From the title of the book itself to
the titles of the individual poems, from the tones and colours of the cover to
the absence of blurbs, from the syntax to the semantics employed in the poems,
pretty much everything about John Lynch’s first full collection, These Days
(Garlic Press, 2022) feels understated.
As a consequence, especially bearing
in mind that current trends in the poetry scene seem to be heading in an
opposite direction, it might not come as any surprise that These Days
seems to have flown under the radar. In fact, there don’t seem to be any other
reviews available online at the moment. However, a closer look demonstrates
that Lynch’s poems are very much worthy of recognition.
The poems in this collection work in
tandem and build their effects when read together, their emotional impact gradually
accumulating, page after page. Any quote from them inevitably fails to do them
full justice, but the last two stanzas of ‘Vent’
give an indication of their latent power...
…One evening, in the kitchen
I found her scraping what he’d said
wasn’t cooked into the bin,
then she opened the window wider
to let out all the steam.
A tub of Peter’s vanilla ice-cream
amongst the cutlery and saucepans
on the draining board,
she stood staring out,
scooping up mouthfuls with a
Of course, on first reading, this feels
like a quintessential kitchen-sink drama! However, there’s a complexity to
these lines via the details that are layered to make the scene come alive,
while a subtle music also gathers force, especially in the final stanza, in
which the final two lines are of particular interest.
From the penultimate line onwards,
Lynch’s cadences step up a gear, the soft consonants interspersed with
explosions, the aural patterning of the vowels in ascendance. And then the
pent-up emotion comes to a climax in the shortened penultimate line before its
release in the longer
final line, a metaphorical ‘vent’ with an implicit reference to the poem’s title, thus complementing and contrasting with the more obvious physical ‘vent’ of the previous stanza. In this context, deft juxtaposition extends the poem's reach.
As is made clear by the above extract,
Lynch’s unassuming approach is actually underpinned not only by a deep
understanding of the ties between meaning and language, but also demonstrates an
unexpected capacity for deploying sophisticated technique when required to make
a poem lift off. These Days is a collection with emotional depth that’s
capable of generating its own poetic worlds. Prejudices and fashions might put
many readers off, but John Lynch is a skilled poet whose work resonates. Thoroughly