Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Smokestack Books, 2006 - £5.95

Here’s a lesson about prejudice. Don’t assume you won’t like books by slam poets (because the energetic work you’ve heard live surely won’t stand up on the page) or that you won’t like books on ‘worthy’ subjects like disability (because identity politics and poetry make an uneasy mix). Indeed, don’t assume books from Andy Croft’s left of centre Middlesbrough press Smokestack will be about whippets and Federation ale: Niall Spooner-Harvey’s magnificent book blows all those assumptions out of the water.

    Yes, the poet is clearly writing for both ear and eye, and draws extensively on the experience of life with Cerebral Palsy, as well as the energy of live performance, and he does it effortlessly:

 

          it’s like walking on a ground

          made of breezy escalators

          and shifting air

                   (‘Disco’)

 

 

 

          geometry

          the shape of a square

          the shape of a circle

          the shape of a parallelogram

          the shape of a breasty curve

                   (‘Poem on sexual frustration II’)

 

But the book is so much more than these anchors of subject matter.  It is incredibly funny, for one. Not just wry or amusing, producing a smile at the clever pun or deft allusion, but rip-roaringly comic and mordant. I fell off the sofa reading it. And its sharp insights, conveyed with superb poetic economy, outlive the belly laughs:

 

          no you aren’t stoked up like zeus in a strip club

          and no she doesn’t inspire you, and no the curls don’t

          spill down her front like ears of corn

                   (‘Poem on sexual frustration I’)

 

I started the book slightly annoyed at missing capitals and the preponderance of shouty punctuation, but finished it—frankly—in such a state of satisfaction and enlightened good spirits that I couldn’t care less about literary convention. This is the real thing, and you should go out and buy a copy.

James Roderick Burns

Smokestack Books,
PO Box 408,
Middlesbrough
TS5 6WA

www.smokestack-books.co.uk