Alarum by Wayne Holloway-Smith
Shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2017
The mischievous and often dark world of Wayne Holloway-Smith’s first collection Alarum exists in the space between the peculiar thought and its dismissal. It is a place in which commonsense is unfixed, where the imagination disrupts notions of stability. ‘A single crow falling from the mind’ of the poet is something awkward left at our feet, and the ‘air itself’ is the voice of skewered unease.
The complexities of life are jolted awake throughout this fearlessly inventive debut, as loss arrives played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a movie, the risk of romance is understood as the filling in a sandwich, and anxieties are found hunkered in bushes, blooming behind the wallpaper, and in the bursting of balloons.
Wayne Holloway-Smith won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize 2016 for his poem 'Short', the final poem in Alarum.
'Wayne Holloway-Smith is clearly an adventurous new voice.' - Elaine Feinstein, on behalf of the Judges of the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2017
'Alarum is enviably good... Hilarious and witty, it’s also terrifically sad, but wears its tragedy so lightly at first it’s hard to notice.' - John Challis, The Poetry School
‘Witty, modern and remarkably original, Alarum shows us what contemporary poetry can be and where it can go.’ – Jennifer Wong, The Poetry Review
'Alarum is a collection composed in the "mournful shadows", skulking beneath your window at that very hour of a sleepless night when you feel most alone, to deliver up to you its glorious, melancholy verdict on living. By turns abject, bereft, exultant and belligerent, the poems’ voices reckon with the things we can’t get hold of (or get rid of) via a kind of reification, whereby non-material things – air, anxiety, heartbreak – take on an unbearable substance. Thus Wayne Holloway-Smith – "Magic Wayne with flowers", among other incarnations – finds himself negotiating with the objects or creatures that "fell out" of his mind, becoming real: a population of crows that need "constant attention", or a Punch and Judy still wielding weapons. Always concerned with what happens in the margins, Alarum’s own margins are full of violence – the violence that occurs at society’s edges and the violence entailed when pulling back from those edges amounts to a kind of self-erasure. "Alarum" also means "a call to arms" and, in speaking its fears aloud, this is a collection of poems that fights back.' – Emily Berry
'There’s an awful lot of poetry about these days. You can barely walk across the living room without stubbing your toe on a bit or getting some in your eye. But the thing is, not much of that poetry (in fact almost none of it) is actually poetry. Mostly it’s just wearing an outfit that gives it the appearance of being poetry so it can pass itself off as such to the undiscerning or the unhurt. The most important thing I’d say about Wayne Holloway-Smith’s book is that it actually is, unmistakably, poetry. When you look inside it you find yourself go quiet because you recognise that someone with a peculiar openness has been still and listened to the world and written down what it said. This book is funny, clever, serious, touching, and extraordinarily imaginative. Also it has a certain unguarded gentleness about it, by that I mean, it has a certain old-fashioned courtesy, the courtesy of the gent. That is a rare quality too I think. To recommend it sounds a bit glib. But I unequivocally do.' – Mark Waldron