Bloodshot Monochrome is a collection of poems by one author, all of good quality, but the tone and structure and type of language used varies considerably. Agbabi is a performance poet, and many of these poems were written to be read, so maybe the changes are in some way prompted by the need for progression that an audience demands. Or, more likely, Agbabi just likes working with different styles. So there is the macabre poem ‘Eat Me’ about the relationship between a fat woman and the man who feeds her, but there is also a whole section called ‘Problem Pages’ where Agbabi conjures up the sort of letters poets might send an agony aunt. These last display a sly, informed humour, particularly in the often bizarre answers – Keats is told to ‘Learn gardening. It can help pay the rent and keep you grounded’. Still, most of the poems here are more forceful, and dark. There are apparently autobiographical poems in the first section, but there are a number of poems about characters in hospital, or using needles or committing one violent act or another. It’s not an easy collection to read, but it’s a well-crafted one whatever style the poems are in.
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