Monday, January 18, 2010

TESLA'S GHOST by Darran Anderson

Let me start by saying, this was my favorite collection of 2009. Released just at the close of last year it snuck in on the tail-end of a very strong string of books to come from Blackheath Books. Following releases by Adelle Stripe, Billy Childish, Jenni Fagan, and Joe Ridgwell, Darran Anderson’s book fits nicely within a firmly embedded niche in the “underground” British poetry scene. But, unlike many of the collections just mentioned, Tesla’s Ghost had something for me which added immensely to the overall enjoyment and appreciation for the book: it has imagination. As a writer, especially of poetry, I tend to admire the gritty, the visceral, the honest verse that comes from poets who are writing with need. Feelings and ideas that need to be expressed are often the most captivating and strike deeply to an empathetic nerve within the reader. As a publisher, I like to publish books that follow this vein. But, here, with Darran’s book in front of me, my own mind is opened to a wider spectrum of modern, edgy poetics. Beyond the cathartic and brutal verse of much poetry there lies a finesse and finely-tuned imagination at work; an imagination that uses poetic fiction to create a vivid atmosphere and impart a subtle meaning. My favorite example is “The Ressurectionist” which paints a macabre portrait of what is essentially the confession of a body-snatcher or grave robber. He writes, “I deal in ressurection/ a public service/ for death’s a trade like everything else./ There are those who need a constant supply:” and he goes on to list various body parts, their worth, and ultimately reveals he is standing before a judge pleading his case. In many ways it could be a piece of flash-fiction, a dark little tale. But it is not. To me it is a poem that speaks to living, dying, the things we leave behind, and the profit that comes from life, and for some, death. Clever. Enjoyable. Ultimately, satisfying.

In addition Anderson uses his words to make shrewd social observations. In “When the Clay Grows Tall” he recounts the future excavation of our society which will find waste, indolence, and non-necessity. He writes, “Those who come after us/ when the clay grows tall/ will burnish our skulls/ and exhibit our skeletons in museums/ to scare seven shades of shit/ out of their children on school tours/ and confound creationists./ “The human race is a fabrication,” they’ll insist/ “The stuff of myths, nothing more.”/. Enough said.

I like this collection for its wit, its reflections, and the fact that there is no overly worked gimmickry or strained pretense, it’s just good writing. I would like to criticize some aspect of it, to find the hang-nail that irks me, but I can’t. Even I tire of overly effusive reviews that praise and praise and praise (although I refuse to write reviews for books in which I can’t say at least something nice) but I can’t bring myself to find fault with this collection. It’s solid and well-rounded and has its own voice. Honestly, you can’t ask for much more.

Blackheath Books, 2009

reviewed by DEO


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