In Backlogues Joseph Minden explores how the act of remembering recreates spaces of oppression and how complicity in ancient power structures sustains modern day violence. Minden writes about the detritus of British history, from the Birkenhead Iron Works to the Bay of Biscay to Cape Town and the Straits of Malacca, all the time weaving a rich tapestry of troubling repetition alongside lenitive melodies and epicurean imagery.
PRAISE for Backlogues:
In Joseph Minden's roaming poem of distorted time, history erupts into the strange suspended present of the spring 2020 Covid-19 lockdown in England. Kings and old poets, Meat Loaf and Petrarch, Shahrazad and Berlusconi, all jostle in the liquid ruminations of a mind arrested between sea and land, in verse that exposes with beautiful wit how "the veil / between the worlds / is thin" when we are attending carefully enough, when our minds have the chance to wander, disconcerted, bored and free.
— Isabella Hammad, Enter Ghost
A tear-shaped slice of rock crystal enclosed in gold becomes a pointer stick for following words and these words wind around the throat of not only Julian Fellowes on a high steep promontory but many others. These others, in Joseph Minden’s Backlogues, are components of a national psychic shrapnel, a demented travelogue that skewers ‘the present beyond itself by the frozen image of the past’. Tim Martin is cut to ribbons as jobs leak out of him onto the Most Desirable Village by estate agent Savills. Richard Branson’s grimace is stretched to the shape of a 30-hectare private island, nevermind. Minden’s poetry is a strange hammer to break into the Great House Master Suite with all but two lilies for feelers. Pinballing in the green chair, Welcome to the History of Great Britain. Backlogues’ acid tenderness disinters motley histories into psychosis jerks, mooring each with birch leaves to the strangest of drains. We’re in the foothills of the South Pennines, desert Sutherland, the Cartmel peninsula or Birkenhead Iron Works. The collision spill of Backlogues links a writ of trespassing handed by Geoffrey Howe via the monks of Birkenhead Priory to striking men at Camel Laird in 1984. The King is a Broom and will be crowned under the Holy cans of Holsten. Now listen to all the songs on page 34.
— Cole Denyer, Ah, Beautiful Sky
Joseph Minden’s Backlogues is a fine example of using the long form poem to provide both a diaristic entry into lockdown literature’s growing archive, and a slow, patient, colourful gradation of all the mundane joys we hold dear in times of duress and hardship. Part late-modernist pastoral, part epic, part autotheoretical collage, part musical performance, it is a poem that establishes a space and time for thinking at a pace that runs against the ways we internalise productivity and repress desire in times of crisis.
— Azad Ashim Sharma, Ergastulum: Vignettes of Lost Time
ABOUT Joseph Minden:
Joseph Minden is a poet and schoolteacher based in Brighton. His books Poppy (Carcanet) and Paddock Calls: The Nightbook (slub press) both came out in 2022.
Broken Sleep Books