‘For the Administration (after Rimbaud)’ by Sean Bonney
-Reviewed by Juliet Wilson–
This is a beautifully produced 9 page chapbook on a fine textured creamy paper, hand-sewn and with pages ready to cut (I’ve never needed to cut the pages of a book before, and it gives a lovely rough edge to the page and an added sense of anticipation to the reading). The high quality production gives a suitably vintage feel to the poetry inside, which is one long poem after Rimbaud.
Now, I am a great believer that poetry chapbooks should be able to stand alone and be accessible without depending on knowledge of another piece of work. I’m impatient of texts that demand that you have already read and preferably memorised specific works by other writers. That, combined with the fact that when I did a quick internet search for Rimbaud I found nothing that matched with this book, means I read it cold and judged it for itself, rather than with any reference to the original Rimbaud.
For the Administration is a complex poem about the world, language and political intrigue. It is often brilliant, using wonderful imagery such as ‘we circles of cancelled stars’ and ‘the centre of our orbit is some kind of cynical massacre’. It is obvious in parts that however faithful to the original Rimbaud, this piece has been adapted to the modern world – not least through the mention of ‘George Osborne, god of love’.
It is a thought-provoking read, using different poetic techniques to good effect to hold the reader’s attention and give different perspectives on the themes. It isn’t always entirely clear what is going on, but in this poem, that serves to intrigue rather than alienate the reader. It never feels as though it is being obscure for the sake of it, as some poetry does. It also does stand alone, I found myself wanting to read the original Rimbaud, but the fact that I didn’t have access to that, didn’t lessen the power of this chapbook. The world view that reveals itself feels pretty grim but that fits with a lot of what is around us at the moment and we need poetry that engages with the downside of life.
If you are interested in poetry that challenges your world view then this poem is well worth reading, several times over.