It feels odd, but not unfitting, to read Every Night is November in spring, which is when I did. Even on the cusp of summer, the autumnal mood that perforates this collection is incredibly vivid - and
infectious. The experience throughout is painful, morbid, and at times graphically horrific, but Davies manages to retain a soft, sombre intimacy in every poem only comparable to the feeling of watching the last trees lose their leaves before winter. Whatever time of year it may be, the anthology sparks a feeling of deep remorse for times gone by, and beautiful depictions of the vague, bittersweet sadness inherent in nostalgia. I thought it would take me a while to understand the title, but it happened almost instantly.
"The experience throughout is painful, morbid, and at times graphically horrific"
While there are very few significant lulls in the collection’s quality, a few standout poems exemplify
well the separate themes and techniques that work best within Every Night is November. To fully
appreciate and understand this book, as well as describe the journey it takes you on, it may be
useful to explore it via these examples:
'Henry’s Hands', situated directly at the beginning of the first section, very much sets and exemplifies the morbid tone of the collection. While death and its relevant evocations haunt most of the anthology - from the understated solemness of 'Dear Friend in a Hospital Bed' to the depressive
coldness of 'Maybe I Am Dead' – 'Henry’s Hands' feels exceptionally dense.
In the span of a few quatrains, Davies takes the reader through (what appears to be) the rollercoaster reflection of a man’s death, with all the pains and regrets that came with it. This
reading, however, is irrelevant. What is most interesting about this poem, and what is most
indicative of Davies’ excellent manipulation of the medium, is form: evoking (but not directly
replicating) a more regimented sonnet-like structure when compared to the other poems of this
collection (as well as more overt evocations of the natural sublime), Henry’s Hands feels particularly
grand and aged in the service of a very small – perhaps even insignificant – story. What should be a
simple premise is hyperbolised, to me, into a tale of the smallness of man, the horror of grief, and
the terrifying anticipation of death. To effectively communicate this in under two pages is a
testament to the heavy, emotional power of the collection, and a strong indicator of Davies’
understanding of communication through poetry.
'On the Floor of the Editing Room' feels personal – and while the entire collection feels personal, 'On the Floor of the Editing Room' is far more specific and material in its personality. Without the sacrifice of subtext that some of his more abstract poems carry, Davies shows here a talent for imagery, seamlessly incorporating sense of feeling and sense of place in service of a strong sense of identity. A particularly sardonic poem in a generally sardonic anthology, 'On the Floor of the Editing Room' interestingly communicates the complex relationship between the individual and their home surroundings, the result being a short but vividly haptic poem. You can almost feel ‘the shut-in air of that rotting, tainted pub’ in your lungs, and sense all the grim decay that it connotes. It is a guttural feeling of stagnation that permeates the book, and leaves you cold and empty, as if placed within a chilly November evening. The effect is intriguing.
"A particularly sardonic poem in a generally sardonic anthology"
As much praise as there is to give to the many shades of darkness in this book, it does get
overwhelming - Every Night is November never truly lets up the morbidity, and retains its grimness
more or less throughout. This is probably my biggest gripe with the collection – while its identity as a dour, gothic anthology is unmistakeably strong, oftentimes the more gut-wrenching or existential
musings are downplayed by virtue of being in the midst of dozens of similarly gut-wrenching poems.
In horror, the horrific is intensified by moments of respite; in tragedy, the tragic is intensified by
glimmers of hope; Every Night is November, while containing extremely effective elements of both the horrific and the tragic, has this perhaps less often than it should. That is why the less overtly (or
exhaustively) cynical poems stick out the most – perhaps by design – with wonderful pieces like I’m
Almost Certain Summer Will Come providing beautiful optimistic accentuations to the misery, albeit
less often than I would’ve hoped.
Not to say that the anthology is without tonal structure – the last three poems at the end of section B, 'Goodnight Lovely', 'I Was a Walnut Tree' and 'To Those Who Have Departed This Journey' are the perfect concluding pieces to the book, bringing the onslaught of the harsh and violent to a slower pace, quieter and more sorrowful rather than dismal. Without abandoning the central theme of death, these pieces lull you into calm before the collection concludes, a feeling as if itself a peaceful transition from life. It is a wonderful contrast that I wished was more prevalent throughout, but ultimately had a negligible impact on my enjoyment of the book.
Every Night is November is clearly the work of a young and ambitious author: the variations in style betray the experimental inexperience of the authorial voice, and the desire to master as many forms as possible. Still, a strong personal identity shines through each piece, and the literary craftsmanship is sometimes masterful. It is truly exciting to witness a very promising career in its early stages, and I anxiously await Jacob Davies’ next publication.