‘Joe Neal - Actor, Poet‘
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JOE NEAL reads from his collection of poems "Turn now the tide" published by The Choir Press.
ISBN code is 978-1-909300-73-6.


Barbican buffalo.
Shades of you.
Music of Antrim.

Reader's Report

In Turn Now the Tide, Joe Neal seems to do just that with a collection of sinuous verse that ebbs and flows between past and present, love and loss, first and final meetings, and the many other varied aspects of nature and human experience. As ever, the poet/narrator captures people, places and the emotional weight of memory and melody in sensory language that is powerful yet understated: the Eritrean woman, homesick for the land she has never seen, whose ‘tears… welled behind/ your black hijab-begirted eyes‘; the ‘pit-a-pat/of rust-peeled paint that fell/continuously in broken time‘ as a young night watchman does his duty; exhortations to the reader to ‘hear the shimmer, see the sound‘ of jazz music; a baritone’s ‘calligraphic singing voice… scalloped vowels and cleated consonants‘, etc. A deep though unsentimental poignancy informs some of the poems – eg a first-time father’s dread as he ponders his ‘hope-scattered oats unsown‘, but then falls in love with the newborn son who becomes ‘the greatest friend I ever had‘; the ‘imperious advance‘ of a bulldozer that ‘claws out the bricks and clay/and uproots noble oaken stumps‘ of a beloved old house; the ‘blackened quirk/ of chance‘ that robbed the writer of his great love, ‘until the night I saw/ lighting up my doorstep/ the incandescent colours/ of a garden tiger moth/ – reminder that your beauty/had never left this earth‘, etc. There are moments of wry humour, too, in, for instance, Neal‘s recollections of failed efforts to win a girl at university by joining the Communist Society, who became a comrade ‘but not in arms‘; his musings on why women (never men) are always ‘popping‘ off to do things; and, as a canvassing parliamentary candidate, teaching a parrot to say his name, ‘forgetting that Neal sounds like No‘. And for this writer, nature is always a cause for celebration, as we see in the portraits of two feuding cock robins ‘squaring up to death/like High Noon cowboys‘ and a rescued long-eared bat that ‘trembled with the rhythm/of a tiny beating heart‘. Such themes may have been covered many times before, but Neal‘s taut, minimalist delivery has a sense of the spoken word about it – possibly influenced by his performance background – which gives him a warmly idiosyncratic poetic voice. As Trummy Young is quoted in the opening pages, ‘T‘aint what you do, it‘s the way that you do it.‘