So often a reader can be seduced by a brilliant cover but disappointed by the words within. Not so with this collection – the seduction continues with each turn of the page.
Pinnock clearly has a healthy irreverence for rules and trends and his debut collection is no exception. I soon realised that I would need to read between the lines to find the ‘Important Stuff”. For a start his titles are deceptive, almost designed to mislead the reader. The opening poem ‘Lost for Words’ is very tongue-in-cheek as here is a writer who is far from ‘lost’ for words :
He ordered online
and the words were delivered
by a man in a van
He signed for the words,
and the delivery man left,
then he shouted ‘Wait!
How do I mix it
The answer to the final question is that Pinnock produces a delicious mixture of rare ingredients – hilariously funny in many places, macabre in others, and heartbreaking on occasions. It is a fast moving collection that jumps around with alarming speed as the reader is thrown from one familiar theme to another: the daughter who runs away with the circus (‘Moving On’), a parody on the round robin Christmas letter (‘Between the Lines’), a stereotypical librarian keeping up her reputation (‘Professionalism’).
But it would be wrong of me to see this work as all spoof and cynicism because underneath the often bland and misleading titles are gems of deep and conscious connections with sorrow and pathos which jump out at the reader, as in:
‘Back to School’
Peter’s going back to school,
wondering who knows
and who doesn’t.
It was only a few days
after all – hardly a long break
in the grand theme of things,
but Peter knows that everything
has changed. No-one says
a word – he didn’t expect them to –
but he gets an easy ride in his
French test and he knows it.
He still hasn’t shed a single tear
and he’s proud of that. Didn’t
want to let his father down. And yet
one day in his rage he will try
to remember her and wonder
how he ever coped.
In taking a humorous dig at the present poetry scene Pinnock reveals how that scene invites such cynical appraisal – he nonchalantly flings in the occasional ‘forbidden words’ (‘shards’ for one), overused phrases and clichés and very questionable line breaks (pronouns, verbs and adverbs left hanging). He ends poems with their title (as in ‘Exquisite Torture’). And has lots of fun with rhyming. Yet despite all this wordsmith rebellion there are some serious messages, some very strong connection with what it’s like to be human.
I cite a few tidbits to tempt you to invest in this collection – a call to a mother after a child is cloned at school through an accident in the biology department:
We didn’t notice what was wrong
till it was far too late.
You began today with just one son,
but you finished it with eight.”
‘A Dissonant Love Song #2’ :
I loved you like a psychopath,
as lustful as the Pope,
a one-track-minded polymath
with a solid sieve of hope.
And St. Peter at the pearly gates – (‘Paradise Found Wanting’):
I beckoned to St Peter,
who was lounging
by the gates. Stubbing out
his roll-up, he sauntered over
I hope you will be tempted to discover what happens next?
And to the ‘Postscript’
…… please make use of
our twenty-four hour
Press 1 for rhyme
2 for free verse,
or 3 for random form
chosen at the councillor’s
Haiku are also
available but only
during working hours.
We all on occasions need to laugh at ourselves, As poets particularly as there is a tendency to take it all too seriously as if it is a sport and we need to win every time, and in so doing lose the very purpose of a connection with the people who really matter – the wider readership.
This collection is worthy of a place on any bookshelf – it will entertain but at the same time offer the reader much to think about and perhaps question the way in which they see themselves. That is no bad thing from time to time. Jonathan blogs at http://www.jonathanpinnock.com – well worth a read. Published by http://silhouettepress.co.uk
Valerie Morton has been published in various magazines and anthologies, and won or been placed in a number of competitions. After completing an Open University degree in 2011 she taught Creative Writing at a mental health charity. Her two collections (Mango Tree 2013 and Handprints 2015) were published by Indigo Dreams Publishing. Since 2015 she has been Poet in Residence at the Clinton Baker Pinetum in Hertfordshire. Her most recent endeavour was publishing A Poetry of Elephants in aid of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (2016).
2 thoughts on “LOVE AND LOSS AND OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF by Jonathan Pinnock – reviewed by Valerie Morton.”
Was the publisher Silhouette Press mentioned in the review? The Press isn’t known to me. Anyway, it was an excellent review, conveying the refreshing and entertaining approach of Jonathan Pinnock. Smaller, funnier pieces might seem throwaway or lightweight, but I sense there are other dimensions in Pinnock’s work, combined with a gift for clarity and a deft turn of phrase.
I enjoyed this review very much, Valerie. Thanks for introducing me to the latest book by
Jonathan Pinnock . You’ve given me a sense of his humour, and his willingness to take on the big themes – but in his own way . I like that he uses the word “stuff” in the title 🙂 His website looks very inviting with many paths and pages to explore.