13 anatomical studies

My new book, 13, is out now. For the next few days it’s 20% off with the code SILEO.

Here’s a taster. Like all the other 13s in the book, it is illustrated by the wonderful Diana Probst.

13 anatomical studies

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1
Behind her left eye is some sort of mechanism. If you look too closely, the pupil contracts to a pinpoint.

2
All sale items now 90% off. Hands fumble over jumbled junk. Blind eyes forget there’s a horizon.

3
First there was one man on his own, then there was a woman too, then there was shame. He put his hand on her breast and she laughed.

4
We tried to keep abreast of developments by dirtying our fingers on the Financial Times. Filthy lucre made us stinking rich!

5
I found someone else’s fingers in my glove. They were wiry and hard. I planted them in the garden and they grew into arm trees.

6
To take up arms against a sea of troubles…
I was dazzled by the lights and forgot the rest of the line. My head throbbed; I felt sick.

7
He rested his head. He was only asleep for a few seconds, in which time he dreamt that the Bird King was standing over him. When he woke up there was blood on the pillow.

8
In the cabinet is a map showing your birth, your heart, your desires. The red ink in which it is drawn is a blood-sample, stolen from you while you slept.

9
She put her ear to his chest. I’m telling you, she could hear the cockroaches scuttling around inside his hollow heart.

10
It was a marble mausoleum, thick with shadows. Our ears strained for sounds in the silence. A chesty cough made us jump.

11
The creature’s ears were attached to its abdomen.

12
You went in through the abdomen. Years lost in dark intestines. Eventually you found your way out of the labyrinth. Looking at a mirror, you saw the Minotaur staring back.

13
No good will come of this. Nothing lucky about the number 13. I don’t even know why I’m doing this, wrist-deep in the intestines of dead words.

—–

All texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. The arm tree illustration is the copyright of Diana Probst. All rights reserved.

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13 is out tomorrow

Tomorrow’s the big day. 13, my new collaboration with artist Diana Probst, will be released on Lulu.

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13 is a book of fragments. Each of the thirteen chapters is divided into thirteen parts, most of which were originally tweets. There is no narrative, no linear development. The book is a labyrinth of words and images. Turning a corner, turning a page, the reader finds an echo, a reflection of something encountered earlier: a cocoon, a mirror, the moon, Medusa…

13 free associations on the tale of Jupiter & Callisto

Here is the second of my contributions to Nicky Morton’s Transformations, a reworking by several poets of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

A prose translation of the original story can be found here.

13 free associations on the tale of Jupiter and Callisto

1. A jovial philanderer crouches behind some bushes, staff in hand.

2. Nymph, in thy orisons be thy sins remembered. She doesn’t hear his words. Something dark tugs at her eye.

3. I’m just a sweet transvestite! screeches Red John, strutting like a peacock. His plumage bristles, green-eyed.

4. Little Bear weeps. Who’s been sitting in my chair? Meanwhile, Mummy Bear has a shit in the woods.

5. Diana, Princess of Wales, Queen of Hearts, shrieks: Off with her maidenhead!

6. She goes all moony around Mr Big Bollocks.

7. At the heart of this story you’ll find deceit, sexual predation and rape. It’s very life-affirming. Very heart-warming. A classic.

8. Did you do a sex wee?

9. Bath time under a light, white as God.

10. Where’s the poetry in this? Would you like something prettier?

11. A pregnant pause while she deranges herself. The broken mirror gives back her image, multiplied by thirteen.

12. A simple enough story. A man, a woman, a pleasure garden. Where is the snake?

13. The poet of the Void spins stories into the World Wide Web.

—–

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

Thresholds

Between the sheets
Between the sleeps
Between one thing and another
One word and another

Spaces on a page
Pauses for thought
Little black-outs

What was I saying?

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Which you are you now?
Let me find the nighttime you

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In bed, in the dark, we meet each other’s strangeness
We speak a different language now
A nocturnal language
Of silences
Motion

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Later
Half waking
I see moving bodies where the room was
I see you
Multiplied
All your selves

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A door opens
A curtain shifts in the breeze

I try to write about it
But it resists expression

We’re in the spaces now
In the pauses
On the threshold

—–

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

Subjective Objects

If you sit in the house on your own, not doing anything, the objects around you change. Useful items become totems, presences. In the absence of human company, inanimate things appear quietly anthropomorphic.

A plant like a hand.
The eyes of lightbulbs.
Electric cables reaching behind sofas.
The coffee table’s quiescence.
Obliging taps.
The blank stare of the TV.

Maybe the human imagination is hard-wired to see the world in this way. We infer agency or project it onto things, so that the material universe seems either to have human characteristics or to have been created by a being or beings with such characteristics.

Our tendency to personify objects as diverse as boats, hurricanes and the sun, illustrates how integral this way of seeing is to our experience and understanding of the world.

The novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet recognised this and famously lambasted authors for the stylistic tic of personification. Interestingly, the world he presents in his fiction, though largely stripped of figurative language, is utterly anthropocentric. Eschewing some of the conventions of the novel, he put a fresh and exciting emphasis on the ineluctability of our subjective perceptions, and on the relationship between our inner life and the world of objects. His collection of short pieces, Instantanés, contains what at first appear to be meticulously objective descriptions of material things, which soon take on an unsettling dream-like quality.

A positive symptom of our tendency to see ourselves reflected in the world, is art. Another is education: aspects of reality such as animals, emotions and modes of transport are often represented to very young children anthropomorphically. It is as if, as adults, we know intuitively that presenting the world in this way will make it comprehensible.

A negative symptom of our anthropomorphic imagination is religion. But that’s a different matter.

Domestic Objects

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13 moments in the life of Mon

My new collaboration with artist Diana Probst will soon be published. The book is entitled 13 and you can read about it here.

I selected thirteen of my 13s for the book. One that didn’t make it to the final draft was 13 moments in the life of Mon. The main reason for rejecting it was that it would have been slightly anomalous; the piece is a narrative, whereas my other 13s hint at narratives but never form one.

Here it is, in full.

1

It is suddenly very cold.

Mon opens his eye. He sees fog, the ground. A skeletal tree.

Where am I? he thinks.

—–

2

Mon listens. He can hear distant noises through the fog: laughter, gunshots, cars, birdsong.

So I am in the world, he thinks.

—–

3

Mon shivers. He’s naked. The need to warm himself is sudden, imperious.

His body’s other demands soon follow. He’s hungry, thirsty, horny.

—–

4

With a lurching motion, shivering violently, Mon propels himself through the fog.

—–

5

Sloping ground gives way and he finds himself on a road.

The fog is thinner here. The road is empty.

The distant sounds seem fainter.

—–

6

Mon curls up against the cold, foetus-like, on his side.

Despite feeling frozen, Mon wants desperately to get up and hunt for food. His stomach moans mournfully.

And he has an erection.

He feels like a marionette, pulled one way then another by his bodily needs.

So this is life, he thinks.

—–

7

Mon falls asleep.

When he wakes he’s so cold he can’t move.

Is it possible to be alive and have rigor mortis? he wonders.

—–

8

A rat crawls onto Mon, taking him for a corpse.

Mon waits until it is near his face, then opens his mouth. A slow, painful operation! The rat is curious. It peers into Mon’s maw.

Mon waits until the head is in his mouth, then bites it clean off. Nutrition at last!

—–

9

Mon has eaten his fill. This gives him the strength to straighten out from his agonised coil. He stands, walks.

Rat is tasty, he thinks.

—–

10

Further along, the road is overrun by vegetation. He trips, collapses onto his belly and starts slithering through the tangled green. He’s aware of movement.

Insects are at war. They seethe, scurry, make bristling formations. Mon sees heads, abdomens, legs, thoraxes, severed, crushed.

To make matters worse, his progress is impeded by the aggressive erection whose pangs continue to torment him.

Maybe life would be better if I were a girl, he ponders.

Around him, creation agitates, cries, eats itself.

Fog, wracked undergrowth, insects, the slaughterhouse of nature. Mon closes his eye in horror.

—–

11

He has slept. He opens his eye and weeps.

Mon wonders what he is. He looks down at his body, taking in every sorry detail. He concludes that he must still be in his larval phase.

—–

12

Something is becoming visible in the grey haze: rounded, fleshy forms, vaguely coalescing. Mon goes nearer. It is a woman. He stares at her.

The woman moans, weeps, grizzles. When Mon is within her reach she gathers him in. Her teeth are little gravestones, her hair wickerwork. She smells of burnt wood.

He tries to speak, for the first time. His mouth twists.

A word, barely a word, a syllable, repeated, a non-word dragged up from his core: “Mama.”

Again.

“Mama.”

Gaining confidence, he says it over and over.

“Mama, mama, mama, mama.”

It accelerates, becomes a mad burble.

For the first time: joy.

The woman slams an oily hand over his mouth, so he stops talking. He scrutinises her inscrutable face.

Then the fog erases her.

He finds himself back on the ground, on his back. No sign of the woman. The road presents itself again.

He is overcome by a sense of loss.

—–

13

Mon stands and continues along the road. The fog is at its thickest here and he can’t see his feet.

No sounds now. He keeps walking.

—–

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