42 thoughts on “The Fallen West – Douglas Thompson


    “Life is its own sickness and its cure.”

    Ironic title for the start of this book. Something that may become clearer later. Meanwhile, this is a short, mind-trawling, mind-tripping, eventually mind-clinching paragraph of prose poetry-philosophy, that brings me into concepts of life and death, believe it or not, that I don’t think my mind has been towed through before. The ultimate hawling? Just one example: death as a “fictitious pause.”


    “Just when does a sad stalker become a creative genius?”

    A genuine weird fiction classic, tinged with surrealism, poetic absurdism and SF. With beautifully, meticulously immaculate prose. Why has it not been republished in countless anthologies? Perhaps it has, and I missed it. An alternate world where this story was never published at all and now I have come home to read it, in the correct half of a city like Glasgow or the correct half of the heart, the romantic heart, or of the bodily sex, the human half, that is, in these polarities, not the robotic one where many of us lived before discovering this work. The loyal half, not the cheating one. The bright face of November, where metaphors are manifest. The cure, not the sickness. The Sunrise not the Fallen West. Even an unhappy ending may make it perfectly balanced literature to be read by the better halves of ourselves?


    “It was all the very last resort Rosetti, very Burne-down-Jones.”

    A rose depleted, a fox at your throat. TS Eliot’s Waste Land (an oblique reference to the poem in this text.) It seems, upon a time later today, when a crucial Brexit knot is tied or untied, that I was destined to read this work for the first time, the most nightmarishly realistic vision of its dystopia of Hell and Fallen West. Essential reading. Anything I say about it would deplete it. It is what it is.
    I must say, as an aside, though, that I was stirred at the reference to St Paul’s Cathedral, as, in my 1980s published fiction, I somehow prefigured such an image. Showing, perhaps, the strength of an autonomous god of literature, not of my own or Thompson’s. And also, the Mirrorworld and the Life/Death polarity earlier in this Thompson book gives further provocative depth to these visions.



    “all that which does not live
    can at least no longer die”

    January’s poem. A mainstream freeish verse but the odd effective rhyme or assonance. No caps to begin lines. Enjambment for ‘breaks-it’! A tone of ‘freezing’. Difficult to real-time poems as I do with stories. (This impending work seems to real-time itself.) I have been reviewing a book of poems on this site now for over a year now, scattered comments month to month, mouth to mouth. And I love mouthing poems. These will I guess be no exception.

  5. 2

    The poetry of the months follows in their only sane order. Here of ‘this illegally early spring.’ Full or birdish life and confidence, opportunity out of darkness. Birth out of anti-natalism? A feel of Ted Hughes inspiringly extrapolated by someone who also appreciates Hughes’ classical poem-translations.

  6. 5

    “stale excess of time and angst”

    This month’s eruption of colour, too, as more daylight in a day creates that fear of wasting time. Also notable, in this context, that caps here are not ignited by a preceding full stop.

  7. 6

    “and traipse through muddy fields again”

    A very strong poem for the current month as I write. Summer in Scotland, but with meaning that radiates out from that perfectly. Like all great poems, difficult to nail it completely. Worthy of a Faber Book of Modern Verse in emoto perpetuo.

  8. 7

    “a priceless chance to us each instant”

    And each of these poems is potentially such an “instant”,

    “as it offers up its everything”

    this poem included or, even, in particular. A series of revelations teeming within each other.

  9. 8

    Glasgow, tugged by August, and “moored next to Barcelona.” The Fallen West? More the figure eight of Easing to the East, I’d say. Bringing out even pale gestalt reviewers into the frenetic sunshine? Cloistered, but now ravelled openly with all the other “maddies”.

  10. The book’s back cover in a certain light. The design that thus appears seems indelible and permanent. But is this design intentional or bespoke to the way this copy of the book has been inadvertently treated?


  11. 10

    “companions’ voices. My communion”

    This line sums up my gestalt real-time reviewing!
    The poem itself is a beautifully poetic portrayal of Stornoway, Isle of LEWIS, and environs, in October. I have been there myself, when my children were very young. The furthest Risen West I have ever travelled.

  12. 11

    “autumn winter wipe me clean”

    Inside a car wash inside a car, brushes the car but not me cleaner.
    Not reaching the interface of you and me.
    A poem that mimes the poem it really is. A way to reach deeper clean without hurting?

  13. 12

    “teasing glimpses of a million lives”

    One neologism, agosgow. Not the poem’s, but mine. Apt, perhaps, that the apartments of the year naturally end by falling at the fallest level of fall. Christmass not even mentioned, as soon as forgotten. Only the start of the coming year makes January perhaps become alleviated with that sense of potential restarting. December, meanwhile, where we stoically choose a life to glimpse as ours for a nonce. You need stoicism most of all, as most lives founder. Not Vivaldi, these 4 seasons of faberous poetry, but a Vivarium of truth. And only truth has the deduced ratio of each emerging dark and light. Hope and despair. Even despair has hope? That “agony of knowledge.”


    “This was very Glasgow:”

    All that time ago. All that time aglow. A contemporarily experiential and most moving essay by a struggling writer soul, an essay via finding the man who once leapt a great distance from a theatre box onto the stage where the Stranglers were performing…..about the punk era. Punk, our version of Dada or Surrealism, but just a bit later? A bit like blaming Thatcher for the 2008 crash which she escaped blame for by absconding elsewhere? This is a wonderful collage of memories, regrets, and continuing hopes and angers. With a perfect ending as the leaper leaps again, this time from his makeshift 66b glaziers’ showroom home. Through the Brexitglass, I ask.
    I’m more from the flower power era, myself! Yet, are all we fogeys just pussies, now, I also ask. “….punk was our riot.”


    “You are too caught up in the dips and peaks and waves of time to see the bigger pattern. Your short lives rarely allow a glimpse across the true ocean of time.”

    This is said within this playful story that is a wild froth upon a froth of a dream, or at least a synergy of two people, where one see things the other one doesn’t, until the other one does. A work that uses such visions to bridge our short lives so that we can see the bigger picture, a pattern of tentacles and ink with which to create it. Like leaping across the vast distance of our inner theatre onto a stage – but only to be strangled? No, we all play our parts on this stage. Parts of a whole. And this story plays its own significant part in this playful play. A tragicomedy. Some of us shorter than our own lives.
    You can only think out of the box by being in the box first.


    “Poor old men, we really are history’s janitors, the dogsbodies, while women do all the important work in evolutionary terms.”

    A hilarious, almost believable, nay, wholly believable, account from Royle’s Antwerp of something, I claim, to be resonant with my own edited 2009 anthology “CERN Zoo” (a real term within the circles of CERN itself) blending Amis’ TIME’s ARROW with Darwin’s evolution, Birds as ‘sky rats’ into Dinosaurs and back again, entropy, the sea wiping out our footprints as a metaphor, Max Ernst, and the actually complicit readers as part of the ‘plot’ of this scientific empiricism of words and ideas. Think this book’s earlier octopus, and glass showroom, too.

  17. III

    “Her powerful prehensile tale is also extremely useful and unexpected in any contretemps with mammalian bipeds.”

    Which it self-evidently is, for Sappho (Vermeulen’s experimental ‘daughter’ in wayward evolution), whether this is a typo or not.

  18. IV

    “Have you any idea how rare fossils are? To become one, you have to be very stupid and lie down to wait to die on a river bed.”

    The inconstencies and consistencies of reverse evolution, unnoticed by those of us trapped in our own biological framework — an interview by the authorities with Vermeulen about this seemingly mutant Du Maurier Birds Syndrome. He claims CERN is the mad scientist, not him!

  19. V

    “History is attacking us, fuelled by our blind ignorance of it, on which it feeds.”

    A fitting slide from Hitchcock’s Du Maurier to the King Kong Bird scenario upon the Eiffel Tower as a climax to this thoughtful extravaganza of time and evolution. And of a publicity’s fake news versus truth. Whichever public city. I just wonder if Pollux, born from a swan’s egg, has now slid off his vital pairing in Castor “twenty metres above Pairs.” (sic)
    A musical dying fall. Or just gone West, young man.



    1. Corsewall Woods

    “a white house distant”

    Boyhood holiday memories. The ‘unreachable brightness’ of virtue’s signals, I wonder?
    “, imagined

  21. 3. Treetops

    From the cusp of sea and lake in the previous story, where perhaps its upside down image now personifies one of the labourers commemorated by one the treetop souls in this poem’s “earthbound ocean”.

  22. 6. Daybreak

    “everyone new to their roles”

    …new born creatures yet already intrinsically gifted. A daybreak scene in Galloway, presumably.
    Also a telling resonance with my thoughts on the previous poem … being born again inchoately during old age…?

  23. 837609AB-E42C-46CB-8CA7-5EE837BC01508. Port Logan

    “, to paraphrase Larkin:
    what will survive us is not love
    but plastic:”

    Another geographic or “metamorphic” of metaphors and meta-phares … many lighthouses in Galloway virtue or vice signalling…this a poignant poem as an end to this book and perhaps to our times (when yesterday all the British cabinet ministers were together held under lock and key for 12 hours and made to read this book, I hope, though I doubt it), but we at least should use this book to transcend their mad scientology with theatrical leaps of literature towards a hyper-imaginative gestalt where the sheer efficacy of words can work a sort of magic, as this book promises to do. From wooden posts as groynes to imported rock ones in the shape of fishtails. Never know what might work. Virtue and vice as relativities necessary for each of them to be recognised. Victory is more than this afternoon’s later football match. One needs to make sure of one’s ground on this once gestalt Gaia. And then work towards each other, allowing the seas not to dry up in the heat of passion or reverse evolution. Thinking aloud, as I am, about only some of the many ways that this book works, month by month, season by season. Working even, or especially, with the surreal spaces now provided to house our “cerebral accretion”.


  24. Pingback: Still Life with new publications | Douglas Thompson's Blog

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