Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home by Dane Cobain
CreateSpace (June 2016)
170 pages, $11.99 paperback; $3.49 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home is a self-published collection of poetry by British performance poet Dane Cobain. It shows a lot of enthusiasm and potential, but ultimately fails due to a number of basic craft issues.
The horror in Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home comes from the unapologetic look at modern society and all its evils. Lines like:
Consumers of the world
you have been duped,
and your hard-earned dole money
could be faster wasted
if you placed it in the hands of a one-armed bandit,
gouging holes in your wallets and purses
and your decorations are redundant;
your trees resemble your erections;
your tinsel does not add light
to the darkness.
show Cobain’s disdain for the negative elements of modern consumer culture. His vision of the world is pre-apocalyptic, and this raw negative energy comes through in his words. Cobain serves as a modern day seer prophesying doom on what he sees as a decadent and disengaged public. This passion is what helps to sustain the book, and buoys a lot of the poetry.
However, while the passion is there, the craft is not. Cobain’s language is steeped in abstraction, with few images to which the reader can cling. Lines like
I am terrified
of death and the dark
and the failings
of terror itself;
don’t let the fear win
or it’ll ruin you in the end,
preserve your flesh and bones
bottled in formaldehyde
and your mind will follow you
into the ether.
are cluttered with vague language. The lone, cliché image of “flesh and bones/bottled in formaldehyde,” is not enough for the reader to grasp when surrounded by so much abstract language. This is typical of amateur poetry. Cobain seems to want to use large, abstract words to convey big thoughts and emotions, all while ignoring craft tools like image, simile, and metaphor. This leads to passionate but shallow poetry, and the reader is left wanting.
Overall, Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home by Dane Cobain is a sincere collection of poetry. Cobain is horrified by the ills of modern society, and writes to critique them. This is all well and good, and we need our poets to be prophets and critics. However, the lack of basic poetic craft—imagery, metaphor, etc.—in the bulk of his lines leads to a poetry without depth or substance.