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Brian Bilston

Author of Diary of a Somebody

7+ Works 288 Members 17 Reviews

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Love the style of humor and play with language. Probably a quarter of the poems require a level of familiarity with British culture that I don't quite have and so they went pretty much over my head.
 
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Jenniferforjoy | 7 other reviews | Jan 29, 2024 |
Simply lovely, clever poems that always bring a smile or sigh of recognition.
 
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Dabble58 | 7 other reviews | Nov 11, 2023 |
Ingeniously hilarious poems, 10/10 would recommend
 
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enlasnubess | 7 other reviews | Oct 2, 2023 |
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
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DO I NEED MY USUAL DISCLAIMER ABOUT NOT BEING A POETRY READER HERE?
Probably not, but I'll throw it up anyway. This is the fourth time in about 10 years of blogging on this site that I've posed about a book of poetry. There's a reason for that. I typically don't like them.

There's also a reason that I had to buy, read, and post about this one—after Facebook's algorithm inexplicably started showing me his poems for a stretch back in January, I had to read more of them. So I bought this book, and now I have to talk about it. Because I try to do that about every book I read, but primarily because I want more people to have the opportunity to have fun with him.

WHAT'S YOU TOOK THE LAST BUS HOME ABOUT?
This a lengthy collection of poems (well, maybe not—it's the lengthiest I own outside of textbooks, anyway) about love, loss, politics, and "everyday places and situations" (as he describes them in the Introduction—which I somehow skipped over until just now). Everyday situations like—someone wanting to borrow a phone charger (and being denied), beards, search engines, playing with a dog, and so on.

Bilston closes the Introduction by saying

I suppose these are not traditionally regarded as being teh stuff of poetry. But there is poetry to be found in anything if you look hard enough.

And Bilston looks that hard.

PLAYING WITH FORM
One of the best things about poetry is the ability to use form to communicate. To play with the placement of the words on a page, and how they're presented to get the meaning across—sometimes more effectively than the words used.

Bilston is a master of this.

From decreasing the type size in "Unforseen Consequences" to rotating the text in "Ode to a USB Stick" or something as simple as embracing the traditional shape of a Christmas tree in "Needles" (and then tweaking it), the visual impression of each page got you in the right frame of mind before you started reading.

See also his use of Flow Charts, Org Charts, Excel worksheets, etc.

SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT YOU TOOK THE LAST BUS HOME?
I remember in college classes about poetry there'd be a certain tone of voice used with the phrase, "light verse." It was eerily similar to the audible sneer used for the term "genre fiction." And I get that—it's the same reason that comedies are almost never nominated for an Oscar. It's not right, but I get it.

But to brush this collection off because Bilston frequently brings the funny is a mistake. This is some really clever work--when he's funny and when he's not. The fact that he's so frequently amusing (to one degree or another) means that when he drops that and goes for serious, earnest, or thoughtful—those are even more powerful (for example, "Refugees"). It shouldn't be overlooked that he frequently is thoughtful and humorous in the same poem.

I like the creativity, I adore the wordplay, and—as always—I'm a sucker for anyone who makes me laugh/chortle/giggle/smile on the majority of the pages. I audibly laughed at the ninth poem—and several after that. My favorite haiku ever is to be found in these pages (and probably most of the top ten of that list, too*)

* A list that I didn't realize I'd need/want/have until I started this book.

Did I love every poem? No. Did I skim a few? Yup. But in a collection this size, that's to be expected, right? Particularly when it comes to someone who isn't particularly a fan of poetry in the first place. The overwhelming majority of them absolutely worked.

This is a book to spend time with—open it up randomly, or read from cover to cover—whatever. Don't do it all in one sitting, obviously—although I think it'd be easy to do, I typically read at least two more poems than I intended to per session (usually more than two). But it's hard to appreciate them if you gorge yourself.

You're not just going to want to read these yourself—you're going to want to share these. I also couldn't help but read a poem to whoever happened to be in the room with me—or make someone else read one that I really appreciated (especially if you needed to see it for full impact). My daughter received several messages from me that consisted of a quick photo of a page or two almost every time I sat down to read this volume.

I can't say enough good things about this. I'll be buying more of his work soon.
… (more)
½
 
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hcnewton | 7 other reviews | Jun 13, 2023 |

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Rating
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