The poems in Dai George's Karaoke King
stand poised at the brink: they move through turbulent times and chronicle both uncertainty and joy. The poet’s tone is one of tender irony and pointed reflection. He conveys the uneasiness of a generation trying to evolve progressive values, to embrace a rapidly changing society, to recognise their privilege. As well as the pressure of developing careers and private lives, there is also a pressing need to address the emergency of climate change. It is there in the uneasiness of ‘Aisles’ where a supermarket offers plenitude but a close look at the supply chains unearths exploitation of both farmed animals and farm workers at far ends of the earth. But amidst this plethora of challenges, there is solace and hope, often in the simple joys of a park, or a café, and the poet is sustained by a deep love of music. Likewise, close personal relationships are essential and redemptive. Also in this collection are other heroes and anti-heroes, versions of damaged masculinity, tarnished by fame and/or drugs, David Bowie’s Thin White Duke, Dustin Hoffman lurking at Cannes. In the title poem, George brings together the collection’s themes of performance, anxiety and belatedness via the figure of the Karaoke King, a tragic hero combining both bravado and heartbreak, drunkenness and bruised glory, as he sings to a gallery of fallen idols in a ghostly lock-in. Growing up in South Wales brings the author examples to both parody and emulate. The collection explores and interrogates Welsh Identity via the Karaoke King’s ‘toxic’ male voice choir, and seeks to be a work that deepens and complicates the engagement with Welsh working class histories and family myths. Thoughtful readers will enjoy this artful new collection by Dai George.