“Party in the Diaryhouse” Chris Hemingway (Picaroon Poetry) – poetry review

party-in-the-diaryhouse-final“Party in the Diaryhouse” Chris Hemingway (Picaroon Poetry) – poetry review

“Party in the Diaryhouse” is split into four unnamed sections introduced with a couplet. The first, “There’s a party in the diaryhouse tonight./ Full of drunken words, and uninvited memories.” The poems that follow aren’t just personal recollections or an autobiographical journey because Chris Hemingway seems far too interested in other people, especially musicians, to focus solely on himself. In “Freezeframe” Manny is asked to describe three of his favourite movie scenes,

“’Interesting’ said Dr Richards,
‘All three feature characters
who have passed through,
or are about to pass through
violent thresholds.
Is that important to you?’

‘Maybe’ said Manny
‘But I see film as a series of still,
not moving, images.
It’s why I don’t like animation,
the maths scare me.’”

It’s a reflection on how we all see memories as snapshots of significant incidents rather than a continuous rolling scroll. It enables us to lift a scene out of context and become aware of what formed us and what matters to us. It’s also about control. When things move independently of us, we’re not in control of them. The language might be casual, but the ideas it expresses are thought-provoking.

The second section, “If I had my time again tonight,/ I’d still be wasting moments, as if there still were centuries,” picks up on the theme of whether we would change our lives even with the benefit of hindsight. “You Cry Out in Your Sleep” is addressed to Ian Curtis, the late lead singer/songwriter of Joy Division whose affair with a music journalist broke his marriage to Deborah, the mother of his daughter,

“Annik murmurs by your side.
You’re glad she’s here but,
even when there’s no trust left
something still feels like betrayal.

Glimpsed, speeding
as if in the rear view mirror.
Responsibilities beyond your wildest dreams
however far you stretch.”

The poem captures the dilemma Ian Curtis felt he couldn’t face: he couldn’t move forward but couldn’t go back either. His epilepsy medication contributed to his sense of stasis. The contradiction in the penultimate line is very apt: wildest dreams don’t usually encompass responsibilities.

The third section, “There was a universe alone tonight./ Free of fallen stars, and other people’s galaxies” turns its focus to musicians, notably Bowie and The Beatles, in “Looking for Echoes”

“The music came from America.
In a steamer port it lands.
Amplified in pawnshop electric.
Smoothed by variety hands.
Jesus limelight bullets.
Postcards from Paris or Spain.
Alone on the roof of the city,
a blind man sits painting the rain.

Echoes in the dockwind,
as it blows down Matthew Street.
Echoes in the reverb
rumbling round our feet.”

The fourth section, “If you hadn’t telephoned tonight/ I’d still be finding fear, in temporary families,” explores the meeting of past and potential future, a pause to take stock. In “After the Blues”

“The tokens of our journey
sit behind glass,
or as if behind glass.
The hallway littered with tambourines
and xylophones.
Now we’ve stepped on
from every blues song we sung.
We woke up one morning
not quite believing
we could be getting it right.”

“Party in the Diaryhouse” contains compassionate poems that use conversational language to communicate poignant, nuanced ideas without being didactic. It doesn’t matter if the readers aren’t familiar with the musicians, the poems still convey the character and ideas with precision and rhythm.

“Party in the Diaryhouse” is available from Picaroon Poetry