I love a poet who is unafraid to use rhyme. Daniels clearly loves rhyme and uses it forcefully and skilfully throughout this, his first collection.
The poems within are largely astonishing – there are a few, mostly in the middle where the quality dips a little, but I think that’s only perceived as such because the work around it is so strong. Daniels is unafraid to deal with difficult topics – poems dealing with public indecency, racism, religion (which looms large throughout the first section of the book) – and does so with aplomb.
Like all poets, they fly or fall on their use of language and his skill and craft is evidenced throughout this book:
“Whereas darkness surrounds us; or other bodies, if we’re fortunate; or one body in particular, if we conceal our neediness; whereas these things, as well as skyscrapers, clouds, and broken windows surround us, the nail // goes in, drives in, enters”
– The Nail
“We’ve just made love in the fumes of gasoline. / By the light of that hovering shell, you sleep. Here are my teeth, the illness I made you keep. // I’ll take your shit. For my jaw that never healed. Here. Take my hand. Let me feel / That scar in the shape of Mexico again.”
– Shell Station
I found Daniels’ poetry dizzying, intoxicating, and eminently relatable. The centrepiece of the book is a ten part poem called ‘Danny Starr: A Lament’, where each section starts with the couplet “I gave you my copy / of Thom Gunn’s Boss Cupid”. The late great Gunn, a very precise poet who also skilfully used rhyme, would no doubt be a fan of Clean and I certainly will be keeping an eye out for any future books of Daniels.