Saturday, 24 July 2010

Return to Kemptown - first collection of poetry - review

This is a charming collection by Andy Nicholson. It's self-published, but why not? I've self-published my CD, it certainly isn't something for me to be snotty about. There's a big difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing in my head, and this is a serious effort by a writer who has been working on his voice since, he says, he was ten years old. Through YTS, various jobs (I wouldn't mind hearing more about these) and a BA joint honours degree which included creative writing, he's been working his way up to this publication until the end of 2009, when it arrived, to use his simile, like a rabbit pulled out of a hat.

The layout is unorthodox for contemporary poetry preferences. Andy uses a short line, and centres everything. Everything.

I love the self-reflective, self-deprecating life snapshots, dealing with depression and disappointment. Andy is a man who claims to be on the verge of chucking everything away more than once (as in 'Ditched it'), but actually the person that comes through is incredibly determined and pig-headed, the kind of persona that battles on through despite the hardships, because the struggle is worth it for itself.

It's very romantic work, but there is alway the awareness that romance is untrustworthy, for failure is the expected outcome. Therefore resilience and humour are tools that are employed to help out when the pile of chips inevitably fall down. As in when he ends 'Love' ends with the Mancunian line 'No great loss though'. This is belied by the yearning for the beauty of physical intimacy in his work, when tender moments show themselves to be etched in his psyche as in 'July night skies'. Andy juxtaposes romantic lives with the mundane as well, as in 'Conversation on the train'. Personally I'd like to see more poems where Andy uses his raw, exposed feelings to talk about the experience of others, I love it when strong emotion is transferred onto others' stories. Perhaps he'll do more of this in the future.

It's notoriously hard to get reviews for poetry, and nigh impossible to get them for self-published work, so I think our blogs are very important in giving feedback on each other's books and CDs. I was thrilled when Helen McCookerybook talked about my CD in her wonderful blog. Hope Andy's happy too with what I've written. I'm not really comfortable doing reviews as such but writing this one felt no great hardship.

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