The debut collection of poetry from the Opus Kink frontman captures the grimness and beauty of modern urban life.
A birdshit splattered cover heralds ‘Dog Replica’, the debut poetry collection from Angus Rogers, perhaps better known here as the frontman for the grizzly brass punk chaos of Opus Kink. The cover is a suitable invitation, abject and grim of course, yet still suggestive of something sublime, with its almost abstract expressionist framing. Angus’ morbid fascinations, suggested in his lyricism, are given time here to crawl out for inspection. It has been suggested that Angus’ work is obsessed with death, but it seems this obsession functions primarily as a means to invigorate existence. As his ‘gory waiter’ would have it, “death is simply the best garnish for life”.
Space to Breathe, Space to Fester
“It seems a shame to bring the mood down, but I’m gonna fucking do it anyway”. This was Angus’ introduction to his own musical set, which closed the launch night for the book at the Heavenly Social last November. On this occasion, a set of readings and a set of songs from Angus bookended complimentary poetry performances. The fan of a songwriter cannot help but initially approach their poetry in relation to their lyricism. In Angus’ case, this situation provides fruitful, with his poetry suggesting a similar tone and atmosphere to a lyricism that can function as a primer for it. As such, the dark, writerly Americana of ‘Painted Bird’ seemed an appropriate endnote for a night built around showcasing his poetry.
Dog Replica also puts meat on the bones of the subject matter that defines Opus Kink’s music. The virile filth that bonds their limited discography might appear gratuitous in its musical setting, might be seen as simply an incitement to the ritualistic debasement of launching pints and aggressively moshing. Here, however, we see the potential for greater literary depth in the chosen subject matter, which is given a little more space to breathe, or fester, as appropriate.
Although it is easy to recourse here to the language of ‘festering’, these poems should not be dismissed as scoring points off of the repulsive. It is more that an awareness of these elements defines Angus’ relationship to everything, and indeed sharpens his more beautiful observations. ‘Azrael’ comments on its own string of imagery in clarification of the position that, “It’s wonderful until you stick your head into it and then it’s something else”.
On Death and George Tavern Guinness
Behind a veneer of gothic language and literary timelessness, Dog Replica is decidedly contemporary, and Angus’ work draws its unique personality from this synthesis of influences. Modern references are sprinkled without gratuity, as in ‘Filthy in the Style’, a festival season lament. Airpods are abstracted as an ‘earpiece’, ‘phone signal’ takes on a crucial dramatic importance. While they wonder at the absolute, and grapple with mortality, at heart these are poems to be washed down with a £6 Guinness at The George Tavern.
The influence of London’s music scene runs into the production of this book by Toothgrinder Press and the Brothers Green, of whom Ned is the lead singer of Legss. Angus initially met Ned on the poetry circuit, but their association has deepened with the development of each of their bands, often mentioned in the same breath, and found on the same playlists and billings. A certain creative intimacy clearly shaped the presentation of these works, which speak of a shared response to 2020s London, seeking out transcendence and beauty in the grimmest of situations. William Green frames the twenty-one poems among shit-smeared Bruegels, cultish symbols and dramatic black and white photos that capture not only the tone of the poetry but also that of what no one involved would want me to call Angus’ brand. As a collection, Dog Replica speaks not only of Angus’ individual ideas and influences, but also the circles of artists, poets and musicians in which he moves.
‘If you build it, they will come’
The Dog Replica launch night was celebratory, not only of Angus’ work, but also the poetry community that he has helped to foster in London. The lineup featured a string of poets whose work and styles I have grown to recognise through my own regular attendance at Blue Shout, the Peckham-based open mic night Angus runs, as well as its Bermondsey sibling Gobjaw. These occasions are always impressive for the quality and range of work on offer, as well as for the open-minded community spirit they encourage. Angus will always rush to stem any suggestion of his having any kind of impresario-like influence over Blue Shout’s success, citing instead an attitude of, ‘If you build it, they will come’. Yet there is a lot to be said for the value of his hosting, which maintains an encouraging energy and deflects from the occasion ever taking itself too seriously. That the book and its launch party were such a success is a direct result of the likes of Angus and what they have given to the city’s poetry community.
As such, Dog Replica is a living artefact of London’s creative underground. I first heard many of these poems at Blue Shout and can still imagine Angus’ voice as I read them. Its formal style is rooted in an ethos forged between the city’s poetry and music scenes. Its audience has been cultivated and expanded through the wonderfully accessible channels of open mics, zines and affordable gigs. The writing itself is intense and eloquent, rendering our shared moment in timeless literary traditions. Yet perhaps the greater joy, at least for those of us with access to it today, is that a work like can exist on its own insistent terms. Like the eponymous dog, it leans, “Into the mountain of shit, That keeps our lives clean”, equally fascinated and horrified, but ultimately galvanised by it.