Review by Patrick Green
Intimate, raw and straight talking poetry, covering a broad range of personal experiences with poetic finesse and honesty.
A mysterious Manchester based poet not to be missed, James D. Fent has more than poetry to offer in relation to creativity. His last collection of poetry ‘Many Renditions of Sadness’ is an ambitious collection of forty poems that claims to cover topics of ‘Love, heartbreak, lust, sex, madness, loneliness, fear, life and death’ essentially the personal in its entirety. It’s a bold move to make out that all these topics can be ticked off within the space of forty poems. Whether you feel that he achieves this or not is actually a distraction from the fact this collection is a read that has you gripped from the first line “Walking gently through solemn streets”. The poem titled ‘Walking home’ sets the scene and almost describes the very nature of the poet himself. We feel that we are about to walk with him through the rest of the book. Within this first poem life and death are summarised immediately with the line ‘The houses full of life look empty and dead’ it provides a sense of disconnection, the observations in the poem are simplistic, but the imagery is powerful and stays with you.
It sets the scene for the rest of the collection. Some poems have a touch of the surreal such as ‘Beneath a glass sky’. It sits on the page as a thought without connection to place or circumstance. This is really refreshing from a northern poet. Some poets seem consumed by place. This can create a circle of exclusion around them that makes them non-relatable to people outside of their geographical locations. “The sky shatters, the rain falls” the use of weather is perhaps a little obvious in the poem but the way we imagine the sky to be a huge expanse of glass breaking is still a vivid image “My body, showered with crystal splinters”. We hear the sound of the shattering and we want to run for cover. It needs to be said that Fent often brings it back to the self with the use of “My” and “I” in a lot of his poems. Yet we want to hear his point of view, its bolshie and comes from a real and quick thinking mind. It is an unfussy voice in an art form that is often considered pompous to those outside of regular appreciation.
Other highlights are ‘Tea and Toast’. Again at first read the poem appears simplistic on the page. It is a universally understandable poem about breakfast. The poem takes you into the inner sanctuary of the poet’s world, the place where he lives and crafts his poems. Representing the true self it is a straight lines observational poem with listening as the key sense being used. The poem works upon the theme of being alone as observer, removed from society and yet right in the middle of it. It has an element of Buddhist like mediation. It is big and small in its focus. There seems to be no concrete structure to what comes next in the sounds that are heard, but this spontaneous prose approach is something that James has mastered.
“Listening to the world pass me by” is a line that sums the poem up, it is its big statement. It has a crude moment as some of the collection contains language that is of that nature; used wisely though, not littered all over the pages purely for shock value. “Listening to the whores brawling over one condom” the poet says it how it is. The small element starts straight away “Tea and Toast / On a Sunday Morning”. This poem is an insightful look into the life and surroundings of its creator. Central to the book it prompts you to want more from the poet and to discover what else he has to offer in the way of personal and gritty description.
The title poem ‘Many Renditions of Sadness’ sits towards the exit of the book. Its setting is a familiar one by this point of reading the collection. Many of Fent’s poems originate in daily living in his local area. Here is an exert from the poem:
I stood cold outside your house
not brave enough to knock.
The hailstones picked apart my
skin, in small revelations.
They caught on the curl of my
fringe, and dropped like a
skydiver, free falling with no
Notice how each line ends before a conclusion creating the need to head to the next to discover what it is the poet wants to reveal to you. It’s conversational. We get a sense of how James feels even though he does not add himself to the description. The hailstones are not his making but the way the ‘skydiver’ free falls with no parachute: could it signpost us to the deeper way in which the writer thinks and feels about his existence.
The book concludes with a poem called ‘Manchester’ which firmly places him in a place. It may seem disappointing to some that the poet reveals this. It is a poem that holds bitterness within its words but it’s also strangely an ode to a kind of reluctant love of the place in which the poet is from. We are left deciding whether he does like Manchester or he doesn’t. But good art always leaves room for interpretation. Fent has a brief comment on an x-lover within the poem, a theme that he comes back to a few times throughout the collection. However, it doesn’t overpower the book, just enhances its honesty. This collection has that honesty all the way through.
To purchase and read the whole collection head over to:
Paperback version of Many Renditions of Sadness by James D. Fent
About the reviewer…Patrick Green-Multidisciplinary artists, musician and freelance writer from Manchester.
Patrick Green is a multidisciplinary creative worker. He has created a broadrange of work in the areas of animation, design, illustration, music, painting (with a current focus on automatism and abstract expressionism), video work and visual art. He is passionate about the positive impact that creativity can have on mental health and has facilitated a variety of creative wellbeing sessions in community and hospital settings. Patrick is currently pursuing more engagement with other writers and artists by writing reviews of poetry collections, books (fiction), performances, and independent films.
Click here to find out more about Patrick Green
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Writing blog : www.analogboywriting.wordpress.com
Mental Health and Wellbeing : www.patchworkwellbeing.wordpress.com