Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press


This Is Virus, Joe WilliamsThe jacket is plain and mostly white. There is a black horizontal band a third of the way down, which seems to be hand-painted, uneven and stops short of the edge at each side. A white section to the left of the black band contains the words 'This is', in black lettering. Another white box slightly lower and to the right of the black band contains the word 'virus'. The author's name is in the main white area of the jacket bottom right.

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).

This is a screenshot image of the quotation with is text with redacted areas. The text reads as follows. I will insert XXX for black areas: 'too many people xxxxxxxxxx cost lives. We must xxxxxxxxx reduce / the number of people xxxxxxxxxx in order to save xxxx lives.

The poem ‘Support’ suggests  the leaflet has been doctored to indicate that

Another screenshot quotation. It reads: 'The Government knows xxx all / xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and / xxxxxxxxxx has taken action

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.

Not a quote this time but screenshotted to get the redaction to work. It reads 'Please xxxxxxxxx buy it.'
Mat Riches

Join our mailing list

This list allows subscribers to receive automatic email notifications about new OPOI reviews and poetry pamphlet news posted on Sphinxreview.co.uk. Just enter your email address below and check the small box for email notifications.


Please confirm that you would like to hear from HappenStance Press via:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website: https://www.sphinxreview.co.uk/index.php/privacy-policy.

We use Mailchimp as our email list platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.