Daniel Sluman’s Absence has a weight of its own

 
 
 
Daniel Sluman is a 25 year old MA student based in Gloucestershire. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Cadaverine, Popshot, Shit Creek Review and Orbis. His debut full-length collection, Absence has a weight of its own, was published in summer 2012, through Nine Arches Press.
 
 
 

 

“Daniel Sluman’s Absence has a weight of its own is an unflinching study of serious illness, sex, death and decadence. In sometimes brutal and spare cadences, Sluman explores the extremities of human experience in poems that are skilfully, icily primed.
 
This debut collection is at times provocative and by turns tender and wry. Frailties and vices are held up for inspection in a ruined landscape of disappointing highs, hung-over regrets and head-on collisions, haunted by figures such as Roman, an unrepentant and debauched womaniser. In the aftermath, real love and hope remain stubbornly, emerging into the sunlight of an unexpected new day.”
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
“Daniel Sluman has looked mortality square in the eye and given it shape. These poems are crafted with a striking maturity, each with a heartbeat and blood in its veins. If poetry has a purpose, then this is it.”

– Helen Ivory
 
 
 
“Daniel Sluman’s debut collection crackles with energy; his language is physical, fast-paced, passionate, fearless. A real discovery by Nine Arches Press.”
 
– Penelope Shuttle
 
 
 
“This poetry of love and trauma is deeply, generously intelligent without ever becoming knowing. There is no joke here: even the most ambitiously strange analogies are counterweighted by a tonne of hard-won pathos. Daniel Sluman’s imagery is jealous-makingly good and his fiercely witty, lyrical voice charts a course between the plainspoken and the precision engineered epiphany. On any given rainy morning, empty afternoon or night, they turn you sideways. You find yourself possessed like Roman (more Sluman’s sporadically illuminated sidekick than Berryman’s Henry) by the conviction, in the glittering mystery of a mundane street, that “we’re walking narratives”.”

– Luke Kennard
 
 
 
“Dan Sluman is a poet accomplished beyond his years. His work demonstrates a maturity and control of image and form which gives his use of the poetic line all the tension of a band-saw. These poems have teeth. They are as brave and uncompromising as their imagery is startling. Not only that but he reads his work with extraordinary confidence and power. He is definitely a young poet to be watched.”
 
– Nigel McLoughlin
 
 
 
“Daniel Sluman is a name to watch for. His poems are sharp and crafted with not a word out of place and he has a talent for the unexpected metaphor and simile which jolts with its fittingness. These are not comfortable poems, they can’t be read – or heard – casually but this is a poet who clearly loves language and has the skill to work it. The one thing I demand from poems I read is that they change me in some way – and these do.”

– Angela France
 
 
 
“Daniel Sluman’s fine thoughtful poems take all sorts of risks that really pay off. He improves upon each re-reading, achieving what I can only describe as a blend of visceral, occasionally sarcastic and humorous realism. I’m convinced that Sluman is a young poet to keep a very close eye on.”
 
– David Tait
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Absence
 
 
Gas flooded lungs tense;
turned spluttering breath
to moth-balled lips
as they cleaved me at the hip;
the flesh was stitched taut,
a finer fabric tore.
 
Unlike the gold rush of cancer
it entered slowly; grew fat
in my pulse — the tick in my wrist
as I slid through a classroom,
its face swept in hair
that bled to the floor,
 
that smile
ripping a knife
through the linen
of my childhood; saying
‘absence has a weight of its own’.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Summer at the farm
 
 
Our throats burnt with sherbet
& fuck rattled our tongues lazy
as we tore at strawberries,
 
our fingers smacking
at the lesson in life cycles;
raspberries throbbing to thumbs,
 
or that afternoon we watched
Wendy’s blood wisp, bloom ringlets
on the white of her thighs.
 
We slept to fireflies
humming stubble on our cheeks,
the night twitching in our dreams
 
of poolsides, strapless bras,
the seeds in our heads ticking
against the salt in our blood.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Dream
 
 
Two pages stuck
between thumb & finger
 
& no grip, no distance
between the just-gone
 
& the present; back-alleys
of endless footnotes,
 
a compass full of north.
Each time your glossia
 
is frozen, a sheet taut
with premonition, your eyes
 
are screaming & my hands —
crows tearing an escape route
 
— until your voice buckles
the night & we wake;
 
the taste of tomorrow
on the roof of our mouths.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Portrait at a café
 
 
She tears at the sheets
of her loose-bound notebook
but means to unravel
herself. Her hands
 
private suicides
stiffening life into ink.
I wince at the force
in her thumb; three divorces
 
tense the pages into the past.
She sips her cappuccino
& floats back to the evenings
when a single line
 
would catch, spark,
igniting everything below.
She is gulping down
the months before we met.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
When our pupils swallowed the irises black
 
 
The party was a fist of jazz notes,
all wrong except in context;
 
fashionistas bashed their fists
to a pulp on the bathroom wall,
 
love-slashed girls rattled
in the throats of middle-aged men.
 
This morning we clear the cans that gleamed
neon in the arse-end of the evening,
 
clutch the red-spittled glasses
that rolled on the floor. Next week
 
we will have forgotten the motives
that slipped down our throats,
 
the afterthoughts stiffening in smoke.
We’ll return where we left, forgetting
 
when we started; each breath
binding us tighter to the past.
 
 
 
Previously published in Clinic.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Dear Samaritans, I’m writing this to let you know that everything’s okay now
 
 
The last time we spoke
 
I was smearing the red flag
of myself around the tub;
 
the bottle & knife clinking
 
in my hand. I mentioned
that since I was a child
 
I have been narrowing
 
all the questions in the world
to matchsticks, striking them
 
against my skull, I don’t know
how I felt nothing so utterly.
 
I’ve learnt patience,
not everything has to wisp
 
from my fingers. There is a priest
who prays for me; they fly
 
off his knuckles & hang in the air,
 
swooping, their feathers
line my pillow. If he could see
 
these gaping white smiles
 
on my arm, could taste
the dreams that split my sleep,
 
he’d understand. God sees me
 
as a tiny pink coffin, wandering
 
from place to place, waiting
to fall into the open earth.
 
 
 
Previously published in Ink, Sweat & Tears.
 
 
 
from Absence has a weight of its own (Nine Arches Press, 2012).
 
Order Absence has a weight of its own.
 
Read Daniel’s interview on the NAWE website.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 

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