Roy Christopher is one of the hardest-working writers around; he gives nothing less than -everything- to his work, the result being a vast catalogue of expertly crafted novels and impressive journalistic pieces that span several decades. Needless to say, I was really curious and excited to see how Christopher would collate a lifetime of experience (personal and professional) into a chapbook of collected poems – and I wasn’t disappointed.
From the off, the title of the collection ‘Abandoned Accounts’ and the two quotations that serve as the epigraph to Abandoned Accounts told me, ‘Yes, this is going to be GOOD!’ Admittedly, when the title told me that the poems were from 2020-2021, I fully expected the content to comprise of dispatches from the pandemic, poetry composed during and informed by a year spent in lockdown. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite when I initially flipped through the pages – this is NOT a book of pandemic poetry! This is an artfully constructed exploration of the poet’s world, dealing thematically with the biggest, most significant parts of the poet’s life. In fact, most of the poems are retrospective, looking back on reckless youth, loves lost, mistakes made, and the inner world of the US music scene; some of the poems in this volume were written in the 90s and 00s, so the reader gets to experience a vast chunk of the poet’s life in a condensed form, through tersely-written snatches of memory.
The collection is divided into clear sections (all with clever titles), each able to stand alone but working perfectly together: ‘Peripatetic’ focuses on ‘firsts’, on growing up; ‘Glimpses’ provides extraordinary access into the poet’s working life, namely the world of touring musicians; ‘Episodes in Erewhon’ is comprised of stunning observations of the natural environments that the poet finds himself in; and ‘Strays’ is a perfect miscellany of thoughtful poetic musings that rounds off the collection as a whole.
Roy Christopher is clearly comfortable with traditional forms and he bends these ‘rules’ to tell his story in the best way possible; the poems are terse and impactful in their simplicity, and Christopher has evidently mastered the art of rhyme. In some poems, the rhymes are watertight, building pace and maintaining rhythm, punching exactly where they ought to, and other poems have looser rhyme schemes, where Christopher plays freely with language and meter while still maintaining an utterly convincing voice. None of these verses are careless: every poem says exactly what it needs to, without relying on flowery language or incomprehensible metaphor or frivolous formatting or random risk-taking. Christopher is a true wordsmith, and as a reader, I was totally absorbed by his voice.
I enjoyed the range of reactions this collection evoked in me: I laughed out loud at poems such as ‘Infinite Jest’ and ‘Phil Collins’ and cried at others (The One That Got Away, to name one). I also loved the couple of images included; a throwback photograph and a drawing of a Slayer hat that perfectly complimented the accompanying poem. The cover art, by the poet, is also a great touch. All in all, Abandoned Accounts is a pleasure to read. I felt like I was in conversation with a friend, keenly hanging off every word as he shares stories from his life, laughing and crying and learning along the way.
Poem that stayed with me, that I couldn’t stop thinking about for days:
A Prayer For A New Year
Other personal favourite poems:
Kim Gordon / Loud Yet Hushed / Reckless / Honeydew Melon
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