I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.
Inverted Night, by John W Sexton, SurVision Books, 38 pp, € 6.99, ISBN 978-1912963058 In David Lerner’s poem “Mein Kampf”, he writes of a “carnival of dread” and how he wants his verse to be a “savage sideshow / about to move to the main arena”. These words and the tempestuous tone of that rant (which was also a kind of manifesto) came to mind immediately when I read the first poem of John W Sexton’s splendid new volume Inverted Night. In Sexton’s “Earthright” he is telling you straight from the off that things are going to get a bit hairy, that “we have come to tear out your teeth as you sleep”. This aint no disco then, as Lerner said in that same ornery poem, quoting Talking Heads, and it seems Sexton wants to jive to a similar beat here: no time for dancing, or lovey dovey, there’s simply no time for that, we’ve got a quick collection of surrealist poetry to get through, you’re either in, and ready to have your mind blown (Lerner: “I want people to hear my poetry and / weep, scream, disappear, start bleeding”) or you can go and read something quaint about stones or ponds or the way seasons change. The term surrealist might put the average poetry reader (or any reader) off, but alarm yerselves not, Sexton wants you to open to the idea of thinking you into being. He says as much in the second line of his poem “The Snails”. With these poems he wants you to “wake for the first time”, and that is the gauntlet-throw-down of such verse ‑ they are constantly making you invest time and thought, inverting such thoughts or thought patterns as the title of the book suggests (“The street is and isn’t. I take the isn’t bus.”); while this may be challenging, and it certainly is, it can also be thoroughly, engagingly, mind-bogglingly fun (the teeth-tearing violence didn’t last all that long, we get no more mouth savagery until the ninth poem, “The Poem of the Future” and “the thick thread that binds his lips is dull with blood”.) Consider the inverting you have to do with these lines: My husband will be back soon. Although he knows nothing, It is from him that I learnt everything. I have some idea Of the snail, helpless in its enigmatic majesty. But of course, I’m long gone….
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