Beginning as it does with a poem that features the phrases “Stalker-azzi”, “The road to bling-bling” and “superstar alimony”, The Republic of Naught by Jay McLeod (published by Philistine Press) initially looks set to be a tiresome read. Indeed the next few offerings are in a similar vein, rife with pop-culture and with an underlying note of political scorn. Look how trite and shallow modern life is, they seem to say. It is, perhaps, a too-familiar refrain, and one that it is easy to get tired of.
But persevere. As the collection develops you’ll see something much more personal, more original and startling. Starting with “Planes, Trains, and Dishpits” in which the narrator reflects on the time he has spent travelling to and from his various places of work over the years. Although the theme of modern isolation and despair is still evident, here McLeod starts to create something affecting and personal rather than preachy.
Through the ensuing entries this personal angle is developed and the theme becomes less narrowly defined, though still consistent. Some of my favourite poems include “The Dishwasher’s Last Will and Testament”, “Artie”, and “Walter Lives on the Edge of the World”. In these poems McLeod creates characters that are both real and affecting, pinned as they are in the machinery of the everyday.
Although there remains an aftertaste of something just a little bit too self-conciously modern, McLeod’s dextrous use of language puts a new spin on the duller poems. Ultimately, a small clutch of humdrum poems cannot weigh down what is an otherwise able and entertaining collection. With the book being available to download for free from the Philistine Press website, The Republic of Naught is certainly worth your time.
The Republic of Naught is available from Philistine Press, here.