A bike couriers’ soirée might happen in an abandoned multi-storey with fluorescent tube lights propped in corners, cans of iced beer sold from a wheelbarrow and a choice of hard trance or the music of falling concrete. Post-industrial minimalism may be démodé but they do it with flair.
Also bike couriers are interesting because they shuttle desirable items through smog and danger. Such as contracts, deeds of sale, blackmail demands, blood samples, gigs of unrefined data, fashion accessories, and high-res satellite shots of factories in Guangdong.
- from ‘Some Theatrical Branches of the Muse’s Vine, Which Are Legitimate Topics of Poetry’
Bodypopping Belgians and bicycle couriers populate a world of public fountains and archaeological debris in this original and eclectic collection by James Wilkes.
Weather A System includes poems, found text, scripts, ephemera and imaginary reviews; subversive broadcasts that cut through the ‘civil drizzle’ of contemporary life. Wilkes’ work excavates the present, looting and salvaging to craft an innovative, playful and multi-dimensional poetics. Weather A System captures shifts of weather, power and fashion: an energetic and darkly witty intervention in an eroded culture.
“James Wilkes views the city 24/7 from a podium of his own. When he talks he talks quickly, capturing the details that pedestrians miss: the shuffle of clothes, the background tracks. His ambition is to move with the flaneurial swagger that knows the city is always subject to the ever-shifting weather. Through the commuter and traffic crush, as the crowds run for cover, the poet exposes himself under ‘a cavernous pigeon sky’. Because the forecasts for gloom were long since predicted by himself his energy never flags and his wit doesn’t err. It’s Apollinaire’s rain that runs through his ink though he opts instead to leave the Little Car behind and send by courier. Where others find congestion and grime Wilkes cuts between the parnassian dead freights, weaving the forms that function for now: reviews, questionnaries, plays. ‘Who would not want to glamorize these fast people?’.
“The eagerly anticipated new collection by James Wilkes does not disappoint. It has genuine range and depth, is ambitious in scope and artfully enjoys the possibilities and playfulness of discourse. ‘The Review Pages’ section in particular reverberates beyond its beguiling humour and the ‘Collected Civil Ephemera’ gleans a sure psycho-geographical harvest. There is much to savour in this stimulating and inspiring collection. I thoroughly recommend a poem a day.”
“The pieces in this book work sur le motif, ending with bits of a transcript from a day spent wandering around London in search of fountains. The problem can happily be one of pictorial and perceptual modes of writing intercalating into each other; the ground through which language can strike was never so suave and civic. [...] Half the fun of Weather A System is to watch the inter-operative factors of Wilkes’ art begin to sag under the wit of incoherence.”
“Wilkes keeps his ‘ethereal cannonade’ going right through to the end, gathering up the debris of weather reports and fashion shows alike and reassembling them into tottering word-sculptures, ransacking everything from books to pub chatter for pieces which he can fit together into some out-of-control jigsaw. [...] this is a book where the pleasure is in the technicolour range of the language and the urgent sense of not quite being there.”
Jon Stone, Dr Fulminare’s Questionable Arts