Breeze Block, Jake Hawkey
Lumpen / The Class Work Project, 2021 £5.00
In the grand scheme
I was struck by the number of times Jake Hawkey mentions ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ in these poems that otherwise chart gritty London experience. The second poem, ‘Laughing Poem’, introduces this theme:
I don’t know if I believe in God, but I want to.
My counsellor says I repeat I don’t know.
Three out of four of the so-called ‘Matchstick’ poems feature God in some way. These can be playful. In ‘Matchstick Poem 2’, ‘God is wearing a pink slip’. ‘Matchstick Poem 3’ opens with the couplet:
God does not mean for us to make his love
a never-ending exercise in misery.
The poem then includes God speaking to Moses and Jesus ‘walking on water’. ‘Matchstick Poem 4’ ends on the hopeful note: ‘God dwells in every man’.
The final stanza in ‘Jesus Christ on MTV Cribs’ describes God as: ‘the fountain / from which all springs’. In ‘Your Pose Is the Pattern of Falling Rain’, I enjoyed the references to Caravaggio and Titian, and the scene of ‘Nan’ sculpting: ‘Fag hanging between her lips.’
The final two lines of the poem then read:
God calls you by the name
your mother chose.
There’s further irreverence in the prose poem ‘Self-portrait with Jesus’s Donkey’: ‘Here we are donkey, pulling my old boy out from my boxers to piss on Christmas morning.’ And ‘Studies in Autumn, III’ — part of a sequence — opens with the image:
Jesus operating the lift to the top floor
that is God, luggage between each arm.
In ‘Guts of a Piano in the Rain Beneath a Block of Beautiful Brutalist Flats’, the poet muses that ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ are among the words he uses most often in relation to his ‘freshly-dead Dad’, and he writes: ‘Jesus is collaborating with me (?!).’ While the poem ‘Parking Space’ closes:
in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus of Nazareth is looking up
lonelier than anyone has ever been; jejune silhouette of moon.
I can’t pretend I understand all these references. They do, however, stand out for me as unusual and note-worthy in a collection otherwise concerned with the challenges of urban life.