Reuben Woolley & ‘broken stories’


I know Reuben Woolley wants to strangle me.  He states this here and probably has two good-enough reasons and so, well, if you get to hear of my demise through strangulation you know that any number of people might well use his words as their defence.  So please investigate carefully before blaming Reuben who is the new Featured Poet.


One reason he wants to strangle me is that I asked him to tell us more about his idea of ‘broken’ in his title “broken stories” as I really needed to know what he might mean by this.  I find it very instructive as I myself have always felt that every story or poem is only a fragment and that what we see on the page or hear from a stage is always just the one visible/audible part of a whole …  Reuben pulls this off most brilliantly as you can see (whereas I end up telling you the whole thing)  so that was the reason why I asked him to tell us more.

broken stories 2

I find his poetry haunting and technically brilliant but haven’t the words to explain this.  I suggest you look back at the poems themselves and decide for yourself. (I am particularly drawn to ‘blue violin’.)   A poem called ‘complexities’ strikes me a major theme is language and how we use it, reminding me of WS Graham’s poem ‘What is the language using us for…’

did you ever think

 i would be simple

and here:



once within this

hurtling moment


& silent.there are

no stories & now

 we’ve gone


for a green place / a

ready time

to start for zero



This narrative thing in poetry is such a conundrum.  (And it’s the same in fiction writing…in fact, it’s the story of history really now I think about it.) Reuben cuts narrative down to its bare bones, utilising punctuation and line endings to the full and creating astonishing, crafted fragments, syllable by syllable. Every word earns its place, rich with layers of meaning.  Or else is jettisoned.  Musicality, tone and the white space of silence all play their part.

There is this review of ‘broken stories’ that I found helpful.  And this one too.   This one was written by Emma Lee in London Grip.

When I asked him about the meaning of ‘broken’ in his title, Reuben wrote:

I have spent some time digging into the concept. I am grateful that geographical distance kept me from strangling her! (Me! see?)

On the inside back cover of the book I say, “For a story to be broken means that once upon a time it was whole. A story is never finished; one leads into another. However, in these dystopian times, this process has become more complex; the storyteller meets interference. These narratives that used to exist, that helped to hold a culture together, are being broken by certain people or are being weakened in our hi-tech world (with or without our collaboration)

“We are the stories.”

& this is a fiction like any other


by a corporatist state

by fake news & false storytellers

we are fragmented / searching for a next line / a new chapter / a real end/beginning // we haven’t found a new narration yet

inhabiting a dystopia perhaps the most dystopian act would be for me to write about daffodils / to pretend a normality // instead I try to give a slant voice to the dystopia & that at least makes some sense

this is very subjective

like all realities

& daffodils are revolutionary

Grammar and spacing

Some people find the formatting of my poems rather off-putting. The gaps and spaces are an integral part of the poems like the spaces in music, the larger the space, the longer the silence from which the words emerge. A slash has two possible uses: first, it may indicate an alternative or, second, it may be a short pause or a combination of the two. A full stop is only used between one clause and another with no white space before or after. This indicates that the normal intonation for sentence endings and beginnings should be used but in the same breath.

This has many roots in Olson´s combination of syllable and breath line:

“the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE
the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE
And the joker? That it is in the 1st half of the proposition that, in composing, one lets-it-rip; and that it is in the 2nd half, surprise, it is the LINE that’s the baby that gets, as the poem is getting made, the attention, the control, that it is right here, in the line, that the shaping takes place, each moment of the going.”
Charles Olson, ‘Projective Verse’. First published in Poetry New York, No. 3. 1950. Selected Writings, 1966.

See also Ginsburg and McClure for their use of breath line.

However, my breath may cover more than one line, and it may stop or pause in the middle of a line, as indicated in my explanation of punctuation above.

Paul Nelson (  ) quotes from Shahar Bram’s: Charles Olson and Alfred North Whitehead: An Essay on Poetry, who suggests that for Olson,

…poetry is not a poem: the name of an object, a finished aesthetic object, the outcome of a process is negligible. Rather, the poem is poesis; the process of creation and the poem are, at most, two names or two perspectives for contemplating the same activity, the creativity of a human being in the world…

A poem is a screen shot of a process. It is a compromise between me and the process.


I am/have been influenced by music just as much as by other poets and writers. For example:

Chaucer, John Donne, Eliot, Ted Hughes (Crow), Sylvia Plath, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé. Lorca, Celan, Vasko Popa, Adrian Henri, Jerome Rothenberg, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Bob Dylan (Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde), Roy Harper, The Grateful Dead, Captain Beefheart, Terry Riley, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry…


I also asked him to tell us more about I am not a silent poet.  And Reuben wrote:

‘I am not a silent poet’ is an online magazine for poetry and artwork of protest about abuse in all shapes and forms.

I have been seeing such increasing evidence of abuse recently that I felt it was time to do something. ‘I am not a silent poet’ looks for poems about abuse in any of its forms, colour, gender, disability, the dismantlement of the care services, the privatisation of the NHS, the rape culture and, of course, war and its victims are just the examples that come to mind at the moment.

I started I am not a silent poet (  three years 3 months ago for poems (and artwork) about abuse of all kinds, domestic, racial, religious, mental, the Tory destruction of the NHS, Trump’s possible destruction of everything, etc.

Since then it has published 2,980 poems by well-known, less well-known and almost unknown poets. It has received 152,377 hits, which is not bad for a poetry magazine

I also edit The Curly Mind ( which is for innovative, exploratory work. I started it two years 3 months ago and 480 poems have been published. It’s received 22,354 hits. Who said people don’t read avant-garde poetry?


Thank you to Reuben for his explication and for his patience.

Copies of ‘broken stories’ may be obtained from the publisher, Rhys Jones at 20/20 Vision Media Publishing by email:






About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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One Response to Reuben Woolley & ‘broken stories’

  1. Reblogged this on reubenwoolley and commented:
    Honoured to be the featured poet on Rebecca Gethin’s marvellous blog.

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