Brendan Constantine’s enormous talent and style are instantly recognisable in his latest poetry collection. His ability to play with words and ideas are, to me, unrivalled and his work is right at the top of my list of living poets.
I wish it were possible to give this four and three quarters stars. Some of the poems about dementia I find a little harsh – ‘Extract’, ‘Hearth Rob’ ‘InThe Ear of Our Lord’ and ‘Dementia, My Darling’ are, in my opinion, cold and arbitary, as if God is distant from our suffering or completely unmoved. In my own experience of terrible disease and involvement with Alzheimer’s, these depict something alien to me. I would have closed ‘Extract’ with ‘No, he weeps.’
This said, Constantine touches the foibles and weaknesses of the human condition with humour and comradeship. He is mocking no one, just telling it how it is or can be at any given time. ‘Don’t you ever want to crush a little/someone? If you hit me/hard enough, could we both leave/the ground?’.
I have given around forty interpretations to the book’s front cover. Any or none could be true, so it is the reader who must decide, as with the poetry, what the author intended. Once poetry is written it no longer belongs to the poet, but is a piece of art for others to enjoy.
Sometimes I think American poets have it easy as their syntax can be mixed around, as in ‘and get busy yearning’. In English English not every reader would understand that. Living in the States for years has served me well.
It’s a pity the publishers left a typo on the back cover because these poems are fantastic. I recommend you read it.