Poetry Pages V: Pity The Poetics By Harley Claes

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The literary community on Twitter love a book giveaway - I enter at least one per week, even though I almost never end up winning. A few months ago, however, I got lucky, and was rewarded with a free copy of Harley Claes’s debut collection Pity the Poetics (among other things). Claes describes herself as ‘taking after the Beat Poets’, bringing their bold, explicit, stream-of-consciousness style into the 21st century, slipping between the real and the imagined with ease. The entire collection is full of dreamlike, vivid, and divine imagery - it’s a difficult and complex read at times, but it’s worth pressing on, especially if you’re into escapist, surreal writing. Claes may be relatively new on the poetry scene, but it doesn’t feel like she’s going away any time soon.

Structure: This is a long collection - it would be hard to read in one sitting, and I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to poetry, but it’s stuffed to the brim with beautiful material. I’d estimate there are 100 or so poems in the book, and while most of them are only a page or two long, towards the end of the collection there are some that border on flash-fiction length. A lot of the poems are very similar in style and almost flow into each other. I like this, but I can equally see how it could get repetitive fairly quickly.

Aesthetics: psychedelia / lucid dreams / molten wax, molten everything / sirens / harpies / grecian statues / a pantheon of gods / tv static / echoes of the big bang / calla lilies / bacchanalia / pollen / unintelligible whispers / burning paper on the beach with a magnifying glass / danse macabre / oracles / visions / the fae / dilated pupils / water running uphill / silent screams / pulled wisdom teeth / cracked marble / phosphorescence / iridescence / fibre optics / lies through gritted teeth / melodrama / dripping tar / glowing children / muses / tangled wire.

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Favourite poem: It’s impossible to pick out one from such a long collection, but Subtle as Psychosis, Mosaic of Inevitable Habit and the storylike Child Lucien stand out to me as exemplary of the genre.

Favourite quotes:

  • ‘Child Lucien, with his head on backwards, shall have life at his fingertips here and however long afterwards.’ -Child Lucien

  • ‘We want spiritual abundance. A place to indulge. An audience to understand from a pacifist perspective. An easy-listening crowd.’ -With a Head Full of Manifesto

  • ‘For she awoke as glowering as a cherub as if it was her first day truly conscious, alive.’ -The Virgin Mother, a Virgin No More

One-line summary: The crazed dreams of a modern angel.

Lucy AllisonComment