The Melee of Language

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Interview

 

Shuddhashar: What is it that you strive to explore and convey through your poetry?

Dom Hale: Everything, from the weird incomprehensibility of my experience to how that experience grazes or misses the world. I don’t think you can write poetry by imposing limits on what you want to sing beforehand, circumscribing the horizon. Or I don’t think I could, anyway. It all falls in.

 

Shuddhashar: How do you interpret the present world, and how have current events spurred you to write?

Dom Hale: To be honest I don’t feel like a particularly articulate person in my day-to-day life, so poetry is a way of comprehending the world which strikes simultaneously at the depths of my experience. I go to write, and sometimes when I think I’ve just about finished with a poem, or at least I’m coming out the other side of it, I might have a fleeting sense of clarity. But this is very precarious. The act of writing the poem and living with it afterwards is the interpretation of the world. It’s never single-minded for me though it can be pretty hell-bent: the world only gets translated however momentarily by staying with the contradictions and trying to keep on the balls of your feet as best as you can in the melee of language. Inevitably this can mean responding to what’s going on at any one time, either directly or obliquely.

 

Shuddhashar:  What literary pieces – poetry, fiction or non-fiction – and writers have informed and inspired your own writing? How have they done so?

Dom Hale: Since I was young, some of the English romantic poets have been important to me, especially Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. Recently I’ve been reading the stunning new collected poems of Anna Mendelssohn, I’m Working Here, edited by Sara Crangle (Shearsman, 2020). Mendelssohn’s work gives us this completely idiosyncratic, intelligent, resistant way of writing through the pain and beauty of artistic and political commitment. I’ve also been loving Dambudzo Marechera’s Cemetery of Mind (Africa World Press, 1999), edited by Flora Veit-Wild. A properly amazing, outrageous writer. I can’t think of a better line in any poet’s work than ‘My anarchist arse has shat on society’.

 

Shuddhashar: In what way do your personal identity and experiences shape your poetry?

Dom Hale: I think this is a difficult question to answer interestingly. I’m too close to the work, too involved in the chaos. But for me, the personal identity and experience of any poet is bound to mould and saturate their work, often relatively obscurely, even if their poetics involves an explicit commitment to moving away from or trying to suppress these qualities.

 

Shuddhashar: How do you use structure, language and grammar to accentuate the message of your poetry? Do you subscribe to conventions or break them?

Dom Hale: If a poet isn’t constantly attacking deadening conventions then I don’t really see what the point is. True poets are revolutionaries; they have to be. This doesn’t necessarily mean a wholesale abandonment of forms that might be considered ‘traditional.’ The best poets invent new forms, sure, but they can also energise and agitate inside existing shapes. Forms that are given to us from history can be a way of speaking with and to the dead, a gift, and shouldn’t easily be misconstrued as intrinsically conservative.

 

Shuddhashar: What is your opinion about the conflicts and solidarities between political poetry and the literary and artistic values of poetry?

Dom Hale: I think that any notion of the separation of the aesthetic and political is a bourgeois lie.

 

Shuddhashar: Does your poetry transcend national boundaries? Does it appeal to different nationalities or linguistic groups?

Dom Hale: I’m an internationalist. I want an end to colonial violence and state oppression the world over, and the abolition of racial capitalism which works to destroy our lives, communities, and histories.

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Poems

 

 

LIFE INSURANCE

We will no longer serve you. A day warps

strained through orange light, tenements and forms

moulting their fixity beyond the heat shimmer of infinite summer

Birds burn through the upper atoms

Getting dicey off the rails

And I think of my skint companions

where they might be, what they could be up to at the moment

Passing hours swallowed in manipulation

aches like cranes and girders of regenerating cities

the private forgery they grind our teeth inside

Deadbolt. Tuesday. But it’s not my tunes you lot hear

doing in the evening Illegitimate and fucked A sun defaults

hands me the familiar urge to bail

from this disgusting law-abiding country

Acres of the criminalised and watched

Scalpels hazard lights Old apparitions we have struggled with

 

The world would make us cold.

Ten years for tearing down a statue track the rip of truth

They ask me to account for my life

I will not explain myself, statute gorging out there lordly Beggared clouds

In England somebody takes themselves every two hours

I heard that in the recorded lecture I’m making notes on for a student

who I’ve never met and for which I will be paid £8.72

Gratitude is poison

and everywhere that poison smacks the hanging heads

my sister on her own and wasted in a soulless hospital

Wrecks beyond anything phrases can liberate

Kennel time Scalar blows Motherfuckers managing the NHS

Even as I type these lines I feel my deadening.

 

What cruelty have you been force-fed today? Lavender

bleeds the leaving sky a plane faint against it

bound for Global Infrastructure Partners and border checks

control towers of the hostile environment

emergency restrictions designed to isolate confuse and pacify

Reigning SNP the loyal retainers of the free movement of capital

indicting hunted bodies defenders of a grotesque landlordism

memorials the nadir of handcuffed brains

When a woman is abducted by a cop what kind of mass cultural derangement

orders hordes of plainclothes pigs into every fucking corner of an island

It’s austerity forever then

The commons was a lie or died in Morton Hall

cos air and water’s money

surveilled areas at night

But I am with you mate addicted sleepwalker

card-carrying dupe of Big Tech bolt awake still here

the multinationals divvying up the rotting USA

batted between screens, attention like a burnt-out building

and nothing for my co-conspirators

I saw the sawn-off future in the river

saw the dented springtime was a baton

One lockdown too many.

 

These purple marks on my lower abdomen

are signs that the corticosteroids and drink are catching up with me at last

Nobody really asks how anyone else is doing anymore

because the truth’s about impossible to bear

and so widespread reduced to platitudinising as to be almost meaningless

in the little society of unhinged screaming at each other

Begone from the poets’ boundaried paradise

sent packing from the GP surgery

I look to you for a dunnock touch

Flux of shoots snowdrops on London Road Gardens

or the short-lived yellow ones Pleasure grounds for dogs

If I have a dissidence it’s clinging to these hollow rooms

hollow but at odds still with the barrage talk of public fact

So draw yourself up to a great height and snap the actual fuck out of it

The mould may well be with us to the desolation and our end

If I’ve reflected torment I have reflected light

and aimed my tailed brokenness like a broken hyperlink

at the psyches and opinions of the lost eyewitnesses

I will walk deep into a woodland

Now you see me there

 

 

SOD IT

And all of a flower it’s underway. Rabid light

To the divine timer, the friend who blew full pelt

Barking on the tongue, sweet, off-peak

Hurling in from Manchester without a tune or rest.

What I need is one more autumn, one more shot:

Tonight I’m 27 and the adrenaline

Whips like wishes to a skiver on the pulse

A sky lilac of the federations. But I reckon

We’ll be gorgeous from now on. There rolls another evening

Swift fidelity and grace: my stolen life lies naked, my

Stolen life zips up, losing those bold rosaceous figures

Tracing the dodo job in a vast capital, losing you

By another when Leith’s all perfect light. Boats and gulls

Wearing the sea and the wet buildings talking shop

Jitter what it means to be a fucking symptom,

How trying to blink back rucked stuff

On the far side of the rational shade

Only becomes an infographic, nerves serried,

A foil of city speech to stick in the craw. And then some,

Through the revolving door. But I’m not fussed

Shit news oils in, it’s Saturday, there’s cops

Watching on Talbot Road. Smell of tarragon,

Smell of brine. My head’s high gone, and honestly I miss

A bar, sounds alongside the lot, not far

In a second that welcomes every thought your head could have

Wound to a familiar pier without suicide or cost.

This one’s an awful world to wake up lonely in

So leave the avenue, scop, sack it off,

Bite the magnificent air: it’s spring’s colour negative

Stepping out at enmity with something in my eyes

The portal forks. A no-show then. If I’m a little on the nose

I’m nuzzling in. You won’t forget, you won’t

Nod off, they’ll never pin you down. My brilliant comrade.

Those cunts can’t touch us. Hear me. Get lost.

 

Still, everyone moves on. I mutter like a fucker

And my facemask slips, overdone by Martin Hannett

Paying fees to the bouncers on Parnassus, tutting

Ranks of the employed. Time prosecutes the pores

Hammered, desperate, alone: it is onerous

Night on the world and the proprietors of history

Unfurl their grim bought gullets in plainsong.

But they will never recruit me, never take what life

I now stand by. Just try. So long. Use it cautiously,

An anthem stings the noose’s neck, a gale of laws

Until the burning orchard’s up in arms

And I’m not done. You have to slap my face

To make these run, you’re sick of it. The sticklers

With their literary careers to think about might take the piss

Or the pointless lunch monitors who’d have it all

Homogenised, make every poet toe an arbitrary line.

The pandemic really brought out the officer in you.

We have to get above all that. Sinew after

Sinew, lily pad to lily pad, a Serco cloud

A circler on his arse. I murmur evening to the waves

I wait by the kebab shop and I worry, shivering

About my friends at work and in the useless plastic street

Or lying on their beds in ordinary despair and

Fear. Spent half of lockdown sleeping, dead,

The other in a fucking trance. The poets’ fire

To the head. Too much to parse. A swallow passes on.

 

I have nothing else to say. My mouth is thick

With nettles, in a nettle song. Those shoes you’re in

They suit the season, though these days every season’s

Wrong. It was never reasonable for me to write to you

Disaster on disaster sent me west

I blew everything, bone idle, drinking in

A buttoned cast-off shirt with all the worst ideas

A séance for the ones I never met. And so

You turn off the lamppost and parts of weather

Topple from the prehistoric sky. Hold tight.

I’d like to be a better person, face out, face there, under

The heaving stars. A finch or a trowel. A sprig or a prow.

Put away the temperature gun. There is no

Handbook how to do it and I set off from the missing bar.

It must be otherwise. A mirage now

Your buds and decoys lie around us at the only

Pick-up point, you know I mean it in a seaside

Town. A weak connection is the anti-note. And then it

Hits in fucking waves. Capital is coming down.

 

 

 

 

 

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