laughing at funerals or the mclean machine: david mcLean's laughing at funerals
Reviewed by Dom Gabrielli
way out there beyond goods and evils, out with the worms which mingle with the dead and the suicided, laughing at funerals lays bare the putrefying vestiges of morals and ideals, hearts, hopes and things. the world is bad and you've got to write yourself out. even if madness here is no longer a country to be feared. this is beyond that and even hell can be a joke. poems from 'after' with no inclination to begin. it is not uncommon then to hear dead men speak or hear trees whisper and this is the beauty of an environment where references to so called popular music and philosophy sit by side as friends. there is no hierarchy. what values there were are in bankruptcy and the system with it. there is what there is and sometimes, if you're lucky, this nothing speaks, that's all. mclean doesn't indulge in lyricism, metaphor is rarely an embellishment. skulls and bones are coated in delicious layers of sarcasm, repeatedly employed here with brilliance. everything died which ever meant anything and in retrospect even that probably didn't. death lives, suicide an omnipresent potential, myriad ways of outwitting time. no salvation but no surrender either. pessoa here is a friend: 'there are sunsets which move me more than the deaths of children.' as little humanity as possible of course and most emotions must be apologised for. it's a staggering assassination of affect, and beyond, into the minimal subtleties of a new semiotic geography.
poems are machines and these ones have been constructed to hit you in the chops, poem-aphorisms which have lost the pretension of capitals, of beginnings and ends, and need to be ruminated upon in a very Nietzschean sense. we must chew on them, we must be cows. even if meaning is often only an excuse to begin, a mask over the void, a dive, because these poems rarely end where you expect, an adverbial clause often stealing the finale. meaning beyond sense and non-sense, mclean's poems are creepers. they keep growing and often leave the page. time another artificial stuffing which is no longer credible. with disconcerting casualness, mclean dispatches these lazy thrusts and lunges in the vague direction of a truth. or maybe they live a life of their own. colourings on a lake which is a sea which is a memory which is dead and dying and mobile cosmos in trouble, laughing at funerals….
there is nothing or very little to do. there is no synthetical conclusion to any dialectic, rendering redundant any initiative to employ dialectical argument. there is simply a fair deal of observation as what little there is we can try to bugger or fuck, depending on our mood. no point erecting permanence on the foundations of the temporary. that's just for people who can't laugh. doing is wasteful and so is thinking about yourself. heaven is everywhere or nowhere and certainly not at the end of any putative life of suffering. it all ends in worms of course but there's enough to dismantle for several thousand more poems. the machine has a good constitution and its environment is congenial to a life of words, and even if the sun can cause grievances, there is a genius at work here in some of the images and reflections that leads us to think that the best is still to come.
Editor's note: laughing at funerals is published by Epic Rites Press. It can be purchased at SPD Books.
Dom Gabrielli studied literature at Edinburgh University and prepared for his doctorate in Paris and New York. In Paris, Gabrielli’s passion for French literature and thought led him to begin writing, translating, and teaching. His published work includes translations of Battaille and Leiris and two books of his writings, The Eyes of a Man and The Parallel Body. In the early 1990’s, he left the academic world to travel and devote himself to writing, whilst pursuing various business ventures. Dom Gabrielli currently leads a nomadic existence. Dom Gabrielli's books can be found at The Book Depository.