Adrian Slatcher – Playing Solitaire For Money (Salt, 2010)
This poetry collection has been out since 2010, but it has not really aged and that is part of its greatness. Salt are a fine poetry publisher and Adrian Slatcher is One of the Best Poets Working in Manchester Today.
This book exemplifies what a poetry monograph should be, a collection that extends out thematically and rythmically, allowing the reader to take the measure of the author’s overall concerns, music and metaphysic. The music of Slatcher’s poems is particularly great, but he has immersed himself in music all his life, not just poetry.
Slatcher shares with Richard Barrett, also One of the Best Poets Working in Manchester Today, a keen sense of the sweaty, disturbing, disconnected qualities of contemporary everday life. We always seem to be waking from a dream, for instance the one in which ‘I was the only white man in a stadium of Sunnis’, or ending the day by entering, out of sheer necessity, into a dreamlike state. These poems try hard not to avoid the un-PC, they present the hidden moments the psyche experiences, the ones that flash up before being driven down, only to return transformed into some other shape.
These poems really get to the qualities of everyday life as it is lived, in that other space generated between the quotidian, trams, buses, weather, work. This other space sometimes arrives unbidden, precisely through the quotidian breaking down. The day you get up and just know that from the transport jamming to the work chaos, the whole future twelve hours is a complete write-off. The title of this poem, ‘Is it just me or is everything’, contains the space of a day going down the tubes, but serves as a much bigger philosophical figure, as do most of the lines in this book.
Here is the future imperfect, to misquote Lacan, ‘my history is neither the past as what was, since it is no more’, nor ‘what has been in what I am’, but ‘what I will have been, given what I am in the process of becoming…’ That a dead fox serves as the albatross in this piece is a measure of Slatcher’s craft.
There is an open dignity to these poems that is rarely found in any kind of contemporary writing. Slatcher’s later Brexit poetry underscores this dignity. He returned to a much earlier crisis moment for the British Isles, to speak about our contemporary sovereign malaise, bypassing the emotive but in doing so giving a more powerful analysis.
Slatcher understands the private troubles that rarely become public issues, but has the sensitivity and wit to catch them and encode them honestly and subtly: All of our ‘monsters are in the lounge’, in the middle of the night, ‘playing solitaire for money’, not just his.