• Dangerous Dog - David Francis
The title Dangerous Dog raises expectations of a certain aggressive, punky aesthetic, which is certainly present, but the collection is richer and broader than that, even surprisingly traditional in places. The poems explore a truly impressive range of themes and moods, from the small-scale and domestic in poems such as ‘Asleep: Breathing Observed’ and ‘Burberry Tie’, to meditations on humankind’s place in the universe and the nature of freedom.

There’s a concreteness to the writing, and a gift for visual imagery. The poems are grounded in a wealth of specific detail, so when David does move into more abstract areas, it feels earned. He is also a musician and some of the poems have been turned into song lyrics, and back into poems again, a process that probably accounts for the metrical discipline and rhythmic vitality of many of the poems. There’s also a music in his control of sound.

The voice is varied and flexible. David assumes different voices without ever descending into pastiche. But a clear identity is retained throughout.

It’s quite a masculine collection of poetry – male anger is a recurring thread – but David does subtly deconstruct masculinity in some unexpected ways.

In the more private poems such as ‘Once Again With Care’ and ‘Asleep: Breathing Observed’, I had the feeling of eavesdropping or even intruding on someone’s most vulnerable moments. 

And the way ‘The World’s Greatest Lover’ – a picaresque tale of a Scouse Casanova – is juxtaposed with the more sinister ‘Shh’ makes us think twice about the stereotype of the male seducer, very timely in the #MeToo era.

David is a proud anarchist (it was practically how he introduced himself) and while he mostly steers clear of overt polemic, his ideas infuse every word of the collection.

The ‘title track’ ‘Dangerous Dog’ is like a key to the whole book. Images of confinement (there’s a recurring motif of car interiors throughout the book) are juxtaposed with images of nature. The dog is dangerous indeed, not for the reasons you might expect, but for the way it offers us a vision of how free we could be. This is a theme picked up in the final poem, ‘Saturday Night Murmurations’.

The most ‘on-the-nose,’ explicitly political poem is perhaps ‘Heritage’. Don’t read this one if you have National Trust membership. David speaks of grinding prisons and castles into dust in lines that remind me of Blake’s ‘London’. But he cleverly undercuts the polemic – in the fourth section, the rage subsides and the poem reaffirms the importance of kindness and living life through human relationships. 

Dangerous Dog works incredibly well as a whole. The sequencing of the poems reveals threads and connections which enrich the meanings of the individual poems.  Andrew Myers, Hastings Independent Press.

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Dangerous Dog - David Francis

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