Days Like These: An Alternative Guide to the Year in 366 Poems

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Days Like These: An Alternative Guide to the Year in 366 Poems

Days Like These: An Alternative Guide to the Year in 366 Poems

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The book starts on 1 January, but was published late October, and I'm starting on 9 November 2022, when I went to an event where Bilston read many of his poems and talked a little about himself. He did it with dry humour, as he mostly read humorous poems. However, the book includes at least one of his more political ones, which I reviewed a few months earlier: Refugees, HERE. This collection seems to be designed to be read across any contemporary year, presumably day by day. There are poems here that are very much about COVID and Conservative government which I suspect will date it in years to come, but Days Like These still caters to all poetic tastes including cheeky couplets, familiar forms, reinterpreted song lyrics and personal free verse. While I didn't enjoy every poem he shares in this collection, I did appreciate Bilston's consistent sense of humour and eye for wordplay. However, peering into Bilston's writing life like this also reminded me of how adaptable his style is and where his true passions lie. His poems about wildlife and extinction consistently moved me and his literary satire appealed to my bookish nature. Since then he has set himself the task of writing a poem a day for each day of the year. This is more flexible than it sounds - poems about the Ides of March, Halloween and Remembrance Day jostle next to poems about historical events both big and small - the Boston Tea Party, the birth of King Canute (title: ‘Not Reigning but Drowning’), the release of Abbey Road, and the day the first loaf of sliced bread was sold. November, King Canute died. “ Not Reigning but Drowning” is a parody of Stevie Smith's famous verse.

February, Wilhelm Grimm born. A humorous folkloric treat, “ A Few Take Home Points from Grimm’s Fairy Tales” gives life advice to avoid the fates of familiar characters. “ Avoid, where possible, all houses situated in dark forests, / particularly ones owned by bears or witches / or those constructed predominantly from gingerbread. I like Brian Bilston. He really does have a poem for all occasions. However I did struggle with a full year's worth in one go.

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A poem a day for a year, written to fit something related to the day, whether historic, strange, or silly, as explained in a paragraph before each one. Queueing for an Ice Cream (6th June) – a fine example of Bilston’s autobiographical efforts, focusing on his grandad’s D-Day memories. November, International Men's Day (also World Toilet Day). “ Bear Wrestling” is a humorous fantasy against toxic masculinity.

November, Enid Blyton died. “ The Final Famous Five Books” tells a story by successive titles: “ Five Go Hang-Gliding Together / Four Attempt a Spot of Whitewater Rafting / Three Go to Guantanamo Bay / Two Experiment with Crystal Meth / One is a Good Boy, a Really Good Boy”. When it comes to accommodation in Scotland, there's a fantastic choice of amazing stays from luxury hotels to glamping getaways. Bilston's poems are often fun, but I think he's at his best when he adds some snark or political satire (rare in this collection) or comes up with odd rhymes and wordplay. Days Like These is a triumph that I felt could be more triumphant but that is quite forgivable. I recommend it to fans of Bilston's verse and those who would like to read an amusing and/or thought-provoking poem every day of the coming year.January, world’s first underground railway opened. It was the Metropolitan Line, but “ Love Notes from the Underground” comprises puns using stations on many different Tube lines. “ Hainault, I wasn’t Holborn yesterday / and I know you like Stanmore than me / but don’t let our futures be Edgeware, or leave me Barking up the wrong tree. / It’s true, I may not be a Richmond / but you can Bank on me.” Discover wonderful wildlife tours to book and experience in Scotland, including bird watching safaris, whale watching, farm tours and much more! November, Shakespeare's wedding anniversary. A possible clerical error in the paperwork inspired Marriage Vows for the Uncommitted. It starts, “ I pledge my undying love to you, / Insofar as it's possible to guarantee anything these days.” Does more mean worse? I think it’s fair to say the collection is uneven - much like the days of the year. For every public holiday there are a dozen drizzly Thursdays. Some are short and feel more dutiful than inspired. The most successful poems all spring from inner compulsion. His favourite themes are the awfulness of Tory politicians, the unexpected perspective, and moral responsibility. ‘Independence Day’ is his secret manifesto with its call to ‘form the independent republic of myself’ free from inept governments, influencers, pedants and queue-jumpers. He likes the overlooked and the snubbed. ‘The Clown Next Door’ sets out to redeem the image of its subject from horror films. ‘Love My Tinder’ is a forlorn love letter from the dating app itself; ‘The Iceberg Cometh’ is the mea culpa of the Titanic’s killer told directly to the audience.

December, Emperor Nero born. Roman history in verse, “ Julio-Claudian Clerihews”. For example, “ Augustus Caesar, / a formidable geezer, / stamped out civil wars and riots. / He loved a bit of pax and quiet.”.

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