Near Future by Suzannah Evans
5th Jan 2019
We live in times where the threat of the coming end of days sometimes feels so inevitable as to have lost some of its awe-inspiring terror, and the only uncertainty is exactly what it is that’s going to kill us all. Near Future is a product of this atmosphere.
Within the world of Near Future by Suzannah Evans, futuristic dystopias nestle against the mundane everyday: robobees and roboblackbirds populate the ravaged countryside, starlings drink Prozac-tainted water while humans eat food looted from M&S, and sentient paperclip machines plot murderous coups.
Pervading the collection is a sense of the natural world struggling to fight back against the twin assaults of humanity and technology: sometimes it wins, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, Evans’ poems remind us, it’s hard to know which would be worse.
A political undercurrent runs through the collection, and many of the poems touch on environmental and climate issues, like The Fatbergs which imagines a city built on top of one of the monolithic piles of cooking oil and baby wipes which block city sewerage systems.
In fact, although it might be easy to imagine that these poems, with all the preoccupation with the apocalypse, might be full of fear, the emotion that most strongly resonates through the collection is a wry sort of anger.
We are at the mercy of powers much larger than we are and they’re probably going to kill us all: what else can we do but watch to see where it takes us and try to create a record of how things were before we lose it all?
Although a dark thread of humour keeps the poems from ever becoming too overtly depressing, where the collection is truly lifted is in the moments of human tenderness that shine out from amongst the wreckage of collapsed societies and smoking landscapes: reflections on a pet dog’s unquestioning loyalty, the simple joy of washing your clothes with those of the person you love. Even the most grimly apocalyptic scenarios have an absurdist edge.
Memory, too, serves an important role throughout the book: a sense of trying to hold on to a normality that is fading fast, of trying to preserve things that no longer are. It’s the poems which deal with this most explicitly which are amongst the most beautiful, such as ‘Extinct Scents’ and ‘Skies Recorded by the Cyanometer’.
Near Future is a quick read – some 80 pages – but a fascinating trip into the different ways language can be used to make sense of a world that seems increasingly nonsensical, to hold on to the things that matter and make fun of the things we can’t change anyway.
Near Future by Suzannah Evans is out now from Nine Arches Press