Visions of the Drowning Man is the third book of poetry from Glaswegian poet, musician and visual artist, Dee Sunshine. This series of poems reads like the last chimerical oracles of a doomed soul, pawing at the final waves of some foisted ontology. Sunshine submerges the reader in loosely unravelling contrapuntal rhythms and the breathless language that swirls between anguish and release. It is the poetic language of asphyxiation – in which an avid poetry reader can willingly drown.
But the journey down the Dantean whirlpool is not all despair; there is the topography of Blake’s archetypal grandeur to luxuriate in, as well as Baudelaire’s dolorous sensuality. Indeed, the great D.M. Thomas agrees, stating – “his work reminds me of Blake’s proverb about the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom.” Des Dillon adds his own analogue saying that he “is the poetic equivalent of Hieronymus Bosch (one look at Gardens of Earthly Delight and you will understand).” The famous triptych does provide the panoramic sense of excess found in Sunshine’s poems, that lavish admixture of the edenic and the eschatological, whispers and screams of anguish and ecstasy in some mad entropic chorale.
Dee Sunshine is an experiential kind of poet, one who submits to the catalytic impulses that pulse from the poetic muse. But he is also a consummate craftsman in that he can take those raw ejaculatory crags of poesis and shape them without over-smoothing their edges. In an interview with the fittingly named zine, The Compulsive Reader, he says of his poems – “there is an immediacy to them that lends themselves to the mercurial nature of my mind (and yes, I am a Geminian). Even if I tend to take years to bring a poem to completion, the initial draft is usually completed in minutes…” There is much in his work that suggests the ethos of the European avant garde and their proclivity towards the immediacy of thought and sensation, as well as the auto-suggestive mechanics of the inner poem. The poems evoke Rimbaud’s sense of the internal ‘seer’ finding new focus through a willing derangement of the senses – or Baudelaire’s openness to confront and embrace beauty in non-traditional poetic subjects. But there is also something of the British Romantic in Sunshine’s lines, shades of Shelley the beautifully ‘ineffectual angel’ (if I might borrow a line from Matthew Arnold).
There are angels
in the dead-end corridors
of his deadened brain,
they dance in dreams of sleep
through sticky, viscous cloud,
the texture of moon-blood,
the taste of salt and rust
burnt deep into
the fibres of his tongue.
Many poets have written about drowning, either literally or figuratively, where the dutiful submersion and the taking of water in the lungs becomes a poetic act. Sunshine is not afraid to confront death or that sense of the fathomless deep but there is much that is baptismal and purifying in this submarine katharsis. Skylight Press is thrilled to publish Visions of the Drowning Man with the firm belief that Dee Sunshine is an exciting and enriching voice for contemporary British poetry. Sunshine is also an amazing visual artist and this edition includes 21 spectacular full-page ink drawings.
The book is is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, Waterstones online, or direct from the Skylight Press website.