Paper Road – Dystopian Surrealist Poems

Alex has completed composing the poems for the third collection in his Archons trilogy, which began with Seclusion Data, and continued with Time of the Archons. The book is titled Paper Road, and contains 36 dystopian surrealist poems, divided into three sections, in keeping with the structure of the two previous books. The three sections in Paper Road are Destruction Gully, Pendulum Hill, and Ghost River.

The book revisits the travelogue framework used in The Slow Road to Gore, though the similarities end there. While Gore was a Dionysian, cartoonish affair (expressionistic, broadly speaking) Paper Road is far more reflective, in line with Alex’s “retreat” into the forms of 19th century poetry. He’s also calling on the primordial Greek gods, storied by Hesiod in his Theogeny (c. 700 BC). They represent a higher court of appeal.

Compositional technique

paper road dystopian surrealist poems alex stainesThe composition of the dystopian surrealist poems in Paper Road was based on the modified cut-up technique that emerged with Seclusion Data, and which was refined in the production of Time of the Archons.

The poems are based on the 12-syllable Alexandrine line, as was the case in the two previous books. However, there are signs of revolt; the poems in the Ghost River section broke free from the imposed structure. This was probably a creative response to the music and life of Mark Linkous, the late leader of the American indie band, Sparklehorse. The mystery and space of the American South that infused Linkous’s work and outlook, seeped into the compositional process of Ghost River. That mystery and space refused to be confined within a 12-syllable line. The book is 18.5mm wider than the previous volumes in the trilogy to accommodate this expansion.

Sample poems


On the twelfth of October twenty eighteen,
Freya fought with Apate in the amber waves.
Sentinels were distracted by calls from the woods.
The apostate laid waste to the sacristy, unseen.

They had to return to the sedentary world,
expediency of the back dials, great
sensitivity to ambiences and tensions,
row upon row of distractions are put to work

in the fallout from a pillaged enchantment,
odyssey thrown into jeopardy, the false oath
lingers, the table dissolved. In the ruin
of the chapel, tapestries mildewed past all cure,

inspecting the edges of unrecognisable
objects, distance reinforces the travesty
by some sinister design, wonders and marvels
vanished at the horizon. Beyond allegory

and correspondence, signs of the breathtaking
gamble escape into entangled shadows.
Familiar then, the declivity of lucky
and unlucky days, succession of iron and clay.


It’s Easter 2020. Are you thinking
about Huysmans’ migration from decadence
to the cloister? Flights of ducks cross a ceiling
of eggshell blue with a filigree of apricot lace.

It was the destruction of the intimate,
emotional connection that was most distressing.
The wounds of heroes never mend. Every dust licker
has to handle their own lag. How do you survive

when life gets unbearable? Jauntily dismiss
the lies and cowardice, the vaticinations.
Be like des Esseintes – dissolute, eccentric,
secluded. Vermilion mist in the cypresses.

Rest now, Sisyphus, the marble block is a mere
Calvatia. You won’t touch the stars again.


The book Paper Road is in print and is available for purchase. The book has been printed by a professional book printer and the quality is first class. Either buy directly from us (see below), or if you’re in Wellington, buy a copy from Unity Books and support this great independent bookstore.

Pay with your credit card securely via Stripe.

Price – New Zealand

Single copy: $29 incl GST, local shipping by post (letter), and Stripe fee.

Price – Rest of the world

Single copy: $34 incl international shipping by post (letter), and Stripe fee.

Please contact Alex for a quote for shipping multiple copies.

Your book will be shipped when funds are cleared.

Booksellers and libraries, please contact Alex with wholesale enquiries.