Review - "St Day Road" by Aaron Kent

Steve Spence

"St Day Road" by Aaron Kent, pub. Broken Sleep Books.

This is a collection which has both procedure and an emotional thrust at its heart. It’s basically a series of poems loosely based on a sort of diary entry at a particular location between dates in 2015-16. Each poem appears to have been written on an old-style keyboard (typewriter) in small script (which makes it annoyingly difficult to read at times) and there are several variants of each poem, moving towards a ‘final draft’ which includes pencil-made corrections and suggestions for changes. Each poem has a location as its title, e.g. Stairs; Entrance; Bedroom, The Entrance, apart from the first, entitled Manifesto, which appears to be a sort of rough guide of ‘suggested instructions’ to the construction of the pieces. This includes the leaving in of typos, not leaving the desk during composition or if so then the poem is considered finished and to be left as it stands and leaving a distinct gap between the writing of poems. I’m presuming (perhaps incorrectly) that the collection in its entirety is based upon actual experiences during the duration (2015-16) and was written at the time but the tension between the emotional subject matter, fractured and partial as this is, and the laid out programme of construction might suggest otherwise. It has the feel of a conceptual art project (its visual aspect is not unimportant) but one which has a degree of emotional intensity within the detachment of its form.

The content, reading between the lines, seems to suggest a relationship break up and also a suicide so, for example, we have the final draft of ‘St Day Road Series, 1. The Entrance’ reads thus:

          our neighbour filled his lungs

          with regret in a damp garage

          under an early morning’s halogen moon.

          his kids still went to school,

          cars still hugged at high speed,

          birds still sung of flights and funerals.

          i kept each tragedy like a loving parent

          making notches to catalogue their children’s height.

          born screaming from the headlights glass embedded in my back

          i tried breaking my arms to grow wings

          and kept each splinter from our terraced house


                         -ay ghost missed my birth

          was too busy sailing a 10 to the door

          soi know which age to kill my heroes-

          even in winter the sky is full of suns.

               AK – xx  08/10/2015 – 3rd draft

The mix of description, hard facts and a sort of skewed lyricism (‘our neighbour filled his lungs / with regret in a damp garage /’, for example) is a bit unnerving and the build-up of information, different language registers and varied vocabulary over the consequent pages suggests a narrative of social breakdown, amid an awareness of literary tropes and references which feels both awkwardly at odds yet somehow appropriate.

I fear that in the years to come we may see more writing of this kind and I don’t in any way mean this as a disservice to Aaron Kent. His is a project about which I have mixed feelings but the conjunction of procedural writing and emotional subject matter is challenging and unsettling and I’m glad I persevered after my initial resistance!

copyright © Steve Spence,2020