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Review: Absence has a Weight of its Own by Daniel Sluman
Sluman's debut collection of poems explore both the physical and figurative theme of absence

Absence Has a Weight of its Own
By, Daniel Sluman
Nine Arches Press, 72pp

In his debut poetry collection, Absence Has a Weight of its Own, young poet Daniel Sluman attempts to dissect the physical and figurative significance of partialness; the feeling of being incomplete.  The tone is set with the appositely placed ‘Absence’. Acting like a preface, the opening poem establishes the thematic impulse of the collection as a whole. With the narrative voice confessing an early encounter with mortality: “ripping a knife / through the linen / of my childhood; saying / ‘absence has a weight of its own,” the tone is set for a poetic voice searching through nostalgia, romance and faith to fill this heavy void.

The poet’s voice is intimate throughout and suggests an open dialogue with itself in its will to find wholeness. In a similar sentiment to Seamus Heaney or Simon Armitage there is a strong reliance on personal anecdote rendered in acute, figurative language; a highlight being in ‘Roman’s Ghost’ where the character “clasps the side / of the girl’s face like a just-spun globe.” Sluman covers a range of issues with his vehicle of absence; there is the loss of innocence in ‘Summer At the Farm’, the jettisoned child in ‘Abandon’ and emptiness of the boundless future for the just married couple in ‘After the Wedding’.

Absence Has a Weight of its Own has a fissure running through it that reappears in the “whore-soaked night, // cold enough to split us open,” or “how his father split like a yolk / under his mistress” all contributing to the interior “push & pull of this fine wire”. The crisis lies in the way experience divides us and leaves both literal scars as well as emotional chasms in our intramural geography. Sluman frequently uses this trope of division to fuel his poetry and his small vignettes place the reader in an emotional revision of their own “fine wire”. 

Part 3 of the collection dwells on love and relationships: ‘
The Grammatologist’s Girlfriend’; ‘The Aftermath’; ‘Kiss’; ‘Epiphany’; ‘Evocation’; ‘So This is What it Feels Like’ and ‘Dedication’ build a framework based on empathy and fellow feeling that brings closure to the whole collection. Part 3 begins to solder the missing fragments that builds towards the moment of clarity in ‘Evocation’: ‘a weight / has evaporated; as if something was leaning on the brakes / all this time.’ It is with the narrator’s acceptance of the other that the heavy absence begins to dissolve and, with its new fusion, ‘if you cleaved me in two / you’d smell your perfume on my bones.’ It is with the extension of himself that the poetic voice can invite the world back in again.

Confident and sincere, Sluman pushes his poetry towards the sentimental whilst also maintaining a contemporary voice able to depict nightclubs, sex and the vitality of youth.  At the close of the collection the poetic absence has been lifted and with the success of this selection it will only continue to rise. 

Nathan Ouriach is a writer and current intern at the Young Writers Hub. He can be found on Twitter here.