Dog Replica, the debut poetry collection by London poet and writer Angus Rogers (also the frontman of Opus Kink), presents a distorted reality of dark streets, darker hearts and coffee darker still. Brimming with sordid humour and sharp commentary, the collection sees Roger paint life with expressive strokes of moonlit romance and twisted dreamscapes – stirring notions of mortality around his psyche like a sugar cube dissolving into a brew. Published by multi-disciplinary Liverpool-based publishing house Toothgrinder Press, the publication is a beautifully formatted work, framing Rogers’ prose with black-and-white imagery and minimalist design.
Marking the book’s release, Rogers sat down and penned a piece of writing exclusively for HERO, meditating on the process behind the book and the themes explored.
Angus Rogers / Photography by Will Reid
“Sorrento Cafe in West Norwood, South London is the kind of haunt that to me defines this city and its not-so-hidden pleasures, its blissful boredom and the sting of its rapid disappearance. It’s an Italian-English caff staffed by Portuguese women wherein you’ll eat Set Breakfast Number Four, spaghetti alle vongole, T-Bone steak, panini tricolore, bifana, chicken Milanese, jacket with beans and cheese, fish and chips, roast beef and gravy, tiramisú, pastel de nata, veggie burger with an omelette. Whatever the fuck you want, all day, for less than half the price of your local minimalist brunch-cum-bakery, with good cheap coffee and a sunlit beer garden replete with vine-laden trellis and pool table.
The clientele consists mainly of local families out to lunch for a treat, nattering biddies, taxi drivers and labourers on break; rudderless-looking Italian men nursing espresso and shuffling grandfathers bent-double, who I suspect have taken all their meals at Sorrento’s for decades; the door open for them and an arm extended long before they reach the threshold. I’ve spent a few delicious long afternoons in the garden being gleefully slagged off by the elderly and outrageous daughter of an extremely famous painter, picking her way through a pack of B&H Superkings. Nine times out of ten I’m the only sore thumb, a foreign object in weird hats predictably tapping on a laptop or staring with glazed eyes out the window, book abandoned on the table, the grand entrance to West Norwood cemetery leering back at me from across the road. The staff are ever full of tired, genuine courtesy, the most beguiling kind, their wry smiles of recognition fuelling my cheap desire to be a local, to have my spot, to inject some semblance of routine and foundation into my fraught, idle days off work. Despite this air of quiet conviviality nobody is on name-basis. I always sit at the same single table; I keep to my corner and drift off into oblivion or dull panic. I haunt the place, and have done for at least twice a week for the past two years unless I’m out of town.
I don’t know when and where to write. I’m undisciplined down to my bones. Purely waiting for inspiration to strike is as abhorrent to me as keeping office hours, so trying to arrange the right conditions for myself, I’ve had to admit, is a waste of time. But when deadlines start to swim into view, when apparitions of editors (good friends though they may be) tap their ghostly watches before me, I know the laziness must be corralled somehow into formation. When we started collating poems for the book proper at the start of 2022 I had been back in London for almost a year and Sorrento Cafe had become the prize den in which I could stew in relative peace of mind amid the constant low chatter. It presented a different kind of stillness to my nearby flat where the creeping self-doubt and flagellation festered too easily. Slowly at first, then snowballing into a steady pace, even prolific by my own halting standards, it became the only place I could write for this particular project. They had no qualms with me sipping a tea from 10am ’til 9pm until vague ideas coagulated and the book began to form itself begrudgingly.
“I slaughtered, skinned, prepped, and served Dog Replica”
Death isn’t my only concern. I can be a happy-go-lucky guy in my own way. The bulk of the poems linger on or skirt around the topic, but so does most of life. This is a well-flogged and unoriginal preoccupation and as I sat there opposite the cemetery drowning in cliche I began to lament what appeared to be a one-trick-pony kind of deal. Why focus on misery? I wasn’t miserable all the time. Perhaps it’s because endings are easy and it’s the soft, scant flesh of existing that’s so hard to pry from the old bones and prepare for consumption. After a few weeks, though, I was relieved to discover that I wasn’t writing about death and actual dying but about dreams.
I have never kept a dream diary, nor any kind of diary for that matter, so it took me some time to realise that the catalyst for the first image of every poem was a dream I’d had, maybe early that morning, or maybe a week previously, remembered only after I’d put the thing down. Not since childhood had I experienced such a volume of vivid dreaming – such a volume that individual recollections evaded me until I’d set the tone by fucking about at the cafe for three hours, before they came like diplomats snootily awaiting their proper introduction at a dinner.
Angus Rogers / Photography by Will Reid
“I don’t know when and where to write. I’m undisciplined down to my bones.”
Dreams of teeth softly shucking from my mouth and skittering down bottomless well-shafts. Of vast piled-up cities with interconnecting passageways full of jazz-age prostitutes and huge fat men crying. Of dead friends turning up like they’d missed a bus, indignant I’d started eating without them. Of a chipped life-size ceramic dog forgotten atop a great landfill covered in flowers, Lamborghini Gallardos doing sick drifts on the racetrack circling it. Lots of forgetting-the-chords-at-the-stadium-show or frozen-vampire-hand-at-the-crucial-moment dreams. Many, many dreams of drowning in shifting canopies of dark hair that made me cum or else wake sweating and arching.
I was navigating the various tediums and exhilarations of trying to make a band happen, and not be complete bollocks, in this city. I was experiencing an extreme delayed reaction to grief. My drinking and drugging had swollen parallel to newfound relationships, newfound hardships, plain old goodtimes and caution to the wind. I had fallen in love in London for the first time and it wasn’t quite working out. All in the pot; all good, disquieting spices for the Big Dish.
I always did have an intense morbid fascination, there’s no denying. In Sorrento Cafe, in the end, it was no surprise, really – the table unwittingly laid with idleness and stupor, the clams and omelettes jostling to fuel my reflux – that I, eventually, only for a moment but wholly, became the Gory Waiter. And on that, my first and only shift as such, which lasted six months, I slaughtered, skinned, prepped, and served Dog Replica. Don’t take it too seriously. Dine long and lazy at your own local caffs before they all vanish into the bland, heaving maw.
Dog Replica by Angus Rogers is published by Toothgrinder Press.