Poetry and images inspired by the daily act of commuting across a busy metropolis, from Alex Fan Moniz.
Journeys on the Underground and Beyond by Alex Fan Moniz details in poetry and image, experiences and feelings inspired by the daily act of commuting. It is an experience in which individuality and collectivism are forced to stare each other out, and combine where they are able.
The journeys in question are presented as a series of poems, venturing to capture a 24 hour period, along the lines of Dawn / Morning / Afternoon / Evening and Night.
The poems in Dawn indeed seem to begin before Alex Fan Moniz is even awake, with a poem called Nest beginning the collection, and from within his nest, the poet seems to be having a dream contained in the second poem, Breast milk.
It isn’t all as literal as this however, and the first mention of a train for example doesn’t come until the end of the Dawn cycle, with the poem Evanescence.
This is a poem about being ‘always stuck in tunnels during rush hour,’ and the shared proximity of the commuters, whom we must suppose are at least pleased that they have android games to escape into if they are trying to avoid much-dreaded eye contact.
As befits the work of a poet who spends a certain amount of time in these commuter situations, there is a certain element of mysticism in Journeys on the Underground and Beyond.
The poem Global Citizen takes an unusual look at modern life, by allying our own singularities with a host of strange other-worldly potential outcomes:
You drank fynbos water, swam the Orinoco and Seljord / You bring ancient sands from the Sahara and Rajasthan
The Afternoon poems bring another set of similitudes, curiously phrased in terms of fruits such as Pomegranate (Vermillion red / Ethereal and refreshing / Laid in golden cups / Red veils / Is it the Holy Grail?); an item of silly of exuberance called Blueberry; and Watermelons (Huge, ripe, perhaps rotting already).
Journeys on the Underground and Beyond isn’t your typical poetry book, and it is well illustrated by the author with Alex Fan Moniz's own photography, which sometimes creates abstracts out of architectural or other psychogeographic features, and also commonly offesr up fruit or floral images.
There is also teasingly throughout, the repeated theme of the illuminated manuscript, probably hinting at the writer’s place in this rat race. The manuscript in question is The Gospel of Matthew, as reproduced in an Armenian manuscript. Floral interlace is a running theme.
It occurs that these poems and images would make a good accompaniment to the act of commuting, and the title poem itself encapsulates much that is strange about the experience, by asking some frank and curious questions:
Where do they go afterwards? / What do they think of / when surrounded by strangers / their individual spaces taken over / by all others in a compact mass / of shapes , odours, noises, voices?
Does anyone ever take the Tube to escape loneliness? / Can one feel despondent amidst huge crowds? / … / Can the crowds infect you with their avatar?
These five chapters of poetry and image — the longest of which is Afternoon — present a varied and at times beautiful collection, part suggesting the thoughts of passers-by and commuters, part presenting the spectacle through the poet’s lens, as he transforms the mundane suburban experience of travel into a fantasy that is far more gentle, collecting images of fruit, warmth and love and arguing their worth.
The result is something that I would recommend even reading on the commuter trip yourself. Part of you may be already asking if there is more to life, and Alex Fan Moniz has found it both in his memory and in his present experience of riding those trains, walking those tunnels, and in the minds of those around him during his journeys on the underground.
Alex on Twitter @deLusignan
Alex's Amazon Author Page
The image above is by Alex Fan Moniz and appears in Journeys on the Underground and Beyond (2014)
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Journeys on the Underground and Beyond is a new collection of poetry and images from Alex Fan Moniz
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