It's nice to be able to say that my poetry reading since Christmas has been dominated by two Happenstance chapbooks. First it was Michael Mackmin's excellent Twenty-Three Poems, and now it's Tom Duddy's The Small Hours, published late last year.
Duddy is an Irishman, and perhaps because of that I hadn't come across his poetry in UK mags before reading the book. If I had, I feel sure I'd have rememebered it, because there are a number of pieces that immediately lodge themselves in the brain, sending you back to re-read them again and again.
Despite the fact he teaches philosophy at university in Galway, Duddy's learning is worn pretty lightly, and his poems are accessible without ever becoming prosaic or, at the other extreme, reaching for easy poetic effect. His concerns are everyday and yet universal - life, love and death being the predominant ones - and at times he reminds me of a more musical version of Michael Tolkien, another small-press poet who really deserves a wider audience. There's a restraint to his work, but never so much that genuine emotion isn't allowed to seep out.
Another strong point of the chapbook is how skilfully it is arranged. When my own chapbook was being put together, it was a real education for me to be shown how poems can be made to work off each other, how some seemingly unspectacular pieces can be enhanced by the company they keep, and the same thing has been done particularly well here. Happenstance's Helena Nelson deserves high praise for her work as editor.
You can buy the book by clicking here, and read a sample poem here.