Review: Machine by James Knight


At Osmosis, our reviewers are encouraged to respond to and review work creatively. The only formal limitation is a word count guide of 250 words. Short, sweet and with a little bite. We see reviews as a chance to converse, whether that’s about form, creative practice, ideas or language. Interested in reviewing with us? Contact our Reviews Editor, Jayd Green.


Machine, by James Knight. Available here. Published by Trickhouse Press.


When I think of James Knight’s work as a visual poet, I think of a decadent, digital
maximalism, a dark surrealism with messy cyberpunk and body-horror vibes (I
particularly enjoyed ‘Mother Tongue’, the red, womby fold-out from Colossive Press).
I was surprised, then, to encounter the stripped back minimalism of Machine, the
seeming simplicity of the black text and schema on the white page.

As I’ve come to expect in a pamphlet from Trickhouse, the work embodies a dial-up
nostalgia in the form of retro, Personal Computer kitsch, and doesn’t take itself too
seriously – in fact, play and playfulness seem paramount. The typeface and font size
varies, is greyed out, bold, overlapping, competing, containing. The text box border
is back in fashion, both solid and dotted, and yes, you guessed it! the drop-shadow is
in the house. The accompanying images are clip art chimera or bad-trip vectors –
human-lobster hybrids, a flower with a single molar at its centre, skeletons, and…
Ants. They pepper the pamphlet, evoking Dali’s ants as symbols of death and decay
– themes that plague this pamphlet. I also had Burroughs’ The Soft Machine in mind
as I encountered this work, with its focus on the body as machine, on
metamorphosis and mechanisms of control.

The pamphlet offers a playfully bleak commentary on the contemporary human
condition – it subverts, deconstructs and pokes fun at advertising slogans (Feeling
smokescreen?), health messaging (To avoid brittle eye syndrome…), cultural
imperatives (suffer the delusion) and various bits of Internet detritus.


Emma Filtness (she/her) is a poet and senior lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University London. Her pamphlet of collage poems, The Venus Atmosphere, is out now with Steel Incisors, and Bandaged Dreams is out soon with Broken Sleep Books. Twitter: @em_filtness 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: