Saturday, 2 January 2010

Poetry: Recommendations from 2009 (6 of 6) Kenny Knight 'The Honicknowle Book of the Dead'

'The Honicknowle Book of the Dead' by Kenny Knight

Some poets invent their own language, others their own reputation, but Kenny Knight has created his own world. It exists in parallel to ours and the only portal to it can be found in Buckingham Shed at an undisclosed location in Honicknowle, Plymouth, Devon, England. Kenny has been sending us poetic missives from that parallel world now for some time and finally they've been collected together by Shearsman Books.

I recently visited Bhutia Busty Gompa in Darjeeling in the Himalaya where the original of the Tibetan Book of the Dead is stored in strips of parchment bound by wood. I presented the abbot of the monastery with our own culture's Book of the Dead in more convenient paperback form. The monk looked Kenny's picture in the eye for a long time before whispering important words in my ear. I can tell you what he told me then - that Kenny Knight is a bodhisattva, the second Plymothian to be recognised as a reincarnated lama, following in the footsteps of the Lobsang Rampa, born Cyril Henry Hoskin, a West country plumber whose own third eye opened around the time Kenny was born. And that concurrence is probably not a coincidence.

Like Cyril, Kenny had no need to leave Plymouth to reach enlightenment, it came to him at a bus stop on Honicknowle Green. Since then, Kenny has been sharing his findings from that parallel reality with us by publishing them in occasional poetry magazines and reading to unsuspecting audiences in supermarket cafes and public libraries. And the people respond to what they hear, because they recognise themselves in his work, and realise that their lives are more mysterious and more compelling than they previously believed - that they can achieve enlightenment too - maybe in the local Pound Shop, possibly on a park bench, potentially in Buckingham Shed, if only they could find it and hear the music of its fabled Collective.

Kenny does deadpan delivery better than anybody. His voice is on the page; you can hear it, even if you haven't heard it. The tone is conversational - a conversation you want to have - but despite the jumps in time, space, dimension and focus - no intrusion is unwelcome and no line wasted. Everything is linked to everything else and because something in your life will have something in common with something in Kenny's life, every single one of us is linked to Kenny Knight. Whether we like it or not.

Time is fluid, but folds in on itself sometime in 1963. Honicknowle becomes a mandala for the wider universe, and each event that occurs there takes on special significance: pouring the tea is a tea ceremony, joining a queue is a religious observance, going to school is like walking from one body into another, teddy bears are great teachers, a trip round the block is equivalent to a voyage round the world and the afterlife turns out to be the before life - in a terraced house on the Honnicknowle Hills. An autobiography in verse is the last thing that should be written; if one is written, it is the last thing you should read; for this re-imagining of a life story, make an exception. Once the donkey's bitten you, he won't let go.

Kenny Knight will be appearing on The Blah Blah Blah Show on Phonic FM on February 7th 2010 at noon.

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