Paper and Ink #5: Damn the Man

Reviewed by Steve Nash

Issue 5 of the punk DIY zine Paper and Ink sets its sights on damning the man. This aesthetically-pleasing, and deceptively vast, issue presents a series of polemic, comical, heart-breaking and often startling treatises on scraping through the days in soul-sapping non-careers.  In addition to the bile, though, it is also something of a love letter to the minimum wage grind. Even the fearless captain of Paper and Ink, Martin Appleby, lets his ire slip briefly for a slightly more tender tone as he dedicates the issue to “anyone that has ever stolen toilet paper from their place of work.”

The fact that Paper and Ink is, as with much poetic endeavour, produced for love and not money works as an ideal counterbalance to those companies and bosses targeted throughout the diverse works contained within. Megan Pattie’s ‘Covering Letter’ is a beautifully pitched conceptual piece that manages to raise itself above its own conceit, a manifesto of sorts for the rest of the issue.  In particular the lines:


provide a refrain for the whole of Damn the Man.  We may buy in to the corporate world, sacrifice our voices, choose silence and absurdity, or open our throats and sing.  Unfortunately, as is made clear in many of the works here, that choice is seldom so simple.

Joseph Ridgwell offers a hymn to the ability to find magic, even when trapped in an endless routine, in the form of a barbed yet warm piece of fiction, before David Roskos amps up the vitriol. His two deceptively innocent looking and well-shaped poems form a duet of fury against bosses and customers respectively.

Aesthetically Paper and Ink 5 achieves maximum impact with its sparse monochrome, and this is nowhere more evident than in the strikingly laid out page devoted to Lance Nizami’s poem ‘Equity’.  The poem occupies a central space in the lower half of a page backgrounded by an evocative construction photograph from Abbie Foxton.  It is a lovely moment of introspection in the pages of a pretty special publication.

Harriet Creelman’s ‘Naïve Girl No.3’ is another personal highlight.  Opening with the haiku stanza:

My agent just called.
He’d like me to go in for
Naïve Girl No. 3.

before a second stanza unravels in a playfully mournful manner.  It’s not only a touching moment amidst anger and frustration, but also an example of the issue offering an open hand.  These aren’t middle fingers to the reader, they are beckoning motions to come and join the speakers, share in the camaraderie one can discover in the hard work and disappointment if you’re able to keep your head above the water.

Erica Plouffe Lazure presents a warning for any would-be rude customers too:

My spit in your catsup.  My giz in your mayo.  Mixed in, extra creamy.  Watch out, bitchez.  I’ve been waiting all week to serve you.

As with Issue 4, there is so much depth and variety within the slim volume that it would be futile to try to reference every surprise and delight on offer, but a final mention should be made of John Dorsey’s entirely unglamorous tale ‘When Becky was in Hollywood’, which wrestles poetic narrative from trash and detritus.

It is a testament to the growing reputation of Paper and Ink that it now boasts a healthy array of anger and spit from well-known and emerging voices alike.  As someone still working through the final sheets of toilet paper scavenged from various spirit-crushing jobs, this is an issue that feels familiar and vital, like that final cheeky fag round the back of the break room.