When I read this collection, it wouldn’t let me go.
These are poems of agony, joy and grief, bringing us the mundane, magical business of everyday life in surreal technicolour.
Tender moments are observed with John’s characteristic wit.
This is a collection which explores chronic illness in an unflinching way, but pain is not its defining subject.
Inside these pages you’ll find a world of brief encounters, cigarette coloured cardigans, unsent letters, the naivety of water, the alchemy of making jam.
John Mills shows us that we are all disintegrating, but imaginatively, brilliantly, strangely, burning bright.’
There’s a strong sense of Poet as Ringmaster in John Mills’ collection.
He seems to stand at the centre, calling up scenes, events, characters and displays from a rich stock of people, stories and memories.
And he exercises real control in these tight, well-worked poems, giving his material just the right space and freedom to become real for us, to affect us and to give us privileged access to all the variety of his experience.
The voice is often clean and unfussy, sometimes darkly witty, and on occasion pitched in a strange space between anger and softness,
but throughout there are the flourishes of lovely phrase-making, which ring out like the crack of a whip, or a bravura striking of a pose, hat aloft and smiling.
Read it. It’s mesmerising stuff.
To put words to the lived experience of Parkinson’s disease might rightly be described as brave – but to do so with John’s enormous breath of vision and depth of engagement, in highly crafted, rich and accessible language – is extraordinary.
This kind of writing makes me glad that poetry exists.
Oliver Sacks, neurologist, claims that ‘we must deepen a case history to a narrative or tale,’ in order to understand neurological illness – and this is exactly what Mills achieves, in miniature form, in his poetry.
Mills’s pamphlet not only allows the reader to share and understand Parkinson’s disease ‘in a sympathetic and imaginative encounter,’ but also to share and understand the person beyond the disease.
Whether or not some of the experiences of the person beyond, in pot-holing, for example, have things in common with the experience of Parkinsonism – whether or not they share certain imagery with the illness and its symptoms – is left to the reader to decide.
Jonathan Taylor at Everybody’s Reviewing Full review here
About John Mills:
John’s working life was as an English teacher. His recreations included music, literature, drama, running and caving. He has recently completed an M.A. with distinction in Creative Writing, at Keele University. As a caver he went the extra yard, risking the dangers that took him to beauties most other people never see; and as a runner he pushed himself to the limit. This shows in his poetry and also in his attitude to Parkinson’s disease, which he has had for several years. Typical of the man – he doesn’t ask for pity, but tries to help people understand the condition.
There is a phrase in caving regarding the discovery of an unmarked tunnel, it is, “let’s see if it goes.”
Try John’s poetry, see if it goes. It does.
Here is the first poem in the pamphlet:
In the beginning was the verb
and the verb was
He spills his food
Like Lear he is undone by a button
His fumbling is comical