Review of ‘Honey Dew’ by Darren J Beaney

In Darren Beaney’s ‘drop in’ last week he explained that his intention in writing Honey Dew (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020) was to produce a series of poems about his relationship with his wife, Jo, without being ‘too schmaltzy or soppy’. There’s no doubt that he succeeds, for Honey Dew is a collection that explores the many-faceted nature of love in ways that the reader can readily connect with.

All the positive phases of a love affair are here. The first awkward meeting and initial attraction (Let Your Heart Dance); the dates when this attraction grows into affection as they get to know each other (Playing Banjo on Brighton Beach, First Date Merry-Go-Round); the thrill of falling in love (Let’s Start Something We Won’t Want to Finish, Finding the Fit of Each Other, Now it Make Sense, Still Falling in Love, And She Said); the decision to commit to each other (32, And She Said); the wedding (You and Me, Us Two), domestic life together (Porridge My Love, Evening In).

In these poems we find Beaney sharing his experience of love. Many of the poems capture its physical manifestations. For example, in Finding the Fit of Each Other’ he writes: ‘I held my giddy gaze firmly//fixed to the zing of her lustre/and skipped around and behind the pane./I wheezed, breathed hard on the shaking sheet/of spice window.’ He is clearly in awe of her and her dazzling presence doesn’t just take his breath away, it makes the world spin. The poem  Now It Makes Sense  takes this idea further still and lists  the many other sensory effects of her presence in a litany of images, such as ‘The hair on my neck buzzes and boogies’, ‘My spine sustains a seismic shiver’ and ‘My feet rival Mandela’s dance of triumph’. The excitement, thrill and elation of being with his lover are vividly realised.

Many of the effects described by Beaney are, however, more profound than this. Love changes perception, altering how we feel and think about the past, the present and the future. 32 to the power of 22 suggests that his life up to the point of meeting Jo has been insignificant, ‘just clinging on’. Falling in love fills him with optimism about the future, ‘I breathe in the party/and air oozes from my lungs, full of promise’ (Still Falling in Love’). He is consumed by this relationship, ‘it reaches from the end of the deepest root/to the tip of the very broadest branch’ and changes how he thinks and feels about the things outside it. As he writes in And She Said, ‘my outside world instantly started to curl/& spiral.’ It is love now that defines his life and gives it significance: her words will live with him always, ‘eternal/until the reaper chooses their exclamation’.

Though Honey Dew is about love is never becomes slushy and sentimental. This is partly because of Beaney’s self-deprecating portrayal of himself. He is far from the Mills and Boon romantic hero. He is the ‘cack-handed’ lover, he ‘warbles’ his love songs and ‘he sports an illiterate haircut, dressing/as if old clothes are the sum of a fresh imponderable equation’. It is also partly to do with the humour to be found in their relationship, most notably in Evening In, in which a late night seduction leads to a cup of Horlicks and sleep rather than the anticipated consummation. Above all, however, it is because Beaney roots his language of love in the ordinary and domestic. In Porridge My Love, for example, the breakfast cereal is developed as ‘a symbol of our love./It is unhurried, inspired,/soaked with simple effort, scores formidable results.’ In other poems we see love portrayed as an unco-ordinated dance, a merry-go-round, ‘a legend/ bigger than Terry & June’.  This is a world we can relate to and which makes the feelings he describes tangible, real and unsentimental.

Beaney states in This is a Love Song that he is unable to write a love song because his love for Jo is ‘ineffable’. Well, for a love that defies expression, he makes a pretty good attempt at doing so! Honey Dew offers a fresh, sometimes quirky view of love that, given the chance, will leave even the most unromantic reader with a smile.

Darren J Beaney has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Brighton. He is part of a collective that host a bi-monthly spoken word night in Brighton – Flight of the Dragonfly (on Zoom during Lockdown and the COVID-19 restrictions). He has had poems published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press, Indigo Dreams Publishing, Parthian Books, Dempsey & Windle, Poetry NI, The Four Parts Press and The Angry Manifesto. He was shortlisted as a finalist for the Write Bloody UK 2020 full collection competition. To find out more and to order a copy click here. You can also follow Darren on Twitter: @DJ_Be_An; on; and on Youtube:

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