“Playing Solitaire for Money” is a collection of lyric poems, which are contemporary in form and subject. It’s roughly split into three types of poems. The first third are poems about our globalised experience – seeing us as small parts in “a colossal machine”, bit part players in the complexities of modern society. The poems take our everyday experiences and distil them into somewhat surreal, but always truthful scenarios. The middle poems in the collection are more personal – observations on modern life, or ruminations on cinema or fiction. The last few poems are more playful – stepping out into the hidden landscapes on the edge of the city, or conjuring up scenes of middle-class absurdity. Yet there is nothing mundane in these poems. A cup of coffee in a high street chain is a chance to imagine the “impossible narratives” of the “coffee girl” serving the author; getting lost in a maze becomes a question about poetry’s use of metaphor; and, in the poem from which the title line comes, a person’s internal manias become a real life “monster”, that sits on it’s own, “playing solitaire for money.” These two dozen poems are never slight, and always repay re-reading, almost metaphysical in their warping of our recognisable realities.
Have I ever wandered in the flower garden,
Absent from self-obsession,
Or, when drawn to a particular bud
Smelt its brief fragrance and lost myself?
And why, when transient beauty
Fades at speed, do I still glow
With the warm lie of that time?
Is it because I am a special case
Hotbed raised and partial to the sun?
Or would it be truer if I said:
We are all blessed with these hopes
And only weep when the memories turn
Into emblems of our casual regret.
On standing before the wind, a stem will break.
And when the past days merge into future nights
And chance uploads its lucky card—
When driven snow piles up against the solid door
And a pale flame marks our sorrow …
The long tracks in the snow we left behind
Are traceable beyond the edge of the wood.
A kiss, on lips still warm, redeems us still.
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