Book Review

Subsequent Death by Aaron Kent

who wouldn't beg for a little more life?

I don’t know where this book came from.

I don’t remember buying it, I don’t remember accepting an offer for a copy of it, I don’t remember being given it in person. But, alas, here it is, in my hand and now in my head: Subsequent Death by Aaron Kent, a book of prose poetry of a type I don’t know how to name, published by Zimzalla. Let’s dive in.

Subsequent Death is narrative poetry, and speaks from the perspective of a slightly-tweaked idea of the Grim Reaper. Each chapter shows this personified Death meeting a different person (or persons) on their way to the afterlife. This premise allows for meditations and asides on a range of different topics including the futility of war, the redemptive life-giving energy of fucking, the smug sense of karmic retribution when a people trafficker drowns in his own ship, and (of course) the pointlessness of religion. There’s some genuinely wise and (probably accurate) writing about how those who are most likely to beg for more life are those who have not lived well, those who have not been happy, but here this urge is treated as nonsensical, rather than as the relatable and sad truth that it evokes. I don’t know if this is Kent’s opinion or the opinion solely of his narrator, but for me the validity of this idea is evidence of optimism rather than fear, of the persistence of hope even until the end of life.

“Why beg for the continuation of a hated existence unless you hadn’t lost hope in a better life?”

I found myself asking

One could argue, of course, that the threat of “hell” and “eternal torture” could keep people craving life through fear, but I don’t think that is true, certainly not any more. I think people beg for more life because they believe in happiness, they believe in the potentiality of change and they believe, hopefully, in the potential of another week, another month, another year being just about enough time for them to fucking turn things around and enjoy themselves, even if just for a bit…

To live a little longer to taste a little more, one small mite, of a rare pleasure.

One more fuck, one more kiss, one more hug, one more walk in the park, one more swim in the ocean, one more lick from a dog, one more beer with an old friend, one more level of Super Mario Bros… 

One more night on the town, one more tweet, one more novel, one more book of experimental poetry read…

One more block of cheese, one more city break, one more poo in an airplane toilet, one more season of Game of Thrones, one more Instagram post that gets 30 likes, one more day waking up in a bed and the arms of somebody good, one more fried egg sandwich, one more fucking risotto ball, one more two hour avant garde jazz playlist on Spotify, one more listen to Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1… 

One more two hour car ride in the countryside, one more evening drinking alone and listening to the music I loved as a teenager and reminiscing about how I felt hopeful and free and excited and how even though I was unhappy for ages I made a good life at least for a bit…

One more time picking up my dog’s poo, one more singing loudly to pop songs in my sister’s car, one more going a full day without anyone making me feel like shit, one more book sent to me without me knowing or remembering where it came from…

There are many little things, minuscule things, moments of pleasure, in the most melancholic of lives, and each of these are things we could beg for more of. For years I craved death and at some point I will probably crave death again, but I can imagine myself, at that last moment, begging for just a little bit more, but for a good bit, a good bit a good bit.

“I haven’t read the sixth volume of My Struggle,” I’d beg the Grim Reaper, “and I’d love to do karaoke one more time, will you sing the Kenny Rogers part of ‘Islands In The Stream’, with me, Mr Reaper?”

I’d like to see my friends, I want to remember when they all helped me when I wanted to die. It is only when other people made me feel like I wasn’t inherently hateable that I really learned I really learned I really… 

Aaron Kent’s Subsequent Death is structurally inventive, its sentences and ideas bounce between pages and boxes with the pages. Some of it is printed as mirrored text, sometimes lines of text obscure other lines of text and sometimes the readerly eye is stretched across space in a frustrating way but mostly in a manner that adds space for thought and reflection.

There is lots of white space here, and there are lots of strong ideas, and lots of inventive ways in which those strong ideas are displayed.

I enjoyed it, I think. It certainly made me feel reflective, which is something, right? Though I did type this after my final day in a job and while about to leave the house to head to my oldest friend’s wedding, so I think for me to feel anything other than reflective right now would be impossible.

I don’t want to die, but I think that even when I did I would have begged for a little more time to seek happiness. Which is what I did, basically, and –  ha ha ha – a little bit of happiness is definitely what I’ve found…

Read more about Subsequent Death and its publisher, zimZalla here.

On November 14th 2018, I launched my first book, Bad Boy Poet, in the basement of Burley Fisher Books, Dalston. Here are some of the songs and poems I performed:

Order Bad Boy Poet from the publisher here.

Order Bad Boy Poet with free Worldwide Shipping from The Book Depository here.

Order Bad Boy Poet from Amazon/Waterstones/Hive/Foyles etc if you’d prefer.

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1 comment on “Subsequent Death by Aaron Kent

  1. Pingback: An Underground Guide To Sewers by Stephen Halliday – Triumph Of The Now

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