Monday, March 21, 2011

Review by Dom Gabrielli

Hugely pleased by the below, a review I just received from the talented Dom Gabrielli. Check out his site here and buy some of his work too.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here or reading Puppies and Monks and Medieval Memories by David McLean


'Hope is a knave befools us evermore,
Which till I lost no happiness was mine.'

(Pascal translated by Beckett)



David McLean's Puppies and Monks and Medieval Memories is another beautifully obscene and intricately chiseled slab of virtual stone hurled with insouciance and sweet maliciousness into the stain-glass windows of political quietude and collective hope. A strange verse, granted, but one whose potent iconoclastic matter melds into delightful cadence, whose lilting mellowness is the sucker punch, contradicting the poison in his message, flawing the best of us with carcinogenic energy.


The McLean machine runs in a world of icy isolation, with a scenery of snowy lakes and boats and puppies. A slightly chill assemblage where words flow unencumbered. Here in frozen time, the poet meditates with a smile as long as a nearby fjord, as he sprinkles venomous drops of intelligence on the roots of arborescent ridiculousness. 'There is so much to defile under this pasty sun.'


what the old thief and killer knew,
rolling his stone through empty eternities,
was that he was actually living a very short life,
and nothing mattered much, not really,
so he didn’t care for anything,
didn’t ask for forgiveness,
for this was always meaningless,
where there can never be a sin
or a wrong, nothing to regret
where every pretended obligation
is forgotten
and nonsense.

he was part of me, basically, like everything
i see, like the starry night sky,
like the whole of reality.
he knew that, too, and he knew
nothing lasts. he knew this all stops forever
and that he was radically nothing, like all of us.
for that makes it so much better –
we are total losers, and soon dead
our nothingness shall be forever.
we are frauds like life the psychotic
murderer, pretending everything,
being nothing, that’s why he loved it -

(what Sisyphus understood)


Bernardo Soares, a lonely heteronym of the giant Pessoa, claimed that certain sunsets moved him more than the deaths of children. It's that messed up of course, and children sadly injure themselves with hope and other dangerous blades. Evolution is a long haul to the present asylum. Here, the close to 'nothing relevant:'

there was a fish once that crawled out

from sea to sand, he was the one
that invented madmen,
he it was who filled this populous hell
with all of us devils.

we walk here in shirts as if night were
here, as if everything were already forgiven;
as if history had returned, and we were free
of guilt, timeless medieval children

The sun shone far too much in 2010 to hide the glare of the human psychosis which nothing can save, certainly not expletives, 'fuck it' being 'just another two words'. Destinies however have lessons to impart. We have already met Sisyphus, now it is 1934 and here's Genet in Andalusia. The French poet misfit's determination for revenge finds himself a slightly reluctant admirer:


i might have wanted to be Genet in Andalusia
in 1934, though i never saw love like a spun ray
of light fall between two friends, just the utility
they raped from each other, like the gross black

prick with which Genet consoled his self,
his dusty identity shrugged over his humble
struggling shoulders like an old man’s gray coat.
i might have dreamed as he, though men are nothing

to me; the tattered flags he draped over them
are clumsy as the abandoned bodies of children
no souls lived in. but i admire his decisiveness –
the choice to isolate his ancient heart in young

nothing, to drag that despite over him, cozy
as a cloak. and love them as revenge
forever. his vision of corruption he swam in
as a chosen lake of conspicuous innocence

and deviance. and the old hags wagging fingers,
he loved them and would have dribbled
his spit as absolution over his sluttish
mother. all the pussy he never pounded,

though passion was possibly more violent
in the arms of some more ambitious
murderer. i can almost remember the beaches
and the long dead sailors, misery in their

fingers. they must have sung once, i suppose,
and between people all he could see was love;
for decay smells sweeter in the next grave:
and the dusty young man, unwholesome

under the wholesome Spanish hills –
his legacy remains

(Genet in Andalusia)

A marvelous poem, as many are in this volume. Precarious sense, on the edge, but never falling, staggering, almost toppling, but ultimately staying on the surface, crystal layers of Swedish ice. The inherent multiplicity of this style resists interpretation. Deleuze praised the aphoristic style for this very reason, because it needed to be experimented, that it needed, following Nietzsche 'rumination. McLean's is aphoristic poetry. The reader needs to chew the cud. Just as the writer needs to write like grass.

In McLean's anti-psychology, our composite, necessarily plural identities are colonised by zombies and mutants and maniacs, perhaps because death lives within us and we in turn try to hide ourselves within death. Reason we know dreams up monsters and McLean is ready to pounce on the frailties and crazy delusions of rationality. Identity thus charted is a strange geometrical mess, where death somehow precedes a history which 'tends to come to an inconclusive end.' Humans deny this somewhat awkward state of affairs and in despair turn to chainsaws for solace. But zombies aren't all bad, wound up as they are in schizophrenic affects, for identity itself in its so-called normal manifestations is pretty horrid.

a zombie sits dead between us on the sofa,
between each instant. at one point
i shot him in the head with memories,
and his jaw hangs even deader
than the rest of him, deadest maybe
because of this – dead
as a telephone and twice
as hopeless;

i hope he records what we say to him,
some place where he displaces
anxiety in me. he is all my dead
forever, and hangs hopeless
his lovely eternity. profane
decay, baby, this zombie, he
sits dead between us on the sofa –

i hope he remembers me,
our arrogant eternity

(a zombie sits)

Interesting to compare Auden's Lullaby with McLean's pastiche lullaby. Here are the two first verses head to head:

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

(Lullaby) Auden


come rest your fleshless head, my death,
immortal on my cancerous arm.
life and living beseech clothed bone, homeless
in a minute's meat, but our grave shall prove
Cadaver's truth, through every coldest eternity,
blood be but memory in me. so in my loveless
zombie clutch, let your stinking carcass lie,
till no undeath shall rape us awake
to some terrible telos in resurrected life.

(lullaby) for Auden

Our atrocious and hilarious times have no time for tidy lines and capitals and whilst Auden's Lullaby is already deconstructing the classical 'amour a deux' in favour of a love beyond the couple, McLean wreaks any hope of love without serious lashes of irony and caustic humour. Beckett's malicious translation of Pascal wisely reminds us that hope has a lot to answer for and that Dante's paradise is no better than hell and that happiness strangely, simply, comes once hope in its illusory sexy corpse is abandoned forever. Abandon hope and undeath can be fun, particularly wandering through the history of thought with some playful puppies and a copy of Puppies and Monks and Medieval Memories but don't download it, buy it. Everyone needs a pet zombie in their caravan.


Dom Gabrielli, 19 March 2011