“Re-imagining the research of Laing and Esterson, Alex Reed’s multi-vocal knots, tangles, fankles asks important questions about sanity, madness and the family in a time before the digital became part of the story. This story revolves around Hazel, a young working class girl with the odds stacked against her, and it is both everyday and appalling. A shifting constellation of voices, overheard from behind closed doors, animates an insightful and sensitive collection of poems to think, learn and feel with. Carefully choreographed, all the protagonists earn our sympathy. They hold up a mirror to the human predicament – in black and white, compelling and filmic, concealing as much as they reveal, getting under your skin and staying with you long after reading the last page.” Linda France
“Alex Reed’s debut poetry collection knots, tangles, fankles tells the powerful, heart-breaking story of Hazel, sixteen years old and diagnosed as schizophrenic. Demonstrating a deft, versatile, and compassionate hand, Reed unveils Hazel’s true plight, not only through the surreal imagery of her thoughts, but also through the voices of those both hindering and healing her: from alarmed and hyper-protective parents, to institutionalised hospital staff, to the grounding, reassuring, real-life Dr Aaron Esterson, who along with R. D. Laing sought to uncover the source of mental illness in families using unconventional theories and methods. Though this is Hazel’s journey, each of Reed’s characters is undergoing their own personal struggle and anguish. In a setting similar to Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and based on true cases, Esterson enables Hazel ‘but for the first time to hear [her] own voice’. It speaks to Reed’s ability as a poet that such a moment is so keenly felt and quietly celebrated by the reader, especially in the light of what follows.” Charles G Lauder Jr
Knots, tangles, fankles is a very poignant and very penetrating poetic sequence in multiple voices.
A sample poem from the collection can be found below.
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fast as my clockwork legs can take me
past the room where the nurses drink tea
a voice on the telly is talking about me
this is a story about the woodentops
mummy & daddy woodentop
their woodentop girl whose name was hazel
& the biggest spotty dog you ever did see
one day daddy came home for his dinner
mummy was busy in the kitchen
little hazel was nowhere to be seen
that girl was always disappearing
mummy woodentop said to daddy woodentop
the girl’s not right, we’ll have her mended
let’s call for the woodentop doctor
he’ll saw her head open, hack out the rot
paint her fresh eyes & a pretty red mouth
fix her with glue just like new
down the corridor to meet the doctor
but dr esterson didn’t have a saw
never did much, just sat in his room
smiled when she came through the door
then lit up his pipe & winked as he asked
did you ever wish to be real
not made of wood?
The characters in knots, tangles, fankles are distinguished by different fonts and poetry styles. A pdf list of the character voices with their different fonts, which may be printed for use as a place-marker when reading, can be downloaded here.
Also available from V. Press: These nights at home by Alex Reed, with photos by Keren Banning.
“[…] Reed stretches form to allow these multiple voices to shift, in style and font. This skillfully creates a disorientating effect while offering their different experiences and perspectives. Changes in metre and pace increase this effect. To say it is intense is to underestimate its readability […] this absorbing collection is a fine example of how poetry can showcase important uncomfortable issues.” Mary Mulholland, The Alchemy Spoon, full review on page 94 here.
“knots, tangles, fankles is a highly ambitious and original collection where Reed takes the complex and detailed research of Sanity, Madness and the Family and transforms it into a multi-vocal poetic sequence which not only engages with its radical theoretical ideas but also speaks to the human distress and pain experienced by some individuals and their families.” Jeremy Kearney, The Polophony, full review here.