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Drunk, Love, Sober, Death - Book Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published September 22nd 2020
When poetry speaks for us all

Jade Jackson's Drunk Love Sober Death is out now and if you would like to go into the draw to WIN a softcover print edition, send an email to competitions@weekendnotes.com with 'Drunk Love Sober Death ' in the title! Please include your name and mailing address. One lucky winner will be drawn on October 31.



It has been quite a while since I reviewed a book of poetry here at WeekendNotes. It's not that I haven't been reading poetry – it is still a major part of my tertiary studies – it's just that very little has appealed to me, or the stuff that has appealed has been quite old. And so, it came as a relief when I was given a new book of poetry to read that I actually enjoyed.

This is Drunk, Love, Sober, Death by Jade Jackson (2020).
jade, jackson, love, sober, death, drunk, poem, poetry


This book is separated into two parts, but it actually feels like 4. Let me explain. The first section was written when Jackson felt he was drinking too much, written in the 90s. What's interesting is that I found a number of these poems I could really get into. The second section is Jackson discussing his life after stopping drinking, written after 2013, when a house fire meant he lost a lot of his work up to that point. The third section comes at the end of this and is a series of poems that deal with grief, a lot about the death of a woman he knew named Jen, and the final poem, 'With each heavy breath' is about being with his grandmother in the last stages of her life. I found this the hardest to get through because the emotion in them rang very true. The poems were not bad at all, but they just hit me. And the fourth and final section is the shortest – 5 micro-stories.

These poems are, on the whole, autobiographical. There are a few based on news reports or the world around him, but this is Jackson's life. There are blogs on Jackson's web-page about the writing of his poetry, and I would recommend you check them out.

Now, of course, in a book with this many pieces in it, not all are going to work for everyone. A few I didn't understand and a few fell flat for me. But, even in poems that did not quite make this list of my favourites, there were often lines that still resonated. An example would be 'Across the ether' which is fine, but the last line is glorious: "I used to live stories; now I tell them." I didn't think I've read a more succinct summary of growing older. Ever.

As I have done with the previous books of poetry I have reviewed, I am going to go through the 15 that I liked most. These are not the only ones I liked, far from it, but it should be enough to give you a decent overview of the book.

Before I start, however, Jackson's use of language is something I really enjoyed. A lot of poetry I've been reading (especially through university) I feel treats the reader like they could not understand anything, that the reader is beneath the poet. Jackson makes you feel that not only do you understand, but you can empathise, that you are his equal on this journey. I think that's why I enjoy the work so much.

A lot of the pieces felt like they were emotions on the page. Cutting this down to 15 was as hard as it was in the last two collections I looked at, but I want you to go and buy this and read it for yourself to discover what else awaits.

'Powerless beats' This is a poem that was the first I came across in the book that demanded I read it twice, and then three times, and then yet again. I am not 100% sure what it means, but it is just a poem that resonates.

'The Church walls bend' I think this mirrors my own feelings towards the Church, especially when I was in high school: "…so I keep walking than hide in there."

'The pigeon lay…' A word picture nicely realised. I could picture this; well-written.

'Fermented angel tears' There was something profoundly sad about this poem. I don't know what it is, but I think it harkens back to my own trouble with drinking many years ago.

'It's time for havoc' This felt almost like a song, but it also felt like music was keeping Jackson sane, which is how I feel at times, so this spoke to me on a very personal level.

'Why do I feel?' Short, sharp and shiny. It's about what it says in the title. A depressing poem, and something that I think too many have probably dealt within their lives.

We're into the second section now. There is a definite difference in writing style, and the poems from here on are more measured and more finessed than those which came before. There is still a rawness of emotion, but I think the clarity of language has improved.

'This windy city' Short one, about a busker (I think), and it just details it nicely. "Rock goddess…" indeed.

'The smell of ink' A longer poem, about the process of writing. It has been put down here so well here, and it is something I and a lot of other writers can relate to.
"…our single greatest creation for the future,
is the simple task of putting pen
to paper
"

'Pretending to read' Another poem about the art of writing, this from the point of view of a reader with too much to read. And it has the perfect ending stanza. Definitely one of the very best in the collection.

'Lovely little thing' Sweet poem about seeing some-one who attracts you and then… she's gone. Just a vision. Perfectly put.

'A cliff top' There's a couple of poems with a similar title, but this is the first of them. It's another word picture, set (I believe) in the Blue Mountains, and it just evokes the scenery so well.

'We're told to dream' Another sad poem, or so it feels to me. To be in love with someone and not have it returned is something I am sure too many of us have experienced. This makes sense. Another of the very best of the poems.

'The box' Wow… We're into the grief poems here, and this one, of receiving the belongings of someone who has died but not wanting to open the package because that would be final… It is heart-breaking.

'It hurts to think' My favourite poem in the collection. It just hits hard. There is no ambiguity here – she died in February and he hurts. Simple… but so powerful.

'Micro story #4' Another sad piece, about life and death. Short tale, sad tale, but with a hint of hope. And so well written in so few words.

If you want to read some more of Jackson's work, or find out how he works, then I recommend his website (jadejackson.com). There are podcasts, photographs, and writing examples as well as links to his travel business. It's a bit of everything, really. You can buy the book from here as well. Then there's Jade's Red Bubble page of merchandise. As I said in my Jared Halley review, and especially at this time, support artists in every way you can.

But, as a poetry collection, this is really strong. It is emotional, raw at times, heartfelt often, and touches on many themes that could well be considered universal.

Thoroughly recommended.
jade, jackson, love, sober, death, drunk, poem, poetry
(image supplied by Jade Jackson)


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