I had come across Knives, Forks and Spoons Press earlier this year through Adrian Slatcher's Extracts from Levona. A strange, oddly compelling book. It's a small press that specialises in 'linguistically innovative poetry'. You could argue that all poetry should be liguistically innovative, but let's not.
What you wouldn't argue is how gymnastically innovative Anna McKerrow's landscape is. The Tarot works to cycles and so it's apt her book works to the cycle of a year - weekly readings form the basis of the text. She spent another year collating the weekly pieces to produce the poems in the book.
Not that the pieces feel constricted by rewrites, deadened and deanimated by cutting and tinkering. They pulse on the page. Each respond to five randomly chosen tarot cards, and each create a bauble of shadowy images, filched from streets, the natural world, the body, art, religion and mythology in a bubbling chemistry. Together they make a crazy make-believe laboratory, full of vapours and coloured liquids I was a little wary of at first.
It took me a while to adjust to this world, to learn its language to get over the culture shock of unfamiliarity. I'm a lover of narratives. And this book, a cross between Jane Graverol and Carrie Ann Baade, requires a double take, a step back, a step forward.
Then a slow sinking under, a relaxation of comprehension and an open mind brings a different consciouness, a change of light:
"heart sink/barb cruel/soft eye risk/shadow sword stack cut/glass words/cut like a cat/thick pane/even the strongest men/soft spooled/fur will rip/dire musicality..."
Sensuous, edgy and funny. The path these poems take is narrow and foggy, in the sense that I didn't really know where I was going at any given point in them. This makes for a destablised read, but also a vital one, my senses fully alert as to what may rear up.
Because of the Tarot element, there is also a sense of the imperative:
"...buried skull/space waits to be filled/jewel cries victory/through rubble/ignore naysayers/their mouths are stopped up w/rocks/exploded/rare sunset..."
- a commanding overview, the seer remaining hidden behind the images. Again this distance is unnerving, but it somehow it feels safe enough (once I've accepted the jamming and spacing of punctation that inhabits this lawless landscape). Safe, if I am safe, that is. Reading and rereading the unpredictable scape made me feel exposed to suggestion, imagery and connections I don't normally make within my own life experiences. Stumbling between play and dance, I get the feeling Anna wants us to open new pathways. It is one of the roles of the Tarot.
Anna has managed to balance between the spiritual and domestic, the unsettling and safe, so keeping me reading through her year. As a lover of narrative I did feel the absence of shape to the book, but this is not a collection interested in creating form, this is an expansive book, its form is bound by our Gregorian calendar, but even that isn't evident, there is no neat seasonal references as we pass through the year. The expansiveness is generous in its welcoming spirit, calling you to enter.
Go on ....