Exodus in X Minor

Title: Exodus in X Minor
By: Fox Frazier-Foley
Published: 2014


Exodus in X Minor exists as a hybrid of mystical, highly experimental poetry; and a composition of classical music. The refrains that are also poems sometimes repeat the title of the book as their title; whilst others explore the past lives of a “Fox-haired girl” (presumably referring to an alter-ego of the poet herself- her name is Fox).

Amongst the magical aspects of the poems are highly un-romantic themes. Yet even these themes are explored in the style of the great romantics. For example the poem “For Maddy Learner, Age 6, Accidentally Killed at an Outdoor Firing Range in Upstate New York”. It is a bloody and horrific theme, yet still expressed beautifully. This intense sense of beauty and the darkly beautiful allows Frazier-Foley to look at our world and then create an intricate shadow of it. The world in her poetry relates to ours, yet is also entirely her own.

Frazier-Foley experiments within her poetry. She uses found newspaper headlines as titles. She also carries out experiments in the way she represents the words of her poems on the page. Like a painting, the arrangement of the words are as important as their content. Arranging the words like this allows Frazier-Foley to express the divided nature of her poetic voices.

Exodus in X Minor is vital reading for anyone who appreciates the link between music and poetry. It reminds me a little of Cloud Atlas in that way.


Lies My Mother Never Told Me

Title: Lies My Mother Never Told Me
By: A.F.Harrold
Published: 2014
Publisher: Burning Eye Books

The front cover of Lies My Mother Never Told Me suggests serious poetry. It almost looks like a Faber Faber cover. However I suspect that this in itself is an intentional joke- if you expect sincere poetry on opening Harrold’s book, you thought wrong.

For any reader Harrold’s style takes some getting used to. Yet slowly his style blooms and his odd sense of humour grows on you. His poetry is childish, but it thankfully never pretends to be “fun”. If Harrold were a clown he would be Twisty from American Horror Story. Instead his writing has the same child-like yet fascinating, brutal quality as so-called “primitive” art does. A prime example of this is the opening poem of the collection “My Mother”, which runs: “My mother/always encouraged me to talk/ to strangers//’You never know’ she said/ ‘When one of them might have some sweets'”

However it must be said that although Harrold’s obscure jokes are frequently funny, they also often aren’t. His rhymes are also occasionally pedantic rather than effortless. Still this doesn’t effect the humour of the collection overall.

I would recommend this book to anyone with time for some light and humorous reading (perhaps over the Christmas holiday!).

AF harrold

during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present

Title: during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present
By: Brandon Scott Gorrell
Published: 2009


Gorrell’s book is like an alt-lit flipchart. It moves amongst themes and styles on a page by page basis; teaching the reader a lesson on each one as it goes. Overall the book is an education in avant-garde literature.

Gorrell’s most frequent theme are the various aspects of depression. As the blurb states, he writes about “anxiety”; “low self-confidence”; and “alienation”. As he writes about these issues alongside self-referential moments about his own life as a poet and copywriter; the book has a quality similar to Knut Hansom’s Hunger. Gorrell looks repeatedly at the unstable and isolated life of the writer.

In places Gorrell writes with the intense rhythm of a rap; yet in other places he tells micro-stories or uses long enjambed lines. Throughout these he disregards traditional grammar. Instead he uses the language of social media to communicate- which is arguably the modern vernacular.

My favourite poem in the book is robosouthamerica and the immense future which looks at how the human race is doomed due to artificial intelligence.

Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Panda Express Employee by Megan Boyle

Title: Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Panda Express Employee
By: Megan Boyle
Publisher: muumuu house


Megan Boyle is sailing along the height of the Alt-Lit movement. Her collection of poems/blog posts are vital and immediate. In places the book reads more like a series of confessions than anything else. Xanax, poetry, identity and lettuce jokes all reoccur throughout the work.

The trademark of Alt-Lit is it’s complete disengagement with usual literary rules. Boyle refuses to use grammar, correct spelling, or even capital letters. However she clearly defines her life in her work, and links the two through her own brand of formality. Her stanzas are short- frequently one line long; and her wording is immediate. She does use metaphors, but her work is not metaphorical. This is similar to the way she uses rhythm, yet not any formal metre.

Alt-Lit has been rising as a key component of literature since the late 1990s. It has used the rise of the internet, following the patterns of social media as they come. Despite recent scandals regarding Alt-Lit and the objectification of women, the movement continues to grow, and influence other art forms. However, it is an almost entirely American movement right now, with American poets being the key members and American small presses being the ones to spread the word in print format.

Boyle’s other constant theme is sex. She lists her sexual liaisons in an act of Tracey Emin mimickery (mixed with the confessions of Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton). She also describes sex with each genders, using matter-of-fact language.

Overall Boyle’s work is a major piece of Alt-Lit. It is also more accessible than some other Alt-Lit texts, and so is a useful way into reading the movement.

LINKS: http://muumuuhouse.com/meganboyle.poetrybook.html

The Best of Eleanor Rigby Volume One

Title: The Best of Eleanor Rigby Volume One
Released: November 2014
Artist: Eleanor Rigby
Label: Future Legend Records

If you’re interested in music, there is an opportunity this month to buy a solid piece of indie-rock history. Future Legend Records are re-releasing the music of cult singer Eleanor Rigby for a limited edition, CD album. Her music is a gorgeous mess of sound, supported the entire time by her beautifully tonal voice. Despite being unavailable for five years, this album to celebrate Rigby’s 20th Anniversary of producing uniquely delicate music, collects all of her singles together into one CD.

LINKS: http://www.futurelegendrecords.com/#/eleanor-rigby/4544024568


Title: Encyclops
By: seekers of lice
Publisher: if p then q
Published: October 2014


Encyclops is an intriguing trip into false scientific conclusions in an almost foreign language. Like the poet’s name, it manages to be ugly and beautiful at the same time.

The poems in Encyclops have their own special language. It is thick with scientific-sounding words; and other words with twisted meanings that have more to do with onomatopoeia than actual meaning or connotation.

Yet despite this oddly false and disorganised language; the book seems to be desperately trying to communicate with the reader. It’s garbled message is a romance with difficulty and the common human struggle. Political themes such as nuclear war are partially explored, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps. This makes it an incredibly challenging, but also intensely personal read.

In other places the text trips itself up with interruptions like a Caryl Churchill script.

The structure of the collection has underlined titles, followed by a short verse. There are many of these to a two paged spread. This creates the illusion of bitesized poetry; although thematically this probably expresses more about division within a single person or object (such as the book).

Encyclops is an exciting collection, and a key example of everything modern experimental poetry is.


Everyone Knows this is Nowhere

Title: Everyone Knows this is Nowhere
By: Alice Furse
Publisher: Burning Eye Books
Published: October 2014

alice furse

In world where university puts students £30,000 plus in debt, Alice Furse’s novel about a disillusioned, newly graduated woman is startlingly relevant. Furse writes with the weary weight of personal experience about a young woman trapped in a mundane job, despite her intelligence and university degree. The tedium of the job drives her (the un-named protagonist) to try and discover some kind of meaning in her life. This slow realisation forms the start of her journey.

The protagonist’s romantic relationship with a man known only as “The Traffic Warden” is a metaphor throughout the novel for her internal struggle- their relationship wavers parallel to her psychological journey. As their relationship grew out of meeting at university, this aspect becomes especially poignant when Furse chooses to describe the absurdity of the current educational system. The Traffic Warden relationship is also a gauge for the journey of the protagonist towards a mature understanding of herself and the outside world. This extended metaphor is amplified by the symbolism of the protagonist’s dreams- she dreams repeatedly of feeling trapped in her soul destroying job and tedious relationship.

Don’t worry- there are no New Age style revelations in the book. Instead it is about finding contentment in the ordinary and moving forward towards larger goals at a steady pace. Furse’s focus is how the characters ARE as themselves. She manages a large cast and range of characters with detail and characteristics that anyone who has worked in an office will recognise.

This book is for anyone who has done a degree and quickly become disillusioned with life after it. And that is a pretty broad audience.