Mark Francis Johnson

800 JKs

What did Tom Parkinson say to Alexander Clark?

I’d like to know if the library owns a rock formation shaped like  Haag which I might not have climbed already.

Tom Parkinson walks into a bar.

What’ll it be? asks Alexander Clark, the bartender.

Have we met? I’d like to know if I know yet whether the library owns a rock formation shaped like Haag which I might not  have climbed already. To which I never clomb.

Memory plays tricks, but does it joke? In 800 JKS, a deceased gentleman who collected circus memorabilia endeavours to answer this question, unaware that the real difficulty lies in determining how to pose it. His method, no less than his failure, will be familiar to anyone who habitually asks questions formed to preclude the possibility of an unfunny answer. A book for everybody, then; but a book too late to help us.  That is the 800th joke.
‘It’s a pretty obvious but nonetheless amusing paradox that, at least some of the time (and perhaps more like most of the time), jokes that aren’t funny are funnier than jokes that are funny. Mark Johnson writes directly into this problem, using
the form of the joke as a haphazard world-building (or anti-world-building) device. The poems repeatedly promise punchlines, but before the set-ups are even finished, the characters and situations melt away and regroup in new formations. The effect is partly comedic, partly analytic. Johnson is one of the most fluid and stylish writers of disjunctive verse around, and 800 JKS is a terrific and odd book that deftly trips over the awkward structure of jokes, wringing dry humour from the form itself.’

—> Steven Zultanski

Mark Francis Johnson is one third of Hiding Press, a small publishing concern focussed on experimental poetry. His most recent publications include Sham Refugia (Hiding Press, 2020), How to Flit (Roof Books, 2018), and Can of Human Heat (Golias Books, 2017). An antiquarian bookseller, he operates Hiding Place, a small shop in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife and three cats.

76 pages
105 mm x   170 mm
60 mm French flaps (cover)
Format: Paperback


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