Kevin Breathnach Morphing
Firstly, the aesthetics. These pamphlets are things of beauty – the font, cover design, colour palette – even the weight of the paper is satisfying.
Published in 2020, Morphing is Breathnach’s debut pamphlet. The opening poem ‘A Letter from a Number’ is unsettling in its playful use of language, dominated by phrases like “dead bodies”, “decomposing” which echo through the poem. The second poem ‘Language to Go’ is similarly experimental, with free verse and prose poems facing one another almost in conversation. As in the first poem, the language here also draws heavily from the clinical – but in this second poem it feels more like a psychological treatment. It’s similarly unsettling and feels doused in ennui. Phrases such as “The soul is tired of its too solid shell which runs along the bottom of the window” give a sense of claustrophobia.
This sense of claustrophobia carries into the title poem ‘Morphing’ which rattles along without real punctuation, a series of prose poems divided by single words that spin onto the final word “leave”.
As a whole, it’s an exercise in experimentation – of both language and form.
Susannah Dickey genuine human values
Susannah Dickey’s genuine human values was published in 2018. A rewriting of Hero and Leander, it has a theatrical feel – not just because of the stage directions, but also due to the cinematic feel of many of the poems. Hero’s journey through grief is guided by priestesses and the harsh and mysterious A who offers advice such as “Shut up, bitch”.
Many of the poems have a lightness and comic tinge – there’s a surrealism in poems where the “priestesses are bag packing for charity in the local branch of Holland & Barrett” which makes the exploration of greek etymology all the more surprising.
As an examination of grief, it’s very moving in parts. “Love isn’t just a day trip to the seaside while your tumble dryer floods” is an example of Dickey’s skill in meshing the surreal with the wise. Poems like ‘H returns to temple the day after the funeral’ stands out in this regard
“What is anything, except the tireless creation of blocks to fill the time between you and him? Life is a bit Tetris-y, in that respect.”
Given the lightness and the modern comic brushstrokes, it’s not surprising that this journey doesn’t end with the prescribed suicide, but a date watching an FA Cup Final in 2003.