Review : Void Voices, James Knight

A lion’s eye stares, asking you… And is that a snout or a dragon’s eye in shadow [a dead phone & digital memo lost], watching over its gold as the lion starves. The clockwork gears shifting.’

Void Voices Image of lion and clockwork

Void Voices by James Knight begins with an image, lion infused clockwork. Further images are dispersed throughout the book, as if chapter headings – images vary from triple headed insects appearing like inverse fluffy Chinese dragons, skulls appearing to possess the texture of compacted snow and a path to the cairn and most frightening, to me, the glow of a nuclear white scream, with claws ready to scoop me, you, us into her mouth. What I like about these images, sitting alone at the top of a page, is that they are waiting for the reader’s engagement, to tie them to the text, as well as to understand them, through meaning, though emotion, as standalone pieces of art.

This is also the case for the text, which at first appeared to me as a cascade of noise that demands attention. Both noise that draws me in like a lone protest singer and that clash of brakes, horns and sirens that drives me away. It is as if James has captured the urgent requirement that our societies need our attention and engagement, yet we within them are doing our best to drive ourselves away. The conversation can be entered at any page (there are no page numbers, no liner rules), just like how we dip in and out of social media threads and construct a story from the performers.

A cross between Orwell’s dystopian future of 1984 (now our reality) and Hunter S Thompson’s Gonzo journalism. [a dead phone & digital memo lost]

Like the narrator, we are lost with unreliable guides, whose only truths are twitter truths and the only way to show us the view is via filters where the poses are two fingered screams of I no longer care. There is despair in the words of Void Voices, an encircling madness, where the sense is lost in who can scream the loudest in CAPS and yet as with Thompson, beyond the performances, there is serious grappling with the despair of brexit, of adult children, of a world that is tearing itself apart and anesthetising itself with hashtags and likes whilst doing so. Yet, James’ words are also a guide, like the decomposed T S Eliot, and they offer a way out of the void and here is a flutter of hope.

I keep returning to Void Voices, flicking at it, much like how I began my encounter with it, dissolving into the images, reading a stanza, a paragraph, a scrambled sentence spread over a page. As if standing on the edges of their meaning, I return seeking it and yet Void Voices and I end waking from a horrible dream – is there any connection between finishing Void Voices and the vivid scarred nights of late? And still I have hope that we can escape these wretched nightmares whilst writers like James Knight accept the challenge of engaging creatively with the many constructs we now inhabit, of the untangling of the many threads or in the case of Void Voices, the many voices. I do hope Void Voices is read, re-read and is the drop of ink into someone’s world that begins a shift away from re-waking nightmares.

After reading Void Voices, I read James’ explanation of Void Voices, which was illuminating. I didn’t see that, but then I haven’t read what James is re-imagining(!), but the essence appears clear. I recommended you do the same, read Void Voices, form your experience and then relate it to James’.

Finally, it was interesting to read that James often begins his stories through tweets. I am pleased to read I am not alone in such playing.

Void Voices is available from Hesterglock Press.