【SPAM Press presents: 

Deep Cuts 2021】

Feast your eyes on this year's selection of SPAM Deep Cuts! Each year we ask our SPAM Zine, Press and Plaza contributors to select a few choice titles to highlight the excellent work done in poetry over the last year. This year the SPAM community has returned a true banquet our biggest ever poetry list! From sonnets to long poems, notes app jottings to concrete experiments, spontaneous PDFs and printouts to long-awaited releases, this extensive list is our collectively authored love letter to the worlds of small press and independent publishing that have sustained us throughout this year.

We've had a busy 2021 working from our home on ~ the internet ~, dropping a full-length poetry book, releasing a new pamphlet series and concrete bundle, publishing two issues of our online poetry zine, adding new poetry essays, reviews and experiments to the Plaza and uploading new episodes of our podcasts URL Sonata and Lunch Club. We also celebrated our fifth birthday! We are now very old in the online hyperspace we call our home, but still so new to the melty, bonding, glitchy and revolutionary thing which we know as poetry, the little naked worm we want to hear everything about.

Our 2018, 2019 and 2020 Deep Cuts are available should you wish to slide down further into the past menus (and surprise desserts) our contributors have put together for you in recent years! 🍜🍰

Kat Addis, Space Parsley (the87press)

These joyful responses to Petrarch do translation as intimacy, rather than fidelity to the source text. They give us a transhistorical Petrarch for the 21st century who prefers parsley to basil. From Helicon to Costa Head, these poems commune with a woodlouse, upset the bourgeoisie, deflate Jeff Koon’s ‘distorted vanity’, make ‘cookbooks in Rome’, visit Sweden and Shetland to see the ‘crescent moon/its forked slab of a tongue’. In an appendix, there is a commonplace book telling us ‘garnish’ used to mean: ‘To furnish (a place) with means of defence; to garrison; to supply with men, arms, and provisions’. Addis reminds us with Space Parsley, the word ‘garnish’ is thankfully now less defensive, less hostile, less warmongering.

— Michael Black


Adonis, Songs of Mihyar the Damascene (Penguin)

The Syrian poet Adonis has been writing poetry since the 1950s but I was only made aware of his work through this translation of poems published on Penguin Classics this year. And throughout this awful year I returned to these poems again and again, charmed by their strength and solidity, their capacity to breathe life through disaster. His words strike the tremors of the world’s terror into a singular clarity. My knowledge of Arabic language poetry being poor, I have few referents for this work, but at times it reminds me a little of Celan or Brecht: how well sharpened the knife is, a lyric address of an I facing toward the world and singing to it, trembling at the slow turning of the horizon. As the poem ‘Psalm’ from The Enchanter of Dust opens ‘I carry my abyss and walk’.

— Ed Luker


Alex Aldred, Faces Adjacent (Ghost City Press)

This tiny boi makes me smile. It’s so tiny. Within such a short space of time, Alex Aldred hooks us into his surreal chaotic waste land. This is 50% warmth and 50% pure, feral drama. It sets you up for laughs with a whimsical, storyteller-round-a-campfire-type tone, then hits you with realities that are actually quite sad, shivering, unsettled. It’s really hard to know where Aldred is going next at any point. One moment he’s spinning a yarn about a bunch of scarecrows on a bank heist, the next moment he’s furiously drawing a pentagram on the floor. When it’s over I don’t really know what to do with myself, other than wish it was longer.

— Alex George


Clarissa Álvarez & Petero Kalulé (petals), Marsh-River-Raft-Feather (Guillemot Press)

Bubbles, shuddering, streaming, drift, telekenisis, agglomeration and echo. This scintillating piece of ‘river-reading’ by Clarissa Álvarez and Petero Kalulé (petals) is a collaborative work of elemental and sonic essaying. Álvarez’s talents as a poet and storyteller weave around Kalulé’s as a composer, poet and multi-instrumentalist to form something ‘co radiant, co mingling’ (check out those gold endpapers!) with resounding, blissy polytonality. With long lines, intricate rhythms, variable typefaces and text alignments, the poetry of Marsh-River-Raft-Feather is a scoring of generous ecological tendency. Environmental concepts such as relation are enacted in the veers and folds of collaboration between the poets but also the many more-than-human vibrations of the book itself, in ‘earth’s tender small oscillations’. An exercise in un-making, in gesture, flight, patterning and diaphony, this is a work of the intimate, the transitive and the complex art of en-marshment.

— Maria Sledmere


And False Fire Pamphlets

Following gorgeous handmade pamphlets from Aaron Kent and Tom Snarsky last year, Kyle Lovell's Birmingham-based And False Fire published two of my favourites in 2021: the editor’s own In the Debt of Love, slant lyrics and ‘communal bursts of distress’ on style, light, foxes, and ‘the guts of heaven’, and Gloria Dawson's hurricane/orison, a moving, intimate eleven-part sequence which swerves through forms of opposition and supplication in the permanent crisis of the present. Both of these pamphlets make me think about how we can better look after each other and organise ourselves in a time of really horrible isolation and pain, committing to ‘love it daily’ while working against what kills us slowly (Gloria, ‘III’), ‘Trashed plus playful!’ (Kyle, ‘Polished Coteries’). These are reparative, disobedient poems that’ve kept me going when I’ve been feeling out of it or struggling to find the point and pleasure of my own writing. And both pamphlets read as remarkable affirmations of the friendship, poetry, community and worldbuilding of Callie Gardner, whose presence is felt fiercely through their beams of fire and water.

— Dom Hale


Al Anderson, Tenderloin (b l u s h)

Grossness announces itself on the first lines of Tenderloin — 'on this bad old earth, eco-fascist / brewing hops in a shitbrown bathtub / this is the kind of landscape we're working with, sis' — and doesn't let up for the rest of Al Anderson's twisted and meaty pamphlet. These are faggy lyrics of desire and humiliation tacked on unstable and shifting flesh; they get off on everything that is impeded or artificed, 'so unsure which parts of myself are meat / which parts language, which to blame'. The poems engage with the Baroques of visuality and folding imagery (it is, technically, a collection born out of responses to film), but they are aware that there is a more proximate Baroque at the seat of every personality, a form that is to be dug out with a knife and held before one's eyes like a misshapen pearl. This pamphlet could have come from nowhere other than a biting onanism which Anderson like Genet or Dennis Cooper appears to have perfected, and makes the writing irresistible: 'wake up ejaculating / you say, o wow, as if I was there'.

— Mau Baiocco


Mau Baiocco, January (on knowledge & education) (Rat Press)

One staple, seven sheets of A4, and a single colour image of legendary ceramics sculptor Gillian Lowndes’s Collage with Tomato Root for the cover: these are all the materials an ode ‘hooked up to nowhere’ with ‘a loosening grip on our | subversions’ needs to realise itself. Right from the start Mau tells us about Lowndes’s confessed ‘impatience with clay’, and I salute this frustration with the medium as echoed in the dash of their breathy, barely punctuated lines, the poem spinning like a dynamo through personal and social history. It’s about how we learn and unlearn (self-)defences, how ‘lyric means whatever the fuck we need’, how to give our lives to each other vigilant under the disgusting shadow of the MOD. That a poem with so much attentive speed and air and possibility emerged from one of the shittest months of a shit year is a defiant miracle: ‘I’m writing this so I hope you can | hear yourself in the night’. We’ll get the fuckers in the end.

— Dom Hale


Tom Betteridge, Mudchute (Veer2)

Plotting the sticky, intricate and surprising object-language of infancy and growth, loss and experience, MUDCHUTE holds its fingers out for more. It’s in the plural ‘yous’, in the beautiful ‘also’, thumbing ‘images of trains across pink felt’, the infrascapes of more-than-human hunger, bubbling from under the poem to say hi, to *bark*. Full of rich observation, from ‘a wanton squirrel’ to ‘mother-of-pearl’, MUDCHUTE sifts through the ‘fluff-mass’ and ‘grain’ of lyric cognition, looking for angles, positions, points of contact. There is the delicacy and precision of Maggie O’Sullivan, the exuberant word vomit, the special ‘curls’ of short lines and their ‘string / abrasion’. This pamphlet teaches you to ‘eat child get filthied regurgitate keep on’: the poethics of ongoingness in being receptive, digesting in form, the lacework of dream’s ‘residual heat’ in the day’s abstractions, the way to keep going through trauma, separation, many comings of age in technicolour speech. Read this pamphlet and feel very tender towards the strange ‘gooseys’ which offer their screeching heuristic,’ ghosting’, learning how always to learn, and weep.

— Maria Sledmere


Luke Bradford, Zoolalia (Penteract Press)

These poems burst from the page like the tiger in Nael's masterpiece. Which is no mean feat given that they were written under a strict constraint: each describes an animal using only the letters in its Latin name. There's a peculiar tangy flavour unique to the collection, or perhaps to the constraint itself. The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is 'an arresting, regent genie in russet and argentine' and the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) 'a pious, studious medievalist at a secluded ivied outpost'. Despite the constraint, there's a sense that each poem says precisely what it means: some stretch beyond 10 lines, while the entirety of the entry for lion is 'antelope threat'. Yes. YES!

— Robin Boothroyd


Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Of Sea (Penned in the Margins)

Another bestiary, this time only constrained by subject: marine fauna. In a perfect fusion of the lyrical and the concrete, Burnett sheds light on the overlooked and the misunderstood: the invertebrate, the mollusc, the crab. The multilingual poems are always reaching towards music and one, 'Song of the Sea', is written on a stave, melody and all. Hearing the poet sing it at the book's launch was spine-tingling even over Zoom. 'Surf Clam', a hilarious rewrite of the lyrics to 'Stand By Your Man', is easily my poem of the year. All together now: ‘STAND BY YOUR CLAM / GIVE HIM TWO VALVES TO CLING TO / & SOMETHING WARM TO COME TO / WHEN SANDS ARE COLD & LONELY / STAND BY YOUR CLAM’.

— Robin Boothroyd


Imogen Cassels, Chesapeake (Distance No Object)

Chesapeake Bay is the ground zero of settler colonialism in the USA. From its headlands and spits, you can catch a glimpse of 'the past / location of all harm'. And it’s from here that Cassels searches 'for an anti-part / of voice. What can the poet see and say of use when

the philosophy of language is embarrassment,

at what we have and what

we do with it.

The residue is 'displacement' and 'non-sequitur', a 'long term of false starts'. Seasons are symptoms in the 'long finance of no-time', scabs to pick at like 'my love for you / a healing I therefore unpick'. Actually, 'every thing is a symptom': recession, toothache, pastoral, sea birds, insomnia, pilewort. Chesapeake is a beautiful pamphlet—two staples, twelve pages and six poems. Wide open margins surround verse that tastes like 'full bitter marmalade' and slants with 'a will towards more life'.

— Fintan Calpin


Hannah Copely, Speculum (Broken Sleep)

Copley’s collection gathers fragments of historical records, voices, memories and medical reports about the female body as scientific object. These poems are ‘a new archive’ as ‘unfinished and ‘found’ as the lives and deaths of the women in them’. These women include those who were enslaved and used to develop the speculum, midwives, and women caught up in the complications of miscarriage, abortion and childbirth. The poems are by turns haunting, fascinating and disturbing, as well as occasionally quite funny (‘we’d mislabelled the labias’). The pamphlet is both enjoyable and an education. — Saskia McCracken


Tom Crompton, Sken Cycles (Tom's printer)

Tom Crompton’s Sken Cycles were hand-printed in three beautiful booklets this March, each inside cover reproducing Bewick’s magpie engraving from A History of British Birds. Bill Griffiths’ 1976 book Cycles is one of the sequence’s lodestars alongside Maggie O’Sullivan, who the ace first section addresses as the poet earwigs on an ‘amateur stone / chat’ to help him figure out ‘the compo / -sitional map of spring’. ‘Sken’ is a northern English dialect word of obscure origin meaning ‘to squint or stare’, and Tom’s poems are keenly alert, keeping an eye and an ear out and bird-wits about them while opening up to muddy forms of relation where ‘all our shite is shared’. Although the wings of HMP Wymott are never too far away, the sequence’s projective ‘solidargot’ trills, messes and jolts from page to page to sound a way through the thicket, ‘stinky[ing] the form’ and ragging a beak on ‘what manipulates and fucks us’. It’s as good as it gets. A class act.

— William Shimmers