Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Virus Diaries: Travels in Alterrealities

Available on Amazon 

On 16 July 3580 Franz Nelson Moebius, lead scientist of the Gaia III mission on Earth, records a long message on the central database of Mars's Armageddon Colony, where humanity had to relocate when earth was declared unliveable. His message includes a selection of fragments from the 'Virocene': the long epoch humanity and earth entered when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic - one of the many viral onsets that would lead to the human species' relocation to Mars. Lost to plundering, political airbrushing and misplaced activism, the archives of the Virocene are now a strange hybrid of science fiction screenplays, distorted history and records of political espionage previously stored in Langley, London, the metropolitan headquarters of a network of Chinese colonies. Among them, Franz finds the Chronicles of the 'Daisy Rainbow Knights Order', a small anarchist cell comprised of Melissa Dreary, PVJB, SKA and TCE, which believes in a society free of the inequality sustained by authoritarianism and climate change. Its work on the invention of a master vaccine that will free humanity of hatred and illness is plotted in the context of progressive human rights repression and environmental pollution. Willing to risk everything, the cell's members decide to release their vaccine on the rift created between this world and the world of ancestral spirits, where, centuries into the Virocene, the government eliminated black populations protesting against inequality. However, the road to recovery and reconciliation proves as difficult as a coherent reading of the surviving records of the cosmogonic event that the Daisy Rainbow Knights Order set in motion with their actions: the 'Commemoration Troubles' of SARS-26-Covid 3004.The Virus Diaries unfolds as a collection of different stories that converge behind the idea of a social and environmental crisis, as this is narrated by several voices across millennia in the Virocene. Its central plot, which borrows from cinematic and discursive renditions of magical realism, science fiction and memory studies, forms an allegory of real problems that humanity and our planet face today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Everything makes sense now little girl

In crazy political times, all you can do is have a nutter. A contemporary surrealist note on feminism to have with your breakfast (or brunch) after the (first) US election day. From Altermodernities: A Traveller's Notes (Book 3), which you can purchase in paperback from Amazon at:

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

POETRY REVIEW 2: Tim Cresswell, Soil, Fence, Plastiglomerate

Tim Cresswell, Soil, London: Penned in the Margins, 2013/2020 (£9.99, paperback, ISBN:978-1-908058-15-7)

Tim Cresswell, Fence, London: Penned in the Margins, 2015/2020 (£9.99, paperback, ISBN: 978-1-908058-31-7).

Tim Cresswell, Plastiglomerate, Penned in the Margins, 2015/2020 (£9.99, paperback, ISBN: 978-1-908058-76-8).

Reviewer: Rodanthi Tzanelli

The idea that a neatly organised volume of rhymed ideas mushrooms out of nowhere betrays an ill-informed view on the ways poets arrive at a beautiful and/or politically informed product. Likewise, the claim that poets manufacture well-organised ‘trilogies’ without a great deal of a posteriori engineering – both in terms of self-narration and promotion – projects a flat picture of works with a deep passion for language and ideas. Works of passion are uneven and occasionally also contingent results of one’s craft, regardless of the mentorship one enjoys to perfect what one does. I find that this is the case with Tim Cresswell’s self-proclaimed trilogy ‘Earthworks’: the product of a beautifully crafted, but also often uneven, labour of love that developed across a decade, each of the three books (Soil, 2013; Fence, 2015; and Plastiglomerate, 2020) is self-standing, both stylistically and conceptually.

This is not an accusation – had this been the case, the reviewer would have acted in bad faith, given her recently published trilogy (the production of whose poems dates as far back as the late 1990s). Rather, it is an observation on the manifestation of a common structure in presenting poetic ideas in published form, behind which uniqueness and an unconfessed commitment to particular idea(l)s hide. To properly review Cresswell’s work I would need more space than I have here. As a compromise, I endeavour to provide some vignettes from his three books, which I consider significant, if one wants to unearth both commonalities and unconfessed commitments (an arc or series of arcs). Cresswell has consistently received praise for his work, in which his “scientific eye” is stressed somehow disproportionally over his sentimental and aesthetic/emotional moments. Resorting to such typifications is both understandable (he is a well-known geographer in academia) and not entirely accurate. It is possible that because we belong to the same international and interdisciplinary network of the ‘new mobilities paradigm’ I can provide an alternative look into his work.

I do not see his books as a trilogy, but an intricate referential web in which we find the effects of modern human behaviour on society and natural life. Cresswell is a humanist at heart (he is a declared disciple of the late humanist geographer Y.F. Tuan), so even when his writing focuses on pollution (as is the case in the Plastiglomerate), he is reluctant to decentre the human voice from his poetic scenario. The rare appearance of anti-humanist philosophical voices such as Foucault in Soil begins with an abstract analysis of soil-land-territory only to progress to an intimate discussion with “mother” (possibly a metaphor for earth or land?). Therefore, we are back to interrogating the place of humans in the new scientific principles of abstraction. Humans also constantly travel the high Arctic in search of meaning and belonging where boundaries and borders divide and define:

“This fence: 

metal posts mark out empty intervals

post   space   post   space   post   space

borders   boundaries     beating the bounds

once a year:    post      post      post […]

chainlengths    poles    planks    beams   barbed wire    electric

rips and zaps     snagged clothes      snarls of wood on nails […]”

If not a trilogy, then what? Let me try to walk you through a few signposts scattered across the three books to highlight their hidden arc-plot(s): speaking of water consumption in “A Glass of Water” in Soil announces the appearance of several human actors, who drink several pints of it – “they say my body is sixty percent this”, one of them says. “I thought of France/my family/my friends/the fine sky”, and again, “when I was far from home/when/I was north/when/I had grown accustomed to blue sky […] I stumbled in with my cameras and calamity”,  he proclaims in Fence (xxxv), despite the book’s fascination with the exotic border. “I can’t breathe”, he says, when “Alice” turns up in “Tremor” in Plastiglomerate with nails painted in different colours, “each one a flag that means/something to her”. The human narrator asphyxiates in these snapshots and feels alienated by the fast pace of social change – note that this is the work of one of the leading names in the new mobilities paradigm. Often non-human species assume in his writing anthropomorphic qualities, or, otherwise, the poet assumes the role of an observer of their fortunes in the Anthropocene, often from afar:

“Here come the helicopters

The cameramen, clamouring

For coverage, risking a stampede.

The walruses hunker down

Waiting for a freeze-up.” (“Haul Out”, Plastiglomerate)

It is not always clear whether Cresswell is a virtual traveller or a presenter of real experiences he has collected during his actual journeys. I respect the preservation of this ambiguity as the sign of a successful staging of events. However, the same ambiguity generates a stark contrast in his poetry between his horror towards cultures of speed and his composed use of technologies associated with such cultures to craft stories. I have used this technique deliberately myself, and I wonder to what extent it is a conscious occurrence in his work. I received no actual response to the question I recently asked him on whether he is a magical realist (a theme I spotted in his use of folk myth to weave ideas of transformation in Soil and Plastiglomerate) and wonder whether this is an unconscious trend too. These dispositions work towards one end, which, in my opinion is both magical and poignant.

To me, Cresswell’s ‘trilogy’ presents an alternative narrative of nostalgia, which he prefers to camouflage as an “out of place” poetics of place (a theme in his academic work). If humanist Y.F. Tuan and literary/social theorist Walter Benjamin are among his favourite intellectuals, “Alice” is not in his fictional world. If there is a trace of the “scientific gaze” in his poetry, it is mostly cast upon the ways new age humans behave: they both fascinate him and amplify feelings of uncertainty about the future in some of his poems. When he speaks about transformations in his adaptation of Tam Lin in “Turn” (Soil), I have the feeling that he conveys through erotic and somatosensory language visceral encounters with the unknown, as well as the limits of human articulation of the massive: pollution, social breakdown, and “homelessness”. His affective style is more present and more effective in “Turn” and The “Two Magicians” (Plastiglomerate) than in his shorter poems, such as “A Theory of Migration” (Plastiglomerate), or “Disappointment” (Soil), which have the form (again, intentionally, I suspect) of dry PowerPoint presentations to convey rationalisation and alienation. 

I bought all three books to read them carefully in my spare time, hoping that they will be as interesting as the academic work that Creswell does. I found their themes strangely familiar but also uncanny in their atmospheric presentation. Cresswell is a good stylist, but also a polemicist when it comes to questions of politics. His poetry revealed a different side, more nuanced in its regard and possibly also more in line with the great critical analysts of modernity. Without suggesting “pomophobia”, Cresswell is closer to modernist trends. I am not sure whether this work would appeal to the young generations of poets, mainly because its sober and at times elegiac tone transcends individual concerns that rightly occupy more space among the younger creative voices. It is, however, delightful to ponder for anyone interested in subtle critique and the dark side of hope in an age of uncertainty.

Poetry Review, 1: Awakening by Sam Love

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

 Sam Love, Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival, New Mills, Derbyshire: Fly on the Wall Press, 2020 (£6.99, paperback, ISBN: 978-1-913211-06-6)

Reviewer: Rodanthi Tzanelli

The review will appear in TPQ

There is something sublime when reading about disappearing rainforests and a diagnosis of the onset of a Spermageddon in Sam Love’s latest volume, Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival. The tone of the poems is orchestrated around notions of an impending loss of ecosystemic balance on a planetary scale, and yet, readers often find themselves smiling at his controlled humour or horrified at the absurdity of human behaviour. Structured into four parts (“Awakening”, “Origins”, “Impacts” and “Recovering Hope”), the collection retains the arc of an ecological drama in which humanity is both the agent of disaster and its ultimate victim. There is no doubt that Love thinks of this escalation into nothingness in more positive terms than the catastrophists of climate change: the book ends with a low-key note on our agency in small acts of kindness toward nature, such as planting a tree, letting it flourish and watching squirrels “weave their nests” in its branches. However, between the conclusion and the grim opening of the book, in which someone reflects on the gallons of water they use to relax in a jacuzzi (“as much … as a rural African / villager uses in ten days”), we are taken on a rather unpleasant trip into the Anthropocene.

Like most of Love’s previously published poetry, this chapbook reflects his interest in questions of energy and the environment. His creative thinking blends tropes of realism and surrealism, always with a large dose of humour:

“If aliens wanted to destroy rival humanoids,

what better way than to dangle

a synthetic material so enticing,

we couldn’t resist the lure

of a plastic covered Earth?” 

His style is openly pedagogical (he has a jargon-free “module” that he wants to teach us) and teleological (it will be about the end of life, if we are not very good students), but also intentionally erratic (here very serious, there bordering on the strange), so that he unsettles us. “If bacteria could do a belly laugh”, he asks, “they’d be doubling over, because the real joke is on us: humans who think we rule the earth”. Such Shakespearean prognostications on our demise teach humility and occasionally aim to induce guilt: for stylising our kitchen surfaces with ancient trees that natives respected as their source of sustenance for centuries, when we display them now as tokens of conspicuous consumption until they begin to develop cracks; for honouring our beloved dead by placing on their grave “nearly-natural synthetic flowers”, because they can “keep standing up, when you lay your loved one down”; or not collecting rogue plastic bags from the streets but letting them join during downpours other plastic detritus “destined to become the legacy of our so-called civilization”.

There is a strong contemplative feel in this collection, which I associate - in my vocation as a scholar and my own work as a writer of poetry - with pilgrimage. There is no religious association in his poetry, but only a desire to restore harmony both materially and emotionally in our world. Love asks us to light a candle for Mother Earth and “imagine [our] contribution to healing the planet”, but the call is not a New Age ritual. The hard facts of pollution, neglect and overconsumption that he lays out in his work are very difficult to stomach, and even more difficult to challenge at the level of practice in a world bound by capitalist mobilities and corruption. However, his ode to the ways the histories of human hubris and nature’s retaliation against our excesses are inextricably intertwined is worth reading for the clarity of its message and beautiful form.  


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Worldmakings: A Book of Blogs

Kindle edition on Amazon
Paperback edition on Amazon

The present book includes a collection of essays organised into four thematic clusters that converge behind a single conceptual umbrella: that of worldmaking. Philosophical in its origins, ‘worldmaking’ refers to both cognitive and practical acts that organise the physical and social environments we inhabit. Section one (Gendered Worldmakings: Interplays of Culture with Politics) considers the behaviour and actions of some political leaders and former politicians, who tend to adopt gendered styles in the discharge of their duties or the choices they make, with various consequences of international or cultural significance. Section two (Small Acts with Grave Consequences) does something similar, but selects incidents whose protagonists are not celebrities but common citizens who react to particular pressures. Section three (Markets and Intersectional Worldmakings) considers the worldmaking power of international markets, especially with regards to their ability to trap or liberate human subjects from structures of inequality. The last section (Worldmakings and Sustainability) interrogates the ways organisations and state institutions act to create or sometimes unintentionally destroy liveable environments for world societies.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Constellations: A Trilogy


The three collections that feature in this book were fragments of impressions that I have been collecting from my journeys since my relocation to the UK. A Greek by birth, but a traveller at heart, I love blending stories I hear with my own perceptions of the cultures and people I meet. The first collection (‘Anna’s Lament’) features the oldest poems, and is designed on archaic myths and medieval Greek historical personalities; the second collection (‘Envisaged Certainties’) is progressively more hybrid in its narratorial and literary style, introducing towards the end travels in the cyberspace; the last collection (‘Elements and Lovers’) anchors its key plot on digital travel, to conclude the trilogy on reflections regarding the significance of embodiment and affect in forming enduring relationships.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Call for Blogposts, Northern Notes Blog, School of Sociology & Social Policy, Leeds

During April and May 2020, the Northern Notes Blog, a blog published by the School of Sociology and Social Policy (SSP) at the University of Leeds, is recruiting international scholars and final-year doctoral students to contribute to its ground-breaking series on the impact of the COVID-19 on society, culture and politics. We are looking for short contributions on a particular aspect of the contributor’s personal research that connects to the COVID-19 crisis. Country-specific proposals are most welcome, and area-specific ideas (e.g. tourism mobilities, social movements, art etc) are preferred. Thematically open but structured around the idea of cultural and/or societal crisis, these short posts will feature in the School’s official website and be advertised internationally by the University’s marketing team. For previous published posts and an overview of the School’s NNB programmatic statement please visit:

We welcome reactive posts. These posts are important for raising awareness of the contributor’s research expertise (and areas of non-academic impact), informing wider public debate of social scientific perspectives. The blog is overseen by an editorial team of academic staff. The core team includes Dr Rodanthi Tzanelli (Current Editor-in-Chief), Dr Roxana Barbulescu, Dr Sarah Marusek and Dr Abel Ugba, along with Director of Research, Dr Paul Baguley, Head of REF Dr Angharad Beckett and Head of School, Professor Bobby Sayyid.  All posts will be reviewed and copy-edited by the editorial team before publication.

Interested scholars, practitioners and doctoral students must have a mastery of English and a specific research agenda around which they will structure their blogpost (1,000-1,500 words). For initial expressions of interest please email Dr Rodanthi Tzanelli at (email title: ‘NNB COVID-19 Series Expression of Interest’) with a 100-word abstract and a provisional title of your proposed blogpost. The deadline for accepting proposals is 15 May 2020.