art brut is David O'Hanlon's first pamphlet, published by V. Press summer 2015.
Set against a background of literary and artistic allusions, art brut is a precise and moving sequence on childhood and teenage institutionalisation. Tackling the nature of trying to reshape memories and carve out something positive, this pamphlet is a concentrated crafting of raw experiences into a poetry that is alive with characters and thought-provoking truths. Stripping back the sometimes over-romanticised notions of institution life, David O’Hanlon creates his own sharp and haunting art that is very real and very gripping.
"The poems in David O’Hanlon’s first collection are ‘epiphanies of sun’ which shine a light on the poet’s experiences of psychiatric illness; to read them is to experience serial insights into a much overlooked and frequently taboo aspect of the human condition. Through poetry which is both lucid and engaging, O’Hanlon manages to transform his intensely personal experiences into something more universal: poems which can resonate with everyone (and not just those who have regular appointments with a psychiatrist). Bright lights cast dark shadows, and there are references to padded cells, catatonic states, self-harm, suicide attempts, OCD, et al, yet the deftness with which they are revealed, and the resilience, honesty and humour of this highly promising young poet’s writing, will leave you feeling uplifted. David O’Hanlon shows us that while the past can have a powerful hold over us, beauty, truth and poetry can emerge from the depths of anguish and despair. An astonishing debut." Fergus McGonigal
"If David O'Hanlon had written this sentence, you'd have shed a tear by now." Jenni Pascoe, JibbaJabba
A sample poem from the pamphlet may be read below.
So, after my swirling black abyss, a work
still in progress, we turned to Sophie’s landscape:
a jazz-hands sun, the wide Vs, almost Ms
of birds, a green ribbon, edge to edge,
and, poking their heads up out from the grass
five earthworms, five pink splodges
more finger than worm, with blobbed eyes
and there’s-no-bad-in-life smiles.
Are they supposed to represent real people
or a specific event, maybe?
It’s a fascinating choice of subject matter.
Worms usually have quite negative associations,
particularly death, but yours are content,
blissful. Do you think maybe there’s
something in that, a desire to make
positives from even the worst situations?
She didn’t take it with her.
Like others left behind, it ended up
on the wall where, my sentimentality
assures me, it remains, unfaded.
As you muse on the poems and their literary connotations, I would recommend a Laphroaig 10 Islay Single Malt whiskey: its mix of iodine rich medicinal notes, upsurge of pepper and chilli spices, with just a dose of saltiness, is a perfect match for O’Hanlon’s sharply focussed trek through his teenage experiences.
"I open a drawer, the one where things
Rarely come out. With the old love letters,
The plectrum thrown into a crowd
By James Hetfield, and my leaver’s book.."
Add a measure of water to open up the flavours, the hint of vanilla ice cream that evokes the child-like perception of the dark unknown and the taste of plasters and medicine that evoke institutional life.
"It was rumoured, and wry smiles confirmed,
That somewhere within that labyrinth
Of wards, units and clinics in a dark corner
Like a repressed desire, was..."
Or try these poems with a ‘Peat Smoked Ale from Loch Lomond brewery’: its tarry black texture and hints on the palate of honey, pine and caramel biscuit will mellow the senses as you imbibe the profound truths and insights of these poems, discovering wit, light and warmth in the midst of darkness.
"...understand the worth
of what you write. Speak it. Go on.
Like ink into a fish tank, pour it into the air:"
(from 'The Summerhouse')
Jane Campion Hoye
* Fine foods and beverages only recommended in healthy amounts.