Patrick Brandon (b.1965) is a regularly exhibiting visual artist whose poems display a painter’s eye for telling detail and a skilled command of striking imagery. His lines frequently tug at the minutiae and junk of our modern lives – a polystyrene cup that "aquaplanes across a wet table top" in 'Geneva', or the "soft zoetrope" of a wardrobe of old clothes that "replays the years" in 'Stuff' – uncovering meaning and significance in surprising places. Yet Brandon’s poems are not content to reflect the world through a clear lens. Frequently they act as kaleidoscopes, distorting the scenes described through imaginative metaphorical leaps and unusual similes. In doing so, they offer the listener fresh, slant, yet also revealingly truthful perspectives on everything from the rain-slicked street in 'Blinkers', where walkers become "a miracle of foot upon counterfeit river", to the "enormous forehead" of an octopus in 'Local Sauce', "like a blow-up academic's, / furrowed by deep philosophy", a poem which can be heard in the online selection from this Archive recording.
As the poet Luke Kennard noted when reviewing Brandon's first collection, A Republic of Linen (2009), among his poetic gifts is an ability to "extrapolate resonance from the smallest, precisely described moments." Take the atmospheric view of 'The Night Studio', where the painter Philip Guston is "suspended in the darkness / above the garment district", "the only clue to his industry // the glowing slab of a skylight". Or the touching portrait of the poet’s mother in 'Bikini': a candid image of maternal beauty in "mint-green swimming cap / blistered with tiny roses", "the weak swell of water ahead / of her patient stroke". But while these are seriously attentive poems, they are by no means attentively serious. The apparent watchfulness is often leavened by a knowing humour that, in 'Grand Union', views the canal "lying like a pulled ribbon / beside the industrial park" as "a questionable gift", and elsewhere sees a dolphin’s smirk conjure Hollywood actor Gary Sinise: "Someone who is, perhaps, not taking you seriously? / I’ve seen that smile on so many faces."
Yet perhaps the most fascinating poems in this recording are those which, as the poet Roddy Lumsden has stated: "Appear to act as a mediation between tension and compassion; between the thrilling unease of real places and the nagging familiarity of invented ones." Here Brandon handles father-son relationships with typical imaginative flair: from the emotional baggage we happily carry made startlingly real in 'Flat Dad', to a lovingly sketched scene of male bonding in the candid 'Bush Craft'. Places, though rarely specific, are rendered in colourful detail: several vignettes explore Brandon's love of camping, while uncanny dreamscapes such as 'The All Night Service Station within the Heart' make the abstract oddly tangible: "sleeping with its bright eye open / and its jaw relaxed, waiting for the soft roll / of rubber on forecourt." Whatever the subject, though, Patrick Brandon reads with relaxed assurance and warmth; his poems offering us unique, unusual outlooks that are nonetheless recognisable. Poised between the public and the personal, his is ultimately a wry love poetry for our complex modern era.
Patrick Brandon's recording was made on 17th November 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.
Patrick Brandon's Favourite Poetry Sayings:
"The lines flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
- Derek Mahon
"What is the language using us for?"
- W.S. Graham
"Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious."
- Virginia Woolf
2005 Essex Poetry Prize (winner)
2005 Wigtown Poetry Prize (commended)
2006 New Writing Ventures bursary
2007 National Poetry Competition (commended)