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Masculine Happiness

David Foster-Morgan
ISBN-13: 
9781781722671
Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 29, 2015
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‘Refreshingly innovative’ – Planet

 

Masculine Happiness is the provocative debut poetry collection by David Foster-Morgan. Born and based in Wales, Foster-Morgan has long been a presence in the poetry world, having had poems published widely in magazines and with appearances at workshops, festivals, and events including ‘slams’ where his quiet style and obvious integrity frequently beat louder and less subtle voices to a prize. His debut collection, some years in the making, is inspired in part by his reading of American literature: the conversational tone of Frank O’Hara (‘F’OH’) and the long-lined garrulity of Allen Ginsberg, (‘Allen Ginsberg returns to Llantony Priory’) as well as the models of masculinity handed out to us by Hollywood characters like John Wayne (‘Masculine Happiness’). His ambivalence toward the idea of the ‘hero’ and his observation of the fate of those who have been lauded, like the conflicted protagonist of ‘The City Legend’, is a fruitful area for exposition.

This is also a writer who casts a cold eye on the natural world, at one point lauding a landscape and the next, mourning its depredation. In the poem ‘Meeting my Eagle’ the narrator comments: ‘Polar magnets, our feel for each other is/strongest at the point of turning away.’  The poet observes, interacts and resists the urge to rhapsodise. The author’s philosophical education informs his frequent changes of character and point of view. This erasure of ego is characteristic. We also see into the minds of people like the ‘Machine Gun Killer’, made frightening due to the author eschewing gory melodrama in favour of cool accuracy. We are poised with this professional killer, ‘behind the muzzle’s flare, breathing the pepper exhaust, transported on the recoil’s shudder.’

There is also a considerable amount of humour here, along with astute satire and insightful character poems.

Foster-Morgan’s work repays the careful attention of thoughtful readers.

 

 

REVIEWS

Review by Frank Olding, Planet

Monday, November 7, 2016

Masculine Happiness by David Foster-Morgan is refreshingly innovative. The free verse is expansive, often surreal in tone and imagery – intriguing but sometimes lacking in heart. The dangeres with such ‘free’ free verse are that it can merge into prose and that some experiments are not successful. ‘At the Guggenheim in Bilbao, a show of...’, for example, comprises thirty-three unfinished and baffling phrases, each ending in an ellipsis and two colons. ‘Entering the Warhol Chapel’ is prose arranged to look like poetry. Leaner poems like ‘Leo’ and ‘Annunciation’ are more effective:

 

night rooms brood
on the shocked corporal:

how the body’s curves
broaden,

and how flesh knots
against the stigma.

 

In his sensitive variations on the sonnet Foster-Morgan uses slant-rhyme and pararhyme to great effect. ‘Local Variety’, for instance, has a regular ABBA rhyme scheme with the middle lines all employing slant-rhyme or even touches of cynghanedd and ending in a traditionally rhyming couplet.

 

In her dreams she follows the water’s
                                                      course:
bubbling through hollow strata, past her
                                                      mother,
silent like herself, and the breathing,
the last breathing of exhausted horses.
Back home, impressed, they talk and try
to put her odd colours under the same sky.

 

These are the best poems in the collection.

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