Ambient Terror available now

Ambient-Terror-coverReleased 10 May 2017 at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival, Ambient Terror is the third volume of poetry from Dunedin writer Victor Billot.

Refusing to be confined into one stylistic box, Ambient Terror is propelled forward by a sense of urgency reflecting the compressed reality of the 21st century. It is poetry that is equally up to the task of attacking socio-political themes or experimenting with language. It ‘takes in the world’, whether discussing depression and anxiety (Ambient Terror and Ghost Beat), mortality (Voice in Darkness and Selene), contemporary political topics (The Oversharing Economy and Beast of the Hour), or personal relationships (Congress and Monsoon Season).

“Billot can be compelling and punchy. He is an exciting, wild noise, yet one supported by genuine imagination and ingenuity.” (Otago Daily Times review 6 May 2017)

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu. Available online or at University Bookshop Dunedin.

Economics

Sky Tower

Photo by V.Billot

There was a commotion outside the window.
A million people arrived overnight and moved swiftly
to assemble petrol stations, delicatessens and strip joints.
Signs point everywhere you cannot go.
I think of the past to hold myself down.
There are more products than you can imagine.
Throttled streets lined with plates of black ice.
I sift endless papers that rustle with a faded sound.
Nicotine eyes watch from doorways
and stare without relief. Houses are pulverized
by hornet-painted demons.
There have been twenty nights of inexplicable terror
and black shapes twirling fire in the avenues,
banging on walls, screaming cats and violent pauses
between days and nights and days.
Everyone wears the same inscrutable mask.
The rain allows escape when we drive onwards
down the tributaries of the Underworld.

From Ambient Terror

Commemoration of the Comet Hyakatuke

 

Image by V. Billot

The front page notes a report of a comet

and how it came darting out of the void,

a small silvery fish in dark waters.

It zooms over southern horizons.

Named for its first witness, a Japanese amateur,

he must have combed the night relentlessly

to net his prize.

It carries its speed against the night.

It will not return for aeons,

its leash loose as it spins outwards.

I forgot to watch for it at dawn.

There were too many little things scrabbling

for my attention, and in this way

I missed its passing.

Congress

DSCF0674

Photo by V. Billot

 

She was shifting form, encircling and seamless,

swirling from moment to moment without apparent sense,

with sudden violence and traitorous appetites,

with knowing persistence, with perpetual conviction.

He was locked within a severe carapace,

contained by ancient heat, never acknowledging her lightness,

nor her storms that could last for nights and nights,

an urgent magnet tearing up within –

and they met and congealed,

constantly, never apart,

withdrawing and falling together,

until it is impossible to tell whether they are one, or two,

or many, submerged and unconscious,

their adversarial stances, their mixture and admixture,

of opaque, flickering jade,

of sullen, crooked shoulder,

of broken earth and quickening currents,

as encirclement stills anarchic hands,

as encirclement dissolves their torn faces

to dancing infinities.

48° 14.5’ S, 168° 18.76’ E

sea

(Person Overboard, 70 kilometres South of Stewart Island, New Zealand, 24 January 2004)

It’s not a sea. It’s ocean.
Brood black skies and so cold it burns.
Vo Minh Que, 22 months of ship time, no kid,
picked up by the whipping line and tossed
like a doll into four metre swells
from a floating death sentence called the Tasnui,
slopping around due south of Rakiura.
They call them factory trawlers. Too glamorous by half –
shitbuckets splattered with rust,
with a tangled shitbucket heap of wires, gears, mesh.
Vo Minh Que, 33 summers deep in life,
remained visible for one to one and a half hours.
They threw three lifebuoys, ten lifejackets, fishing floats,
while he floundered, kicked then slipped away.
Down below, the factory floor knee deep with carcasses.
They slide around in blood and brine
while men rip fish heads off with buzzing blades.
Vo Minh Que, Vietnamese national,
no home town mentioned, no outrage,
no diplomatic incident reported.
His last link the sweaty office
of a crewing agent far from this sightless deep.
They pack bruised flesh in ice,
sweep the excess into the waves
for a trail of seagulls to scream over.
The report from the maritime office
was tidy and concise.
Vo Minh Que, your memorial is archived data,
and perhaps the tears of a mother.
At about 2000 hours, when the deceased
was no longer visible, the crew heaved in the nets
and informed the shore authorities.
Under Korean flag state regulations,
no records are required to be kept
on treacherous strands of wire.
Vo Minh Que, whose last haul dragged
writhing fins and gasping gills from benthic gloom,
whose hands placed this white flesh on our table,
and whose long days profited someone far away
from this place of endless wind and salt.
It’s not a sea. It’s ocean.

(From Ambient Terror)

Central Redux

Ranfurly, 2016

Photograph by V.Billot

 

Shadows flicker beneath the greenstone waters

where the past is inundated by a billion litres of unobtainium,

while a ghost road fathoms deep

leads through the drowned mountains of an inland sea.

 

Megafauna of state capitalist uberdevelopment

plug the valley’s neck below waving constellations of tussocks,

dusky anemones on a reef of ironclad ranges

and gravel berms beside ice blue streams.

 

Honest stonefruit and dust stained ewes crowded out

by vigorous hybrid forms of economic gene splicing:

self seeding boutique wineries spring from the grey soil,

bundles of fat grapes liberally irrigated by cashflow liquidity

 

while first world psychodramas play out

in skyscapes of high altitude vertical helitourism

where paragliding knuckle crunchers snap selfies

from mid point vortices in dice rolling death plunges.

 

Once a destination for steam powered diasporas,

Hibernian chancers and Cantonese exiles

are suspended in a hologram of alluvial gold flecks

and Victorian era get rich quick schemes.

 

Spindrift snowflakes scattered in a timeshare wonderland,

where scratchings and etchings on the hills

annotate a century of busywork by scrappy toilers,

their faded palimpsest of efforts now eclipsed.

 

A five mile tall nimbus sits on the horizon,

contemplating the innovation of gourmet stone baked pizzerias.

Zig zag peaks recede behind scenic double glazing,

slo mo freeze frames in the tuck and knead of the tectonic kitchen.

 

A grid subdividing the heart in an eternal revision

of the district plan, where high rolling global financiers

take time out to drop dark currency on rustic stations,

enduring frenzies of native replanting to achieve eco-purification.

 

Fine living features in pull out supplements

feed an arms race of aspirational overcompensation,

blonde enbobbed made it matrons wrestling power steering

in late model eurotrash SUVs the size of oxen.

 

A rubber tube steers away on glacial melt

before jet boat hearties short circuit the bay

shattering the crystal heat of the afternoon

with a rude burst of gurgling clangour.

 

Tag teams of blue arsed blowflies,

opportunists loitering on a sad lamb carcass:

pink blossoms hammered flat

by a cold front’s frigid grapeshot.

 

Fire alert on permanent high, Naseby’s sluiced and raddled clays

are colonised by the lime shimmer of exotic larches,

while an optimistic billboard counsels the weary

Avoid Fatigue – Stop At Ranfurly.

 

The silence of the Maniototo is a blank totality,

an inverse shock wave of nothing.

On the rise from Ida Valley, wild thyme sprinkles the dusty slopes

in a purple haze over rubble and bones.

 

A row of dinged utes cool off in front of rural pubs,

lonely as dead end roads, drinkers whiling the hours

hidden from the infinite heavens and day long tempests,

awaiting the postponed judgement of the long now.

 

Above Wakatipu, plastic bubbles ascend in parallel symmetry

to provide a ten dollar view of million dollar apartments,

lakeside gloom pooling in the lengthening evening,

as Airbuses touch down in a sweet end times aroma of peak oil.

A tickle and a whack from the critics?

A mixed review for Ambient Terror by Nicholas Reid this week who feels the book is suited more to a live environment.

“Billot in his collection Ambient Terror practises poetry as provocation, as direct social, political and historical commentary, as satire and as protest . . . if I were at a poetry evening in a pub or city bar, I think I would enjoy listening to Victor Billot reading his poetry.”

“But here’s my problem (and, dare I say it, the problem of most performance poetry). Once you see such poems in cold print on the page, they often fall apart. Their populist rhetoric, their tricks and their political appeals lack nuance or (in many cases) craft.”

We appreciate all views and reviews positive, negative or wavering – make up your own mind by reading some of the poems on this site.