-Reviewed by Siobhan Denton–
Conceived as a thoroughly working class collection of fiction and poetry, with punk aspirations, Push #2 is just one instalment of the fanzine created by Joe England in 2013.
The concept of highlighting artistic voices who may not have come from backgrounds that are more typically associated with art, is highly admirable, and should be praised. Too often literature, particularly fiction and poetry, is monopolised by writers from an increasingly narrow background, resulting in a monolithic culture and voice. The very formation of Push #2, then, should be praised for its intention, which is entirely valid and worthwhile.
It is a shame then, that the content does not always succeed, and in turn, effectively undermines its artistic pursuit. When the texts contained within the collection work, they are effective and impactful, remaining with the reader long afterwards. The fiction contained is, largely, of high quality, resulting in well-written, succinct and accessible narratives that engage throughout.
‘Mapledune’ is particularly worthy of note, detailing an outreach worker’s attempts to set up a youth workshop at a local prison. In this juxtaposition, his naivety is successfully contrasted with the prison warden’s cynicism. The reader initially trusts the narrator’s judgement, believing in his self-professed ability to engage youth through music. With his past successes helping to further cement his ability, his self-belief is never in doubt. As he sets up his session, the on-looking prison warden pontificates, warning him of the youths’ behaviour and manner. This direct contrast between the world-weary, and the unsullied, engages the reader, effectively creating dramatic tension that is, intelligently, never truly resolved. Take the lines:
‘Though I felt warm sweat dripping under both arms, I wisely always wear dark shirts when working for Annie, I don’t remember projecting any kind of astonishment when he mentioned how there had been a situation last night.’
The visceral motifs spattering the narrative help to add to the realism and contrast of the naive and fatigued.
The poetry though, is largely far less successful, and often reads as if they would have benefited from some rather punitive editing. Rhyming couplets, when used knowingly, can be effective, but here, as in the case of ‘fire’, simply restrict the fluency of the reading. It is as if the writer had conceived the form before the content, and in turn, restricted the reach of the content.
Similarly, ‘Climate Blind’, reads as the reproduction of song lyrics of a band in its early formation, and it is no surprise to read in the biography listed at the end of the collection that author Raymond Gorman, is a member of a band. Take the lines:
‘My love, my love this world secretes the truth yet seems so cruel blind alleyways allay elusive jewels’.
The language, while semantically linked, does little to develop or progress the reader and their reflection and engagement.
Poetry is, too often, viewed as simple to produce, particularly when one professes to be artistically inspired. Unfortunately, while it should certainly be accessible, the form needs to be understood in order for it to be amended and manipulated. Transcribing simplistic song lyrics does not, unfortunately, automatically generate great poetry.
While the poetry is not always successful, the strength of the fiction pieces helps to ensure that Push #2 is both a commendable and worthy effort that demands attention.