Book Review: Singing in the Dark Times

singing in the dark times

“Your neighbours are at war with you, you know”

Singing in the Dark Times, by Margaret Corvid, is a collection of twenty-six poems that ooze anger at how humanity behaves, especially when times are tough. Many were written in the time of Covid and refer to the suffering this has created.

“the hacking cough and hasty sips of breath”

Those who work so hard to save lives are depicted as an army.

“the hospitals in frightful battle dress”

There are poems that look back on the atrocities of other wars and the dreadful actions man was capable of accepting.

Of course, wars are not always fought on a battle field or abroad. The class divide brings the dehumanising of the front line into everyday life.

“We learn we’re raised for slaughter”

Other contemporary issues are considered: the murder of Jo Cox, the toppling of a statue in Bristol.

The anger at the heart of this collection comes to the fore in Corona Requiem, but it is not just the many deaths from this new illness that raise the poets ire.

In School she refers to how children are moulded to fit society’s expectations, that they will behave and aspire to a limited future.

“I was just little when they killed my ‘me’,”

Small reprieves from dark considerations are offered, such as in Flowers, although even this depicts a relationship harshly.

In The Day it is assumed that all experience events that will make their outlook more bleak.

“Every one of us has the day when her heart hardens”

Anxiety is well depicted, as is the difficulty of surviving the never ending onslaught of dreadful news the media feeds.

There are references to how people treat others, often without thought for the impact.

“playing words back from long ago, longer than hate
in my old toddler’s heart, just before it was cored
and convicted and sentenced, hung out on the slate
because someone was frightened, addicted and bored.”

There is much in this collection that I admired, much that resonated. It is clear to anyone who reads of current affairs that ingrained prejudices thrive in a time of fear. I did, however, find the almost relentless, violent imagery taxing. I remain unconvinced that every ordinary person is as negatively affected as depicted, although perhaps this is denial on my part.

The cruelties of man and nature are evoked with passion. As a reader, I longed for more light to shine through the cracks, to hear a little more singing that could offer hope over anger.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Patrician Press.