Review of "Natural Causes" by André Mangeot

André is one of my fellow Cambridge town poets, and a member of the poetry performance group The Joy Of Six. This, his first collection, was published in May 2003 by Shoestring.

This volume's keystone, "High Pressure", is an intense sequence of autobiographical poems recounting the effect of a child with Asperger Syndrome on a family holiday. The autistic son cannot cope with a strange place, Greece, and it's 'wrong' weather. The consequence is violence.

The language of "High Pressure" is carefully constructed daily language. The form is traditional; pentameter, sextameter, iambic, trochee, etc.; varied for poetic effect. For example, the sequence starts with an unrhymed sonnet, which sneaks into trochee for a few lines as the poet physically controls his son to stop a dangerous attack.

We make it, somehow, to the hospital -
the dust-drive from the ruins long enough
for you to grab the wheel, to try to punch
the windows out - then tumble from the car
and find I'm on my knees, your fists a blur,
your presence just a shriek.

All this works. This is an ordinary man speaking, a man who has to find strength somewhere to deal with his difficult responsibilities. The challenge is not the well-crafted day-to-day language, it's not the adept use of traditional form, the challenge is the tale itself, the emotion of being father to an uncomprehending and violent autistic son.

It has stayed with me since I first read it six months ago.

Natural Causes
André Mangeot
Shoestring Press
May 2003
ISBN 1 899549 86 2

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Poem On A Train
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