Poetry Wales: Poetry Books of 2019
Cracked Skull Cinema offers poems on culture and society, colonialism and its legacies, media and power. Set between these are homages and reflections on middle age, on life’s loves and losses.
‘David Briggs writes sharp, intelligent poems that will move and intrigue readers in equal measure. These poems are both philosophic and very funny, and possess deep integrity. Keenly observed and making startling leaps of imagery, they invent scenarios that work through a unique (il)logic, to leave us ‘standing at a moment / that’s going to unfurl / in a great fathomless skein through our lives’. With characteristically rich language and a great sense of style, Briggs’s new poems are precisely shaped, yet various – from stanzaic verses, to witty prose poems, and experiments with layout. They also feel significantly contemporary in their political and historical concerns, their critique of ‘dyspeptic white men’ and their situatedness. A major step forward for this very exciting young poet.’ —Andy Brown
‘Nothing remains unexamined in this skilful negotiation of personal and political shifts, real and imagined states, unease and trauma, as we discover Briggs’s panoramic view on age and on the age. All of humanity's virtues and vices are at play in what is a sharp and entertaining collection. A new immediacy in the work marks a powerful stepping-up of Briggs’s momentum, and the result is timely.’ —Rachael Boast
‘Briggs casts an eye on the pressure-points and complicities of this late capitalist era with an appropriate mix of anger, wry nostalgia and gallows humour. The private sphere is represented by meditations on irretrievable selfhoods and the injustice of time, all of which makes for a worldly, humane, unflinching collection.’ —A. B. Jackson
‘Being focussed and aware is not without pain, suffering and sacrifice for the narrator of these poems. The final poem ‘Lullaby’ concludes ‘we understood the cost of what eluded us.’ These poems are full of careful, taut observations and considerations, all within ‘the eager crosshairs of truth’s opportune rifle.’ If at times I longed for some linguistic carnage to shake things up, this is nonetheless a sure-footed, agile and wise group of poems.’ —Rupert Loydell, Stride Magazine
‘Briggs' Cracked Skull Cinema is replete with dynamic poetic forms and musicality. Rather than invoking a detached speaker or catalogue of observations, Briggs engage with his subjects, colouring them with intriguing language and reflections that move beyond the sphere of the internalised self... Cracked Skull Cinema contains multitudes. Through the tesserae of social commentary, humours quips, and artefacts of popular culture come moments of lucid beauty.’ —Sarah-Jean Zubair, Poetry London
‘Cracked Skull Cinema opens, in fact, with a near-dystopia (near in the sense, that the world it atomises is only not quite with us already) where ‘good little Puritan boys / from the suburbs who’ve snagged their trews // on the thorns of privilege ... haven’t a clue / how to unhook themselves.’ That word ‘privilege’ recurs in ‘Reader Response’, where we’re introduced to ‘those who see darkly through veils of privilege, / /who cannot see the world as it is, / /cannot cope with too much reality’. Anyone who has been trying to ‘see the world as it is’ through their own ‘veils of privilege’ (or indeed lack of it) in recent times will, of course, not find it difficult to identify specific candidates for the privileges kind that Briggs is referring to, yet the echoes of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (‘for now we see through a glass, darkly’) and Eliot’s Four Quartets (‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality’) take these lines beyond the topical and connect immediately political situations with wider-ranging concerns, both philosophical and psychological.’ —Raceme