26 thoughts on “The Haunted Sleep of Jonathan Wood

  1. An extremely luxurious, meticulously designed, dustjacketed hardback tome – with 112 pages of about 5″ square.
    My edition is numbered 23/85.

    THE HAUNTED SLEEP

    “…despair at its finest.”

    You will need to travel far to find a text in such a perfectly composed register as this five-paged prose poem, an eschatological exercise in temporarily waking from death, or at least there is a doubt as to whether it is temporary in the reader’s mind, as reflective self meets expectant self amid a questioning of many of previous life’s accoutrements, some as if emerging from a Magritte painting.

  2. THE BLUR
    ON THE GLASS TO NOWHERE

    “What is it about the harmonious that belies the chaos at its periphery?”

    This is certainly a stunning example of “earliest memories” drip, drip, dripping into darkness, where the one whose memories they are feels he no longer exists, as if an extension of the previous work. I say ‘stunning’ advisedly, in all senses of that word, combining the well-honed Ligottian feel of ‘Wood waking up’ as well as Wood’s original tropes with lighter notes of sarcasm and resignation, reminding me, too, of barbers and door-to-door salesmen from what I feel must be an aura of the 1950s, as I recall those times.
    This work is both haunting and poignant. I already feel that this book that I intend to savour slowly is just the perfect book for me. I feel lucky at the moment about what I happen to be reading among much of my life less lucky otherwise.

  3. SWORN BLIND
    THE HYPNAGOGIC REVERIE

    “…sperm from deep within inner space that tastes of marble statues and summer days beyond price.”

    An intense continuation of the previous two works : the ‘in-between’ of Proustian selves : not Songs but Prose Poems of a Dead Dreamer.

  4. THINGS PASSING AT NIGHT
    IN THE HAUNTED SLEEP

    “I have manipulated dreams and I can but hope they will not follow me back for an explanation.”

    A continuation of the haunted sleep as it gather pace with automatic writing or stream of consciousness, with images floating by that evoke this rarefied state.
    Dreams manipulating the sleeper so that he will keep their secrets and tell us different dreams?

  5. BLACK LIGHT [I]
    BLACK LIGHT [II]
    BLACK LIGHT [III] FOREST PATHS

    “Finding yourself at the foot of a memorial to god
    knows who,”

    Three items of poetry.
    Dreamcatching the tactile journeys within your own living and dead body.

  6. INTO THE LIGHTED DARK
    THE BRIEFEST OF EPHEMERAL MEMORIES

    “Watching me fade into the faked-up history of the sun,…”

    A memory that suits one of my own memories of years ago, a regular slow train home across the Thames. This is a hybrid prose work and poem, not a blend of those two forms but one after the other.
    Like the other works, so far, it is full of lines that could last you all day thinking about, except you have other duties to take you away.

  7. SHARON AT THEE ROMAN CAMP

    A post-Lawrencian free verse structure about the Thames again, one that rings true to someone like me who, in the nineteen seventies, often exercised Machen’s Art of Wandering around Limehouse itself. Seeped or steeped in history, now coined anew.

  8. THE LOVE POEM IN THE PARK

    “As if we are both characters in the same painting…”

    A remarkable poem with London reference points that I appreciated from knowledge of them as well as a trademark self-harming ambiance to a shaven companion of which I have no knowledge…
    Full of poignancy and yearning to the backdrop, inter alia, of its centre point.
    A craquelure of romance.

  9. FAMILIARITY BREEDS

    A stunning word picture of a childhood summer school, communally Christian and sporting, including a game of puddocks. Male masses and female paintings down the stairs. I think I know the very place with its flaying of youthful sentiments in English days of yore, I guess, and, along with such flavours in other works, this book is confirming itself an enjoyable experience for the likes of me.

    Prime Ministers were once made from places like this, but not Margaret Thatcher, I assume! Familiarity breeds…

  10. WHO TO EARNESTLY LOVE?

    This is the most exquisite paean to book wraiths from ‘Romantia’ with the best opening lines I can remember from any previous occasions of wanting to use such words as ‘best opening lines’, viz. :-

    “If I had but one ambition left that was worth pursuing before Death played a sweet and delicate symphony in my head, it would be to compose and publish privately a slim volume of secret verse,…”

  11. RECOGNISED ACROSS A ROOM:
    LOVE STORY
    image

    “As a child, I used to dream of being within the metaphysical landscape of Giorgio de Chirico’s painting ‘Love Story’…”

    This is a remarkable and unmissable short essay that evokes all manner of images, where the author remembers this painting but, significantly, till the end, calling it by the wrong title.

    It has an added benefit for me in having inspiring kinship with what I myself once wrote, inter alia, HERE:

    “… or the way to look at paintings in a gallery or in an art book. You simply need to imagine in turn that each painting was hung on your bedroom wall for many years during the period when you were an impressionable child or youth. Obviously, you would have looked at it several times, lived with it (sometimes ignoring it, at other times staring at it mindlessly or with full attention); maybe you interpreted it in different ways over the years, found a meaning for you, &c.
    You can reach the same ‘experience’ with a new painting in a few minutes by willing the ‘bedroom wall’ state upon yourself by imagination or by osmosis or by concentrated effort or by channelled empathy with another self – and the painting, I assure you, will become as special and as diverse as that painting on the bedroom wall of your past.”

  12. INSOLAR FRAGMENTS
    AN EPHEMERAL TAROT

    “And your memories…”

    A variegated quilt of memories, of meetings and regrets and self-confirmations, inspirationally trying to blend or cubistise these things with a “constant search for meaning in everything” (and laughter).
    I call it dreamcatching, the poems themselves, as well as the way I have read each one. Someone’s memories becoming mine.

  13. LUDOG
    THE ETERNAL DREAM
    TRUDGE
    “I eat gulls for breakfast ….
    I merely pick them out of the sky.”
    LUDOG PENDANT
    “I can spy myself upon one of my walks…”
    LUDOG GHOSTS – 7/7
    “Impotence rising…”

    Three poems. Not so much Machen’s Art of Wandering as Wood’s Enviropathic Epics or Ludoggerel. Ranging through London placename lists, then Wood and Stone, with arcane symbols. Meantime, the poet meets folks he knows like Driffield, and buying secondhand books, as, very appropriately, in this context, a book written by Iain Sinclair. Steeped in bombs and layered history and other personal things, I found these poems a very engaging journey. In fact, the more I think about them, a landmark read, in more ways than one.

  14. THE FEAR

    “There is the fear of not understanding things.”

    I loved this incantatory poem with a recurrent itemisation of each FEAR, reminding me of Adrian Mitchell reciting his poems to us in the 1960s when I attended the university where he was resident poet. This new masterpiece should be read aloud again and again, making us wonder what life would be like without any fears.
    Not a life at all.

  15. IN LONELY DISTANT TEMPLES
    WE DREAM OF FREEDOM FROM THE STATE

    “…like dying and being born back to back,…”

    An astonishing and often hilarious extrapolation from an occult group in an East London squat to the means of escaping from the State. Which State, National or Personal? Probably both. Escaping from it by the few seconds of orgasm.
    This text should be taught in schools not only in Literature lessons while teaching George Orwell but also Personal Health ones when teaching the facts of life.

  16. ANTI-MATTER
    LUDOG SHADOWS – AS ABOVE,
    SO BELOW

    “Or if I died alone.”

    A poem as a strong continuation of the theme of escaping from the state in the previous work. (Remarkably I read this work just a few minutes after reading and reviewing HERE ‘Winter Song’ by Joel Lane and those of you who read both works will know, I suspect, what I am getting at.)

    PENDANT

    “The state will claim you as their own…”

    A short single paragraph.
    Like life itself?

  17. AND THEY WILL COME
    In memory of Harold Pinter

    “the trees on fire”

    An involving extrapolation from this book’s initial haunted sleep, a short Pinteresque soliloquy upon your consciousness as the van (a symbol of a hearse?) arrives at the end of your drive to take take you on some mystery tour into an unknown future…
    Would you not go? A theme that continues in the evocative…

    OLD MEN’S FINGERS

    …where your body ends wield the Yellow Sign (as well as your mind imprinted with images) of Woodbine cigarettes, a product I recall as a conundrum of my own childhood’s developing sense of eschatology, and beyond.

  18. RECLAMATION

    “…for I am your excess baggage of flesh and bone, entrails and lolloping gore.”

    You would need to go far to find a more highly prose-textured work. This work practices on the syntax struts of your synapses. And you need to come out the other side realising that this is about the alchemy of possession. A narrative succubation as ménage a trois, I, she and he, whole books between them to barter with — books that have less in them than this prose poem. Devilish, scatological, eschatological, how many times will it need to re-read the reader before it understands you?
    One of those rare impacted dreams that haunt your haunted sleep with an eventual third layer of haunting. Not excess baggage so much as left behind for later forwarding without you.

  19. FOLK MEMORY

    “Come sweet and unforgiving memory in the constancy of wisdom!”

    A longer and monumental poem, an essential self-gestalt from all this book’s previous works, combining a ‘folk memory’ of all things and people that constitute oneself, like a patchwork of pareidoliac ‘objective correlatives’ like faces found in treebark.
    Or found in this poem’s mirror. This poem’s memory.
    Coupled with a madness in the sense that any art is worthwhile only if the artist has taken a risk with that art. A madness that is exemplified by, arguably, two major printing typos ‘You are HEAR’ and ‘BECOUM’. Except they are probably not typos at all especially as the latter one is repeated!
    As if they were, as this poem itself says, “scrawled at 3 a.m. in the dark…”

  20. THE DEVIL IN TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD

    Seemingly a ‘work in progress’ that presides over several pages, one that I relished and, as I discovered, one that I am implicated in. The accretion of two dot ellipses instead of three dot ones were some morse code or coda to death tightening its grip gradually in this book’s haunted sleep: “to calibrate your last hours in myth and song and mystery” as this book has already satisfying accomplished, merging an aura of Ackroyd’s or Sinclair’s London with Rene Magritte (yes, that painter I mentioned at the start of this review is now at last explicitly name-checked). I note the name Kenneth Anger, too, and pass on. But there is indeed an Anger in this remarkable book, too.
    “the poetry of his clitter clatter”
    “Masonic emblems knocked into the surface of the curb”
    “Where the music that is recorded recedes and expires but where yet the imprint remains aloof and ever-present like a lost chord upon the mind”
    I have been listening to a recording of last night’s HEAR AND NOW (note that ‘hear’ again!) from BBC Radio 3 as I read this work this morning.
    And, once upon a time, I regularly walked the Tottenham Court Road area with a Machenesque gait. I sense I am the eponymous hero of this work: with Wood ending by a reference to “That trace of his beard in the residue of my mind’s eye…….” (Note that seven dot ellipsis!)

  21. THE BLISSFUL COMEDOWN
    FROM THE HAUNTED SLEEP
    Twin Brothers of Mortality’s Rich Pageant

    “hoping too in our heart of hearts that we can one day die laughing…literally.”

    A new coda to this book’s Haunted Sleep with “the advancement of our years”, to escape the ‘state’, as Wood would have it, or to escape my PROstate…literally, as I would have it, if I am indeed the particular reader whom Wood addresses in this final prose work. If it is me, I guess, as I recognise “the memory of a gentle dying sun and the sound of gulls high against a boiling sea” of the area where I live, am I towed towards the self that is us? All of us?
    The train from Magritte now reverses with talk of the London Ahnenerbe boarding it, “to give you freedom from the state.” Ironic or sincere? Inimical or embracing? By dint of Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy (a literary theory in which I have been interested since the 1960s), I shall never be shore. As the sea “rocked us tow and fro”…?

  22. PENDANT
    ENDGAME OF NOBLE
    DESCENT

    “Implying ‘Death’ and ‘Doctors’,”

    The final coda itself, now, coded as verse. If TS Eliot wrote Ludoggerel, this wood be it. Enviropathic mind-wandering’s gerontion waste land, instead of the London of the mind’s eye. A cold coming they had of it.
    And as Ligotti famously writes in one of his stories: “Wood waking up.”
    You don’t know how important that observation is. Rife with Anti-Natalism.
    We’re back in Natal Time beyond Death’s help. A horrific ending to a beautifully poignant gestalt, couched within the finest published setting imaginable, as far as books go.

    “Aborted in ash back to the source.”

    end

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