Orpheus — R.M. Francis
Lapwing Publications, 2016 £10.00
Orphic Groundhog Day
R.M. Francis takes us on a journey that can only be described as mythic (possibly even epic), but in a way sixth-century story-tellers never quite imagined.
Our hero-of sorts is transplanted from his heroic journey as an Argonaut and travels through the Underworld, lyre in arm, to what appears to be the Midlands (the Jewellery Quarter could be a new home for the Minotaur). His day job doesn’t appear to be offering much in the way of satisfaction, or remuneration. He alights predictably from his train each day and presents his pass to exit from the station.
Repetition sits at the heart of this poem. The repetition of Orpheus’ days and daily grind, the repetition of ways to numb his boredom – the drinking, the sex, the reading of Bukowski – or at least his alter-ego, Hank Chianski.
Assonance and internal rhyme feature throughout, often with humour – as when Orpheus’ lover is described as having
[ ... ] umber eyes
hungrier than any hunger hungered.
Then there’s the exasperated alliteration of lines like
pock marked pervs
who print price tags
from the paper
of their pulses and prick us all
And finally a key feature is the repetition of a whole phrase in the form of the ever-present ‘indigo glow’ of the setting sun. I suspect this is Francis’ equivalent of the omni-present ‘wine dark sea’ in The Odyssey.
The poem ends with what seems to be an echo (more repetition) of another text, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. The final pages recreate the infamous ‘choose life’ speech:
I want out!
I want out
of German engineered
organic, beer fed soya wieners
It’s fair to say that Orpheus leaves us in no doubt as to the author’s thoughts on the daily grind and modern life.
If you’re happy in your job, this isn’t the book for you.
If you hate your job, this pamphlet-length poem may well entertain you; and even if it doesn’t, you’ll see plenty you recognise.