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Dust Radio (2007): Poems for Your Inner Film Critic

Gemma Files, Dust Radio (Kelp Queen Press, 2007)

(note: review originally published 18Mar2008)

photo credit:

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (and it’s packed away somewhere I can’t easily get to it).

The back matter in Bent Under Night, Gemma Files’ first collection of poems, states that it is Files’ “first… and probably last” collection of poetry. I have to say I’m very happy that this turned out to be an erroneous conclusion, as Dust Radio, her second collection, is even better than Bent Under Night (though both richly deserve a place in your collection). Some of the same weaknesses (most notably mixing free and formal verse in the same poem) still rear their ugly heads, but Files seems to have gotten more comfortable in her own voice in the intervening years, and as a result the poems in this collection feel more self-assured, and the language has a much nicer flow to it:

I heard voices chanting things I’d forgotten
I’d read, or seen
on my mother’s flickering twenty-inch, late at night:
The Paradise’s Phantom with his jack-ready voicebox,
a song like feedback rent from every pore.
Nemontemi, cuahtemoc, och-pan-tlizi…
la Llorona weeping in the rain,
cradling an animate severed hand
(the Beast with Five Fingers, ready to creep again!).
Or the blackened spectre of a burnt child’s corpse
lovingly described to me, playground-side,
by my best friend’s friend.”
(“The Green Ripper”)

It’s still dark, dark stuff; any reader of Files’ delicious short story collections is sure to recognize the general tone (and some of the themes) she deals in here. This is good stuff. I’ll keep beating my dead horse and repeat, once again, that Gemma Files is a woefully underrated author, and is deserving of much wider exposure than she’s gotten to date. You may have a hard time doing do– the book was limited to one hundred fifty copies– but I urge you to pick this one up if you run across it. There are delights to be had within. ****

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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