Critical Reviews: House of Weeds by Amy Charlotte Kean and Jack Wallington
In May of 2020, Fly on the Wall Press published House of Weeds, an illustrated poetry collection from Amy Charlotte Kean and Jack Wallington that gives a megaphone to the weird, restless and unruly. A story of rebel humans, the battles they faced and the love they crafted for themselves.
A world of deliciously wild characters: a group of outcasts who have only their rebellion in common. Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society's outsiders.
Our thanks and apprecation go out to all the people who took the time to review this wonderful collection. Here are a few of our favourite reviews.
"This is energetic, wild, vigorous use of language. Uncompromising and outspoken, Kean gives us glimpses of the inhabitants who once lived in these strange, unfettered houses. The illustrations by Jack Wallington run rampant over the pages, inky outlines with splashes of colour. Flowers become faces and stems emerge from bodies. They interweave with the poems so that word and image become one.
I am reminded sometimes of Alice Oswald’s poems in her (also illustrated) book Weeds and Wild Flowers. But there is an anger here, a youthful rawness, as in “Allium vineale (Crow Garlic)”.
Is madness real, or is it a look?
A plugged limb and an electrified barnet,
Ice-skating lollipop legs, a souffle of hairy chaos, all thumbs
and squiggles and crowing karaoke to a Gorgonzola moon.
Great big balls of inflorescence like nothing on this planet,
we are all a little mad. It looks lovely.
Or this from “Soleirolia solirolii (Mind Your Own Buisness)”
Damn this brain! This energy. This reluctant calling.
It’s not shyness, per se. Heaven knows what shapes us.
Damn this rudeness, this hardwired nature. Damn Mother Nature!
Damn her delicate green fingers, if fingers are what cast her spells.
Kean can also be gentle and lyrical, channelling the romanticism of Wordsworth, as in “Ranunculus acris ( Meadow Buttercup)”
Bow down, witches
dip thy shiny chins.
This is a love letter, an ode.
A wanton self-expression.
Extend a glove, a carpet,
kiss my lit pyretic beacon.
To the haters, simmer down, drown
Thy sinners in my gene pool.
These are not gentle musings on nature: they are poems that push out of floorboards and pavements, demanding to be seen and to tell their stories."
- Louise Warren, Poet
Read Louise Warren's full review on London Grip.
"‘The world needs the weeds to define what it means to rise’, is a perfect place to begin to think about this collection as a whole: what it means, why it was written, and in turn who the poet is and what they’re all about. The phrase runs over three lines, near the start of the first poem ‘Ricinus communis (Castor Oil Plant)’. As well as the music of the line acting as an incantation, a chant to individuality and creativity. More than an accompaniment, the illustration of this poem draws on colour and connectivity, with person and stem one and the same. The theme is set, and the journey is about to begin.
The illustrations are reminiscent of some of the late Leonard Cohen’s pencil sketches. Faces are the common motif of the artist responding to the poems. The way they’re drawn carves latent emotion onto the page (many faces are blank, but the bodies ‘talk’ as they are captured in motion), leaving just enough space to add what you will in. As a response to the poems (it’s clear the artist knows the poems well) this couldn’t be any more apt; after all, that’s what poetry does – suggests and lets the reader do the rest.
Themes within the poems are deep and complex, with eroticism there, mysticism and many other aspects of humanity (mingling and overlapping), in all its glory and rawness; layers, carefully placed and inviting discovery. The writings are songs, not just of the spirit, but for the spirit, too. Like all good poetry they are for reader as much they are for the author. The author, whether intentionally doing so or not (I suspect so) evokes the likes of William Blake. The interpreting of divinity fused with the ability to see like only a poet’s gaze can. Kean’s able to recast Blake, so that injustice and discrimination prevalent in today’s societies standout. The ever-present threat to the feminine, both in the scared sense and the everyday attacks on women, simply for being women.
These poems call to the dispossessed and forgotten. In a world where so much gets overlooked, so many people and their voices are marginalised, either deliberately or through apathy and lethargy, this collection shouldn’t be. It needs not to be. Read it. re-read it. Respond to it, anyway you want to. Write, sing, dance, paint, scream, make love . . . even if you think you do any or all of those things badly. Do them and love doing them. They matter, and most of all, you do too. That’s the take-home from this wonderful new work.
- Benjamin Francis Cassidy, Writer The High Window Press
Read the full review on The High Window Press website here.
"Both Kean and Wallington have explored voice, character, representations and so much more, and to do all of that (while still being entertaining) in such a short release really is commendable. I’d definitely recommend this for poetry (and plant) fans."
- Charley Barnes, Writer and Lecturer
Read Charley Barnes' full review here.
House of Weeds is available to order here, now with 10% off with coupon code 'weedish', valid till 20th of December, 2020: