Poetry review – BIG SEXY LUNCH: Pat Edwards enjoys fresh, boisterous and irreverent poems by Roxy Dunn
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman of a certain age, or simply because this pamphlet of twenty poems made me laugh and cry, and remember what it is to be young and on the cusp of so many things, but I loved it! The poems are of the here and now, brimful of references to topical events, phenomena and personalities, such as global warming, Trump, Boris, WhatsApp, selfies, wild swimming and so much more. The poems are passionate, compelling and ache with wanting to find answers.
The opening poem, also the title of the book, invites the reader to partake of “a big sexy lunch/The six course Italian kind/Beginning with champagne”. It evokes self-indulgence, greed, opulence, philosophical conversation, but there is a hint that these extravagances and self-seeking pleasures define our time. No wonder the next poem does what it says in the title and offers relationship advice:
Kiss him as if it’s your last as if a bomb is about to fall no one can say: you didn’t try [‘Relationship advice’]
The theme of a modern young woman searching for lasting love and meaning in her life continues in ‘August Conker’ but the poem is loaded with the irony of trying to reach perfection in all things. For someone to “feel like a spinster at twenty-eight” and to dread seeing “the shiny teens…rolling around in couples on the grass” is both hilarious and moving. ‘There’s an Urgency!’ further captures the absurdity, recalling sex whilst eating crisps, “shards spike the duvet”; that this might count as “intimacy”.
As is the case for so many young women, it seems there are prevailing thoughts of the clock ticking on being able to bear children, and on the idea “perhaps a baby could give me closure”. There is much analysis of what might be wrong with the various men she meets; the poet even considers polygamy but, in ‘July 24th’, concludes:
Don’t tell me fullness is found from a man, I’ll shoot myself or dehydrate, a more feasible option.
Maybe it is the actual living with partners, the commitment beyond a few hours of fun, that is the problem as she continues:
If love Was just lunchtimes of erudite chat we would have worked completely.
In ‘Weeds’ the poet is playful with fourteen couplets, some rhyming, in her exploration of a range of contemporary observations. She ends on a hugely positive note, favouring the often discarded, over-looked things that signal confidence and reality:
The weeds in the garden must absolutely stay they are so yellow and sure of who they are.
In ‘Glosa on Frank O’Hara’s Mayakovsky’, the poet is still searching for her true self. Even connecting with nature doesn’t hold all the answers but she knows, like O’Hara, she wants “life to feel earned/and interesting, and modern.”
The Radio Four programme ‘Desert Island Discs’ uses the device of asking guests to select music to take if they were stranded, and gets them to pick a luxury item and book. Dunn gets me roaring with laughter at her choices. Still in pursuit of the mythic ‘self’, Dunn chooses “Sexuality (Billy Bragg) Fuck more/worry less” and “A token classical” just to impress! But the poem has a deeper point – that she can get through this – and what better way than by choosing as her book the poetry anthology “Staying Alive (Bloodaxe)”?
I love that these poems are fresh, boisterous, irreverent and so easy to read. Dunn writes for the reader as well as for herself, always with one foot in reality, never lost in references that obfuscate. I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch and would happily go back for another course, and another, and some of that “Mount Etna wine”.