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Book Review: Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon by Christopher Cunningham and Hosho McCreesh

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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.

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About Paul Robinson

  • James

    Hey if you want to get our copy out of your hands, I’d gladly take it. Just puttin’ that out there.

  • http://paulrobinsonpoetry.wordpress.com/ Paul Robinson

    I’m not sure what you mean by “I’d gladly take it”.

  • Mather Schneider

    Well, you’ve pissed off the beehive over at Bukowskisniffers.net, but I thought the review was very funny…McCreesh and Cunningham both can write a decent poem but they have so buried themselves in pretentious self-hype over this precious book of letters I don’t think I will never be able to take them seriously again…the self love absolutely drips off of them…but you can’t blame Cunningham, for he is “…but an antennae for the muse, a receiver, a cosmic radio tuned to the Poetry Channel…” (his own words)

  • http://paulrobinsonpoetry.wordpress.com/ Paul Robinson

    I have no objection to minimalism, to ‘Dirty Realism’. Bukowski had a mythology that outpaced him, creating a chasm between Charles (the human being) and Bukowski (the literary figure). McCreesh and Cunningham do not have the same advantage.

  • Mather Schneider

    I don’t think anybody cares if you object to minimalism or not…the fact is you inserted something negative into the land of happy faces, and that is the unforgivable thing.

  • http://paulrobinsonpoetry.wordpress.com/ Paul Robinson

    Bukowski should be a transition, a door, an opportunity, not a commitment. That’s the real crux.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Interesting comment, Paul.

    I wish you could visit the Politics site once in a while and make a contribution now and then with you avant garde thinking.

    It’s in short supply these days, as you must know.

  • http://paulrobinsonpoetry.wordpress.com/ Paul Robinson

    I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or affront.

  • Mather Schneider

    Good comments to the Buksters, Paul…funny that you called them bitches, that is unforgivable, even though I saw that it was just an echo of MJP’s statement when he called them bitches while criticizing you initially…also everyone seemed not to notice that mjp called you a “jealous fuck” and a “pretentious twat” and you said nothing at those names, to your credit…but to call them “bitches”, man, you deserve to be tarred and feathered…

    Anyway good luck.

  • http://paulrobinsonpoetry.wordpress.com/ Paul Robinson

    Damn, I knew I should have put “bitches” in quotes. It was exactly that, an echo of MJP’s post and also an echo of the Bukowski style. I still wish everyone all the best in their writing projects.

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    I think I missed out on the whole “bitches” situation, haha. Another great article, Paul.

  • Father Luke

    I can’t tell if you liked the book.

    – –
    Okay,
    Father Luke