223 pages, Kindle edition
Review by Marc Nash
A combination of short aphoristic poems, longer verse and dialogues, I'm unsure how to categorise Heavy Bags of Soul, which I suspect is the author's intent. The writing is a blend of spirituality, the new physics and self-helpisms. Its aim is, I assume, contemplative, not to say meditative. Are you supposed to read it in small bite-sized chunks, or as I did, plough on through like a conventional book? Certainly there is no narrative thrust, no real progression to propel the reader through. I suspect the author's final words on the back of the book, "what you do next, is up to you" is a challenge he throws down to the reader. Use this book how you will.
With so many poems, the quality is almost inevitably uneven. On the one hand, you have the teenager's scrawl of "The Moment Of The NOne" - "Preach to me bitch/and cream me peach", but then you have a fine sentiment in a poem like "The Sun Part 1" - it (the sun) throws you under the ocean of surrender/while you wait for a door,/puts its mouth against all that is you/ and breathes". "Elle Chante" is a poem written entirely in French with no translation offered, while "Travels of Empathy" I believe would make rather a good song because of its assonances. And this again enhances the feeling that this is a book of pieces and fragments rather than a whole. The archaeologist discovered shard of pottery, from which the imagination strives to complete the full urn.
The dialogues are mainly catechisms and dialectics between science and religion, but the voices are disembodied rather than fleshed characters, which tends to leave the reader outside looking in. The ideas under discussion are indubitably fascinating, but in some places, such as "Drop Dead Zen", the intellect is not worn lightly, but displayed with a hint of peacock finery. Yet in other places the ideas are batted about in a hip, diffident manner, so that they are not really foregrounded with sufficient emphasis so as to be able to grapple with them. There is a quantum feel to some of the writing; whereby it appears to be meditatively deep and yet also contemporaneously concerned with the surface and disposable as we move on to the next hip thing. "Fire Under The Ass" for example, manages to wrap "The Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly's" vibe into the heightened tones of a spiritual quest.
If you're aiming to be non-linear, and I believe the author is here, through his echoes of the quantum and the fractal, then the layout of the words on the page ought perhaps to reflect this. If you're attempting to be radical and to strip away conventional notions, then you have to go down to the DNA level of literature. This was still poems and prose dialogue, obeying and conforming to how we perceive these forms to be represented. This is a brave stab at redefining the literary, but I think if founders on its own fundamentals. It operates at the lexeme level, when it may need to think about alphabets and letters.
There's a chapter called "Kundalini" which is the strongest, most coherent one, I feel. Yet I think ultimately it's a litmus test chapter as to what a reader might make of this book. I know what kundalini is, I could appreciate the concepts grouped under the chapter heading. But if you don't already know what kundalini is, I can't imagine that without Wikipedia open constantly, you'd have much of a clue what it was all about and what touchstones it was sparking off.
But I don't want to give the impression that the writing is without merit. It is stimulating, crafts language expertly and makes the reader consider the content, which can never be a bad thing. It's more a question of a review trying to provide a way in for the reader to help them decide. I think at least for me, this book became a series of sotto whispered calls to action, but I couldn't be certain what action I was being roused to. Yet in appealing to the individual self, there is a particular need to appeal to the emotional self and it is this emotional level that is missing from these aphoristic calls. I don't want to criticise, I want to understand. Some great individual shards, but I'm missing the idea of the whole pot in its entirety.