THE GALLOWS-HUMORED MELODY is poet Humphrey Astley's new pamphlet and his first with the Albion Beatnik Press. As its title suggests, two of the collection's interlocking themes are music and mortality, producing contemporary elegies that seek "Something that doesn't degrade" in "things that haven't been made // incarnate, yet seem always to take / shape ..."
Concerned also with how the time-and-place into which one is born is only a small link in a long, incomplete chain, the poems draw parallels between the traditions of form and family, heritage and heritability, while commenting on the sex and gender dynamics that operate within those worlds. More broadly, the pamphlet explores relationships between creation and destruction.
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Humphrey 'Huck' Astley is a writer and musician based in Oxford, England.
In the '00s, Astley founded Rain over Bouville, a poetry press, and was a member of the much-loved noise-rock group Sextodecimo (Oxford's greatest ever metal band, according to the local press). He has since graduated with Distinction from degrees at Ruskin College and the University of Oxford, and his poetry has appeared in a range of British and North American publications. His 2014 pamphlet 'Stones through the Windows to the Soul' is downloadable from this site.
In 2010, Astley's short-lived gothic americana quartet Huck & The Handsome Fee embarked on a US tour that would inspire his three-part narrative album 'Alexander the Great: a Folk Operetta', which he describes as "A queer runaway myth of two young friends and their fall from grace in Dixie." Then, in 2013, Huck & The Xander Band partnered with PinDrop Music and adapted 'Alexander the Great' into a stage-show, which was hand-picked by The PRS Foundation for their New Music Plus development scheme. The show debuted at The Cambridge Junction in 2014 and has since been described as "Raw and powerful... an impressive display of visual flair and mesmerising songwriting." (The York Press)
Astley is also a member of alt-pop group Crandle and indie-folk band The Epstein, who have just released their third album, 'Burn the Branches'. In the meantime he is writing for Sabotage Reviews and The Oxford Times and is a member of the Oxford Writers' House.
“Rich, poetic story-songs.” Artrocker
“Thank the swirling chaos for Humphrey Astley. His poems are elegant, classical... precisely contained worlds.” Black Heart
“A brilliant and unique talent.” Americana UK
“The verbal content is phenomenally well‐handled... His works do what other poems purport to do.” David McLean
“A true artist... A singer who means it.” Monolith Cocktail