Saturday, February 3, 2018



From Here by Zoe Skoulding, with illustrations by Simonetta Moro
(Ypolita Press, 2008)

            I can’t help but to laugh at the coincidental timing of this chap. I took a course in my last semester of grad school about environmental media, and the course, while frustrating and dens, provided me with some fantastic insight as to how the space and time of an environment affects the products that are produced therein, including those of a fine arts scope. I am happy to say that this chap, written eight years before I dove into such subject matter, does a delightful job of describing the dystopic in what we would view as a mundane part of the world.
            As the poet mentions in her postscript, this project was born out of a chance meeting at a conference on psychogeography. The correspondence was done over email, and this work eventually evolved into a chap. Given the fact that the space involved in this chap was over two continents and an ocean, it’s delightful to see how the poet stretches out a small space to reflect the great vastness of our planet. In poems “I”, “VII”, and “XIII” she mentions the giant land masses, even as she confines her narrative to a small part of the world that she is recalling, almost dreamlike, in her work.
            That dreamlike quality is what makes a wonderful contrast to the artwork provided by Moro. While Skoulding will offer a criticism of the police-state in the mildest of terms (“territorial integrity softens into rain/as things get cloudy under/cold fronts of diplomatic pressure” from her poem “VIII”), the artwork that Moro provides is as stark in it’s presentation as it is in its subject matter. One image, in nearly-all black and white, shows shadow figures trudging along a brick walkway as advertisements and chaos swirls along storefronts. From above watch three security cameras, with one red lens no doubt representing the ever-watching eye of the police state, a modern-day Big Brother that Orwell could only imagine in his most orgasmic of nightmares.
            Viewing this through a lens of current events, one must wonder if Skoulding is an oracle of some sort, as even her mild poetic prose harkens to darker days to come. She speaks of “nations warping” (“XI”) and “global weather patterns” (“VI”) as if one is chatting about such cataclysms over a cup of coffee, just as talks of racism and closed borders and pussy-grabbing have become the new norm, as if such brash language is boldened by the beasts of our darkened souls. The medias mixed herein predict a bleak future, one that, ten years after this publication, is playing out like the passing of two strangers in the night.


M. Earl Smith is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a Masters of Arts in English Literature. He currently teaches English at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. His current research interests include 16th-19th century manuscripts as well as children’s and young adult literature.