Review: Obligate Carnivore by Stuart McPherson

Broken Sleep Books, 2022. £8.99.

A little like the compulsion to press a bruise, McPherson’s collection brings an irresistible tenderness together with pain. As the title suggests, beasts stalk the pages. These are not, though, charismatic, or cute, but often symbolic creatures – rough, wounded and bewildered. 

Here are memories of house spiders entwined in complex emotions; snakes, bad wolves, earthworms, pelicans coughing up fish-bones. Each prowling about all too human frailties – ‘wrapped in squid skin’ – howling at the thought of inevitable departures, as days rise ‘like curdled suns.’ 

Poem after poem feels haunted, as a flickering montage of nightmare, familial fall-outs, a father’s fears, old domestic discontents, step out of shadow and into light. What is most striking, is that through poems often concerned with past hurts, sadness, with violence, paranoia and the inability to connect – especially by the male of the species – the poet so regularly and articulately reaches out to the reader and does just that. 

In a crazed alchemy of poetic magic, McPherson takes the brutal, the jagged, the failed and imbues their examination with an uneasy kind of beauty. His ingredients may involve cuts of meat, blades, axes, rough-edged rope or trepanned skulls, but the dishes that emerge are delicate and rare. 


This review was shared as part of Black Bough Poetry’s Top Tweet Tuesday on Twitter to help boost poets. 

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