Chris Emery’s Radio Nostalgia

Chris Emery lives in Cromer with his wife and children. He is a director of Salt, an independent literary press. His has published two collections of poetry, a writer’s guide and edited editions of Emily Brontë, Keats and Rossetti. His work has been widely published in magazines and anthologised, most recently in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010). A new collection of poetry, The Departure, will be published by Salt in 2012. 

“As palliative as a corpse in a junkyard, … Radio Nostalgia doesn’t relax you so much as it opens a way into wakefulness. With a stunning lexicon, short phrases stuffed with grit, petrol and spleen, Chris Emery orchestrates a complex, resistant music into one to three-beat lines as our ‘countdown to armaments’. He refuses to look away from the tableau vivant of degradation. “It is (as promised) all here for you now”, he writes, a twenty-first century so wounded and blout that only the the language that crawls over it shimmers with its implicit hope for transformation and redemption.”
– Forrest Gander
“[Radio Nostalgia] … has complex roots. The poems owe much to cinema … a distinctive sonic resonance … word music which sets his work apart. In these poems Emery has discovered a language which articulates the complex and nightmarish ramifications of the war on terror …”
– Philip Terry, Stride Magazine
“The stark nature of the world and the taut lives of the characters which people his particular wasteland. … thrives on the binding device of this tight diction … springs the rhythm of the entire language and renders it foreign … a rather breathless feel to it … musical and expansive.”
– Nigel McLoughlin, Poetry Review 
” … strong, gritty and very appealing … a plainness of diction and a wry humour … witty, gracious and entertaining … presented with real dignity and compassion.”
– Robert Nisbet, Roundyhouse 
Radio Nostalgia is cover-to-cover quality, also dense and disparate, so the first several poems throw the reader into a dark room. Until you recover your Night Vision, these poems will escape you, until you see the ashen, moonlit strains that shoot through the book. The martial and the political come gradually into focus, poem after poem, and at their most keen the poems indict a particular mayor, governor, political candidates in general, a British Parliament and Prime Minister.”
– Ezekiel Black, Tarpaulin Sky Reviews 
Upward with tapers
death has come to meet me on the stairs.
Her face hangs like a handset on its cord
loaded with static. She always has the answers.
We are the insects of her trade
inside a world of doors.
Hereabouts she smiles and strokes
her children with aplomb,
we totter on
above the sordid rafters.
Not far off, the chimneyed landscape
rolls in black succession to the sea.
Is it that the lack of choice seems fair
within the ferment,
or that the buried coast she stalks
is feathered with ideas?
I tell her of the ghosts I’ve had
where each was left all tangled
in a dress shirt on the path.
We move in conical procession to the ridge.
There are stains on the knees of the officers.
Their woollen socks are grey and frayed
as we watch the miniscule dresses
soiled with distemper.
Dad, are you still in there,
shining with your tiger’s eye cufflinks,
ending up in grease and pewter
in some Egyptology of the lounge? 
Next I’ll peer out over the cadmium earth,
jumping with the doubt of it,
my trouser hems on fire
as I race out over
sparking fibrous moorland
soaked with the milk of hinds.
Son, the oil of each memory
is a cancer for love.
Speeding with the dead can sort
whatever mouth, whatever bone.

The Journey 
          for Roddy Lumsden
When called, near our favourite moors, too soft to bear
          an ache this winter,
beyond the frozen lines of washing left out late and
          rigid as a mind,
I’ll come and stake my life on the bare land to declare
          not hate
or love or municipal indifference, but kind extension.
          The way the traffic
purls along the road through the steep night, or that
          clacking of a train
pouring over Failsworth to end up here is just a black
          journey we could make
through northern narratives towards a bad nativity
          scene or cave of light.
Yes, here in the mill towns and dead collieries I’ll hand
          you a note,
nothing grand or preposterous, a simple common
          sentence about that raging day
that no one could escape from, and then the barriers
          will fall, Roddy, to show
receding light up there on that hill monument, like
          some invite to another life.
From the Centre 
Once your eyes have adjusted to the grit
and sprawl of Braille around the tableaux
you’ll see ears are ammonites, hands starfish,
and tilt your head to watch the weather’s slow
procession from the dig. There’s singing or crying
investing wealth with high-throated commotion.
At midday the daylight ends; no one wings it
in the compound. We are poverty in motion.
How we ended up here is funny, like a shiny
belly or bare flank, or it could be that ash-
coloured, hose-damp concrete there.
Every child distorts the man and man the cash.
Look at it raining down — atrocious love
beside couples filming or are they fleeing
the gift. It is an entirely live feed as we learn dogma
from wire. Someone says, ‘Nomads in waiting,’
and we become scintillating, free in the debris.
Don’t catch life out, then, and watch the traffic.
Now you know, when the slap up meals fall out
of those sacks, we’ll be taking home our pick
of your bomb-retiring heroes, day and night,
night and day, those clean-cut silent flags of ham-
burger heaven still warm under props. Later, we’ll
be zooming or seething through that dream
of dislocated empty routes, shaky gorgons
of the zone. Together we are a modern fog,
the idea of the better dead, immortalised grey
eyes above subtitled totally idealised dialogue.
No one adheres to the precise terms any more.
The streets shiver like windows this afternoon of very
large government. We’ll ape out the speeches
of the ape. This country is his artery.
The Curtain 
It’s no good maintaining appearances. I am not as I was. I’m keeping out of things. Still muttering and picking my skin. Just noise in the rubble. The curtains shifting, a little musty, as the engineers prepare the way. Out there the seats are all empty. Where have I got to in the course of events? It is of no consequence. The words teeter and genuflect, little obelisks moist in the dusk. There are limbs of course, but none of them are mine. Someone else is at work on things. For a long time I have been participating in my own eradication. There is no end to this. The blade scrapes and scrapes. The bleach makes its mark. A fossil burns in the grate. I sense I can make things clean again. Cleanliness is very important. A machine scrabbling in the dust, picking its templates, picking its phrases. A machine burning for delivery. Cleanliness is unquestionably a very important part of making a contribution. Building the erratic gorgeous system. It is extremely pure and deprived of all identity. For a long time I have known that things are perfect. I have decided to get to the heart of this issue. As I make progress I am not clear I am in the midst of beauty. This is very liberating and also sour, like the taste of zinc. Sometimes I imagine I can matter, but largely this is a fabrication and completely disgusting. Once I have become another my life will be worth living. Until then the scrubbing seems a lustful and egocentric waste of time. Only after I have gone will the system become clear. I cannot get to the dark bed. The frontier is very cold and uncomfortable. Soon it will have to end.
The Lermontov
The cruise ship was
A weak heart grinding.
Weighing in cold presence
The grief.
The Lermontov fathoming
Industrial pine beside the tiered
Ice cliffs. In its wake
That month of bells.
Our crew embraced Lenin.
He boiled on lapels,
His savage index and globe
Ardent, dilapidated thesis,
Yet no red life was made.
Ideas foiled the smashing
Waves and boiled under
The manoeuvre’s wasting feature.
New negative horizons
Fused the common purpose.
The natal sea was antic. The lanes showed
Severe ash drop permanence
Making life its excavation.
Ancestors in leather
Jewelled fields and outcrops
Were just tattoos of earth.
Years sunk in black throats.
The ruined heads of bears stared
From the intaglio of it.
3,000 miles below
The frozen heart
Still spins with abstraction.
We adhere to its iron crystal,
Faster, darker polyps,
Love’s scouring creatures,
Electric weight unbedding
The banal arc
Of the salt path.

Lemnos Revisited
after Sophocles
Along the road beyond a sign or mention of it
I came to in the dead light of Lemnos
I hear their war cries and will not heal
So they left me stinking among the rocks
To ponder the rich shade of Chrysa’s shore
And think of the Achaean feasts
Abandoned on the land without succour
And only abstract rags and this reconnaissance
My heart has no pity
Watching the dark tiers of the earth steer
Like some neutral star path in the sea
While yet across the sea I hear Paris
Shouting a new method of glory
Consider us dragging that shining horse of flame
Seething in the dark resin
We were always spiralling to Troy
Sinking with the earth’s turning fury of love
Affection and attack
Now far away these chafing women
Are my border watch and know the facts of it
Shaking a lifetime of winding sheets
I hear the war drum and the scissors of men
So let this ink pool of the gods explain
Our designified wounds
Our lack of monuments in this final order
My military effort can host no creed
No glaze or feature except the posture
And rancour we hold to be just
For in this local output deficit we may trade
The chaos of our meals for a white cage
I know no thought will mar that furious ife
My ranging shot and perfect cut
Will spur the vaulted hills
Straight to the feathery heaps discarded there
I will see our little treasures wasted
The earth bandaged up
I’ll hear their fricatives and see their plastic torsos
Hot above our hot post-animate shells
Pastel vexed and torpid.
Pressed in the teeth of the wheels
The steel pigs mashing down
With terminal velocity
from Radio Nostalgia.
Purchase Radio Nostalgia (Kindle Edition) in the UK and USA.
Visit Chris’s blog.
Visit Salt’s website and blog.

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