Review: First Cut #8 – McConville

Book: Lyrics From The Chamber
Author:
 Mark McConville
Publisher: Close To The Bone (August 2021)
Book #8 in the First Cut series

Buy here: ebook paperback

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Lyrics From The Chamber is one of the best poetry collections I’ve read this year – I loved everything about it. McConville is an extraordinarily talented poet and this collection is a work of art.

There is no light or whimsy to be found in this collection – the poems in Lyrics From The Chamber are brooding, deep, dark in every possible sense (in their subject matter, language, tone, presentation). This book provides a captivating introspective account of a tortured man: we witness the speaker dissect his miseries and failings (‘dredging [his] mind’), and confront his realities and unrealities with startling clarity and insight, which is cleverly juxtaposed against the haze of drink, drugs, pills and cigarettes that clouds his daily life.

There is a sense of inner conflict in these poems that makes this book utterly compelling: the speaker of these poems seems to be torn between conceding to the darkness and accepting their lot (‘Can I imagine a great life? / Full of snapshots of greatness / Flowers that bloom radiantly / No.’), and daring to believe that things could get better, to fight back and dare to change their fate (I need to follow the road / To redemption / Overthrow these obstacles. // This can be my time / If I let it.’). This brutally frank examination of a depressive, destructive mind forces the reader to consider their own reality: the lies we tell ourselves, our ways of coping (or rather -not- coping) with our demons and the chaotic world around us, our failings and pains, but also our intentions, our hopes and dreams, our desire to feel better, do better, -be- better.

I was utterly taken by the sense of haunting/being haunted that runs like a thread through these poems, both overtly (mentions of ghosts, phantoms, demons) and latently (memories of the past, regrets and heartbreaks); McConville has created such a powerful atmosphere of dread and angst in this book, it was fully imposed on me as a reader – it was as if I, too, were being stalked by the dark shadows that follow the speaker of the poems, and I felt the closeness of death beside me when I was reading this collection.

These ‘snapshots of misery’ are beautifully written, rich in tangible imagery (birds flying through smog over an industrial wasteland, a description of a bride on her wedding day) as well as jarring psychological insights (‘I’m confined to my own woes’; ‘stuck in a cycle of badly drawn dreams’; ‘I’ll probably just reach out to oblivion.’) This collection is a fascinating portrait of a man on the edge: a complex, thoughtful, angst-ridden individual on the verge of a breakdown or a breakthrough—or, most likely, both—and is a book that stayed in my mind long after I’d finished reading.

Poem that stayed with me, that I couldn’t stop thinking about for days:
I Am Such A Common Cold

Other personal favourite poems:
Cinematic Realization / For That I’m Apologetic / The Stars Are Cheap / The Walls Drip With Wine

Buy here: ebook paperback

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