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Rod Maddocks

"The Diversification of Dave Turnip" by Paul Sutton.63pp KFS. ISBN 9781912211005

Wherever you run to I will find,
be it oblivion or unlit retail units.”

(“Upriver until the water runs clean”, Paul Sutton)

Back in 1958, Robert Graves complained that British authors are on the whole dull dogs, and keep their pots boiling at a sadly low temperature. Graves thought that they didn’t lack sensitivity – they simply had less and less to say. He blamed this loss of the eccentric ebullience in the British on: universal education; two world wars; slum clearance; social security; mass production; the eclipse of high society; the industrialization of agriculture; and the tranquillizing influence of the B.B.C.

Well, you can now add globalisation and the stifling dominant cultural paradigm of left- liberal thought to this oppressive crushing of the rough-edged autochthonic spirit in these islands. What’s left is a wasteland, I had not thought that death had undone so many. At least Eliot’s Waste Land had a deity, instead we have Sutton’s Dave Turnip striding through the wreckage of modern Britain.

Sutton brings an ebullient, savage, discordant voice that somehow lightens our scurvy and disastrous times. His pungent poems nip at the lardy arses of the bien-pensant classes. Turnip’s world is a shame-filled present. Our current dystopia is now decorated by B&Q retail units and sustained by Greggs’ pies and Harvester meals. Turnip is part-revenant, part alter-ego, a scabrous starveling creature that might be wearing the poet’s mask.

This new Sutton collection pulls together all his Dave Turnip poems, previously published in a variety of places. DT takes many forms, his persona morphs through this collection like a rogue squamous cell. He has an unreasonable resentful queasy voice that gradually evolves, until in the final poems of this collection, the mask of DT finally begins to fit the poet’s face. Throughout, the gloom is lightened by a pungent gleeful humour, and by fugitive doubtful memories of what is perhaps the lost Elysium of the past.

There is no saving us in the mordant depths of Sutton-land. But of what can we accuse the poet? There are no lifebelts to be had on this sinking vessel. He has rejected the lyric and the epiphanic – because it is not commensurate with the times. Sutton is only holding up an uncompromising mirror to our shrinking faces.

DT is a nom-de-guerre for these post-Brexit, post-liberal, post-truth times. I say: live long and thrive, Dave Turnip! Graves would give a nod of approval, so bravo and keep your pots a boilin’ DT!



Copyright © Rod Maddocks, 2017