It’s funny how certain names pop up regularly in the poetry magazines, one such being Josh Ekroy. I’ve had him on my radar for a while, partly because his poems always seem to have a self-assurance about them, a unique stamp, I can’t really explain but I was always intrigued because I couldn’t find out anything about Josh on the web, nor did he appear to have a collection. Then there’s the name. Some names are just memorable.
So imagine my delight to come across his first collection, Ways to Build a Roadblock (Nine Arches Press), in the London Review Bookshop, just by chance back in June. Many of the poems explore the brutal reality of the ‘war on terrror’ and can be grim reading, taking us for example to a dank, abandoned cellar where who knows what torture or incarceration took place (‘Cellar’) to a chillingly matter-of-fact account of waterboarding (‘Medical Advances’). But alongside the hard-hitting difficult truths, there’s tenderness here, and satire too. It’s very accomplished. Ekroy brings an enjoyable sense of surrealism and subterfuge to his subject. Not only do we have a portrait of ‘Achilles in Helmand’, but the Hutton Inquiry is reimagined as the story of Humpty Dumpty (‘Lord Hutton Reports’).
I asked Josh if I could reproduce ‘Saddam Hussein’s Overbite’ – (how’s that for a poem title?) – which for me is particularly marvellous, in which a part of Saddam’s anatomy is not only given a voice, but defends its position vis a vis ‘the underbite’, and speaks with the respectful clarity of a PR man giving an apologia. Clever stuff. Enjoy.
Saddam Hussein’s Overbite
We had only two minutes of fame when mandible
was forced to admit tongue compressor. But canines
and molars, probed for gold-capped patterns,
disclosed the true identity with a compelling smile.
We loved Iraq which boasted an expert dental service
free to all Iraqis. Nevertheless we in the overbite
are misaligned with those in the underbite
which occludes at jaw base to the front of us.
We could not help but recede, attached
as we are to bone and therefore bonded
into position. After the hanging we remained
loyal to blue lips and choked larynx which
uttered patriotic commands, minted apt sayings,
engulfed so many banquets of larks’ tongues.
Josh Ekroy’s first collection, Ways To Build A Roadblock was published in May 2014 by Nine Arches Press. Saddam Hussein’s Overbite won second prize in the William Soutar competition. He lives in London.