Book Review


a fun zine i picked up in the extreme north (Liverpool)

cw: discussion of ableism

I suppose something we should discuss here in the inaugural (and possibly final?) POETRY MONTH is poetry zines.

Most of the printed poetry I’ve had published has been in publications known as “zines”, which – as I’m sure you’re aware if you’re reading this – is an… informal magazine, shall we say?

Traditionally – and often still – zines are produced in a DIY fashion (i.e. at home) using A4 (or “letter”) sized pieces of paper folded and stapled together. The style of the pages themselves show varying levels of InDesign/Word/Typewriter/Glue & Photocopier skills, depending on budget, era, intention and decision.

This zine, WORD VOMIT, is not one that contains any poems by me, but it does contain writing from Martin Appleby, a poet I know who has published my work more than once in his long-running zine, Paper and Ink.

But it wasn’t Appleby’s name on the contributor list that sold WORD VOMIT to me, rather it was the full colour cover which features a photograph of the [in]famous wanking man from Pompeii, underneath its title and the issue’s topic: emotional arousal. Yes, yes, please!

After a brief introduction from an editor named only as “MFP” – possibly, but not definitely, the contributor pseudonymously (I presume) named Mary Fuckin Poppins – this 24-page zine (i.e 6 pieces of A4 paper double-sided and folded into 24 A5 pages) features, poetry, photography and two short prose pieces.

WORD VOMIT feels like a very authentic and unpretentious piece of DIY publishing, with scattershot changing of font, kerning, spacing, spelling, punctuation use, layout, indentation, alignment and so on: there is lots of content here and it is displayed in a energetic and enthusiastic manner, with social media handles provided for pretty much every writer and a standardised single line bio containing name and location at the end of the zine.

Many of the poems here have v strong rhythms and rhyme schemes and feature a lot of repetition & use of direct address, so a sizeable quantity of these poems would work really very well in a live/performance setting. Perhaps there’s a live night affiliated with this zine. I don’t know, I don’t really speak to people as I hate having to pretend not to be massively mentally ill and you kinda have to do that when you talk to people.

All of the pieces in WORD VOMIT are short, but each contributor is able to create engaging, fraught, perspectives and images. Much of the writing is both politicised and very personal. Although there weren’t any individual pieces that stood out to me as especially great, the zine as a whole is super consistent with its style and aesthetic throughout.

WORD VOMIT doesn’t offer intricate or subtle writing and presentation, but that’s a good thing: we should resist the gentrification, the po-faced-ification, the academicification of poetry.

It is unreasonable – and ultimately ignorant – to expect or desire for all poetry to be polite, neat and tidy.

This is a short read, put together with very clear and prevalent energy and excitement, and that’s exactly the kind of thing poetry needs, if it wants to be something that people care about.

If/when I see another issue of WORD VOMIT in a bookstore or Liverpool coffee shop (as I did with this one), I will definitely pick it up again!

My one criticism of this set set of writing was the casual inclusion of a very much no longer acceptable ableist slur in one of the pieces written by – you guessed it – an American. As a story and as a publication, there is far more to be gained by not including slurs than there is to be gained from upholding the right wing fascist type belief that “free speech” trumps not being a dickhead.

You can say what you like, but there are some words that well intentioned people don’t say. And the word included in the story ‘Method’ – which I won’t include here – is one of them.

Ableist slur aside, WORD VOMIT is a fun collection of direct and unsubtle writing from a wide-ranging selection of English language poets.

Buy zines, buy poetry, especially poetry from independent presses!

Order WORD VOMIT via this little link. is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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