Poem: Salome


When stepfathers wish you to dance,
Only severed heads will suffice

While saints still live,
Your legs lie nerveless,
Taut with agony,
And not even a Zimmer frame,
Or a wooden leg,
Will help you kick The Temple
Of The Holy Sepulchre

But inspiration arrives in incestuous demands,
And the performance of bloody ablutions

Migrainous and languorous in bed,
Your heavy lids lift to the felling
Of innumerable botched and unclean blows;
By the time spine is severed from cerebellum
Why – you almost feel you could dance!

It’s almost like magic:
The moment you hear the silver platter
Tinkle with the initiate of Golgotha,
Those palsied and nerveless pins
Leap into an ecstatic frenzy

Your servants hardly know what to do

Suddenly you are a whirlwind,
A sizzling canopy of veils,
And a staccato flash
Of your blood-anointed flesh,
Is enough to make tyrants befoul their thrones

The one great act
Of your erotic life:
Demons dance alone


Art By Isabel Robson Instagram: englishwomaninwales


Poem: The Invisible Man


Once I take off my clothes
My body disappears

Like The Invisible Man,
My appearance is defined by my apparel,
And no sooner do I remove
These trappings of civility
Than I atrophy:
Ugly – evanescent

You can try and catch me at it,
This multi-dimensional burlesque –
Spiritual striptease –

But the dividing line
Between touch and visibility
Repels me from the sweetest of reaches

I am the rags you find on the street;
The limbs on the strandlines of beaches

Poem: Angrbodha’s Curse

deep time.jpg

Cutting through the withered limestone of spine,
Vertebra by vertebra, my disks slip
Into the petrified glade of deep time,
Where every minute is the full-growth of a tree trunk,
Bulging like a swollen tongue

In these ashy entrails
Where haruspices harrowed truth in soil and blood,
This the oesophagus of pearly stone,
The ache of bellied mud

You cannot bury us here

Though you encrypt us deep,
In your catacombs and sepulchres,
The memories of Earth Giant need to weep,
Amnesia gurgling into vomit

Then, our bleeding fingernails,
Scratching surface-wards,
Like vinous tendrils
Seeking sunshine for blood,
Puncture the skin
In pockmarked solace,
To rob quietude of its birth,

This is the limestone curse,
The endless memory of Earth

Poem: Blanket Burial


Waking up,
The billowing curtains, bridal veils,
Concealing the sandy reaches

Beneath white sheets, the thrill of your face
Dawn-softened, wetting your cheek
With sun-sparked kisses

Cradled in gorse,
On this grassy Welsh temple,
Your body reclining
On a broken swan feather

Like a Celtic burial
Framed in the thought
Of a delicate summer love

Interred in the earth of my gentle arms,
Where butterflies dance in swarms

Poem: Llanthony Basin


My soul is a lake,
And, pooling into its recesses,
All the abstractions of the universe

From the high arching sky,
To the electric density of stone,
All the love of the heavens
Runneth off the mountains
Into the basin of my soul

Jackdaws and swallows,
Reveal how my thoughts are keen
To swoop ecstatic in these empty spaces –
To explore the scintillant potency of the air,
And the transcendent joy it seems to promise

Taking off my cowl,
Letting my heathy pate run wild with hair,
I leave the monastery,
And climb the mountains
To be compressed by the feet of God

My heart is a wound that runneth free,
And my spine is an iron rod

Poem: The Goldfinch and The Phoenix

Sometimes birds emerge from the snow,
Frosted with scarlet – fresh indigo
And beaks become lips in the turn of a kiss
When the phoenix moults feathers and petals

With the wind-march wail of finger-lost wings,
The song ever changes when the lyre bird sings,
And we must all sacrifice our earthly delights
And the lure of diamond-flesh metals

When the promise of flight, luxurious and rare,
Breaks up the barrier – the clouds of despair –
And the benighted soul, perceiving its goal,
Bursts into song of starlit creation

And hearing those urgent, argent melodies,
Redolent of otherworldly memories,
The phoenix burns in a fantastic return
Beyond the chains of worldly dejection

With wings growing from a scarified back,
Flight is the art of perfection

Poem: My Heart Scuttled Sideways


Beneath its shell,
Those waltzing ramparts of tender meat,
I scurried from the obtrusions of seagulls,
A dancer on ten legs,
Wounded wet retreat

With starfish in abeyance,
Dead bodies colonize the beaches,
The footsteps of men in danger,
Unloading cargo,
Purloined from wreckless reaches,

Now, as a human,
Shivering in houses of ship-built timber,
Your breasts hold back the cold,
And frozen breath,
Betrays the taste of winter

I cannot carry their mirthless warmth,
That history eats for dinner,
To forgive myself in thirstless thanks;
The cancelled pages of the beginner

Guest Post Film Review: ‘The House That Lars Built’ by Joshua Moulinie

the house that jack built

Lars Von Trier is a divisive figure in the world of cinema. To some, like myself, he’s one of the last remaining true mavericks; a trailblazing tour-de-force unapologetically ready to delve into the minds of some of humanity’s darkest characters, with a style that is completely his own. To others, he is the Milo Yiannopoulis of cinema; a brash, crude, in-your-face filmmaker who delights in provoking and pushing boundaries for the sake of it. Regardless of which side of this argument you sit on, one thing cannot be denied: Lars Von Trier films are unique to him -only he could possibly make them – and every one of them is a cinematic event that cannot be missed by anybody with a remote interest in cinema as an artform.
The House That Jack Built is, for better or worse, definitively a Lars Von Trier film. Notice there that I didn’t say ‘a film by Lars Von Trier’. Frankly, this film is so unbelievably Lars, that at times I was wondering if Lars has either become completely obnoxious, or so self-aware of himself that he’s begun to perform a kind of twisted self-parody, and the first thirty minutes do almost feel as though I am watching an expensive student project satirising the works of Lars Von Trier. Every single one his staples is there: The narrative being delivered by the central character to a listener, the film being split into chapters, jump-cuts, comparisons to art and culture, and the explanation of true evil, and how society is to blame. Classic Lars, almost to a fault. In many ways this feels like an extension of what began in The Nymphomaniac, just delivered in a way that is slightly less satisfying.
The writing is, for the most part, wonderful, but there is a lot of repetition of both dialogue and philosophical musings, to the point of almost annoyance, and I’m still not entirely sure the film needed to be two and a half hours long, and could perhaps have done with half an hour being trimmed. On the other hand, taking his time with each segment, or ‘incident’, as Jack calls it, gives Von Trier time to build tension and atmosphere, making each kill less a gratuitous and cathartic event, like a Tarantino movie, and more of a dark and disturbing event, which amplifies the remembrance that violence is in the real world. We watch, helpless to intervene, as the tension builds, and each scene reaches an almost farcically dark conclusion. However, there are times when you wonder if Lars could just calm down and stop repeating himself.
The lion and lamb analogy, for example, must be mentioned over fifteen times throughout the runtime. It makes you wonder if Lars is almost reaching Hollywood levels of condescending his audience, by suggesting that we could not possibly figure out what this twisted genius is trying to say. It does get a bit annoying after a while, and the conversation between Jack and Verge (more on him later) can become a bit too in-your-face and on-the-nose with its commentary on events.
That said, it is fascinating to see the development in the relationship between the two, as Verge seems at first prepared for anything Jack will throw at him ‘Most people feel the need to confess at this point, but you won’t be telling me anything I haven’t heard before’, and does actually shrug off the first two murders by Jack. Eventually, as Jack slips further into depravity and genuinely psychopathic territory, Verge becomes disgusted by his behaviour, and refers to him as ‘the most depraved man I have ever met’.
Which, it must be said, he very may well be. Too often in cinema psychopaths are glorified and become almost cult-like figures adored by the masses. Think of Hannibal Lector or Patrick Batemen, two deplorable and horrific characters who commit atrocious acts, but are almost cheered and revered among fans of cinema. The idolisation of figures such as Ted Bundy, and our culture’s fascination with these people in general, make it easy to fall into the trap of rooting for them. But not Jack.
Not in the hands of Von Trier. Here we see the truly nasty and despicable side of a person without empathy or human warmth, without care or interest in anybody or anything but himself. We see truly disturbing scenes that will stay with you for days afterwards – the picnic scene in particularly is truly horrific – and we see the portrait of a man lost so deeply in his own narcissism and lack of empathy, that he barely even qualifies as a human being. This is the serial killer movie the world has been waiting for and needs.
Lars also has some, let’s say, interesting things to say about the link between misogyny and psychopathy. For example, during one particularly harrowing scene, Jack stops and delivers a speech that reads ‘You know, there is something that has been bothering Mr. Sophistication for quite a bit. And perhaps it’s more interesting to him than it would be to you. But to be honest, he’s pretty fucking pissed when he thinks about it. Why is it always the man’s fault? No matter where you go, it’s like you’re some sort of wandering guilty person without even having harmed a simple kitten. I actually get sad when I think about it. If one is so unfortunate as to have been born… male, then you’re also born guilty. Think of the injustice in that. Women are always the victims, right? And men, they’re always the criminals.’

Honestly, after having watched it twice, I’m still somewhat at a loss as to what exactly Von Trier is trying to say here. Is he arguing that this contemporary attack on masculinity will just lead to more Jacks? Is he trying to argue that people like Jack will use this narrative to excuse deplorable behaviour? It’s certainly clear that he’s trying to say something of note, but it’s never made entirely clear.
Which is how I feel about most of the film. Usually, it’s pretty transparent and obvious what a director is trying to state. On this occasion, the lines are murkier. It was, personally, the only thing that Jack said throughout the entire run-time that resonated with me. The only time his mad, philosophical justifications actually made sense.

Now, before moving on the conclusion, let me take a paragraph to speak about the ending. SPOILER ALERT. In the end, Jack seemingly goes to hell, as the link between Verge and Virgil clicks in your mind, and you understand that this entire time he has been conversing with the iconic guide through hell from Dante’s infamous work The Inferno. And it is absolutely fucking brilliant. After following what was quite a disturbingly grounded and realistic film, this descent into surrealism for the last twenty minutes comes out of nowhere and because of this, works more effectively than it may have done if the entire film was shot like this. It keeps you hooked throughout and, for those who may not enjoy the entire film, I recommend staying around just to give the ending a go.
Now, is The House That Jack Built one of Von Trier’s best works? No. It would definitely have to be considered one of his weaker modern efforts, and the end of his ridiculous streak of five-star films. Is that to say it’s a bad film, or one without merit? Also, no. Compared to the stagnant and repulsively stale scene that is contemporary American cinema, THTJB remains head and shoulders above them. Whether you like Lars or not, we need him to keep cinema interesting.

Final Rating – 4/5

Poem: Night Thoughts

night thoughts

When the hour grows late,
And the perfume of today’s blossoms
Amplifies its thoughts in the darkness,
Their incense igniting reveries,
In the stillness, the sweetness, the clarity,

When your feet ache
From the mischief of mountains,
Your ears glutted
On the courtly love of ravens

The way their song conjured images
Of moss-brewed droplets,
Plunging into secret pools,
In cavern echoed-couplets

Then, in the bosom, of iris-lensed stars,
Listening to the gentle hum of far-off cars,

I write you a letter in invisible ink,
Where the lines all blur, dribble in the sink,

And, to quench my longing –
Night brooks singing –
The bells, the beauty,
The twilight underpinning,

I break free of meter

And, gushing out my thoughts
In silent streams of prose,
That neither death, nor conspiracy,
Shall ever disclose

I mail my thoughts out into the ether,
On the hermetic chance of night,

Beauty shared is beauty gained,
And secrets are a lover’s delight

Poem: Re-Growth


The tree grew out of my chest

From the black, bloody stump,
Malignant and redundant, coppiced
To death by the bleakest of winters,
Through the fogbanks and menace of tundra,
It started to put out new shoots,

Up-thrusting through the snow,
And the fears of frozen droplets,
It revealed the burst of little buds,
Tender and pregnant with promise,

Around my ribs, scarred wasted pectorals,
Mossy clumps gathered in flanks,
And skylarks sang on the bosky hill,
Where my body had lain withered, dormant,

Incubated in an ocean of soil,
My legs became a flowerbed,
And violets and anemones
Thrust through my follicles,
To laugh with the uproarious sky

It is too soon yet,
To see how these innocent saplings
Could become a mighty oak,

But in their naivety,
Reaching for the sunlight,
They learn the painful hope of growth