Dinner at the Blaws-Baxters’, Andrew Sclater

HappenStance Press, 2016    £5.00Cream A5 jacket. All lettering is centred, with the title in caps above an oval frame containing a sheepish looking horse's head. Below that the title of the author in smaller caps.

How unlike the home life...

My first reading of this collection created a single overriding impression: the immense darkness of family, that closest, most universal human association.  I often caught myself muttering ‘Thank the stars my family wasn’t like this.’

It seems that most of the characters here struggle to establish 'normal’ relationships.

But however grim the subject of each poem, in true Baroque chiaroscuro fashion, there is a bright-sparkling technique on display in every instance: a tight control of metre, rhyme and stanza but always closely tied to purpose. The Blaws-Baxters belong to

                             … that hostile class
which never begs the slightest pardon.
The Blaws-Baxter crest abides: a cardon
stuck up a fieldworker’s arse.

This whole pamphlet is like a sprightly ice-dancing turn-out in the very middle of the darkest frozen lake, where unimaginable spectres are imprisoned beneath the ice.

There’s something about this that reminds me of what for a lifetime I have admired about Bogart heroes.

I’ll pay it the ultimate accolade of using my world-weary Rick Blaine voice: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Ross Kightly