Julian Turner’s Desolate Market takes as its tuning fork a line from William Blake’s Vela, or the 4 Zoas: ‘Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy.’ Fascinated by the interaction of material and mystical forces, Turner sets up a series of test cases in which the power of the human imagination, and its susceptibility to quasi-mystical influence, are explored. Poems on influencing machines (mind-controlling contraptions housed in the brain, as described by some people experiencing psychosis) double as a critique of the totalitarian dreams of despots. The corrosive influence of the market economy (that other quasi-mystical force), with its power to bring about poverty, redundancy, terrorism, and alienation, is the subject of a later section of poems. The collection ends with the poet’s alternative vision of the birth of the cosmos, a ‘disinterested machine / spinning its great designs of flesh and soul.’
Turner’s ‘affecting, memorable and original’ poems (TLS) were shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection with Crossing the Outskirts, and his Planet-Struck was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Desolate Market is his most ambitious and urgent work to date.