speculatrix : launching on 27th November 2014

A friend of mine recently said I was in danger of cornering the market on death: quite some claim where poetry is concerned. I'm delighted with the location Penned in the Margins have found for the launch of my next collection, Speculatrix. This will be taking place on the 27th November at Clerkenwell Priory.

Speculatrix cover, design by Ben Anslow
'Speculatrix' is a Latin word meaning "female spy": it's surprising that it remains outside the English dictionary. Each poem in the sequence is spoken through the voice of a spurned or aspiring lover from a Jacobean play, each of which is set at the point of the play's first London performance, at the location of that playhouse. I took the notion of imagining the original players dragging their character roles onto the streets and acting out the emotions for real, forgetting that their words are supposed to be a theatrical conceit. I also experimented with anachronistic language through giving the characters free-reign to plunder the current vernacular of late capitalism and to use that language as a way to illustrate their various disillusionments and anger. This anachronism works in reverse too, allowing me to mine the often cryptic and compressed pre-dictionary language of the Jacobean poet-playwrights to explore the political backdrop of contemporary London.

Jacobean London saw riots, a disconnect between rich and poor and the beginnings of money represented through bonds: the period provides a rich and powerful way of looking at where we are now.

In this haunted work, history, tragedy and comedy roil in energised and dynamic engagement with language of the early modern period, bringing it confrontingly into the here and now through a lens of gender, the gaze fixed on the stage of the poem, intrigue, injustice and the city of London. The linguistic goalposts might shift, though the mouth might still speak 'Elizabethan', and the relationship between subject and object will still demand explication with the verbal tools at hand. This brilliant work taps into the materials of early modern theatre and problematises patriarchal impositions on the 'heritage' of language - not glibly, but with zeal and razor-sharp insight. The London riots, the machinery of capital and city, the failure of ideology, the undercurrent of revenge and deliverance, all warp in these frequently dialogic poems to reveal a theatre of the contemporary in which language is macabre, brutalised, and yet generating possibilities of insight into the condition of survival. A formalist in a fresh way, Chris McCabe's 'play-poems' are compactions of history and place, manifestations of the violent struggle for identity towards which many of us are impelled. This poetic work is long overdue. It's one we need.
                                                                                  John Kinsella

Event details on the Penned in the Margins site here

Speculatrix is available to order here



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