Palimpsest explores a near future where mundane meets magical, truth blurs into fiction and digital and analogue collide. These are poems that are made rather than written in the conventional sense. Poems that are built from scraps of text appropriated from magazines, junk mail, ephemera; erased, redacted, cut up and overwritten with original lines to create palimpsests. The title is thus both a creative technique revealed in the visible lines of construction and an eponymous anti-superhero in whose steps we follow as she emerges from a collage of fractured narratives and cinematic dispatches from a dark and murderous hinterland.
Poem #1 from the sequence:
Imperfections in wood,
natural cracks, rings,
even tree bark,
carefully rendered into
styling elements by a woman who
could smell the sea coming,
who could predict the precise second
that red sand rain would arrive
from distant deserts.
The New York Times called
her the perfect dreamy iteration
of a surprising discovery, but
her own research said tricks
of the light
presentations may indicate
otherwise) when the going is soft
(good-to-soft in places)
Nantwich, Penzance, Sheffield,
these days, if you want to
find exactly the right thing,
your breathless pleas
for help will
be on tonight's evening news.
She got herself a job as a chamber-maid,
went from room to room rifling
though guests' possessions, trying
on their perfumes, stealing their shoes,
their luggage, an Aston Martin and a villa
on the Riviera. A vast slag heal of junk and
ephemera distorting her sense of self.
'Like spying through a thousand half-lit windows on a long night's train journey. If James M. Cain wrote flash fiction, and it was illustrated by shadow artist Shigeo Fukuda, it might make something like this.’
Author of the Marnie Rome crime series
& Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year Winner
‘An exhilarating experiment in form and ideas. I was reminded of Max Porter's Lanny; with Birnie's anti-hero Palimpsest a sort of Dead Papa Toothwort character gathering scraps and sounds of our contemporary landscape, albeit at a more furious pace. A very exciting collection from a bright and inventive mind'
Cheltenham Literature Festival
‘In the character of Palimpsest, Birnie has drawn from the zeitgeist a new mythological heroine for the 21st Century.’
Gareth L Powell
Author of the Ack Ack Macaque and Embers of War trilogies and twice winner of the BSFA Award for Best Novel
'I'm frightened of this book. I'm frightened of its truth. I'm frightened of its beauty. I'm frightened it is making me talk about truth and beauty. Most of all I am frightened to know that its poetic ideas convince me that a million dead dreams live on in the blood of such extreme imaginative thought, ready to consume me. Unless—the real danger of this book is its talent, which will change you, reader: you will marry it. It will become you. Birnie has done it again, this time with jaws of transformative, writerly, experimental love.’
Susan Bradley Smith
Poet & playwright, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Curtin University, Australia.
Most recent collection The Postcult Heart.
‘Like a frenzied, hallucinating Bear Grills, Clive Birnie conducts shamanistic GPS text-rituals, recovers lost sci-fi script-trails, scopes out and chases down ancient track-marks through fresh-frozen manuscript re-cycling. He leaves us a map exposing 21st century psychic text-truth(s); an erased Venn diagram of the Midblastula moment; the delineation of a burnt psychosis vernacular.’
Poet whose books include Place, Waste, Dissent and Lou Ham: Racing Anthropocene Statements