Death Magazine by Matthew Haigh

My thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The decision to take part was wholly my own and this review forms my honest opinion.

Blurb

Death Magazine is a neutropian vision of our soundbite, snippet obsessed, digital and print magazine culture. It employs the Dadaist technique of cut-up to produce poems that range from the blackly comic to the surreal, from the nonsensical to the prescient.

Review

In the land of Before, I always had a book of poetry to hand. I’m certainly not a poetry buff, but I do know what I like and enjoy, and I love when a poem grabs me to the point that it consumes me. Very often it’s not a poem in it’s entirety that stands out, but a single line or image that really sticks, sparking a spiraling thought.

Firstly…what a cover! I quite like to read poetry whilst I cook – I think I find some sort of comfort in combining the deep thought required of poetry with mundane housewife-ly chores – and it took me a couple of days to actually open the book as I was entranced by this bold statement of an image.

Death Magazine is split into sections, a mimicry of an actual magazine; Features, Fitness, Lifestyle, Beauty, Wellness and Advice. With a satirical eye cast over popular culture, Matthew Haigh uses varied poetic structures, and the use of actual magazine articles as source material is brilliant. Most successful of all is how magnificently successful it is in the observation of the here and now by creating lingering imagery and of course, the release is somewhat timely, with us all living stripped back lives and forced to reflect on what is actually important. For me, the poem ‘Hot Pink’ was thought provoking. It was, in fact, one of the poems that had me thought spiral. The idea of make up and paranoia, the idea of chasing immortality…..I’m currently on day…whatever we’ve reached of lockdown, and my make up bag remains closed, my brushes redundant. Three months ago this would be unheard of, or would have heralded some form of incoming breakdown or collapse. But, I’ve never felt more free. Getting up in the mornings without the faff of painting my face is much quicker. It kind of begs the question – for whom was I performing this daily ritual for?!

I digress…..as I find is the case with all poetry, just as some of this grabbed me, some of it flew whistling at speed over my head. And that’s fine. For me, poetry is not about achieving an academic understanding, but its about emotional connection. To grab me, it has to mean something and there were so many poems in this collection that I loved. A very few which deserve special mention from me; Simulacrum gave me goosebumps, How Adored Is The Pink Authority is fantastic – particularly the imagery of the mind being coaxed by a chrome spatula (brilliant!) – A Luxurious Death appealed to me for its err on the side of the macabre, and Dementia As A Video Game Glitch is heartbreaking and yet inspired.

As a woman, I admit to more often than not sticking to female poets. I was worried whether I’d lack the emotional connection with a male poet at the helm. Refreshingly, however, this collection is, alongside its observations of humanity – also very vulnerable and eye opening in that the whole insta-happy, body image obsessed world is not in any way gender specific in the damage it wreaks.

Death Magazine has obliterated the rusty whir of my poetry brain. Insightful, laden with incredible imagery and thought provoking themes. I devoured Death Magazine, and then went back again for more. One of the reviews on the back page refers to it as ‘kaleidoscopic’ and I honestly cannot think of a more perfect way to describe it.

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