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Forty Lies

John Gallas

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Categories: 21st Century, Humour
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (140 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2010)
£12.95 £11.65
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  • And all the buildings dance the Partyquake,
    the skirty carpets waving in the heat,
    the golden cotton scarletsilken shake
    of careless stuffit rocking manmade concrete
    hulaloola cando bedo beat
    on faith on hope on physics strength and dreams.

    from ‘Askhabad earthquake’


    ‘It is the poet’s job to invent beautiful falsehoods.’ John Gallas’s falsehoods are beautiful, ribald and audacious. Made from found language liberated from books, walls, the internet and radio, his forty lies construct an extravagant alternative reality of Russian assassins and magical shirts, Babylonian gardens, flying monks and the mathematics of Omar Khayyam. From Inner Mongolia to outer space, in tanka and sonnet and villanelle, Viking haiku and musical staves, Gallas collaborates with the print-maker Sarah Kirby to beguile the reader with stories and puzzles, and with pictures that create visual false memories of facts that never were.

    Cover illustration: Copyright © Sarah Kirby


    George Malzard, who died in Foochoofoo
    Munkhbat Jigjidym, the Mongolian wrestler
    God Defend New Zealand
    Let-we Thon-dara in exile
    Mardukapal-Iddina II and the herb garden
    The Picards’ balloon
    The meeting of Saadi and Khusrau
    Maria Spiridonova, assassin
    Gerard de Nerval and the lobster
    William Whiston at Cambridge
    Mirsaid Mirshakar, a Tajik tragedy
    Louis Robert makes paper
    ‘Talismanic Shirts’, by Professor Tezcan
    The burned at Drumcollogher
    Askhabad earthquake
    The shame of T.E. Lawrence
    Pedro Alvarez Cabral
    Man versus Kangaroo
    Three songs by Noyon Khutayt Ravjaa
    The Art of One Word
    Saint Jose Cupertino, the flying monk
    The Weka
    King Farouk and the prawn
    Ornithoptera goliath
    The Rooster’s Message
    Ariwara Narihira (825-880)
    Saint-Saëns dances with Tchaikovsky
    Pliny the Elder and the camel
    The faithful elephant of Porus the Great
    Plunkett and Casement at war
    What Saparmurat Niyazov did
    Turks on all fours
    Allah and the cockerel
    Danish haiku
    Omar Khayyam’s algebra
    The trial of Orhan Pamuk

    It is the job of the poet to invent beautiful falsehoods - Umberto Eco

    John Gallas was born in New Zealand in 1950. He came to England in the 1970s to study Old Icelandic at Oxford and has since lived and worked in York, Liverpool, Upholland, Little Ness, Rothwell, Bursa, Leicester, Diyarbakir, Coalville and Markfield, as a bottlewasher, archaeologist, and teacher. His books are published ... read more
    Praise for John Gallas 'John Gallas is not merely a lyric master, but a master of meaning... The Extasie is a collection that I feel I will be coming back to frequently, not just to recapture the enjoyment I had when first reading it, but also to fully bathe in the complex understanding of love in all its forms, rendered so skilfully in poems that reward a second reading with subtle epiphanies.'

    Ed Bedford, Coffee Time Reviews

    'This is a book for contemplative reading to enjoy all its richness and subtleties. Quietly thought provoking and intelligent, these are poems that celebrate the messiness of life.'

    - Mary Mulholland, The Alchemy Spoon
     'An enticing and timely collection of translations.'
    - The Guardian

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