Unlikely Books presents with delight a book of interpersonal and highly politicized ecopoetry: Handling Filth: Simple Sabotage Field Manual by Jared Schickling! Taking its subtitle from the declassified CIA manual, which advises everyone from agents of espionage to high school students on how to destabilize existing regimes, Handling Filth: Simple Sabotage Field Manual uses the author's own experience with COVID-19 as a launching point for a discussion of ecology and politics that explores our failure to sensible handle the pandemic, as well as our inadequate efforts to address a rapidly changing world.
“It’s both stirring and alarming to apply to one’s brain a book like Schickling’s Manual, a book that resembles the brain itself: miniature and cosmic, poxy and fluxy, moody, dim and bright. This Manual is like reading Thomas Browne or the schematics inscribed on the Voyager record—the past seems more and more accurate as a description of the present, while the present’s own self-description grows more unrecognizable with every ballistic tremor of the eye. In an array of formats and formulations, this Manual sets fire to the bromide that the cataclysm of the present tense is happening for the first time. It is happening again.”
—Joyelle McSweeney, author of Toxicon and Arachne
“‘How does one handle filth?,’ asks Jared Schickling in his aptly titled new book, Handling Filth: Simple Sabotage Field Manual. Much like Gertrude Stein, the answer is ‘the difference is spreading,’ or as Schickling puts it more bluntly: ‘Like rot, this visibility accelerates. / Something else is blooming.’ Intimate, angry, funny, despairing, satiric, Handling Filth limns a poetics of contagion supremely poised for the mess of the 21st c. Alternately a Covid day book, an evisceration of American political leadership, an historical accounting of infection’s occurrence, a composting of the news cycle, a dystopian bird book, and a field manual of sociopoetic resistance, Handling Filth contains multitudes. ‘Progress,’ to run the disposal of American tropes, occurs through mutation, erasure, detournement, footnote, anagram, portmanteau, pun and, importantly, a self-interrogation of lyric agency and complicity. Handling Filth is awake to language’s own dis-ease. Echo, too—Poe, Whitman, Oppen, Frost, Coleridge, Ginsberg, Audubon, CNN, etc—intertextualizes, as if history itself were disinterred through sheer carnage: ‘as if the froth of limited emotions at the strewn soul’s home on the plastic beach recurs presently.’ Jared Schickling’s Handling Filth is green, brown, black, red, white & blue: it’s the social poetics we need now.”
—Matthew Cooperman, author of Spool