Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Reading : Mars, a text!

Patrick Chapman's latest collection of poetry displays the characteristics which have earned him praise and recognition as one of the more interesting voices of his generation of Irish poets.

The poems in this volume - ranging as they do over broad periods of time and experience – can sometimes appear to be ‘quare bedfellows’. However, this is far from negative - if anything it emphasises the diversity and range of thought and expression in Chapman's poetry. Heated relationships, cold wars, inner and outer space all combine here to provide a backdrop for stories of the heart, mind and body in a collection that exhibits distinctly cinematic qualities. There's a touch of the Noir here - not unrelenting darkness - more highlighted angles and delineations of a gamut of memorable characters. We meet a Queen of her own private Gethsemane, a vampire-priest-ringmaster, as well as certain politicians and ‘vast and cool intelligences' opening church and shopping malls in virgin territories. Musicians and other cultural icons create a sinewy linkage between the poet and his environment.

Throughout, there's a healthy dose of surreal humour. However, one of the strengths of this collection is Chapman's ability to present humour without resorting to glibness. Here it is part of the full tableaux of human experience, woven into love, fear, bewilderment and hope. There's a fair deal of sex too.

Overall the writing is underpinned with a deceptively casual sense of craft (this is Chapman's fourth collection, following on from a recent book of stories. He's also written films and audio plays). Towards the end, the collection heads into (literally) darker waters. Immersion recurs as a theme along with various extinctions, such as the young fisherman in the poem What You Leave Behind, lost at sea while providing for his his family;

“In dying he has lumbered them with boat-wreck
And some lately settled fear an tí
Squatting in the drowned man’s chair.”

At first, this collection charms with its immediate vibrancy - then merits re-reading to tap into some of the deeper currents at work below the surface of this skillful, considered writing.

More info here.