Review: HONEY DEW by Darren J Beaney (from Hedgehog Poetry Press, December 2020)

Can love ever be perfect? Can poetry about love be perfect? Can two people living together for a long time be perfect?

In my humble view, those are time-wasting questions because answers to them are virtually impossible.

It would be more useful I suggest to dip into the approach adopted by Darren J Beaney in his debut pamphlet for Hedgehog Poetry Press, HONEY DEW; in a series of twenty one poems he sets out, in a sometimes self-deprecating way, to find ways (some of them very original) to encapsulate in words the various stages of a continuing love relationship without which he feels his life had been, and would be, pointless. That realisation is hinted at elsewhere but disclosed in plain sight in the eighth poem in the book, 32 to the power of 22.

This debut is infused with sincerity as much as it is with originality and vivid Punk-style colour. It is also very relatable.

The opening poem, though it carries the title LET YOUR HEART DANCE, moves with a deliberate lack of steady rhythm, chucks in an occasional internal rhyme – but don’t expect that to happen in a predictable fashion – and employing these devices captures the awkwardness of unexpected love-at-first-sight during a first dance. The designed chaos only reaches an end in the poem’s sublime conclusion:-

As we gasped/ without resting and kissed without breathing and fell without landing.

This is followed by the title poem HONEY DEW, a short but vivid expression of the sweetness of new love :-

A smile/ … that tempted with low hanging kisses/ ripe and ecstatic

The reason for the poem’s brevity appears to be summed up in the final two words – ‘tongue tied’.

The theme of combined shyness and disbelief at the suddenness of what is happening reappears in the reference to his belly hosting ‘a soulful band of butterflies‘ in the third poem, PLAYING BANJO ON BRIGHTON BEACH.

By poem five, LETS START SOMETHING WE WON’T WANT TO FINISH, there’s an admirable statement of ambition reflected in text which combines unconventional with conventional, even old-fashioned, and a little tongue-in-cheek without destroying the sincerity of its intention. For example, Beaney writes: –

Let’s learn to dance – foxtrot, tango/… I’ll …collect/ your falling blushes. When I have them all we will paint/our town, leaving our mark, creating a legend/ bigger than Terry & June.

Let’s take tea at the Ritz. I’ll get dressed up/to the nines with odd socks and no shoes…../You can slurp from your saucer/while I protect you from those uptight stares.

Where Shakespeare would write ‘If music be the food of love…’, Beaney writes and concludes the poem ‘We’ll wake each morning to … an eternal love powered by the energy of three chord guitar riffs’.

In a sometimes uptight world it is good to remember that romance can be fun and rebellious, and Darren Beaney’s writing conveys that in abundance in some of his work.

He is also capable of expressing unabashed praise of continuing love in more lyrical terms while maintaining his personal style, as in YOU AND ME, US TWO:-

Our love is driven by neat engines of persistence/shuddering to the twitch of our touch, firing the luscious/laughter and locomotion of a lifespan together.

I’d happily quote every stanza of this poem in full but will confine myself to the following further few lines as a taster:-

Our relationship simple/as a new Puritan. Sustained without effort, lazy,/ as wonderful as bunches of late May daffodils.

Our passion is as exciting as Caxton’s/very first page, printed with a love song for Cupid. Each day/is Valentine’s Day stuffed into our Christmas stocking.

As I now feel I’m in danger of giving too much of the book away for free, I shall curtail my notes and end this review with a brief reference to the last poem in the pamphlet THE MISSING BIT which, amongst other things, touches on the point I made at the start of the review. (A similar point is made by Beaney in the short poem THIS IS A LOVE SONG which appears a little earlier in the pamphlet.) In THE MISSING BIT, he is again concerned that he cannot sufficiently express all elements of the love he feels in order to be convincing. He writes,

And that is the bit/that is missing

And I want our love to mean/as much as Dr King’s dream/with as much passion/as a catalogue of first kisses

because we are so much more/ than love bites and candlelight

If you are looking for an original but relatable, generally schmaltz-free, story of a love relationship in 21 poems, HONEY DEW is available in various formats from Hedgehog Poetry Press http://hedgehog press.co.uk or from Darren’s own site http://djbeaney.wordpress.com . Prices direct from Darren are: UK £7.00 (inc. postage), Overseas £11.00 (inc. postage) and e-book £3.00.

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