‘& so it became my design to die
In blood baubles of flame
in the bowels of watchtowers
in scalding sulphuric rain in flowers
of metal detritus
blown from a smouldering base
I died & died & died oh
but not quite never the whole hog’
– From “Stylistically the Villain Always Wins”
Haigh’s ‘Black Jam’ starts off with a battery of consciousness and doesn’t let up from there. The opening poem, ‘Maybe the flowers are already artificial’ is an assault on the senses which veers off into unexpected territory before dovetailing expertly into the final bathetic lines. This becomes something of a trademark of Haigh, letting slip the leash into breathtaking flights of fancy that will give you the bends before undercutting these mercurial moments with a healthy dose of dark humour. These balloons have anchors.
We get to explore the antagonist when Haigh asks what would it be like to be the villain? We see an ode to the humble bollock followed up by Memento’s wondrous image of the poet holding his grandfather’s head, replete with ‘the world’s clutter / inside this gristly globe’.
There is nothing predictable about Haigh’s poetry. His tangents are leftfield, but never forced. He moves seamlessly from grief to beauty with a deftness of touch that will make your head spin. It is this rare quality that lends the collection its verve and originality. Few poets could carry off a collection with lines ranging from ‘what do you mean I can’t eat your carmine lipstick’ to ‘My love hold me a new world blooms through / Us we are nature’s end point’. Indulge.