"The Birmingham that Joel Lane writes about is not the one the tourist board has in mind when it pushes the charms of Britain's second city."
"... his skill is to move from the story towards a verbal imagination that works its way into the heart of the story. This verbal imagination couches each story in a deft intensity. And Lane has precise trajectories for his poems, too; moving them from the bare bones to evocative and emotive endings that subtly change and deepen the reader’s perspectives. These pieces are often dark pictures of the seamier side of Birmingham. ‘The Rituals’ depicting the beatings meted out on his wife by a man who ‘kissed the blue-black runes that stood/like Braille on her damp skin’, reminded me of Ted Hughes’ ‘Her Husband’. And the Birmingham landscape with its combination of urban abandonment and urban excess is evoked in a far drier way than his great predecessor, Roy Fisher, is wont."
"Joel Lane’s terrain is grim urban, almost unrelievedly so. It’s the place that always gets it when things go wrong, even though people try to help."
"Most of the poetry is about decay and disquiet; this is Joel Lane's main theme and fine strength; it is a subject to be explored."
"In two previous collections, The Edge Of The Screen and Trouble In The Heartland, Joel Lane has quietly established a reputation as an unflinching observer of the overlooked corners of post-industrial Britain (and especially Birmingham). He's one of those poets who, you quickly find yourself thinking, ought to be better known. Perhaps, with mainstream British poetry showing signs of a renewed engagement with political reality, his moment is at hand."
Joel Lane's two previous collections of poems, The Edge of the Screen (1999) and Trouble in the Heartland (2004), are both published by Arc. His other work includes two novels, From Blue to Black and The Blue Mask; a novella, The Witnesses Are Gone; and three collections of short stories, The Earth Wire, The Lost District and The Terrible Changes. He lives in Birmingham, where he works as a journalist and enjoys long walks, urban landscapes, cinemas and bookshops. His happiest hours have been spent offline.
Halfway along Station Street
in the meltdown of closing time,
a mute prayer is given up
like a final showing of cards
or a nest of birds, startled,
trying to break from cover:
four rat-arsed, deaf soccer fans,
hands in the air, signing a chant.
Not even in dreams, the flawless
drift of pure white snow
to hold the print or the bloodstain
like a sterile agar plate, a glass slide;
even in dreams, the mark is blurred
and the snow isn’t clean enough.
The evidence thaws into newsprint
and the jury are not persuaded
and the mud clinging to the streets
might contain DNA or democracy,
but no-one can make it speak.
Reality is the same, but colder.