A lion attends confession, a woman sleeps with a python, a giraffe walks into a bar… York writer Miles Salter’s second collection of poetry is a mixture of surreal, dark comedy and piercing observation.
Taking inspiration from the natural world and the “most dangerous animal of all”, the human being, Animals is launched at the Basement Bar of City Screen on Thursday, September 19, from 8pm.
Salter’s Animals, human or otherwise, populate a variety of physical and emotional landscapes; from the sci-fi dystopias of The Queue and A Warning to the contemporary urban settings which characterised Miles’ first collection, The Border.
Appealing, accessible and articulate, the poems explore the emotional and evolutionary shadows that all of us pass through, whatever our species.
“I like poems that have one foot in the real world, poems that reflect on life as it is,” said Miles, who also runs York Literature Festival.
“Using surreal elements helps you to twist reality a little, that take the everyday and make it a little more strange. That can result in powerful poems. It’s what I aim for, at least.”
The poems have haunted Barnsley bard Ian McMillan. He said: “What’s impressive about this collection is the range: there are poems about religion, about family life, observed images of nature.
“Underlying them all is the idea of what it means to be a writer; because in the end I think these poems are really about the risk we take when we commit ourselves to paper.
“In Miles Salter’s case the risk pays off.”
Some of the poems have an apocalyptic tone. “I think it’s apparent that human society is in trouble,” Miles said.
“Climate change threatens to engulf all of us in the near future, and several of the poems deal with possible futures.
“I was very influenced by Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road and An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary by Al Gore. It’s a rich seam for writing, but I do feel like a prophet of doom with some of these poems.”
Elsewhere, the book explores urban life. Debt is addressed in The Only Thing I Had Left To Sell Was My Soul while Longhill reflects on Miles’ time as a youth worker in Hull in the 1990s.
“I always admired Philip Larkin, Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage so much,” says Miles. “They were all poets who dealt with urban life, and I’ve seen my work in the same vein as that.
“The city is where most of us live now, and it’s a rich source of inspiration. Technology, cars and drugs crop up in my work from time to time.”
Animals is published by Scarborough’s Valley Press, who have sold 15,000 poetry books in the last few years through dogged commitment and investing in new, northern writers. Valley Press release their 50th book this autumn.
- Animals by Miles Salter is published by Valley Press, price £7.99. It is available on Amazon
- The poetry launch at the Basement Bar, City Screen, starts at 8pm and tickets are £5
- For more information, go to Miles’s website