BOOK REVIEW – BEN BRIERLEY – SPRING BLOSSOMS AND AUTUMN LEAVES 2003 Book Clearance Centre.
The publishers claim that this is a new collection of Brierley’s dialect poetry, but the claim is misleading, as this is a welcome reprint of a collection Brierley produced in 1893, and it is dedicated to his fellow freemasons.
Though presented as Dialect verse, the book carries several excellent non-dialect poems too.
In Old Pigeon, an ageing drunk, with a habit of walking into walls, prays that Death will let him finish the beer he is enjoying so much before claiming his life.
The Bonnie Lad Wt’th Apron On reveals Brierley’s tenderness towards a young fellow mason. More serious and deeply moving is The Fall Of Sevastopol, where two soldiers, one from each side, having mortally wounded each other, die side by side thinking of their loved ones waiting for news back home.
In The Waverlow Bells, an old couple have lived their entire lives within earshot of the village church bells and now lie buried within the vicinity too.
Brierley wrote several poems about himself, imagining friends missing him when he was away from home, such as when he went on a successful American reading tour. In Lancashire’s Ben, Brierley compares himself in very tongue in cheek style to other famous Bens, from Benjamin Franklin to Big Ben & Ben Nevis.
At My Daughter’s Grave is a very sad lament for his daughter, Annie, who was buried in a bridesmaid’s dress she had hoped to wear at a wedding.
The funniest poem is Gypsies, which tells of a gypsy asking Ben for advice on how to get their stolen chickens to lay eggs. Ben Asks them if they are worried about anyone stealing the chickens off them, to which they reply that they are the only gypsies around so they have no such worries.
There is a scary but funny poem about a ravenous ghost who eats his own coffin and tombstone, which is a huge contrast to Little Annie’s Birds in which Ben’s daughter (not dead at the time of its writing) shows an uncanny affinity with local wildlife, which she adores,
A lovely collection from Manchester’s greatest poet. My own tribute poem to him (my own first published verse) can be seen at BEN BRIERLEY
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