Sometimes volumes of poetry that focus on a single theme or issue seem to sacrifice the quality of the writing in favour of ‘the cause’. Marvin Thompson’s “Road Trip” is rooted in both place – Wales – and subject – being black in an essentially white environment – and succeeds by never making that sacrifice.
Thompson’s various examinations of both place and subject avoid descending into cliché or the formulaic, and for once I can agree with the back-cover blurb: “a refreshing perspective” in an “interrogation of heritage and history”.
Strangely perhaps there is enough in the variety of form which would normally annoy me: super-short lines, large paragraphs of text, the vaguely prosaic. Yet is are also sonnets, laser-sharp images, much that leaps out at you – “Gramps’ Art Deco leer”. Above all there is a tone that underwrites the whole collection; a tone that is intelligent, consistent, and – as the ‘blurb’ says – “elegiac, haunting”. I particularly liked the poem “Rochelle”.
Somewhat unexpectedly perhaps, “Road Trip” gets a big thumbs up – and for once the Poetry Book Society has its recommendation spot-on.