We are marking our third year and the holiday season with, quaintly enough, poetry. Here is a selection from our authors and editors.
Thank you for reading our books, coming to support us at our events, and generally allowing us to persist in the belief that we are doing something of some consequence.
Happy Christmas and we’ll see you next year.
Siouxzi Connor is an Australian writer and experimental filmmaker, and the author of Little Houses, Big Forests (Desire Is No Light Thing), from which the following extract is taken.
The forest’s darkness
had become a trusted friend:
A worn-in coat resting its sun-warmed hands
on the shoulders,
then wrapping the entire body in an unhurried could-be-the-last embrace.
It had not always been this way.
The first plunges of darkness,
here in the forest,
were like drowning.
As each day made itself scarce,
and the moon made its eternal decisions
whether or not to show its face that night,
the darkness would raise up,
crest for a moment,
then come crashing down
and pull all beneath its rip.
All was consumed by the feeling
that nothing would ever emerge alive from this.
Nights silent with the expectation of a predator; nights thick,
caught in the back of the throat;
nights of chasing the sense of being chased through the undergrowth,
vines becoming entrails,
spilling bloody with this chase,
further tempting the darkness creatures.
Heaving breaths from dew-wet lungs.
But night after night,
as dawn quickly became impassioned by day
morning broke the darkness every time
and revealed aloneness.
The light brought warmth and searing beauty
but it also brought inevitability.
By day, the inevitable loneliness was clear.
By night, any number of stalking creatures
could be near,
watching and wanting.
Thine Own Hands
We cannot meet as equals
when you know me already,
as another of your inventions
who made his world
Both of us creators of a universe
yours vast, mine incomplete,
to abandon one and know the other
when I am still your unfinished work.
Rhian E Jones
Rhian E Jones is co-author of Triptych: Three Studies of Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible and co-editor of Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them.
It died, at length, a sugary death, beside the blocked-up sink,
sunken in self-indulgence and in sync
with our great love turned sloth and wrath. A fearful stink
rose from the bin. Stale smoke, spilled milk, and vomit streaked the walls.
The ashtrays overflowed. The mildest touch
of anything left stains that lasted weeks, but this –
unbidden interloper – seemed to us a bit too much.
Fattened on slops, on scraps, it fed like us
on opportunist crusts, on crumbs that lasted instants,
trust betrayed, all sustenance gone pinched and blackened,
sweetness left to rot and rust.
Life’s too much effort to keep clean. Too cowed to scram,
knowing my own dirt, squalor, filth,
I thought I’d learn to love the rat. I spent my nights supine,
tracing its imagined skittering in the shadows and
waiting to feel its claws along my spine.
There wasn’t much we hadn’t tried: it had
evaded all attempts at killing, maiming, capture.
Then one night, with us drink-dumb, it fell, without an intervention,
plunging greedily on, nose deep into disastrous rapture.
As morning bloomed, it lay discovered in the jar of sugar,
passed out, upended, gorged and smug. White crystals caked its snout.
Itchy, one hand around its tail, I watched its whiskers twitch. Perhaps it dreamt.
I picked it up and slung it out.
I split a few days later, coming down,
and on the garden path he’d led me up rested the rat.
Alien under daylight, there it lay: a splat
of curtained shadow edged with red, spread flat.
I nudged it with my shoe, checking its death
was death, not sleep or smoke-stunned torpor. Then,
I put my foot down and I left. No scratch
or scrabble rent the air to shreds behind me. That was that.
Phil Jourdan is an editor at Repeater and Angry Robot, and the author of What Precision, Such Restraint and Praise of Motherhood.
You’re a monkish fellow, really.
You see the blaze no matter what,
And care about the lineage.
How nice in a world like this.
Love without beloved,
And, even worse, no lover —
No doubt it is the root of all this stuff,
These flowerings and sloughings off of life.
But take no credit, little man.
This work is not for glory or appeasement of some god.
The longing for return does not ennoble you,
Transcendence is no goal.
Dip into and bathe in whatever source you find,
But there’s nothing to be monkish about.
Alex Niven is an editor at Repeater and teaches English at Newcastle University. He is the author of Folk Opposition and The Last Tape.
When the new century finally dawned we were
in Allendale for the Tar Barrels. Mortal men
in fancy dress or faded
Umbro sweaters moving through crowds
with platters of fire on their heads. Earlier, morning
wandering in Hexham, trying
to avoid getting chinned on the Sele, buying
peev and tabs and catching the bus up and out
to the edge of the Pennines, the long walk out of Allendale
to Bobo’s, then a longer period waiting in a small windowless
attic room for something to happen. I wore: one zipperless
grey Topman fleece with a round collar, white Etnies
trainers and a reddish beanie bought
a few days earlier from the surf shop at Tynemouth
emblazoned ‘BONG’. Also combats. We smoked
Regal and drank Red Stripe, fumbling
lecherously my Numark DJ-in-a-Box set, fingering
DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin vinyl,
anonymous drum’n’bass and an old BBC
soundtrack record found in Battle Hill Oxfam.
In this suffocating space removed from the world
the Regal and Red Stripe swirled in my head and a tack
joint tipped me over the edge. Vomit
in the gutter of the barn outside, by which point
the party had begun. A set of decks wedged
in the corner of a shed played
Goan trance, happy hardcore,
jump-up jungle, fluorescent motifs on banners
tied to the beams, stoned bewilderment,
no actual dancing. I tried to get
it together sitting on a stone plinth by a
feeding trough. 303 squalls and bass drum
wormholes plagued me, then I rallied and walked
into the village for the midnight procession, wedging
the block of tack into one of my Etnies, just in case.
Drew managed to get served in one of the four
pubs in the village square. The rest of us stood about
watching the barrel men, just trying to maintain
balance, as so often in this phase
of our lives. We’d all taken way too many magic
mushrooms that autumn and it fucked us
up — The Blair Witch Project and Campag Velocet
eliding with the hallucinatory disquiet
of those weeks. Bleak, harrowing nights I lay
awake convinced I was on the edge of a moorland
nowhere from which I would never escape
while Dracula waited at the window. We returned
to the rave and after an interval began to think
about sleep. Bobo’s parents wouldn’t let
us back into the house, so we found a spot
in another barn and bedded down there exposed
to the winter night, sleeping bags just about
saving us. It was a year of animal fear but
as I listened to the blend of wind and softly juddering
techno I felt a corner had been turned.
We watched him die for eighteen years
and still he would laugh back.
The doctors got it wrong again,
our grief was now bankrupt.
Feel that relief, they said, of debts removed
(or kidney). Of illness tempered for
a little while, by drugs and luck and cheating.
And yet there’d be another fall,
a new prognosis and another
knock – a debt collector or a doctor.
And I wondered if I’d forget our address again
as I did when I was ten,
on the phone to the paramedics
or whoever they were.
I wondered if I’d forget the necessary numbers—
a phone or a postcode
as if I don’t want them to find us, really.
Trained from an early age for avoidance,
for running away, for delaying death
and bankruptcy for a little more time
I thought of what it buys, this expensive delay:
a game to play, and some evenings in. A little
whiskey, but not too much, “You know my liver
Isn’t what it was.”
In spite of it all—those forgotten numbers, dramatic
near-ends, falls and sickness, I couldn’t help but find
my father’s smile just charming.
For a moment, an evening, we had evaded them again,
we had lost the debt collectors and the doctors
and one drink is almost enough,
one evening is everything.
Eugene Thacker is the author of several books, including In The Dust Of This Planet. He is Professor at The New School in New York City.
The following extract is taken from Infinite Resignation, which will be published by Repeater in July 2018.
The luminous point
at which logic becomes contemplation.
Lost in thought.
Adrift in deep space.
In winter mornings,
doubtful, viridescent shapes
hover noiselessly on the slightest sound.
Subterranean, precipitous creepers ignore our pleas.
Entire forests levitate.
World-weary chrysalids hurl themselves upon us at a depth no human eye can see,
and around us this night a thousand million firefly anatomies
breathe in and out in their slow-burning liturgical glow.
A nocturnal robe of obsidian draped over
our most precious, most anonymous thoughts.
The mortality of even the most opulent ideas, patiently withering
with all the indifference of our dissipating flesh and nerve and bone.
Lyricism and laughter, sorrow and spite, the bittersweet smile of futility,
all intermingled in the sullen suspicion of
all life (and above all human life) as a weary cosmic joke.
The same effect is gained by tripping on a flat sidewalk,
or missing the last step on the stairs.
We sing to the subterranean, precipitous creepers
and ask them which path to take.
Rosary of stars, seaweed skin,
the once-hushed sleep that begins to form our shadow.
It is we who suffer, it is we who suffer each other,
it is we who suffer the world into which we are thrown.
That the world is against us is incidental.