A Book Review for Stuart Buck “Blue the Green Sky” review by Matthew da Silva

There are places people go to when they use their minds, places like poems that furnish them with the material they need to escape the bounds of mortality. Stuart M. Buck’s poems are either long or short in this collection, they use humour of an incisive brand to pare away the scales that lie over your eyes and once they have been removed you can perhaps see the poet laughing beside you like a statue of Bhudda you can think about buying online when the mood takes you to browse.

A Welshman, Buck gives you something to think about, something that will not only break the tedium of web surfing, but that provides open windows through which to view a world of contradictions. The role of sex, for example, is paradoxical. In ‘dear richard’ the narrator talks to a neighbour or a friend – someone he knows well enough to look after his house while he’s out of town – and tells him caustically that he’s “fucking your wife” but in ‘midnight in prague’ a different narrator imagines, as he’s walking around the eastern European city, that a woman is following him (“her scent a whisper, her taste. her taste. I burn for it.”) But then he thinks about infinity, as if the thought of the possibility of a strange woman following him around a strange city makes his imagination take flight and soar.

Humour works to temper such transcendent impulses, as happens in ‘rejection letter to the crow that just flew into my bedroom window’ which needs little to accompany it as the main gist of the poem is cemented in the title. Yet even while commiserating with a bird that came to an unpleasant end, the narrator celebrates the creature’s “innocence” and recognises “the delirium of flight” as something that he wants and, perhaps, dreams of. Is this the same thing the poet uses to anchor the unreality of sex and desire? In the longer poem his avatar muses, “i feel sad. these buildings deserve more than to be fucked, impregnated by moneymakers and endless tourist traps.” He wants more.

The problem of physicality the poem about the crow also contains is not resolved here but in other places the poet gains altitude and seems to leave the earth – or is this an illusion? In ‘tom waits and an infinite softness’ a trope the poet sometimes uses – global warming – arises at the outset but it’s immediately subsumed in the minute progress of imagination’s random ephemera that graze the consciousness of the narrator as she daydreams – it might be a bad trip she’s experiencing – but then, “suddenly i knew things i never knew before and i was in love and i had lost and i was in every moment of every life”. The dry evidence of a shared life on a lonely planet – the awareness of impending disaster – mutates without any interruption into contemplation of the divine.

This is the measure of this poet’s achievement. It’s there in the Prague meditation as well, in the way, at the end of that poem, he is tangling with things that cannot have a voice because they are too fragile even for words, things as hard to even think of, like infinity, which sits smiling beyond imagination. But still the poet tries to express what it looks, feels, and tastes like. “to feel infinity is, i believe, to place your thumbs over the eyes of a ghost. to feel the soft, giving eyeballs below. to have the power to end the sight of another, but instead to feel the flitting, papery wings of their dreams.”

At the other end of this spectrum is a hard-nosed and blank humour, almost humourlessness, as in ‘cat’ (which opens the collection): “on my way to kill myself i met / a very friendly cat” and as the narrator turns, deviating his progress along the street – the cat is probably one of those sociable felines that sits on walls in the sun waiting for passersby to stop and stroke them – he thinks about the universe. As you would if you were, for some outrageous instant, thinking of putting an end to your life. And what does the man think? He thinks, “we are all decomposing slowly / so that is of some comfort”. This is dead, stone cold but then you get the feeling that this flash of awareness has helped the narrator to get through another tortured moment. Perhaps there is a God and on this day the eternal deity just happened to take the form of a roadside moggy?

An interview with Stu Buck of Bear Creek Gazette

Reviewer bio:

Matthew da Silva was born in Brighton, Victoria, and grew up in Sydney. He has Bachelor of Arts and Master of Media Practice degrees from the University of Sydney and lived for just under a decade in Tokyo. He has two adult children and lives in Sydney.

URL: matthewdasilva.com

Blog: happyantipodean.blogspot.com.au

Twitter – Main: @mattdasilva Writing: @bookchatoz Agriculture: @winningthefield

Instagram: matthewddasilva

LinkedIn: matthewdasilva

A Book Review of Alan Parry “Neon Ghosts” A Review by Matthew da Silva

Many of the poems in this collection are very short and are designed to capture a single lived moment where memory and experience merge in the flux of consciousness. When I was reading I was trying to place the poet geographically – was he British? American? (he’s British) – and so had to search for his name online but the universality of these observations of life is what strikes the reader, the poet’s ability to reach inside you as you scan each short line, picking up the referents and passing them to the mental synapses in your brain.

If there’s a narrative set up within this fragmentary world it’s one of the night in a foreign place, such as we find in the eponymous poem (‘Neon Ghosts’) in which, it appears, a man and a woman are getting ready to go out for dinner. The man is in the living room going about his business and the woman is in the shower getting ready. The man occasionally stares vacantly at the TV, which is on, and catches brief sequences of segments aired for viewers throughout the city. A politician is caught up in a scandal. The politician is a neon ghost but what about the man and the woman? Are they, also, something like ghosts? It seems, as a reader, that they might be indeed – and then what about me who’s writing this review about a book which contains a poem with, embedded in it, like a flash of lightning, three particular, vivid neon ghosts? What’s real and what’s just a stray phenomenon like a thought?

Where is the boundary between fiction and reality? The ephemeral nature of existence is catalogued in this relatively long poem. In ‘The Scene’, which is much shorter, an almost fictional America is imagined by the poet, a place “Stuart Davis knew” with “skyscrapers in / technicolour” full of “gas pumps” and “rooftops” that is “in full swing”. As in the first poem I talk about, here Parry economically reaches into the reader’s subconscious and drags out images that “belong” to a particular place at a specific point in time. Stuart Davis, a painter inspired by jazz, is a signal referent that pulls you back to the middle of the last century, a time when America’s place in the world was still being negotiated.

Perhaps it was a more innocent time because it came before all of the struggles of the second half of that century, but because of the link to now-still-popular artforms, it was perhaps a time when the soul of the nation was nevertheless cemented in the global imagination. Or else it’s because of the struggles of the second half of the century that the achievements of an earlier age finally came to be celebrated. What’s important is that the ideas the poet places in words are also inside the reader. A brief, mediated connection is made that links minds. All of the special resonances evoked by the name “America” suddenly rise up like ghosts to inhabit the room where the reader sits, focused on the grey page.

The dark energies of humanity are also canvassed, for example in ‘God’ and ’15:30’ – poems that appear conveniently on facing pages. A theme opened in ‘Neon Gods’ takes flight in ’15:30’ where “young daughters in / green pencil skirts & / high socks / hold their knees close” while boys stand watching them on the opposite corner. The shopkeeper is like a guardian in this dynamic scene that is fresh as a bird’s wing and just as swift, being over almost before it’s begun. In ‘God’, the man who’s focalising the narrative is “watching women walk under speechless green trees” and because of where this poem sits in the collection – right opposite the one already mentioned – you’re left wondering what is given to the reader to contemplate without speech.

The underbelly of society is exposed and the position of America – almost as if the name had been tattooed on life – is a refrain the poet keeps returning to like a memory of a tune heard in a commercial that aired in a hotel room while he was waiting to go out for dinner with his girlfriend. Though he thinks about getting into the shower he knows that there’s no time for monkey business – they have a reservation – and so he contents himself with daydreaming. In his mind old jazz tunes mix with the neon ghosts that are his brothers and sisters.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Alan Parry

Poetry/Sonnet by Matthew da Silva : On my Way to New England

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Jay Rafferty

A Poem and Biographical Note on Mental Health - The Broken Spine

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Jay: I first started writing when I was 11 or so. It was horrible self insert stuff that I’d rather not acknowledge existed, inspired by Doctor Who and the Skulduggery Pleasant series. But I really started writing some semi-decent stuff around the age of 13 and was influenced by the likes of Pablo Neruda, Liz Lochhead, Carol Ann Duffy and Charles Bukowski, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Jay: I’d probably say James Joyce, as stage Irish as that sounds. I think Joyce was a big driving force behind the development of my particular conversational, colloquial style of writing. I have a quote from Ulysses tattooed on my arm because I’m that type of Enlgish Lit graduate. It’s a line from Buck Mulligan, “He thinks you’re not a gentleman.”

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Jay: I grew up in the littlest city in Ireland, a place called Armagh. My secondary school (which I’ve been told countless times Paul Muldoon is an alumni) was on top of a hill beside a Catholic cathedral. So, I had this huge physical representation of Catholic guilt looming over my adolescence. I’m still nervous standing in it today. That was a big influence on my early work, rebelling against or coming to terms with my religious upbringing. My hometown is so small and remote it felt at that time like being detached from the world. I was always desperate to be where the ‘real’ world was happening and had this idilic image of America as the ‘real’ world. I later lived in San Diego for a while but I think, far from changing my work, America made me more interested in the themes that consume a lot of Irish writers. The only poem I wrote while I lived in the states was a parody of Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘inniskeen Road: July evening.’ It was about the frat row next to San Diego State University and was published in the Alcala Review long after I’d moved back to Armagh.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Jay: In my personal life I’d say the chapbook I completed for my master’s degree is most meaningful to me. It’s called ‘Holy Things’ and I think it’s a really balanced mix of irreverent and earnest poems about faith, whether that be spiritual, philosophical or political. I’m quite fond of the first poem which is called ‘Orgasm.’ It’s exactly what you think it is. Some friends of mine who’re a couple have it framed by their bed. I’m still looking to get it published at some point. If I think of meaningful in so much as it’s done the most physical good in the world, I’d have to say my poem ‘I’m Magic Too.’ It’s a part of the Irish journal Lights on the Horizon which is a charity journal that was first published in 2020 to raise money for frontline healthcare workers in the north and south of the island. I’d encourage you to buy it, not just to read ‘I’m Magic Too’, but to support some truly selfless organizations that are helping so many vulnerable people.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Jay: The first time I felt like a proper poet was when I performed at an open mic in San Diego. I was still unpublished at this point but kept writing cause I knew it’s what I was good at. I read a poem called “Long Distance in the Age of Sexting” which I’ve since scrapped for being too convoluted. But I got applause, I got laughs (which was the aim), I got recognized on twitter afterwards by one of the other performers. It felt good man. Since then I’ve been published all over and have been in a few poetry slams, even got to the Ireland semi-finals. The tourism board for Fermanagh is still using my face to promote the annual event I believe. But that open mic in San Diego was the first moment of feeling like a proper poet.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Jay: I love video games, my favorites would be the Legend of Zelda series and resource management/base builder sims like Rimworld or Prison Architect. I really like playing pool too although I haven’t been able to in a long time. I think my last game was with my partner Allie in a bar in Belfast, before the global event which shall remain nameless happened. I love spending time with my nephew too. He’s 1 1/2 and I really don’t know how my family got along without him. His laugh I’d like nothing else in the world. It’s really good for the soul I think.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Jay: As I said before the Lights on the Horizon Journal is great to support if you can https://www.bozpublications.com/lights-on-the-horizon Besides that, I’ve recently lead a few of the Sage Talks interviews for the Sage Cigarettes Magazine. There’s some wonderful conversations on the website with a lot of interesting creators. https://www.sagecigarettes.com/blog

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Jay: Oh there’s a few! I think one of my best is from the last stanza in ‘Orgasm’; “No wonder they say that the Lord is come.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Jay: My partner Allie is my biggest support. Her opinion means the world to me and she’s been the inspiration for more than a few of the poems I’ve written. She’s the person that makes me feel the proudest of the things I create. I don’t know what kinda shit I’d be writing if it weren’t for her.