Book - Whiskey Words and a Shovel II

Susan Omand picks a book just because of the title and gets emotional over Whiskey Words and a Shovel II by r.h. Sin...

I will admit it was the title of this book by RH Sin that attracted me when I was doing one of my “random picks.” Whiskey Words and a Shovel II. That conjures up so many possibilities, most of which involve drunken arguments, an error in judgement and a body wrapped in a carpet in the boot of the car...again. Or is that just me? Anyway, it got me to pick up the book, which turned out to be a collection of poetry about love, loss, resignation, resentment, pain and the endurance of spirit.

That may sound schmaltzy but believe me it isn’t. The poetry here all comes across with wonderfully negative emotions. Hearts have been broken. There’s more of a bitterness to the bittersweet memories of lost loves and even the poems that are, on the surface, positive and supporting manage somehow to come across with the same hollow clang as these “sunrise meadows” motivational posters that are meant to make you feel good but, instead, highlight the sorry state you are in with empty platitudes. He also picks up on the shallowness of popular culture and the desperation of some people to have that picture perfect life that all the glossy mags and self-help books refer to, instead trying to convince the reader that they really are worth more than needing to know “how to keep your man”. It doesn’t work of course, no amount of telling will increase a person’s self-worth until they start to believe it, and it’s this “I’ve been there, so you don’t have to” that makes the emptiness, the vicariousness, hit home even harder.

In several cases, his work reminds me of Twitterature in style, with some poems being only two lines long but still managing to punch the breath from you with the sheer depth of imagery in there. For example, the full poem “long distance”:

I’d kill the distance
to get to you 

That’s it. Two lines. Eight words. Is this a threat? A promise? A current lover who would do anything to reunite with their long distance partner or a jilted lover, bent on revenge, who would hunt their former partner down no matter where they tried to hide? There’s so much can be read into those eight words that you could fill volumes with the stories. Talking of filling volumes, I must also mention the choice of typeface. A trivial thing you may think but, in this case, very effective as the typewriter style chosen gave the book a real feeling of being a “collection” of single sheets, each typed at a time of heightened emotion and then stuffed in a folder or a drawer to be brought out and collated at a later date once the rawness of feeling has passed.

If you want your poetry to rhyme and scan, with epithets of love, fulfilment and happiness, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want some modern, highly emotive imagery that will break your head and put your heart through a wringer, that you will by turns empathise with totally then feel guiltily glad this isn’t you, I highly recommend this collection. Who knows, you may not even need the shovel any more... but you’ll always need the whiskey.

Images - Amazon

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