Jay Bernard’s collection “Surge” is rooted in the New Cross Fire of 1981; a birthday party that went tragically wrong, and where thirteen young black people lost their lives. Whilst “Surge” never strays too far from its source material, it avoids becoming a ‘one trick pony’, the same song sung time and again, and in the same tone. There is anger, lack of understanding, the wanting of answers and justice, mourning, but Bernard doesn’t fall into the trap of writing about them in a monotone way; there is variation and invention here – as well as all the raw passion and emotion.
To be fair, some poems in the collection are not for me, but that doesn’t prevent an appreciation of what Bernard is trying – and generally succeeding – to do.
If the purpose of writing is to convey something of emotion – never mind history – then “Surge” succeeds in touching nerves along the way. At times you can feel the loss.