‘Where does it hurt? In Battersea’ — so begins this exceptional collection in surreal tone. For those who have followed Dickinson’s work on the page, stage, and radio (Poetry Please), Micrographia has been worth the wait.
This is a riveting collection, lit throughout by a balisage of startling imagism calibrated with antiquity: ‘...we remember Saint Euphorion// sweeter than attar of roses’ (‘Proofs’). Scholastic acedia is counterbalanced with a papyri-dry wit that makes these poems compulsively readable and anything but fustian. The caustic ‘The fall of Troy’ tramples Homeric hyperbole, while the Pythonesque ‘The Apocalypse re-enactment society’ drops in on a celestial Sealed Knot who restage historic military massacres to alleviate eternity. History, ancient and recent, is Dickinson’s satirical stomping ground, which he roves round with a zoom lens. This filmic motif occasionally reels in cameos from cult cinema: Travis Bickle crops up allusively in ‘The Taxi Driver Year’, while ‘I am a bullet’ cocks a snook at a Mockney James Fox in Performance. ‘Locus desperatus’ satirises Austenite archetypes of period drama: ‘...a tableau of Regency daughters:/ Aphasia, Agnosia, and pallid Alexia’. But it is in ‘Biopic’ that Dickinson’s director’s eye swells into full panoramic scope with a life recounted via peripatetic cuts and flashbacks: ‘...a woman I’ve never seen/ reaching down in soft focus. Memories. Details’. Aphoristic captions abound — ‘Hackney will pass for Vienna’, ‘the jump cut of August’, ‘Politics as broken windows’— and there’s a bashfully English trope in which a girl pushes against him in a ‘period dress/ designed to restrict precisely this movement’. Armed with aphorism and crypticism, Dickinson turns past and present on their heads, infectiously. Now you’ve seen the trailer, read the full flick.