Leon Priestnall was something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. In his work, he isn’t setting himself up as any kind of answer – he is as wrong as he is right, behaves badly as often as correctly. Often too confused to be able to move – beyond lighting another cigarette, taking another drink, running for the door – or speak. Often trapped inside the circle of his thoughts, which are a riot of possibilities and recriminations, what-ifs and why-nots.
That he is out and trying to engage at all feels like some kind of triumph. And he is out, in the locked throng of weekend bar-life, amidst the shouts and the laughter, the thrum of music, the night-life characters that appear and disappear like ghost-train skeletons, there as large and loud as life, until they are suddenly gone. He is out, trying to join in somehow. Either that or trying to forget.
The other triumph is the language and energy of these hopeful no-hope poems. The lines sparkle like sharpened knives under the reflected light of glitter-balls. From Johnny, the ‘flat out scoundrel rat/ with a scowl, prowling round your council flats,’ to Taxi Girl; ‘a rock n’ roll Marilyn Monroe … waiting for a sunrise myth-busting insomniac,’ – from ‘the narcissistic weight of a post-modern baby Hitler with a twitter’ to Leon himself, wishing he ‘was unhurried, mild, unafraid, perhaps colder, not so wild,’ myriad characters are brought to life with single breath-taking phrases, before the night, still young, but grown oh – so old, takes them off on their way again.
The upshot of all this is a glowing collection of wild and passionate verse, full of rhythm and urgency, from a poet with a glorious way with words. Leon was such an incredible performer – all heart and agitation and countless voices – the worry was always that we would struggle to stick him to the page. This book puts those worries well and truly to bed. Hopefully they won’t ‘wake up the following morning/ next to some pricky pick up artist/ who knew how to seduce his way/ into [their] low self esteem…’
We are very proud of this first and only collection from Leon, who passed on Jan 19 2021 and leaves such a huge hole.
Also including guest poems by Jack Crowe, Bethany Slinn and Scarlett Ward.
Third collection in our Midlands Writers Series.
• 21 June 2018
• PBK: £9.99
• ISBN: 978 1 912565 04 7
• 72 pages • 216 x 138 • 32 poems