Britain has been an island for millennia, so it’s had a long time to accumulate a wealth of legends and lore that seem to suggest almost every inch of it is in some way haunted. Dark forests, foreboding lakes, ruined castles and, in more recent times, abandoned factories, hospitals and former military installations, all providing ample opportunity for the prepared mind to unhinge itself and allow entry to all manner of presences. For some, the ideal locus for such supernatural reveries is our hundreds of miles of coastline; from its windswept clifftops to its litter-strewn seafronts, from its gaudy amusement arcades to its crumbling piers, its an ozone-drenched interzone between the land and the dark amnion of the sea, and one that constantly inspires intriguing artistic responses. From M.R. James’ ‘Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad’ to Gaiman & McKean’s Mr Punch, from Neil Jordan’s Byzantium to Miles Gibson’s The Sandman, from Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory to that key scene in James Herbert’s The Fog, where the entire population of a seaside town marches with suicidal resolution into the sucking tide. It all seems to confirm that things are indeed ‘stranger by the shore’, and serving to further support that assertion comes Nothing Spectral Just Offshore, a collection of 14 poems by Martin Jones. Each is inspired by the author’s experiences in specific locations along the British coast, from the North East to the South West. Visions compressed down to a diamond-hard succinctitude. Personal, portentous and provocative. Imagine Philip Larkin sat under the pier eating a bag of chips, while in the amusement arcade above him the jukebox plays The Cramp’s cover of ‘Fever’. Meanwhile, Nick Cave walks by, watching for mermaids rising from the waves but instead finding a hen party wearing teabag-sized dresses, dancing shoeless in the surf. Vampire succubi stare at the moon from shabby B&B bedroom windows while a long black tentacle slides through the shingle, raking through the washed up bottles of Frosty Jack and forgotten beach toys, inching towards a dosser passed out behind the bandstand.

With startling illustrations by Derek Gray, evocative of the Neo-Romantic visions of John Piper and Graham Sutherland, this book is a unique document that only serves to deepen the mystery that lurks at our liquid borderlands.

Published by Exile In The Margins.

40 pages. A6 paperback. 100 numbered copies. £3 & postage. Order HERE.

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