Doxological bells form sonic latticework your soul is meant to climb. Ropes of incense rise around the mercy seat, no one smells the right day, no one allowed inside the tent. Toxic mistletoe dangles like a surveillance camera hung by a corrupt king. A child’s balloon has a much longer string, so there’s more time to catch it should it slip away. A vertical dream of Herod redirects a horizontal flowchart of Magi, one of a series of dams raised inside synoptic valleys. Strategically dropped dream-bombs sprout walls to shape the future Ascension. How do you avoid influencing the sequence of life events penetrated at hidden points by the dream? How do you clean the dust off the dream button without pushing it? The time traveler has to fall asleep staring at the picture of his target day the day of. He goes to give a gift to Neanderthals, a pre- historic spoiler about gold. He goes back to buy the time travel book but someone had beat him to climb the bookstore ladder and had bought it already. Himself. The book of myrrh perfume can’t be taken from the bottom of the stack. It needs patience, till it comes of its own accord to the top of the pile.
Jesse Hilson is a writer living in the Catskills in New York State. His writing has appeared in AZURE, Maudlin House, Pink Plastic House, ExPat Press, Windows Facing Windows Review, and elsewhere. His crime novel Blood Trip will be published by Close to the Bone in 2022. His poetry chapbook Handcuffing the Venus De Milo will be published by Sparrow’s Trombone in 2022. He can be reached on Twittter at @platelet60
I knew this book would be for me as soon as I read the description: an experimental, poetic, flow-of-consciousness exploration of reality, fantasy and all the spaces in between. Yes please!
This is the kind of book you bring yourself to, in that you’re never 100% sure whether your experience is what the writer intended or whether you pasted your own meaning over the top of their words. There’s enough continuity, enough thread to hang onto, to make the text flow through an arc, but it also leaves a lot to interpretation.
I read this as the narrator delving into and confronting his own psyche. Perhaps it comes from knowing this was written during the first pandemic wave, when many felt isolated and helpless, but I see someone grasping desperately at straws to find meaning; someone left alone with his thoughts and falling deeper into their clutches. He picks at scabs, seeks out dark corners, obsesses over repeating motifs and patterns, and he digs.
Logan Ryan Smith writes dark, disorientating, and highly imaginative streams of consciousness with a unique sense of humour and madness. In the third of this new series, I caught up with him to talk about isolation, the flow of writing, and the unreliable narrator.
Hi Logan, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!
Hi, C.R. Thanks for the invite to participate. Very happy to be a part of this.
How are you faring in these strange times, is isolation a help or a hindrance to your creative process?
Outside of the occasional moment of being overwhelmed emotionally by the terror and beauty of a whole planet trying to achieve something together, in unison, not only for themselves, but for their families, neighbors, and those workers out in public selflessly providing essential services for the rest of us, I guess you could say I’m doing quite well, actually. As I’m betting you’ll hear from most writers, I’m not incredibly social. I’m not antisocial, but the things writers like doing (reading and writing) are things done in isolation already, so it’s not a huge disruption to my life. And I’m in isolation with my favorite people, my family, so why would I complain? So, we’re taking this lockdown very seriously and fortunately they’re like me — not super social. I guess we were all homebodies to begin with, so we’re not dealing with the same stress as those that have a real need to be out and about with bunches of people. So it goes.
As for the creative process, I guess it has stymied it. I usually take a break after releasing a new book, but I likely would have begun a new one by now had this whole thing not happened. I am fine with (some) isolation, but I actually do a lot of my writing out of the house. That’s mostly due to not having any kind of writing studio in our house, which means the kids would be asking every five seconds what I’m doing, what my book is about, and if they can help me write it. But when I say, “Sure. Tell me how many S’s there are in ‘occasional.’ I can’t remember,” they just give me blank expressions and start hitting the keyboard, laughing madly like a couple tiny maniacs. It’s frightening. You should see it. That said, even if I get my writing studio with a door that locks (we’re going to try to convert the garage during this time of lockdown), the six-year-old is already a master lock-picker. So we’ll see how that goes.
Aside from needing space, I’m also not the type to write when my mind is completely occupied by something other than the thing I’m writing at the moment. I turn on the news every morning, hoping against hope that the death and infection rates are slowing, and as yet, it seems to only be increasing. Hard for me to think about my next book when that’s how the day starts. Then of course there’s getting used to working from home. So, sitting all day in the house on the computer for the day job makes it a little daunting. I mean, to basically “clock out” of the day job without having gone anywhere and then to simply “clock in” to the writing job is an abrupt change in gears and I’m much better working when there’s more of a transition from one thing to the next. I hate abruptly changing gears.
All THAT said, the itch to write is a lifelong affliction, and that has returned. I’m ready to get rolling. What that will likely do is inspire me to get to work converting the garage ASAP. So, long story short, this whole crisis has affected me by inspiring me to do some home renovation. Who’d a thunk it?
The memory man wanted to leave scars. To stun and ravish, scorch and discard, slice and heal. He wanted to cleanse the mind, beating thought down as it arose to leave a blank canvas for the marking. It was said that he would bind his victims to chairs and play heavy, emotion-laden songs while whispering stories to complicate their depth. I was all ears.
I was all eyes for the images he tied to scents. All skin for the scraping he tied to taste. He parcelled them up with pretty pink ribbons and hooked them onto my neurons with bent silver pins. His name was etched upon every one because that’s how the magic worked.
The magic. The pain. The scars of remembering. Will they ever be gone?
Laying me down on a child’s bed and showing me the moon. Hanging a playing card on a chain around my neck and shooting the Joker. Blood running down my collarbone, words only gurgles and spits. Filling in the holes with soft towels and expensive shampoos, unwashed bedsheets and no safety catches.
Locking me out but forcing me to look in, lids forced open with drops of barbed verity. The pages of the memory book jumbling before my eyes, but don’t worry. The magic will stick them back together with sour milk and tears, all in the wrong order. Force them into geometric shapes with folds that shouldn’t exist. Boxes and boxes and boxes filled with terror and a hint of lust ‘n’ lemon. They might be here forever.
‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness; windows into the back rooms of the mind.
I was thinking about the confused mash-up of media, sensation, product and role in JG Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition. The impact of the snippets we take in without context; that we stitch together ourselves behind the scenes to create strange, private narratives.
The assault of information and imagery has increased immensely since that book was written in the late 1960s. Many times a day social media gives us an abundance of raw sentiments, adverts and articles, and we process them all in parallel to real-world stimuli, hungers and emotions. To take it all in we skim-read, we focus on what draws the eye or persuades the dopamine receptors. What kind of stream of consciousness does that create? Continue reading “Sex Appeal: A Found Poem”→
I had a date with chaos. I knew it would come, but never when, until one Tuesday when it spontaneously crashed in around me. It sent wine bottles flying and blasted out the music of my scent. Static interference. Sferics, I thought, as I bit my tongue. Chaos struggles with language, so, as it made itself at home in my cellar, I translated its vibrant colours for the sake of conversation.
“Human beings always coming with their whys,” it said. “Making connections. Putting meaning on my doings. The only disease that afflicts me. Billions of whys.”
“Giving things meaning is what we do,” I replied, curling my forefinger around a lock of hair. “We are castle builders. We pull the loosest of your sands into mind-buckets and force them into aesthetically pleasing shapes. We do it because we can, but also because it’s fun. Don’t you like the whys?”
The skies opened then, and flies with beating red hearts for eyes poured upon us. In seconds they covered every bit of visible skin. They crawled and buzzed and ate and loved. Grotesque things. So I said, in the most flirtatious tone I could muster, “I’ll take that as a yes.”
‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness: windows into the back rooms of the mind.
I love the shape of words when they are under the spell of a poet. Every word fights for its place on the page and only the most potent survive. Perhaps better than reading poetry, though, is hearing it performed. There is passion in its delivery; rhythm and reason and life transferred directly from the poet’s body unto their congregation.
Good poetry conveys visceral knowledge that we all share deep down whether we realise it or not. It summons something common to have yet rare to behold, and teases it up towards the surface. It taps into a stream most of us have paved over with asphalt, and brings forth the purity of spring water. The taste will be bitter for some, but that’s on us and our tainted expectations of what truth should taste like. Extreme impacts like violence and drugs are as much a part of the human experience as love and security.
I used to write poetry to explore things I could understand in no other terms. I mythologised myself. Put my deepest feelings into symbol and code. And only my mind was the key that would translate the true meaning. My rhythm and reason and life. I made only one copy of each poem, typed out on an old-fashioned typewriter complete with overtyped errors and emphasis thumped into the paper by my strongest fingertips. Those poems were stolen one day, by a man who wanted my heart in a box. Perhaps, in a sense, he got what he craved.
I wonder, do poems expire? Once on paper in their complete form do they begin to rot without the vital life force of their creators’ key? Perhaps that’s why so many great works are printed on limited runs and cannot always be bought via the usual channels. Perhaps the words leave the pages behind and sink back into the ground, dissolving completely: eternally free now their job is done. Or perhaps they live on in their human hosts, kept close to the chest, ready to re-emerge in alternative configurations in some other place and time.
Wow. This is why Emily was special. Not one other person had noticed my sculptures and I had put a lot of effort into them. I buzzed with excitement.
“You look beautiful.”
She had always glowed at my compliments, but refused to take them. “Still a charmer, hey? I know you say that to all the girls.”
“Of course, but it’s true with you.”
How could I make her see I meant it? I wanted to ask her if she still felt the chemistry between us.
“It’s still there isn’t it?”
“It’ll always be there,” she assured me.
I watched her deep purple lips as she said it, banking the moment and the words into permanent memory. Her hair was caught in her earring, an oversized pewter black rose, and I reached to untangle it for her. She stiffened and looked nervously towards the door. The door through which her new boyfriend would soon emerge and crush all my hopes of getting her back.
I took a bathroom cubicle shortly after that, where I could let my pure panic out by punching the cistern until I bled. Things started getting weird then, and I don’t know, maybe I blacked out for a little while because what I remember next is very loud and very close and tequila