Holding to the same radical thesis of taking complete responsibility for our beliefs and actions, but drawing on the experiences of a life-more-lived, Walton is no longer showing the reader a map of the ground ahead, he is reporting on journeys travelled.
Note: This review was based on an ARC entitled All Babies are Anarchists. I have updated the name in the review to match the first published edition. Apart from the change of title, the text was identical.
This collection runs to 45 pages when viewed as a Word document. It might contain 23 poems and a series of images. However, Walton’s decision not to start each poem on a new page – or to not tell the reader the collection contains only a single poem – combined with his establishment and then subversion of specific typesetting as a signifier for title makes it uncertain whether this number is more than a coincidence. The reader can probably rely on the number of images not changing between readings.
Walton opens with a description of travelling across America. Part memoir and part manifesto, it omits the facts of the vagabond life in favour of sharing the jagged freedoms waking from the American Dream can offer.
juggernaut of time
puts a rifle to our devil-bone debt.
this house of leaves is dying
green on the outside, pastel inside
this house of leaves weeps inside out.
– I WOULD LIKE TO BE LAID INTO MY COFFIN NAKED AT AN OPEN CASKET FUNERAL
This introduction provides Walton’s clearest statement of purpose: ‘Anarchism is taking responsibility for who you are and what you believe in.’ However, as in his other collections, even his own statements are deliberately challenged. If all babies are anarchists, does that make anarchism a ‘pre-mature’ response? If it is, then is maturing in beliefs a departure from purity? Or are these babies metaphorical, individuals emerging from society to become its descendants?
Rules of the collection stated and undermined, Walton commences his poetic description of a possible life. My God could kill yours sets the stage for societies where some belief structures (such as capitalism) are so privileged that the choice is not between success or failure but between actively or passively losing.
This bleakness is followed by PEOPLED STREETS SMILE CHOKED RAIN SMILES, a riff on the ancient belief that true art takes a price in blood from the creator, suggesting the choice of failures society offers can be turned to victory by someone who want it more than the cost.
TOOK A STAB AT YOLO was reincarnated.
IS A FARMER IN A DIRTY WIFE-BEATER AND TORN JEANS
HIS (or her) SCYTHE HAS MORE FUNCTIONS THAN EVAPORATING BREATH
In addition to the written word, the collection contains a series of photographs and photo-montages mixing lines from poems, subversive aphorisms, and moments from Books and Shovels, Walton’s travelling poetry shop/tour across North America. Although the quotes and montages are more directly poetic, the inclusion of photographs from the road provides a re-imaging of the traditional US hobo myth; this demonstration of Walton’s personal journey provides the reader both with another opportunity to immediately engage and with deeper visceral evidence Walton is not preaching living at the bounds of life while living in comfort himself.
The greatest poems can dig into bones,
and plant roses. I need to write a poem
that picks locks
and fills fridges.
– SOMEONE BEHIND THE LINES OF DEPRESSION
WHO WON’T GIVE UP
Balancing out the deliberately frightening suggestions that a life that has meaning and use for the person living it must be filled built from blood and stigma, the collection is filled with humour and clever use of language.
Humanity’s strong desire to find reason in randomness and guilt in chance is lampooned by raccoons with a justification for gathering office supplies and natural selection acting like a drunkard with a gun.
I enjoyed this collection immensely. I recommend it to readers seeking the power of Kerouac or Ginsberg without the need to slough the accretions of popular mediocrity.
This book was free to download. However, the author did ask me if I would provide a fair review.