Poets have always corresponded. The scarcity of equivalents that reciprocate in the same language means that when you do find someone, you fasten in and let loose. The exchange is a couch, a buttress, a lifeline, and often a boon. Almost every figure in literary history has yielded some kind of correspondence, secured it for posterity and — knowingly or unknowingly — the inevitable release (often posthumous). Christopher Cunningham and Hosho McCreesh are still alive and have had the honour of immortality bestowed upon them with the publication of Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon, a collection of their letters from 2002.
Poets have always dealt in delinquency and throughout this 229-page correspondence, Cunningham and McCreesh say almost anything to transmit that sentiment. The text is flooded with anti-authoritarian gristle, counter-cultural yearning, and introverted detachment that conjures an image of the duo standing together on a cliff, extracting meaning from the impending fall. As visceral poets, Cunningham and McCreesh attack the wider poetry community for their “snobbery of language,” which they believe confuses the truth. Proclaiming themselves as defenders of poetry, Cunningham and McCreesh blithely insult anyone who strays from the minimalistic charge, uses a dictionary or knows what the word "concomitant" means. Ironically, they are caught out by their own rabid snobbery, which one hopes, after seven years, they are painfully aware of.
Cunningham and McCreesh slap consumerist America, technology, government, politics, and "us people" in general whilst simultaneously extolling the virtues of art, Stephen Hawking, and spirituality. McCreesh could be considered the main offender in these tirades, but Cunningham quickly bares his gnashing teeth to quash such a rumour, so by the hundredth page you forget who is who as both unify in disgust at humanity. Throughout their drawn out existential crisis Cunningham and McCreesh fail to immanentize the eschaton, “to BUILD IT AS WE'D HAVE IT,” and only succeed in estranging the reader. There are calmer moments between the contradictions, but these are mostly backyard descriptions of the American landscape. Not even McCreesh's relocation to Switzerland can hinder the Bukowskian diatribe. In the blink of an eye, both men are back on the wagon and firing their pewter in all directions: “POETS JUST CREATE, they DON'T TRY TO CREATE” and “I am art” and “LIVE RIGHT AND EAT SHIT MOTHERFUCKER,” even, as if aware of their own bunk, capitalising the most outlandish phrases in case you miss them.
Charles Bukowski has a lot to answer for. Cunningham and McCreesh are both clearly influenced by his no-nonsense style and combine it with the ersatz attack of a Bill Hicks routine. But, that doesn't mean Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon is any good. Split the two poets up and their voices become inadequate; together they are a relatively cogent heckler, no more. It's interesting to note that towards the end of Charles Bukowski's life, he was driving a BMW and using a computer, something that our typewriter purists would find difficult to defend. I wonder also how they would defend literary success — a success they make great efforts to execute in their exchanges and have only moderately achieved.