Christopher Owens 🔖 Relationships.

The source of so much joy and despair, it seems that the last decade has stretched the concept to breaking point where men and women simply do not trust one another as they have been conditioned to view everyone as either a potential rapist or a potential gold digger.

But what about the angle where two people are bad for each other? A car crash played out at parties, 3am shouting matches in the street and passive aggressive Tik Toks.

A pain in the arse for everyone around them but, for the writer, ripe source material.

Recently shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2023 and the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2024, HLR’s second book of poetry (following the brilliant History of Present Complaint) is another triumph. Looking at the rise and fall of Dolly and Man, it becomes apparent why they didn’t work out with the passage of each page as we get nosebleeds, dining and dashing, depression, self-harm and alcohol.

But even in the most filth ridden moments, Dolly is able to recognise that there is something between the two of them, even if she doesn’t want to acknowledge it or puts it in the starkest terms possible.

Take this segment from ‘Cereal for Dinner’ as an example:

We slept for days, weeks, through the coldest

months, seeing nobody, going nowhere, doing nothing

but sleeping, only occasionally waking to fuck & piss & smoke,

hazy in our fugue state, eyes glazed, hair stale with sweat & breath.

Then we’d take more pills, drink more booze, pass out cold again.

All that time spent refusing to live and refusing to die.

This self-inflicted coma was the closest I’d ever felt

to you peace. I dreamt of nothing.

Notice how the entanglement and comfort of love and lust are depicted here in functionary terms, such as how sex (pre and post coital) is paired with toilet breaks? And how such acts which are supposed to make one feel they are “living in the moment” are illustrated with refusal and with the extremes of life and death? This is not a stable coupling but, in the short term, the passion clearly overrides stability.

These contradictions carry on throughout the book and not only demonstrate HLR’s eye for the mundane but also how she is able to give added depth to her characters by having them show us their emotions without telling the reader.

Tender but bleak, dirty but glamorous, rebellious but traditional, Ex-Cetera is the quintessential doomed modern romance.

HLR, 2023, Ex-Cetera. Nine Pens Press, ISBN-13: 979-1739151751

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

Ex-Cetera

Christopher Owens 🔖 Relationships.

The source of so much joy and despair, it seems that the last decade has stretched the concept to breaking point where men and women simply do not trust one another as they have been conditioned to view everyone as either a potential rapist or a potential gold digger.

But what about the angle where two people are bad for each other? A car crash played out at parties, 3am shouting matches in the street and passive aggressive Tik Toks.

A pain in the arse for everyone around them but, for the writer, ripe source material.

Recently shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2023 and the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2024, HLR’s second book of poetry (following the brilliant History of Present Complaint) is another triumph. Looking at the rise and fall of Dolly and Man, it becomes apparent why they didn’t work out with the passage of each page as we get nosebleeds, dining and dashing, depression, self-harm and alcohol.

But even in the most filth ridden moments, Dolly is able to recognise that there is something between the two of them, even if she doesn’t want to acknowledge it or puts it in the starkest terms possible.

Take this segment from ‘Cereal for Dinner’ as an example:

We slept for days, weeks, through the coldest

months, seeing nobody, going nowhere, doing nothing

but sleeping, only occasionally waking to fuck & piss & smoke,

hazy in our fugue state, eyes glazed, hair stale with sweat & breath.

Then we’d take more pills, drink more booze, pass out cold again.

All that time spent refusing to live and refusing to die.

This self-inflicted coma was the closest I’d ever felt

to you peace. I dreamt of nothing.

Notice how the entanglement and comfort of love and lust are depicted here in functionary terms, such as how sex (pre and post coital) is paired with toilet breaks? And how such acts which are supposed to make one feel they are “living in the moment” are illustrated with refusal and with the extremes of life and death? This is not a stable coupling but, in the short term, the passion clearly overrides stability.

These contradictions carry on throughout the book and not only demonstrate HLR’s eye for the mundane but also how she is able to give added depth to her characters by having them show us their emotions without telling the reader.

Tender but bleak, dirty but glamorous, rebellious but traditional, Ex-Cetera is the quintessential doomed modern romance.

HLR, 2023, Ex-Cetera. Nine Pens Press, ISBN-13: 979-1739151751

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

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