Title: Comfortable Knives
By: Stephen Emmerson
Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press
In this short book, Emmerson rises to the challange of writing a poetry collection entirely in sonnets. His sonnets crystallize his usually more chaotic creativity. He uses the prescribed rules to bring order to wild themes of madness, relationships and the realities of living. Yet the carefully placed line breaks also bring a stuttering voice to the poems. Thoughts are broken up part way through, giving a surreal effect that follows the logic of an almost schizophrenic brain pattern.
The poems at the beginning of the collection frequently discuss memory and false memories: “I know how memory is a/ language. It is the worst, most/ illiterate language” but by the end, Emmerson’s focus seems to have moved to the memories themselves. Many of the memories described seem to be polluted with psychosis. This makes them challanging to comprehend, for example: “Not cert/ that the phone is stinking, but the/ re-source holds debate.” It is as if the voice of the poems expects that we can easily understand his words, yet what comes out of his mouth isn’t even close to what he had meant. Emmerson practises irony by forcing this illogical voice to adhere to the rules of sonnets.
My favourite poem is on page 36 (none of the poems have titles). It includes the lines: “Sat at home with a box of/ dead skin. So dedicated, we/ eventually embrace. Trapped/ in that painting again.”