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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Departure, 2 April 2012
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This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
I won't bore you with too much of what I think about this book. Far better judges have accurately commented on the wonderful poems in Chris Emery's third collection (see front and back cover for reviews by Ian Duhig, George Szirtes and David Morley). What this book is, is a pleasure to read, with Emery using, as Duhig says, an imaginative and often striking language. It is an excellent example of contemporary poetry being published by Salt in a beautifully printed hardback edition and quality dust jacket. Buy this book; and if you are not familiar with Salt publishing then prepare to become addicted.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20/20+ visionary of white stone days, 5 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
To my mind, the test of a good poetry collection is the number of 'like's' in it, since in the pantheon of rhetoric the unburdened metaphor, surely, stands several ranks higher than the schizoid simile whose shadow-self lurks in attendance. ('...painted like teeth' versus '...the swashes of power lines.') So I'm pleased to report that, in 'The Departure', I counted fewer than twenty 'like's', which bodes well for lovers of metaphor.

It follows, then, that this significant absence only increases the distinction of this collection, with verses characterised by an eloquence and concision of phrase and metre that Dowson or Symons might have envied. ('We wash in a caul of candlelight as stars upend this earth.') Any passionate reader of poetry will enjoy the subtle resonances (sometimes ironic) hinting at lesser and greater masters of English verse traceable in these pages. Just as Larkin knocks spots off Betjeman as our most sensitive distiller of the essence of Englishness so, here, Emery cleaves to rawest candour in restoring the spots, blemishes, stains and all. ('...carburettors, broken baths and bogs, or leaking / pigeon houses, mossy, skeletal. The bricked-up space yawns / past with its noose of hawking kids, each red estate leaching / out their dreams with piles of squat architecture, canals and dogs.' And: '... spittoon-shaped atrium in Gatley.' ) 'Leaching' cannot be improved.

Here I can only hint at the acuity of Emery's 20/20+ vision, yet I will single out one poem for special mention, which is worth the entrance fee: 'The Publisher's Desk' ...an allusive evocation of Eliot's quotidian preoccupations, with a seemingly random mundanity accorded significances from the storehouse of an over-freighted mind. For example (lines 1 and 2): A glimpse out of the office window into a 'rectilinear haze of late Victorian brick shows [the poet] a glyph of drainpipes in the January sun.' The classical mind of the exquisite wearing that rich yet modest necktie is, therefore, not disappointed at line 19 to find the 'seasonal list proofs' are declaiming their wares 'to the ceiling in Egyptian slab serif.' And does one not also, at another level, recall a 'burnished throne'?

Expect, then, from Emery an enviable clarity of diction that defines with flint-sharp asperity the metaphorical landscape that IS dystopian England today. Yet these verses still leave room for domestic tenderness (see 'Inarticulate, suited-up, tie off...' and, especially. 'On Leaving Wale Obelisk'), which speak of what the Romans called White Stone days ... days of pleasure. Each poem here is a white stone day for poetry lovers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Departure, 27 April 2012
By 
C. Edmunds (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
I first read this book a week ago on the East Coast Mainline from Darlington to London Kings Cross (`Look left, a cobbled lane and a crypt of hats'). I read it again from St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord (`above the summer marriage of grasses'), and again from Paris Montparnasse to Niort (`All the forks, the platters, the cruet set: everything is dancing.'). I waited several days, and read it again, three times on the return journey; the last time, back to front so that I ended with `Snails'. Those snails! (`Why are they all called Tony or Erasmus or King Nacre?') I love this poem. It opens the book and encapsulates all that for me is so wonderful about Chris Emery's poetry: the wit, the connections, the sheer joy in words and what they can do, the shock of unexpected juxtapositions, the extraordinary insight into the ordinary, the leap beyond the mundane into the terrifying, the ineffable logic - and Droylsden. Okay, Droylsden's not actually mentioned in the snail poem, but does appear elsewhere, more than once.

For those nervous of the dreaded D word, I should mention the somewhat more genteel Southwold is there too, so you can relax. Temporarily. Where else? Bromley, of course (my husband has this theory that you'll read/see mention of Bromley at least once a week. I've no idea why this should be, but remember Janice from Bromley in that ad on the telly not so long ago?) plus Burnley, various Manchester locations, the Wale Obelisk, Celaenae (an ancient city of Phrygia - yes I had to look it up), Cromer, Cambridge and across the pond to the States for a quick tour, then back again to the penultimate poem: a glorious concoction of observations made in a nameless motel that had me spluttering with laughter at its grossness.

George Szirtes, on the back cover blurb, says these poems `are like highly compressed short stories that we enter at high speed.' This is it exactly, and herein lies Emery's skill. When you write a novel, you're generally advised to lose the first few chapters of the early drafts so that in the finished product the reader is plunged straight into the heart of the tale without having to wade through endless waffle as the writer introduces the world they've created. Emery shortcuts this process with a vengeance. A lesser poet would ease the reader gently into the scene; would explain the settings and who these people are - particularly creepy Carl - but if Carl had been carefully introduced, the impact of the poem would be lost in the sensory dilution of too much guff. Emery's words are richly textured but never over-baked; never there just to say `Look at me! Don't I look good on the page!' These words matter: these contexts, these agonised, pained, joyous, hilarious worlds.

A brief word about the book as an artefact. I'm an artist. I like things of beauty: tactile things, things that feel good, smell good, things with colours I can almost taste. This gorgeously bound hardback volume is a thing to possess, to handle - to ogle even - regardless of the poetry inside. That it contains some of the best poetry I've read in a long time is a welcome bonus, of course.

So I arrived home from my train journey wanderings, my mind buzzing with the new sights, sounds and experiences of my trip abroad, and promptly wrote three poems. I like to think these were influenced in some way by my reading matter; that something of Emery's skill and way with words may have rubbed off. I certainly now have a determination to raise my game as a poet. I've always played with words, enjoyed words, enjoyed manipulating my readers' minds and emotions - but I could be doing so much more. I'm feeling inspired. Thank you, Chris Emery. I'm not going to wait for the next long train journey to read `The Departure' again. It's sitting beside me as I type this review, and is going to stay by my side for a long while yet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the DEPARTURE, 9 April 2012
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This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
"Moving in and out of imagined landscape, portrait and documentary, anecdote and legend Ondaatje writes for the eye and ear simultaneously," wrote Diane Wakoski of Michael Ondaatje's poems and I felt as though I had encountered a similar journey when reading the DEPARTURE by Chris Emery. The experience is rich and gainful. The language allows no immediate stasis returning the reader to the core of the work again and again. Some poems felt restrained by the juxtaposition of words, which detracted from the impact of the work. Most often the work is a triumph in making.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world, 11 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
I'm going to steal a quote by another fabulous poet, as my link into this book. George Szirtes, states on the back cover that the poems in this collection:

" are like highly compressed short stories that we enter at high speed. Once in, the place is full of vivid detail keeping our head turning."

I've taken this to mean that Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world, and once in you have very little chance to orientate yourself before being assaulted by the next image or poem; voices and fragments of lives hurtle past you leaving behind ghosts on the retina, neurons fired and blipping beyond the moment. Again taking Szirtes idea of "compressed stories" I recently wrote a post on a microfiction collection, and stated that I wasn't sure where the difference between prose poetry and microfiction lie and that "like prose poetry, microfiction appears to be loose, possibly random paragraphs and to use everyday language, although it is heightened, making every word placed - placed with a specific purpose - as if it were a puzzle & could have only been placed there, would only fit there." , this description seems to fit Chris's poetry and even though he's far to adventurous to remain in one form when he could be exploring Sonnets, Couplets, Haiku's or free verse, I think the description an apt one.

On leaving Wale Obelisk (for Jen).

Did we shuck our suits that leaf-dense noon?
Leave serious careers in lemon light,
the high clouds, early swallows, the day moon
weakened, nothing farmed, nothing tight

above the summer marriage of grasses,
and all that luscious time receding in
the corporate years' climbing excesses,
just a vacancy before the children?

We made a kind of love pledge there. It leaves you
in chromatic episodes like this
doesn't it? Not quite nostalgia but who
could have imagined ageing like this?

We had climbed up to lie on the piled hay,
the tow-coloured earth all nice and neat,
what with everything that's come our way
we're still breathing in that smashed-up wheat

On researching for this post, I read that this poet's work is characterised by a dystopian vision of the world, having read only this and Dr Mephisto, I can say there is an element of that, but if Chris paints the world as a dystopian, he paints it with a humour that cuts giant swathes through the darkness, highlighting the dissonance in modern living and with a language that makes me smile, makes me laugh, then makes me want to read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Departure - Vivid and Engaging, 1 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
I had the pleasure of hearing Chris Emery read a selection of the poems from this collection and was instantly drawn in to the stories and voices he creates. Many of these poems are narrative in style, some ironic, some playful, all engaging the reader/listener with bold and imaginative language. Emery is brilliant at humour and irony, but there is plenty of emotion and humanity here too. The departures are as varied as the poetic forms he uses, giving a tremendous breadth to the collection.

I keep changing my mind about which poem is my favourite in the collection. I love the observation, metaphor and political comment in 'Dandelions', but I am also drawn again and again to the title poem 'The Departure', about leaving yourself and assuming the life of your art.

If you are not familiar with Salt titles, let me also say a word about the book itself. The hardback is beautifully bound and printed with a quality designed dust jacket, making it a volume you want to display and to handle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plain and moving, 22 April 2012
This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
An elegant, unpretentious piece of work and a great addition to Salt's library of collections, the instalments of which have become must-haves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rich rewards for all those who venture along the pathways of this poet's brave imagination, 5 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Departure (Paperback)
Rich rewards for all those who venture along the pathways of this poet's brave imagination - a mysterious journey on which it's mandatory to leave your comfort zone reading far behind.

A review of Chris Emery's The Departure, Salt Publishing 2012

Pick up a copy of Chris Emery's latest collection The Departure and instantly you hold in your hands a hardback book with glorious full colour endpapers that's been lovingly crafted and produced to the highest level. On its cover stands a shadowy figure facing away on a pathway with a second person confronting him further ahead. This suggests that the book may revolve around a theme of movement or transition, adventure or migration, and as the contents unfold these impressions hold true.

Reflecting on his second previous collection Radio Nostalgia, in this new book it appears Emery has made a conscious decision to evolve outward from the earlier density of language and imagery, however potent it may have been. In leaving behind some of his complex energised imagism he now moves into a poetic form that blends an exciting more accessible mixture of language that can be simultaneously literal and stylistically opaque. In the poem The naming Convention the attendees who include the narrator are described as: "Our mouths are tunnels into this auditorium./Our eyes are watches from Changi airport". This is typical of Emery's ability to juxtapose and blend unusual meetings of imagery into `strange units' that work on a level that is novel and inlayed with complex meaning.

The inventive bolting together of mouths as tunnels and eyes as watches seems to echo the visual art world of Salvador Dali and his pyrotechnics in scrambling groups of familiar images into sets of surreal unknowns. Then you come across a personal poem like Lost Brother which opens with a very direct emotional lament for what may be a departed or separated loved one: "I know you could never turn aside from me,/an ear at my closed ear, the beer breath around us then". Throughout the collection there is a kind of steady metronomic swing in language from charged density and compaction to a counterpoint of vividly honed direct experience and description. His energy of thought is strung between these two powerful extremes.

Linguistically one of Emery's many inspired talents is his effortless ability to break up conventional syntax, to swap around and re-arrange ordinary phrasing into explosive word and speech combinations that come across as an unexplored territory of expression. In the workshop of his imagination he invites us in close to where his hands are dirty, where the engine oil is burning, where the smell of hot metal being cut to shape there in the assembly process of the poems. In his making and re-making of the language time and again the idea of poetry being `customised' into a slightly sheared variant suggests itself as the core of his methodology. So in this sense if we see a poem as a vehicle of thought then Emery's thought machines stand there gleaming in freeway Americana with welded on hybrid front ends, outrageous chrome wheels, wild pearlescent paintwork and jacked-up suspensions.

The way that this fine book functions on multiple levels is never more apparent than in the title poem itself. In it the narrator speaks as if with a "call-to-arms" intensity as he navigates us on a journey to that unimagined hideaway, the thrilling and terrifying uncharted district which announces itself as a creative haven where art comes into being: "It is a birthing place, not a pool of warm air shifting,/but a perpetual accident of light". On one level the "departure" can be seen as the `abandoning' any writer or artist does in order to explore the new sensation, the next reality or unseen vision. Also, like a two-way mirror, the `going away' could also be the act of escape as the reader is encouraged to be a pioneer, to shed preconceptions and empathise with the new concepts and ideas enacted in a piece of art.

Finally - and on a practical level - this departure may represent the fact that just recently Emery has stood down as poetry director at Salt as the company shifts its focus away from poetry publishing towards being a fiction house. So could this poem double as a personal departure as Emery leaves his poetry publishing behind? The departure of a positive funding support system for smaller poetry houses in this country? The departure and dwindling of a mass supportive reading base for new poetry books as they are painstakingly being released into the world? Thus the significance of Emery's achievement is made all the more poignant by the fact that without its previous Arts Council funding Salt has been forced to turn away from promoting new poetry. As the likes of Bloodaxe and Carcanet move steadily along with their continuous funding, lack of similar support now means that excellent titles like The Departure may turn out to be one of the last of these wonderful texts.

On the positive front for all of its funded years Salt powered like a dragster on full throttle bringing us an amazing stream adventurous poets and poetry. Be sure to know The Departure is not meant to be a laid back comfortable read - sometimes to get into the poems it takes time and re-reads, speed-of-thought and patience. But when you do invest the effort it rewards you many times over with layered levels of interest and meaning. Just this once put down your thousand-print-run standard offering of quick-fix fiction and buy this invigorating sensory-fuelled original book - if EVERYONE does this we may be able to persuade Mr Emery to return to the poetry drivers' seat at Salt and continue his magnificent passionate work. He may sense as we sense, the road is never quite run.

Vincent De Souza

June 2013
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Departure: intriguing, honest, memorable., 3 April 2012
By 
Mrs. V. R. Gebbie "Vanessa" (Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Departure (Hardcover)
I've got a lot of poetry books. So many do not make me feel much, competent and clever though they may be.
The Departure, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air from a poet whose work has intrigued me for a while, but who seemed to be holding me at arms' length. This collection gives me great pleasure - it makes me think, makes me wonder, makes me smile, makes me glad, even makes me feel cross, occasionally. I am rather glad to have it.
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The Departure
The Departure by Chris Emery (Hardcover - 15 Mar 2012)
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