Reading Matthew Caley's third collection is like finding yourself in the salon of a rakish raconteur with trailing cuffs and a glass of absinthe in his hand, a half-smile on his face and a lot of stories to tell. Apparently. Each poem begins, or sometimes ends with the word ‘apparently' which gives them all a sense of the conversational, of gossip, of a slippery distancing, of playfulness and refusal to commit. It also makes them sound, for a moment, casual, but as each poem unleashes its meticulously engineered fusillades of sound, reference and ideas, you realise they are anything but.
The love of language, of the possibility and mutability of individual words, leads to a cavalcade of bravura displays; every poem is fizzing with punning play, the potential of rhyme, half rhymes, internal rhymes, rhythms that knock you one way then another. Individual words echo within and between poems and each poem gives a sense of the celebration of possibility, the delight a mind takes in dancing from one place to another. They are a physical pleasure to read aloud. His subject matter ranges from Doc Holliday to Moby Dick, Yeats, Zukofsky, The Pointer Sisters, car crashes and cheese and who could have thought that a piece of graffiti on a bridge would produced a poem as hauntingly lovely and immaculately constructed as ‘Tojo the Dwarf'?
The first poem is called ‘My Prodigious Appetites', which is fitting given the range of these poems and the gleeful ferocity with which Caley consumes his language and his culture, tears it apart then smashes it together again, and ends with the astonishing ‘Pancreas', which seems emblematic of the collection's twisting of ideas and sound and its gleeful cultural cannibalism. Apparently is one of those collections which make you see the world as suddenly more complex, strange and fascinating. You stumble from the salon wiser and more wondering.
Imogen Robertson has work in City State: New London Poetry from Penned in the Margins, and was commended in the National Poetry Competition in 2005. Her first crime novel, Instruments of Darkness, is out in paperback, and her second, Anatomy of Murder, is available in hardback. She writes full time.