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The Jude Poems, by Matthew Halliday

The Jude Poems, by Matthew Halliday

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Matthew Halliday's first poetry collection puts the eponymous lost soul from Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure into the streets, pubs, and cafés of contemporary London. As Jude feels out modernity through language oscillating between a parodic take of Hardy's style and the dispersed signifiers of a globalised city, the poems challenge the nature of literary characters, asking us not just how we relate to them, but also how they relate to our world.

62 pages, paperback. Designed and typeset by Emily Benton. Printed by Clays, part of the St. Ives Group.

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Jude Before


In the beginning was the Eden,

verdure, rivulets etc.

 

The florid mantras that one gazed at.

The clean slate-grey accord of weather.

 

I found my town tanning leather on the cobblestones,

it was industry, we had community.

Our priest intoned at the labour exchange.

 

There were squats and reading groups.

One sat with the other Mandarins,

barring-up windows with wrought iron,

placing on the windowsill wrought iron things.

 

Jude had a working tongue:

Ho Chi Minh! Ho Chi Minh!

 

Although hoping was a golden tangerine

it was a dream

 

oh yes, and there was mud as well.

Everyone was an egalitarian before the flood.

 

 

Brixton was rotting from the insides out.

Choice gangrene and the Typhus bug.

Bug-eyed heroin was a bliss

that could suture and then let slip,

soul after soul

down the cambered double helix.

 

It was the seventies/eighties.

Jude's belief in God had stopped.

 

He wandered the streets of bellicose perfume.

We’re talking: spinning tomahawk. The lights were off.

 

Open mouths at the teats of the great sow squealing.

An underbelly soft with milk and poverty.

Galley slaves with no portholes.

 

Jude has no right to be here.

 

This in-growing toenail

nursed and toddled.

 

Jude has no right to be here

marching between excavation and eviction

his mind a well-stropped razor

and heaving,

the past! No more!

No more periwigs and bluster!

No more harlequins.

No more cottage industry and no more cots.

 

O it hurts, life. As it ought.

 

My halcyon is gone and I cannot pay the rent.

The problem is: everyone is the symptom.

 

I have been talking with Carlyle and Ruskin

about the sonic crunch of expansion.

 

I want my aristocracy

and underclass happily holding hands

in my rainbow grove.

 

A continent has left Jude in his white, white dress

turning, in the way one does with age, to the right.

 

It is rootless cosmopolitans or death

 

Future as: exit stage left.

 

The future is a question of coping

 

the future is the question

and Jude feels it, hotly.