There is `a mess of claw and feather and noise' says the author in `Two by Two' and this image is central to one of the main themes in `Animals' - the cruelty and callousness of all creatures with the human species the worst of all. Here we have Tennyson's `red in tooth and claw' now underpinning an impoverished, urban world.
In this collection animals are mostly used as metaphors for man. A further example in `Two by Two' is conveyed in a blend of humour and brutality when comments about Noah's eyes bulging and cats going `mental' are followed by the image `One hamster was flattened by an elephant ... Ants queued up.' A neat way of suggesting the concept of the little man squashed by the power of the big while mobsters and hangers-on watch and wait.
One of many things I admire in Miles Salter's work is his use of the unexpected and almost casual image such as `a sound track retching from the suburbs' (`The Devil invents Rock and Roll') or the detail in `Lot Remembers Sarah' when the man imagines himself clinging to the woman's `bleached body' and kissing her `frozen mouth' while his tongue accidently dislodges `a crumb of salt'.
The unexpected detail also occurs in the final couplet of `Cat' where the pet is narrator and cosily describes how it finds a bed, curls up and `makes a circle' but then `Later, with eyes full of smell, ears full of dark,/I look for a mouse that will soon be tired.' A perfect juxtaposition of the poignant and the shocking.
Poems in this book depict a grim, dark world where humans as well as dogs `are aimless now, skittering/at pavements, jaws full of yawning/ ... I know they are lost.' There is savagery, exploitation and total blindness to everything except `instinct and scent' (The Bull) but also, perhaps worse, is an undercurrent of indifference and detachment from emotion as `Drone Talking' shows so horrifyingly.
Reading this collection I have a sense of counterpoint (there are many musical motifs) - one voice that says `I believe this time things will change'(Knock) and another one that whispers in response `Oh no they won't'. There are echoes of John Lennon's `song `Imagine' and a feeling of yearning in lines such as `Imagine glass repairing itself' (Disrupted) and a possible day when `hedgerows won't harbour fading beer cans' and `Strangers will/open car doors in the rain, say `Hop in'/without causing alarm.' (Futures)
I was going to end this review with the downbeat line `The clocks ticks away without prejudice' but instead I think I'll finish by quoting the poem `Spiders' in full since it epitomises, for me, a mastery of language that is able to convey both menace and beauty, darkness and light:
At the end of the bridge, staking their claim
to a blinding bulb at the edge of Autumn,
I lost count of tiny spiders in overlapping webs,
waiting for flies to fall for the glamour of light.