Poetry WTF?! #2 Presents Howie Good and Dale Wisely,
Howie Good and Dale WiselyOrange cover with POETRY then WFG?! in caps in orange on black squares like cut up text, uneven rows. Under this PRESENTS in smaller but ordinary black text. Below this author names. Howie Good is in white letters with black outlines and Dale Wisely in ordinary lower case black letters.

Sampson Low, 2016    £2 + £1.20 p&p in UK

Retro pleasure

This slender, orange-and-black, A6 chapbook is typeset in American Typewriter, or something very similar. I like its retro feel. Long ago I worked in a typesetter's and the presentation of the poems here reminds me of the texts we produced there, on shiny bromide paper.

Rather wonderfully, too, this pamphlet’s authors are named Good and Wisely. They must have sensed a need to work together! And work together they do: the whole thing is rather like a pleasing CD sleeve (do CDs have sleeves?). The words and images sit well together and the poems – which are actually compiled from titles of films and artworks (details provided in ‘Credits’ at the back) – to me, resemble song lyrics. I’m reminded of Bowie, cutting up and collaging lines. That seems to be what’s happened here: ‘orange sunshine, silent holy stones / making sense of nonsense’ (‘Love and Carnage’).

The pictures are annotated with words that also appear in the poems: ‘use bombs wisely’, ‘network of stoppages’, ‘sad young man’. Each is linked by a line to a part in the picture – like an authoritative ‘fig.’ in a textbook. I buy it. Also love the style of the pictures and accompanying texts: a slight smudging effect makes them radiate and draw me in. Perhaps my favourite is ‘the gods are wringing / their great worn hands’, which looks like a flower or insect, framed by a kind of dial. I’m not sure what it means, but it has a ‘pop’ authority that’s aesthetically reassuring.

The first poem (‘Credo’) begins:

Sun on the horizon
letter from a yellow cherry blossom

I focus on that
which interests me

To me, they’re like small meditation prompts. They send you off in unexpected directions, some quite edgy, but carefully judged: ‘Fresh widow. / To be looked at / with one eye, / close to, / for nearly an hour’ (‘Anemic Cinema’).

In the end, I’m not quite sure what I take from all this, although the back cover promises ‘a surreal poetic landscape that reveals our collective anxieties and fears, hopes and dreams’. I certainly enjoy the (retro) ride. 

Charlotte Gann

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When it comes to pamphlet comps, what’s the choice?

A good number of competitions are currently running in the UK. The Poetry Business International Book & Pamphlet Competition is perhaps the best known – and most coveted – but new ones spring up (and down) all the time. Here’s a list to get you started. (Please nudge us if you know of any we’ve missed.)

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