Trevor Corkum Reviews Cerebral and Urgent Confrontations with Anguish and Sorrow
You May Not Take The Sad and Angry Consolations
The opening poem in Shane Neilson’s latest, You May Not Take The Sad and Angry Consolations, offers readers a series of deeply existential questions that probe what it is to be human.
Why does it hurt when emotion spills out of the body? What does it mean to be good? Why is the surplus of beauty everywhere?
Neilson is a celebrated poet, doctor and academic whose body of work often explores the reality of living with an invisible disability in a world that does its best to mask complexity and despair. As a form of lived testimony, these new poems—cerebral and urgent, generous and wary in equal measure—confront the ways we are co-constituted within each other’s dreams and failures, how anguish and sorrow burrow inside even our most cherished moments.
Our laughs must not exaggerate, must state that we
hurt—and hurt enough.
Shame appears frequently as one analytic for understanding human experience, in particular how shame tricks us into accepting a diminished kind of engagement with the world. Other poems explore the paradox of how pain underwrites certain forms of beauty, such as the paintings the speaker contemplates in a crowded gallery.
In the famous American art gallery, I see yet another archive of the sad and angry consolations.
These sad and angry consolations—the gifts poetry (and art) provide—are never offered freely, the poems suggest. To absorb these consolations, a kind of alchemy is required, the emotional labour involved in allowing our full humanity. You May Not Take The Sad and Angry Consolations is the work of a poet working across multiple scales of being, a collection haunted by love but also its shadow side: unavoidable grief, the inescapable end that awaits us.