Hemingway, Chris, Party in the Diaryhouse, Picaroon Press, 2018. ISBN: 9780-0244-0813-55. £7 including P&P.
This poetry pamphlet explores a nostalgia for past days from its very beginning, taking the reader on a journey through memories inflected with present emotions. The opening poem, ‘A Walking Conversation with my 20-year old Self’ encapsulates this and sets the reader up to join the narrator on a walk through their past that the later poems reveal, piece by piece.
Music, musicians, lyrics and lyricism shine through as strong and recurring themes of the pamphlet. Frequent references to legendary names gives this pamphlet a living, breathing, credible life, solidifying abstract concepts within the specific stars it highlights – from Bob Marley and Hoagy Carmichael, to John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe.
Hemingway weaves memories of music, particularly rock and blues, with clever metaphors that draw the reader into the world of the narrator. In ‘Harehills Synthpop Attic Flat’ Hemingway closes the poem with:
And it’s like Joe said;
“These days you’ve got
to stay close to the beat.”
Which is ticking,
like a drum machine
about to break.
This beautiful simile is just one example of Hemingway’s skillful integration of music and poetry. Moreover, poems such as ‘Looking for Echoes’ and, ‘Blues Project’ makes use of rhythmic rhymes that serve to give the poems a definite musical quality too.
Part of the joy in this pamphlet stems from Hemingway’s ability to turn the familiar into something unexpected. For example, the poem, ‘We Played Monopoly Like Rock Stars’ is wonderful, with an especially wonderful final stanza:
Giving away money
without really knowing why.
Arranging the green and red blocks
into esoteric motifs.
Imagining tiny TVs
flying through the hotel windows.
Other standout pieces of the collection were ‘No Warhol’, ‘Sistersong’, and ‘Indelible’. There are more, but I can’t list them all!
Hemingway takes us from Radio Luxembourg to Instagram, on a journey through time and thought. The old and the new come together in the prose piece, ‘The Old Guitarist’ in which a man encounters a guitarist he assumes is a busker. The encounter is described to, ‘stay with him, lodge in his subconscious’ as it inevitably will for the reader.
The pamphlet’s structure is reminiscent of a song, with a chorus-like refrain reoccurring four times throughout. Each section this creates marks another step in the narrator’s life. Towards the end of the pamphlet, ‘If We Met Again Tomorrow’ and ‘After the Blues’ give a sense of the progression of time and changes this has brought to individuals, and to music
Overall, Party in the Diaryhouse captures both high and low-lights from multiple aspects of the narrator’s life, making it a wonderfully compelling read. There is a true sense of progression through the pamphlet and narrative, yet the past is continually tied to the present through the narrator’s reflections. This pamphlet genuinely feels like a journey, and one led by a skillful author.
You can buy Party in the Diaryhouse here.
Beth O’Brien (she/her) is a third year English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. She has published poems with Foxglove Journal and Nine Muses Poetry, and is a reviewer for Mad Hatter Reviews.She has also written articles for sheswanderful.com and the Graduate Recruitment Bureau blog.