The first word that comes to mind after reading Billy Childish’s new book is HUMAN. Of course all poets are human, but often times they obfuscate their humanity with abstractions and pretense to the point that the words might have been written by a poetry text book and not a poet. From the intentional misspellings and disregard for punctuation, Childish wrote a book that doesn’t care about convention. In fact, I am not sure he cares about the reader at all. Beyond the artist’s innate need to express, there is something more in this book. There is a mind at work. As I read through the book (3 times in fact) I felt as if I was inside his thoughts rather than reading his poems. There is an intimacy to the language and no separation between sentiment, meaning, and delivery. This is a nice feat that makes the book exceedingly readable, almost subliminal.
One poem that especially got into my head and under my skin is
“to get to the bambies”
she tried to open the door
of a speeding car
to the bambies.
(they were doing 70 on the motorway and
there were no deer)
her hand is still
on the doorhandle
Not only can I see this scenario and feel the workings of a child-adult’s mind, but I am also immediately transported through forty years of time in the blink of an eye. I am left to fill in the gaps with my own imagination; therefore, the poem, in its simplicity, gives me the bare bones of a deep sentiment that I can then manipulate to serve my own needs. No mean feat. In fact, it is an excellent example of seemingly effortless poetics that hits just the right chord. Again, I am impressed with this work.
The other poems in the book are equally evocative in a subtle, matter of fact way. He avoids grand allusion and relies on his memories, imagination, and internal struggles to draw the reader into his family, his infidelities, his ignoble defeats, and a few hardened triumphs. All in all, more than a solid book of poems, it is a palpable book whose tactile words and sentiments are as real as the rough card cover and deeply stamped intentions, a trademark of all beautifully crafted Blackheath books.
I’ll read this book again, and then again, at times when I need some grounding, some perspective on my own dilemmas, and an escape into the mind of another in those times when my own has become just a little bit too cluttered.
Opinion: Great Read
-review by GJ