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

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

with Alan Parry

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Alan:

I began writing in my teens. I wanted to be a songwriter, I was a songwriter. A bloody awful one, but one all the same. Through my late teens I got into The Doors in a big way, I’ve now a bunch of themed, Doors tattoos. I really dug Dylan, The Specials, and Frank Zappa too. I liked the anger, the rebellion, the demand for justice that they displayed. My early work had a lot of that about it. It’s not very good and much of it has been lost (Phew). 


At school, I was very interested in the diasporic writers that were on the syllabus at the time, as well as Adrian Henri and John Cooper Clarke, who I met at a gig when I was fifteen. He just oozed cool. 

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Alan:

Well, I’m heavily influenced by what I’m reading, and I’ve not read lots of poetry recently, save for a pair of Andrew McMillan collections I was gifted in April. 


It would be remiss of me to ignore the poetry community I’m a part of. Poets like Dave Hanlon and Eli Horan who write explicitly about personal experience have influenced my most recently finished collection. I wanted to mine my own life and be a little more introspective and reading their work and listening to them read helped that endeavour. 

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

Alan: I grew up in Southport, just north of Liverpool. Half my family are scouse musicians. The music they play and talked about helped me learn about phrasing and I think my best work has a musicality about it, which is owing to that grounding. 


I spent some time in Cuba which did much the same. I sat in the bar that Hemingway sat in, how could I not be inspired? Also, a lot of my more recent work is inspired by holidaying with family in North Wales, even if it is something as simple as the name of a hymn, or a jellied slate path I remember that finds its way into a poem.

Ernest Hemingway in Cuba
ernesthemingwaycollection.com

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

Alan:

Well, in terms of my own work, putting out my debut collection Neon Ghosts was a massive deal. I learned a lot from the process, and I feel that it lends me authenticity as an editor to have been through that process. I’ve had other offers for more recent collections that I have turned down, because they didn’t feel right. But that first one was always going to be the hardest. 


My forthcoming collection is more personal and means more to me, due to the people I write about, the places I go, and how I handle them. I hope I will be seen to have done them justice. 


However, my most meaningful work is probably the work I do with The Broken Spine, where we are trusted with other artists work, and we give a leg up to young and emerging artists. https://thebrokenspine.co.uk/shop/

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

Alan: Yeah, a barbecue with a friend from school. We were going to write a hit sitcom together and put on a production of Macbeth after school. It never happened. He had gone to uni and started writing with somebody else, I’d gotten married and had children. I went back to education on the back of that night. I took a creative writing module, developed a monologue for the stage and started writing poetry again. That was the spur.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Alan: I love watching live stand up comedy, and live music. I could go to a gig every night and never get bored. Visiting new places is cool, swimming in the sea is freeing, but I can’t escape my love for the arts. For me that trumps nature.

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

Alan: I have a forthcoming collection of twenty something poems, but cannot really say much about that right now. It is with a small press, who have promised me creative control and that was hugely important to me. 


I cannot escape plugging what we do at The Broken Spine, it sort of defines me right now. Eating up most of my spare time, we’ve just released Stuart M Buck’s latest chapbook, Blue the Green Sky and reviews have been incredible.


I’m in the very early stages of creating a new series under The Broken Spine umbrella, with Stuart M Buck. BOLD Arts Zine will publish work that is centred on the theme of masculinity. It is inspired by my academic research and our mutual love of coming of age literature, especially The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Andrew McMillan’s work. 

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

Alan:

Well, I think the best line I ever wrote is in a poem from a collection that is about my hometown, I worked with Paul Robert Mullen, Mary Earnshaw, and David Walshe to complete that project. It’s out for submission right now, that line is… 


‘cars, abandoned by amblers& twilight photographers,collect like dead flies on a windowsill’ 


It says a great deal about my Southport. 


My favourite line of somebody else’s work, well this is a toss up between this from Stuart M Buck’s ‘Maps’…


‘… the last time i saw guy taylor was yesterdayand my teacher says i will never see him againand if i am lucky i will be let back into schoolbut by god if i ever so much as touch anyonehe will throw me out and my mum is sad andmy dad is sad and i am sad because i do notknow if guy is sad…’


And this from Bukowski’s’ The Mockingbird’.. 


‘… yesterday the cat walked calmly up the drivewaywith the mockingbird alive in its mouth,wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,feathers parted like a woman’s legs…’ 


Any artwork by Stuart Davis will excite me too! 

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Alan:

Easy I owe all my recent successes to the advice of Matthew MC Smith and Paul Robert Mullen. They have helped me to create two collections I’m very proud of. Poetry & Interview with Matthew M C Smith & Black Bough Poetry Poems by Paul Robert Mullen in Fevers of the Mind Anthologies (2019)


Jay Rafferty, Lizzie Kemball and Dave Hanlon deserve special mention for the advice they offered via our small community of poets. And of course David Walshe and Mary Earnshaw for their help improving my work in that hometown collection. Books to Read in 2021: Spectrum of Flight by David Hanlon

Other Links:

https://panoplyzine.com/snowdonia-alan-parry/

https://academyoftheheartandmind.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/poems-by-alan-parry/

https://www.dustpoetry.co.uk/post/darkness-by-alan-parry

https://ghostcitypress.com/poetry-28/2020/10/17/alannbspparry

https://thebrokenspine.co.uk/2020/06/20/neon-ghosts-by-alan-parry/

https://www.wide-eyes-publishing.com/salt-vinegar-zine/here-lies-two-poems-by-alan-parry

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