October 2014 — nick-e melville — complaintnick-e melville

nick-e says: This poem started as a conversation about complaint letters. As a found poet, I am very interested in subverting bureaucratic language in various ways: the replies to Ryan’s complaints provided the source material for my contribution to our collaboration. I focused on, and extracted lines which demonstrated, the banal, the inane and the ridiculous; not unlike Ryan’s initial complaints…

Ryan says: I like to complain. I was probably complaining about something when we got the idea to do this poem. I knew nick-e does work with found and officious texts and I hoped he’d find something worthwhile in the letters I’d sent out to cinemas, airlines, and phone companies over the years. Maybe I hadn’t wasted my time writing and grumbling down the phone.




Not long now

until you’re off

on your travels

It is your responsibility to check with the airline

that any onward flights you have confirmed

are operating as booked

This is an automatic notification email that cannot accept in-coming mail


For a long time

this is a how I thought

a person should be

phone melting

in the crook

of her shoulder

tea boiling and manager

manager I want to speak

manager manager let me finish

manager manager you’re not listening


Document prepared for customer

Status Confirmed (x8 potentially)




You have yet to purchase a Multiflex pass.

It may not be too late!

paper or E?

Names correct & spelt back phonetically

Travelling on US passport


from a country belonging

BA 1440 O 26NOV 2 LHREDI HK1 1145 1310 26NOV E BA/NOSYNC


if I had a sunday

i would get on the phone

i would set my teeth right

i learned words like automaton

pusillanimous – i could have loved

could have whisked eggs

and fluffed pancakes, i could

have made the bed, or even

called a taxi, why not where

did we want to go. but that person

was not a person i could be. not

with my father’s tie in the closet

my mother’s cord still wet in my mouth.

for a long time

i couldn’t pick a fight

with my own wife

but i could heat up a phone

crack a rotten egg down the line.


your recent travel experience with US

Your comments matter to US

For this reason

I have thoroughly reviewed your case

Your concerns have been sent

to the appropriate leadership teams

We are working hard to earn

your continued patronage

I’m sorry you found the kiosk

difficult to understand

and navigate

Given the issues that our industry continues

to face in these volatile economic times

Thank you for giving us

this opportunity to address


I have carefully reviewed

everything in you


my entire body one throbbing nose relating

to the Guarantee Obligations sniffing

twitching when i try to sleep, worrying an obligation

of a downstream affiliate – the stream

is rapid, an obligation of other parties

where there is only the sense

of her perfume, an hour or less, in respect

of the Underlying Obligation of the Underlying Obligor

that is Not Subordinated. in the end, he proposed

direct obligations of the Reference Entity


I am angry because a woman told me

your computers are ‘never wrong’

I am familiar with technology

I am 36 years old, not 86

I am not daunted by flashing screens


The origins of simple, everyday things

is in the longing

for something faster, easier

the longing is building a fire

that rain or floods won’t quell

the lonesome is shifting around

with his hands in his pockets


Your kiosks

are not intuitive

take longer to use

are more unpleasant

than a standard human

interaction at a desk

It is insulting to imply

I was somehow dazzled

by your new-fangled machines

as if I had stepped out of a time-machine

straight from the Victoria age


i mean to say we always want better

than what we have, who wouldn’t

take a little bit extra, a little bit more


I am most offended

that I should be concerned

for your industry

in these ‘volatile economic times’

In these ‘volatile economic times’

people are losing their homes, their jobs

the costs of things like higher education ever increasing

and the gap between rich and poor ever expanding

The idea that I should pity you

rather than be furious

at your theft

is outrageous


i should talk with my grandmother again

about the things in my pockets

a pink handkerchief, some oil

instead, i am on hold awaiting

the dull excuse of management

while the dead stay still and silent


Your company is suffering

due to gross malfeasance

I thank you for your time.

nick-e melville is an experimental poet and artist working in found, visual and conceptual poetics. he has had several publications in various media over the last four years, including: ALERT STATE IS HEIGHTENED (sadpress 2014); me (p.ow. series, 2014) junk mail (if p then q, 2014) and selections and dissections (otoliths, 2010). DOLE (Interview Room 11, Nov 2013) was his first solo exhibition: a conceptual examination of the detritus left behind by Social Security. He teaches creative writing for OLL at Edinburgh, among other places, and was Writer (not) in Residence at HMP Edinburgh, 2010-2011. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing/English Literature at the University of Glasgow, working on a project called The Imperative Commands.

complaint live at Rich Mix, London


Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

Inspired by  SJ Fowler  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets together to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here.