with a title such as this one inevitably comes 'loaded with baggage', as they
say, yet Lopez's latest collection, forty four pages long and presented in
prose sections, has a lightness of touch even where its montaged sentences
are dark in nature and suggestion. There is an abundance of material culled
from a wide variety of sources, much of which deals with aspects of science
and natural history yet the only direct references to 'Darwin' obviously
relate to a different person altogether, a minor fraudster who:
pleaded guilty to seven charges of
one charge of making false statements to
I'm not sure what Ruth Padel would make of this but Lopez's absurd
'narratives' weave a rich tapestry of ideas and associations which are often
skewed but thought provoking as well as being extremely rich in their
textural balance and euphony. Themes recur and are reprised and satisfying connections
and disconnections are repeated along the way. One such is the use of
camouflage in nature as related to the man-made camouflage used to disguise
tanks in the desert during World War Two. Within such commentaries lie the
kernel of a social critique and while I've often been dazzled by the
aesthetic surface glitter of Lopez's poetry his ability to combine this with
a political angle is both subtle and impressive.
There is enormous wit and humour here and sometimes you can't avoid out-loud
My work is
finished; but it will take me many more years
it, and my health is far from strong.
The tone here is one of high seriousness, but the absurdity of its
contradiction undermines the
tone and when preceded by the sentence - 'America is bankrolling Afghanistan'
- the context becomes more sinister and yet more absurd still. This method of
taking material from existing sources and then rewriting or simply changing
the 'meaning' by the shifting context caused by juxtaposition has been around
for a very long time now but Lopez proves there is still plenty of life, as
well as variety, in this form of processing. There is beauty as well, even
where the lyricism may appear redundant or settled within a comic situation -
'They glitter like stardust in the afternoon sunlight'.
It's also possible that this way of working gets us nearer to giving a more
complete picture of the interconnectedness of things than a more linear model
would suggest. The book's title has more relevance given such a reading.
Other sources of cultural reference include the films of Alfred Hitchcock
(the reader will probably think immediately of The Birds) and abstract expressionist
painting, motifs which recur every now and then and help support the overall
framework. Although some of the juxtapositions seem more random and some work
better than others, Lopez is frequently provocative and exploring in his use
of material and never misses a trick when it comes to challenging received
To edit memory, sim-
ply enter the
new value of memory into the cell and press
the enter key
on the keyboard. The term 'intrinsic nature'
expression that has caused more trouble than it has
Within these two sentences lies an encapsulation of the long debate between
science and religion and the nature of the human condition and artificial intelligence.
No judgements are expressed but I get the feeling that Lopez is as
disapproving of the social Darwinians and their descendents as he is of
religious fundamentalists. The context gives a comic tone to the writing
which aids the entertainment factor and perhaps makes Lopez's 'dark
materials' more palatable, but the serious nature of the project is still
There is not as much material relating to economic activity and the
machinations of the market as in previous recent collections by Lopez,
perhaps again due to the book's title, but the relationships between the
human species and other members of the animal kingdom are to the fore -
particularly with regard to our nocturnal flying friends:
against bats occur in the lofts and cellars
homes and will never be reported.
conservationists want to persuade builders that peo-
ple and bats
can live together.
This is a subject which recurs several times and although it is possible to
detect a certain comic element within the framing, there is also a less clear
suggestion that our relationship with the natural world is deeply flawed. The
further hint, due to the 'domestic' nature of the conflict, suggests the
darker subject of domestic violence and abuse. I'm reminded here of listening
to Morrissey talking recently on the radio about his abhorrence, from an
early age, of the existence of abattoirs, and his equally precocious
perception that this wasn't a problem for most people.
A further example of this lies in what I take to be culled newsprint extracts
relating to the plight of whales recently found returning to the Gulf of
Mexico in an apparently exhausted and starving condition:
Skinny whales arrived in Mexico after
the far reaches of the Arctic Ocean.
As far as I can recall the evidence for the state of the whales' condition
has yet to be gathered but it looks as though over-fishing and pollution has
had a devastating effect on the mammals' food source. Similar snippets
relating to the fate of the disappearing bluefin tuna, a fact seemingly
attributable to an increasing demand for sushi, appear throughout this text.
While Lopez 's approach is very different from, say, Heathcote Williams' passionate,
singularly-focussed and information-loaded polemics against the capitalist
despoilers of the planet, Darwin
does seem, in the main, to have an ecological thrust as its main agenda,
unsurprisingly perhaps, for a concerned citizen in times such as ours.
There's still plenty of scope for satire and comedy within this writing and
the apparent celerity and sense of movement can appear interestingly at odds
with the overall smoothness of the text. I doubt that the non-sequitur has
ever been so well-used to create such a seamless effect. Lyrical moments also feature:
These plays pro-
vide a sort
of comfort food for viewers too discerning to
TV. Gentle winds blow away every unhelpful
Other reporters said the monks were unable to leave.
citizenship, for example, what is a Lembit Opik?
The cover incorporates a very painterly-looking photograph of an Icelandic
landscape by John S. Webb.
© Steve Spence 2009