Collected Poetry

By John Edward Lawson

Reviewed by Gary McMahon

Poetry isn't usually my bag, but every so often I like to give some a whirl. The last book of poetry I really enjoyed was by Joel Lane. I adore the poems of Charles Bukowski, and have a soft spot for William Blake and Dylan Thomas. There's also that one about having such small hands, like the rain...

So my poetic tastes run dark. Which is lucky, really, because the poems in John Edward Lawson's The Troublesome Amputee are about as dark as it gets.

Separated into three distinct sections, the book contains work with titles like Bledful, Three Spider Sisters, Hairy Trigger, Fuck Staying Hungry, Dead Cat Returns and Grandfather's Deathmask. No hearts and flowers here, then; a thankful absence of lurid pseudo-Goth moping. No wandering lonely as a cloud.

A lot of the content reflects damaged people and situations. Thankfully there are no trite attempts at rhyming couplets. This is raw-boned, hardedges verse, poetry that tries to scar you with its imagery.

Consider this:

Bullets hung in midair, the pollen of hate

Seeding our streets, while your field lay blighted

(Where the Heart isn't)

Or this:

When you get hungry enough to devour

Your first born like it was

The last of a 41-course hunger strike

(Fuck Staying Hungry)

Searing stuff; and beyond the initially intense images the poet is trying to do something more than merely shock, which is something a lot of writers of this kind of thing miss.

So, poetry might not be my bag, but these poems moved me, scared me, and impressed me. If you're in the mood for something different, why don't you give the work of John Edward Lawson a go? You will not come away from it unscathed.

The Troublesome Amputee by John Edward Lawson. Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press, 108pp, hardcover ($18.95/£9.99), trade paperback ($8.95/£4.76). Available from various online outlets, including Amazon UK (refer to publisher's website for a full list of retailers).

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