Sudden Denouement (SD) is a writing collective started on WordPress (WP) among fledgling and established writers and poets who came together in mutual appreciation of the genre of writing poetry, specifically poems that are honest and express emotions without compromise or apology. In this sense, SD was unique among WP authors as being the first attempt to collectivize those specific voices and generate a mode by which writers could advance and gain exposure using a safe platform and not being judged for expressing themselves honestly. “We are stray smoke in hurricane water.” (Stray Smoke, by Mitch Green).
One may imagine this is common-place but even in the world of creative writing and poetry, there are standards and expectations and many poets who tended to write about emotions were labeled as being too self-involved and depressing. Poetry collectives often focus on publishing and highlighting poets who are studying for a MFA, using formal poetic mediums and methods such as Haiku, and following poetry prompts generated by more established poets. In other words, there is often an academic expectation behind any forms of writing and expression, even in the blogosphere. “when did you keep god under your tongue, / like / an uninvited pill” (All the beds are made, by Samantha Lucero).
When SD formed, the idea was to avoid such hierarchy and expectation and lend a voice to poets who wrote frankly about their struggles with mental illness and challenges in their lives. It was never intended to be purely a place to dump ones emotional baggage but soon the quality of poems demonstrated the need to promote less orthodox poets and allow their voices to gain equal traction with the main-stream. One might say, avoiding the typical ideas of what constitutes good poetry and showing that other forms have equal power, was an early goal of the collective. “Reach for the top shelf / My invitation got lost in the mail / Feelings aren’t allowed” (Purge, by Laurie Wise).
All this at a time when motivational and uplifting poetry was all the rage, where if you perused those authors highlighted on WP you may be led to believe anything less than positive was not popular. However, as the readership and popularity of SD demonstrated soon after its launch, there was clearly a need and genuine appreciation for authors who didn’t conform to the conventional norms and standards set by the majority. Whether they be poems of sadness, depression, passion, desire, anger, resentment or suffering, SD had tapped into a hungry audience who deeply appreciated reading pieces that they could personally relate to, that were not formal, sanitized or cautious in their rendering. “once we have / outlived / our bourn indignation / why must we trudge / through the crux / of man’s blunder” (Commonality, by Max Meunier).
After being online for a year SD began Sudden Denouement Publishing seeking to publish collections of the best work on their site from their frequent authors. This led to their first volume of poets Anthology I. What you will find in this compendium of writings from the leading lights of SD is a diverse comprisement of poems, illustrating the powerful collective voice of a generation. “This city has us in its grinder. What are we doing here? Looking for dimes on the sidewalks, tallying our dollars and paying student debts to the bar. We’ve lost interest in the good life, ferris wheel of office jobs and part-time gigs. Counting days to eviction.” (Modern Heat by Mick Hugh) The creator of SD, Editor and Poet, Jasper Kerkau leads the charge with I Am A F*cking Writer! A lashing against the notion that writing must conform to a certain standard or avoid particular themes, he literally has; “A holy charge to record the divine misery … in collaboration with a silent minority.”
Max Meunier continues in Sentence Of Sentience when he states; “freedom reprieved / of sententious ideal / for what purpose plausible / peers within prisms / but spectacle / cradling consciences captious.” This is the core of SD’s mission, to break free of current ideals and restricting forms, whilst not compromising author’s liberty and to avoid the spectacle of convention that only pretends to have a conscious sense of itself. “Where, then, to deposit the porous clay figures of our / talks?” (N by Ian McCarthy).
Matt Eayre writes in his poem Subjective; “this is poetry, / this is not / this is good enough, / this is crap / you’re a good writer, / you’re a poet / you’re an imposter / and you know you don’t belong.” The theme of subjective versus an assumed idea of what constitutes ‘good’ poetry, is fought over to this day, where masters of fine art degrees and their institutions dictate what is passable, published and trending versus what is considered inferior. “then you drag me / onto the shore / and you fuck me / I see that the pelicans / are pretty / and they never scream” (Pelicans by Georgia Park).
“I don’t care, I want everything out of me, / the twitching / the turning / the hope of a new life / bleeds out on the floor / I thought I could make something beautiful / out of my shame.” (Miscarriage by Henna Sjöblom) The SD voices challenge these norms and institutionalized expectations for an alternative way of appreciating the genre of poetry. “Now that Anya’s / President everyone on earth can attend Harvard; they’ll / learn to turn their despair into / dread, like Franz Kafka. / The American dream is fulfilled; everyone’s a fool.” (Glass Ceiling, by David Lohrey).
In On Becoming A Writer, Christine Ray advances this idea; “Waking up every morning / to unzip her chest, her gut / and bare her truths to the world / because like others of her kind / she was complex, messy, containing multiple truths, / not a singular one.” The idea being, it is an oxymoron for a poet to conform to a standard or restrict themselves, for the very art of poetry is extracting truth and presenting it, which by its nature, cannot be caged or a singular method, much as mainstream poetry would have us believe otherwise. “My hands weren’t yours to train. Not yours to be enjoyed like a lover’s caress. My body, not yours to educate.” (Never Yours, by Sarah Doughty).
Volume I becomes a collective of visions from these itching poets such as Erich James Michaels when he writes in his poem Genesis; “Something you can’t remember drives you. Not just in the need to remember, … You read your latest poem. / You describe the shadows that lurk in the recesses of your mind, / from former lives forgotten. / You are a poet. You are a writer without a past, who has found a new home.” The voices are interchangeably and at times starkly, male and female; “I quite like the emptiness settled in the pit of me— / The sharp taste on my tongue as I lick the edge of abyss.” (Because I’m A Whore Who Asked For It by Kindra M. Austin).
Reading through so many authors, some are bound to sit closer than others, you may find a few juvenile or lacking in comparison to the shattering earth pieces that will be immediately apparent (Inky Rivers by Ra’ache Khayat and These days when you have a daughter, by Samantha Lucero being two such examples) but that’s half the delight, for by tasting each voice, we go deeper into the veil and touch the source of its myriad faces. “let us know the purity of instinct / the purity of art / that transcends education, / memory or muse / you are scars and sculptures” (Upon realization that perhaps i am completely sure, by Lois Linkens).
If your expectation is a slim volume of precise poems according to a clever little theme, you’ll be deeply disappointed by SD’s offering. Poetry at SD isn’t nice and tidy, it isn’t precise or easily categorized, nor does it intend to leave you peaceful. As Julia Halatz says in her poem What Can I Give You? “Not by blindness / we can reorder colors / but by the painting of a soul.” There is absolutely nothing here that is calm or apologetic, nor will any writer be careful with your sensibilities and spare you the brunt of their truth. “Anything, anything at all / that would explain / these patterned nights, these long long pauses in daylight. / How life has blatantly refused to comply anymore.” (A picture of our torn up praise by Aakriti Kuntal).
If you imagine a group weaving a disharmonious double-jointed vision together, using their blood as dye, you may come close to revealing the proffered mouths of these voices. In Birds & H e a r t s, ra’ahe khayat writes; “we’re not humans without h e a r t s / but hearts without bodies, / being fed to strange birds.” In this simple statement they identify the drifters dilemma when exposing oneself to the elements, the risk of losing one’s skin is ever present and it is this risk we find the courage and horror of our fellow humans, though we may have long given up hope of being understood, we share as much through pain as joy, and are less alone and this is the beauty of poetry. “Every time I get sober, / someone else / dyes / black / my hair.” (Funeral Trumpets, by Kindra Austin).
Samantha Lucero in 1., describes this experience as; “i keep alive by milking goats. / some like lifelines, some like ulcers / the city streets are braided in my hair.” In Conflagration by Nathan McCool he says; “I’m society, some things are outside of it; / and gazes are always turned to those things / like the barrel of a gun. … But to be perfect is to have never burned. / Things that have not endured burning cannot / give light.” The terrible honesty of these visions is uncompromising, unrelenting, a raw shot in the gut for the reader, it’s not an easy read, but like anything worthwhile you’ll be taking it with you after you’ve finished and returning before you expected to. “I liked the Mmmm of her, the way / it brought out the whites of her eyes, / and I wondered as they closed / if they were watching her thoughts / as closely as they watched mine. / And I wished to poke at them,” (The Mmm of Her, by Nicole Lyons).
It may be tempting to compare authors, highlight the influences, or homage to previous poets and yes, among this compendium there are shades of Bukowski, Billy Childish, Baudelaire, Plath, Sexton, Tracey Emin, but it would diminish the originality of this collection to simply contrast. Better then let the work speak for itself in its ferocious epoch. “Let’s dance with other people’s wives to bubblegum pop, not too close. Leave a void between, the façade of trust and happiness. The empty spaces where attraction used to fit. … can’t die lately, and it’s making me uncomfortable.” (Can’t by Pbbr). We may never ‘know’ these authors as we do, those we learn in English class, but there is something refreshing about reading them as a whole and finding understanding through today’s fractured lens. “I finally let go / tightly coiled control gasp with relief / as I finally unleash the darkness” (Raven, by Christine Ray).
One of the delights of this collection is the sheer diversity of voices, unconstrained, with differing syntax, forms, loss of form, deliberate omissions and styles, one moment you are reading a condensed prose-poem about the origin of life, the next a confessional bleeding rip from the heart about love and drugs. Nowhere else in modern collections have I found such a mélange of tongues, all begging questions, responses, emotions, some disgust, horror, desire. Volume 1 is a true kaleidoscope of the human experience, doused in realism and the phantasmagoric with absolutely no brake fluid.
S.K., Nicolas writes in Reflectors, that; “In schools, they preach hide the soul, and then work comes along and drills it in a little deeper. But art liberates, … But only God can make a tree, so who I am? My reflection and your reflection, so many reflections and all these reflections that keep on reflecting,” Poet, Oldepunk says in his poem Broken; “turning gold to lead, crack and peel / the Narcissist stone! / you do not understand / as the dead envy the living, so / do the broken hate the anointed,” And in Still, this defiance is continued by Mitch Green, as he writes; “to them we are nothing, but gravel / in the making of scars. / Still breathing, / breathing still.”
SD has kicked it out the ball park by locating and birthing a group of unique voices you are unlikely to find in big publisher collections owing in part to the nepotistic methods of author selection. It’s always thrilling to find those writers who aren’t pretty little packages awaiting their deal, but the tumbleweed and very fire in the desert, torn out and presented without respite and without apology, such is the art of SD for bringing together, an unforgettable divergence of talent we may otherwise have never found.
“let me open the door / help me to understand / when I’m engulfed in the blaze / no one will tell you why.” Richard Crandall, Burning at the Stake