Edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley


Work by Paul Stephenson, Elaine Ewart, Gary Budgen, Sarah Westcott, Cheryl Pearson, Holly Heisey, Oliva Edwards, Scott Hughes, James Dorr, Kerry Darbishire, Jonathan Edwards, Tonya Walter, Lauren Mason, Setareh Ebrahimi, Ian Steadman, Kate Wise, Frank Roger, Jayne Stanton, William Stephenson, Sandra Unerman, Megan Pattie, Kristin Camitta Zimet, Douglas Thompson, Amanda Oosthuizen, Lindsay Reid, Tarquin Landseer, Elaine Ruth White, David Hartley, Diana Cant, Mary Livingstone, Bindia Persaud, Michael G. Casey, Jane Burn, Jane Lovell, Tracey Emerson, Jenny Grassl, Kerry Darbishire, Hannah Linden, Ian Kappos, Jason Gould.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

32 thoughts on “Humanagerie

  1. Starts with two poems, Animal Apology by Paul Stephenson and Beginnings by Elaine Ewars; both apotheosise the cover’s mission statement above, and each has it own satisfying conceit in their last lines.

  2. AQUARIUM DREAMS by Gary Budgen

    “It’s bioluminescent. It glows on its own.”

    Perhaps I was on to something earlier with aluminants…?
    This poetically siphoned portrait of our modern world and a dysfunctional family in it, the violent father as rogue voyager of pubs, staring into his pints, the downtrod mother, the two sons as boys then growing up. The less recriminatory brother, as narrator, is subsumed by the world and its terrorism of dreams and reality, twin towers as aquarium walls, souls aligned with the aquarium of fish that they owned as boys, seeping out its welcome quietude but also its propensity to float to the top…. Specific fish named and described to become ‘objective correlatives’ and mindsets from sump to slump, I infer…. Often stagnant, rarely seething with life. Bottom dwellers, all of us. Never to lift our shark heads again. Unless the sea is willing to take us again? A new evolution? My head as it own aquarium dreams.

    My previous reviews of Gary Budgen:

  3. Beetle, a poem by Sarah Westcott, is addressed to the eponymous scarab, full of wishbone words. Evocative and moving.
    Vixen by Cheryl Pearson, likewise with a new eponym as creature, “I’d rob the world of bones.”
    Augury by Tarquin Landseer, the third discrete poem in this section, is a pica pica panoply of a yackety bird.
    All seem somehow to recall for me the nature poems of Ted Hughes and the golden age of now ancient modern poetry of the 20th century, but perhaps even better than that by stepping on future’s now older shoulders.

  4. THE ORBITS OF GODS by Holly Heisey

    “My mate and I saw our god. His fur was shaggy…”

    A startling vision, cosmically and spiritually Blakean mixed with ‘modern’ nature poetry, involving inner and outer circles of beings orbiting god, competitive between circles and godcentre, feral, an ostensible game where two counters can’t occupy the same square. Potentially, after due digestion, this may be a significant work that a different age would have considered republishable as seminal literature? God as Dog?

  5. Poems, ‘Polymorphous / Stages of Growth’ by Olivia Edwards, ’Pray’ by Scott Hughes, ‘Seahorse’ by Tarquin Landseer. There is something with a rueful basilisk soul, if not a basilisk, behind the sinuous and feisty of the first poem, then a praying mantis in the second and sea horse in the third , a ‘spur’ in the second reaching across, through all the enjambment, to a ‘spur’ in the third. And the last gives me an expression for all the ancient-modern leaning poems so far in this book: ‘tableau vivant’.

  6. CROW AND RAT by James Dorr

    “Crow in his prime had been larger than life. And so, in her way, had she become also, at least among the lowest of the low.”

    Looming low, indeed, as it turned out, or tantamount, beyond mufti, this is a moving portrait of Crow, the man, Rat, the woman, each with their body and outerwear interwoven, then, later, on the passing of one of them, both their bodies interwoven, wear and tear, their eventual affection, even love, for each other in New City’s dire quandaries, high and low, low and high, and low again, except finally, at their lowest, earning a deserved monument to mark both their passing.

    My previous review of this author:

  7. Poems, ‘Phasianus Colchis’ by Kerry Darbishire and ‘And Then I Was a Sheep’ by Jonathan Edwards, from pheasant to sheep, with a human being being splinted or grafted between, flensed and filled, by turn, with crafted pareidolia or apophenia, with apposite words of traditional ‘modern’ verse, here in lower-case enjambment, or prose poeticised.
    My review here necessarily humanagerised, itself, genuinely felt. Wordily unhomogenised.

  8. WADE by Tonya Walter

    “Vowels rustled together in a breathy rasp.”

    An immersive portrait of a woman called Bee inheriting a property with a shack from her estranged father, a property across the country in fiery California, travelling to live there, from where she lives in Delaware, rather than selling the shack. Resonances and accretions of snakes – and water, and wading, wading in her own body, interaction with her wilder mother, now or in her memory, I am not sure which, and panic and the snakeshack itself, and verse sayings about wading in God and children. Trouble in the water. A betroubled piece by Walter.

  9. Poems, ‘Sanctuary’ by Lauren Mason – anthropomorphemes of equus. A new one in tactile and olfactory snick and bray. Learning a new communal song.
    ‘Sturnidae’ by Setareh Ebrahimi, – anthropomorphemes of avian murmuration, “punctuation” and disparate gaps between words as part of their patterns. A tracing or palimpsest of human shape, a human indeed. A star is a large starling?

  10. 89B1BF6D-F199-47FB-9D86-920B66B9F959
    RUT by Ian Steadman

    A man, who works as a cleaner and hauler in a pub to make ends meet, is bullied by those around him. The woods outside where he has lived all his life, and his father before him, and HIS father before him, evoke images of prehensile human figures with antlers… and fear itself reeks as he submits to such powers that paradoxically rescue him as well as diminish his own lifeforce…

    My previous review of this author:

  11. ‘When a magician’ by Kate Wise, “soil-grey against greyed soil, and then soil only again.” A poem, for me, about an inverse prehensile Alice: I can feel the rabbit in my hands, Abracadabra.
    ‘Palaces-Les-Flots’, by Paul Stephenson, an engaging, amusing poem of flamboyant flamingoes in Cartland, if not Wonderland.

    by Frank Roger

    For me, a confusing set of notes, apparently for some Game of Thrones (not that I have ever watched that!) (reflecting our own Toynbeean Challenge and Response philosophy of history?) involving Amoeba and Parameciae in a Pond, with resultant Kings and Emperors and a world beyond known as the Dry Land and an apparent antipathy towards things that have Shapes … shaped like these Chronicles…?
    Could grow on me.

  13. ‘Rough Music’ by Jayne Stanton, a poem that has what I expected this book’s lycanthropy to lick, that Red Riding Hood and a bellyful of such stories
    that the head contains…
    And the next poem, ‘The Butterfly Factory’ by William Stephenson, has “loupe” along with meticulous tweezers of verse. I loved voicing this chitinous text. Its last line is exactly what happened to me. My sort of poem.

  14. HIBERNATION by Sandra Unerman

    “, a mixture of hot bodies and fur with the fish guts and fermented fruit on the bears’ breath, strong enough to clear a drain.”

    A powerful, constructively naive, tract of Alison as she faces the battles of teaching in our modern age — and then finding a bearskin and accompanying drum in a junk shop, she is taken almost sensually by tongue and hot breath into the world of bears and their nature. Beating the beat herself, however inchoately. I was likewise taken by the eventual dilemma between her duty as a human being or escape from that duty. I shall not easily forget this story.

  15. Poems, ‘Jellyfish’ by Megan Pattie, as human eye, then, ‘Barred Owl’ by Kristin Camitta Zimer, from human nest to owl, a brace of tactile works, works so tactile tactile are. Blob and glide.

  16. Poems – ‘The Great Eel of Jazz’ by Amanda Oosthuizen, perfect description of how you would imagine the eponymous creature would affect a human being, complete with the enticement of many seeming neologisms.V0020859 A fox stalking ducks in the heath. Engraving by T. Landseer
    ‘University Library’ by Lindsay Reid. Wonderful stuff. Books as birds.
    ‘Vulpine’ by Tarquin Landseer: A fox as vulnerable human, voyeur of a fox at distance…
    Edwin Landseer’s different stalking fox…seen in some artwork I have found.
    ‘Sloth’ by Elaine Ruth White – for me, the perfect opening to any poem:
    “I am hung, slung
    like a cedilla,”
    And, a perfect ending, too.

  17. FLOCK by David Hartley

    “But where exactly is home for a human.”

    The intriguing epitome of how I understand the word ‘Humanagerie’ but here cast more as an ironic Humavian tontine, hived off from human trivial duties and then, in turn, addressed as You by the story’s motive force, swept up in a swarm murmuration, mingled and chosen by or from among arrays of different bird breeds for performing as that human performer upon a River’s wing-napped soar as twinned by nested melding.

  18. Poems – ‘Fishy Business’ by Diana Cant – fishy sexual business far too racy for human interaction? A sinuous manoeuvre of words.
    ‘Wojtek’ by Mary Livingstone – sinuous enjambment to match the previous poem, but nifty with idiosyncratic human-bear things that reminds me of the melded tenor of some of my favourite musical theatre or opera such as Wozzeck by Alban Berg and A Soldier.’s Tale by Stravinsky.

  19. SUSHEELA by Bindia Persaud

    “Or perhaps the tiger had always been there.”

    For me, a perfectly honed story in itself, and perfect for the context of this book. In a society with a headman and strict parameters regarding duties between genders, and watering holes, one hole with curse attached, I admired the eponymous feisty lady and her husband, a were-story inasmuch as things in it once were. Full of duty and love, and stoicism at losing such love or life … and the perceived eventual panning out of rights and wrongs, beyond any curse or life’s end. A feral-tale ending.

  20. Poems – ‘Fluke’ by Michael G. Casey,
    “One grain of sand between shell
    and mantle is it all it takes…”
    Metabolism of human and Gaia? The pure chance of every gestalt?
    ‘Buck and Doe’ by Jane Burn, worthy of Gerald Manley Hopkins, and if that does not entice you, nothing will.
    ‘A Structure of Perfect Angles’ by Jane Lovell, second Jane in a row, here a winged humanoid creature and its Queen as a chitinous symbiotic gestalt or dream? Very vivid.

  21. TWO LOST SOULS by Tracey Emerson

    “I told her she was gouden, dourado, zlatna.”

    A poignant tale of a man who goes to a hotel called the Give Inn, to do, with that name, guess what? He strikes up a relationship with a goldfish, the outcome of which would be a spoiler of its vanishing tale.
    Actually a very engaging work, which in hindsight may be unforgettable, I sense. Perfect for this book, too.

  22. Poems – ‘Company to Keep?’ by Jenny Grassl
    “Pose immense tigers to threaten my foes
    in the afterlife.”
    A telling blend of Shusheela’s echo as words pinned like nature’s specimens in museum of brick.
    ‘Last night a deer’ by Kerry Darbishire “jumped through my window.”: and became me, in my tussle to be me while trying to redeer or redeem myself.
    ‘Miss Muffet Owns Her Inner Spider’ by Hannah Linden. A poem about a nursery rhyme, but one without rhymes. Redeering becomes respidering.
    “— letting the pattern
    make itself from you,…” the Gestalt pattern of three tantalising poems.

  23. DEWCLAW by Ian Kappos

    “Upstairs lives a couple whose names he always mixes up; both are named after kinds of birds.”

    They may well be birds? And they remind me of ‘The Pelican’s New Clothes’ by Leena Krohn, a classic Humanagerie-like novella (reviewed here.) Recommended reading for lovers of this book. This striking story itself is a patchwork deadpan portrait of a boy who lives downstairs from that couple, with inferred urban deprivation and familial dysfunction, and with a sexually flighty mother, also inferred trans-tendencies in the boy as well as in pets or pests about the house, and high-pitched cackles voices in household things. Trans-chameleon patterns, too, in human behaviour as well as cockroach patterns. Who wears the peahen’s dress? What hides the peacock’s dewclaw? His mother with her boyfriend’s in her mouth? My questions, not necessarily the story’s.

  24. And now having read the following poem – an evocative poem called ‘Female Skate’ by Sarah Westcott – one with a footnote of genital pareidolia – my questions at the end of the Kappos earlier this afternoon, take on a new meaning! Gender ever with a dewclaw?
    ‘Noctuary’ by Tarquin Landseer, on the other hand,
    “all twittery
    in furtive flight
    inklings dip
    to skiff the dewpond”
    Bats, I Infer, as chameleon or pareidoliac words flitting down the page.


    “It suggests that if we try hard enough we might be different.”

    Convert or covet for the sake of one’s mother? The Child is not Father of the Man, but one half of one’s Parents, in a new version of Wordsworth? Or Wormsworth? This a mighty coda to the Humanagerie symphony. A girl who is abandoned by her anonymous mother at a private hospital with sufficient medical funds. The girl tries to summon back her yearned-for mother, in the narrative eyes of her doctor who gives this patchwork formal report, as Kappos’ report on his trans-patient was more deadpan. She tries to summon her mother to a choice of birthday parties. By a Kafkaesque metamorphosis as an unlikely wish for a small girl as a were-worm, with five hearts in separate parts of her body, and no spine. Or a wormy priapus emerging from Westcott’s skate or from Kappos’ dewclaw? Or a chopped Brexit into separate living forces, as a chopped worm can often become, separate lives from the singular preferable Gestalt or Gaia force? Perhaps, it is all these things. It is, meanwhile, essential Gould, a stand-alone masterpiece, in my book.

    My previous reviews of this author: and here when I first read the author’s classic story ‘Nights At the Regal’:

    And this book has definitely grown on me, without division.
    Full of transformative works. A budding centaura of literature.


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