Fix Contributor Nathan Thompson Publishes Revealing Book of Poetry

By John Lavitt 04/11/16

Nathan Thompson examines both the melancholy of addiction and the joy of human connection in his first book of poetry, I Take Nothing Strong, Only Lightning. 

Fix Contributor Nathan Thompson Publishes A Revealing Book Of Poetry
via Nathan Thompson

Currently based in Phnom Penh, British writer Nathan A. Thompson is watching a beautiful Cambodian sunset and wondering why he is not high. Although he has been sober for over three years, this talented Fix contributor continues to dance with the intimacy of relapse, dreaming of poppies. Still, he knows that this too must pass and be transfigured into the stark and powerful words that led directly to his first volume of poetry, I Take Nothing Strong, Only Lightning.

As readers, we truly are the lucky ones when a writer like Nathan is able to break away from the vice-like grip of addiction and embrace the tough reality of his artistic voice. As Nathan expresses a dark vision of the urban decay of England’s blighted cities, viewed through the lens of an unforgiving addiction, you feel the grime and soot between your fingers. In a darkly evocative set of verses in "Wrecked on Sunday Morning," the first poem in the collection, Nathan writes:

Saliva drools down my pipe. 

Tranquilizers don’t work.

Can you hear the fat queer

purr the dealer awake?

He’s here – buzzing desperation,

mouth full of jewels. He spits 

small rocks to fuel 

the remains of the day.

As he pays a nod to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker prize-winning novel The Remains of the Day, Nathan also notes how the buzzing desperation has pushed away the last imaginary vestiges of the world of butlers and maids. The jewels we want today are the drugs spit into our hands by street dealers. But how quickly the fuel runs out and how staggering the cost to our souls. Nathan’s poetry opens a window to the shadows of this world.

In a Fix article titled "The Intimacy of Relapse," Nathan wrote:

"It’s been over two years since I filled my lungs with heroin smoke, or watched blood blob from a withdrawn syringe. It’s been four years since my last major addiction with its grinding, gut-punched withdrawal. But, even though life is better in so many intricate and beautiful ways, sometimes I’d love to relapse. I’d love to collapse like an exhausted marathon runner into the arms of the drug that gave me comfort when nothing else could.

"But, I remain clean. Living my changed life. Pick a cliché – I’m the selfish giant who tore down the wall of his castle to let the children play, the ugly duckling, the caterpillar turned into a butterfly. But what happens when the butterfly hankers after the leaf-munching life of a caterpillar? Or when the swan wishes to be ugly again?"

There is a reason why brilliant and talented people lovingly embrace the high and sink into the wretchedness of addiction. It is not because they are bad or uncaring people. No, in truth, it is so often the opposite. Like Nathan expresses in both his personal journalism and his poetry, they were often born with a wing-like acuity of sight and feeling that bends hard and almost breaks in the brutal storm that modern society calls progress.

Although similar in experience to Walter Benjamin’s "Angel of History," Nathan Thompson is no angel, and I Take Nothing Strong, Only Lightning is not a book of poetic excuses or justifications. Rather, amid the groundless, ambivalent spaces of this life, Nathan opens his eyes and shows us what he sees while frankly revealing the dark loneliness of the bad days. Although there is decay and definitely a certain melancholic hankering for the disfigured beauty of that darkness, Nathan also reveals a true joy in being human and being connected. Sometimes even a stray dog can offer a wet reflection of an addict’s redemption:

I poke my nose into her cheek;

she places a paw on mine

and sneezes three times.  

And this is why Nathan’s poetry is both revealing and revelatory. By baring all the sharp edges and dark corners of his own journey, he allows us to access a revelatory aesthetic experience where being human and being connected truly means something, at least, for today. 

The book launch of Nathan Thompson’s I Take Nothing Strong, Only Lightning is on April 21, 2016 at Meta House in Phnom Penh. The book will be available to purchase on Amazon later that week.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.