Drop by drop, blood almost kills itself. Emerges again, both suicidal and invigorated. It searches for the wall, the boundary, the line. The curve of the jaw of life, the part where the teeth settle into a semblance of quietness, of poise and the part where the tongue roams, pure flesh, pure desire, pure urges, pure suffering. Blood becomes foreign to itself, its many parts just hanging, limp, lipid, senseless and insane. Blood screams in the valley of the undiscovered, the unknown, the submerged. How can one possibly express that which cannot be ascertained, that which palpitates in the tongue and the throat and the vein and the leg, that which sings and pukes, that which is both nauseated and devoted, that which never dies but also never lives, that which rises forth along the centre of a blade of grass, that which exclaims absolute joy but also that which only knows how to scream and scream it does until it isn’t life and death duelling, but death and life against death and life.
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
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.
The Sudden Denoument Literary Collective is thrilled to announce the release of Anthology Volume I: Writings for the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective! This long-awaited anthology 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.
“It’s the wait that gets me.
Like our first kiss.”
I hear it again. That tick, tick, ticking of that incessant clock. That feeling of inevitability. The one you can feel, deep into your bones, that something is coming. Like a countdown to some unknown ending. And you can feel it in the air, like just before a storm on a hot and humid summer day. It’s that electricity, the uptick in the wind that carries just a little further. The kind of breeze that will make even the strongest of trees creak as they sway to a silent song only they can hear. And if I’m lucky, it’ll come before I lose my mind. Whatever it is that’s coming. Because it’s the wait that gets me. It’s that unknowing. The gnawing ache that will eat away at me until everything hits critical mass.
Whatever happens, I’ll be ready. And I’ve learned, over time, to assume the worst. That way, it might not hurt so bad. But every once in a while, I’ll let myself hope for something better. Like when we shared our first kiss. Or the night we first made love. Those moments were well worth the anticipation. Unfortunately, I won’t know about this one, until it actually happens.
Sarah Doughty is the tingling wonder-voice behind Heartstring Eulogies. She’s also the author of The Silence Between Moonbeams, her poetry chapbook, and the acclaimed novels and novellas of the Earthen Witch Universe. Good news, they’re all offered for free, right here! To learn more about how awesome Sarah is, check out her website, stalk her on Goodreads, or both.
There’s the pull of the tide of Azazel, dragging me down to obsidian depths where lampreys from alien worlds suckle at the teat of Leviathan. Your arms are the Cambrian ocean, and I am a fabled creature long extinct, many legged like a sea scorpion, scuttling to your lips to latch on with pedipalp that can breathe both in and out of water. My progeny will leave your bosom and flee to the shore, shipwrecked on pearly sands, and weave webs to capture sparrows and dragonflies and voles. Feasting on your salty skin, I know the great extinction is fast approaching, be it comet or climate change or ocean acidification, and your shores will dry up and your cliffs of ice at the poles will pummel me as glaciers crash against my chitinous exoskeleton. This is just a metaphor for how we fight, me the small arachnopod navigating your waves, for you encompass worlds with your H20 and I am just a small resident in your underwater hotel room, and you are the whole of Atlantis. They will say your treasures were buried ten leagues below when your pride became too great and you challenged the gods, but I know Jormungandr was thrown into the sea because he grew so great he could eat the nine realms, and you are ravenous – for my kisses, for my sex, for my breasts bobbing in your aquatic hands and my whole body in the mud of the Dead Sea, healing in your salt. It is all a dream of sailors, to marry a mermaid, to pledge their troth to a nokken that fiddles desire and tricks on cold Norwegian seas where my ancestors roamed. And so I say, Poseidon, grant me one wish. To forever be your siren, singing humans to doom at your breast aback the undertow of your liquid love. I will serve you well I promise, o my captain, for I am like a buoy, constantly riding out tempests with cheery red and yellow paint so my lobsterman – you – can find me and the Maine treasures below. The ocean takes all, nutrient overflows and algal blooms and bodies rotting so only the feet float above, and it has claimed me since I was baptized in your cold New England waters. In truth, we are the shape of water, which has no shape, but we can boil, and we can steam, and we can bubble, and we can freeze, so I say, let us be the transformation of each other and discover what this love means when the mast falls and the captain’s daughter falls for the admiral. We can be pirates of the Milky Way, plundering nitrogen oceans for diamonds, sailing Jupiter’s storm, and all the while I will be singing sea shanties (all sea songs are composed in your honor, oh great Oceanus) and throwing prisoners off the plank. The sea is not merciful, the sea is all-consuming, and so we feast on each other, drinking down starlit riptides. I fill my belly with the waters of God’s Deep and then I know, I am just sand and coral and dissolved calcium carbonate, a statue sunken deep, and you cradle my wreckage so softly, so love, consume me with your gravity, and let me drown.