The issues in Build You Again from Wood range from local concerns to the state of the nation. Neil Clarkson’s original and whimsical imagery often gives him an oblique perspective on his subject matter. However, while there may be understatement and an amused detachment, the droll humour doesn’t obscure the seriousness of his social and political instincts.
The collection ends with a sequence of poems about his autistic son. Here, Clarkson’s gentleness and humility are at their most deeply affecting.
Neil Clarkson is a long-standing member of the Albert Poets in Huddersfield, where he is based, following sojourns in London, Manchester and Leeds. He has been published in magazines including Pennine Platform, the Black Horse,
Obsessed by Pipework and has won or been a prize-winner in competitions such as the Adoption Matters North-West and Didsbury Arts Festival. He won the Colne Valley Sculpture Trail Competition in 2009, and his winning poem about the industrial area of Milnsbridge in Huddersfield was imprinted into stainless steel and set into stone on the site of the trail. To this day it remains unvandalised. Build You Again from Wood is his first collection.
Build You Again from Wood
Neil Clarkson’s work is rooted in Yorkshire; the music and humour of his native dialect, and the lives and struggles of its people. There is a lot of political anger here, but always tempered by humour, audacious imagery and an anarchic and effective use of rhyme and rhythm. His is a singular and powerful poetic voice that ranges from the hilarious clash of generations and ideologies, to the achingly tender closing sequence, Spectrum: delicate sketches of a parent navigating the bewildering reality of an autistic child.
Passion, compassion, deadpan Yorkshire wit and clarity of vision explore war, table tennis, rugby, refugees and matters beyond these. Neil Clarkson is scathing about the impact of austerity on ordinary people, and deeply moving in the tenderness of his descriptions of fatherhood.
A Visit to the Surgery (at the Seaside)
Doctor, what can I do? I hate my country.
Look at the rivers, are they a dismal grey
or do they run red with blood?
Look at the people – see their
full cheeks and bursting belts.
Look for the dissidents exiled abroad;
you will find that they never left.
Look how the grass sits so comfortably in its earth,
greener than any other you will find.
Look how the gentleness of the hills
brings a pleasing mildness of character.
Look how the people stay well
clear of the roofs of trains.
Look out of this window;
the outline of these islands really has no limits.
If this question continues to trouble you,
I can give you anti-depressants.
Build You Again from Wood, Neil Clarkson, £7