Bookseller Information

Publication Date
Publication Status
Salt Modern Poets
Poetry by individual poets
Trim Size
198 x 129mm

Cracked Skull Cinema


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.

Praise for this Book

‘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

Reviews of this Book

‘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

Praise for Previous Work

‘Briggs turns out to be setting up a tension between the coldly analytical and the irrational, the grittily realistic and the romantic, which means you can’t help viewing the later pieces from two diametrically opposite viewpoints, too. It’s a neat trick, and all the neater for never feeling like a trick at all.’ —Matt Merritt, Magma

‘What his new book shows is that his sense of poetic vocation has sharpened to a point at which a real kind of poetry makes its way through him, being shaped and shorn with enormous skill, but possessing its own life and duende.’ —David Morley

‘There is an elegance to the construction of these poems which I can’t help but admire and there is enough humour and skewed nostalgia in the collection to keep the pages turning.’ —Steve Spence, Stride

‘Briggs’s poems are technically accomplished; he has located and mastered all sorts of styles. His poems also describe magic; they at least discern others pursuing various methods of magic … Briggs may well write poems that foresee, that become ‘occult and ineffable / frequencies of nature’ to guide us out of our modern labyrinth.’ —Edward Clarke , Bristol Review of Books

‘Though the tricks and topics of Briggs’s poems are divertingly various, their standpoints are consistent – this is the work of a grown man who has got a fair bit of his life done and dusted, and has got the knocks, scrapes and stocked bookshelves to prove it.’ —Julia Bird, Hand + Star

‘Whatever the reason, it is very new poets like Maitreyabandhu and Kim Moore, poets of light touch like Janet Sutherland, and the secular visionaries A A Marcoff, Alan Stubbs and David Briggs, whose work most distinctively exhibits the kind of scope – in theme, flexibility of image, and movement of thought – Burnside permits. Although it is too early to know whether and how their work will develop, these writers are recognisably Burnsidian in their use of the suspended grammatical phrase and ‘floating’ imagery to evoke the undetermined nature of experience.’ —Fiona Sampson

‘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.’ —Matthew Caley

‘An interest in the forms and 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 … 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

‘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 …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

‘Briggs has learned everything necessary from Edward Thomas about the potential symbolism of everyday things and, as important, has learned when to leave it behind.’ —Laurie Smith, Magma

‘In the same way a refrain draws the listener into a song, the echoes, the repetition of keywords, returning themes, characters and motifs, implicate the reader in Briggs’s lines.’ —Angelina Ayers, Sabotage Reviews

‘Briggs’s use of language is thrilling and this storming collection is a place where words and worlds are turned in on themselves and Art and Life go to battle.’ —PBS Bulletin

Rain Rider is a kind of costume-drama sword fight between the forces of Art and Life, between the metaphorical and the literal, the fantastical and the mundane with a wonderful assortment of characters, landscapes, tastes, voices, vintages and weathers.’ —Annie Freud

Rain Rider is thrillingly wide-ranging, a book of echoes and intricacies where you’re as likely to meet the Devil as the Fool in poems after glittering poem. Briggs has written a mirror maze of a book you could lose yourself in for a very long time indeed.’ —Jacob Polley

‘Briggs has an artist’s eye for detail, but it’s an artist who has managed to bring their conceptual vision to bear on their formal accomplishment. He couples this with a robust and thrillingly far-reaching lexicon, the nuance as fitting as the sound, the imagery as ingeniously multilayered as the mirror maze where we encounter the devil and Samuel Beckett, the rival and the fool. This is also an unabashedly moral collection of poems, intellectually curious and broad-minded while refreshingly instructive – it cuts a swathe through multitude of deposed grand narratives and never passes up the opportunity to dazzle, to succour or cajole.’ —Luke Kennard

‘While Briggs is certainly very good at conjuring a sense of the things which have just eluded us, he’s also switched on to the wider scenarios where personal losses become indicative of and perhaps implicated in the subtle and not-so-subtle erasure of humanity and human geography.’ —Tom Phillips, Raceme

‘This new chapbook from Maquette Press is a collection of poems bristling with ideas that challenge the reader to hang on to the unravellings, encountering clever handholds of language along the visionary way.’ —Mike Ferguson