This chapbook of incredibly experimental poetry by Aislinn Evans was published in 2021 by flipped eye as part of the the “defeye” series, which – I learned from Wikipedia – is for publishing “theatre and non-traditional formats”. That checks out. So I suppose that means that it both is poetry and isn’t poetry at the same time. What’s more experimental than that???
I bought The Towns We Leave Hate Us Most from the same independent publishers’ fair (fayre?) that I purchased a few more of the texts that have been discussed this POETRY MONTH, waaaaay back at the start of the summer when the death of the Queen was a republican fantasy rather than a countrywide reality.
This set of writing, images and activities from Evans explores a range of topics from the explicitly political to discussions of confidence, of regret, of lost loves, and as the title of the collection implies, of revisiting places where one no longer lives and seeing the ways they have changed and not changed at all. The stasis of towns – I too am from a town, and I’m sorry about it – is in itself unfamiliar… the failure to change is in itself a change: everywhere and everything was new, once, but in towns – and this, really, is how I would define the experience of a town – in towns there often seems to be a commitment to nothing being new ever again.
One of the poems is a visual poem included in the text as a pull out poster, which I put in a frame on (against) my (it’s not “my” wall, lol, I own nothing) wall. Check it out:
There are a couple of standard free verse pieces, there is a prose poem about depression and spontaneous crying, and there are two pieces that instruct the reader to cut out scored sections into cards and shuffle them and read them in a group.
One of these is the eponymous poem and it offers beautiful applications of lost youth and the inspirationless nightmare that is pretty much everywhere in the UK that isn’t a city.
There is also a piece written as a whispered group activity, so several of these pieces read as “scores” for live performance.
There is also a piece that is a hand-drawn map with biographical annotations that zooms further out over several pages until we see the solar system view of two people no longer together but still stuck on the same rock, as is used as the cover of the book.
The Towns We Leave Hate Us Most is an inventive, unpredictable, collection of work that can be enjoyed from the perspective of both the experimental performance and literary traditions. There is real wit and real beauty to the writing, and lots to enjoy and empathise with. It’s an excellent experience.
I’d give it a go!