Recently at the Free Verse Fair while browsing the many stalls of books, I came across a booklet packaged in a refreshingly different form. Starry Clock by poet Jesse Glass (zimZalla) is a miniature handmade play written in poetic form and presented inside a cardboard coffin. Also provided in the coffin was a bracelet made from a string of brightly coloured skulls and a tiny rubber skeleton with a loop of string to hang it from a dashboard, or attach it to a mobile phone.
Starry Clock itself was written in an unusual format; the letters were displayed backwards and a tiny mirror was provided along with the booklet in order to read the text as normal. What a fantastic idea! Having spoken to the poet, Jesse Glass, I discovered that his method of presentation was inspired by
finding the coffin and deciding to have an appropriately themed work accompany the container. On many occasions, I have come across poets who have tried to do something new but can’t quite pull it off, making the process seem at best pretentious and at worst a pointless gimmick (giving the reader instructions for how to read the poem aloud while drinking a glass of water is one of the silliest ideas I have stumbled upon to date) but to encounter a talented poet who writes with depth and precision while showcasing their work in an aesthetically original way reaches an entirely new level altogether.
Jesse Glass’ booklet follows the tale of a skeleton, man, child and narrator. When the skeleton finds the man ‘counting his sins’ he gives him advice to ‘rejoice in the flower/ for soon you’ll feel the thorn’. The personification of the skeleton shown through its mid-death crisis gives humour to the piece as he contemplates the demise of his physical self, whilst managing to feel superior to God through his immortality. The symbolism of flowers once again sets the existential tone of act 2 when the man becomes a second skeleton and the first skeleton explains:
“My pecker, once sharp as a thorn
has crumbled as the rose,”
What is the intention of the original skeleton? Is he truly unscrupulous because he has lost his flesh and therefore his sense of self? Or is it all a farce to play the ultimate joke on life? The play ends when the curtain falls on the skeleton’s profound speech to the man (skeleton 2), when he admits that lack of muscle will not stop his folly, culminating in his closing sentence: “I am your athlete.”
Depending on the reader’s own perspective, Starry Clock is a hilarious celebration of life, or a morbid view on humanity. I’m of the former persuasion. Either way it’s a fun read, hugely entertaining and great value at £8 for coffin and contents. Sixty eight limited edition copies have been made available from zimZalla.