Interior Night is John Stammer's third collection. Readers of his previous work will find in this one several familiar leitmotivs: life viewed from wry angles combined with witty references to both literature and popular culture and a word-play that transposes familiar phrases into something new with Stravinskian deftness.
A new feature is perhaps hinted at in the book title. The old humour and lightness of touch is still there, but added to this is a fearless looking at life's darker corners. For example the poem titled "O" confronts drug taking in an upstairs room. "Mr Punch in Soho" reframes the puppet character in a sinister modern setting. "Existential" confronts death itself.
Most poignant of all is "Once" an elegy to Stammers' friend and mentor Michael Donaghy. A sense of personal loss permeates this poem that views the latter as a kind of spiritual descender in the manner of say of a Rimbaud. Whether this parallel is intentional or not, there are later poems in tribute to the great French poet also. Perhaps the most accomplished poem of all is "The Shrine of Proteus" a retelling of the ancient myth that displays Stammers' mastery of longer narrative.
Overall, Interior Night marks a deepening of emotional depth in Stammers' work. There are many other poems in this collection that support this. This is perhaps his most accomplished collection to date. A unique voice in contemporary British poetry who is becoming ever more essential reading.