Every town begins in the imagination. Every town is a continuous, sustained act of belief which exists as an entity because, collectively, we all agree that it is so. A group of people settle someplace, probably near water. They build their houses, stake their farms. Merchants come, after a while, to service them. Then come priests, then the lawyers, then bookshops, cafes, record-stores. And then, inevitably, as the old imaginations pass into the earth and new ones arise and swivel their focus off to newer, brighter loci, the town begins to fade. Towns are physical things, built by brains and calluses. Even the smallest town is layered and complex because it is the product of more than one mind. You can’t drop in on a train, spend a day wandering around the centre, and expect to know the place intimately. You have to inhabit it, become part of it. You have to add your own layer of paint, build your own wall, and watch the things you’ve added interact with all the others that arose before it. It takes a lifetime to really know a town, and it would take an ambitious imagination to attempt to distil the essence of centuries down into an hour’s worth of poetry, images, and sound so that a stranger could build a model of that town behind the ridge of their skull. Adam Horovitz and Josef Reeve have very ambitious imaginations, and Little Metropolis, their latest project, is an incredible success.
Little Metropolis is a multi-layered, multimedia project composed of local histories, poetry, original music, photography, and a series of charming illustrations that are designed to mimic the effect of existing enmeshed within the fabric of the town. The subject is Stroud, a small market town in Gloucestershire. During the Industrial Revolution it became known for its woollen mills (some of the chimneys still stand) and it remains a bustling centre whose edges are just the slightest bit faded. When you order a copy of this project you receive a beautifully presented pamphlet containing images and poetry, along with a CD composed of those same poems presented against the background of electronic music, local voices, and the cacophony of street-sounds. Taken all at once, the effect is immersive; engulfing. If you do not know what you are getting into, it can be a little much. But soon enough your disorientation passes and the reader is lovingly swept up.
It is difficult for me to effectively review the technicalities of music composition, but I can review its effect. Track nine on the CD is called ‘Ghosts’ and it deals with an odd sort of unsentimental nostalgia. In it, gentle electronica slowly morphs into passionate chaos while stanzas of poetry (focused on the slow erosion of the past) are interspersed with fragments from on-the-street interviews with locals who remember their favourite memories acquired while they were growing up. Music stores feature. So do bookstores and libraries.
The poetry ties it all together. Opening the pamphlet to page 26 you find the poem which the accompanying aural-landscape is based upon:
Ghosts wherever you tread.
Ghosts in the cinema.
In the pubs. Café ghosts. Small town ghosts.
The fallen, the crazed, the angry
and the lost. Ghosts of the dead,
of the missing-living – those friends whose paths
have turned aside from yours,
fizzing in the half-light of shift work
of altered priorities, of babies or of moving
beyond the glistening bubble of the town.
In the pamphlet, this poem is accompanied by a minimalistic line-drawing of a pair of bare feet, moving across a stark, white background, leaving a bright-red trail of blood. On the CD, Horovitz reads with a rhythmic, musical cadence against a background of city-sounds. These effects may seem contradictory; the busy soundscape, the isolated blood, but reality reflects this contradiction. In a town, one can be utterly surrounded by noise, by hustle, by crowds, and still be absolutely isolated, trapped in the white-room of memory.
Some of the poems focus on the distant past. ‘A House Built From Cloth’ describes the ways in which the industrial revolution shaped the heart and form of the town, along with the soul of the narrator:
I grew up watching the past
pulling the weight of the future
along the canal’s linear thread.
Others, like ‘Farmers’ Market’, focus on specific local places and highlight the ways in which these landscapes alter and influence the stories of the people who inhabit them:
Sad Robbie met a woman
who wore other people’s hearts on her sleeve,
reopened the conversational wounds on his tongue.
Clutterbuck stood by the donut stall
for hours, unmoving. He woke up in the Heavens,
a constellation of sugar laced across his lips.
This project is full of glimpses. Small, furtive sights that are nevertheless enough to draw you in. It would be very easy to dismiss this project as something made only for the locals of the town which it describes, but that would be a mistake. By focusing so specifically on the psychology of one individual town, Horovitz and company have opened a window into an aspect of human psychology that is universal and collective. At times, the execution might come on a little strong, but that is not a fatal flaw. This is an ambitious project, beautifully executed. I strongly recommend it.
Order your copy of Little Metropolis here: http://littlemetropolis.bandcamp.com/album/little-metropolisRead More
My Mother Visits the Dissection Room
She said she wanted to go there.
So I pulled some strings,
read her the rules.
“Sensible shoes?” she said.
“Yes Mother. Plus clothes
you don’t mind ruined.
Fixers, they don’t wash out.
The smell will get you,
but not of death. More chemicals
like wax and rubber.”
But my mother, being my mother
didn’t seem to mind.
Walked right up to the
stuck her hand inside.
“You won’t even know
I’m here,” she said.
Pulled on a dark-blue lab coat.
as I unzipped the body bag,
revealed cavities and cages.
Stood on tiptoes to peer inside,
scribbled in her notebook.
So I placed a stool
three feet away;
her territory and mine.
When the students filed in
they looked at her,
the older woman with colourful shoes.
Whilst I quizzed the students,
she daubed her paints.
At the end they crowded round her.
Admired her line and
brave use of colour
whilst I put the organs back.
As the students left
she called out to them.
“Call me Poppy!” she cried.
They waved from the door.
“Weren’t they interesting?
What a wonderful body,
all those nooks and crannies.”
I slung the heart in a plastic bag.
Looked at my watch
before herding her out.
Then as we went to the door
she turned round and said,
“Shall we say the same time next week?”
Eliot North is a doctor, educator and writer who lives and works in the North East. Commended in the National Poetry Competition 2014, she made The Crab Man into a Filmpoem with artist and filmmaker Alastair Cook. She loves to collaborate.
Author’s Note: My mother has never actually visited the Dissection Room.Read More
This time after the morning
rituals for the day, you turn your
back, button your blouse, no
glimpse of even your bra. New
I can tell that you are looking for
words, but don’t know how to
find them, like crows pecking at
eyes in a cornfield.
The silent moments are awkward.
Finally you say my therapist has
said it’s ok to talk about this.
I have no idea.
Just watch the drapes rake
across the glass where the moon
and dim stars follow the west.
No more sex for awhile until we
can sort all this out. Part of my
Another has been injected into
my flesh without inoculation.
Winter beyond the windows
where singing has stopped in
the tops of bare trees.
He even suggested that it might be
best if I move out for a time, just a
bit, you know.
I remember that it was never me
who wanted to soil the untrampled
snow, never me who wanted to
make prints on the virgin blankness, to
be in the snow without touching, to know
purity without pause.
A friend will help me move my things.
Don’t want to bother you. Just a bit, you
To go into the red dust
on a burgundy oak leaf,
this coming of age, our
knowledge such as it was,
the frantic automatic weapons
long ago unleashed.
Ralph Monday is Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN., and has published hundreds of poems in over 100 journals. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book Empty Houses and American Renditions was published May 2015 by Aldrich Press. A Kindle chapbook Narcissus the Sorcerer was published June 2015 by Odin Hill Press. Website: http://www.ralphmonday.com/Read More
Her grave lay under the rosebush.
We planted her first
and by her parents’ hands
the rosebush followed shortly after.
Rather than heavy black straps
we used umbilical white ribbon
to lower her into
the three foot grave.
We left the ribbon in the earth
along with early spring daffodils,
scattered purple petals
and a solitary red rose.
The small wooden cross
became the arrow pointing
into the earth,
to their fourteen month loss.
William Bridge has worked as a Funeral Director for many years and is now based in the South West. When not working or writing poetry he enjoys real ale.Read More
Your hair thick as mooring rope –
I wound it round my hand
pulled your body close,
walking kept us warm
on the spider-silk threads
of a ploughed field
the oak and horse chestnut
compassed their last leaves –
like old women with rosaries
sending hail Marys to a stern
Atlantic squall, we pressed
against the broken gate
arms and faces set with cold
as autumn’s last frontier
bruised us through our clothes
and nobody could see
through the blackthorn hedge
from our path, so nobody
could know what passed, beyond
the lake soon to be eaten by ice
beyond the redwing’s whistling
call, the herd of fallow deer
in the copse, light-footed as snow.
Alexandra Strnad read English at the University of Cambridge, and graduated with Distinction from the Master’s in Creative Writing programme at the University of Oxford. In 2014, Alexandra won the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. Her poetry has been published in a range of journals and anthologies.Read More
The congregation of trees
stands with the wind
hoofing its way through their limbs
we kneel beneath
in the dark
in the rich mulch of their clothes
hand in hand
the deep howl of an Atlantic front
cos God doesn’t fuck around
Michael Ashley is a full time thinker and occasional writer. He is nearing old and lives in West Yorkshire with his partner, two dogs, two cats, and a couple of spiders. He’s had some success with getting his scrawling shit published. He is currently an editor at www.Poetrycircle.com.Read More
Drug route, gun route-
nappies, cartons and bottles
below griffs and hags.
The moor a midden of shit, ash and offal,
the dead seeping into drains.
And by a cairn a sheep slate-grey
hard up against a gale,
and the road east brake-light red
sliding down the valley’s throat
Ian Clarke was born Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and is published widely in magazines and anthologies. Recent collections include A Slow Stirring from Indigo Dreams Press and BARD 132, a broadsheet in a completely different register available from Atlantean Publishing.Read More