MILES SALTER – “ANIMALS”
(reviewed by Steve Rudd)
Few collections of poetry pack as hearty a punch as the second from York-based writer and musician Miles Salter. The eagerly-anticipated follow-up to 2011’s ‘The Border’, this collection focuses on all manner of subjects, each of which allows Miles the luxury of revelling in unadulterated self-expression.
Armed with a tongue-in-cheek cover shot of a couple of rodents sparring with one another, ‘Animals’ manages to be as witty as it is serious. Reading each poem in turn is a joy in every respect since Miles is such a master when it comes to utilising breathtakingly precise turns of phrase to thoroughly engage whoever might be consuming his work. Hugely quotable lines are liberally scattered throughout the book, with ‘Confession’ divulging just that: ‘A stubborn memory stays on my tongue.’
It’s no surprise at all that Miles has won numerous awards over the years in recognition of the quality of his work, his talent at distilling precisely what he feels into mercilessly succinct sentences one of the main reasons why his poetry has such a colossal impact. From the surreal comedy of ‘Giraffe’ (‘The glass yells against the floor’) to the sheer beauty of ‘The Ledge’ (with its Charles Frazier-esque nuances), ‘Animals’ is destined to delight poetry aficionados around the world.
Thankfully, Miles is just as focused on style as he is substance, the structure of ‘The Only Thing I Had Left To Sell Was My Soul’ allowing the reader to get emotionally engaged to a man who flips from being a self-appointed prince to a debt-facing pauper: ‘Things stayed placid until the letters turned red.’
While his atmospheric ‘World Without End’ thrums with post-apocalyptic malice, the fabulously structured ‘The Queue’ threatens to remind one and all of J. G. Ballard’s disquieting novel ‘The Drought’. However, there’s no poem quite as real as ‘Apology’, a short yet devastatingly sharp brush with paternal regret.
‘The Gift’, set on ‘a day so hot the rooftops wobbled’, couldn’t be more vivid. Indeed, ‘Sirens made a mess of the quiet.’ And then there’s the crafty two-line mastery of ‘Hollywood Without Animals’ which can’t help but raise a wry smile.
Perhaps the darkest poem wades forth in the form of ‘Your Country Needs You’, a brilliantly penned ode to the harsh reality of war. ‘Disrupted’, on the other hand, puts a clever spin on the London riots of 2011. ‘Futures’ subsequently reeks with truth and nothing but since ‘Every conversation deposits insight’ in the same way that every poem cadging a ride on ‘Animals’ is a touch of class in its own right.
There’s simply no other poet quite like Miles Salter. He says what he feels, magically amplifying his emotional response to various situations – some real, others imagined – to stunning effect. Whether he’s talking tough or talking tender, Miles hones in on life-enhancing poetry’s ability to silence, inspire and move to tears in one fell swoop, a natural reaction – in this case – to a canon of work that’s likely to amaze all those who tune in.
(“Animals” is published by “Valley Press” and can be purchased from www.valleypressuk.com)