Poetry Review – QUOTIDIAN: Peter Ualrig Kennedy waxes enthusiastic over this robust and well crafted collection by Paul Waring.
The cover (by Lorna Faye Dunsire) of Quotidian is a gem – two miniature workmen in orange gear and hard hats are levering a life-size, to them, yellow paperclip into a gap in the pavement. And it may say ‘Quotidian’ on the cover, but these poems are by no means a run of the mill collection of day-to-day versifying. These satisfying poems each have a purpose – they work, like the men on the cover, towards an end, not perhaps with a paperclip, but with ideas.
Paul Waring employs a vigorous working vocabulary to illuminate his concepts, as in the opening poem ‘Water Stories’:
rain brought down in fathomless language verbed as mizzle, sile or pelt; steeped fabric of mountainside sheep or stubborn seagull on chimney duty, wings batoned tight.
He wryly considers the ‘Man On A Train’:
I ponder his life and what’s left of mine: an hour- glass of days draining to retirement, and recall the boy whose wandering eyes saw futures far beyond small town horizons; then wonder
and following such deep reflection, he takes a high-spirited bounce away from the quotidian into ‘Of All The Things’:
imagine me, Elvis larger than life in Memphis twitching lip and hips, hound dog in shades on a Harley
Waring is certainly capable of varying the mood, just as in real life our days will dawn under a different sun each morning. In the poem ‘On Bedsits’ he employs an authentic imagery:
Three flights up threadbare arthritic stairs in damp stale air a vase-less jumble of nicotined furniture sepia-tinted peeling walls and clogged lungs of carpet.
He draws such a convincing picture of quotidian life in a bed-sit – “a one-bar electric fire / that eats fifty pence pieces” that one knows he must have lived it himself (I have lived that life as a student, although in my time it was shillings not fifty pence pieces that ran the meter). And he must have had close experience of student parties. ‘In Summer 1973’, in a series of couplets: “Then someone says Karen’s crying / in the bathroom because people are smoking and shagging / in the bedrooms.” Sounds familiar? Waring very much hits the nail here; he can also, in ‘A Long Walk’, produce some pleasing metaphors, conjured from his Liverpool days:
The Irish Sea and Mersey meet with iron fists – winter wind still slices through March days
The elegiac poem ‘Mother Tongue’ becomes evocative of boyhood, and of “somewhere we once / called home”, and falls to musing on a lost language …
a door opens, and sisters and brothers I never had unlock me lid by lid to wander from cotton-clutched sleep.
Paul Waring is a true poet who uses his words carefully and concisely. He can give us, in one short sentence, at the same moment an image of the world, and a philosophy to cling to; his very last words in the book, from the poem ‘Mouth’ are “… reminders that even on dead-still days / like this, a river always has something to say.”
Quotidian is a collection of ingenious and well crafted poems, worth anyone’s while to read, and read again.