Once again, it’s great to see poetry publisher, Tapsalteerie, taking risks and willing to support more experimental forms of poetry with this new full-length collection of poetry by Edinburgh-based writer & editor Russell Jones. Featuring comic poems illustrated by Sara Julia Campbell, Caroline Grebbell, Aimee Lockwood, Edward Ross & Mark Toner, as well as concrete and more conventional poetry, Cocoon is a refreshing breathe away from the standard poetry collection.
Russell Jones is the UK’s first Pet Poet Laureate (as supported by Blue Cross and The Poetry Society) and the author of five published collections of poetry: Dark Matters (pamphlet, Tapsalteerie, 2018), The Green Dress Whose Girl is Sleeping (full collection, Freight Books, 2015), Our Terraced Hum (pamphlet in Caboodle, Prole Books, 2015), Spaces of Their Own (pamphlet, Stewed Rhubarb, 2013) and The Last Refuge (pamphlet, Forest Publications, 2009). He is also deputy editor at Shoreline of Infinity, a Scottish science fiction magazine, editor of Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK (Penned in the Margins, 2012) and co-editor of Umbrellas of Edinburgh: Poetry and Prose Inspired by Scotland’s Capital City and Multiverse: an international anthology of science fiction poetry.
Delving into the collection, the first poem, Lie of the Land is both sinister and vivid, Dark Horse has rather lovely imagery and works nicely for a comic-book poem. It seems a difficult task to incorporate the rules of poetry with those of comic-book making but the flow works with this poem.
Versus is also rather sinister, with much dark trope, not altogether unusual for a writer interested in science fiction. The Flame holds some beautiful metaphors, in fact Jones’ poems on a whole are incredibly visual, with Salt ‘n’ Oats being a personal standout. Short and well, maybe not so sweet, this poem uses many techniques to conjur images that take us on an adventure, imperative for some during this mental-health crisis with the Covid19 pandemic. Songbird is another that takes us on a personal adventure, as we are all more aware of our feathered friends around us, stuck in our homes. Quiz Night at the Palm Garden is a rather satirical way of addressing the quizzes many are doing via online, but more siginificantly Jones’ poems also address mental health too, if we look at Ignition and A Sleep. And Aurora Photography concludes the collection nicely, as it looks to the stars for the uncertainties we face in the present moment.
Varied in style, content and medium, Cocoon is an all-encompassing collection of feelings and relativity with some darker imagery thrown in. An exquisite publication, I will be on the lookout for more from Jones and Tapsalteerie as a publisher.
Cocoon is out now, published by Tapsalteerie