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Review: The Autumn Myth, by Joel Lane

This is a book for the brave. Joel Lane reveals a country, its cities and people without soft focus and smiling faces. It is a raw vision. And truthful. His passion and concern for what lies around us radiates from each poem. The discovered skull in the first poem The Refugee sets up the tone of what to expect: a frank and lucid description of someone stumbling upon a human skull that blossoms into a startling shaft of compassion and perspective: It had found its way out of trouble... taken its place among rocks and stars.

The Autumn Myth is divided into three sections: the first focuses on the wider city and our social movements; the second is a more tender, slightly hopeful journey through relationships (though there is harshness here too); the third reveals the ghosts that occupy these first two. So the thread leads you round from actuality, to hope to longing, through wastelands, crowds, absences, reunions and quiet observations of behaviour.

But it's not all brutality. Lane dances between tragedy and delicate beauty (think Muhammad Ali). His world is not laden with metaphor, rather he writes in a straight and simple beauty (a cobbled street ended in a broken ledge; They had two children, both madness; and no-one has much to drink) that powers his stories, characters and beliefs.

His message is stark, his language accordingly hammers this home. It is this stripping away that makes reading the collection so compulsive. Each person, encounter and view rubs up against another, so the poems spit and crackle like fire the more you read. The outrage and quietness ensure you don't know what subject you'll read next, but it will invigorate. It is a most relevant book, illuminating how and where we live now.