel, and write the self anew, even when that may be outside the “plot”.

The remaining words echo poignantly as the last page is turned to a moon borrowing the sun’s light to shine – we are always fractured with words, words that are not our own, but that we, as “writereader” of our own stories, transform. There is a thickness to the silence, as the fractured narrative always leaves something unbound and the surrealist imagery punctures the text as deeply as the ink that writes itself upon each page, boundary-less and unafraid to cut through the lines.

Click here to buy The Unfinished Dream directly from Sad Press.

About the Publisher:

Sad Press publishes poetry chapbooks by individual authors and collections of experimental writing.  Based in east Bristol, Sad Press was set up in 2009 and has published works by Tom Jenks, Jennifer Cooke, Lila Matsumoto, Verity Spott & Megan Allen, nick-e melville and others.

Review by Isabelle Coy-Dibley

Isabelle Coy-Dibley is a PhD student at the University of Westminster, where her research predominantly considers inscriptions of the female body within women’s experimental writing.