Rides by Marcus Slease
Blart Books, 2014, 7£
Marcus Slease’s eighth book, Rides, chronicles train trips to and from points around the UK. The poems read like automatic writing; take, for example, “these long / commutes / are killing me / how about / a little funk / & energy / OK / I like this Siberian / ginseng” and “I’m sitting next / to a bald / headed baby / everybody / on this train / needs a neck rub.” His sentences and fragments fuse memories, observations, and fantastical statements, such as “we live in a tin can / in spring the bees come,” into one extended monologue. The poems are conversational and informal; there’s no punctuation or sentence-level capitalization. There is a lot of humor in the book and a wildness that creates the effect of a voyeuristic dreamscape. The reader observes the ticker-tape of the speaker’s thoughts, and these thoughts are anything but mundane.
The poems come in pairs, that is, there’s a poem called, “On a Train to Brighton Sitting Backwards” as well as one on the next page called, “On a Train from Brighton Sitting Forwards.” London sits silently in the center of the book, and the path to each of the destinations forms a sunburst on the map. Fitting, since the last page has only two words: “the flowers.”
In an artist’s statement on H_NGM_N, Slease indicates that some of the trips are imagined, and the train rides work as a frame. This metaphor makes a lot of sense, considering the last poem is on page 74 while the numbered pages continue, blank, until page 80. What I assume is a printing error in fact extends the overall concept of the book because the poems mimic movement; these poems are a series of train cars moving out of frame before you can get to them all.