A poetry collection review:
I have known Al Barz for several years, and seen him perform innumerable times. Live, he has a reputation for quirky, engaging, performance, an appearance is always an event. His first collection, Cacophony of Stardust, draws together established stage favourites, pieces from various anthologies, combined with several newer and unheard pieces. There are a lot of them, over 211 pages, made manageable in a series of chapters whose titles, such as “Pair of Dice Lost”, reflect the wry humour which is ever present.
There are short poems:
The only remarkable thing I can say that’s concerning the tench
It doesn’t waste time writing poems of me while it sits on a bench.
There are wistful nature poems with an edge, skilfully exploring a multiple haiku form as demonstrated by the opening “Cultivation”. What struck me was how diverse this collection is. Al often performs accompanying himself on keyboards. His sci-fi interests can create an off-beat persona and subject matter. But here the depth of the man as poet unfolds, rich, subtle and with something to say.
We are offered rhyme, blank verse, form and freestyle, so there is something for everyone. It is fascinating to see how he matches subject and format. The “Health and Crappiness” chapter, which focusses on the author’s own experiences of cancer, is raw, vivid, and compelling. Unsentimental, and with a trademark dose of black humour, Al always reaches out beyond his own experience rather than looking inwards. The breadth of material is so great that this collection is several books worth in one. The overriding emotion I experienced upon completing this collection was of pleasure and relaxation, and as Seneca said:
‘The mind should be allowed some relaxation, that it may return to its work all the better for the rest’ – Seneca
Some collections can be hard work. This is not. There is something for everyone, not least plenty of smiles. At the end, I felt I had become far better acquainted with the poet. There is no artifice or pretension, no sense that he is trying to impress, just a sense of a poet whose voice deserves to be heard. I think that Al would like that.
Al himself co-designed the cover with Mathew Cash, Cacophony of Stardust is published by Burdizo Bards
If it wasn’t for Venetian blinds,
It would be Curtains for us all