Eat the Storms, Daniel Donnelly
Hedgehog Press, 2020 £7.99
Drawing the sound of the moon
These poems are a riot of colour, sound and imagery. Sentences are mainly complex, clause building on clause, punctuation loose. Many rhetorical techniques are called into play, especially internal rhyme, repetition and alliteration. The poems boil with a turbulent desire to communicate.
My interest was caught by the regular coupling of sight with other senses (usually sound). In ‘Meditation under the Yellow Sun’, for example, the words ‘I wanted to draw / the sound of the moon’ are repeated almost identically three times. In the penultimate poem (‘At the Setting of the Yellow Light’) the poet looks forward to drawing ‘the sound of the moon, at last’.
And in ‘Scarlet Rising’, there’s ‘the sweet music of scarlet rising’; in ‘Grains of Sand Beneath Cerulean Skies’, there’s ‘this baying breath of cyan’; and in ‘Shades of Blue’, the speaker says: ‘I hear you calling / in shades of blue’. I was reminded of the painter Kandinsky, who famously heard music as he painted, and experienced music as shape and colour.
The rich colour (literal and metaphorical) and cumulative clauses, however, can be overwhelming at times. I found myself orienting towards the plainer statements, often end-stopped, like welcoming islands in the middle of a roaring river. For example, in ‘At the Setting of the Yellow Light’, much is complex and urgently emotive. But it’s the stanza made of one single line, an end-stopped sentence, that affects me most:
I can’t hold everything any more.
Heightened language and intricate phrasing comes across as an authentic reflection of the poet’s world. What I will most remember, however, is the way in which simplicity of expression sometimes takes priority—as in ‘Yellow Light’, my favourite.
Here’s its first sentence, in which there is a subtle cross-sensory touch in the combination of ‘yellow light’ and ‘yearning’:
I never knew
how far I could bend
before I would break,
until I snapped
before the sunrise,
before the yearning
of the yellow light found me
looking for a lost breath
in the back of a dark chest
I had filled with every worry
that wasn’t mine.