Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A Drifter comes to town: Tales of a Receding Hairline by K.W. Peery - Review

Acoustic guitar.  Check.  Harmonica, bottle neck and scotch on the rocks.  Check.  Tall stool centre stage, dimmed lights and a thin layer of smoke drifting before the stage – lean into the microphone “check one two”, clear the throat.  And so we begin.

K.W. Peery’s Tales of a Receding Hairline has a very unique feel to it.  This collection isn’t the classic idea of poetry, there is an atmosphere to the book similar to that you would find in a blues bar somewhere in America’s Deep South.  It is a collection written in the hand of experience, and definitely betrays his long relationship with music.  In short, if I didn’t already know through my research that Peery is a prolific lyricist and music producer, I would have guessed after the first couple of poems.  So let us set something straight.

If you are looking for classic literary devices, if you are the sort of poetry fan who is interested in form, enjambment, and recognised poetic techniques, then you will be looking in the wrong place. But let us not mistake this for bad poetry.  For a minute let us all suspend our expectations of what a poem looks like.  For a little while, forget how high-brow poetry enthusiasts tell you a poem should read.  Just get to your drinks cabinet and pour yourself a Jack on the rocks and enjoy.

Peery has smashed the tropes of the genre.  Deliberately forgoing contemporary use of punctuation to control the pace, and reverted back to the classical idea of capitalising the beginnings of lines.  You won’t be more than two pieces into the collection before you recognise the concept.  This is a set of lyrics, taken from the mouth of a musician.  This is the lessons learned on the road, the drugs, the booze, the women.  Peery gives us a drifter with a guitar telling us his life, and although at first glance you may question his form, it won’t take you long to realise that this concept is very clever.

His use of repetition and stanza length are reminiscent of a 12 bar blues loop, from his first poem ‘Alone’ to ‘Hunted’ and many more, you realise the benefit of not having the pace controlled by over use of grammar.  You can listen to these poems at your own chugging pace.  The soft idiolect used through the piece, you will only think of a husky American singer breathing his tales into a silver microphone.  There isn’t a collection like this, and it may be a long time before you read one again.

It isn’t clear exactly who this poetry collection would be for.  I can imagine it raising a few eyebrows in some literary circles, and perhaps as poetry, some people would doubt its literary value.  I think for the first time in a while, this is a collection that is accessible to everyone, and us perhaps more aimed at lovers of music, as opposed to lovers of literature.  The more I read it, the more I wonder if my parents would like it.  Neither of them poetry fans, but both of them appreciate American music.  So I have come to that conclusion.  Peery has released an album, just in literary form.

And so…

Sit back, watch the drifter pick his beaten old six string and sling it across his knee.  There is poetry about to happen.  There is music between these covers.

Or you could just by Tales of a Receding Hairline  on Amazon.

Yours tapping his feet

Adam Ward

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