tall-lighthouse, 2004 - £3.00
I've just read an excellent book of poetry by Ken Champion. There seems to be something criminally easy in writing about your day-to-day, your loves and your observations, but Ken Champion knows that these are the most reliable settings for describing who he is. The result is a book that has a feel of genuine disclosure.
Take the time that Ken went to his cousin’s house to pick up an old carpet. Not only did Ken’s cousin make him pay for the carpet, but the two were obliged to re-enact the bullying hours of their youth :
He stands as he did when we were six
and I could smell the putty on his hands
as he chopped and shaped a little house
pulling the roof off, pushing it into my face.
I found myself able to wonder about that little house for longer than I expected, and the same can be said of many of the other images throughout the book. Not knowing Mr Champion, I am still able to guess that he’s affected by the world around him, while not completely spoiled by it. There was the time he was working on one of Barbara Streisand’s theatre productions in ‘Funny Girl’; there’s the Salsa dancer that he longs for (‘Dancing Queen’), and the film set he worked on near the Tate in ‘Mis en Scene’.
In all, I found myself delighted, and even somewhat embarrassed to be living with Ken Champion while I read his poems, but I remind myself that this is all at Ken’s invitation. Champion spares himself the trauma of the metaphysical to enjoy a teasingly transgressive view of his own daily life. Moreover, he is a curious and precise observer of that life, whose observations don’t pretend to objectivity.
More credit then to Ken Champion’s publishers, tall-lighthouse, whose cool and cosy books offer high quality work, usually for as little as £2 or £3. All of our lives can be turned into the stuff of poetry, but Ken Champion has proved himself a master at neatly denying the expected, and serving up well-observed vignettes with no fear of us not appreciating them.