‘The Departure’ is Chris Emery‘s third collection of poetry, published by Salt, of which Emery is a director. Born in Manchester, he went to art school before turning to publishing and writing poetry himself. He joined Salt Publishing in 1999. His first full-length poetry collection, Dr. Mephisto, was published by Arc in 2002. He is also the author of a writers’ guide on publishing and marketing poetry, 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell. He now lives in Cromer, Norfolk, with his wife and three children.
‘The Departure’ features many narrative poems, playful and vivid. Departures of one kind or another form the main theme. The poet departs for various places, from Manchester, to Kettle’s Yard House in Cambridge to a seedy motel room. Emery departs his own persona to inhabit those of various narrative voices, from Bukowski, a street brawler, and a porn-star stand-in (“mostly, I stare at tan fabrics and zebra hide”). We even visit the ultimate departure – death itself, examining the poet’s own death, and that of his brother (“I see your sightless tiny hands, that peculiar half-kiss / as my life draws in to your permanent night”).
The narrative poems are like snapshots of longer stories, like watching ten minutes of a film – you want to know more. The ‘location poems’ feature such vivid imagery, so real that you’re right there – “a charcoal pushbike leaning on the door’s black velour”.
Emery shows no sticking rigidly to poetic form, taking the theme of departures around a tour of haiku, sonnets, couplets, free verse. It’s all here. The words are working hard – “the day moon is a wok”, “the sea’s womb bursts” – painting a vivid picture in your mind’s eye.
The breadth of this collection is tremendous, but my absolute favourite is the title poem ‘The Departure’, about leaving yourself and diving into your art.