Here I list my publications to date by various publishers
.a world where. writing by paul brookes
stark gutsy words wake from me the attachment, I gobble them as one starving.
I have read him before yet never like this. the dark horse of heightened intent.
gathering this into mind. I read on.
Sonja Benskin Mesher
A world where, by poet Paul Brookes is a great trip through the life of a real original. These poems take you on a smart and interesting journey. Paul is a writer of unique talent and an original world view. He does not write like anyone else, which is rare in itself, that these poems are so good only makes you all the more glad you have them in your hand. This is a book worth reading over and over. Paul is a real talent and a powerful poet as I am sure you will agree.
Matt Borczon, author of “The Clock Of Human Bones”
A WORLD WHERE, by PAUL BROOKES
A world where words make conundrums. Words make a memory café of contradiction. Counterfactual worlds. Words dance into newness, strange and startling juxtapositions. Big is small. Age is youth. Love is murder. Poems precipitate friends into strangers. A choreography of definition, fractured into dialect. There are no maps, only words bear witness to dark and light, and grow more famouser in their glow… Paul Brookes kicks words until they crack and splinter, hard, hard and harderer…
“Brookes poetry is true and unsettling, hands on the human heart, feeling the beat without flinching. Every poem is a narrative that distills the moment while effortlessly recalling for the reader the necessary context of past and future, one instant in a visible stream of time. He is skilled at twisting the expected into the uncomfortable and allowing the reader to see that this spin was always the truth. A masterful short book of poems that creates an entire world of voices.”
Julie Carpenter , editor of Sacred Chickens.com
“A World Where” ————
Paul Brookes is a rare & wondrous poet. Fully vested, mature, his poems work the line & surprise the reader & the English language with quantum muscularity & delightful, metaphoric insight. — Ron Androla, author of “Confluence” (Busted Dharma Press) & many other books.
I enjoyed the collection immensely — the familiar turned on its head, the play of the language, the bone deep subjects he tackles. He uses language in a wonderful way, at once intimate to the point of blood and challenging. No easy trick. A wonderful and unique voice here which he maintains throughout, even as the collection gathers its rhythms. “Birth is a Time for Grief” is a particular favorite, as is “We Wait for Sick Sunblaze To.”
I really enjoyed your collection – so imaginative and strange, but actually felt real, like a good sci fi or fantasy story should, and in poems at that
“After reading the poems in A World Where, anything seems within the bounds of possibility. At times dark, but with plenty of humour, the absurdity of our own world is renewed again and again through the kaleidoscope view of Paul Brookes’ imagined realities. A fascinating collection.”
Kate Garrett, editor of Picaroon Press and Three Drops From A Cauldron
I enjoyed the read very much! The collection is well written and strong throughout, but some of my favourites were: Folk Are Born Tall, Bairns And Old Codgers, Delicious Concrete, My Strangers, Life Is Meant, You Must, and The Sunlight (my personal favourite of the collection.
“Whether it is experiencing the past lives of his granddaughter or the interior design of a street person or imagining sweat as rain, Paul Brookes lets you peer into his life, but always at a distance. His friends are strangers in a ravaged British landscape of crushed cans and sweet wrappers and bird skeletons. Themes of otherness and disease and memory and loss permeate Brookes’ work. The language is at once accessible and refreshing without ever falling prey to what is expected.”
– Ryan Quinn Flanagan (author of The Blue of Every Flame)
“Words are not the dark, they bear witness to the dark” writes Paul Brookes in his poignant and alluring new collection of poems titled “A World Where.” The words Paul shares with us do indeed bear witness to the dark and are illuminating. The poems collected here are a vast assortment of many emotional plateaus. The poems are beautiful, gritty, humorous, tender and seductive in their abilities to grip a reader. This is sensory overload in all the right ways and I treasured being able to breathe it in.-
Dan Flores III
I’ve been following the author’s work for some time online now and was excited to receive this in the mail. It did not disappoint. Brookes’ style is very unique and hard to describe. I do know that most of it is strange and hard hitting, just the way I like it. Right out of the gate he belts you with this line in the first poem of the book: “You had an impact on my future, I’m not sure I forgive you.” The illustrations are a well chosen compliment to the words.
Anonymous Reviewer on Amazon
Paul Brookes, The Sperm Bot Blues, Oppress Books, contact at Oppressbooks@aol.com complete catalogue at http://www.issuu.com/oppoet, 27 poems, 76 pages no price listed.
This oversized, illustrated with many “revealing” photos, and a truly unique font calculated to drive most people insane, is billed as a novel told in poems. I guess what it is, is a sci fi/futuristic/fantasy/ novel, of sorts, in the mode of William S. Burroughs. A flipped-out Burroughs, that is, reveling in aggressively obtuse, erotic situations. In this world, sexuality, seems to have become fluid: robots are taking over everything, especially sexual congress and there seems to be a lot of S/M going on in futuristic dungeons. Everyone seems to be having a wild time, especially the bots and the consenting adult women, in various stages of bondage, the subject being the context of the man photographs that illustrate the written work. Decidedly not for everyone’s taste. If you can get by the font and you enjoy Burroughs, this may work for you. I assure you I may have missed perfectly obvious things to people who are into fringe lifestyles which I am most decidedly, not into. For instance: maybe those aren’t studio dungeons but orgone boxes. Burroughs liked Orgone boxes for self-stimulation along with his Steely Dan. (No not the musical group, the dildo Burroughs called Steely Dan, that the group appropriated the name from.) Nothing would surprise me. Once you’ve entered the sperm bot universe just about anything is possible.
From The Misfit Magazine.com
Another fabulous read by the indefatigable Yorkshire poet, Paul Brookes. This time with his singular style and and acute insight into the human condition, Paul takes us through five stories, pictures of the great and small ironies of life drawn as we observe the daily routines, rituals and reactions in lives where birds have jam sessions on rooftops, mausoleums live on fridge doors, the memory of a touch stays with the skin; lives where hands are telling and people hunger, give what’s not wanted and take what’s not given. In short, Life with all its pathos and ethos. She Needs that Edge is well worth your time and pennies.
In the universe of this exquisite collection, Paul Brookes merges desire and menace, the nature of aging and hidden despair to show the wonders of the human experience filtered through several varieties of darkness. Brooks is too cagey to fully tip his hand, but repeated readings of these poems reward the reader with new and sometimes breathtaking epiphanies. “Life is boring when there’s no edge to it,” one of his characters observes. This is a truth in which Brookes delights. You – yes, you — need to read this book.
Jeff Weddle, author of Comes to This and Heart of the Broken World
Brookes is a good poet but you must read all parts of his sequence poems to get at his genius that weaves in and around each stanza and leaves you in slack jawed awe. His words are often sexy, humorous, clever, surprising, multi-layered and mysterious, sometimes at the same time.
“His blood keeps their house lubricated and his steady rhythm beats through their working day.” In another poem, “Longiforum lilies attract askance bees to their sacred perfume chimneys.” There is brilliance and beauty here but always “a swan’s wing away from brokenness.”
Author of Blue Rooms, Black Holes, White Lights
Readers of Paul Brooke’s blog will be familiar with his interest in ekphrastic writing; these two books, collaborations with the Dutch painter Marcel Herms, are a logical extension of this interest. It’s clear that poet and artist have discovered a shared set of themes and concerns resulting in work that goes beyond the limitations of ‘poems about pictures’; each in its own way, both books represent an integration of text and picture into a more organic whole.
Port of Souls is the nearest to the expected model, with individual text/painting pairings that reflect each other, albeit obliquely. I claim no art expertise, but there’s something in Herms’ palette and the simplified humanoid forms that fill these pictures, often in exploding postures of pain or anger, that remind me of Francis Bacon, and Brookes’ matches the technique and tone by adopting a form that generally teeters between verse and prose, a kind of prose/verse poetry in which syntactic disjunction echoes the way in which the paintings are organised:
Beware windows keep faces behind two panes
eyes, cheeks, teeth captured when you glance through a wrong glass at the outside.
From these travels circumnavigation of my ocular orbs I have discovered:
My chameleon is a wild goat that neither eats or drinks always mouth open it lives on air.
[from ‘Our Rats are Hounds’]
Interestingly, it seems that these were originally conceived as short free verse lines, but the change to longer, semi-prose lineation disrupts the reading in a manner analogous to how the facing painting (also at that link) disrupts the movement of the eye. This is even more apparent in the poem/painting pairing called ‘Warlord’, where the exploding, fire-crowned head is brought to verbal life:
After a battle where skulls are blown apart he sits and laughs at Anthem For Doomed Youth.
After a skirmish in which men are screaming With half a leg or arm bone shattered By shrapnel, he guffaws at Dulce Decorum Est.
The more graphic, the more comic to him.
He says if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.
Laughter is healthy. Laughter is human.
The embedding of some ‘famous poems about the war’ serves to both highlight the inadequacy of conventional verse to do justice to the realities of carnage and explore new ways of doing just that. It’s a project that is encapsulated in the final pairing here, ‘A World Where’:
I don’t orientate
without signposts or landmarks or signatures. All is blur. Meaning elusive.
If I make it could be false. There is grief at a loss of shape, of pattern.
Brookes and Herms seem determined to confront this grief by discovering new patterns of expression.
-Billy Mills (Elliptical Movements, blog)
Ian Badcoe Poetry: Review: Paul Brookes “Please Take Change” https://www.ianbadcoe.uk/2018/12/review-paul-brookes-please-take-change.html?spref=tw
Review: Paul Brookes “Please Take Change”
Paul Brookes is a poet I know through the internet. We used to hang out on Poetry Circle, an online forum…
Before I begin this review I must reveal that I live a charmed life. I have always found it easy to get jobs, and places I have worked have been more akin magical kingdoms, than grey Kafkaesque distopias.
From the biography on the back we discover Paul has been a security guard, postman, admin assistant, call centre advisor, lecturer, poetry performer and now works as a shop assistant. He has recently been interviewing almost every poet in the UK in The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews and very interesting they are (you may find yourself, or even myself, in there if you look hard enough…)
This collection draws heavily on Paul’s employment history. Not all of those are the most glamorous of jobs (except “poetry performer” — literally the most glamorous job there is…) and you might expect there’s a degree of arduous toil, unsympathetic bosses, wearying drudgery to be expressed. In this you’d be right, and these poems do reveal a world of quotidian working days.
Also the skillful way everyday language is put to work to illustrate the general principle, but simultaneously narrate the concrete example, is typical of the poems here. Another that demonstrates this point is:
Their companion gone
old men stoop lower
with less in their basket,
try to recall her shopping list,
was it Robinson’s marmalade,
or Hartley’s lemonade?
Spam. No she never liked spam.
Never enough fat on bacon.
Yes, I need a receipt, young man
Which is touching, humorous, and heartbreaking in roughly equal measure. People who do or don’t need receipts are a recurring theme, almost a running joke throughout this collection.
These two poems are perhaps a little unusual in using a symbol as a metaphor for something larger. More pieces are essentially biographical, in the sense of relating wonderfully observed moments and characters from the author’s working life, take:
at my till. I put first lad’s
goods through while second
says to his mate,
I’m gonna get a kitchen knife
and rip your twatting head off.
I’m gonna put it in shoebox
Set fire to it. Piss on the remains.
Do you want a receipt? I ask
the first lad.
This is a fascinating collection. The early copy I had was a little unevenly edited, but I hope that will be sorted out in the final edition. The scenes from everyday life are compelling, and the understated humour and good will with which they are presented lifts them well above the mundane to a plane of their own.
The conflicts, insults and travails presented here are something to be accepted, but not surrendered to, and the ultimate message we take from this is one of optimism and — I said it before — good humour.
Lets just end with this:
One of two young girls with flushed cheeks
who buy cans of coke and energiser asks
Please can I buy a lotto scratch card, #7?
I ring for the manager as per rule.
He asks the girls for i.d.
No. I haven’t. I’m eighteen.
We need to see your I.D. he says.
You’re an embarrassment, one replies
How dare you embarrass me?
Both girls flounce out the shop.
Did you hear what she called me?
Says the manager, smiling ear to ear.
Paul Brookes’ writing is stark. There isn’t any word pyrotechnics in here. The use of everyday language is, unfortunately, not much used, or even accepted, in a lot of poetry – poets like to show off and dazzle with their use of complicated words and intricate plots laying metaphor on top of metaphor until the meaning of the poem often becomes almost impenetrable. This is not the case with Brookes’ writing. Take this poem –
with sellotape and put back on shelves
frail crisp packets that open before sale.
Kinked cans of beans, frozen cardboard boxes
lids open goods inside. Some marked down.
Take delivery, in urgency to unpack, knife
catches corner of a bag of sugar. Sellotape the dribble.
My mam told me don’t buy damaged
cans. It’s not healthy. Once the seal
was broken on her trust she refused
to consider the goods worthwhile.
This is the stock that Paul Brookes deals with. The simplicity of the language describing an everyday routine event – part of the job – adds tremendous power to the poem in my opinion.
Most of the poems are about the workplace – another thing that the poetry world often ignores or finds itself unable to accept. It’s a dirty subject is work done by people with dirty hands – how could they know anything about poetry? Brookes works as a shop assistant – behind a till – though this isn’t the most important thing – it could be any retail store, any call centre, any restaurant or hardware shop where a shop assistant interacts with the public. But they are also far more than just about work – his writing captures the shadows of an event – a transaction – that Brookes has seen actually contains far more than what just happened. And from that you get a unique insight into people’s lives – the minutiae of them – a throwaway comment that Brookes uses to explore the possibilities of, amongst other things, existence, loneliness, poverty, addiction, camaraderie and community.
small boy in an angry bird t shirt,
mock flight jacket,
Hawaiian shorts and trainers
bursts into the shop shouting
I’ve got fifty pee.”
I reply that we close at eight,
so he has an hour.
“Just ran all way here.
What can I buy? he answers
mouth before a wall of sweets.
I show him in one corner trays full
of small chocolate eggs at 49p.
“Yes. Yes one of these.”
His delight makes me smile.
The humour and warmth Brookes has for the ‘customers’ who are members of his community is evident throughout the book. In fact, I think one of the best things about these poems is the sense of community that permeates through them – which in an age where it has become increasingly more difficult to find any sense of community anywhere other than on-line is both heart-warming and uplifting.
A lot of writing is now about isolation and loneliness, finding some kind of identity or meaning in amongst the big cities and masses of people. And you wouldn’t really expect anything less considering that we now live in a post-Thatcherite, post-New Labour society where the dissolving of industry and the replacement of full-time work with zero –hour or part-time ‘hire and fire’ alternatives has caused so many communities to break up into little bits.
Some say that this was just an economic inevitability what with the high wages of the old manufacturing and miner jobs – others are a little more cynical and say that this was engineered, encouraged and goaded into happening so that the working class wouldn’t be able to stick together anymore as the only meaningful opposition to stand against neoliberalism and free market economics – clearing the way forwards for their progress – well, as evidenced by this poem called Caravan, those little bits still exist and they sometimes come together in Paul Brookes’ shop –
Three women in the queue
The first empties her packed trolley.
Do you need any carrier bags?
Three to start with. I have to sort out
What we’re taking in the caravan.
Why did I buy so much?
Yes please while I empty this.
We’ll do it for you offers one of the other women.
We’d love a caravan holiday. Don’t take up much space.
Five carrier bags full later she says. I’ll have to fetch my car round. I’ll never carry all this.
We’ll carry it for you. We’ve only got these odd goods propose the other two women.
I can’t have you doing that.
Yes you can.
A caravan of women carry bags
out the door.
Please Take Change is full of this life affirming feeling. Even when Brookes deals with the grimmer unluckier or sadder side of life he does so in a considerate way – never judgmental or vindictive and always with humour – dark or otherwise – because that’s the only way how Brookes – and so many more of us – can even hope to survive.
We’re together, but not.
If you know what I mean?
No, this is my shopping.
That’s his. It’s all for
in the same bag. He carries
the bags. What I married him for.
Aye he says Fetching and carrying.
I bag ’em up and lug ’em home for her.
She adds we don’t live together.
If you know what I mean.
Regular old gent works his stick
buys a loaf of bread, his stutterful
fingers offer a palmside up
full of change for me to focus
upon and pick out the correct change
whilst his uncut nails tremble.
On one occasion he told me,
“Never get to ninety, lad.”
As usual I loudly and clearly
wish him a grand day.
He pauses then says “I was woken
up this morning to hear my wife had died
in old folks home.”
I say I’m sorry to hear that
give condolences as he pauses
and the queue at my till grows.
The next customer who overheard
says “He needed to tell someone.”
She is a presence,
a voice only, no image.
A post of cypress-wood,
draped in cloth, perhaps.
Otherwise a living tree
to recall her sacred grove.
Her rites are done outside.
She spares our daughters
heavy with bairn,
spares our wives
in pangs of labour
Cares for the mams
who fret over their bairns
carrying on now,
and how they fare.
But all is not sweetness and light. The play on stubborn sod is crucial, being both the land to be farmed and the determined farmers who work it being central to the sequence. Although Brookes frequently draws on Classical mythology, his tone is darker and more northern, as in ‘Atti Loses his Bollocks’, his Yorkshire reworking of the story of Attis from Catullus 63, a story that is dark enough in itself, but which Brookes expands to draw out the relationship between blood and fertility.
At this quick cry from her blood red lips
Cyb, his mam let lions out
goads one on left, enemy of flock
“Come on now,” she says, “Tha fierce, get thee sen off, away
See to it madness drives her,
see madness set her back into me wood,
she who scarpers from my rule.
Come, whiplash tha back with tha tail, suffer tha own tailpain
make all places echo
with tha bellow and roar.
Cyb utters these threats and with her hand frees lion from it’s yoke.
himsen to rage, rushes, roars,
breaks brushwood with flit paws.
And Brookes is not just concerned with the past, but also with the here and now of housing estates and industrial wastelands, where the pagan, sacred landscape is buried but not dead. The final poem in the sequence, ‘Oaksong’, works to bring these two worlds to a single focus around the most symbolic of Northern trees, the oak:
moors were once forests
national parks heavy industrial
this oak headland a pitsite
lads snap off livelimbs
black dogshitbags sway
on limbs left alone
don’t visit in a storm
oaks are lightningtrees
people can be oaks
oakgroves of druids
duir means a door
exit and entrance
raw open wounds of sacrifice
still bleed sap
The bleeding is multi-layered, the broken tree, the broken land, and the bleeding of past into present into past, as the once forest, once pitsite, becomes forest again. It’s the yearly cycle writ large. Brookes’ Pagan Year project is concerned with the recovery of a world that is damaged but not destroyed. I look forward to the final instalment.
-Billy Mills (Elliptical Movements blog)
“Enter her grove barefoot,/no leather here,/no blood sacrifices/done.//Offer her honeyed milk,/not wine,” the speaker says in Paul Brookes’s collection of poems, Stubborn Sod.
Stubborn Sod is the second installment in a trilogy of collections which surround Pagan cycle of year. Stubborn Sod begins in January, with the Pagan Sabbat of Imbolc, and ends in May, with Beltane, which gives the book a sense of waking up after a long sleep. The poems are accompanied by the abstract, visceral artwork of Marcel Herms.
In the poem, “Red the strong,” the speaker says: “Belief is a ship/on the fish-flecked sea,/close-hauled and tacking,/against this Christian gust.” This sets up the scenario. He goes on to describe the ship as having a dragon’s head and gilded–a veritable Viking ship. It ties in Pagan lore and history in a really powerful image. At the same time, the action of the poem seems to occur on a ship.
“I’m brought before me boss/who offers me baptism./”And,” says he, “I will not/take thy property from thee,//but rather be thy mate,/if thou wilt make thysen/ worthy to be such.” Thus, the speaker’s dilemma is this: become a Christian and deny his beliefs. Naturally, the speaker says that he won’t. Thus, the boss here tells him that “thee/ shall die the worst of deaths.”
So, the speaker is killed by a snake down the throat. I chose this poem to discuss because it ties in perfectly with the title, Stubborn Sod. In one sense, the book is about the ground as the seasons change, the thick grass that takes root. But it’s also about the Pagan in “Red the strong,” because he’d rather die staying true to himself and his beliefs. Paganism is, ultimately, about taking care of oneself and the earth and those around you. It’s about embracing nature and making things better.
I really enjoyed Stubborn Sod and I highly recommend it. Brookes’s poems are a masterful display of craft. It’s a celebration of Paganism that doesn’t try to argue or proselytize, but stands steadfast in the rich and ancient traditions and lore.
.as folk over yonder. paul brookes.
have said before how the forward of this book leaves me emotional before even starting on the verse. not many will write of simple kindnesses
“Time has not,
nor will not help this grief.”
i find an underlying sadness from small tales of everyday, fragile stories of vulnerability, humanity
a unique voice from a sharp intelligent ear, the words flow as ordinary, yet extraordinary in the telling
the truth told which many of us hear, it takes Paul to record them beautifully in this book
a book of triumph over the ordinary; raising his stories to a magic world with pith and accent
a black and white movie of current lives
i suggest it is read at least twice over
and kept to read some more
i have read it four times over, and the words remain fresh each time, a new nuance with each reading
a little delight in every corner
Sonja Benskin Mesher RCA