This Poem Here, by Rob Walton
25th March 2021
- Audio 978-1-913665-21-0
- 48pp 129x198mm £8.99
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When Rob Walton went into lockdown, he didn’t know that he would also go into mourning. Here he writes about the life and death of his dad, and how sadness seeped into various aspects of his life.
He also manages to find cheap laughs, digs at the government, celebrations of the young and old, unashamed sentimentality and suddenly disarming moments of tenderness.
I love these wry, tender poems that are often angry and political but also full of love, and the associated ache and its potential for loss. Walton is a master of musical, looping refrains as he gets closer and closer to the troubled heart of things, during this troubled year of Covid 19 and the death of a much loved father.
Deborah Alma (the Emergency Poet)
As irreverent as it is poignant, this is the ideal collection for you if you want your deepest forbodings about the state of the UK confirmed, with a side helping of big belly laughs. Rob shoots a dark arrow through the classist structure of our society, skewering ‘….the weirdos…participating in on-line poetry readings’ with their own barbecue apparatus and ‘...You can’t come in here with a third class ticket’ in a poem that impales the ubiquitous Dominic Cummings and his mates, given to ‘...pissing on the prospects of the oiks and the plebs.’
He’s at his sharpest and funniest on our politicos. In Prime Minister’s Questions he asks ‘ Do you miss the good old days of racist newspaper columns ?’ and ‘Who’s spaffing now?’ Nor does our hyper digital world escape send-up. In Who You Are he gets to the core of digi -so- called-connection – ‘I thought you were a teenager/ in love with her phone….’ but ‘…that young woman/who cried with me/ at the funeral/is who you are’. Lines that echo the rueful sadness of the title poem, where he outlines in plain, shy, regretful language the things we might have said to our own parents but probably didn’t.
This unusual collection, is, in it’s well-crafted way, a parcel of the sad, funny, unfair and beautiful aspects of ordinary life, where all the flotsam drifts to the surface, as in And In Lockdown, when his girls have gone back to their mum and eating on his own, he finds that ‘…snide Lurpack’ won’t help his spuds – or yours – pass ‘...the lump in your throat.’
This Poem Here is a book that reinforces the need we have for poetry – we need it to react, we need its immediacy, and we need its help to articulate our own feelings. Nothing could be more immediate right now than a collection of poems responding to the ongoing pandemic. Every one of us is suffering in some way from the effects of it and we are all cast into our own worlds of grief, horror, shock, health issues and hardship. Our feelings are so varied they change each minute, hour, or day.
Walton’s lines are expressed neatly and sparely, yet hold such purity and poignancy beneath them that they stop you in your tracks. His family, both living and dead, are laid to the page with such tenderness and restraint, which in the end add to the heart-pulling emotion in so many of the poems. The past and the present importance of family is truly brought to mind.
‘Returning from a mad dogs and Englishmen midday run/ spent thinking about this and that/ this being the love I have for my mum’
The poet’s own grief and horror are expressed within the everydayness of us all having to carry on as best we can. Each cup of tea, each walk we take, each thing we eat are underpinned with the fear and sadness we are all enduring.
‘I will get up in the morning/ crying fragile damaged/ And make myself two cups of tea’
These poems are firmly rooted in the North East, with references to Craster, Whitley Bay and the Tyne Tunnel, for example. This serves to reinforce how we have come to rely on our own near circumstances – how Covid has come to our own front doors. Poems like Like in the Olden Days remind us with a jolt how quickly we have lost the most familiar things – and not just us, but our own children too. The poem perfectly expresses how much we now long for the most ordinary things.
‘I just want my daughters’ friends/ to come for tea/ like in the olden days/ you know/ like in the olden days’
There are, quite rightly, well-placed digs at the Government and their mishandling (to say the least) of the crisis, as well as references to such idiocy as Donald Trump’s recommendation that we use disinfectant as our cure. Our strange, lonely world of social media and Zoom is rendered in the white space between the verses in the poem Lockdown Pint and The Class of 2020. These are feelings and situations we know and understand.
‘I saw real friends/ with pixelated laughs and smiles’
The poems in this collection allow for touches of humour in the darkness. There is tenderness, sadness, yearning and most importantly, survival.
Walton does not forget that despite all we are going through; the dread and confusion of Brexit still rises in a dark storm cloud above us. This collection does not aim to solve the unsolvable – none of us know what is to come. We just have to keep on living, loving, and doing the best we can. This is a collection that we can all identify with.
‘Are there any other countries you’d like to break?’