‘INTERFERON PSALMS’ BY LUKE DAVIES / PHILIP SALOM
Open Interferon Psalms towards the front and you encounter this kind of writing:
The blade of my happiness broke at the hilt. I flailed
without balance, at air. A break in the hilt is a bad break
to fix. Life in search of a blacksmith. Of bellows and tongs
I knew little.
The rumpled magazines of waiting rooms.
The great lakes came and went. Winter rolled in for ten
thousand years. I dreamed of heat, in lethargy.
All life became a leaving behind. There weren’t alternative
There were stories written on calfskin, though I had no
capacity for concentration. The lost would be found, on
land, and by water.
It was never going to be a long love affair, but in my
yielding I became a mystic.
The poems in this collection perform archaic imagery, Old Testament references, Psalmic notes in the margins of the poems, and from a unexpected variety of melodramatic and spiritual claims (encounters with God, with millennia) (and being a mystic) the poet makes lyrical trips within a context which is often implied rather than stated. To know the literal place you must do so by inference, to infer, enfer, Interferon..? Unless, of course, you know Luke Davies’ personal history of drug-taking from his other books and therefore accommodate this book as the latest installment in what seems to be a self-examination/self-mythologising project of his, of himself, book by book.
Ice-age, eons passing, denudation, re-growth, millennia and metaphors of grand geomorphic dimension mixed with film imagery and hints of addiction and the wasteland a mind might become. These are immediately present as the stand-ins for the poet’s conditions of addiction and (later) extreme liver treatment with interferon. Within all this voicing there is a voice of more personal kind, one less grand, more self-ironic and which, without the metaphoric dramas, reads as the poet. The Poetic style mentioned too often relies on the big effects; but the saving grace is in the lesser effects; the result is wildly weird, at sometimes strangely likeable, but is ultimately uneven.