Following is the text of the speech given by poet, artist and master puppeteer Arthur Watson to launch ’13 ::: The Tenderness of Knives’ by Patrick Stack.
I’ve known Patrick Stack for about 14 years and feel privileged to call him a friend, fellow conspirator and arts activist against a medusa of hierarchies which persist and paradoxically thrive in our imperiled algorithmic age. Throughout our friendship, we’ve been drunk, stoned and danced our way as performance poets at The Electric Picnic, created and performed in five multi-media MUXZ in The Belltable, Lime Tree and glór Theatres, read poems at various literary pubs, cafes and clubs and served together on various mal-functioning committees of mal-functioning poets and, while so-doing, frequently had hysterical fits of laughter. I am therefore honoured to help Patrick launch his third poetry collection ‘13 ::: The Tenderness of Knives.’
What an amazing choice for a title as it embodies some of Patrick’s many outstanding attributes; creativity in the accomplished writing of such unique confessional yet polemic poetry in such contrasting idioms; the very competent calligraphy and complimentary illustration; the multi-linguistic selection, the gentility and sharpness; the softness and hardness; the empathy and abrasiveness; the intimacy and sexuality; the chaos and form.
The mysterious numerical implications in the title ’13 ::: The Tenderness of Knives’ are extensive; the combination of words could mean creative cookery, skilled wood carving, murder by stabbing an unfaithful lover, delicate master butchery, a mercy killing, gentle surgery, a suicidal lover’s pact! There is the suggestion of a ‘cutting’ of some kind! This collection of ‘cutting edge’ poetry is therefore inviting, threatening and beguiling!
The book is both intelligent and articulate, inclusive and exclusive, staccato and musical, gentle and angry, subtle and crude, hand-written and typed, illustrated and blank! What more could you want? Personally I would’ve liked the inclusion of a CD with Patrick reading some poems from the book but… nothing is perfect and… everything is perfect so…there is something for everyone and… somethings not for everyone, just like Patrick, an enigma with variations!
I like the choice of book cover and centre spread as it suggests to me a head and shoulders portrait of Patrick himself, subconsciously sourced from the European Futurist/Constructivist/Vorticist eras which were characterized by geometric line, abstraction, sharp, angular and dynamic style (1890/1960) The artists and poets of this era often emulated the forms and processes of modern technology in their self-expression and I see evidence that Patrick’s poetic idiom is often influenced by our ‘modern’ digital technology…the algorithm and the complex consequences for our civilization.
The insertion and occasional juxtaposing of the illustrations and calligraphy are skillful and elegant additions to the edition, especially the short and enigmatic Tao-like poem at the heart of the centre-spread.
‘A man standing on rock touched by stillness
A spade going into sand Empty with giving’
The numerological introduction and cabalistic style will add a necessary clarity for some mathematically, historically and astrologically inclined and for others the obscure alchemical mystery invites a closer inspection or for yet others, a disappointing yet understandable urge to firmly close this lovely artistically rendered book, which I hope you will resist. Nonetheless, I suggest that you take the time and trouble with Patrick’s more complex poems to uncover the abundant, if less obvious, layers of meaning therein, there are few simplistic sound-bites and easy fixes here!
In this collection his characteristic anger is certainly very tangible, yet subdued and more subtle in its articulation than in a previous collection, ‘Rage.’ His pleasure in the articulation of language is always pertinent and prominent, sometimes to a point of distraction, even on some occasions to an extremity of flamboyant self-indulgence…
’Omniprismatic ibsissimus’ or…
‘metempsychotic pandaemon’ or…
’crytogrammatic’ or even something as apparent as a…
As always, with Patrick, there are truly original combinations of words to forge awesome images…
.’atrocious moons’ or the lyrical beauty of the phrase…
’delirious causeways of web light,’ or…
Patrick is a Sci-Fi Nature poet dwelling in the surreal landscape of the human mind! His topography is a cosmic wasteland reminiscent of the surreal paintings of Leonora Carrington. Dali etc., where hominid and mythic hologramic life forms incarnate into anguished human consciousness then quickly and painfully dissolve uttering passionate orgasmic love screams; it is an intensely personal and obsessive cosmic scientific algorithmic analysis of life birthing itself into love and love birthing itself into desire and desire birthing itself inevitably into death, an all-encompassing and repetitive eternal cycle in a rich cocktail of dogma, myth, science fiction and sexuality.
Patrick’s climate of images move like weather fronts in a gamma ray of neurons alternately simulating and dissimulating where’ nothing begins and ends.’ The poems progressively challenge and provoke us in a series of objective and tentative questions, some rhetorical, some not. I sense Beckett, Ionesco, and Pinter in Theatre of the Absurd or Artaud’s spectacles of dramatic chaos and form with a rare glimpse of De Sade!
‘Shout out your silence into my noisy world.’
Most of the poetry cannot be absorbed casually or taken in at a glance; it is frequently complicated. There are necessary abstractions employed to focus the reader more intently on the seemingly lyrical obscurity of the language, in order to render a more succinct interpretation. The language can be complicated but it’s worth researching the chosen and often puzzling words for a deeper reference. As an intuitive linguist, Patrick’s beguiling use of language is deceptively skillful, appearing simplistic yet truly often profound. His style is like a new metaphysical poet yet also a shape-shifter as he morphs into postmodern abstraction, then existential/anarchic, then surreal/absurd, then finally mythic shaman poet healer…
‘Love is the touching of all surfaces at once.’
The layout of the poems and their shaping is also complex and deliberately confusing at times in their arrangement on each page, as they spread themselves out like a series of lazy cats, seemingly relaxing across the expanse of the book, yet in reality, trying to trip you up and make you feel and think more profoundly about the paradoxical meaning of each poem!
Sometimes I wish Patrick would write more of his identifiably ‘real’ poetry and then I remind myself that the unique ‘what’ he writes about and the manner in which he writes it, is real for him and, I suspect, for other philosophic/psychic/mythic poets! As the book is a selection from some twenty-five forty years of writing, some of the poetry, in its seeming naiveté, reminds me of clever, obscure, slightly abstract university graduate poetry; the kind of stuff few readers will grasp and not many others will bother to try to understand. And then I read it all again and find a purity of intention and an original honesty about feeling and subject matter which I’ve learned to appreciate and respect. Patrick’s poetry needs patience to read and a quiet wounded heart to comprehend male suffering, desire and love, all of which his poems both rudely and eloquently render. In the words of the eminent Italian Vorticist, Umberto Boccioni – “All creative art emanates from an emotional vortex.”
I earnestly commend this unique anthology. There is no such thing as bad poetry, only poetry that you either like or dislike and I assuredly like this so buy this book and join Patrick ‘on a witch hunt with words’ a pilgrimage away from the ’greymen’ with ’molded fleshware imprinted on.’ Leave the metaprogramming world and sail with him ‘through calmer seas to a gentler shore.’