Reviewing Punks in the Willows and Domesticated Vol. I from Earth Island Books
Punks In The Willows by Alex CF
Alex CF’s Punk In The Willows is essentially an illustrated poem dedicated to the punk rock scene and all those within it.
In this instance, the characters are drawn as animals in classic punk rock attire such as studded leather jackets and ripped jeans.
As he states in the book, “Punk rock might be music, but for punks, it’s much more…it is noise with a message, a message of peace!”
The book is beautifully illustrated, and the poem itself is unfolds like a love letter to punk rock music and the entire community of punks who helped create it, cultivate it, and keep it alive for so many years.
Through the words, the reader is given the idealistic explanation of what “being a punk” means and what kind of people punks can be and what they do in their everyday lives.
It is a light read, but the words to carry weight, and for those kids who grow up thinking being “punk” is about being a criminal or just being angry at the world would be served well to check this book out and discover that “punk” is a sentiment that people of all walks of life can lead and create a difference in ways that aren’t always considered “punk.”
CF’s message here is one of unity and solidarity in a scene that has had people from all walks of life come together and stand up for what they believe in for over 50 years now.
Domesticated Vol. I by James Domestic
Rock musician James Domestic has put together a collection of writings of poetry and verse combined with some illustrations / doodles to accompany it in his new book Domesticated Vol. I which has stories about virtually anything and everything.
The topic diversity of this book is made abundantly clear by the third poem in the book “The Facilities at Alicante Airport” which is about using a restroom that has too thin of toilet paper and the resulting struggles dealing with that problem.
A very subtle climate change message comes in the poem “Your Grandkids Won’t Believe You” which details how in just a few short decades many of the wildlife that exists on the planet today will be talked about like we do with dinosaurs at present.
There are a lot of comedic moments in this collection as well, and that is on full display with “The Pensioner Orgy.” For Americans who don’t know what a “pensioner” is, it is simply the UK equivalent of a retired person (hence, taking their pension). So, to talk about the scene, as Domestic puts it, “I’m only 34, but I still got the invite / they’re short on fresh blood every Friday night,” makes for a pretty ridiculous setting.
My favorite line of the poem is probably, “I’m in a sexed up Werther’s Original hell.”
In stark contrast to that, Domestic comes back to animals a few times, and in “Good Odds” he discusses how humans routinely mistreat or downright murder animals in the name of elegance or sport. He talks about horse and dog racing, eating shark fin soup, and wearing fur coats to explain that these animals are abused and killed in the name of human vanity.
Domestic doesn’t just point out the faults of others, he definitely brings his own faults to light, and a good representation of that is in the poem “Joker” where he essentially reflects on what his life looks like now to his dismay.
The craft that Domestic uses ebbs and flows from simplistic to artistic several times throughout the book, but there are many instances where it is clear he has a poet’s touch.
For example, using alliteration that actually adds to the graphicness of an idea like, “flesh freshly flayed” in “Human Ikizukuri” is something that is difficult to do. Alliteration (and it’s counterparts assonance and consonance) are rarely used to make the idea come to life more. Most of the time it is used for simple sound effects.
Possibly the most poignant and relatable story in the whole book is “Tour Life” which depicts some of the crazy antics of being in a band on the road in the U.K. and E.U. Then inevitably having to return to the day job after the tour is over. Nothing seems real about it, yet the memories have been made.
Overall, the collection is witty, funny, relatable and at times contentious, but I would expect nothing less from a punk rocker turned poet who spends his days mulling over his next artistic venture while milling around the convenient society that makes most people happy.