Society laid bare in the poetry and short stories of Thomas McColl

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Thomas McColl. Being With Me Will Help You Learn . London, UK: Listen Softly London, 2015.

A few weeks ago I was sent a copy Being With Me Will Help You Learn by Thomas McColl and it has accompanied me on my travels up and down to London recently on the train.

There is quite a bit of humour in this book however I think the best comedy has pathos and this is the case for the struggling individual depicted in The Teacher’s First Day. The sustained sea metaphor works well, the teacher after a battle with “the great white shark” of the class, ends up almost drowning and then after escape “unable now to even walk collapses into a heap in the middle of the corridor”. True too for the “street hawker selling knocked off smiles from an old battered suitcase in front of Camden Station” and offering “happy pills” to a customer who complains the smile she was sold from the “battered suitcase” has faded. (Smile) Then there is the Bank of England Governor who wants “to start printing jokes on the back of banknotes” and ends up the butt of the joke. One poem I found particularly poignant was The Chalk Fairy who spends her nights “draw[ing]” “outlines round” the bodies of the homeless and the unfortunate paraglider dying in harness and arriving to “cheering” that he will not hear. [Parasailor]

This is an unusual collection of poems and short stories in a multitude of voices, laying bare our idiosyncrasies and exposing the bizarre, the pathetic and the often  cruel nature of contemporary society.

Susan Jane Sims, 6th February, 2016.