RUSSELL JONES – SPACES OF THEIR OWN – STEWED RHUBARB PRESS
This collection of fourteen poems
by Russell Jones is both surprising and welcoming. It is supposed to be science
fiction poetry and that means here the poetry projects itself into some
scientific situation of the future or the past, the scientific reference being
the metaphorical and parabolic fabric of the poems, at times delicate and soft
like a tissue, at times rougher and coarser like good old hemp cloth. It is
difficult to be more general than that. The poems were not written in one go,
along one path, across one land, but are collected here from different moments,
times, places. So take them one after the other and try to penetrate each one
as one door to the other side of this world, at times the other side of the
dark side of the moon seen as a blind mirror. Are there a rabbit and a Queen of
Hearts on the other side of that looking glass?
In “Blue Planet” the self making Homo
Sapiens species has transformed the Earth into a blue gem set on display in the
sky. Will the newcomers on their emerald green flash of a cosmic carrier
recognize our toil and our art? Not sure since we cover the whole line down to
the jeweler but do we have good selling procedures and manners? We might only
be a grainy imperfection and the apes of long ago might come through that gem
of ours. Are we as much self-satisfied as we are semf-gemmified?
In “Five Monkeys” we are a simple
machine that only analyses wave-vectors from what is called TV1 transmission
and the object of this analysis is a “young girl in explosion.” Reconstruct
this image by analyzing simple patterns and associate them into some
complexity. It sounds like Jeff Hawkins. The first attempt is producing a
clownish smacking apeish grin on the face of the image. The second attempt only
sees the context, the explosion, the three terrorists on the side. The third
attempt sees a landscape far behind and hear the music of the girl’s tears and
the three terrorists’ camouflage pants flying through the sky but yet that
seems to be too heavy, too gross to represent something. The fourth attempt is
nothing but some kind of a tempo cadenza and nothing inside, the measure of the
violin music but no notes between the bars. The fifth attempt is an endeavor in
empathy and the “I” speaking and using the machine is in the machine and
projects his own phantasms into the picture, a jungle and two species of
monkeys, makaks and macaws, in a jungle with waree palms and their edible blossoms.
But all that is projected onto the image itself. The “me” and the girl are both
like tied up face to face in an unreachable divided stance, frozen into some
kind of tropical glaciation. Can we see the real world, and life in that real
world with the machine we set between our senses and that real world? Very
In “The Ant Swap” the human
species opens up to an ant, open up all their orifices to that crawling ant, in
fact one ear only and the ant can speak to them directly from antennae to eardrum.
The meeting of an earth bound animal and a sky bound human. What can they
exchange since they have so little in common? The poem is erotically worded and
we feel both penetrated by its simple truth and somewhere violated, or is it
raped, by the common fear of some creepy-crawly beast getting down into our
ears. And yet what an adventure!
In “Static Life” a human specimen
is thinking his last thoughts before getting on some trans-cosmic sleep in one
of these pods that can transport you to the other side of the universe. The man
little by little is chilled into sleep and becomes nothing but a silent part of
the machine he has been entrusted to. That’s the future of long absolutely
empty periods with short conscious periods in-between. I have always wondered
how a human being would emerge from that long voided period of non-life.
In “girl.drm” the man speaking in
the poem obviously is giving some advice to another. The prize or stake is a
girl, or is it a girl? That being the second man is gong to meet is told by the
first one to be this girl who is protected and the metaphor is cruel. Touch her
and you will be kept aside frozen into permanent impotence. She is a killer to
anyone who approaches her with some kind of enterprising spirit. She definitely
has to be a female android and you have to have bought the digital rights to be
able to use her/it. If not that’s a pretty misogynistic vision. The apple of
the Garden of Eden all over again, though Adam and Eve seemed to have gotten
rid of the divine drm by eating it..
“Ghazal Jigsaw” transports us
into some Arabian Nights vision of a stars-composed love that is extremely
erotic and at the same time the narrator is talking to a “you” that is setting
the stars in place. That you is like a fox hunting pack of dogs with horns
behind and the stars are the foxes. And when the jigsaw puzzle is finally
finished, when all the stars are set in place a rocket can come up , the window
can be opened and the mental, if it is only mental, orgasm can occur, and the
narrator can only pick the red dwarf the “you” of the story, the star-setter
drops behind himself. There is a tremendous passivity in that narrator and he
expresses it with the systematic run-on lines that break the semantics of the
sentences whose syntax is sliced up with a repetitive burden coming up over and
over again: “the stars are set,” but are they really?
In the calligram “Star” doubled
up in some kind of mirror vision the words are kind of building the head of an
arrow. Get lost between the end and the start and all the moments of imprecise
dimness that gapes between the dart and its target, between the din and the
dinner noise that blares shrilly in the swishing hush of the stinted flight
that will stop your heart in one go. Cupid is at work again, that dumb toiling
“The Bang” is a funny erotic poem
about the meeting of two opposing protons (whatever they may be) in a Collider.
Make one Alice and the other Atlas and we are in Alice’s restaurant. Sex on the fast
exhilarating run between two stupefied dipsomaniac AAs in the chaotic Brownian
precipitation of a plain Edenesque fall into unconscious delirious inebriation.
And that could have been Jason and Atalanta or Alexander and Atlas, worse even
Jason and Medea. Such dramatic meetings in such transient conditions always
lead to catastrophes and apocalypses.
In “After the Moons” we have such
a negative vision of humanity that we should feel ashamed of being humans. We
cause all kinds of catastrophes and we are only those who go around cleaning up
the mess we are making and all other native living beings are just to be
cowered at a distance on some mound and brushed outward by the thrusters of our
damage processors or garbage processing spacecraft. We are the mega and meta cosmic
cavalry and behind us nothing classified by our own charts as damage, garbage,
not worth existing is reduced to ashes. How many cosmic Indian villages will be
destroyed by our cosmic yellow ribbon carrying bitch of a cavalry. John Wayne
not dead indeed.
“Teleportation Error” takes us
once again in an in-between state: what is our consciousness while we have been
being transformed into a data dump in the memory of some CPU while it was
teleporting us from A to B? Not much indeed and flashes of memory are
evanescently distorted at the end of the trip. And it all end in one word that
is so polysemic that I suddenly feel woozy.
Reformed like a useless piece of
Reformed like a criminal in
prison turned into a meta criminal?
Reformed like the reformation
that turned Inquisitionary Catholicism into fundamentalist Protestantism?
I defy you with these machines to
be just formed again or re-formed into what you used to be. Do we have any
recuperation points in our own biological and psychological, not to speak of
In “Condemnations from a laptop”
the author is lapped into the seven ages of life that Jaques enunciates in “As
You Like It” by a certain Shakespeare:
Unnamed sixth age
Second childishness and oblivion.
Can you top that? I must admit Russell Jones is more radical
and a lot more expedient and expeditious, and it sure covers more ground from
even before birth and definitely after death.
And note how marriage is just the convenient action to
precede and prepare death, as if it were necessary to have that kind of
formality since sex is just the free going substitute of teenage. And the seven
ages are just mistake-howlers and crashers on your computer. Life is a machine
and death is nothing but the Big Black or Blue Screen of that machine under
In “Chromosome Medley” Russell
Jones takes the chromosomal descent upside down and ascends it back to what it
was when Homo Sapiens emerged from ape-hood or ape-dom. So we start with 2052
when we can choose every single detail of the not get conceived baby who is
nothing but some kind of a living doll being composed trait by trait, and
probably entirely conceived in a computerized test tube. Then back up we go to
1984 when women started dressing – and maybe behaving – like men, when sexual
looks were no longer necessary, ambiguity guaranteed, and finally we go back up
again to 0008. And sure enough chromosomes, or should I say genes did not
provide man with anything particular like eye colors or toe sizes, but since
Homo Sapiens was just emerging from the ape the two eyes had the new potential
of seeing the way human beings see provided he learned how to do it, and though
the baby did not have a book under his arm or a pencil in his hand, he yet he
was potentially able to read and to write. Note he will have to invent writing
before being able to read and reading a book will be nothing but reading the
stars of a man-made sky.
In “Study: Siblings” two children
are ripping a book apart and that is a great pleasure but in fact it is a great
step in the growth of a child. The child rips the book up, hence destroys the
whole and reduces it to a pile of pieces but each piece is a whole of their
own. The child does not understand the concept of book because he has not
reached that level, but he sure has reached the level just before and he rips
the book page by page and thus has the concept of page in his head. Imagine a
dog ripping up a book. It will just rip the book as a sole object with his teeth
and claws; certainly not page by page. We all know that characteristic of a
child and we even invented cloth books for babies and infants so that they can
suck on them as if they were some non-perishable fodder or some yummy pacifier,
and they cannot tear them up since they have no teeth at least no dog teeth.
“They [do] revel in the wholeness of the pieces” by turning the whole book into
its piecemeal pages.
The last poem “Re-entry” is a
closing poem in itself since it is the last thoughts of an astronaut who is
burned to particles by his failed re-entry into the atmosphere. Death seen the
way it should be for everyone, beautiful, peaceful, fast and vaporized into
total vacuum. In fact the last trait is true for everyone, no matter what you
may think or believe. Beyond there you only have vacuum and void, emptiness and
absence, though the last one would be from the point of view of someone who
stayed behind. Death is a black hole of anti-matter and death is the promise of
I just hope these poems have an
anti-life beyond the black hole of being published between a black front cover
with a white spaceman and a yellow kalashnikov dangling from the sky of the
title, and a yellow back cover closing the book like a round of automatic
kalashnikov bullets. Don’t forget to pick the cases.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU