Wowza! I recommend Raven's The Living, The Dead and Americans

The launch of Black History Month Ireland took place at European Union House, Dawson Street on October 2nd 2014. Its principal organiser, Zephrynus Ikeh, hails from Nigeria and he has been working assiduously to get the thing together for the last few months.

Zeph's had a successful run of BHM in the Rebel County for the last few years, but it's gone national for the first time with the launch in the capital.

I had the pleasure to meet a chap from California who's privileged us Irish for the last few years with his presence on the Emerald Isle. Raven performed some poetry at the event. He has a buke of poems out, and it's pretty frickin' marvellous.

Quick disclaimer: Loath as I am to discuss my own experience as a reader in such a review, I am not a big poetry buff. I took my first bash at a poem on here earlier this year. So "I just know what I like."

I like this stuff.

Some of Raven's work is socially-based, addressing issues like race.

There's also much to admire in the wordplay of much of the work here. Each poem is peppered with gems - even the shorter pieces have at least one fantastic image or line. There ain't a dud in the bunch, although I have my favo(u)rites so far, and this review could never do any of them justice, as each poem would require a closer reading than I have thusfar given any one of them.

Split in three, with The Living, The Dead and Americans making up the headings for each section, the eclecticism of Raven's inspirations is enticing: There are pieces that have a pastoral bent, poems featuring buffalo and cattle, poetry citing suburban or city settings, the Holocaust, and much else. Animals, insects, fruit, and the natural and rural worlds populate much of the content.

The Irish author Michael Collins - living in the States - has a collection of stories called The Meat Eaters. It features a gruesome tale involving suitcases full of Irish meat entering the United States. While much of Collins's work focuses on the American experience, Raven discusses rashers (bacon) and bangers (sausages) like an Irishman. Rich imagery and analogies occasionally focus on meat in the collection, be it of Irish or American origin. With the imagery sometimes of slaughter - or at least seemingly pejorative - there are a few beautiful vegetarian options here!

The erudition is worn light, but the scribe clearly has an awareness of the stuff what the English Lit professors go on about in college. Flourishes that could be regarded as postmodern, with paraphrasing or referencing of other poets sit alongside a wonderful use of homophones that invite ambiguity or beg questions.

One can tease out certain lines or phrases, and any number of superficially-clever puns or rhymes, for far deeper insights that could be grounded in any number of schools of thought - and that's just the stuff I notice from my edumacation which focused heavily on the Western tradition. There's far more to it than that - or less, depending on how you choose to read each piece. That's one of the best things about it. It does what the best poetry ought to do. And I'm sure I am only coming away with half of what I could from each piece. As I said, I'm a poetry thicko! But it is a fantastically rich collection. And ultra HQ stuff - no empty calories here.


You can buy the book now from Seven Towers:

http://seventowers.ie/product/the-living-the-dead-and-americans-by-raven/