Lord of Creation

This is an excerpt from my long poem, “The Death of the Bird King.” The book is available here.

The Bird King’s pregnancy is an unpleasant experience. He gags, scowls,
knotted up with the coiled
thing
feasting inside him.

***

You should see the Bird King feeding his young: a touching sight!
He pukes up a porridge
of dogs’ heads and human limbs.
Razor mouths guzzle.

***

The Bird King’s first son and heir
is a wretched amalgam
of scales tusks
saliva hunger.

His useless wings twitch when he’s angry.

***

The Bird King plays God,
shaping an Adam,
an Eve,
from mud,
rotten bark,
crushed animals.

Adam has red eyes and burbles disconsolately.
Eve howls, cavorts and farts.

But the Bird King’s favourite creation is his lab-grown homunculus,
a miniature parody of its maker.
It doesn’t grow.
It’s barely a maggot.
The Bird King pets it and kisses it, hisses it to playful madness.

All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

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At Seaton Beach

I’m on holiday with my family in Seaton, Devon. Today we sat on the beach and looked at the sea. I threw some pebbles. This evening, I wrote the poem that follows.

Above the curve of the horizon,
a blue sky with Simpsons clouds

Below,
a desert of water

No boats,
a few buoys, cactus-like

There can’t be anything beneath that granite mirage

Steep pebble beach, figures,
alone,
frozen in attitudes of quiet spectatorship,
eyes directed at the shifting thing
we confidently label: “the sea”

A thin arm repeating a gesture,
hailing or cursing the sea

A pebble over the water,
falling
again,
again

A further element to the scene:
a seagull,
a prop
held in place
by an invisible wire
or wing and wind
who can tell?

Sounds too, looped:
cries of seagulls, distant voices,
the rasping of water sucked back over shingle
the bark of a dog

Again, that gesture,
aggrieved, excited, condemning, celebrating

and a pebble falling

All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

Birth II

Clocks stop
The wind dies

A door
Opening slowly
Onto nothing

Patient hands
A blue sheet

She closes her eyes
Sees an octopus made of blood

Everything here’s very efficient
Clean light
Dry air

Waiting for the word

Shifting from foot to foot
Thinking about cigarettes

Taken from The Death of the Bird King, available here. 20% off price for a limited time. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.

The Bird King is Real

The Bird King is the IMF, Janus dreambeast of Milton Friedman caressing with rotating claws the exposed bellies of wounded nations, shrieking AUSTERITY CUT SELL LAY OFF CUT CUT CUT SUPPRESS OPPOSITION SELL OFF CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT, freely cutting up eviscerating enterprisingly standing back finally from the blasted carcass to light a cigar, this port is simply divine, won’t you have another, sniffing out the next

The Bird King is Assad who used to be such a good little boy didn’t he, promising not to play with his chemistry set (look, behind his back: fingers crossed!), sad that the manicured illusion the broad smile the wife who shops til she drops are no longer being broadcast, angered by indignant cries accusations mobilisations, how dare these people make embarrassing noises on the whole world’s a stage, why don’t they lie down when my good soldiers riddle them with red roses

The Bird King is Pena Nieto spitting feathers he can’t believe his eyes just look at what’s going on in Mexico City right under his beak it’s disgusting that these people should question my integrity he scratches and rasps and when you shake his hand his claws grip

From a work in progress. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.

New book: The Death of the Bird King

The Death of the Bird King goes on sale on Sunday 22nd July. Its normal price will be £5.49, but for a short time I’m knocking off 20%, so it will be only £4.39. You can buy it here.

So what’s in the book?

24 original artworks
The Madness of the Bird King (12 part poem)
The Death of the Bird King (1300 word poem)
The Monsters (long poem created from tweet series)
Oneiroscope (series, including bespoke dreams for named recipients!)
Phases
Bad Machines
58 short pieces: poems, prose poems, microfiction

Although the book comprises many pieces and pictures, they can all be considered fragments of a longer work. You’ll find motifs running throughout the book: maggots, birds, octopuses, eyes, clockwork, larvae, mannequins, eggs, the sea, androids, pregnancy, fish, the moon, monsters…

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The Birth of the Bird King

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Here is an excerpt from the preface to my new collection, The Death of the Bird King. It tells of how the Bird King came into the world.

Once upon a time there was a bad, bad poet called James, whose head was nothing more than a huge egg with facial features crudely appended.

And one day, while James was on the toilet thinking about a line from The Waste Land (“Hieronymo’s mad againe”), the egg cracked open and out lurched an ambiguous creature called the Bird King.

From the moment he stepped into our world, the Bird King was very busy. He flapped his patchy wings, made absurd laws, fell in love with inanimate objects. Following him around with his head still gaping and his mulchy brain exposed, James recorded the Bird King’s episodic adventures, transmitting them to the world through Twitter.

How did the Bird King come to be in James’s head in the first place? Maybe Loplop planted him there: a bad seed sown in the soil of dreams. Maybe a mythical being called Crow was responsible. To this day, James is unsure. We will probably never know.

James realised he couldn’t express the Bird King in his contradictory entirety with words alone. So he tweeted to an artist named Diana, inviting her to make illustrations. The result of their collaboration was a slim book called The Madness of the Bird King.

The soul of the Bird King is an enigmatic thing; it is to be found in the gap between James’s words and Diana’s watercolour pictures. If you look closely at the white spaces on the page you might catch a glimpse of his envious eye, his leaden shadow.

Soon after the book appeared, the Bird King died. Thousands flocked to his funeral, ostensibly to mourn, but in reality to make sure he really was dead.

James still had many more tales to tell about the being that had hatched from his skull (some true, some shameless lies), so he collected them into a poem called The Death of the Bird King. Then he had his head sewn up once and for all. He has remained silent and reclusive ever since, though sometimes he writes fragments of stories and broken poems, or he assembles impossible pictures, which he tweets to his modest following.

There is still a danger that some fresh monster may kick its way out of James’s egg head. But that’s just life – who knows what’s around the corner?

The Bird King is dead.

Long live The Death of the Bird King!

Text and image are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

The Madness of the Bird King

Here are the first three sections of my poem, The Madness of the Bird King, originally published with beautiful watercolour illustrations by Diana Probst.

I

The Bird King is mad again.

He caws
through empty midnight streets,
moulting tar-black
feathers.

II

The Bird King’s wings:
stiff machinery
cobbled together from wire,
wood,
corrugated iron.

But the feathers are real, seasonal:

Spring: urinous, downy.
Summer: purples, scarlets.
Autumn: rust-tinged greys.
Winter: a widow’s fan.

III

The Bird King spends much of his time
asleep on a throne of lightbulbs,
dreaming of love.

Waiting in the wings: his retinue of electricians.

Sometimes he wakes,
jovial.

His laughter breaks glass,
frightens animals.

He cackles and crackles on his electric throne.

The full version of the poem will appear in my forthcoming collection, The Death of the Bird King. Even better, get it with Diana’s colour illustrations here. You can find out more about Diana’s work here.