we are all fools here / we do not speak his language…
Zoe Brooks published a collection of poetry in 2020 called Owl, Unbound, which remains in my top twenty favourite poetry books of all time. This piece however began its life back in 2013, where it won the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition’s award for best poetry ebook.
Fool’s Paradise isn’t a selection of poems. It is a massive, 66 page ‘poem for voices’ which was first performed in London, back in 1992. I wonder how many of these words were inspired by Hannah Kodicek, whose monoprint is the main cover’s striking illustration.
Lessons from the Text
In the last few days, I’ve picked out favourite poems from my previous selections, but Zoe’s work is not built like that. It is a fascinating, dense and dark narrative that takes you on a journey: of the Fool, and the three Travellers that accompany him. It brings to mind not just narrative poetry from my past, but the works of Brecht and Beckett in its telling.
If you are not aware of the events of the Velvet Revolution or indeed of the political complexities that existed in Europe during and after the fall of Communism in so many countries, it is very much worth your time investigating these before you read Zoe’s work. It can be occasionally confusing with four different voices, but I absolutely encourage you to persist.
Zoe’s story is of unexplained loss, of violence and fear, and how close we live to death whilst still moving forward with our lives. The Travellers tell stories of places and events that could be real, or imagined… or are they simply reminding us that Hell is often a place where other people hide themselves, to allow a measure of control of their lives and others?
Will you read it again? I have not yet done this work justice, and I’m on my third read. Each time I’ve seen something different in the text, it’s opened up new and fresh questions and queries. Do I need to know the real truth about it in order to enjoy what I’m reading? I didn’t think so.
Would you recommend it for me to read? Absolutely. I’d like to see someone do this justice one day as a radio event, or at least pick four people to read the parts with a proper aural accompaniment. I think it could be a great gateway experience to explain what went on and how it was created by Zoe.