'Every Night is November' - Haris Robinson
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.
'Every Night is November' - Andrew O'Brien
‘Every Night is November’ is Jacob Davies’ second released collection of poetry. In his latest offering he is not only far more diverse, exposing and enlightening, but he is also far more revealing and asks far more questions of the reader.
‘Every Night is November’ is often intentionally uncomfortable and takes you unapologetically into the author’s world and journey, as he conveys to the reader how it feels. It is a collection that breaks the accepted norms and boundaries of poetry, but in this way, leaves you feeling enlightened and free.
It is a compilation to be consumed slowly and with due consideration. At times it is goosebump inducing in its honesty and revelations, like seeing the scars once the bandages of life have been ripped off. It is littered with recurring themes and couplets that jump back and forward in the mind and reappear when you might least expect it. Once left to sit on the mind’s palette, a greater realisation is stirred in the mind. Something deeper and more long lasting. The characters, their struggles and the killer lines stay with you. You’d rather not identify with the protagonists, but they and their struggles are uncomfortably familiar.
The joy of this collection is in its carefully crafted form, order and depth. The onwards linkage between pieces is by no means accidental and as familiarity is built, so is the discomfort. Davies utilises his poetic devices in a truly unique way. He is bold, and perhaps at times, pioneering. He intends to make you uncomfortable, but that discomfort is yours, not his.
Davies writes with a laser sharp pen and sometimes the ink feels like his own blood, given his clear and deep personal investment into his work. His offering is a mirror, not a picture. He probes away at what you would rather forget. Nothing is left to the imagination and yet everything is left to the imagination. His clever use of storytelling, alliteration, repetition and vivid imagery invoke often conflicting emotions. The reader is always left with something.
"He is bold, and perhaps at times, pioneering"
The longer poems such as ‘The morning came and everyone was gone’ remain concise. Not a word is wasted as themes build and the narrative reveals itself like a downhill slalom. The rhyme scheme in ‘Henry’s Hands’, with its thinly veiled disguise, hits hard and there is no shadow around the corner, just a stark message staring you straight in the face. Davies is an old soul trapped in the modern day and this is never clearer than in ‘Dearest’ as it offers the reader options, choices even. It harks back to a poetic voice of centuries ago but is set in the now.
‘She died on stage’ offers an inevitability of a course of action. We are bystanders, we might want to save, but we cannot. This is Davies at his most pure and unforgiving as he reminds us of our general helplessness and apathy or indeed our choice of apathy and of just choosing to look away.
‘Nebula’ is a hidden gem, perhaps the highlight of the book, and worthy of the cover price on its own. The form and the story hit the mark perfectly. Its opening line ‘I fall to the floor with Irish violins and featherweight guitars’ is genius and the piece is as unrelenting as it is quick, leaving you breathless and dizzy as it drags you along at pace.
The text poses so many questions of how we can, do and should go about our lives. It challenges the status quo and asks repeatedly for us to consider what we are doing and how we got to where we are both individually and as a society. The words open up the questions we’d rather ignore, but all we know exists. He removes the veneer of transactional life and behaviour like a writer ripping away the sticking plaster of society or someone pushing against a door he knows to be already open. He pokes at what it is we think about and what it is we don’t. The text often questions the point, relays that very same point and then evaluates and obliterates what we know, deep down, is simply not true. Never more is this apparent than within ‘Maybe I am dead’.
"He removes the veneer of transactional life and behaviour like a writer ripping away the sticking plaster of society"
Davies does not write like a man and offers no ego nor masculinity on any piece. His neutrality is brilliance as it never hints at disinterest nor weakness; only poignant sadness, whilst offering just the odd ray of hope as it forces its way through scarce cracks.
‘When I saw you in a Prada jumper’ propositions sadness and humour in equal measure. The words implore you to chant to a rhythm in your head and only as you reach its closing stages do you know what you have just experienced. ‘Pendulum Swings’ again harks back to Sitwell, as, just as the title suggests, you are forced into an involuntary mid-speed metronome.
This collection is also accompanied with various YouTube videos offering a further dimension. We can, for the first time, appreciate the authors sense of timing, drama and haunting playfulness. Each reading offers an innocent backdrop to the ringing and twisted messages and each contains at least one painful punch to the stomach. The story telling and the delivery are reminiscent of Edith Sitwell’s facade.
The whole collection is a wild ride of love, loss, passion and a search for meaning. It questions how we go about our lives, what we feel and what we hide. Each poem deserves its chance to breathe and to sit in your mind. The timing and quick-witted wordplay will compel you to ask questions of yourself and the world around you to perhaps see others as they ought to be seen not as you have been told they ought to be seen. It is the reverse of the binary and bite-sized world the marketeers would have you believe is real. It implores you to see the human struggle in yourself and in others, to perhaps realise the similarities between all people who seemingly desire one thing but really need and want another. It explains, almost painfully, how we each have a deep story and how we are all, at times, both hero and villain, kind and cruel, honest and dishonest. It teases and tempts, offers a subject then an explanation and then whips away the tablecloth to reveal what only each individual reader can clearly see. Its beauty is in how it will reveal yourself to you. It probes the parts of your mind you might be choosing to ignore. It unlocks and opens that which you might prefer to remain closed but that which you know is haunting you and appearing in moments of dark solitude.
It is a collection that will make you feel, that will take you into the world of the author like being led into a dark room blindfolded only to find you have been led into yourself.
You will feel the hope that exists in the small corners of this dark room. At times we see acceptance, resignation of the way our world works and then sometimes the sadness and the bitterness as to how it has affected our characters and pulled us out of shape. See the bitterness and rage which point you in no direction at all, expect perhaps the exit. Here the cries, feel the explosion of expression and share the agony and the melancholic reflections, the admissions and the tears. See the fights and the struggles, visit the discomfort of the uncommitted acceptance of daily life. See yourself sitting uncomfortably between each line. This is the antidote to pop-up, bitesize social media fake smiles and the constant bombardment of messages telling you to be more like her, to look just like her, to buy what you don’t need and to supress your inner self, your true self.
"COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN"
What a talented young writer. The author speaks, giving insight into his world with intellect, honesty and empathy. It almost reads like a throwback to the days of confessional poetry, as a young man stands tall in a world of stigma and ignorance. Thought provoking lines and triggers with themes full of mood and tone that are as brutal as they are clever. I genuinely couldn’t put it down once I had started reading.
"POETRY BOOK OF THE YEAR"
Amazing, Jacob has such a talent for writing poetry and his book deserves as much recognition as it can possibly get. Definitely recommend!
Jacob writes like a messenger about the devils that live with us.
"CRAFTED TO PERFECTION"
Jacob's first book, 'The Things They've Never Seen', is an exquisite collection of poetry, written by such a young talent. Each poem guides you through a new story with new emotions and real thought. The book is amazing, and crafted to perfection.
"MORE THAN JUST A POETRY BOOK"
'The Things They’ve Never Seen' is more than a collection of poems written by a 17 year old. It is a book that holds raw emotion in such a powerful way. Even the introduction is strong enough to leave you thinking about it for days. The beauty of it is that every poem will mean something different to each person. Join the countless others who are pouring over the pages and take a chance on this book.