A REVIEW OF:
Human Engineering by David J Costello
(published by Thynks Publications Ltd, 2013 – www.thynkspublications.co.uk)
From the outset, it’s a powerful and provocative collection. The sparse and carefully composed first poem, ‘After the Battle’ – a poem in which every word is there for a reason – sets the standard for the rest of the collection:
us an ominous
blade of rock cuts into clouds
funnelling their fluffy guts
like an unhinged flock of sheep.”
This poem, about the Welsh Wars of 1282, builds up, through images of the bleak and threatening landscape, a sense of foreboding that ends with a chilling conclusion.
So the first poem packs a punch, but so do all of the poems in this striking collection. They are full of impact, either due to their acutely perceived imagery, their deeply felt sense of loss, their finely observed sense of place or, simply, their beauty.
A sense loss can be found in many of the poems – the loss of a person or a life, the loss of childhood, the loss of joie de vivre, or simply a fleeting moment that cannot be held onto. ‘S.A.D.’ and ‘Scarecrow’, and also ‘Endpiece’ and ‘Last Dance’, express this feeling most acutely. However, David Costello never falls into the trap of sentimentality; the poems state the facts and they state them eloquently:
into accidental worlds
with just enough gravity
for each other
sun curved you
a new orbit
while I spun on the spot…” (‘Last Dance’)
The poet is highly skilled in the use of both free verse and rhyme. The poem ‘R S Thomas’, which uses the same rhyme at the end of each line, is unforced and masterful:
“Has nothing changed?
Your aching echo still returns familiar strains.
Cynddylan bach still tractoring along his lane.
The same steed and the same knight on the same campaign.”
In this collection we discover the themes of history, archaeology and a real sense of geography. But we also find poems about nature, and, for me, these were the spine-tingling, not-to-be-forgotten poems of the collection. Here, nature is raw and untamed, but it’s also awe-inspiring. From the vivid imagery of a skein of geese:
night their arrow
spears its unseen target
piercing the enemy with its geometry.
The clockwork sun sets itself
by the westward windings of their wings.”
to the mesmerising description of the ‘Horseshoe Bat’:
“It must have been a keen blade
that eased you from night’s heart.
God’s own shrapnel
creasing the dark.”
This is a collection of poems to which I’ll be returning again and again. Thanks to Thynks Publications for making this first collection by David Costello available to the public.
Pat is a professional writer, editor and proofreader. She is also a poet.
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