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The Method Men is the much anticipated first collection by Eric Gregory Award winner, David Briggs: a taut, deft and elegant book, featuring poems previously published in magazines such as Magma, Poetry Review, Iota and Poetry Wales, and in small groups of three or four in significant anthologies, including Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010).
Briggs’s work doffs its cap to a wide range of influences, from the Graveyard School to Miroslav Holub, from John Ash to Ted Hughes, from Marianne Moore to Charles Boyle; yet, retains its own distinctive sensibility – a concern with the idiosyncratic strategies we employ in attempting to navigate an ineffable and dangerous, yet quotidian, world. Pylons, the blank pages at the end of a book, an album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, bathrooms, public parks, clowns and teacups are all lit at the edges with a gunsmoke-blue glow by a transform imagination.
The Method Men explores, in a sometimes disarmingly personal way, what Larkin referred to as ‘a style our lives bring with them’ – what we are, and how that came to be.
‘The Briggsian mode herein firmly established: worldly and unworldly flights, wryly delivered; quiddity of thing and place; Middle Age and Space Age detritus excavated; ‘damsel-tupping goatswains’ and David Sylvian; method and magic; lyricism and deft use of the down-stroke. This poet delivers. Elegance and snarls. Damn, another talented b_______to contend with.’ —Matthew Caley
‘David Briggs is brilliant at pointing out the absurd contradictions of being human – our struggles with romance and reason, superstition and cynicism. These poems, alert to the history of folklore – witchcraft, scrying, entrails laid out on stone ‘like a book’ – also wittily expose our own, twenty-first century irrationality. In Briggs’s world, the ghosts of Highgate Cemetery dress: ‘in frowsy, mutton-sleeved grave clothes’ and ‘Rain is either hearsay or heresy’. The religious imagination and deadpan realism hang in constant tension. This is seriously good, intelligent poetry for those who like method in their madness.’ —Clare Pollard
‘An interest in the forms and the musicality of lyric verse is a strong feature in David Briggs’s attention-grabbing poems, as is the inscrutable relationship between landscape and the mind. Although broadly traditional in style, there are subtle influences from more experimental work, such as the poetry of John Ashbery and his near namesake John Ash. Briggs’s personal narratives are imbued with ludic conceits, often played out in quirkily historical settings. This is a striking and varied debut collection.’ —Roddy Lumsden