This may be a slim poetry chapbook, but you should allow plenty of time to read and re-read it, as it’s much greater than the sum of its parts.
Right from the start, I want to roll around in my mouth that intriguing title, smacking of retro medical advice and clinical detachment. Images of Victorian or Wild West quack doctors flash before my eyes, the period feel reinforced by the book’s vintage anatomical images serving as illustrations.
The measured use of the graphics serve as a further brake on my reading, making me pause after each poem and gear up for the next one, while considering the connection between the physical and the emotional - which is, after all, the overriding theme and purpose of this little collection, as the blurb spells out:
“a literary dissection of body and soul, peeling back successive layers, uncovering the literal and metaphorical anatomy of the self”
I love the traditional layout of the body text, complete with fancy border graphic that remind me of a prim mantlepiece trim, juxtaposed with the stark, handwritten title of each poem, suggesting a thick marker pen used to label a specimen in a medical laboratory.
The poet’s attempt at a medical self-diagnosis of the soul is all a bit of fun, and it’s evident that he’s taken delight in methodically working through the different bodily systems, reminiscent of the ancient four-humours theory of medicine.
The poems themselves are varied in length and structure, from an audaciously short two lines on the heart, to the much longer finale in “Neurological manifestations”, whose fragmented form suggested a physical and neurological breakdown (dare I say decomposition?).
Overall, a witty and interesting approach to self-analysis, with memorably inventive design and layout, that will profitably engage you for much longer than its short form might lead you to expect.