This month I have had the pleasure of reviewing poet Ken W Simpson’s new collection, Patterns of Perception. Published by Augur Press (January 2015), this collection contains 31 poems in an attractively produced perfect bound volume. Normally the saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ should be adhered to, though in this case, the cover art fits the mood of the book entirely; water is a recurring theme throughout, generating a sense of tranquillity as you read the poems.
That is not to say the poems tread lightly in terms of seeking meaning; Ken’s work delves through memories and anecdotes showing the change from a youth of ‘obliquely watching’ life to spiritual refreshment and ultimately empowerment in later years, achieved through a new level of awareness and artistic success.
Ken’s experience as a professional artist creates vivid imagery throughout the collection. We witness the emotions of a person seeking value during an often painful journey and how ultimately the past, in isolation, becomes inherently meaningless unless the individual applies their own personal truth to the process. This is clear in poems such as ‘Compatibility’ on page 3:
The truth lives alone
existing wherever you go
inside or outside.
The second stanza of ‘Dolly’ on page 23 adds to this by showing a weary acceptance of the past:
at bits and pieces
of faded images
blurred and indistinct
like squashed insects
on a windscreen.
The exploration of thoughts as detritus is shown through images of the mind distilling the past. Truth is fermented as wine in poems such as ‘Cheers’; in comparison there are visions of nature showing decay giving way to life, such as a sprouting seed from a compost heap. As the memories fade, the anecdotes fragment leaving the poet to sift through the past and take the good from earlier years while discarding the bad. The need to compartmentalise is clear; one of my favourite poems in the collection, ‘Room for regret’ on page 12, captures this through description of the mind as a mausoleum, where memories of yesterday are unwanted and only the plastic flowers in the room are immortalised. The flowers show us that while it is possible to retain beauty from a ‘best forgotten time’, the ‘fresh’ nature of this is simply illusion, created to make sense out of chaos; and to overcome loss.
Patterns of Perception has emotional honesty without being embittered. The poems uplift, giving the reader a sense of optimism. The poet is accomplished at letting us delve deeply into poems that deal with romantic love and loss, such as in ‘Looking Back’ and ‘Greeting’, while creating a detached insight into others, where we are left to feel as more of a tourist, or interloper witnessing a brief moment. In poems like ‘Air Conditioning’ on page 16, the description of traffic and the artificial urban landscape makes us feel that we are just going with the flow; that life has become too routine. Yet excitement is always bubbling close to the surface; in other poems, movement and hope are created through images of birds, showing us that there are always new adventures ahead. Essentially, this collection shows that true passion for life can only be gained by accepting the bad with the good, and embracing the truth through meaning that each person creates individually.
Available from Amazon.co.uk for £6.99 or from Amazon.com for $12.99, Patterns of Perception is insightful, beautifully written and at times unflinchingly honest. Ken’s books are available at his author website and you can read more of his poetry at his writing blog.