A Discussion on Verity Spott with 6 Poems

By , and | 1 May 2020

To inhabit the site of squirming, but where possible, to shift the subject of the squirm. Spott suggests that the narrative of ‘I was born in the wrong body’ is only a ‘part way saver’ when you’re still in the wrong world:

Ahead of you is a perfect sequence of rational and professionally state sanctioned grills, routers and sieves. Behind you is a repressed derangement of habitation. Inside you, a screaming barb of lyric, passion, expression and defiance.

This too seems to describe the poetics of the other long poem reproduced here, which begins ‘So in your silent still small throat my broken voice may sing’ – a line which resurfaces in minute variations throughout Spott’s latest publication, Mutiny Aboard The RV Felicity. In contrast to its block form, its content manifests itself as pure liquid matter, at times mirroring the monstrous rationality of the so-called everyday world (there is ‘A colossal warning on the beach. People must not come onto the beach from the sea whilst they are alive, unless sanctioned they must first be dead people’), at others running through different corporealities like tides ebbing and flowing (‘We were stranded and we were also drowning and we were also breathing and we were also silent. We were also speaking … We were also no longer alive and we were also completely full of life’), then there are stories of mutinies on ships that no longer exist. During the Invergordon Mutiny in 1931 it is reported that a piano was dragged onto one of the participating ships, songs were sung, officers ignored, and the text itself seems to expel this instantaneous euphoria, spits shrapnel of signification from its guts: ‘Still small gut, there’ll uh! Assailed laughter slipped across the salt.’ And the laughter too slips through time to re-emerge in a different temporality; what connects both moments is the way in which joy can only be lived out as resistance (‘We had some drinks, we danced we kissed that’s all’) and is prosecuted for doing so. Time here is not linear; rather, disparate moments are almost synchronised through the persistence of an exuberant political defiance, which the text trans-historically embodies and resurrects. The poem is slippery, the distance is non-metrical, there are stones in these waters that grind against each other – ‘The fact of victim. The fact of aggressor … The pang of forced closure. The pressure to be.’ The poem is a ‘wreck loaded with explosives’, primed to go off at any moment.

Like a spider choosing to activate one or multiple sets of eyes at a time, Spott selects a form to fit the mode of consciousness, perception, or political need addressed in the poem. The narrative flow of ‘From a Reverie’ allows the shifting perspective of the ‘lyric it’ to move in and out of specific moments and images; in the blocked prose poem, nothing ever coagulates into the perspective of a subject. Rather than simply accumulating layers of textual information, the text becomes an enormous, electrified mass of oceanic revolt. And then there are the sonnets, with their delicate relations between the lines. Here, form almost seems to offer a refuge, a space of love in which to resist total personal/political annihilation: ‘If you are there, / oh there again is us’. A hope that there is a way to inhabit spaces of damage such that they become charged with liberatory energy – ‘colliding harms unite till bodies sing, / closely taut and still.’ Imagining a world in which Richard Spencer does die, of course, but is made a ‘testament to none’. Where summer’s fragrance might ‘block their throats instead’.

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