Book Review: In Absence of Clear Conscience by Craig Taylor-Broad

Posted: June 5, 2012 by Peter J in book review, poetry
Tags: , ,

I could speak the answers, but I can’t speak;
what of my feelings,
what of my opinions, what of the ways that things should be,
I should be with you every day and you,
you should appreciate me.
(Lipstick is for Life, Not Just for Christmas)

Looks like Fred has lost his head again
after an assault with Fido the family pet,
looks like James has misplaced a leg
after an overzealous flick from your best friend,

looks like we’re in the
charity shop
or is this what they call a car boot sale,
with a marked down price of fifty pence
for a guaranteed retail,
looks like it’s so long, nice to know you
glad you played our game,
looks like it’s goodbye
and it’ll be great to be of use again.

(The Life of a Subbuteo Set)

Never fight an inanimate object” – P J O’Rourke

Things. And their complaints.

Apart from occasional manic euphoria, as in the strange case of the Dyson’s Stockholm Syndrome, or dangerously ADD’d Trouser Leg Masochism, all these sorry poetic voices (about 2 dozen in 2 score pages) are plaintive, occasionally defiant, but mostly, such as Forgetting to Tip the Calendar, regretfully reproachful. The Things’ unhappiness is mirrored often in their human masters – a reflection that just as Things are sometimes casually used and abused, so also people can be.

It’s a peculiar feeling being lectured on morals by a thing (apparently) without a soul, and without even (apparently) a brain or a mind. Where we have no clear conscience, it seems, ironically, almost tragically, they have.

Though in mostly blank verse, sometimes the poems break into a surprisingly jogging rhyme at the end. You might expect this to herald an “and-finally” lightening of the maudlin tone. Tough luck ! Studded with twists of sardonic wit, and dark flashes of humour, you might want them to flinch and be happy to ease our conscience, but, like a smelly and neglected pair of trainers, they are here, bearing soles for us.

Bikes, carpets, dishes, central heating, CDs, buttons, mobiles, kettles … all manner of our stuff flare up at us “fickle people” – and deservedly so !

First thing in the morning
and he passes me lovingly
like an adoption, a baton of trust
through the letterbox,
and unknowingly into the mouthed
entanglement of a snarling beast
they call Scooby.
(Newspaper Neglect)

There’s a kind of reverse idolatry portrayed in this work – in that we ourselves are regarded as capricious and ungrateful gods by the things we use. Nearly all of the verses are their embittered complaints, pained with despairing resignation. Reproach, after all, when you look at it from their point of view, is not going to work – you can feel sure of that in your own bones. Say . . . The computer you’re reading this with (or the printer or the sheet or the ink patterned into words) – are you going to thank it before you switch it off ?

Didn’t think so.

In Absence of Clear Conscience is available from Lulu and via Big Cartel.

Craig Taylor-Broad was born and educated in the industrial heart of Cornwall, UK. As a young man who has grown into adulthood against a background of economic decline it is no surprise that his approach to his work should be as questioning as his poetry is ‘edgy’, ‘restless’, ‘dark’, ‘quirky’ and ‘uncompromising’. He has been published in a variety of publications including ‘The Big Issue‘ and often performs his work at various venues throughout Cornwall. You can also follow his work via

  1. What a lovely review. Thank you!

    • Pete says:

      Reckon so ? Well In Absence‘s theme was a novel idea, at least it certainly was to me. I liked how it was done. Others can disagree if they wish. Thing is with writing reviews, I’m always left wondering if I missed out something obvious which is now making me look daft . . . :-!

      Well no loss there !

      • I write music reviews so I know what you mean. There’s no such thing as a complete review, or a correct review, it’s all an opinion and a moment of time.

        I appreciate the time you spent reading and writing about it.

  2. […] Book Review: In Absence of Clear Conscience by Craig Taylor-Broad Widgets […]

  3. […] of St Ives (see previous review of John Phillips’ poetry) – Craig Taylor-Broad’s In Absence of Clear Conscience (qv) also fitted this format. A vital form for polemics and breaking artists, pamphlets show […]

  4. […] well as an excellent Spoken Word Stage curated by Craig Taylor Broad whose last poetry collection, In Absence of Clear Conscience was reviewed by Pete on this blog earlier in the year. Confirmed performers of the Spoken Word Stage […]

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