Poetry Responds to Poetry
By Charlie Baylis
Inner Space Ghost Machine is UK poet Rupert M. Loydell’s pamphlet-length response to US poet Daniel Y. Harris’s “post-human reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnets,” The Rapture of Eddy Daemon. Loydell takes Harris’s poetry and blows it across the stratosphere into a “strange corner” of the universe, replete with “faulty androids,” “millipede erotica,” and “forgotten aces in the sky.” Inner Space Ghost Machine is a strange read, buzzing with gaudy red-and-yellow cover art, off-beat illustrations by A.C. Evans and an almost impossible-to-follow narrative. Its poetry is the product of not one but two warped, weird, and wonderful minds.
The poetry bears the influence of the New York School poets (particularly Ashbery and Berrigan) washed with the sci-fi futurescapes of Ballard and Burroughs. There is also a faint hint of one the most important British experimental poets, J.H. Prynne. Consider this extract from Prynne’s “Down where changed”:
If the day glow is mean
and spoiled by recognition
as a battery hen, you must know
how the voice sways out of time
beside this from “The Unmaking of Eddy Daemon”:
Spare eyes are always useful
but are not medically essential,
you must see how you feel.
There is a certain affinity, both in the simple language and the way both opt for directness with the use of “you must.” Following Prynne, Loydell’s poetry fits neatly into the lineage of British experimental poets. However, at least in the above, there is a difference in tone. Prynne’s poem is of a serious nature whereas Loydell dwells on an absurdity: the use of spare eyes. Absurd, but at least for me, endearingly so.
My favourite part of Inner Space Ghost Machine is the concluding sequence of ten sonnets (unrhymed, supermassive blocks of text). The sonnets remix the poems from the first half of the pamphlet, with additional material thrown over them like a glass of water thrown over a laptop. It is here that Loydell’s narrative terrorism reaches full throttle, pedal to the metal:
Fly by, fade. No anaesthetic is required. Once everyone is in uniform,
constellations of lust leave. Vapour is completely still, the head can be gone,
and when I’m on gas he won’t remember the day Hurricane Jane worked her spell.
It is hard to keep up with the ever accelerating images and characters, but it is nevertheless a thrilling joyride, infused with a sublime sense of speed. By the ninth sonnet Loydell turns his focus onto the form itself:
Why would you rely on the sonnet? Why indeed. It emotes, it was not to be, but
it is there, so let’s dismantle it as words fall on deaf ears, let’s see how it works,
watch it dying in his mouth. Stop. Please stop emoting, stop sharing, stop trying
to share. Poetry is a final descent, a splashdown into hell.
These words seem a genuine call to arms, an attempt to move poetry on from the simple “emoting” and “sharing” which plagues much of the mainstream presses’ publications. Loydell interrogates the sonnet while his interrogation actually becomes the structure for the sonnets themselves; it is as if the sonnets are rebelling against being sonnets. This twisted use of traditional form is unlike any variation on the sonnet I have previously read.
The poem I keep coming back to in Inner Space Ghost Machine is ”The words mean nothing,” which opens with:
It is as though the words mean nothing
and the editor can reorganise.
It is as though physical gender means nothing.
Eddy is feeling dismayed, his body,
his own work is reassembled,
nobody asked him how or why.
The first line is direct—it echoes down the empty corridors of my mind weeks after reading. The following lines suggest two things: firstly the physical process of remix (in my mind I see Loydell wielding scissors and glue with a mischievous grin) and secondly, the haze of copyright laws in the so called “post-internet” era of poetry. The internet has blown up the boundaries of copyright and as Oscar Wilde 2.0 might have said: “copying and pasting is the sincerest form of flattery.” ‘The words mean nothing” speaks to the very modern fear of copyright violation.
One slight qualm I have with Inner Space Ghost Machine is Loydell’s recourse to the language of the everyday, for example in “Hurricane Jane”:
Keep your eyes on the boys,
they never know what they’re doing
That Eddy Daemon, he’s a one
I feel there is a slight disconnect between the radical concept Loydell uses and his simple language. Sometimes I find myself craving a more adventurous word palette, full of fractures and distortion. However, this is just personal preference; on the whole Inner Space Ghost Machine is an excellent read, full of futuristic and exciting poetry, a pamphlet that absolutely revels in its otherness.
Copies are available for $12 in US bills, from Analogue Flashback Books, c/o Stride, 4B Tremayne Close, Devoran, Cornwall TR3 6QE, England.
You can view his author page here.