To say that Jon Stone has just, at the time of writing, had his first full collection published would be to understate the impact he has already had on the rising young generation of UK poets, with three pamphlets published in 2010 alone, and an e-pamphlet in 2011.
His accomplishments include not only the writing of formal, voraciously experimental, precociously accomplished poetry but (along with his partner, Kirsten Irving) a boundary-breaking small magazine and a standard-setting small press – and an array of websites built by him to support all this activity.
Another highly innovative and influential young poet, Luke Kennard, has said: “Jon Stone writes angry, beautiful poems which access parts of your mind you didn’t know you had . . . It’s hard to capture the sense of joy I get from reading this.”
Jon Stone was born in Derby and now lives in Whitechapel, working in London as a court reporter. He was commended in the National Poetry Competition in 2009 and again in 2011.
His first full collection, School of Forgery, was published by Salt Publishing in June 2011, following a pamphlet, Scarecrows, published to some acclaim in 2010 by Happenstance Press.
The website Silkworms Ink has also published an online chapbook called Thra-koom! (“In which we explore superheroes and comic characters – as myths, monsters, invalids, metaphors, stereotypes and human beings – using the only medium that doesn't require a license.”)
Jon Stone’s kaleidoscopic aesthetic – combining manga comics, nature, online games, Japanese poetry, found poems, a dry humour, and expertly handled traditional form – is typical of the tendency among younger UK poets now to mix up the poetics, get away from the Poetry Wars and the old divided cliques, and create a poetry that works for the age of the internet, globalism, and the promiscuous influences of social media.
For instance, ‘Caligula as a Character in Final Fantasy’ begins:
The wretched bastards haven’t turned up yet!
And all the food gone off. The billionth time,
him slouching in his throne, no TV set
to mitigate the castle’s charmless gloom.
Just the checklist, which he checks: “Um, um,
yes.” He ticks the ticks that mark more ticks.
Mystic items? Dozens. Weapons? Stacks.
Stone is such a prolific poet that much of the material from his earlier publications doesn’t appear in School of Forgery, leaving him free to create a much more coherent first collection than the norm. The Salt website describes School of Forgery as “part prospectus and part fanzine . . . made from stolen or borrowed parts – centos and collages, half-rhymes and homophonics, translations and travesties. Equally inspired by manga luminaries like Naoki Urasawa, animation and adventure stories as it is by earlier poets, the natural world and human history.”
Several of his poems come out of an interest in magic and witch lore: ‘Boy’ is about the famous white hunting poodle of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Royalist commander in the English Civil War. The dog was said by the Puritans to be a witch, or possibly a bewitched “Lapland Lady”, and was killed at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644 – by “a Valiant Soldier, who had skill in necromancy”:
Publicans, stable-boys, nobles and nobles' wives –
all of them craned for the tale of the killing of Boy.
. . .
Do you feel it too? Throughout the world,
the night is hot and hot with the breath of Boy.
My woman is cold and the punks are especially cold.
Severed by blood, the weapon-proof witches’ ally,
Boy, his wounds still running. The gun-dog boy,
who did catch bullets and spat them, frothing with acid.
Many of Stone’s poems have numbered sections. In ‘Death Daydream Season’, the sections are concrete poems in the shape of surprisingly effective silhouettes, each evoking, and named after, an actor and an episode of The Avengers.
Even the website for Stone’s publishing venture is named after a wizard: Dr Fulminari’s Sidekick Books.
‘1974 (pedit5)’ – named after a year, and an arcade game released in that year, from the e-pamphlet Treasure Arcade – begins with good last words on Jon Stone:
Lonely but for my spells, my satchel of raw experience – so not lonely at all. The dark sleeps but I do not sleep . . .
Pamphlets and collections
Scarecrows, HappenStance, Glenrothes, Scotland, 2010
Thra-koom!, Silkworms Ink, 2010
No, Robot, No! (with Kirsten Irving), Forest Publications, Edinburgh, 2010
Treasure Arcade, Sidekick Books, 2011
School of Forgery, Salt, Cambridge, 2012
Birdbook 1: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland (with Kirsten Irving), Sidekick Books, 2011