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A new review of Clean By Scott-Patrick Mitchell by Will Yeoman


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CLEAN

Author: Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Publisher: Upswell Publishing

Published: March 2022

Genre: Poetry

Tagged: collectionpoemspoetry

Anyone who ever made anything worthwhile is or was an addict of sorts. In this impressive first (full-length) collection, Scott-Patrick Mitchell (hereafter SPM) brings us news from hell. And it’s good. I’m thinking the book’s three sections roughly corresponding to the three books of Dante’s Divine Comedy: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. But this is a superficial observation, a projection. SPM’s poems have the toughness and clarity of a perfect ruin or a Sapphic fragment (“We are lovers made from bushfire, pouring ourselves on to the other.”). In Ingredients for Grief: Imagined Endings 3, SPM asks their mother what the collective noun for a wrinkle is. “I am,” she answers. What is/are SPM the collective noun for?

This book is the answer. I keep catching glimpses of Pi O, of Louis Zukofsky, of the Liturgy, where I don’t expect them. Don’t be put off by the unconventional use of punctuation (“.don’t come, not just yet. profit to the street .”). There is wry humour: “we don’t to math: we do meth.” There is ugliness: “outside the cathedral, we thug the living shit out of it.” There is a musical ekphrasis: “In the gouache dark, moon teals the reeds.”. There is pain: “now, when they bash you,/you wish you were see-through.//but you ain’t.” There is lyricism: “And there, in the middle of the street,/halogen inside the other’s eyes, we kiss.” And there is beauty, oh god, so much beauty: “What are eyelids if not parentheses. Open them.”

Over 20 years or so I’ve only managed to catch snatches of SPM’s promiscuous adumbrations – a poem in print or performance, an interview, an exchange of greetings – and Clean neatly pulls together so much that I’ve missed, and what I’m still missing, and it will probably do the same for you. For the full range of SPM’s expressive and technical mastery is on show here, from a lithe fondness for wordplay whether in verse or prose poetry to a coruscating, sometimes excoriating (scrub away!), wit that spares nobody, least of all themselves. Let Clean sit with you, savour it. As SPM writes/write, “After six months you will still be haunted. But at least you’ll be clean.”

Reviewed by Will Yeoman