'According To The Dandelions' by Cerasus Poetry. Review:
Posted by Insertponceyfrenchnamehere on Tue, 12 Nov 2019
According to the Dandelions by John Wilks
Those of you familiar with John’s work will recognise the craft and erudition he brings to this collection of poetry centred round the theme of childhood. There is some wonderful work here. Although the poet’s journey may be very different to others’ there are some experiences common to all childhoods, however close or distant in time they now are.
The collection starts with the title piece, and the very first line hooked this reader in from the outset
The time, according to the dandelions,
is half past summer and my dinner waits -
The poems are arranged in alphabetical order by title, but there is more to it than that, I believe. Read them and make up your own mind.
Lovers of formal poetry may well have their funny bone tickled by “Bandits” which is a beautifully executed Shakespearean Sonnet… about ballgames, boys and bullies.
‘Blue Balloon’ is a wistful exploration of infant memory. The last line is as sad as anything I’ve read this year.
‘Canvey Island’ evokes the kind of summer holiday all working class families used to have, and may still again, if there are any seaside resorts left to go to. We are briefly introduced to the poet’s father and I am reminded how different parents were, only a half century ago.
‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ is as neat a conceit for a poem as I’ve read for a while.
There are moments of cynicism to leaven this collection, in particular ‘Father to the Man’ is as sour as a Brandy Daisy, but equally worth enjoying.
‘Fruit of the Tree’ takes us in a circle from birth to waiting for God and points out how different we can be from our parents, whilst not falling so far from the tree - as the old German proverb has it.
Do not miss ‘For the Boy with Seven Hearts’, if you aren’t moved by it, check whether you have even one.
John Wilks states that these poems are not necessarily autobiographical and perhaps they are not, but they are, on occasion, capable of making the personal universal, ‘No Ghosts in Grandma’s House’ and ‘What Once Was Comic’ are good examples. The collection winds up with two ‘beezers’, as people no longer say; ‘You Should Have Let Me Die’ and ‘You Will Have a Pocketful of Stardust’.
There is so much to admire here. The exploration of childhood, from infancy, through primary school, a grammar school - that seems more of a punishment than a ‘leg-up’ - to puberty and first kisses is comprehensive and does indeed seem the work of years. It is a childhood spent outdoors, playing games and singing rhymes that would be considered inappropriate, at best, nowadays. Sometimes the poems look at the past through a telescope, sometimes a microscope and, just occasionally, a kaleidoscope - and they are all the better for that.
£5 from every sale of this collection goes to the BBC Children in Need Appeal.