THE DIRT ON CLEAN
Hello, my beautiful humans. Thank you for visiting. I hope you are treating yourselves with all the kindness you deserve.
This post is a super special one. Not because the book I am about to share with you has haunted me since I devoured it for the first time, nor because of the tears shed with the second and third reading, but because the human who wrote it is one of those humans you know, upon the first hearing of their words, are here for a purpose. You know, deep inside they know things you never want to know, because the experiences you would need to have survived to know them, would destroy you. You know you must somehow get to know them because they could help you make sense of all that makes no sense, yet feel incredibly unworthy of taking up their time - a ridonculous thing to think because it would never cross their mind - so you hesitate, skirting about their periphery in the hopes that one day, just maybe, something you have to say moves them enough to come up to you and say a kind word or two.
Scott Patrick Mitchell is that person for me and their latest book, Clean, will stay close at hand on my bedside table, indefinitely. Their words, brutally ethereal, paint pictures that drift and hang like mist in pockets of my brain and there is no dispersing them with a bit of sunshine.
Clean, paints a full and detailed picture of SPM's journey from trauma to addiction to clean, yet with every word I felt skeletal and hollowed out. I have no idea what internal epiphany took place or what triggered it but at some point, despite all the events, abuses and misuses, that have shaped them - and continue to be a daily challenge I have no doubt - SPM chose to bestow upon themselves the kindness and decency others hadn't and with the sharing of this book gifts us a new perspective through which to view the world of a fellow human.
I have argued the pros and cons of quoting lines that made me want to scratch, that brought instant tears, and even ones that triggered waves of nausea upon the reading. I am not a literary critic by any stretch. I make no secret of the fact I have no university degree, or any skillset whatsoever, that makes me qualified to critique anyone's work, but, I feel. I feel things viscerally, physically and emotionally and this has always been how I measure and navigate my world. So, I will not quote lines and try to offer up some fake, 'this will make me look intelligent' interpretation of them, but I will say, lines like, 'There is a man who claims to be family. He teaches you to whimper with a full mouth.', made me physically retch. Such clean, uncomplicated words, placed one after the other to form two short sentences that left me with feelings so complicated all I could do was read them over and over until they, like the actions of any abuser, made no sense. Scott-Patrick's poems are invariably built from words pure and sparse, shaped into sentences unsullied by the non-essential, yet which conjure images complex and dirty that land with such force they leave a bruise on your heart.
Says SPM, 'Repetition is a bruise thing. Bodies are built for enduring.', and, they, are right, but I do hope that just because we are built for enduring, at some point we finally realise there are other ways to exist.
As this very beautiful book, that so exquisitely shares the ugly of addiction, and the brutality of recovery, comes to its closing pages we get to experience the sacred love of child for mother. Of all the poems, Ingredients for Grief, had me sobbing the hardest. I have not yet been able to read it without tears freefalling. It is the most beautiful poem on grief I have ever read and yet still, right to the very end SPM manages to capture such depth and clarity in sentences unmuddied by extraneous words.
I know I have probably shared too few lines from Clean in favour of my own feelings but I truly do
not feel competent enough to express how all the singular lines making up each poem changed me
as I read and re-read them. All I can do is offer up gratitude that SPM has shared such a body of
works with us and say with great certainty this is a book that you will want to read for yourself.
As always I will draw this post to a close, by requesting just the simplest of things - next time you come across an addict or homeless person or someone who is generally less fortunate than yourself, take one moment to see them. Take one moment to imagine a story different to the judgemental statement that leaps into your head or worse, the one that doesn't because pretending not to see them for the sake of self-preservation has too firmly taken hold. Take just one moment to be all the decent you can be. Who knows how many potential Scott-Patrick Mitchells are out there with stories to enlighten us on all the experiences outside of our own that make up the collective experience of being human.
Scott-Patrick Mitchell is a Boorloo based poet and the first WA poet to receive the Red Room Poetry Fellowship. Their debut collection, Clean, explores addiction and recovery and is out now via Upswell. https://upswellpublishing.com/product/clean
Scott-Patrick Mitchell Upcoming Events
SATURDAY 11TH JUNE: Perth Poetry Club at The Moon Cafe, Perth
Live and on Zoom
Join on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84254037443
Clean is the Queer Book Club book of the month
If you would like to join please click here:
Sept 30-Oct 8: Perth Poetry Festival