STEVEN JOHANNES FOWLER Reviews
Clerical Work by Wayne Clements
(Veer Books, London, 2010)
Clerical Work is the latest collection from the Writers Forum poet Wayne Clements, and the latest release from Veer books out of the Birkcbeck based press. Clements' action, to form patterns of speech in both physical and verbal delivery, which seem exclusively bound to the repetition in his work, exposes the phonetic behind the philosophical. Clements actively engages in the complexity of his intensions, laying his text very much next to the incisive satire of the reduction he fundamentally employs. That is to say, he evokes the phrases contained again and again, strategically and decisively found as each fragment is, so they show up as traces, as shadows of texts so massive one needs not even to have read them to understand what action is being displayed in front of you.
The works of Marx, Kant, Berkeley becomes the poetic fragment, repeated, ad infinitum, and the great, indulgent works of masculine philosophy and are both held to the breast and exposed as pompous with the ingenious, Loki-esque impishness of the poet. His action is one of great affection and sly humour, of philosophical satire. It is the decision of poet who knows the reduction of thought is the wisest path but one that cannot be followed to satiate the mind of those who read philosophy. The words, the endless sentence, begin to open up the larger texts, and with genuine affection and kinship, the simplicity of the poems begin almost as a footnote or introduction to the spirit of the original philosophy. To take a sentence, a phrase from a work of a thousand sentences to work it into the listeners / readers mind is to make them realise the apparent necessity of an attention to detail in those works which they can never achieve. It is to create an infinite responsibility to the texts, and this, being by its very nature unfulfillable, makes the action humourous and sly and clever.
Moreover, and of central importance, they harry and corral the flimsiness of the language employed. Here again we see the sophistication of the action employed. Clements is exposing the oft-forgotten structuralist realisation, the divergence between signified and signifier. By weaning these phrases across his collection one becomes attuned to the action of absolute focus on each sentence, on each phrase, and as such the meaning of each word reaches a massive prominence. Whether one begins to lose sight of the words power or decency, or whether this becomes acute, the poetry is valid for this – it reminds us of the tenuousness of our linguistic assumptions in poetry and beyond.
Reading Clements work aloud is also inherent in this process, to work the poems out when being said exposes something inherent in the words, and when read, there is a rhythm, unique to his delivery in fact which maintains the fractious energy of the poet’s originating action. This collection is extremely valuable and productive contribution to the British poetic avant garde. It is well considered, well constructed and intellectually grounded.
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Steven Johannes Fowler (1983) is an employee of the British Museum. He edits the weekly Maintenant interview series for 3am magazine showcasing innovative, contemporary European poets and is the author of two forthcoming collections, Fights (Veer Books, 2011) and Red Museum (Knives Forks & Spoons press, 2011). www.sjfowlerpoetry.com www.maintenant.co.uk