About the Poet
Mark Russell’s collections are Men Who Repeat Themselves (erbacce), Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock) and Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop). His poems have appeared in various journals, including Poetry Wales, bath magg, The Manchester Review, Stand, and The Rialto. He lives in Scotland.Mark Russell’s collections are Men Who Repeat Themselves (erbacce), Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock) and Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop). His poems have appeared in various journals, including Poetry Wales, bath magg, The Manchester Review, Stand, and The Rialto. He lives in Scotland.
Social media @mark59russell
In this collection, I have taken the darker elements of poets and dramatists who have influenced me (primarily Tate, Chernoff, Edson; Beckett, Brecht, Pinter), and pushed the form into continuous narrative. I have been trying to marry my work as a poet with my profession as a drama teacher by finding the conflicts/tasks/given circumstances at the heart of each poem (like Stanislavski’s ‘beats’ or ‘units’), and also within the narrative arc of the work as a whole (rather like a ‘super-objective’). I realise now that the poems constituting Come to the River have also drawn on my interest in the tensions and conflicts that exist between means and ends within avant-garde and political aesthetics.
Daisy in the Light
‘Good afternoon, Mr Fredericks,’ the young woman on the desk said. I don’t know how she knew my name. I was sure we’d never met. Her name tag said ‘Daisy’. ‘That will be thirty-four dollars,’ she said, tapping something into her phone. ‘I only have pounds sterling, Daisy.’ ‘How did you know my name?’ she said, ‘I’m sure we’ve never met.’ Before I could answer, she popped a boiled sweet into her mouth. ‘People often say I look like a Daisy,’ she said a little incoherently. ‘Will you take a card?’ I said. She smiled and took my card. ‘Is my nose bright orange today?’ she said. I took a good long look at her face. It certainly had a tinge to it. ‘More of a yellow, I’d say.’ She smiled. White rays began to appear around her face, emanating from the central flowerhead of her nose. I could feel my brow begin to sweat. She swirled the boiled sweet around. It clicked against her teeth. I thought I was going to faint. ‘It’s a trick of the light,’ she said. I breathed heavily with relief. Daisy handed me a tissue. ‘You should stop looking at me now,’ she said.
Praise for the Work
“Mark Russell’s Come to the River is a collection of prose-poems which follows a continuous narrative, centred around the polite depravity of an academic conference. Come to the River successfully ties together elements of poetry, drama and fiction, creating a unique and often compelling collection with hints of innovative dramatists like Beckett, Chekhov and Miller alongside contemporary surrealist poets like Selima Hill and Vahni Capildeo. Russell’s prose-poems are lucid, wry and affable. Essential reading.”
— Charlie Baylis: editor, Anthropocene, Broken Sleep Books, poet, Drag City
“The narrator keeps changing name tags (Jolene is maybe my favourite) as we weave in and out of various stories at a convention of conferences at a hotel. A paper on The New Jersey Crumb Coffee Cake, the River Clyde “with the Squinty Bridge in the foreground,” a riverboat casino turned Museum of The American Civil War, a group of sociologists hoping to sing Dolly Parton hits. In the spirit of James Tate and Donald Barthelme, these surreal-absurd tales are full of wonder, wit, & delight. Come to the River is rooms within rooms. A welcoming wild ride.”
— Marcus Slease: author Puppy, Never Mind the Beasts, The Green Monk
“Come to the River offers a series of mini dramas where a dislocated and disorientated narrative self continually challenges and is challenged by conventional thinking and perception. Set at an academic conference, each drama probes the impact of socially conditioned responses to various situations with comic and diverting endings. This thought-provoking collection is a comedic tour de force, where absurdity, a troubled fluidity and alternative realities become the norm to demonstrate the follies of conditioned behaviour and thinking. Mark Russell’s fresh and divergent poetry simultaneously makes you smile and think. This is a comedy of errors with a punch and punch bowl at its heart.”
– David Caddy: poet, writer, critic, editor, Tears in the Fence