An Evening In With Poetry: Richard Siken

Ah, poetry! Summer has tentatively crept into the air around here, complete with strawberries, the nervous trying on of last year’s shorts, and flash floods (there’s thunder outside right now). I was meaning to write a review of The Darling Buds of May but there are only so many words to say: it’s beautiful, you’ll love it, pick it up. No seriously, it’s just lovely. Woods. Nightingales. Pop and Ma. Kent. Perfick.

So instead, because it’s been a while and because it’s a dreamy overcast poetic sort of June so far, I thought I’d go for something a bit different and have picked up Crush by Richard Siken. I read two lines of a poem by Siken that was being used as a tagline for a webpage I happened to be passing years ago, and on the strength of that and a quick google, bought the book.

Why do I like this collection of wistful small-town agonies and prayers so much? Perhaps it’s all the roads. Perhaps it’s because in the litany of panic and pain Siken seems to cycle through, there is always a road. The sense of movement, of striving towards some distant horizon, makes all of the sad, sweet moments of these poems seem part of a bigger thing. Siken leaves some hope hanging on at the edges.

There is the road, and there is the story of where the road goes, // and then more road

Siken uses everyday words and routine little scenes to draw a world of fields and bars and people dreaming of movies. It’s not a million miles from Allan Ginsberg and it’s not a million miles from the Liverpool poets, but it’s also in a place all of its own, a sad nocturnal sort of scene. With poetry every reader is on his own and I’m not in the market for themes, but I like the note of desperate communication in Siken’s poems, often addressing other people, trying to figure out what they want, what he wants, what the ending is going to be.

Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your party. // Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I came to your party // and seduced you // and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.

This is a talented poet with a beautiful mastery of mundane words, with an edge of James Dean flavoured Americana, keeping it sparkling and preventing it from being any sort of angsty kitchen sink monologue. It’s much prettier than that.

If you’re in the mood for a poem he’s one of my favourites, and he’s definitely a spirits sort of read. I’m going to go specific on the drink here, and suggest that I would pair this with Hoxton gin – gin is my favourite, and this Hoxton brand is flavoured with coconut and grapefruit and surprisingly delicious. It really works, as nice by itself as mixed with tonic. Go forth and seek you flavoured gins, that you may join me in saying ‘oh, that’s nice’ and spending £8 on a double. Because thanks for nothing, London.



Book: Crush by Richard Siken

Pair with: Hoxton Gin


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