“Absence has a Weight of its Own” Daniel Sluman (Nine Arches Press) – poetry review

Absence has a weight of its own Daniel Sluman book cover

Daniel Sluman’s “Absence has a Weight of its Own” has a mature, questioning outlook. In “After the Wedding” the couple are

“stalled in the marriage bed;
your maiden name

a peppercorn crushed
in my mouth. A chandelier
hangs above us, the links of the chain
are tiny & numerous, & if one came loose,

if it bent under the strain,
well, I guess what I’m asking is
where do we go
from here?”

The tone is colloquial and the use of enjambment drives the poem forward making its final question natural and uncontrived. It’s a recurring question. Daniel Sluman looks forward rather than back, giving this collection a sense of forward motion, looking towards a future.

The lack of nostalgia-tinged poems based on childhood memories is refreshing in a first collection. That’s not to say there aren’t firsts in “Absence has a Weight of its Own”, eg a first realisation of being in love comes when a poem’s narrator struggles and fails to imagine taking a strange woman just met to bed as he discovers he doesn’t want to break a commitment to his lover. The past is not ignored though, “Portrait at a Café” ends

She sips her cappuccino
& floats back to the evenings
when a single line

would catch, spark,
igniting everything down
the months before we met.”

A lover is weighted by her own past and the poet acknowledges the presence of that weight. As well as relationships, Daniel Sluman explores trauma and human interactions with compassion, writing about emotion without sentimentality. The title poem details the reaction to the loss of a leg,

“Gas flooded lungs tense;
turned spluttering breath
to moth-balled lips
as they cleaved me at the hip;
the flesh was stitched taut,
a finer fabric tore.

Unlike the gold rush of cancer
it entered slowly; grew fat”

There’s a finely-judged intimacy here, underlined by a firm grasp of craft. The rhythm is conversational, welcoming readers in but the sounds show attention to detail. The clipped “t” assonances in “tense,/ turned sputtering breath/ to moth-balled lips” echo the sense of a struggle for breath. These sounds are echoed again in “stitched taut” interrupting the alliteration in “flesh…/ a finer fabric”, tightening the rhythm of the longer “f” sounds and making the reader’s breath catch and become shallow as it often does when someone is in pain. The “gold rush of cancer” sounds relaxed in comparison. I suspect these effects were a combination of instinct and deliberation but demonstrate good poetic instinct. “Absence has a Weight of its Own” doesn’t feel like a debut, but a considered, crafted collection.

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One Response to ““Absence has a Weight of its Own” Daniel Sluman (Nine Arches Press) – poetry review”

  1. “the terrible” Daniel Sluman (Nine Arches Press) – poetry review | Emma Lee's Blog Says:

    […] My review of Daniel Sluman’s first collection “Absence has a weight of its own”. […]


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