PORT OF SOULS: Paul Brookes and Marcel Herms

From the quay sail the ships of
remembered souls who look
at their reflection in the ocean
of forgotten souls.”

“If you are interested in poetry and are a Twitter user, you will probably have come across the name Paul Brookes, aka @Pauldragonwolf1. Paul’s a busy man: not only with his own publications, but his website (The Wombwell Rainbow), where he showcases his own work and hosts other writers’ work as well. There is also the ongoing series of interviews with poets, which you will find on Rainbow.Port of Souls was first published in 2018 and is an ekphrastic collaboration between Paul and the Dutch artist, Marcel Herms, who himself works across a range of media. Here, Marcel has produced a series of 30 paintings to each of which, Paul has created a poetic response.  The combination of visual and verbal imagery is remarkable: both are at times startling, rewarding and, I have to say, at times uncomfortable. In some of the poems I can detect Paul’s distinct Yorkshire tones, number 9, Turn on Thee for example.The title comes from number 22, Ships Of, which for me is the central poem in the collection; but it also recurs in 28, Our Futility, and in 30, A World Where, the final poem. A world where, we learn from 23, Our Dad’s Soul, that Paul’s father’s National Service had him working servicing ship’s boilers. This, perhaps accounts for the ship/port/water imagery that occurs again and again in the collection. Paul talks of ‘this fishlocked port’, ‘this earthgoing ocean’, ‘the dockside of her bed’. Often, the imagery is visceral; there’s a lot about blood, bone, skeletons, eyeballs; also, physical decline, Cheyne-Stoke breathing; and rats, and finally, death and grief. That’s not to say it’s a catalogue of grimness, it isn’t. There’s humour, and sex, and throughout, Paul’s distinctive voice.Paul continues his interviews with poets and is about to embark on a further ekphrastic project. Poetry is clearly the central driving force in Paul’s creative life, and you’ll find his work in a range of publications. However, he still finds time to promote other poets’ work and is generous with his criticism and encouragement. If you are at all interested in contemporary poetry—and now, of all times, we need to listen to our poets—then seek out Paul’s work, you might at times be startled, but you won’t be disappointed.”(Don Oldham.)

Review of Port Of Souls