Review: Text Messages from the Universe — Richard James Allen

by Antonia Cassetta

Text Messages from the Universe by the remarkable Richard James Allen leads the reader on a mesmerising journey, being weaved between and intertwined with a Buddhist conceptualisation of dying and rebirth. The ethereal photography guides us as we dance within these ephemeral spaces, moving us from one place to another until all entwines, and we reach a blissful freedom, part of everything and part of nothing at the same time.

Allen has masterful control of his writing, gently shaping this delicate narrative like a pot maker moulding clay: with perfect synthesis with his work. The transience of this story makes for a unique, visceral experience that speaks to the mind, the heart and the body; it is a guided mindfulness as the reader is made aware of our physical space in the world, and simultaneously dislocates this feeling as we’re taken on our journey. The usage of the second-person “you” is to great effect here as the story describes both a personal and universal experience in tandem with each other. The narrative walks this line with fine precision, emblematic of Allen’s practised and adept writing skill.

This is an entrancing narrative that presents a disquiet sense of being lost within the world, and reshapes it to be taken as a comfort. The spirituality of this is not dampened by the central text messages—rather these enhance the narrative and present a relatable take on existentialism, entwined with our modern lives. The text messages serve as guidance, much like a ‘message from god above’, but instead formed from the universe—as in, both the external world and the internal mindscape.

Allen’s poetry is a magnificent delve into these paradoxes, his depiction of these is seizing as we are led through the narrative. The narrative provides immense catharsis in contrast with the overwhelming busyness of our modern lives, subverted through the eponymous text messages, and beautifully illustrates an almost musical escape of the individual into the greater universe. The culmination into an ultimate, all-encompassing bliss makes Text Messages from the Universe by Richard James Allen an experience that permits us to acknowledge our own positions within the world and how we can be harmonious within it.



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