‘Nostalgia opera & streetside meat’
by Ford Dagenham
in the calm
before the rock
Ford Dagenham has run the poetry blog Hatchbacks on Fire since 2011, where he posts poems in both 2 and 3D, as images and as drawings. He lives at home with his wife and cats.
As part of a package deal with the excellent Back Room Poetry (who, for full disclosure purposes, are publishing a chapbook of mine in April) I have purchased all the small press’ output for the next twelve months. I thought I’d start with this as my inaugural review.
What’s in it for Me?
Dagenham is a place I know very well. In my early years my father spent several years at the Ford plant there (overseeing construction of the Fiesta, if memory serves) and so I was curious: does Mr F. Dagenham share some of my world view? The answer is a resounding yes: the smell of dirt and petrol, cigarettes and 1970’s nostalgia is very much a surreal and heady mix, combining both past and present on the page.
From the musical resonances of Opera in the Streetside Buzz to the unique and very visceral response to sub-orbital flight in Plus Ultra, I can see these poems in their natural habitats with a vivid and inescapable grittiness. The snapshots of childhood memory effortlessly juxtapose with surreal, uncomfortable glimpses of a mind that has honed itself by repetition to expose the brutal mundanity of daily life.
So much mainstream poetry prides itself on its looks, the way it feels, that to be accessible requires a style or a particular method. Dagenham is a sinister and uncompromising poet, and his world will not come to meet you halfway. I know you shouldn’t blaspheme in reviews, but this is reality in sharp fucking focus, and I AM HERE FOR IT ALL. Not everything looks and tastes as real and honest as this does between covers, and it should.
Hardcore Blinkers for the imagery
I am the Meat Form for the inference
Screen Burn Fading for the impact
Any Other Business
Reading this, I had an almost compulsive need to dig out a copy of Second Toughest in the Infants, which remains a vital soundtrack from Romford’s finest electronic music group, Underworld. This poetry did for me what the album still does: drags me back to an East End long since passed and overbuild, where grey was the only palette and everything seemed about thirty seconds away from disintegration.
This is an evocative, necessary read.
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