Poetry Review: Paul Robert Mullen, ‘disintergration’

“disintergration” (2020) is Mullen’s fourth poetry collection, following “curse this blue raincoat” (2017), “testimony” (2018), and “35” (2018). It is a text that shows the writer to be working at the peak of his powers.

In terms of style, each of the collections have strong similarities. However, Mullen’s acute ability to say so much with so little has never been more apparent. The individual poems, by their very nature, are both pithy and incisive and the craftsmanship displayed is truly remarkable. As a reader who has closely followed this writer’s development, I can say with authority, that the writer has evolved into one of the foremost and exciting poets in the independent poetry community.

Mullen eschews the restraints of form and structure, preferring to write with total freedom. He sees the page as a tool in itself and makes intelligent use of space to breakdown his work, and in doing so makes it that much more immediate and accessible. Those readers who claim to be unable to ‘get’ poetry, this is the work for you.

There is a muddying of the line between the poet’s own voice and experience, and that of the poet-speaker. In this way the poetry has a transient quality, and I am in awe of Mullen’s capacity to find beauty in the banal. This is perhaps most apparent in “images”, ‘like blackbirds preparing broods in colour/ you will see yourself in teardrops/ in autumnal mists/ over russet meadows/ in spider-web-december sonowflakes’. Such elegance.

There is a common theme, centred around death and rebirth – a regular juxtaposition between gravity and hope that throws light on what it is to be alive. Consider, ‘i pull out the notebooks the pen/ but the words aren’t there’ in contrast with, ‘the next day / blossom under branches/ faces in the woods’. Such peaks and troughs are a constant throughout. While Mullen writes about the end or disintergration of one relationship, he also proffers great optimism for those yet to come.

The beauty of the chapbook, is that it provides the writer with a platform to compose a series of themed and inter-related texts. In “disintergration” Mullen has taken this form of publication to new heights. It is a superb addition to the poet’s existing ouevre, that shows great development of skill and exposes a vulnerability, that was until now absent.

“disintergration” is available now from https://www.animalheartpress.net/p/purchase-disintegration.html?m=1

‘Robbie-Alan’ by Alan Parry

Originally published in https://www.peachvelvetmag.com/spring-19

In the lounge, positioned under the upright piano

is a regimented row of his shined leather boots,

and he keeps his old accordion in a box, snug

between the spindly legs of the telephone table

in the bay window. Arranged on the pelmet is

a collection of novelty pencil sharpeners bought

in National Trust gift shops and their empty

boxes live in the pantry under the stairs

alongside jars and jars of homemade marmalade.

On the inside of that cupboard door, over the years

he has recorded the heights of his grandchildren

with blue biro etchings. But his most treasured

items must be the letters and sketches he posted

home when he was evacuated to Bangor during the war,

and he keeps them safe in a locked suitcase with

an ARP helmet and a Mickey Mouse gas mask.

‘Remorse’ by Alan Parry

Originally published https://visualverse.org/submissions/remorse/

From my chair in the lounge
I have hurled vicious insults
at you. I have left you humiliated
with a stream of astringent tears 
coursing down your cheeks. I 
have shamelessly stormed out
knowing I cannot pick those
words off the floor nor stuff them 
back down my throat. So I have run 
without thinking, towards the train 
tracks, in the hope of finding direction. 
And you have worried, forgiven 
and loved more than I feel I deserve.

‘House-plant’ by Alan Parry

Originally published in themarkliteraryreview.com

I am tormented by your wretched

withering. I desperately need to

find the antidote to your waning

spirits, because I cannot live in

a house devoid of the verve you

bring, sans your sweet perfume.

Nor do I want to eternally carry

the guilt for your undue demise.