(Dog Horn Publishing, 2012); pbk, £6.99
Precocious is an apt description of young Leeds-born poet Adam Lowe, an award-winning writer, publisher and poet who has received plenty of accolades in his relatively short career, including that of LGBT History Month Poet Laureate in 2013 and Manchester Pride Writer in Residence. Precocious, his fourth poetry collection shows that he has no intention of slowing down any time soon. Lowe’s work weaves provocative overtones of sex and sexuality with pop culture and politics seamlessly, blends the biblical with virtual reality, lacing all with sensual botanical imagery.
A: I’ll be your poison. I’ll let you drink from me.
B: Bet you taste sweet.
A: I do. Come taste what rivers here.
Precocious’ opening short play, “FriendRoulette”, perhaps the collection’s strongest hitter, might be a riff on the website Chatroulette. Centring on two men named only as “A” and “B”, its diction hints a robotic element to the characters, with the repetition of the lines, “you are home” when the website welcomes A back to the chatroom. The play starts with A & B making small talk before delving into role-play, transporting them and the reader into a fantastical world that accentuates the lustful language. This section provides the first of many references to gardens and botany. The play takes a sinister turn when A expresses desire to leave the chat after “spinning in darkness for days”; A logs out but the script implies that he returns, shunning the outside world and unable to resist the forbidden fruits that lurk online.
The appeal of the internet to disenfranchised youth is a theme which crops up again in “Fallout”, based on the eponymous popular video game, and “Seeder”, an ode to the digital download website The Pirate Bay. In “Diamonds for Ms. Campbell” and “FGM: A Revenge in Scarlet”, such concerns take on a political edge. The former, a reference to supermodel Naomi Campbell receiving blood diamonds from former Liberian president Charles Taylor, is a damning free-verse poem combining imagery associated with catwalks and soldiers, war and vogue; in the latter, Lowe’s activist voice shuns rhyme and is emboldened to assert revenge from the lips of women who have suffered FGM. It takes a bold writer to embark on such controversial topics and Lowe’s fearless social commentary serves to empower.
“Mary” is undeniably cut from the same cloth as feminist poems written by Angela Carter and Carol Ann Duffy, “writing back” from the perspective of historical female figures whose stories have been ignored or silenced. Who would be a better or more scandalous an example of this than the Virgin Mary? In a deftly executed example of his acerbic wit Lowe offers a Mary who is less than impressed with God’s impregnation of her. Threantening abortion if God attempts this again, Lowe’s irreverent Mary final laugh out loud line is “Next time, try Madonna.”
Lowe dubs himself a “madman in letters” yet there is undeniably a method to his madness. Every word is utilised carefully despite the fantastical context that frames it. Although the rest of the collection struggles to compete with the opening play, Precocious is only 32 pages in total and it leaves us wanting more of what Lowe has to offer. There is at times an overabundance of what could be branded as zany just for zany’s sake and, possibly, in years to come his poetry will progress in complexity. Yet it would truly be a loss to submit Lowe’s expressive, euphonic style to any strict refinements. The groundwork is all there and I am without doubt that Lowe will soon emerge as one of the more prominent and exciting voices in contemporary poetry.