It’s very, very uncommon for me to buy contemporary poetry anthologies, which may sound strange considering that I have a great love of poetry, and would aspire to be a poet myself. I think it because I enjoy reading the ‘best of’, rather than whole collections in which some works may be more excellent than others. However, I have just finished reading Andy Brown’s ‘The Fool and the Physician’ – and I must say I’m startlingly impressed.
Andy Brown came to The University of Birmingham to give a brief talk and read some of his poems. His latest collection, ‘The Fool and the Physician’, was based on the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and exploring the notion of ‘fools’. I purchased it immediately after the readings, as I was intrigued by the theme, as well as with his use of intense structures and lyricism, something I feel a lot of modern poets forgo in order to pursue freer modes of expression. I am by no means against ‘free-verse’ and in fact write in it myself frequently, but it is something spectacular to see a classical form reinterpreted.
What is particularly attractive about this collection is that it’s rather like listening to a concept album: it’s unified. It’s divided into two halves, the first about fools and clowns (‘A Clown in the Moonlight’), and the second is a collection of poems based on Hieronymus’s work (‘The Fool and the Physician’), which fits in nicely as Hieronymus itself, it appears, was concerned with topsy-turvy worlds. Each poem moves to the next poem logically, like each point in a well written prose essay flows into the next, and each one explores different avenues of foolery and follies.
Particularly memorable is the exceedingly short and chapter-eponymous work: ‘A Clown in the Moonlight’, which, for anyone remotely scared of clowns, is probably a no-go. ‘Ship of Fools’ is a wonderful imago mundi (a term actually used in one of Brown’s other poems in the collection – it’s obviously affecting me), and whilst providing humour it also punches in the gut.
So for anyone with a few bob to spare who wants to read so excellent contemporary poetry from an author evidently steeped in the classics, and who has spent a lot of time and effort researching his material, and who pushes his language and metre to its breaking point, I recommend this cornucopia of bizarre, weird, foolish and ‘…Earthly Delights’.
Feel free to comment if you’ve read the book yourself!
To read more of Joseph, you can tune in to his Twitter feed at: josephwordsmith
Or visit his website at www.taliesinbooks.com