Christine Ray – Composition of a Woman Like no Other

“The world needs strong women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved. Women who live bravely, both tender and fierce. Women of indomitable will.” – Amy Tenney

I don’t know who Amy Tenney is, have never heard of her, nor read anything other than the above quote, (that I know of), that can be traced back to her, but after reading that very quote, I think Amy Tenney may know Christine Ray.

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If the heart of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is the impressive collection of writers and their work, editors and their passion, readers and their appreciation, then surely Christine Ray has been a potent infusion of life for us all.

For the past two years, Christine Ray has been a valued, and much loved, member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective. As a writer, Christine is nothing short of impressive. As a poet, Christine is nothing short of phenomenal. With her vivid imagery and the unfiltered passion she leaves on her page, it was no surprise when Christine developed a large following of fans and a rock solid appreciation and respect from her collective, and the writers who run tight in influential social media circles, none of which are an easy feat.

Always the first to read, comment, and share the work featured on SD onto her own sites, Christine played a huge role in bringing all of our work to people who wouldn’t normally see it, and then bringing devoted fans and readers back to SD.

It wasn’t long before Christine became an editor at SD, working closely with the writers to produce the very best content, all the while writing for, and maintaining her own growing site, Brave and Reckless, but she was also quickly tapped to become the managing editor of not only The Sudden Denouement Literary Collective, but its sister site Whisper and The Roar as well.

Over the past two years Christine has given her all to this collective, and at times that has been a thankless and an exhausting job, yet she has continued to do it all just as she does everything she sets her mind and her heart to, with grace and determination. We, as a collective, have been fortunate to have spent these years under her ever-watchful eyes and her guiding light, and it is with our deepest thanks and our greatest appreciation that we bid farewell to her as editor of SD, and stand behind her as the biggest champions of her bright new future endeavours.

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Lost Voice – Christine Ray

siren’s golden voice
once dropped confident syllables
into air
as naturally as breathing
now stifled in constricted throat
that struggles to swallow
six-sided anxiety
hot, sour bile
college ruled notebooks
once full
of manic scribblings
compulsively captured in black ink
before inspiration could swirl down the floor drain
collect dust
sigh from disuse
pen now held in death grip
fingers have lost their grace
their nerve
fertile mind now an empty room
where silence rings
torturous tinnitus
blindfolded by fear
weight pressing down on shoulders
by the weight of giant
unseen inquisitor’s voice barks
Have you reached the bottom of yourself
are you so shallow
so barren?!
Or is truth so deeply hidden
that you must dive inside
hand to elbow buried into slippery entails
to reach it?
surgical implements laid out
with precision on a stainless tray
slide into view
no hesitation picking up sharp scalpel
with shaking fingers
a writer’s way is
always to bleed

“She was an angel that burst into my life and shone her brilliant light right into the eyes of my demons”

Christine is a wonderful writer & editor & it was through our shared love of poetry that our friendship was birthed. She is one of the strongest, most patient & inspiring women I know and it has been a pleasure to work alongside her often.
– Rachel Finch, author of A Sparrow Stirs Its Wings

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“Christine Ray. I told her once I knew with a name like that, she’d go places. What I didn’t mention was she already has and does every day, she takes us with her too. What I didn’t mention was even if she was called Erma F. Sluggs, she’d go places, that’s just how bright her electric mind is.
Christine Ray came into my life as a writer, with a flash and from the moment I heard of her, she didn’t stop spitting electricity and fire. Routinely we over-use descriptors, the irony being Christine is often the source of those descriptors. She actually IS unstoppable. She actually IS the real deal. She actually IS on fire. (Okay so the last one is a slight exaggeration, but seriously, have you looked at the sky lately?).

Christine Ray has left an impact on my life already, as if she had resided there for its entirety. She doesn’t demand attention, she earns it, with every hard effort she makes to be basically the bad ass best at everything she does. Is this a Type A Personality? Hell, she invented the term.

It is both sad and wonderful that whilst Christine has long battled with exhaustion and illness, she is one of the most energetic minds I have had the privilege to meet, and she has a gift of putting intelligent and creative people together in ways that creative incredible happenings. Despite any set-back she has experienced or any trauma in her past, that would give her ample reason to bow out, Christine never does, she keeps going and she takes you with her.
On a bad day, Christine’s infectious energy and passion for writing and poetry, equals that of most of the rest of us. She has taught me to be more, do more, expect more. She has taught me that you can be broken and mangled and still find no excuse not to do your absolute best. Christine is an unwilling role-model in that she doesn’t seem to see her own shine, whilst everyone who ever meets her, sees it instantly. Her talents don’t know boundaries they defy even her own expectations.

I have been so honored to work with Christine over the years I’ve known her, and see her rise in our literary publishing and poetry circle to become one thing; Irreplaceable.

I wouldn’t bet on many people because you really don’t know, but I would bet on Christine. She’s a warrior, she’s a fighter, she’s a demon mind that doesn’t rest until she’s accomplished goals far beyond her reach and you know what? She succeeds. And nothing, not even herself, stops her from getting up the next day and doing the same thing. I admire the hell out of her, I also genuinely LIKE her as a human being and this is pretty rare because many passionate people can drive you crazy, but in Christine’s case, she only reminds us, to be more of what we can be, never less.

Christine has galvanized a huge group of people into a collective that has radically changed the quiet, detached safe world of poetry writing that hitherto existed on WordPress and beyond. She’s brought all of us together, she is a lightning rod and a fucking incredible human being and her poetry is devastatingly beautiful. I adore her. I applaud her. I will never feel anything ordinary about her.” – Candice Daquin, author of Pinch The Lock

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During her time at Sudden Denouement, and Sudden Denouement Publishing, Christine Ray has worked closely with dozens of today’s most impressive writers to bring their most impressive work to print. Christine was key in helping to establish Sudden Denouement Publishing and single-handedly compiled, designed, and edited ‘Anthology Volume I: Writings From The Sudden Denouement Literary Collective’ which was published in the summer of 2018 and remains one of SD’s proudest achievements.

As editor-in-chief, Christine helped bring not only two of Sudden Denouement’s most anticipated collections of 2018 to press: Rachel Finch’s debut collection, ‘A Sparrow Stirs Its Wings’ and Nicole Lyons’ third collection ‘Blossom and Bone’, but has also edited and added Eric Syrdal’s brilliant novel ‘Pantheon’ to SDP’s catalogue.

Never one to claim the spotlight for herself (though it shines for her) Christine has been the backbone, the kickstart, to each and every brilliant collaboration we have featured on SD.

“I’ve always been in awe of Christine. Not only in terms of her output as a poet, but in how much energy she puts into so many projects. Her level of commitment is like nothing else I have ever seen, and every time I’ve worked with her, she’s given 100%, even with so much on the go. From my early days in Sudden Denouement up to our recent collaboration, Christine has been supportive of me in so many ways, and without that support, and guidance, the last eighteen months wouldn’t have been as satisfying as they have. I’d like to thank her for everything she’s done, not only for me, but for so many others, and I hope she continues to shine her light as brightly as she’s done for a long time coming.” – S.K. Nicholas, author of The Journal For Damned Lovers Volumes I-III

FAITH DON’T LIE – Christine Ray & S.K. Nicholas

It was with great pleasure, and one of SDP’s shining accomplishments, that we were lucky enough to bring Christine’s own debut collection ‘Composition of a Woman’ to press. It is pure Christine Ray – amplified – and we couldn’t be any more proud to feature such a stunning work.

Though Christine has stepped down from SD as editor, all is not lost; she is still a much loved and valued member of the collective and we will continue to publish her work while we promote her exciting new adventures like Indie Blu(e) and Indie Blu(e) Publishing.

“Christine is a tough and tender wild thing, a brilliant writer and editor, and a ferocious friend. She has talent, an eye for it, and a gift for bringing it out in others. She especially has a gift for turning trauma into triumph and encouraging others to do the same. I am proud to call Christine a friend, and invigorated to know that this friendship will last a lifetime. On all levels, Christine is an amazing person. It is a privilege to know her and read her work. I am excited to see where her ambitions will lead her next!”

-Georgia Park, Private Bad Thoughts

We look forward to reading and promoting the brilliant artists and the work Christine and her team at Indie Blu(e) are set to publish very soon.

Here’s a little sneak peek of Christine’s second book of poetry, ‘The Myths Of Girlhood’ slated for publication with IB very soon:

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The Myths of Girlhood – Christine Ray

we were spoiled

for reality

by milk chocolate-coated fairy tales

force fed us as girls

made to swallow

not spit

myths about beauty

love

sex

taught that only pretty, pretty princesses

would be awoken by

true love’s first kiss

impossible standards of beauty

femininity

made for

bitter cherry centers

that left us empty

starving

hollow

how old were we

when we learned

that mere mortal girls

like us

would never be beautiful enough

thin enough

kind enough

pure enough

to win Prince Charming’s gold enrobed heart?

we ate up the lessons that with the right make-up

the right clothes

shoes

if we took enough quizzes

in Seventeen magazine

about how to be popular

how to catch his eye

contorted ourselves into pretzels

we might almost be enough

to be invited to dance at the ball

drink a brief taste of the pink champagne dream

before the clock struck midnight

and we turned back

into pumpkins

 

From all of us at Sudden Denouement, and Sudden Denouement Publishing, thank you Christine, for all you have done for us and for all you have given of yourself. You are irreplaceable, unforgettable, and we hold you in the highest esteem.

Excerpt from Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective- Say Yes/S.K. Nicholas

Nose on nose on a balcony that overlooks a disused garage that swims with rats and pornos and junk. Black eyeliner, black tights. Red lips and a ponytail that swings like a pendulum. The smell of your hair and the feel of you pushing yourself against my groin in those hours that escape us upon waking. We sleep outside to be closer to the stars and because when we make love and taste God you want him to see you as a soul and not just a body. Pyjamas not skirts. Flirtation not chitchat. Tigers, dragons. Sushi bars and wet lips. Dimples and your smile and the absence of you when you’re not around and you’re never around but I have my words and my words will become you and that’s just how it is. The evenings are beer and wine and the warmth of your breath against my neck in the back of a taxi and then your arm around my waist in some bar with paintings on the wall I could paint with my dick. Nearly falling off your chair, you snort with laughter and bite my ear. What’s the worst thing about getting old? My hair going curly. The second worst thing? The knowledge that my mind and body are two different things and that the older I get the more conflict there will be between the two. Arguments. Frustration. To sleep. Would you sleep with me? Would you let me take off your socks and massage your feet while we sit in silence too drunk to do anything other than picture ourselves as different people? I hope so. Tears that stain the pillow. The beginning, the end. A writer, a fool. A hand around your throat. A doorway that could be a vortex that could be a portal that could be an opening to something those we have known our entire lives have never come close to. Do you remember when we were strangers? Can you recall the time you caught me staring at your mouth in the canteen at work not long after you first started? You asked me if I was okay, but I was lost in the future that danced upon your lips and although I didn’t want to be crude, I knew already what was to follow and it caused me to become lightheaded. Two hearts. One mind. That night we were under the stars and I wrote GN-z11 on your arm with a pen and urged you to get it tattooed- you never knew what it meant and I never told you. Well this is the place we shall go after we die and there we shall be free. Free to love without the presence of prying eyes. Type it into Wikipedia, and tell me you’ll say yes.

Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is available at Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, Amazon Canada, Book Depository, and other major book retailers


S.K. Nicholas  is the creator of Myredabyss.com, as well as author of two novels A Journal for Damned Lovers Vol 1 & 2. Both of these books are available Amazon.  Additionally, Nicholas is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective.

Excerpt from Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective- Inky Rivers./Ra’ahe Khayat

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Inky Rivers.

He mourned moons with
moans of muttered courage,
through lips of lost lovers,
and draped himself in
forbidden shadows
hidden from the suns.

There were no perhaps or maybe,
just the absolute ticking of time
that sang to his mind;
too numb from
the last bottle of Jack,
or cheap tequila,
and coke.

For his blood was poisoned
from an unavenged rage,
and an addiction, to the blood of the man
that raped his mother,
his sister,
his daughter.

And he drank away, to the sight of
those photographs
stained from the careless moments
when the bottle had slipped, and the
liquid remembrance
flooded his childhood.

The world blurred into
the black and grey pages of calendar
that turned and merged
into faces engraved
on the inside of his closet,
while he stared at them; their tears
-shining in the fluorescent light of that
damp ghastly room-
filled his half full glass.

Even death looked away,
for he held a red knife of indifference
on the throat of life,
and read the Bible,
all the while a skeleton
washed his hands
and kissed the silhouette of his neck
in prayer,
for he played the role of God,
in this Godless world.

The winds never breathed,
when he wrote poems on the graves
where the dead could chant the words of dead,
shrouded within the cries of the Lord,
as he wept under the disguise
of the raining nights.

He fucked strangers
standing in middle of the storm,
and came, to the sound of the hurricanes
howling menacingly into his ears,
in rivulets of sorrowful ecstasy
that the torrents couldn’t wash away.

Betrayed demons of his
were buried in coffins,
and those coffins he inhumed
within his soul.
And six-feet under,
he sleeps peacefully- breathless,
for he lived years without breathing.

Jagged scars crossed his eyes,
under the headlights of cars,
begging silently to those burnt rubber,
to crush the weight on his bones
upon himself.

Those lines revealed-
in the charged air of thunder
when a certain gentleness
settled within him,
for then his thoughts
found themselves clear,
to drown in the inky rivers
flooding his being.

Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is available at Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, Amazon Canada, Book Depository, and other major book retailers.


Ra’ahe Khayat is just another wild person with wilder thoughts, who thinks that writing them down might mean that the people around her won’t realize how out of touch with reality she really is, but she tends to write random gibberish in the randomest of places, so most already know. She likes words, and weirdly surreal metaphors, and sad songs, and has a sick sense of humor (depends completely on how you interpret sick). You can catch up with her on twitter at @ryekayas or just check out her blog, Fallen Alone.

Excerpt from Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective: Mother’s Blood/Introducing Mitch Green

Forever sorry, cut at the
bleach ghost in strokes.
Prove her out to be the
head over heels, smoke
em if you got em type.

Worming mists of steel,
sacrificial, superficial.

They warned you about
this one. They warned you,
stubborn listener.

They’ll fish you
out in pieces.

Tell me it to be fiction,
cause on the third floor
a girl fits a cage, made
of roses, thorns, and her
mother’s blood.

Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is available at Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, Amazon Canada, Book Depository, and other major book retailers.


Mitch Green founded Rad Press Publishing in September of 2016. He is an avid artist in visual design and literature. Published in various literary journals and magazines: The Literary Yard. The Penmen Review. Vimfire Magazine – Mitch aims to seize the narrow line between all artistic mediums.

A few of his known poetic titles are: “Flesh Phoenix” “Monsters” “The Wolves Howled”.

Offering his hand in graphic direction – his book design portfolio can be found here.

Follow Mitch and Rad Press Publishing on Instagram.

Sudden Denouement Publishing Releases Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

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“I sit on the left-hand of the gods and have a special dispensation to decode the secret, universal rhythms, find patterns in the whispers which are inaudible to profane ears.”

Jasper Kerkau/I am a F*cking Writer!

Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is a thoughtfully curated compendium of the best writing published online by the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective from its launch in August of 2016 through April 2018. It includes 138 pieces of cutting-edge poetry, prose and short fiction written by 29 diverse writers from England, Romania, Japan, India, Finland, the United States and Canada. Thirty-one of the 138 pieces were written exclusively for the Anthology. This volume captures the astonishing raw power of these individual and united poetic voices.

“One of the delights of this collection is the sheer diversity of voices, unconstrained, with differing syntax, forms, loss of form, deliberate omissions and styles, one moment you are reading a condensed prose-poem about the origin of life, the next a confessional bleeding rip from the heart about love and drugs. Nowhere else in modern collections have I found such a mélange of tongues, all begging questions, responses, emotions, some disgust, horror, desire. Volume I is a true kaleidoscope of the human experience, doused in realism and the phantasmagoric with absolutely no brake fluid.”
Candice Louisa Daquin, Pinch the Lock

“Sudden Denouement’s Anthology exposes and breaks many of the taboos of being truly and unashamedly human, giving us permission to look at and embrace them in the moment of reading. I was allowed a glimpse into the writers’ souls; comprehending their words was an exercise in the development of understanding human nature. This is a world in which the heaviness of life weights everything down until it is distilled—frustration and hate, love and unfiltered sex, bodily urges, addictions, the complexity of human interactions. Descriptions are brightly painful in some cases, transparently critical in others, but always smack of truth. Divergent work demands that there are no holds barred; the writer reveals everything, and cuts close to the bone, even his or her own, in order to create a pulsating, living amalgamation of words.”
Mariah Voutilainen, (re)imagining the mundane

“If you find yourself hungry for the kind of words that walk boldly into the dark filled spaces of your poetic heart, be prepared to put your dancing shoes on. This anthology is a collective kaleidoscope of fragmented and pulsing light from some of the most talented writers around the globe.”
Alfa, Abandoned Breathes

Available at Amazon.comAmazon.com.uk, and Book Depository.

Paperback, 278 pages/Published June 20, 2018 by Sudden Denouement Publishing


Reviews of Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective:

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

Alfa Reviews Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

Mariah Voutilainen Reviews Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

Sudden Denouement (SD) is a writing collective started on WordPress (WP) among fledgling and established writers and poets who came together in mutual appreciation of the genre of writing poetry, specifically poems that are honest and express emotions without compromise or apology. In this sense, SD was unique among WP authors as being the first attempt to collectivize those specific voices and generate a mode by which writers could advance and gain exposure using a safe platform and not being judged for expressing themselves honestly. “We are stray smoke in hurricane water.” (Stray Smoke, by Mitch Green).

One may imagine this is common-place but even in the world of creative writing and poetry, there are standards and expectations and many poets who tended to write about emotions were labeled as being too self-involved and depressing. Poetry collectives often focus on publishing and highlighting poets who are studying for a MFA, using formal poetic mediums and methods such as Haiku, and following poetry prompts generated by more established poets. In other words, there is often an academic expectation behind any forms of writing and expression, even in the blogosphere. “when did you keep god under your tongue, / like / an uninvited pill” (All the beds are made, by Samantha Lucero).

When SD formed, the idea was to avoid such hierarchy and expectation and lend a voice to poets who wrote frankly about their struggles with mental illness and challenges in their lives. It was never intended to be purely a place to dump ones emotional baggage but soon the quality of poems demonstrated the need to promote less orthodox poets and allow their voices to gain equal traction with the main-stream. One might say, avoiding the typical ideas of what constitutes good poetry and showing that other forms have equal power, was an early goal of the collective. “Reach for the top shelf / My invitation got lost in the mail / Feelings aren’t allowed” (Purge, by Laurie Wise).

All this at a time when motivational and uplifting poetry was all the rage, where if you perused those authors highlighted on WP you may be led to believe anything less than positive was not popular. However, as the readership and popularity of SD demonstrated soon after its launch, there was clearly a need and genuine appreciation for authors who didn’t conform to the conventional norms and standards set by the majority. Whether they be poems of sadness, depression, passion, desire, anger, resentment or suffering, SD had tapped into a hungry audience who deeply appreciated reading pieces that they could personally relate to, that were not formal, sanitized or cautious in their rendering. “once we have / outlived / our bourn indignation / why must we trudge / through the crux / of man’s blunder” (Commonality, by Max Meunier).

After being online for a year SD began Sudden Denouement Publishing seeking to publish collections of the best work on their site from their frequent authors. This led to their first volume of poets Anthology I.  What you will find in this compendium of writings from the leading lights of SD is a diverse comprisement of poems, illustrating the powerful collective voice of a generation. “This city has us in its grinder. What are we doing here? Looking for dimes on the sidewalks, tallying our dollars and paying student debts to the bar. We’ve lost interest in the good life, ferris wheel of office jobs and part-time gigs. Counting days to eviction.” (Modern Heat by Mick Hugh) The creator of SD, Editor and Poet, Jasper Kerkau leads the charge with I Am A F*cking Writer! A lashing against the notion that writing must conform to a certain standard or avoid particular themes, he literally has; “A holy charge to record the divine misery … in collaboration with a silent minority.”

Max Meunier continues in Sentence Of Sentience when he states; “freedom reprieved / of sententious ideal / for what purpose plausible / peers within prisms / but spectacle / cradling consciences captious.” This is the core of SD’s mission, to break free of current ideals and restricting forms, whilst not compromising author’s liberty and to avoid the spectacle of convention that only pretends to have a conscious sense of itself. “Where, then, to deposit the porous clay figures of our / talks?” (N by Ian McCarthy).

Matt Eayre writes in his poem Subjective; “this is poetry, / this is not / this is good enough, / this is crap / you’re a good writer, / you’re a poet / you’re an imposter / and you know you don’t belong.” The theme of subjective versus an assumed idea of what constitutes ‘good’ poetry, is fought over to this day, where masters of fine art degrees and their institutions dictate what is passable, published and trending versus what is considered inferior. “then you drag me / onto the shore / and you fuck me / I see that the pelicans / are pretty / and they never scream” (Pelicans by Georgia Park).

“I don’t care, I want everything out of me, / the twitching / the turning / the hope of a new life / bleeds out on the floor / I thought I could make something beautiful / out of my shame.” (Miscarriage by Henna Sjöblom) The SD voices challenge these norms and institutionalized expectations for an alternative way of appreciating the genre of poetry. “Now that Anya’s / President everyone on earth can attend Harvard; they’ll / learn to turn their despair into / dread, like Franz Kafka. / The American dream is fulfilled; everyone’s a fool.” (Glass Ceiling, by David Lohrey).

 In On Becoming A Writer, Christine Ray advances this idea; “Waking up every morning / to unzip her chest, her gut / and bare her truths to the world / because like others of her kind / she was complex, messy, containing multiple truths, / not a singular one.” The idea being, it is an oxymoron for a poet to conform to a standard or restrict themselves, for the very art of poetry is extracting truth and presenting it, which by its nature, cannot be caged or a singular method, much as mainstream poetry would have us believe otherwise. “My hands weren’t yours to train. Not yours to be enjoyed like a lover’s caress. My body, not yours to educate.” (Never Yours, by Sarah Doughty).

Volume I becomes a collective of visions from these itching poets such as Erich James Michaels when he writes in his poem Genesis; “Something you can’t remember drives you. Not just in the need to remember, … You read your latest poem. / You describe the shadows that lurk in the recesses of your mind, / from former lives forgotten. / You are a poet. You are a writer without a past, who has found a new home.” The voices are interchangeably and at times starkly, male and female; “I quite like the emptiness settled in the pit of me— / The sharp taste on my tongue as I lick the edge of abyss.” (Because I’m A Whore Who Asked For It by Kindra M. Austin).

Reading through so many authors, some are bound to sit closer than others, you may find a few juvenile or lacking in comparison to the shattering earth pieces that will be immediately apparent (Inky Rivers by Ra’ache Khayat and These days when you have a daughter, by Samantha Lucero being two such examples) but that’s half the delight, for by tasting each voice, we go deeper into the veil and touch the source of its myriad faces. “let us know the purity of instinct / the purity of art / that transcends education, / memory or muse / you are scars and sculptures” (Upon realization that perhaps i am completely sure, by Lois Linkens).

If your expectation is a slim volume of precise poems according to a clever little theme, you’ll be deeply disappointed by SD’s offering. Poetry at SD isn’t nice and tidy, it isn’t precise or easily categorized, nor does it intend to leave you peaceful. As Julia Halatz says in her poem What Can I Give You? “Not by blindness / we can reorder colors / but by the painting of a soul.” There is absolutely nothing here that is calm or apologetic, nor will any writer be careful with your sensibilities and spare you the brunt of their truth. “Anything, anything at all / that would explain / these patterned nights, these long long pauses in daylight. / How life has blatantly refused to comply anymore.” (A picture of our torn up praise by Aakriti Kuntal).

If you imagine a group weaving a disharmonious double-jointed vision together, using their blood as dye, you may come close to revealing the proffered mouths of these voices. In Birds & H e a r t s, ra’ahe khayat writes; “we’re not humans without h e a r t s / but hearts without bodies, / being fed to strange birds.” In this simple statement they identify the drifters dilemma when exposing oneself to the elements, the risk of losing one’s skin is ever present and it is this risk we find the courage and horror of our fellow humans, though we may have long given up hope of being understood, we share as much through pain as joy, and are less alone and this is the beauty of poetry. “Every time I get sober, / someone else / dyes / black / my hair.” (Funeral Trumpets, by Kindra Austin).

Samantha Lucero in 1., describes this experience as; “i keep alive by milking goats. / some like lifelines, some like ulcers / the city streets are braided in my hair.” In Conflagration by Nathan McCool he says; “I’m society, some things are outside of it; / and gazes are always turned to those things / like the barrel of a gun. … But to be perfect is to have never burned. / Things that have not endured burning cannot / give light.” The terrible honesty of these visions is uncompromising, unrelenting, a raw shot in the gut for the reader, it’s not an easy read, but like anything worthwhile you’ll be taking it with you after you’ve finished and returning before you expected to.  “I liked the Mmmm of her, the way / it brought out the whites of her eyes, / and I wondered as they closed / if they were watching her thoughts / as closely as they watched mine. / And I wished to poke at them,” (The Mmm of Her, by Nicole Lyons).

It may be tempting to compare authors, highlight the influences, or homage to previous poets and yes, among this compendium there are shades of Bukowski, Billy Childish, Baudelaire, Plath, Sexton, Tracey Emin, but it would diminish the originality of this collection to simply contrast. Better then let the work speak for itself in its ferocious epoch. “Let’s dance with other people’s wives to bubblegum pop, not too close. Leave a void between, the façade of trust and happiness. The empty spaces where attraction used to fit. … can’t die lately, and it’s making me uncomfortable.” (Can’t by Pbbr). We may never ‘know’ these authors as we do, those we learn in English class, but there is something refreshing about reading them as a whole and finding understanding through today’s fractured lens. “I finally let go / tightly coiled control gasp with relief / as I finally unleash the darkness” (Raven, by Christine Ray).

One of the delights of this collection is the sheer diversity of voices, unconstrained, with differing syntax, forms, loss of form, deliberate omissions and styles, one moment you are reading a condensed prose-poem about the origin of life, the next a confessional bleeding rip from the heart about love and drugs. Nowhere else in modern collections have I found such a mélange of tongues, all begging questions, responses, emotions, some disgust, horror, desire. Volume 1 is a true kaleidoscope of the human experience, doused in realism and the phantasmagoric with absolutely no brake fluid.

S.K., Nicolas writes in Reflectors, that; “In schools, they preach hide the soul, and then work comes along and drills it in a little deeper. But art liberates, … But only God can make a tree, so who I am? My reflection and your reflection, so many reflections and all these reflections that keep on reflecting,” Poet, Oldepunk says in his poem Broken; “turning gold to lead, crack and peel / the Narcissist stone! / you do not understand / as the dead envy the living, so / do the broken hate the anointed,” And in Still, this defiance is continued by Mitch Green, as he writes; “to them we are nothing, but gravel / in the making of scars. / Still breathing, / breathing still.”

SD has kicked it out the ball park by locating and birthing a group of unique voices you are unlikely to find in big publisher collections owing in part to the nepotistic methods of author selection. It’s always thrilling to find those writers who aren’t pretty little packages awaiting their deal, but the tumbleweed and very fire in the desert, torn out and presented without respite and without apology, such is the art of SD for bringing together, an unforgettable divergence of talent we may otherwise have never found.

“let me open the door / help me to understand / when I’m engulfed in the blaze / no one will tell you why.”  Richard Crandall, Burning at the Stake

Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is now available at Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk

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Mariah Voutilainen Reviews Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

Sudden Denouement’s Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective demonstrates divergence in a multitude of ways

In late 2017, not long after I had started my own poetry blog on Word Press, I came across an intriguing site.  Its black and white vintage photos and classic layout invited me in.  The poems I read on that particular day were uniquely honest, full of rich free verse and wonderfully chosen words, so I chanced a look at the submissions requirements.  Right at the top of the page, in neon lights: “Hell- -here” it greeted potentials; the “o” and “T” fizzled out.  I chuckled with anticipatory glee, for under the classic front, something mischievous and dark lay there.  And as I read more of the collective’s poetry and prose, I did indeed feel the pull of Sudden Denouement’s careful attention to what it calls “divergent literature,” although I had yet to clarify with certainty what that meant.

In SD’s Anthology Volume I:  Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective, I found the answer.  In fact, this book served as a literary map leading me through landscapes of the human experience not found in other poetry and prose that I had read elsewhere.  This is due in part to the curators’ attention to diversity of experience and culture.  I marveled at the harmony of voices, each speaking truth from its corner of the world.  Each writer here has a part that blends in with the others, yet each piece has a distinct melody, a siren song that demands attention.  Trust me when I say that this is an odyssey not for the faint of heart; there is no gentle introduction to that world.

On the contrary, the book opens strongly, challenging readers to question their own views about what beauty and meaning in literature should be, what being a writer is.  The founder of the Sudden Denouement Collective, Jasper Kerkau, exclaims his writer identity is “anointed by almighty forces…to stand in the shadows and pay the price for all the beauty and unhappiness in the world.” (“I am a F*cking Writer!”) “These words have no meaning, when they sit on your screen,” writes Matthew D. Eayre in his poem “Subjective”.  In “On Becoming a Writer,” Christine E. Ray bemoans the possible isolation and invisibility: “…she felt like she was calling out her truths/into an empty desert landscape.”  Erich James Michaels likens the origin story of the poet to purposeful self-mutilation and self-removal from mainstream society (“Genesis”).  All of these are fighting words in a battle to speak truths that may not be acceptable to the mainstream but are vitally human.  To write in this divergent community is to steel oneself against a societal imperative to be vanilla in a land of a multitude of hidden and strangely delicious flavors.

There is no safety net in this world, either, and it is exhilarating.  The first two-thirds of the anthology jump from birds pecking at veins and skin (Ra’ahe Khayat’s “birds & h e a r t s”) to the regret of a missed life (Mick Hugh’s “Dream catcher never understood the bus schedule”) to the irony of a world in which everyone is forced to achieve the American dream (David Lohrey’s “Glass Ceiling”).  There are dark and desperate things, too, experiences thrown like blood and sometimes entrails onto the pages.  Henna Sjöblom’s “Miscarriage” is hard to forget for its painful description of the loss of an unwanted baby “I thought I could make something beautiful/out of my shame”.  Georgia Park’s “Weekly Meetings” made me uncomfortable, an invisible voyeur at a very charged gathering of Overeaters Anonymous.  “Feel up my female…I quite like the emptiness settled in the pit of me” Kindra M. Austin taunts in “Because I’m A Whore Who Asked For It,” as she succinctly details disgusting things that are done to women under that blanket excuse. These three pieces are not the only ones that reminded me of the aspects of human existence about which we are usually discouraged from asking lest we appear too curious, too unaware, too privileged.

Throughout, form and function, captivating lyricism and masterful usage of poetic devices abound.  But these are not tricks:  The stunning repository of words used and construction of phrases seamlessly blended.  I was repeatedly awed by the stories told, wishing for nothing more than continued passage into the world laid bare within the pages.  And yes, I would be remiss if I did not mention that multiple forays are required if only to immerse oneself in the minds of S. K. Nicholas and Jimmi Campkin, both of whom write prose that manages to be both shockingly sordid and beautifully compelling.  To chuckle at the humor that partners discontent in Oldepunk’s poetry.  To breathe in the headiness of Aakriti Kuntal’s lush and captivating similes.  There are gems on each page that cannot be missed, and sometimes I found them as I let words wash over me without specifically searching for meaning.

By the time I began reading the final third of the Anthology, I wished for respite from the unearthing of discontent and the unforgiving barrage of reality, even as it was sometimes cloaked in fantastical imagery.  And a partial reprieve came in the form of odes to the seasons: “The Marigold of months has sure begun./Fling back the shutters and let down your Hair…” (Lois Linkens’ “the Yellow month”) and Spring has “a vessel/for the softest fragrance” (Iulia Halatz’s “Song of Spring”).  There are testaments to romance and even epic love like Eayre’s “Out of My Hands,” but little if any frivolous romanticism here, just reality painted in elegantly brash words and unique imagery.  Finally and fittingly, remembrances of death serve as the beginning of the end of the Anthology.  In those poems and prose, I saw the openness of heart and strength of spirit required to allow total strangers to see the pain of losing a loved one.

Sudden Denouement’s Anthology exposes and breaks many of the taboos of being truly and unashamedly human, giving us permission to look at and embrace them in the moment of reading. I was allowed a glimpse into the writers’ souls; comprehending their words was an exercise in the development of understanding human nature.  This is a world in which the heaviness of life weights everything down until it is distilled—frustration and hate, love and unfiltered sex, bodily urges, addictions, the complexity of human interactions.  Descriptions are brightly painful in some cases, transparently critical in others, but always smack of truth.  Divergent work demands that there are no holds barred; the writer reveals everything, and cuts close to the bone, even his or her own, in order to create a pulsating, living amalgamation of words.

Anthology Volume I:  Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective is available through on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk.

 

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