Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Alan Boyd's REVIEW - meet me at gethsemane - by Paul Harrison
Hey, I'm privileged.
Having heard Paul Harrison read his dark, witty and iconic poetry at slams, poetry-gigs, backyards, loungerooms and car-parks around Perth over the last few years (as well as over the phone, in txt messages and backseats of cars) - it's almost impossible not to hear his rich voice, the thick Irish cadence - as I consume this collection of his poetry.
Published by Coral Carter's gutsy - and very new - little Western Australian publishing venture: Mulla Mulla Press, meet me at gethsemane is a collection of over 30 poems, some previously appearing in various zines and online publications.
It's difficult at times to remember that this is Harrison's first book. The poems spill down the page with inherent readability. His economical, reflective phrasing, the deliberate poetic intention, the bold lack of pretension is honest. Brutal. Powerful.
These poems are complex nuggets of simple language - all presented in lower-case text, no punctuation - just clever use of white-space and enjambment to carry an image, an emotion, a reflection.
Each poem stands alone, in solid skeletal punch, yet somehow marries the next, and the next and the next one - perhaps conjoined in the bitter taste that permeates the book's 68 pages.
There is gutteral sadness here - and drinking - lots of drunken pain. There is violence, sex and truth - all told in ordinary prose. As in love one another:
...me and her
sometime in the early hours
had our usual
before any more windows or lamps
i jumped in the car
and fucked of for more
rear-ending some prick
stopped on green...
Short sharp bony bursts of well-crafted punch. Harrison shares hard tales of mental asylum inhabitants, too-many cigarettes smoked, raw emotions spat, drugs and regret and self-reflexive anger.
The way he writes is the way he speaks. This is not avant garde, process-driven, experimental wankery - Paul's well-written narrative carries each piece, allowing us to fully realise each moment shared.
This is the poetry of isolation and despair. This collection finds little hope in the human condition, and certainly no love for the malicious capitalist culture we share. Peppered throughout though, there is a wicked, dark humour and a gift for subtle description. And whilst the darkness flows within these pages, there is fragility and even a hidden beauty amongst this work.
It's ten bucks from Mulla Mulla Press:
ALLAN Anti-poet BOYD