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This Hall of Several Tortures by Reuben Woolley

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I’ve never read a collection where the spacing between words works so well. That phrase is so often a cliche, but not here. The sense of haunting, of an absence (“i dance on horizons and don’t cast shadows”) then a fleeting presence - is handled brilliantly, with the reader aware (just enough) of multiple voices. The repeated “she said” is used eerily and almost hypnotically, and the writing has moments of intense beauty, but never enough to settle the reader. This is “experimental” writing that works – it reads wonderfully, but not easily. Oddly, I was reminded throughout of Ken Smith’s lonely sequences – the fragmentation and moments of intense lyricism, but with a constant energy. Nothing is framed or neat, but the whole thing is brilliantly constructed. 

    – Paul Sutton

 

There are songs and stories in this hall of several tortures but the singing is cold and overlaid with screams while tales are told by skulls in a land where gorgons walk in comfort. The whole scenario is a grimly dystopian one and even a ‘shining dance (of possible)’ fades at the end when all the rooms are empty and only the sounds of crushed glass and the rattle of knuckles and bones offer music for an exit. Not a comfortable read but stunning in its poetry – the range of tone from reflective to bitterly hard-hitting, the versatile shifts and sounds of language, the technical skill that uses fragmentation and the incomplete to create spaces for the reader’s imagination to fill, the layering that builds so subtly on mystery and ambiguity into a ‘tapestry of strange’.  Confront the horrors, explore the spaces. This collection is unique. 

    – Mandy Pannett

 

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