amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, August 06, 2022

The Sealey Challenge 2022: In Focus - Just Meat Not God by J.D. Howse

The Sealey Challenge is a community challenge created by poet Nicole Sealey to read one poetry book a day through the month of August and share a shelfie, photo or poems and comments through social media. It can be a book or chapbook and I’ve also seen poetry journals shared as well.

 I’m taking part in the challenge for the first time this year. I share photos and brief commentary on the publication daily through my social media: https://twitter.com/KikiFolle; https://www.instagram.com/earlamanda/ and Goodreads.com.

 On August 6, 2022, I completed reading Just Meat Not God by J.D. Howse, the first publication by the new UK publisher, Hem Press, run by Richard Capener. Full disclosure: my pamphlet, Trouble is coming out with Hem Press in October. I’ve also been published in the former Babel Tower Noticeboard and would consider Richard to be a friend, but I’ve never met J.D. Howse.

 Just Meat Not God is a collection of poetry that engages with the art of Francis Bacon. It is unlike any ekphrastic poetry I’ve read before. It engages with the art on several levels: biographical, critical, political, social, philosophical, and emotional. It puts the art in the context of current strife.

 The articulation of the art of Francis Bacon is as vibrant, lush, striking and visceral as the art itself, and as such feels unflinching and vulnerable as the speaker gives space for emotion.

 The work plays with the form of the English or Shakespearean sonnet with 3 quatrains and a final couplet. Each line is divided into groups of words, fucking up regular meter perhaps, and serving to create disjointed, irregular rhythms and accumulations, the art made textual and the senses brought out through articulation in words. Colour is related to emotion in ways a synaesthete like me can really get into: “endless green silence,” (Study for Portrait of P.I., from Photographs, 1963), “beige emptiness of unnecessary & unwanted existence.” (Lying Figure, 1966).

 The vocabulary is muscular, Biblical, sonorous and the similes are unusual, controversial, the crucifix compared the animals as meat in the slaughterhouse (Crucifixion, 1965 (3)) to make the smell of Jesus’ death palpable and perverse. “just meat not god,” is the title of the work and it is repeated throughout like a refrain. “I am a body, & nothing else but repellent soullesness – just meat not god, rotting, textured, displayed & unsettled.” (Lying Figure , 1966). This is a work of existential uncertainties, of self-loathing, pain, grief and queerness. I found it mesmerizing and I think it will keep me up at night, staring into the shadows.

 “The world inside a painting / is a history / that rejects / the notion of events / following events; it is a narrative / that rejects / the closure / & certainty we / seek out in our stories / it is an ocean / that has dried blue / it is an occasion of thought”

Triptych, 1974-1977 (2)



 

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