Mark Desrosiers's Reviews > Heart on the Left: Poems 1953-1984

Heart on the Left by Adrian Mitchell
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's review
Dec 29, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: poetry
Read in December, 2008

Marxist poet James Scully once uttered to a class of mostly snoozing students the following mysterious statement: "Poetry can be a lot of things, but it must never be fictive." I still have no idea what the hell that means -- sure, Bukowski carrying his ruptured sack of empties is not "fictive", but what about that old salt with the albatross? Or Satan hiding inside that snake? Or the Jabberwock!

Anyway, whenever I encounter a political poet, I think of Scully's Sominex pronunciamento and brace myself for the worst. This didn't happen with Adrian Mitchell: I loved this collection, even despite the godawful title (and anyway George Jones got there first). Mitchell is never highbrow, always idealistic, usually very funny. Rather than being earnest and righteous -- both crippling traits for any poet -- he goes for the snarky-trickster persona, a thorn under the saddle of capitalism, etc. Even the vitriolic, misanthropic bits (the "Apeman Mudgeon" poems, or "A Curse Against Intruders") seem rousing and life-affirming. All in all, the best deployment of a William Blake fixation I've ever encountered.

The Ralph Steadman illustrations add some nastiness and hilarity to the proceedings too.

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