by Laura Potts

Salò Press is a Norwich-based independent publisher of poetry, prose and experimental writing. The surreal nature of much of the work by the imprint allows a new ground for experimental writing, and the eventual outcomes that follow. Their most recent book  – MILK: an anthology of eroticism – has just been published and I have the pleasure of reviewing the work.

The first thing evident within MILK is the importance of independent publishing as an arena to allow a multitude of voices, as there is a very broad range of writers with varied backgrounds and circumstances included. It shows a much wider cross section of society, and the creative work embodies that greatly: we find a freedom to pen emotions so strong that you wouldn’t initially think literary testimony could do them justice. Writers such as Jessica Rhodes, Rosie Quattromini, and Jane Jacobs have done just that.

It shows a much wider cross section of society, and the creative work embodies that greatly

The aptly named anthology alludes to anticipation and strong imagery. The ‘chemical so potent’ (‘Microeroticon’, by N.A. Jackson) described on the first page embodies the lustful desires many might  experience. The use of both classically poetic and modern prose allows the reader to connect further to the experiences being described. Much of the work does have strong sexual imagery and connotations, and this empowering act grasps subjects that have long been censored.

Poetry that usually deals with long-standing taboos can often feel saturated with the same imagery and use of shocking language for the sake of itself. However, this work has been curated in a way that subtly reminds the reader of the common ground in the human condition where sexuality is concerned. The recycled imagery within many of the poems regenerates feelings of desire, frustration, and lust that many people have felt and can feel.

Pieces such as Rhys Hughes’ ‘Boolean Amours’ are a perfect example of the less classical prose. This illustrative work offers a narrative and diagram of situational love. The seemingly simple explanations of relationships are strategically compiled to offer a more realistic view of the complications of sexual relations and influences. By the end of the piece, the viewer has entered into a type of understanding of the explanations and an interest in the internal politics of the characters’ relationships. I wonder if this interest stems from a desire to know about others or the desire to uncover your own relationships within the explanations.

Not all the work has an explicit sexual depth however, as the themes explored by the writers branch into different grounds, offering comfort as well as arousal. Jane Jacobs is an example of this, bravely delving into feelings of loss and delusion that can stem from loneliness. Her ‘Small’ really resonated with me due to the description of the out- of-self feeling. A blind stumbling through difficult emotions that leave your mind unsettled. The very familiar uttering of ‘Oh well’ as you are forced to accept an emotion that has been delivered to your door unexpectedly. There is a obvious chronology of relationships and the emotions that develop during them.

Some of the poems perfectly capture the fire of one moment and others hold the still air of loss and disappointment. Socrates Martinis is another poet within the book that stands apart in this, with cotidal imagery of an ambiguous scene. Their poems, numbered one after another, offer a geometric map of a surreal scene. This experimental writing style has roots in both visual art and literature, the narrative both free yet considered.

the themes explored by the writers branch into different grounds, offering comfort as well as arousal.

From the dense writing of Brian Howell to the more sparse stanzas of Kailey Alyssa, there is a variety of poetic styles within the work. This to me beautifully displayed  imagery of the ebb and flow of human relations. The full bodied, sometimes demanding pages of writing can leave a mark upon the mind and the shorter verses can often boast a void; a continuation of the words in your mind that are absent on the page. This poetic performance alludes to the compromises of give and take that so prominently exist within human relationships and encounters. Some works offer a narrative that can very quickly become personally applicable.

There is often a discomfort when writers or poets vocalise something that your own mind has been wrestling with, but though there is a presence of that discomfort here,  there is also a comfort in the shared experiences. These collective emotions and experiences offer the ability to reduce any alienation that the reader may experience. The works can then offer a connective quality that can often be seen lacking in non creative writing. Books such as this one boast a real privileged freedom of expression that we are lucky enough to have and should dearly value including with support for small publications and alternative outlets.

Featured image via Andrew Hook

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