Masque Publishing, 2006 - £3.50

In this pamphlet, Stephen Warrillow documents a love affair from its hopeful beginnings to its painful aftermath. This is hard to do well. I had the sense that the expression of feelings was more important than how those feelings were expressed. To engage his reader, Warrillow needs to pay closer attention to word-choice, sound, rhythm, nuance—the craft of constructing a poem.

   There is a tendency to overstate—to create emotional intensity, I guess. But the overstatement serves only to mask genuine feelings and to replace them with abstract versions. For example: “My mind escapes me, as does everything else” or “I had a universe in my hand…/ then an exploding black hole”. These lines don’t work. It would have been better to focus on the concrete details of a disintegrating relationship than on such grand abstractions. Metaphorical allusions also fall victim to overstatement or simply aren’t accurate—“Dark clouds of sadness/ consume me” (how can clouds consume?); “Everyday loneliness builds its casket/ suffocating the air I breathe” (how can loneliness suffocate air?)

   In his favour, Warrillow never tries to make himself look good. His honesty and self-effacement will serve him well in the future, if he can achieve greater poetic control of his material. The best poem in this pamphlet is the last one, ‘When Love Has Gone’, which I quote in its entirety:


I feel so good.

I got drunk for you

Fell down

Got up

Just to say

I loved you


Now that’s OK! It’s a simple, bittersweet image—love and collapse, euphoria and despair, all mingling in six short lines.

Rob A Mackenzie

The Common Reader says of Simple Words:

 Simple Words by Stephen Warrillow is all about broken hearts—his broken heart. It’s poetry to slit your wrists to. It has a very glossy cover and looks well-produced but there are errors: I noticed a line where an ‘is’ seemed to be missing and lines like “I wonder how your feeling today” need better editing. These things shouldn’t matter when the poet’s “only purpose” is to let his “body rest/ Only to awake each mornings cruel fate” but somehow they do. However, anyone who has known what is like to be deser