Richard Barrett's first book is a dinky little thing you could easily fit into your pocket, but contained within are some of the most interesting words to have come out of a young Manchester poet in many a year. It's a pretty adventurous ride through the urban environment from a poet who is aware of the world around him, worries about the economy, works in an office and observes the media-saturated, channel-hopping world we all live in with a mixture of wry humour and a kind of undecieved romanticism.
The book starts with "Reason For Not Writing Poetry", a bold statement considering its possible commentary on what follows; but soon we're bang-slap into the urban environment, with references to architecture, to the consequence of the current lack of coherent policy on social housing. Throughout this collection, politics keeps rearing its head, in sequences such as the rushes and The Hard Shoulder. But this is never an agit-prop anti-capitalist rant; politics is seen here as being as much a part of life as falling in love or going to work. Throughout this collection, we feel Barrett's confusion and anger about the banking crisis, about what's going on with the language around him:
Asked to resign. Meaning
confused. That's sacked.
No hastily typed letter on
the boss's desk.
No assessing the menu for
the cheapest items. Leaving
- hint of a way back -
(to be expected).
at time of mortgage application /
facts were accurate.
Are we supposed to have
that short a memory?
Not idiots. We. Are. Not idiots.
His technique of rapid jump-cuts from the personal to the political, from the external to the internal and from his own thoughts to what's overheard suits these poems well. To use a phrase from his almost-manifesto, We Dig Repetition, he's trying to keep pace with mind.
Anyone with an interest in contempory poetry should be buying this collection.