Wotan by Garret Schuelke

Wotan by Garret SchuelkeThis collection provides a raw insight into the beggar’s dilemma at the heart of the Capitalist Dream: work hard while your soul withers to earn a second-rate place in the society, or live your dreams without the support of the society. While falling firmly on the side of owning respect rather than items, Schuelke does not shy from revealing the misery of being true to yourself.

This collection contains 15 works, varying in length between a few lines and several pages: some immediately recognisable as poetry; others playing with the line between poetry, free-form narration, and stream-of-consciousness.

I can barely
see a bit of
my dreams
trailing along
behind it.

-Train Dreams

With Train Dreams, Schuelke opens as he means to go on. The dichotomy between industrial potential and the continuation of rote manual labour provides a bleak picture of progress as merely the new heraldries of feudalism. However, the last lines can be read two ways: are the dispossessed drained of dreams? Or are their dreams outside the capitalist perspective of value?

The title work is a peon to going beyond never giving up. Couched in a fusion of post-rock culture and Norse myth, it compares being alive to Odin’s wolves and ravens. You don’t really live if you let them eat you; but it’s no life if all you do is don’t die of it.

The newly hired dishwasher couldn’t handle the morning rush and flamboyantly quit the first hour, leaving a pile that, if it didn’t induce a psychotic version of the blues in your heart, meant you were qualified to go back in time and teach Clint Eastwood lessons on Zen…Took over two hour to plow through it, constantly changing the water, checking the bathrooms, bussing tables left in the most disgusting condition by some of the cleanest looking old farts, while enduring a country station that played the national anthem at noon—same version, no variants—and constantly played a country rap song about a dirt road by some guy who sounded exactly like Boomhauer…

-Capitalist Sketches #2

Some of Schuelke’s word-play seems trite at first glance: how many walls and forums are plastered with ‘ameriKKKan’? But the words built around them question whether it is the message or the crowd that are falling flat. As Underwater Rave-Orgy in Ten Years for Robin Banks states: obvious irony is obvious. If the message seems old, shouldn’t we have listened before now?

Not all the works paint wide swathes of colour on the iniquities of society. Unwanted Sunrises/4 a.m. Birds builds two perspectives on evils of that most personal of systems: the body’s need for rest. Half drug-induced fracture, half insomniac hallucination, it draws the reader into a world where lack of sleep makes you hurt too much to sleep.

The clock is broken, I think I’ll sleep in
The clock is broken, I think I’ll sleep in
I plop on down and make a bed on your couch

-Bed On The Couch

Nestled between the jagged syllables of social excoriation and the profanities of youth, are mellow grenades: works such as Bed On The Couch and Cold Crow Blues present as the simple lyricism of folk music, waiting until the reader has let them in before mentioning in passing how bleak the world is.

For all his desire to show people a world without a mask, Schuelke recognises each person finds their own reality, so it is up to the reader whether they drop of the grid, start building barricades, or read a Batman comic.

Although the most youthful of the free-association did not speak as strongly to me as some of the other work, I really enjoyed this collection. I recommend it to readers seeking an insight into, or common experience of, the choice between physical and spiritual poverty.

I received a free copy of this collection in exchange for a fair review.


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