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SILENT MUSIC:

Dave Lordan reviews Adam Wyeth's début collection

 

 

 

 

Dave Lordan poetry in Southword 18Dave Lordan was born in Derby, England, in 1975, and grew up in Clonakilty in West Cork. In 2004 he was awarded an Arts Council bursary and in 2005 he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry. His collections are The Boy in the Ring (Cliffs of Moher, Salmon Poetry, 2007), which won the Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish writer and was shortlisted for the Irish Times poetry prize; and Invitation to a Sacrifice (Salmon Poetry, 2010). Eigse Riada theatre company produced his first play, Jo Bangles, at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum in 2010. He has lived in Holland, Greece and Italy, and now resides in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Cover Image

Silent Music

Adam Wyeth

(Salmon, 2011)

ISBN: 978-1-907056-65-9

€12 paperback

 

Buy from Salmon

 

 

 

Silent Music is an impressive début collection which showcases the author’s ability across a wide variety of short forms, ranging from the zen brevity of ‘Waiting for the Miracle at Ballinspittle Grotto’ to the playful and comedic wisdom of ‘Finding Rumi’ and ‘Silent Music’.

The collection opens, daringly enough, with a quote from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, "The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,"and the book displays the thus signalled restlessness throughout, moving with admirable dexterity and competence across space, time, theme and form.

The quote also alerts us to another central feature of the collection, Wyeth’s intelligent and lively critical engagement with literary traditions past and present. His love affair with poetry, and with certain poets, is obvious, and there is a sense of homage throughout, not only in direct paeans to living poets such as Leland Bardwell and Maurice Scully, but also in the formal and thematic references to the post war Avant-garde in the United States, and to more distant but not unrelated figures such as Rumi and Basho.

Wry humour is the distancing effect which keeps all this from slipping into mere imitation, or hero worship, or what David Wheatley has referred to online as ‘mysticism light’. It prevents us from giving in to the temptation to ask "well here is John Cage, and there is Pinter, but where is Adam Wyeth?"

As befits a collection with the word "music" in its title, the book is also distinguished by close attention to the sonic possibilities of line and verse. It is obvious that every line has been worked to maximise its internal music, and also to sync with larger harmonies and sound patterns traversing and enlivening the framing verses and poems as a whole. I recommend reading aloud to appreciate fully such lines as these:

            Looking up during each pause

I imagined him creeping beyond our garden

Wriggling under the gap in the fence

            Behind the clematis and the convolvulus

Or whatever it was? The twist of hedgerow

The turn in the lane, the height of the day.

('Pinter’s Pause', 13-18)

The terse honesty of the family related poems adds depth and seriousness to the collection. ‘Dad’ and ‘Carry the Torture’ fume with patricidal enmity, while ‘Life is Shit’ proves that a good poet, like a good alchemist, can make the dirt glitter.

To his credit, Wyeth can stretch his empathetic imagination beyond both literary and biological families and out into the continuous catastrophe of human history. ‘Chamber Music’ is a controlled meditation on the marriage of genocide and high culture in the gas camps. 'Lord of the Mountain' is told, provocatively, in the voice of a Bolivian child miner, a contemporary incarnation of Blake’s Chimney Sweep.

Occasionally Wyeth’s humour slips from wry to juvenile as in 'Famous Danish Poets' and 'Telepathy', or is too like taking a line for a walk, as in ‘Hell’ and ‘The Long Run’. This is distracting, but in the context of a début collection of such overall strength and promise, forgivable.

 

©2011 Dave Lordan

 

 

 

 

Author Links

 

Lordan page at Salmon Publishing

'Surviving the Recession', Lordan poem at the Human Genre Project

Articles by Dave Lordan in Irish Left Review

 

 

 

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