NEVER MIND THE BEASTS
Writing actually as love! Marcus Slease’s crinkling, crackling prose is full of sparks, full of troubles, full of wonder. Never Mind the Beasts radiates with the force, brevity and immediacy of stylists like Mary Robison, Rikki Ducornet and Diane Williams. “The demand to love,” wrote Roland Barthes at the beginning of Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes; “overflows, leaks, skids, shifts, slips”. “Writing to touch with letters, with lips, with breath,” wrote Hélène Cixous in Coming to Writing. These are the thrilling, vibratory spaces, movements and possibilities Slease’s writing opens up.
Colin Herd, author of You Name It
Say Lydia Davis and Donald Barthelme had a son, and his life story was painted by Basquiat, and the paintings were ground up into a spice, then used to flavour a crazy-hot dish you just can’t stop eating while the scenery shifts around you: that taste might be something like Never Mind the Beasts.
Ruby Cowling, author of This Paradise
Marcus Slease’s ‘Never Mind the Beasts’: probably the wildest bildungsroman since ‘Anti-Oedipus’; imagine Joyce’s ‘Portrait…’ being retold by a Leopold Bloom on a mission to steal back epiphanies from standarized marketing. An essential, liberating read.
Matt Travers, broke Mayakovsky fan
Robert Greer, Review in Idler magazine (issue 75)
Elusive and allusive, by turns funny, moving and bamboozling, and with prose so slippery and shining it makes your cerebellum tingle. A really beautiful book of poet’s prose
Will Ashon, author of Chamber Music: About the Wu-Tang (in 36 Pieces)
robust pro aktiv quixotik goes evreewher is from evreewher nouns ar verbs verbs ar yu a nu way uv intraktivitee langwage th narrativ rocks takes yu evreewher thers no conclewsyun its in th going poignant tragik ekstatik have anothr box top meeting yu at th melting grange th adventurs dont stop home keeps mooving evn yu dont need 2 carree th props opn ths wun up each page fluid change meeting yu in yu alive wundrful a great xperiens ths book.
bill bissett, author of Breth /the treez uv lunaria
The prose poem is very ‘now’, with Jeremy Noel-Tod’s recent anthology a timely survey of a hitherto neglected field. It remains, however, an elusive form. How is it distinct from flash fiction? Ian Seed, a master of concision, is adamant he is not writing flash fiction. Lydia Davis, despite being lauded as a flash fiction pioneer, determinedly swerves the term. What is it that sets poetry apart? For me, it’s the way that language is used, a certain tautness, a refusal of mere functionality. By these criteria, Marcus Slease’s The Green Monk is very definitely a book of poetry.
All of the eighty-three pieces that make up the book are short, seldom reaching half a page. Things happen: porridge gets burned; oranges are eaten; dead milkmen do their rounds. These micronarratives, however, are secondary to the main business, which is language itself. The epigraphs make Slease’s sympathies clear, including Lorca, Rilke and Leonora Carrington: ellipsis, allusion, surrealism. One could also add the deadpan hysteria of Daniil Kharms. Slease’s work, like that of Kharms, is absurdist but rooted in the quotidian. In The Green Monk, the magical and the mundane exist not in opposition but in symbiosis. In ‘Black Hole’, a mysterious bearded man enters a ‘wooden restaurant’, but the true center of negative gravity is ‘an 80s microwave’ which emerges as a bijou dimensional portal.
Some pieces read like hypnagogic hallucinations, ‘The Lovely Bones’ for instance, where a priest commands his flock kiss a turtle named WB Yeats. There is humor in Slease’s visions, all the more so because he plays them straight. He is a painterly writer, operating on the level of image, texture and vivid color. He also knows when to stop, even if that is when he has barely started. ‘Foil Dinner’ only makes it once past the right-hand margin: ‘In ghost town. Sitting on red rocks. Fingering the flint. Fingering the foil. The potato cooks in the ashes. ‘
The Green Monkis a fantastic book, the work of a writer with great technical artistry, but a writer who deploys that artistry with subtly and restraint. These pieces are dreamscapes, creating and residing within their own bubbles of wonderland white logic. They have the strangeness of translations, although they are not translations. The Green Monk is an umbrella meeting a sewing machine uptown. Poetry needs line breaks like a fish needs a fish tank.
© Tom Jenks 2019
PLAY YR KARDZ RIGHT
“Marcus Slease’s gentle & generous engagements with the ephemera of almost-everyday life, coupled with a variant of bill bissett’s Lunarian English, and a sensuous, curious, cosmopolitan, and compassionate world-view, make this happily humble beautifully-modulated everything collection—without any shadow-of-a-doubt—my book of the year. For 1973 and for 2017.”
“Marcus Slease offers a great deal in Play Yr Kardz Right.”
“These deeply sound-based poems perform the linguistic athletics of English-to-English immigration: ‘I began in uh faild sosighity / with mushee piez / & fried pineappulz.’ This book dishes a sauce of green slime, trailers, ducktails, and fantasy: that of both sex and magic. The titles swirl with pop culture—Pretty in Pink, Body Snatchers, Beaches, Chariots of Fire—making the whole collection hum with non-sentimental 90s nostalgia, playful and pointing at the same time: Ronuld RAYGUN. This book is a delightful, full-bodied, fluid-rich study of how the past still exists in the present: ‘my bag / 4ever / uh rottun banana.'”
“Slease refuses the comforts of rootedness, stability, permanence. In doing so, he represents what the philosopher Rose Braidotti identifies as the model of nomadic subjectivity “in flux, never opposed to a dominant hierarchy yet intrinsically other, always in the process of becoming, and perpetually engaged in dynamic power relations both creative and restrictive.” – Piotr Gwiazda