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Never More Together by Steven McCabe  

In this wordless poem, the invasion of a malevolent corporate regime causes a peaceful society to become embroiled in disquiet and savage upheaval.


A tale of subjugation, protest, and transformation, Never More Together tells the story of what can become of a society that fears the truth.

When the inhabitants of a harmonious Edenic community are invaded by the brutal Butterfly regime, they must learn to leave behind their tradition of complicit silence, find a strong new voice amidst the cacophony of state-sanctioned propaganda, and emerge into a hopeful future of freedom and social consciousness.

Steven McCabe’s visual epic of more than 100 linocuts challenges readers to look beyond the surface, to decipher the layers of meaning in each image, and to immerse themselves in a complex, dystopian world full of symbolic references to our past, present, and possibly future condition.

Review text

This thought-provoking "wordless poem" of black-and-white images evokes enlightenment, heightened consciousness balanced by fear.

Never More Together, a visual and wordless poem by Steven McCabe, is an unsettling story of the harsh treatment of truth and perspicaciousness in a society ruled by fear.

McCabe introduces a world cradled in the coils of a giant serpent who watches over a garden where a man and a woman eat an apple of mystical origin and enjoy an innocent love. The simple familiarity of this story is rudely broken by the realization that a shadowy government is watching them in the garden on a screen.

Throughout the poem, the idea of enlightenment and heightened consciousness brought by the apple recurs, and the giant serpent continues to represent those ideas, uniting the people in the story and eventually gaining enough ground on earth to defeat the shadowy government.

This story is thought-provoking and easy—sometimes unsettlingly easy—to relate to. But it is also sometimes difficult to tease it out from among the confused images of the linocut prints. According to the written introduction, the prints were created and the story completed in merely forty days. That is an impressive flurry of activity, and is reflected in the urgency and emotion in the poem. However, it might be because of this speed that, without the help of the summary provided in the introduction, much of the poem is indecipherable. For example, it is frequently difficult to distinguish new and recurring characters. Of course, part of the merit of a wordless story is the many layers and interpretations allowed for between the artist and the reader. Still, a certain amount of visual clarity is expected.

The fact that the greater arc of the story is largely unintelligible without the help of a written narrative could undermine the power of the wordless poem. Images can speak a truth directly to the mind that written words dilute, and pictures are a universal language.

While aspects of the story require a background in a certain kind of culture—for example, the allusions to Christian origin mythology using transformation after eating the apple, the serpent, and a flying dove preluding peace—and might limit the audience, the poem really loses its universal potential when it requires translation.

McCabe’s poem blends the power of mythology and allegory with the more close-to-home imagery of police violence and of the government monitoring—and punishing—the more enlightened citizens. Never More Together has the appeal of a classic fairy tale, where good and evil are clearly delineated, but at its heart, it reveals a much more complex story.

—Emerson M. Fuller, Foreword Reviews

Unpublished endorsement

‘Hemingway said the old man is an old man and the sea is the sea. Joseph Campbell said the mother goddess is a universal archetype. Steven McCabe made an image of an apple and it started a war.

Never More Together can be a fun wordless story or it can be viewed again and again as an allegory of the desire to dominate and the corruption of desire—from the Genesis creation myth to the power of modern protest and social communication.’

—Pierre L’Abbé

Introduction or preface

In a world that is strange yet weirdly familiar, men and women are watched over by a malevolent, authoritarian police state, a monstrous serpent slithers and coils in gardens and above planets, vast forces drive the lives and fates of a society, and of a man, woman and boy who come together and drift apart in an urban hell, while a savage social protest dances on. A city and a society sink into an abyss.

McCabe is a silent witness to a dystopian creation that he describes in this wordless allegory blending and redefining allusions to Biblical episodes, symbolic stories, social critiques, and a vision of social interaction as one unholy confrontation that threatens to render asunder the bond that unites a man and a woman, both of whom are helpless victims of fate’s inevitability, and the state’s punitiveness. The author sees what can become of a society that fears truth.

A modern, surreal myth, Never More Together comprises series of a dozen episodes set down as both warnings and prophesies. Visual poems every one, the individual prints, carved in linoleum and printed in a near frenzy of activity over the course of a mere forty days, speak in a language all their own. McCabe’s is a personally expressive and unique iconography that mashes readable symbols and densely constructed compositions that mash space and action into taut, formidable and urgent declamatory visual statements.

The prints give a picture of a rich and frightening negative life of struggle and defeat. Haunted by horror, in these silent emblems is a chill, formality that offers vignettes on the Gestapo, civil disobedience, violent confrontation, and of other upheavals that have a contemporary reference and speak of the author’s own imaginative vision. Among the mute clangour of the prints, we also read of a different tale involving the love of a man and a woman cast into this macabre cauldron and challenged to stay together against the odds and the forces of fate

(... Continued in Never More Together.)

—Tom Smart

Introduction or preface

Images Form Poetry

We are creatures of language through which we order and describe our world. Picture narratives are one of the most powerful tools we have for reconstructing our experiences and telling our stories. It may be argued it is also one of the oldest forms of communication. In our time we are saturated with images through the media and the technologies we use to communicate pictures. Billions of images are shared every second through TV, social media, cell phones, web sites and print. Bill boards and signs clutter our urban landscape telling us what to buy, what to see who to vote for. Some would argue that this abundance of images has made us blind, but I would argue that it has increased our visual literacy. We read the image as text.

Steve McCabe has created a visual epic poem of a rich and complex form that challenges the reader to look actively and decipher the layered meanings. It is a fitting addition to the Porcupine’s Quill’s series of wordless narratives created using traditional printmaking techniques. It is a form of storytelling that revives the graphic sensibilities of artists like Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward and Laurence Hyde whose social justice wordless narratives still fascinate us today. It is with great pleasure that we offer Steve’s masterful linocuts knowing that each reader will bring their own visual vocabulary to the story. Read each picture slowly giving each image the time it deserves and you will be richer for the experience.

—George Walker


Steven McCabe is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist born in Kansas City, Missouri. McCabe grew up in the American Midwest, leaving home at 17 to travel in a carnival with a psychedelic tent show. At the age of 19, he immigrated to Canada and supported himself by selling prints of ink drawings door to door at university residences in Waterloo and Toronto, as well as the infamous Rochdale College. He spent 25 years working as an artist-educator, visiting hundreds of classrooms, teaching visual art and creative writing. He has designed and facilitated professional development workshops for educators focusing on the intersection of text and language.

McCabe is the author of four full-length collections including Hierarchy of Loss, Jawbone, and Radio Picasso, and the co-author / illustrator of the chapbook Orpheus and Eurydice: Before the Descent. His work is included in a number of anthologies, most recently in Poet to Poet (Guernica Editions 2012). He has collaborated with dancers and musicians creating numerous multimedia poetry performances, and since 2003 has mounted three solo exhibitions featuring ink drawings, paintings on canvas, assemblage, and video. He is the creator of a Wordpress blog; poemimage, where he addresses poetry with digitally manipulated images. He is also a filmmaker, whose video poems have screened in festivals and online platforms.

McCabe lives in Toronto.

For more information please visit the Author’s website »

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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ART / Canadian

ISBN-13: 9780889843714

Publication Date: 2014-04-15

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 272

Price: $24.95