Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Review: Telephones, Love Hearts & Jellyfish, by Winston Plowes

130 pages


ISBN 978 0 9568979 3 0

Electric Press

This is an unusual book. It is ostensibly a collection of poetry by a single author. But there are contributions from many people, including five principal collaborators, and others. My inner academic is delighted to see how meticulously these contributions are referenced, and in a way that does not divert attention from the main text. There is an index. Not an index of titles, nor an index of first lines, but a subject index. It contains such items as: Ant Hill Mob’s Car (two references), Nora Batty, and Cthulhu.

Another appendix is entitled Afore Ye Go, as registered by Bell’s Whisky. This contains a simple set of instructions for writing the kind of poetry that appears in the chapters of the book.

The poems are surrealist, in the sense that they deliberately attribute images to objects and situations in which most people, “normal” people – whatever that means – would not see them. The instructions I mentioned earlier are a suggestion for how more people could see and record such images.

Another appendix, also diligently researched and clearly tabulated, is entitled Cabinet of Curiosities. This contains some words of explanation for each of the more unusual objects mentioned in the main text. Like all good subsidiary texts, this enhances the main one, and is entirely optional. I find it fascinating.

Two other appendices are A List Of Beverages, and A List Of Locations. These are not as baroque as Cabinet of Curiosities, but they still lift the text.

A poetry collection is an individual work. An anthology is collective. This is a collection which is both individual and collective. The fact that Winston Plowes organised this collective effort only identifies him all the more clearly as the author.

While I was already familiar with surrealist poetry, my own work is about as different from this collection as it is possible to get. My work is about the resublimation of experiences that happened a relatively long time, often years or decades, ago. Telephones, Love Hearts & Jellyfish is about things that are seen and thought in the present moment. My work is about what people did and felt. T,LH&J is about what the author and other people saw and thought (and, as any therapist will tell you, thinking is not the same as feeling). I divide all modern poetry into two categories. It is either about survival, or it is about escape. My work, and my wife’s work, is about survival. T,LH&J is about escape. The complexity, of course, is that in order to survive, we often have to escape.

You can hear an interview with Winston Plowes about his collection on the 13 March 2016 episode of Themes for Dreamers:


Winston comes on at 00:04:45. He explains more about the technique employed than I have done. If you do not want to listen to the podcast, the best thing to do is to buy the book. For details, email Winston: