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Review: The Autumn Myth, by Joel Lane

Joel Lane's The Autumn Myth is remarkable for its unflinching insight into violence and domestic abuse, the relationship between the bully and the bullied and how they exact their own sadism. This is skilfully portrayed.

In The Rituals the perpetrator of violence morphs his action into tenderness and a kind of love, all the time quelling his own fear:

...now and then without warning
he twisted her arm behind her back

and beat her naked body with his belt
until her blood stained the duvet...

then

kissed the blue black runes that stood
like Braille on her damp skin... and quietened his own terror in hers.

This is powerful understanding expressed in accomplished poetry. Most of the poetry is about decay and disquiet; this is Joel Lane's main theme and fine strength; it is a subject to be explored. He is angry and concerned about large issues.

Our long table seats us all, twelve
ex-rebels at a reunion dinner.
The talk is of children, travel, new jobs
and no-one has much to drink
Like an extended family, we take
the ashes of the past for granted...

These thoughts develop into ferocious satire:

the preening managers, their suits
coated with the snail-tracks of lies...

...

the lying appraisals, the sycophants
planted in meetings to repeat lies,
the less than candid press releases...

So far so familiar, yet worded with economy and effectiveness. The poem ends with the sadness of delusions and of splashing blame about:

We kiss goodbye on the pavement,
feeling suddenly lost, out of time,
choked with an old and alien truth.


from The House of Lies