Too Many Drinks Ago By John D Robinson (Paper And Ink Literary Zine, £5)

Poetry is more than words on a page (but no batteries required for alternative literature)

It’s a simplistic and cringingly obvious statement I’ve headed this HIP Read with so I’d like to explain why. Martin Appleby, Hastings-based publisher of this collection and others, along with five years and fourteen issues of his highly respected underground literary zine, promotes his publications thus: ‘No ISBNs, no barcodes, no PDFs, no E-Readers, no batteries required, just good old fashioned PAPER AND INK.

It’s an ethos rooted in centuries of political and artistic expression from those denied access to mainstream voices or publishing for reasons of hierarchical privilege that I’m sure I need not go into any further for any thinking reader. Appleby and Robinson continue this tradition of alternative DIY print publication inspired by some of the movements of their own generations and those closely preceding them: Beats in the 50s, Meat School in the 60s, Punk in the 70s, Outlaw after the millennium, and what I will call Raw Realism Bleeding Love, Hope and Compassion (or ‘Rawbleed Poetry’) since then.

John D Robinson, as well as being a widely published poet internationally on various independent presses, is himself a publisher with his Hastings small press Holy&intoxicated Publications. Publisher Martin Appleby is also a published poet in his own right. Their work is, of course, transferable to other media such as digital readers, sound or video recordings, and live performance poetry, but what they are both truly passionate about is the simplicity of marks made on paper or card, either in their original form or reproduced in print on a very low budget in limited editions often hand numbered and signed by the author and/or artist/illustrator.

This is a natural evolution of the mimeographed literature revolution of the 60s and the punk photocopied fanzine explosion of the 70s. In fact, crudely printed and distributed alternative and underground culture has been around since at least the 30s (and in some form or other since the beginning of written language). For those into cult consumerism or anti-consumerism (in other words, not mass-market) there is nothing better than holding a touchy-feely physical extension of a writer or artist’s intent in one’s hand whilst intellectually and emotionally engaging with its content. Note the resurgence of limited edition vinyl pressings in music, and, indeed, the growing interest in small press or DIY literary publications.

Which brings us to my HIP Read, Too Many Drinks Ago, a 25 page A6 poetry zine, each one lovingly signed by John D Robinson himself. Like all Robinson’s collections – and there are many, published both in the UK and USA – the poems evoke the honest-to-god struggles of the common man and woman. Alcohol, drugs, sex and death are ever-present in-your-face themes yet there is also always an underlying message of survival, hope and potential transcendence.

   ‘I took a deep
    swallow of the rot-gut wine
    and thought of people
    crying and I couldn’t
    remember the last time I
    had cried and this
    very thought
    misted my eyes.’

As fellow poet Adrian Manning observes, ‘If you want pretty poetry turn back now’ and poetic compadre Joseph Ridgewell adds, ‘These are survivor poems, poems of loves gained, fractured and lost forever. Death is with us even in life.’  This, along with the heartfelt empathy Robinson exudes, is the essence of Rawbleed Poetry.

   ‘you were found dead in
    a city alleyway, no one
    knew who you were, no
    one cared who you were,
    but I did,
    but that wasn’t

There is much to contemplate in this latest chapbook/poetry zine from Robinson and the observational wit of his encounter with ‘A heavily perspiring middle-aged volcano’ in ASDA
is one of my favourites.
For a fiver you not only get
the book but also: a POETRY BEERMAT featuring an exclusive poem by John and a UNIQUE POETRY COLLAGE CARD made and signed by John. The postcard printed here is the one I got
with my copy but yours will
be different and unique to
you – these are hand cut out and pasted works of literary art: paper and ink, scissors and glue. Get one before they’ve all gone.

For more information visit:

Twitter: @PaperAndInkZine

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