100 Yds of Crash Barrier Cancer of the Gallows and Other Poems Nobody Wants (to give it its full title) is the latest beautifully rendered collection of Billy Childish poetry to be published by Tangerine Press. Here is a book that will bring back to you all those lovely evenings you spend when you were younger devouring everything you could get hold off via Black Sparrow Press.
100 Yds… collects a trio of chapbooks originally published by Viper’s Tongue, an imprint of Hangman Books, along with a small handful of poems that haven’t appeared anywhere else. Michael Curran, Tangerine Press’ head honcho, informs us at the beginning of the book that “readers heretofore unfamiliar with Mr Childish’s utterances should be made aware that this man is dyslexic and the poems appear as written by himself.” Which means that there will be words here that don’t appear to be spelt ‘correctly’ – however, there is a tremendous delight to be had in the multiple pathways words can take when laid down as they sound (for instance, one poem takes the word ‘enrapt’ and makes it ‘enwrapped’ and you can’t help but think what a lovely way of spelling the word that is).
As with The Uncorrected Billy Childish, and largely for the uninitiated, what you have here are relatively short poems, many of which only have a word or two per line, exploring Childish’s life, some about his childhood, some about sex and drugs and rock’n’roll and painting (all of which Childish has tried his proverbial hand at at one time or another), some about the death of his mother, some about what you might call iconoclasm (people saying, ‘you’ll like this Billy’ and him saying ‘I won’t’, and them saying ‘you will’ and him saying, ‘I won’t because I’ve decided I won’t’). Provided you’re not put off by a bit of swearing, you’ll likely find yourself as we did, laughing and smiling and reading bits aloud to whoever is closest to you at that moment.
‘i embrace my nature,’ he tells us. ‘i don’t hide my light under a bushel / i shine like a cunt.’ Yes indeed. At times, you’ll read a poem and agree with it. Then you’ll ask yourself if he means it or if he’s being provocative. And then you’ll go back and forth in your head arguing contrary points of view. Here’s ‘Because’, a good example of that:
an object does not
because some cunt
names it so
It feels like a raw unadulterated celebration, “my words illiberal contradictory”, “i celebrate exuberant me”. But there is wisdom here:
make a painting
need to listen intently (or not)
to its particular
And there is truth:
“if something cant
devil has got us
And beauty. There is a lot of beauty here. In ‘the harsh angel of the slanting sun’, for instance, a poem concerned with the “broken parts / parts that dont fit”, he writes:
“a month passes
by fantom smells
the harsh angel of the slanting sun
that im due to be
thrown back on the
We’ve all been there, right? In ‘yourll never know if its dark’, Childish recalls standing ‘in the black nite’ with ‘nanna lewis indoors’. She hands him an apple and he asks:
” – what if its rotten nanna?
Only to be told,
“- yourll never know if its dark.”
Ah you know, I could go on. Reading you lines from this. Like I’ve been doing to anyone who will listen for the last 24 hours. It’s got wisdom and truth and beauty but more than that: it’s sweet is what it is. Even amidst the memories of violence, even with the swearing, even with the swagger and the mouth. We love the fact it exists (especially when, as he’ll tell you, many a London bookshop refused to stock him, calling him a pornographer and worse). We love the fact it will sit on our shelves where we can take it down and read it again whenever we want it. Whenever we need it. He may shine like a cunt, but it’s the light we’ll take away with us.
Any Cop?: Looks like there are only 125 of these so if you want one you better move sharpish. If you want to pick up a copy, go here.