Title: Sand ‘n Ashes
Author: Paul Tait
Publisher: Book Baby
Date of Publication: 1 June 2017
“Five o’clock in my mind
From the writer of Stray Lines, Markings in the Cave and Pirate Conductor, comes this remarkable piece of post-modern poetry. Drawing on themes of pain, death, time and unreciprocated affection, the poems are a lot beyond the ordinary mix of cosmopolitan chaos and romanticised history. Their charm lies in the balance between depicting passionate emotions within glimpses of modern reality.
The poems reflect the post-modern dilemma in trying to reconcile the excesses of developmental façade with the inner human instincts. The book opens to reveal a ‘Table of Consented’ with its oxymoronic, numeric or simply ironical titles. Brief and succinct poems are presented in three parts. There is a unique amalgamation of the sorrows of the past and the worries of the future that leads to the existence within a convoluted present. It is the emotions that lie behind this ‘present’ that is particularized by the poet. He seeks to hold onto his values and not lose faith. It is his uprightness that holds the book together.
Most of the incidents and emotions dealt within the book are very relatable. Almost all the poems present some sort of graphological deviation in a staircase or mosaic pattern. Tait uses heavy word play that not only offers dual meanings but also reflects the duplicity of the world. A few instances include “Applause Pause, Pepperoni Pepperoni-oni, Enunciate, Enunciate-ate, Kerosene Spleen”. He uses free verse without any particular rhyme scheme. The poems are more conversational and informal making them quintessentially post-modern. Hate, Faithlessness, Double facedness, Deceitfulness are few of the vices of humanity that Tait explores. Though he heavily uses wordplay to hint at several meanings simultaneously but his tone is never satirical or expletive. He candidly portrays the ills of society and his own outlook towards them seen in the line “Time lies” from Dispatch. At all times there is a sense of honesty and desire to provide a solution as reflected in “Within us/ Rests the Demon” that is probably the moral of the entire collection. Tait asserts the notion that no society can progress towards faithfulness without self correction. Tait boldly conveys the truth despite the fears of censorship lurking about in a world that faces constant policing. Contrasts are pitted and internal debates held to humanize a broken humanity. Holistically they are echoes from an aching soul best seen in Choose a colour.
Towards the middle of the book, the poems get very intense. They seem like a rant about unreciprocated love and heartbreak but nostalgia overflows in each of these. Tait takes Fragments to a whole new level where Time is personified as a woman being chased by her lover. The imagery gets denser when modern metaphors intervene such as the comparison between a racing heart and a rail road. The poems in this section are more autobiographical with notions of man’s journey in this world, path to a Christian redemption, God’s grace and man’s innate desires towards worldly things that take him away from God. All these battles are to be fought in periods of absolute loneliness during which writing is the only refuge for the poet. Snippets prevail in Fragments II. They are akin to witty raps or late 1960s heavy metal rock. Single word lines aim to reinforce the poet’s voice. Here towards the end Tait discloses his emotions without any apprehension. It has touches of personal autobiographical elements as seen in the memoir to his mother.
Short, sweet and musically modern.