With my poet’s hat on I post this review in its entirety. I AM blushing, but it’s not the (most likely undeserved) high praise. It’s the fact that this reader so clearly “gets” it. So I offer heartfelt thanks to Simon Whitworth for the following .
“The most difficult thing for me to remember is that a poem is made of words and not of the expanding heart, the overflowing soul, or the sensitive observer. A poem is made of words.” W S Graham
Last Night I Met John Adcock, is Ewan’s first collection of poetry to be published and features a number of the excellent poems he has shared on ABCtales. The poems move from the relative drudgery and small thrills of early working life, through the vast and exhilarating world of flying reconnaissance for the RAF, to a life in Spain and its customs and cultures as seen through the eyes of an outsider; along the way loves are lost/relationships explored and the past is excavated fiercely, with eyes unblinking.
Ewan’s poetry is fine tuned like the Rolls Royce engines that “smash kilo-newtons backward,” in the outstanding Flying Ops. The people and places who inhabit them are acutely observed with intelligence and wry humour.
Roger’s Bond smooth,
even wore a safari suit once,
but the next day
he had an interview
with the Chairman
-Mr Usherwood to me-
and he got no coffee
or rich-tea biscuits.“
and from Kim’s Game at Some Remove
“A spatchcocked paperback, Zane Grey
or Dennis Wheatley, racy covers
with lurid fonts, next to a Sunday Post.“
This is not poetry as catharsis, but that does not mean it is lacking in emotion or that it fails to show enough of a tender heart. Ewan possesses the enviable skill of creating poems free of sentimentality that lack nothing in depth of feeling.
In Sunset, the self-conscious admittance of feeling as Scottish as one of Scott’s romances but: “I still feel the arm-hairs rise with the pibroch, they’ll play at my father’s funeral under the drizzling, northern sky.” And from the The Man on the Other End of the Phone, “I make him laugh, God knows how, or why I laugh with him” captures perfectly the unsteady footing, and loose connections of changing relationships, under the weight of a shared history.
This is a collection of poetry written by someone both at ease with themselves and their craft, allowing a more coherent exploration and dissection of a life lived and a world turned upside down.
The final poem in the collection (my personal favourite and also the title poem), Last Night I Met John Adcock, is a more than fitting conclusion to the journey taken. The poet dreams a second chance at a last meeting with a teacher from his past, still haunted by the actual meeting from 20 years before; a man suffering and confused and unrecognisable from the one who had taught him the poetry of Catullus, and who “the Darlo girls” had nicknamed “haddock”.
“I waved, he didn’t.
I saw the people bumping into him,
imagined their muttered apologies.
And still he stood,
transported to Oz,
and mystified by being.”
In the dream, and so in the poem, he becomes again the man he once was, not the “scarecrow” standing confused and alone in a shopping centre, but the real John Adcock – the true self that must be passed on – the version of ourselves, that in the end, we all hope remains.
“Last Night I Met John Adcock” is available from Cerasus Poetry now