Our featured publication for November is This Fruiting Body by Caleb Parkin, published by Nine Arches Press.
Caleb Parkin’s debut poetry collection, This Fruiting Body, plunges us into octopus raves and Sega Megadrive oceans, in the company of Saab hermit crabs and ASDA pride gnomes. It’s a playful invitation to a queer ecopoetics that permeates our bodies and speech, our gardens, homes, and city suburbs. It reintroduces us to a Nature we’ve dragged up until it’s unrecognisable.
“This Fruiting Body is an exhilarating book that fractures categories by showing the reader what thrives beyond the prison of the human self. The queer filaments between its poems form a compassionate brocade that holds together all living creatures, the dreams of ants and mould allowed to ‘billow and spore’ alongside deep-fried skyscrapers and ASDA pride gnomes. The stakes are urgent, the days ‘trembling like antennae’ but let’s think like a dung beetle, one poem whispers, and ‘roll the sun together’. Generous, monstrous and inspiring.” John McCullough
“Unwriting and rewriting our myths of ‘nature’, This Fruiting Body is a thrilling collection of queer love songs for the earth. Parkin’s femme earth mother may be on an IV drip, but she wears her artifice with joy and audacity: this is mother earth, drag queen of the universe, a body aching from harm but still devoted to pleasure. Parkin’s poems are infinitely lavish and full of wit, morphing human and more-than-human bodies in a post-human lyric disco lit with ecological thought. I felt better and wetter after reading it: more open to the press of language, life, and the strangeness of the earth.” Samantha Walton
All the chipshops I have ever been to
are stacked up, a deep-fried skyscraper,
somewhere on the East Anglian coast. This tower
of bubbling fat concealed beyond Clacton-on-Sea,
Walton-on-the-Naze, casts shadows near the shibboleth of Aldeburgh.
In the blue-black-grey around Cromer’s ingrown pier,
an undrownable orange buoy invites me in, to swim.
Still, enveloped food shifts across their miles of steel
counter, papers shaken through with white plastic
bollards of salt. The North Sea lingering in flesh,
mushy peas copied and pasted until no longer green.
Meanwhile, Sizewell B is a puffball on the horizon,
domed as a worm moon rising, eye with no iris.
In the steaming museum cases of the tower’s counters,#
the crispy sarcophagi of battered sausages, preserved
remains of Cod: body after body, dredged up in silver cages;
hundreds of Pukka Pies in their capsized foil crowns.
At Dunwich Heath, the oyster-catchers are on strike,
curlews are threatening to straighten their beaks.
The tower wavers like seaweed, shimmers – a candle,
its unknown postcode defined by the scent of
second-hand oil, slicked through wardrobes. Chips
in the toes of socks, fishbones catching at collars.
In each of those chipshops, the radio plays
the creak of a sign, rush of a wave – then static.
After the Section 14
‘Police have banned Extinction Rebellion protests from continuing anywhere in
London, as they moved in almost without warning to clear protesters who remained
at the movement’s camp in Trafalgar Square.’ – The Guardian, October 15th 2019
The morning after the news, I pass Oxford Circus where giant screens
order me to Taste the feeling, but when I arrive at Trafalgar Square,
all I can taste is the bitter aftermath of extortionate coffee.
All I can taste is regurgitated water, rushing from the beaks of these dolphins,
chins restrained by metal hands. All I can taste is the feeling that these tourists
are grey ghosts, that I am a ghost, on this stone grid. All I can taste is the sickly mess
in the jaws of bin-raiding wasps. The lights on police vans flashing like migraines.
The sign keeps demanding, in thousands of diodes and fast-cut swirly edits to
Taste the fucking feeling. But all I can taste are inedible scraps pecked at by pigeons.
All I can taste are three police overseeing one flip-flopped man. Then, megaphones
descend from the gritted teeth of the National Gallery; the lasso of high-vis tightens,
each jacket clutches their own hands, formal, blank-faced; eyes flit and ears await
instruction from elsewhere. By the rented Thames, Big Ben reveals its new face –
features rusted, commanding. We crowd in and nearby a cracked voice demands:
Are you affiliated? Then again: Are you affiliated? It’s a simple question. A simple question.
Caleb Parkin is the third Bristol City Poet. He won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2016 and the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017. Poems in The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Under the Radar, Butcher’s Dog and Molly Bloom. Wasted Rainbow (tall-lighthouse, Feb 2021). This Fruiting Body (Nine Arches, October 14th ). Tweet: @CalebParkin
This Fruiting Body is available to purchase from the Nine Arches Press website.