Tim Allen – ‘Peasant Tower’

I was sent some books by – the lovely – Tim Allen, and I may post some notes on a few. I started with Peasant Tower, which was published in 2021 in Disengagement Books.

46 pages each composed of 6 couplets of roughly 10 syllables and no punctuation.

It’s surrealist and, when you can locate its utterances, set in an urban environment. Peanuts, peasants, and buses, transport in general, keeps repeating, and it ends in unemphatic triumph:

When I read this without care for meaning, which seems viable as cadence feels meaningless (despite a penchant for alliteration) I get the sense of surrealism losing all but the oppressiveness of urbanity. There is a consistency of seriousness – or perhaps to its humour – throughout.

Each line reads like a hurried note, potentially combining with the next into a single thought or event. Each couplet forms a broken connection with the next, perhaps a failed commentary, the single thought being or expressed as exactly that. Each page for me formed the most obviously surreal unit, making the poem (book) as a whole, in which a referential meaning is impossible: even as words repeat they don’t construct a meaningful combination of ideas. I was going to illustrate that with two surrealist couplets from page 11 I had nearly copied out due to its repetition of ‘please’ in one line. But no such page exists.

I’d recommend this book with the caveat that surrealism is concerned with the higher or outer layer of meaning, unifying personality, thought and expression, rather than the muse.