Guy Russell finally has a pamphlet in print. Huzzah!
This is his first pamphlet, and deserves to be widely read, because Russell has plenty of most interesting things to say about the way we live now, and delivers his thoughts with humour and a grip on the vernacular I can only admire. His storytelling is first rate. His aperçus are both acute and hilarious.
If you think you don’t like poetry: read this.
If you think you only like dead poets: read this.
If you think poetry is only about Big Stuff: read this.
If you think poetry cannot possibly encapsulate your life experience: read this.
If you have no excuse: definitely read this.
These 21 poems are about how dangerous life is, while at the same time being often quite boring. (No, the poems aren’t boring, silly; life is.) The juxtaposition of the boring with the danger is a feature. And that is true of life I think. We live in this Nanny Society but can, with hardly any thought at all, do ourselves tremendous – possibly terminal – harm. (That bloke on the telly did it: why am I in hospital? In jail?)
The poems address how important people find that 15 minutes of fame Warhol told us we would all get and now expect: how people look outside their own lives all the time for validation and excitement. How important beauty and the other badges we wear through our lives are. Russell understands what ‘career’ means for a lot of young (and not so young) people. His take on conspiracy theories is very sharp indeed. He has a tremendously good ear for the cadences of how people talk, and a knack for getting it onto the page which I can, again, only admire. He has an almost soap opera scriptwriter’s talent for how families work or, more often, don’t work very well.
When Russell let slip to me that Dreich had published this short burst of his poetry he was typically deprecating about the poems ‘they’re a bit old,’ he said. And, indeed, I can see that most of them have their genesis in the Eighties and Nineties. However, for good or ill and whatever their longevity says about us, they are all still completely pertinent to the way we live now. And the way Russell views and writes about the world he has lived in shows it to us in new ways. Which is exactly what poetry should do.
I urge you to get a copy of this book. It will not be tremendously easy. It is such a self-effacing book that it is not for sale from Amazon or, any other online bookshops as far as I can see. You will need to strike out into the publishing hinterland, with a bedroll, a flask and some sandwiches and track it down. No. Really not. Here is a link to its ‘for sale’ page with Dreich: https://hybriddreich.co.uk/product/like-basically-guy-russell/. Treat yourself. At £5.00 it costs less than a packet of fags and will do you much more good.
I have waited 30 years for this first tranche of Russell’s work. I very much hope there is another one in the offing*. I do not have another 30 years to wait!
*Sorry – I’ve been reading a lot of Wodehouse recently.
One thought on “‘Like Basically’ by Guy Russell”
Hmm. Maybe. Possibly, But then, I have been corrupted by Wodehouse.
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