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John Siddique
Salt £12.99
Review by Catherine Woodward


.....John Siddique is named as the poet to begin a new renaissance; he has worked inspiring disadvantaged young people as well as occupying various similar positions in prisons, schools and hospitals; he firmly believes in direct messages and the enduring power of words. Publicly, Siddique is a familiar character - the man with the unstoppable desire to help and an unshakable faith in the power of straight language to bring about change.
.....To those, like me, who share an innate bias against optimism, the assumed end product of these neat ideals and hard labour, is none too promising. When a hard working, charitable, yet incurably idealistic man says to people like me – ‘my writing is direct. I don't believe in trying to show the reader how clever I am’ – people like me assume that their writing will lack the emotiveness and effectiveness of other poems whose cruces are moving because they go unsaid. We expect that the most important details of the story will go uncommunicated because the poet is trying too hard to ‘tell the story’.
.....However, Siddique has achieved a quite wonderful medium with Recital. The book still involves the optimism and faith that the poet publicly shows, but it has been tempered with reality and personal experience, so what is produced is a very readable tug between optimism and pessimism, the real and the romantic. This culminates (quite unexpectedly) not into a vow to make things better, encourage all to express themselves etc, but instead in an acceptance of an unstoppable cycle of things, imaginatively illustrated by the overarching narrative of the year and lunar cycle (which quite subtly, makes self expression feel naturally easy). Sadness is not a concept to analyse and study, here it is naturally occurring and reliable, and in a strange way welcomed. There seems to be a melancholy celebration in sadness, in a sublimity of suffering together with a will to get through and a relishing of this cycle. All very romantic, pagan and suburban. You will like this book.
.....Recital contains unexpected hope, balanced against the mundane and guarded against the temptation to be ‘fluffy’ or ‘sickly’, the mistake of many poets of Siddique’s persuasion. Here is where directness works, even when using his most extensive metaphors Siddique’s route is general feeling with personal highlights and flashpoints. The reader then, while left to their own devices to feel this idea of the gravity of the earth, is at the same time guided to identify with the speaker. The result is a mutual understanding where everything, if not clear, feels clear and reassuring. Recital makes you happy to be sad and glad to be happy.
.....Perhaps Recital is something that we need, not as a cure for ‘these times’, which if Recital demonstrates anything, is that these times are the same as all times, but a map and a guide who neither pushes nor shoves but who is romantic in good measures and miserable in his turn, as many of us are not. Recital will undoubtedly enthuse you for renaissance.




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