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Tears in the Fence Flash Fiction Competition Results

Tears in the Fence is delighted to announce that the winners of its first Flash Fiction Competition are as follows:

First Prize: Many a Pearl is Still Hidden in the Oyster by Ingrid Jendrzejewski
Second Prize: To Thee Do We Send Up Our Sighs by Niamh MacCabe
Third Prize: Coeval by Jackie Sullivan
Highly Commended: Found in the Street by James Bell.

Congratulations to the winners. Their flash fiction will appear in Tears in the Fence 65, due out in February.

The Tears in the Fence Flash Fiction Competition was judged anonymously by three judges. The judges were looking for inventive use of the form and to be drawn into and surprised by a fictional world. There were many striking and moving entries with some unusual plots and arcs. Many entries combined strong characterisation with unpredictable plots. Each judge produced a long list and then a short list. A great many entries made the long lists indicating that the general standard of entries was fairly even. From the combined shortlists a final shortlist emerged, which each judge reread and produced a top five. From the top fives and an agreed top four emerged.

The final shortlist was suitably diverse with many unpredictable stories and comprised of the following entries:

Strange Creatures by Keith Walton, Those Little Details by Ren Watson, Too Close for Comfort by Emma Norry, A Fine Goodbye by Ren Watson, Ten Ways to Prepare for Your Brothers’ Visit by Judith Higgins, Molly and the Toe Rag by Catherine Edmunds, Found In The Street by James Bell, Campanula Capratica by Phil Knight, To Thee Do We Send Up Our Sighs by Niamh MacCabe, Then It Was Autumn Again by Sherri Turner, Many a pearl is still hidden in the oyster by Ingrid Jenrzejewski, Spy Film by Alan Beard, Ladybird by Alan Beard, Snowdrop by Jacqueline Haskell, Jack’s Hat by Robert Vas Dias, and Coeval by Jackie Sullivan.

Congratulations to all those whose work was recognised by the judges.

We will be holding a second Flash Fiction Competition between issues 65 and 66.

Acres of Light by Katherine Gallagher (Arc Publications)

Acres of Light by Katherine Gallagher (Arc Publications)

‘grass grows beneath us: minute blades stir,
flicker – something is happening – a season
emptying into the moment, rinsing clean.’

I was struck by these closing lines of ‘Elan’, the first poem in this publication of New Poems by Katherine Gallagher. I like the liquidity of movement, that use of ‘rinsing’ with its delicate nod towards Hopkins’s ‘Spring’ in which ‘echoing timber does so rinse and wring’. I like the urgent sense of the present and the way in which its immediacy follows on from the stanza before in which ‘Children’s voices / split the air’. I am left almost waiting for ‘the little / lame balloonman’ to whistle his way out of ee cummings

‘and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful’

On the back cover of this fine Arc volume Martyn Crucefix writes of the poet’s new collection being ‘bejewelled throughout with haiku-like moments of vivid observation’:

‘Her delighted responses – in particular to the natural world – serve to peel away the film of familiarity through which we usually gaze’.

Many of these poems evoke the world of journeying and the accumulations acquired along the way. As the epigraph to ‘Odyssey’ puts it, ‘The danger of travelling / is how it takes you over’. We move from Maldon (the poet’s birthplace in Victoria) to Chartres; a ring bought in Florence becomes a talisman in Welsh fog near Brecon; the gold-mining town of Daylesford in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range is haunted by the poet’s mother whilst a leisurely riverboat ride ‘through Shepperton to Hampton Court’ follows the Thames. The Homeric theme of nostos threads its way through the years as well as the miles and Gallagher remembers ‘the lights of a hundred cities’ to none of which does she quite belong:

‘arriving by motorway, train or plane,
sucked into streets of languages
controlling locales, time, the air.

Which way, a thrum of questions, adapting lines
pidgin speak, as each city revealed
its minarets and spires, the glasshouses
of a chameleon century…’

We are not in the world of vertigo and claustrophobia that squats heavily upon Todgers Guest House in the early pages of Martin Chuzzlewit:

‘You couldn’t walk about in Todgers’s neighbourhood, as you could in any other neighbourhood. You groped your way for an hour through lanes and bye-ways, and court-yards and passages; and never once emerged upon anything that might be reasonably called a street. A kind of resigned distraction came over the stranger as he trod those devious mazes and, giving himself up for lost, went in and out and round about, and quietly turned back again when he came to a dead wall or was stopped by an iron railing, and felt that the means of escape might possibly present themselves in their own good time, but that to anticipate them was hopeless.’

Katherine Gallagher’s memories of her mother pour themselves out, emptying the past into the present, rinsing clean so that

‘I imagine you here, being yourself, striding

beneath a theatre of stars.’

Ian Brinton 3rd January 2017

XENIA by Eugenio Montale Translated Mario Petrucci (Arc Publications)

XENIA by Eugenio Montale Translated Mario Petrucci (Arc Publications)

Montale’s sequence of twenty-eight poems written in response to the death of his wife in 1963 has, naturally enough, been compared to the Poems of 1912-13 written by Hardy after the death of Emma. Regarding those earlier responses to profound loss Mario Petrucci suggests that the Italian poet thought that the section from Satires of Circumstance was “one of the summits of modern poetry”. The comparison is interesting and F.R. Leavis referred to it in some detail in his recognition of the “direct simplicity of personal feeling” relating the two poets. In his introduction to G. Singh’s translation of Montale’s New Poems Leavis went on to question this simplicity in terms of the impersonality of art:

“Now I think that great art is necessarily impersonal, and that the true creative impersonality is what we have in the poignancy, the profound movingness, of Xenia…For a major poet such as Montale is, poetry is one’s profoundest response to experience. The theme of Xenia is as central, important and moving as any human theme can be, and the reticence it requires of the poet is not a refusal to recognise the full nature of what, intimately for him as a sufferer, it in reality portends; but the contrary.”

Leavis discusses the central idea of how can an “actual pondered sense of irrevocable loss” be defined and communicated and the derivation of that word irrevocable pushes us forward to think of how a voice of a “Woman much missed” can “call to me”. Leavis is not alone of course in recognising the appropriateness of a connection between Hardy’s poems, subtitled as Veteris vestigia flammae, and Montale’s elegiac words for his little Mosca. But he is perhaps unusual in his awareness of what Donald Davie also noted about Hardy’s Victorian diction and the quality of those elegies to the memory of Emma that took the poet beyond the world of the technician, “the laureate of engineering”:

“…a direct simplicity of personal feeling certainly relates the two poets…Montale is immensely more subtle, more supple and more diverse than Hardy. The fact is apparent at once in the texture (hardly a felicitous metaphor – but what better is there?) and the nervous life of their verse. Hardy had to fight an unending battle against Victorian ‘poetic diction’, and the evidence of it is there in the handful of his major victories…Montale, on the other hand, is, as poetic ‘practitioner’ (to use Eliot’s favoured term), clearly a master of living – that is, today’s spoken – Italian.”

Hardy’s yearning to create a bridge between the Now and the Then, to give voice to the irrevocable, leads Leavis to “recognise that she [Emma] exists only as posited by the poet’s nostalgic intensity”: she is the woman with whom he was in love forty years ago. “But Mosca in Xenia is the highly individual woman apart from whom daily life was inconceivable until the catastrophe of her loss, and is almost inconceivable now”. Almost…and yet Montale’s achievement is to make her “so compellingly actual” in the “evoked day-to-day ordinariness”.
I possess no great facility with the Italian language and my reading of translations of Montale’s work is dependent upon my sense of trust in the way in which they present themselves. Let it be clear: I think that these new poems by Mario Petrucci are remarkable in the way that they capture a profound response to experience. The translator’s introduction makes it clear to us that he knows very well indeed what is involved in this subtle and complex work:

“The familiarities of a shared life are allowed to brim but never to spill over, as they might under less dextrous or more assertive hands, into sentimentality. Those details, things as things in themselves, contain the emotion.”

William Carlos Williams would have course have recognised the centrality of this awareness of the ordinary out of which our lives are composed and Petrucci highlights for us how “Around household bric-a-brac and household oddments – a telephone bill, old books, his (as he elsewhere puts it) totem of a rusty shoehorn – Montale constructs a humble reliquary of loss”. As a translator Mario Petrucci presents a firm method of approach:

“I should add that I skirted, initially, the Matterhorn of Montale commentaries, not wishing to commence Xenia in the boa grip of academic conclusions or with that pressing sense of an author’s sanctified objectives. This might seem cavalier, even heretical, with someone as elusive and allusive as Montale can be; but it paid the language, as well as the poet, a different sort of respect. It allowed a fresh and unencumbered approach, one that (for all its dangers) facilitated a certain freedom to express and reinterpret the spirit of the verse. I was able to come to textual insights in my own way rather than second-hand.”

I find this focus upon the translator as reader and literary critic admirable and the living quality of the result is there for all to see.

“At the Saint James, Paris, I’ll request
a single room. (No love lost there
for the uncoupled client). So, too,
in the mock Byzantium of your
Venetian hotel; then quick on the scent
of those friends of yours in their
switchboard hutch; only to start
again, my clockwork charge all spent,
with that longing to have you back if
only in some gesture, or knack.”

The power of Hardy’s Poems of 1912-13 is held in the architectural magnificence of a structure such as the opening stanza of ‘The Going’:

“Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here…”

And the musical yearning, the echo, is caught then with the rhyming “Where I could not follow / With wing of swallow” before the last line draws out as the vibrant ‘g’ sounds merge into open air:

“To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!”

Petrucci’s Montale attempts a more matter-of-fact record of loss:

“No glasses, nor antennae,
poor insect – such wings
you possessed only in fantasy –
a bible broken and much less
believable, this night-blackness,
a flash, a clap and then
no – not even the squall. Perhaps
you never left so soon without
speaking? Though it’s laughable
to consider you still had lips.”

For anything equivalent to Mario Petrucci’s Xenia we must turn perhaps to Simon Marsh’s STANZE (c.f. my review from 7/3/16) to read

“you promised me Dante after supper
the circumstances no longer exist
only changes in air scent
intensely captured light
page-bound radiance of individual days
when we last scooped vacant autumn oysters
from low tide silt at Minnis Bay”

And, as if to bring some wheel round full circle, I am delighted to announce Riccardo Duranti’s translations of Marsh’s poems into Italian, a versioni italiane, published by his own Coazinzola Press which has also just produced a beautifully presented version of John Berger’s Collected Poems available from http://www.coazinzolapress.it

As this moment of the year’s turning let us raise a glass not only to the fine poets, whose sensitivity to what they read and experience makes their publications so worthwhile, but also to their publishers such as Arc (www.arcpublications.co.uk) and Coazinzola.

Ian Brinton 30th December 2016

Shaping Spirits 1948-1966 Janet Montefiore (Shoestring Press)

Shaping Spirits 1948-1966  Janet Montefiore (Shoestring Press)

Marilyn Hacker’s comment on the back of this collection of poems prompted me to look beyond the acute precision of Janet Montefiore’s record of a Cambridge childhood. She suggests that these sonnets shape

‘with astonishing economy, childhood and adolescent memories into a narrative of literary apprenticeship, limning a place, a time, a kind of life now disappearing, as vividly as any novelist.’

Sonnet XI, ‘EASTER GARDENS’ closes with a moment of parentally organised magic. Having started with the three children ‘looking for flowers to make the Easter garden’ Janet Montefiore closes the poem with an empty tomb:

‘Last, from our gravel
path we took stones to build a little cell
closed by a larger flint Mummy would move
that night, putting inside a piece of fabric
to be Christ’s white shroud folded in the tomb.’

Well, almost empty! The body has gone but the shell remains; childhood moves to adolescence but the whiteness of a sheet of paper records the sense of what was there, the outline, ‘limning a place’. When towards the end of Antonia White’s Frost in May Nanda Grey is warned by her father of her imminent move from Lippington Catholic School ‘She was overwhelmed…Even now, in the shock of the revelation of her dependence, she did not realise how thoroughly Lippington had done its work. But she felt blindly she could only live in that rare, intense element’. In the closing pages of the novel as the adolescent girl faces what is, in effect, her expulsion from the school she becomes aware that

‘In its cold, clear atmosphere everything had a sharper outline than in the comfortable, shapeless, scrambling life outside.’

Elizabeth Bowen wrote about that ‘atmosphere and that outline, their nature, and the nature of their power over one being, Nanda’ as being the ‘stuff and the study of Frost in May’. That ‘outline’ is what comes to mind in Marilyn Hacker’s use of the phrase ‘limning a place, a time, a kind of life now disappearing’.
The literary references which thread their way through these fifty carefully-crafted sonnets become themselves a clear indicator of the lasting power of an educational home in which books formed a central role. The opening poem sets a scene:

‘In that cold house on the edge of Cambridge
she’s reading alone while we two sleep,
toddler Teresa and me, the new-born baby.
Windows shake and rattle in blasts of sleet
but she’s deep in Coleridge’s poem
‘Dejection’, hearing how his wind rose higher
wailing through the night like a lost child
screaming loud to make her mother hear.

Our father is in college, miles away,
ordinands aren’t allowed to live at home
although he comes to visit us, some days.
As the days lengthen she wheels our pram
through dark-brown gardens ringing with unheard
children at play and cries of nesting birds.

The references range from Sir Thomas Malory to Gerard Manley Hopkins, from Homer to Shakespeare and from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to Donald Davie, Director of English Studies at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. The fabric of this Cambridge childhood comes alive as the interlinking personalities appear so firmly placed. ‘Our father’ is not only the pater noster of the Christian Church but also the poet’s father, the Rt. Reverend Hugh Montefiore, who became Dean at Caius in 1954 and remained there until 1963. When Donald Davie left Caius he was replaced by J.H. Prynne and it was in a short poem from 1988 by Muriel Prynne, the poet’s mother, that a domestic loss was recorded:

‘I sometimes wish so much
My father had not died when I was young.
I think what I have missed
And all the joys unsung –
He, tall and dark and strong
Little daughter small and fair.
He took my hand in his
And helped my steps along,
But then he was not there.’

Sonnet XXX is titled ‘ENGLISH LITERATURE’ and it opens with an evocation of a genuine literary educational experience:

‘Lessons in English Literature were pure
enjoyment – lovely Christabel undressed,
Madeline in her charmed sleep, Wordsworth’s hare
racing in joy to raise a sparkling mist
from the moorland where the leech-gatherer
met by a pond, entered the poet’s dream’

The excitement of imaginative engagement with poetry is something that ‘nothing could dim’ and even the dreary world of the examination question which asks the candidate to ‘Paraphrase the following twenty lines / of Hamlet’ cannot destroy the sheer love of literature which informs the growing mind. One of the best evidences of this long-lasting in-formation is there in ‘FAMILY PRAYERS’ which concludes

‘and curses that she wouldn’t let us read,
let them fall, let them consume away
like a snail, roared from their silent page
of promises kept by a jealous God.’

The italicised words echo the Old English Charm about how to get rid of warts!

This is a delightful sequence of autobiographical poems which prompts the past to emerge from mist.

Ian Brinton 20th December 2016

Pages from the Biography of an Exile by Adnan Al-Sayegh Trans: Stephen Watts & Marga Burgui-Artajo Arc Publications

Pages from the Biography of an Exile by Adnan Al-Sayegh Trans: Stephen Watts & Marga Burgui-Artajo Arc Publications

The introduction to this selection of one of the most important poets to have been involved in the Eighties Movement in Iraq is written in a way that is both directly informative and suggestive of much wider issues relating to the central role of poetry. Stephen Watts, himself of course a serious poet (see my review of Ancient Sunlight on the Tears Blog, August 2014), refers to Al-sayegh’s youthful visits to Baghdad as becoming ‘suffused with language’ and inspiring ‘his sense of poetry as journey and of the physicality of words’. Watts traces the years of exile endured by the Iraqi poet and offers us a picture of the restlessness of making a home in Sweden after he had been placed on a public death-list by Uday Hussein, before he finally settled in London in 2004. Throughout the search for somewhere to carve out some sense of home the importance of the poet has been a constant:

‘Poetry is a way of life, a breathing existence for al-Sayegh in ways not true of every poet; he has at times wanted to say that poetry is his religion, but for the delusion of language in such a form of words. He would want it said that religion is far less important an expression of the human spirit than is poetry…’

The magnum opus of this remarkable poet is surely the 500-page Uruk’s Anthem, published in Beirut in 1996, and Stephen Watts refers to it as summing up ‘his poetry’s essence, the fractured and fratricidal struggles of modern Iraq, and his own life’s trajectory’. This Arc publication contains two fairly short fragments of this major work, the main body of which still awaits translation, but one can feel the palpable nature of life’s enduring within a world of war-torn cities:

‘Bravo, for the turning of the Earth
for me, the rotation of ink
Bravo for the one they injected with life’s serum
so he can live on
to shout out
Vi-i-i-i-i-i-i-VA’

Or, with its elegiac grace:

‘(Everyone sings in their dark hours…
And I was singing in the prison block for all that was gone)
Until dawn puts forth leaves
on the branches of the benches
You bade me farewell…
and went off alone
to your exile
Singing, shattered in the wind
like a strange flute’

There is of course a haunting presence behind many of these fine poems and it is that of Gilgamesh ‘who scoured the world ever searching for life’ (Tablet 1 in the Andrew George translation, Penguin 1999):

‘After roaming, wandering all through the wild,
When I enter the netherworld will rest be scarce?
I shall lie there sleeping all down the years’ (Tablet IX)

It is worth making a comparison here with Abdulkareem Kasid who escaped from Iraq in 1978 and who also now lives in London. His fine collection, Sarabad, appeared from Shearsman Books last year introduced by John Welch:

‘In the distance I saw a train
Speeding along the track
But still in the same place.
I got on
And off I went.

***

How slowly the years of my life go by.
I leave them behind
And I sleep.

***

O my years. So many times
I have stood like a beggar before you.

The Long Poem Magazine, issue 15 published earlier this year, opens with a further extract from Adnan al-Sayegh’s Uruk’s Anthem and the poet writes by way of introduction that the poem

‘is one of the longest ever written in Arabic literature (549 pages) and gives voice to the profound despair of the Iraqi experience…It took twelve years to write (1984-1996). During eight years of that time I was forced to fight in the Iran-Iraq War. Many of my friends were killed and I spent eighteen months in an army detention centre close to the border with Iran.’

These extracts are translated by Jenny Lewis, Ruba Abughaida and Dr. Elias Khamis and I very much recommend that readers of this review get hold of a copy of the magazine. This is deeply moving writing of a most serious nature and it is heart-warming to read Stephen Watts’s comments upon translating the poetry published in the Arc selection (also a collaborative effort) in which he refers to the text emerging ‘from one language into the other in the physical presence of those involved’.

The achievement of all these translators is to produce a language of ‘a living breath’. If at the close of The Epic of Gilgamesh the serpent consumes the plant of rejuvenation and Gilgamesh recognises that he has lost eternal life the last tablet records the stone buildings of Uruk:

‘A square mile is city, a square mile date-grove, a square mile is
clay-pit, half a square mile the temple of Ishtar:
three square miles and a half is Uruk’s expanse’.

Art outlives the transient.

Ian Brinton, 18th December 2016

Barney Rosset – Rosset: My Life In Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (OR Books)

Barney Rosset – Rosset: My Life In Publishing and How I Fought Censorship (OR Books)

Barney Rosset, born in Chicago in 1922 to a Russian Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother, bought Grove Press in 1951 and became America’s most significant avant-garde publisher in the second half of the twentieth century displaying a determined independent streak.

Grove Press, and its seminal literary magazine, Evergreen Review, helped shape modern culture through its catalogue and legal challenges to publish banned literary works. Rosset’s ethos that a publisher should be free to publish anything drew upon his rebellious Irish ancestry and a progressive education at Parker High School. My Life In Publishing shows that Rosset was interested in radical politics as much as sex and that he had an inquisitive mind. His War years were spent in India and Shanghai with the Field Photographic Unit, and he later made films, inspired by the French New Wave, with his Evergreen Theater. He commissioned scripts by Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, Robbe-Grillet and Duras, making films with Beckett and Norman Mailer, and got into trouble with US Customs by importing and showing the Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow), eventually winning several court cases and grossing a foreign film profit second only to La Dolce Vita in 1969. Evergreen published translations from Cahiers du Cinéma and Grove published a cultural history of underground film by Parker Tyler.

Returning to Chicago in 1947 he fell in with abstract expressionist and former Parker student, Joan Mitchell. Together they went to New York and Paris, and became integral parts of the Cedar Tavern scene in Greenwich Village with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Frank O’Hara, a future Grove author. Mitchell emerges as a fascinating figure in her own right enlarging the range of abstract expressionism. She was a life long friend and contributor providing cover art to many books before moving to Paris in 1959, where she became a close friend of Beckett.

Rosset’s approach was to obtain critical support for each of his books. This began with John Berryman supporting his first book, Matthew Lewis’ gothic novel, The Monk. Rosset fearlessly published three banned books, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer and The Autobiography of Malcolm X with extensive critical and legal support. The legal successes were major victories against censorship and very much part of the counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies. He was adept at finding fellow editors and allowing them to develop. A good example is Donald Allen who edited Evergreen Review 2, San Francisco Scene in 1957, featuring Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, McClure, Spicer, Snyder, Kerouac and Whalen, and the all-embracing New American Poetry anthology in 1960. Rosset published Burroughs’ The Naked Lunch, seeing the Dr. Benway character as comic genius and reading the book as an abstract painting, after several others had declined. When Chicago Review banned an excerpt he mounted a legal challenge getting Norman Mailer and a host of critics to appear for the defence case. He was also prepared to enter dangerous situations, such as his attempt to locate Che Guevara’s diaries in Bolivia, which led to his offices being bombed by Cuban exiles in July 1968.

Rosset worked closely with international publishers, such as John Calder in London and Maurice Girodias in Paris. Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare and Co., introduced him to Samuel Beckett. His unswerving dedication to publishing what he wanted combined with great critical awareness and a wide internationalism saw him publish Artaud, Behan, Genet, Ionesco, Lorca, Neruda, Paz, Pinter in the early years, and subsequently Brecht, Orton, Borges, Stoppard, Kenaburō Ōe, Havel, Mamet, and much more Beckett. He emerges as an impatient, unpredictable, passionate, spiky and intractable figure with a feverish desire to challenge accepted views and authorises. This is an inspiring account of a difficult figure, shows the importance of alternative publishing, and will surely be the basis for subsequent biographies and feature in critical studies of those he published.

More book details here:
http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/rosset/?utm_source=Tears%20in%20the%20Fence&utm_campaign=Rosset&utm_medium=Review

David Caddy 12th December 2016

Black Book by Robert Vas Dias & Julia Farrer (Shearsman Books)

Black Book by Robert Vas Dias & Julia Farrer (Shearsman Books)

This profoundly serious book is an oeuvre noir, ‘an ethical response to a range of contemporary atrocities and acts of inhumanity’ (Robert Hampson). The ‘Black Book’ has an authoritarian and punitive sense to it: if you do not fit in with the rules then your name will be entered in the ‘black book’. The power of the book was legendary and even Christopher Tietjens’s father in Ford Madox Ford’s Some Do Not held an implicit belief in the ‘great book’ in which a mark might be placed against your name, damning you for social elevation! But there is also the oeuvre au noir which forms part of the alchemical magic suggesting that a new world might be created from this current one. For that we might go to Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel about Zeno. If this powerful new work by Robert Vas Dias is not despairing of humanity it is because, as the Rector of St. James’s Piccadilly puts it on the back cover:

‘…black dwells just before the light shines and hurts my eyes. Black invites me to rest from the uninvited and exhausting battery of illusions that fill my days. A book that is black narrates stories of night-time experiments in the telling of truth.’

The Forward that Vas Dias writes focuses on a register of ‘our outrage at the inhumanity of humanity’ and the book that he and Julia Farrer have composed ‘is analogous to the ways in which war poets, war artists and photographers, and journalists have always worked and exhibited’. The subtitle of the book is ‘An Assemblage of the Fragmentary’ and the poet and the artist played around with the idea of ‘an art of fragments, an art that recapitulates the way in which we receive information in fragmentary form in media reports that start as necessarily incomplete stories’. Julia Farrer’s images were drawn on a computer using a 3-D program, ‘fragmented and manipulated randomly’; Robert Vas Dias’s writing combines a ticker-tape of text which bears witness to the suffering of the body under regimes of torture with, above it, a series of statements:

‘let us consider the forming of walls, the mortar

of words I use to form my walls, to make my side

a better side, the other side is where the other side

resides, I’m on the right side and you are not, the

side you’re on is undesirable and my side is right

because I am right and you are wrong…’

Juxtaposed against these words are shorter lines in red and they include such phrases as ‘enhanced interrogation’ and ‘surgical precision’. The walls that are presented here have little to do with Robert Frost’s famous lines concerning ‘Mending Walls’ but have more in common with William Blake’s sharp proverb of Hell: ‘Prisons are built with stones of law, Brothels with bricks of religion.’ The epigraph to this book is a statement from Tagore: ‘where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls’ and the fragmentary episodes threading a narrative throughout reveal ‘black sites’ where ‘anything went’.
This book demands to be read and its responses taken to heart:

‘for refugees it’s not about seeking a better life
it’s about having any life at all

I have a dream a world without borders
today more than ever’

Ian Brinton 8th December 2016

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