Poetry review: 21/03/20
by GARETH WRITER-DAVIES
A sensuous debut from Oisin Breen.
This slim volume of poetry is an intelligent and darkly humorous collection that touches its toe to the edge of an end that waits for all us. Turn to a page at random and the language will leave you in no doubt that Writer-Davies has death on his mind,
‘Knowing my demise was the only diagnosis
Yet life was in me, like brandy in a bottle’
Acceptance of death as inevitable, has the effect of making life a little more vital,
‘As if we had been dead asleep
back into life
only as the credits rolled’
The language is often vivid and evocative. On page 13, exactly a third of the way through this collection, there is a lovely short poem called 'Jericho' in which Writer-Davies uses ‘fucking’ three times then never curses again.
‘but I am angry
like Jude the fucking obscure’
It’s a great example to give to my young daughters of the arresting power of strong language when used sparingly.
The poem ends,
‘all that dwell within
shall know my vengeance’
As an tone-deaf atheist who spent many of my childhood Sundays learning to love language and mystery in the stalls of the church choir, these fire and brimstone pronouncements feel warmly nostalgic.
Writer-Davies repeatedly pokes fun at the absurdity of what we do: his observations deliver dark philosophical questions as gently as a Church of England chocolate service. The poems 'Request for Prayers' and 'Fixed Price Service' both muse upon the demands we make through prayer – this strange and socially acceptable interface with the supernatural.
‘I would even be faithful
and kiss whatever needed kissing, drench myself with holy water
hold priestly hands.’
He pokes fun at religion and yet the tone of the collection is not frivolous, mocking or cruel. There is a warmth in the lightness: a reverent irreverence.
Dust tells of two phases of a man’s life – the ‘hoovering of dust’ and the ‘gathering.’ The tone of the poem shifts from the vigour of the ‘organised’ who will defeat dust through to a grudging admiration, ‘Taking on the shape of what it touches’ to a wholehearted acceptance – even welcoming - of it,
‘I sit in my favourite chair, gathering.’
My favourite poem 'Bird' continues the themes of grasping life and facing death. It has a spare clarity in its language and layout,
so sweet that sleep (& possibly dreams)
are worth the hangover’
It is arresting in its uncomfortable beauty,
to scavenge from gore and guts
to turn tears into sanguine flights of hope’
Writer-Davies has his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds. Sooner or later we’ll all be six feet under but until then,
to the memory of daylight
a breath and press play’
Review: Sarah Hehir.
Gareth Writer-Davies – The End
ISBN 978 1 873412 04 6