Subcritical Tests launch


Many thanks to all who came to the London (10th July) and Dublin (12th July) launches for our first Gorse Editions book, SUBCRITICAL TESTS by Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler, and to Niven Govinden, Colm O’Shea and Susana Medina who also read in London. Thanks also to the Sun & 13 Cantons, Soho, and Poetry Ireland for hosting us.


The Dublin launch was introduced by gorse poetry editor Christodoulos Makris, who said:

‘The poems that make up Subcritical Tests – “the twinning of our minds,” as Ailbhe Darcy & Steven Fowler write – exist as testament to the collaborative spirit, trust, mutual respect and compromise in the creative process. With receptive minds the possibilities are multiplied. So too in this case the result is a body of work that’s multifarious – it strongly resists fixed meaning or interpretation – and it is one that questions assumed barriers between lyrical and avant-garde poetry. Though we find the characters ‘Steven’ and ‘Ailbhe’ in the book, and we have a reasonable right to assume they coincide with those of the authors, they are not the prism through which meaning passes, their private experiences do not take precedence over that of others. What they do is provide a frame within which connections in the face of humanity’s (self-)destructive tendencies can be contemplated and perhaps thrive. In lines like “the scent of my own milk, which would dry up” the poems let us know they exist in apocalyptic times; such language brings to mind another, currently much-read book by Margaret Atwood, and conditions that, perhaps just out of reach, may spawn such times. “Do inconsiderate people carry within them / the seeds of our destruction?” we read near the beginning of the book, but then “I want to believe there’s something in the basement / that’ll save us”.
These poems are tests of intellect and emotion, and tests of humanity. Written in the minor key, the book is by turns brutal, gentle, mournful, and very funny. In evidence is also a combined poetics that startles: “Our being distinctly separable but eager / to recommune is poetic enough for half said / sense”. I have read these poems many times over the past several months and each time I discover new gems, new ways to read them, new surprises. How can you resist a juxtaposition of Omer Fast, Louis Le Brocquy and Sharon Horgan as if it’s the most natural thing in the world? The poems often veer into a breakdown in communication, a disarray. Soon we return to the extraordinary mundane and the domestic. “Stanzas / that even as they grow away from facts / we must wrench them back to reality” they write. There are several such ruptures in the narrative, such as it is, with insights into the back-and-forth of the compositional process, which offer tiny glimpses behind the curtain, before pulling it back shut again.
Subcritical Tests – “waxing bomb lyrical” – had its genesis in a 10-day tour of Ireland and London in September of 2014 which involved more than 40 poets and I think can be credited as introducing to Ireland (kicking and screaming) the idea of collaboration in poetry as a valid practice. It was the Irish extension of Steven Fowler’s Enemies Project that I was fortunate to co-curate with him, and for which Ailbhe, Steven and myself were three of the six core touring poets. As well as a real pleasure, it was a period of intense working and travelling together that engendered this extraordinary book as a document of a friendship.’

And a reading at the Dublin launch is viewable below.

As SJ Fowler says, SUBCRITICAL TESTS was a collaborative process, and Aiblhe gives us an insight into the methods in Critical Flame: ‘Or, How I Learned to Keep Worrying: Collaborative Writing, Motherhood, and the Atom Bomb.’

We were delighted to work with Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler on SUBCRITICAL TESTS, and are very proud of our first Gorse Editions. More information on the book can be found here.