all island no sea – a review

There are moments of mirth, humour and mindfulness in ‘All Island No Sea’, the third book of poems from Chris Campbell.

With musings about family life, shifts in time and of identity, Chris’ poems are considered and precise, with attention paid to sound, rhythm and form throughout.

The poet’s occasional use of rhyme to accentuate is effective, as shown in ‘Umbrella Sunshine’ with the strong opening couplet: ‘Thump your wet, soiled fist, clenched with rain / through this thin windowpane’, then rounded off with a perfect, bittersweet couplet: ‘Gold fades like the garden honeysuckle. It drops, / taking all that’s light with it.’

Indeed, tender moments of quiet observation are the subject of much of this work, often focusing upon the contrasts of life as boundaries shift, as shown in ‘Picking Olives’:

‘I watch an elderly neighbour wilt, through our kitchen / window’s frosted glass’, the poem ends: ‘I’m viewing our lives from under our spot-/light; planting olive pits and watching you grow – / our little one kicking; changing life as we know.’ Again, the concluding rhyme serves to punctuate this poem beautifully.

The tone throughout All Island No Sea is one of tenderness and poignancy, and often this is created through the simplest of descriptions, as in ‘Yolk’:

‘6:30pm / and the sun sinks / below the dull / glass, the dirty brass / of the clock; it drips / now, like split yolk / all over the bed-/side table.’

Set out to trickle down the page, the form encourages a staccato reading reminiscent of the ticking clock to which the poet refers. Combined with this bright orange egg-yolk image, this is a wonderful, small, sweet moment captured on the page.

There’s a healthy dose of amusement in the form of resentment also depicted in this collection, which adds a dimension of reality to this book. My favourite poem of the collection ‘Dear Alan, Alan, Alan’ warmed me, with  darkly comic complaints about a neighbour (and his ‘bastard’ dog) which is delightfully entertaining and provides a real balance to this accessible, enjoyable and contemplative collection.

‘All Island No Sea’ is published by Alien Buddha Press, 2022.

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