17 May 2012
Dave Russell reviews Tales From The Other Side, by Christopher Ejsmond - a collection of ninety poems focussing on the author’s experience of mental distress and his journey of self-awareness and recovery.
Christopher refers to the creation myth, in his search for truth ‘In the language of the heavens’. But he rejects blind orthodoxy. Christ “...is a contradiction/ of human and divine origin” and opts for relativity: 'Background Noise' counterpoints absolute/objective and personal/ subjective time; 'Beginnings' – bi-directional time/motion. 'Time Machine' – an eternal traveller gets lost: “Time lapses and fragments into altered frames.../ with the movement of the planets and stars/ The traveller changes history...”
Christopher’s theory of time has practical application: “The epitaph of time stands in the mists/ Of unknowing and premature judgment”; “Revisiting the past... will bring about one’s undoing.” But there is still hope: “If we free ourselves from death/ We shall have a new beginning.”
Relativism concerns language: “Linguistic compounds shatter the conditions/necessary for truth.” There is verbal/ elemental fusion: “A river cascades down a ravine... And a word is placed at the end of a sentence/ To invoke meaning in the commonplace...”
In 'The Code-Switchers' Christopher discusses languages and dialects – feeling tension between linguistic modes, but struggling against linguistic tyranny, especially authoritarian naming: “Giving it (an object) a specific meaning, which it cannot possibly/ know or fathom in itself... Without reference to its own subjective nature...” “The object named stands silent and defiant.” Intermediary silence: “In that translation from form to word or phrase is that silent reckoning/ Where preference and choice enter into the dialectic”.
In 'This is not a Pipe' he declaims: “Reject category and label... aesthetic and ethic, custom and structure.” Discourse is independent: “Utterances at once so simple/ Follow a hidden grammar of expression” (Vortex); “...my inner world is an open book/ And my words are not my own.”
Likewise with creativity: in 'News from Nowhere' “The false division of life, art and work/ Fall aside and render the impossible possible.” He challenges perceptions of reality: in 'Theory of Forms' a cave-dweller has a guide who."taught him that the Forms were outside the world/ and outside time... the existing non-existence/ Is something and is nothing... Contradictory properties of one form.”
Opposition and contradiction between persons catalyse enlightenment: “Give me a sign to interpret... That after it has been read by you, I know the/ opposite to be true.” ('Hindsight')
Truly self-aware, Christopher relates philosophy to personal problems, as in 'The Asymmetrical Resistance Theory of OCD': asymmetrical Resistance arises from asymmetry between the left and right sides of the brain – vital for sanity and perception. So Christopher ‘reads like academic coursework, not poetry’? No: he blends those modes, stretching language and rationality to breaking point, intuiting reality through the cracks. This was a demanding, but rewarding read. Explanatory notes would have been helpful.
Tales from the Other Side by Christopher Ejsmond is available from Chipmunkapublishing