Abandoned Soliloquies by James Walton – Reviewed

James Walton is a Gippsland poet published in newspapers, journals and anthologies. Short listed twice for the ACU National Literature Prize, a double prize winner in the MPU International Poetry Prize, and Specially Commended in The Welsh Poetry Competition – his collection ‘The Leviathan’s Apprentice’ was published in 2015.

Abandoned Soliloquies by James Walton

Abandoned Soliloquies by James Walton

Uncollected Press www.therawartreview.com

ISBN 978-0-359-94109-4, 83pp

In an age where artistic expression is increasingly, and perhaps necessarily, politicised, Walton delivers a powerful reminder of the universality and timelessness of poetry. His work is a synthesis of musings on past and present, public and private as he moves seamlessly from the big issues – life, death, religion, power – to everyday, intimate details – how a cockroach moves, the making of milk, the ache of missing a lover – with the lightest of touches. A stranger’s small and spontaneous gesture in Arles, for instance, let us know that ‘there is no such thing as nation’. Walton’s poetry is a similarly unifying force, crossing boundaries of age, gender, race and culture. 

A master of the understatement (the quiet, contained beauty of the cover artwork makes it the perfect visual embodiment of what it contains), Walton’s use of metaphor and imagery, succinct and masterful, deserves special mention. Lines such as ‘the shot of vodka / in the small of a lover’s back sipped while / Death stumbled from the balcony unexpectedly’ leave us reeling – and, perhaps, just a little bit jealous. 

Reading Walton is like making a rare friend; we feel privileged at being invited into his world. We warm to his intelligence, compassion and endless sensitivity – and his keen grasp of history as we make fleeting, fascinating acquaintance with, among others, Tolkien, Anne Boleyn and Judas. We cannot help but emerge the richer for reading this latest collection by one of the formidable voices in contemporary poetry.

Soliloquies, maybe – but abandoned? Hardly! The book’s title (also the title of a poem) arguably contains the only artifice in the whole collection, which I guarantee readers will treasure and come back to, time and again, for literary nourishment and pure joy. I know I will.

Denise O’Hagan Sept 2019