Monkey Reviews The Dead Queen of Bohemia


An ex-girlfriend had a tatty book that gathered dust in my old flat. It was called How Poetry Works. I flicked through it a few times but it could’ve been a computer manual from the 1980s for all the sense it made to me. I don’t know how poetry works. I don’t know how computers work either. I couldn’t care less; as long as they do. Music’s the same. Ray Davies onArenathe other week got all tetchy about documentary makers wanting to over-analyze artists when people “either like the song or they don’t”.I like Jenni Fagan’s poems. They live at the dark end of the street, across the tracks, on the outskirts of town in a world inhabited by junkies, winos, weirdoes and whores. And they’re only the harmless ones. Fagan doesn’t romanticize them but is empowered by her own experiences and wears them proudly like a rusting pin badge rescued from the rain. Out of the human wreckage come phrases like “…the schizophrenic knew fifteen different ways to bring Satan through a crack in the wall like a great vagina of doom” that instantly leave their words stamped in the brain. But there are two sides of every coin and on the flip of Jenni’s feisty confrontations are glimpses of vulnerability and tenderness.

They work for me. They should work for you too.

The Dead Queen of Bohemia by Jenni Fagan is published by Blackheath Books, priced £7.50.

Blackheath Books Website.

posted by monkey at 12:07

120 Days of Sodom

I’ll return to Sodom in a minute. I am distracted by obscure pirates. There are a few under-archived female pirates and one in particular is one of the great female outlaws I’m going to research and resurrect. I could handle a pirate ship and a few years whiskey for water. I’m not a bad shot either. Perhaps the most successful documented female pirate is Ching Shih who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded 1800 ships and about 80,000 pirates. Not bad for a girl who started out in Canton’s floating brothels.

There was Alvilda in Finland, Charlotte de Berry from England in 1636, Rachel Wall from Pennsylvania in the 1770s, Jane de Belleville a Frenchwoman who assisted the English at the 1345 invasion of Brittany. Anne Bonney and Mary Read were two famous pirates, thought to be lovers. Anne Bonney was Irish and often sailed her black flag in the Caribbean. After they got arrested in the 1720s both women pleaded their bellies so their executions would be delayed. While Read is thought to have died in childbirth, Bonny disappeared. There’s a grave for her many, many years later in 1782 South Carolina, then eighty years old, with eight children, grandchildren and a husband. A happy end for an outlaw.

Pirates aside I saw a production of Noel Cowards Design for Living the other week. The play still stands up and the sets in the Old Vic were stunning. Some of the 1930s stuff dated not so well but most of it seemed fairly contemporary, the acting was a bit theatre but still a great play. I’ve been reading Sole, the hardback collection by David Oprava out on Blackheath. It’s a great one to collect, the hardbacks are limited edition and will sell out quickly.

I also picked up the uncut Salo or 120 Days of Sodom by Pier Paolo Pasolini which was banned everywhere and promises true filth, degradation and violence in this uncut version. Like many films billed as the most disturbing ever made – it might just be total kitsch bollocks. I don’t know why capturing the essence of filth seems to elude so many? One can but live in hope.

Here’s Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson, singing Relator.

Degenerate Sweethearts & Rebel Scum

The poetry reading of the summer is going to be Degenerate Sweethearts & Rebel Scum. One or two people need to verify but other than that everyone is gearing up for a night of fucking sterling poetry. The venue is likely to be in Soho and will be confirmed soon. Don’t be square all you dollies and daddy o’s, swing by an’ get mashed x