Widely published in magazines and journals, including Popshot, Cadaverine and Soul Feathers (alongside Carol Ann Duffy and Leonard Cohen), Max Wallis has found recognition early. Between October 2010 and March 2011 he took part in the Barbican Centre’s prestigious Young Poets Scheme and proved himself as agile on stage as his work is on the page. Max is currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester where he is working on a début novel and a full collection of poetry. He also runs the project ‘somethingeveryday’ which brings award-winning authors, poets and artists together to challenge their craft through a daily discipline. At twenty-one, Max Wallis has been described by David Hoyle as the future of poetry. Modern Love (flipped eye, 2011), his début pamphlet, gives weight to that claim.
In his début pamphlet, Max Wallis traces the year-long course of a love affair and all its constituent parts: sex and sensuality, longing and loneliness, desire and disappointment, heady beginnings and inevitable endings in a world dominated by high street brands, text messaging and social media. Featuring trademark acrobatics with language in an attempt to grapple with this fast, feisty world, Modern Love recasts love in a sincere, vivacious voice.
“Modern Love – originally the title of George Meredith’s 1862 book of 16-line sonnets, thenceforth known as Meredithian sonnets – looks to trace the year-long course of a passion as echoed through contemporary manners and languages such as texting and Facebook. The subject may, of course, equally be filed under desire, need, obsession, ecstasy, insecurity and fear, but then these are the chapters of the discourse of love. Inventive and intense at best, the discourse here has an urgency that refuses to settle.”
– George Szirtes
“Max Wallis shows that modern love is the same as love ever was. The heart beats in the same way, the silences, kisses and stillnesses shared by lovers are as they ever were, ever will be.”
– Helen Ivory
“Max Wallis’s Modern Love is a year long cycle of youthful love and its twists and turns. He mixes everyday images with tight observation and flashes of beautiful observation as metaphors of entanglement. Hope brightens, then drops its hand as the cycle moves into the gentle melancholy of loss and not knowing.”
– John Siddique
“Modern Love presents love absent of all its Hollywood romanticism. It’s visceral, liminal, alcoholic and all the more romantic for it. Disturbingly sublime.”
– Popshot Magazine
All the days to tread till I meet you. All the miles walking together around kitchens, homes and showrooms clutching our Tesco/Morrisons/Waitrose-trolley-full-dreams. Swearing whilst our kids watch us, getting in a huff over what type of juice is good. I’m young; I’m old, still thinking this. Every stolen pillow is a memory out of reach on a shelf with steampressed showers, clammyfucked meek and sweet. On that ledge there’s your bottom shaped in tea leaves, stained mugs and all the silent faceless dreams I’ve had. In nightcoiled alleys you’re lamppost-flashing, winking a morse code language from a daylight, daybreak, future-never-seen and there at a place I can’t reach you’re dancing, smiling all-knowing because my feet can’t walk through time yet. Try as they might I can’t get the dance right. This could be five hundred poems, and it has and it will, every sky I’m under is over you, too; every time I sleep I’m eyetight, thinking of you clearly. All these drinks I’ve drowned, toasted dearly, dear. Every moment spent ticks towards our meeting, starbound, trapped, heavy, heaving. Kissing. Like this. x. And this. x. And this. x.
Modern Love: Texting
We send each other text messages at work.
Discuss what we’re having for lunch.
Ether-joined by unlimited messages and pixel screens.
Two minutes after saying goodbye on dates
our phones jangle, vibrate,
‘I had a lovely time tonight :-)’.
The little xx means more from you.
You give me fewer than my mum.
I look and linger at them, there,
at the end of your miniature letters.
Save the sweet ones in a folder
and read them when down.
‘These are the reasons I love you.’
‘Do you want to go to the cinema at four?’
‘I’ve never felt this before.’
I smile when I see your name appear.
The lump is a plastic pebble in my pocket
heavy with the weight of expectancy.
Linked to everything, almost sentient
it throbs with the lives
of so many people a button press away:
Facebook, e-mails, Google
When people are gone: vanished.
Ephemeral ghosts that exist
but don’t. That breathe,
The wishing wells in which we shed our coins.
Our thumbs linger over ‘DELETE’
as though they’ll disappear from memory, too.
Punch. Gone. The love letter’s dead.
Think that’ll make us feel better.
When our hearts turn red again,
we’ll wish we had the numbers still
hello, hi, how do you do.
All The Words
All the words forgotten,
words never said to strangers
on buses too shy to summon courage:
All the words I’ve lost
in time, death, life,
bundled up in bodies not my own,
words I could have used and never will.
All the words I’ve played games with
‘love’, ‘forever’, ‘everthing’,
and been forgiven for playing.
The words I’m no longer afraid of,
‘I’, ‘us’, ‘we’.
Those I’ve found,
yours is the word that never dies
but burns and burns and burns.
I Walk The City At Night To Find You.
I walk the city at night to find you.
Clockworked windup feet carry me
on buses, through alleys,
away from crowds.
Absent, I drift.
Night time’s a clown
rubbing off its make-up.
this is you sad
this is you happy
this is you black
I walk and walk and walk.
Buildings are trees.
There’s no GPS or breadcrumbs
for a beating heart.
I sit by the wheel for ten minutes,
Allow yourself this one day
hungover from love. To sit in your sad cocoon
bed-lain on lemon bon bon sheets and sick with ache,
cuddling your bones. Let the day roll into night.
Do not fret about the red numbers in your account,
about deadlines and business worries; pick up three
books and do not read them. Wallow in coffee,
or simply nothing, as you tap-tap through Twitter feeds
and text messages and nonsense mad thoughts.
Let yourself reek with the unwash of sleep-sweats
and salt tears. Eat the mirror on your wall.
Play the unhappy songs that in bed you kissed,
had sex, made love to, that time, when sex became
heart-bare: skintouched, and those eyes.
Tomorrow you can sit in the warmth of a bath
clean your nails, pluck your brow, shave off the fluff;
eat, drink, clean your room of your last meals
and bed-locked naked picnics. Tomorrow you can sail
in fresh linen and clothes, listen to happy songs
with no meaning but pop-tones, through a new day;
today is today, this day, my love.
from Modern Love (flipped eye, 2011).
Visit Max’s website.
Follow Max’s Arts Council funded project The Wedlock Winter.