This week’s poem is from David Foster-Morgan’s debut collection, Masculine Happiness, which was released this week!
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.
John Wayne is warm, tired and had
just the right number of drinks. Firelight
and the stars of Arizona surround his bed:
a saddle blanket rolled out in the desert night.
News headlines of a foreign war: the reporter’s
hair and blue eyes match her checked scarf;
and a voice behind me starts: who’s having her,
insulted when I won’t laugh as he starts to laugh.
On another channel Bob Mitchum’s an old sea captain:
safe on land while his son’s submarine is overdue;
drinking cognac from a dark bottle, he finishes it all,
and floats into the sleep of drunk and drowned men.
Sick the next morning, his steps slow and unsure,
like a shipwrecked sailor exploring a new shore.