At Quarterday we love all kinds of poetry, but low modernist free verse is perhaps an odd choice to review for our Samhain issue. Seahouses, however, is a fitting choice, the first collection of poetry from British cultural historian Richard Barnett. Beautifully presented, it's a volume which really needs to be experienced in paper-and-ink rather than via electronic media. There are only nineteen poems, but each is possibly a novel in its own right in terms of its depth and reach. Reading them, one has the feeling — from the first page — of standing on the grey, wild shores of Britain, searching a horizon where the sky darkens. This collection carries a sense of darkness, of rolling seas and liminal spaces between the tide and the high-water mark.
These poems disturb. They're haunted by the shades of sick bees and slain sons, by ruined landscapes and dark rivers. Found poetry from a linguistics text by Noam Chomsky makes an appearance in a poem of devastating brilliance. Every phrase has been chosen here with deliberate care to provide feral, heartbreaking clarity to the human condition. Barnett's restrained lines, where every word is packed with layered meaning, explore shifting sands of our culture, where old worlds standing at the cusp of dystopia. Tomorrow we will keep bees for the wrong reasons...tomorrow there will be no more words said in private. Unnerving, disturbing and utterly brilliant.