Sunday, 14 June 2020

Review: This is virus by Joe Williams

This timely pamphlet from the poet and performer Joe Williams is described as a "sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic". The poems reimagines the coronavirus communication from the prime minister sent to the public in April 2020 by redacting information to create a new commentary on the relationship between those "leading" the response to the crisis and the rest of us living the lockdown (with, as we now know, more strength, consistency and conscience).

Redaction as a technique is very effective - the story of the source material's underlying meaning is glimpsed in a faceted retelling. Its appearance as a key component in tales of political scandal and message manipulation is turned on its ahead to reveal truth.

The poet questions the official tone and message pulling back the underlying assumptions - for example on herd immunity - as we have journeyed through lockdown and its aftermath. Verbal repetition, contradictions and and an underlying simple visual beauty as words get less and less to the final poem. The full effect is gained from a reading rather than quotes or snippets which we are keeping to a minimum in this review.

Like pyschobilly for John Peel, p&g feels the lure of visual techniques like cut up, distortion and erasure very strongly; and applauds the latter's use here to place strong focus on the message while simultaneously presenting the reader with shape and structure that goes beyond the poetic. In this case asking the deceptively simple question what is missing? What are we missing? What void lies within our so-called leaders?

You can find out more from @JoeWilliamsPoet and purchase the pamphlet from Joe's website here - an investment of £4 p&g would recommend.

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