This Is Virus, Joe Williams
Self-Published, 2020 £4.00
The redacted document has become one of the most powerful tools for appearing to be transparent, while at the same time saying absolutely nothing. We wait half a century or more to have files opened and then discover they have been gutted to protect those involved. On the flipside of this we are now presented with official documents and press releases that contain multitudes of words but say nothing.
Joe Williams has taken what should have been one of the most important documents of our time – the letter and accompanying information leaflet sent by one Alexander De Pfeffel Johnson — and turned its announcements and guidance into poetry via the ‘erasure’ approach.
I’ve often thought that the ‘erasure method’ is the result of a writer just looking to kickstart a poem. While the randomness of it can be inspiring, and heck, I’ve even done it myself, generally this sort of approach should be kept in the notebook or on file.
However, for my money Williams has created something with real punch here.
In ‘The Prime Minister (II)’ the lines below stand out as a brutal assessment of the government’s motives during lockdown (NB that’s still happening at the time of writing).
The poem ‘Support’ suggests the leaflet has been doctored to indicate that
What we are not being told is more important than what we are being told. Williams’ reading between the lines (as it were) has brought more to the fore by removing some of the wood for the trees.
Whether this pamphlet will be relevant in even five days’ time or not is irrelevant.