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Briggs turns out to be setting up a tension between the coldly analytical and the irrational, the grittily realistic and the romantic, which means you can’t help viewing the later pieces from two diametrically opposite viewpoints, too. It’s a neat trick, and all the neater for never feeling like a trick at all … Briggs is much too skilled to jar the reader’s sensibilities, using a wide variety of forms with a deftness and quiet musicality that means they’re never obtrusive … [This] collection gives the impression of the arrival of a poet almost fully formed.”
What his new book shows is that his sense of poetic vocation has sharpened to a point at which a real kind of poetry makes its way through him, being shaped and shorn with enormous skill, but possessing its own life and duende.”
There is an elegance to the construction of these poems which I can’t help but admire and there is enough humour and skewed nostalgia in the collection to keep the pages turning … The mildly surreal narrative, aided by repetition and listing, becomes a method whereby a social critique combines with a playful sense of ritual nonsense to produce something entertaining and weird.”
Briggs’s poems are technically accomplished; he has located and mastered all sorts of styles. His poems also describe magic; they at least discern others pursuing various methods of magic … Briggs may well write poems that foresee, that become ‘occult and ineffable / frequencies of nature’ to guide us out of our modern labyrinth.”
This is one of the most beautifully arranged collections I have read in a long time. Like a thoughtful dinner-party host, Briggs has seated poems next to each other in the hope they’ll make sparkling conversation. Again and again, the reader’s response to a verso poem is re-coloured by the subsequent recto ... The Method Men is a confident and pleasurably knotty debut.”
Briggs has learned everything necessary from Edward Thomas about the potential symbolism of everyday things and, as important, has learned when to leave it behind … The elegance of the writing carries one safely over the horrors … and Rain Rider shows Briggs fearlessly using the full resources of language and cultural reference for serious pleasure.”
In the same way a refrain draws the listener into a song, the echoes, the repetition of keywords, returning themes, characters and motifs, implicate the reader in Briggs’s lines.”
Briggs’s use of language is thrilling and this storming collection is a place where words and worlds are turned in on themselves and Art and Life go to battle … Whether it is bringing the Fool to life, conjuring the Devil or evoking the nostalgia of the humble Test Card, this book delights, challenges and intrigues on every page.”
While Briggs is certainly very good at conjuring a sense of the things which have just eluded us, he’s also switched on to the wider scenarios where personal losses become indicative of and perhaps implicated in the subtle and not-so-subtle erasure of humanity and human geography.”
Briggs presents potent and evocative ways in which the writer envisions the world and makes it known – in its literal or metaphoric moment .. [His] writing in this collection will encourage you to ‘risk the night’s small teeth at your throat’.”
Briggs’s work is full of moments of shock and awe, phrases and words that creep up undetected to catch you at the throat and rip the stillness from the room. Whether it’s ‘a skein of ashes / mother and son turning home’ in ‘Early Phases’ or the end poem ‘Lullaby’ that reads more like an Icelandic lullaby – look them up – than any attempt to help a child find sleep. You have to know you’ve read something special when a poetry collection ends with ‘Leave every door, every window, open. / Risk the night’s small teeth at your throat.’"
Nothing remains unexamined in this skilful negotiation of personal and political shifts, real and imagined states, unease and trauma, as we discover Briggs's panoramic view on age and on the age. All of humanity's virtues and vices are at play in what is a sharp and entertaining collection. A new immediacy in the work marks a powerful stepping-up of Briggs's momentum, and the result is timely.”
David Briggs writes sharp, intelligent poems that will move and intrigue readers in equal measure. These poems are both philosophic and very funny, and possess deep integrity. Keenly observed and making startling leaps of imagery, they invent scenarios that work through a unique (il)logic, to leave us ‘standing at a moment / that’s going to unfurl / in a great fathomless skein through our lives’. With characteristically rich language and a great sense of style, Briggs’s new poems are precisely shaped, yet various – from stanzaic verses, to witty prose poems, and experiments with layout. They also feel significantly contemporary in their political and historical concerns, their critique of ‘dyspeptic white men’ and their situatedness. A major step forward for this very exciting young poet.”
This is definitely Briggs's best book to date ... His poetry in this collection is more heightened, more engaged with the politics of the time and also, as in 'In the Old Neighbourhood', reflective in a deep sense. There is complexity and intrigue and enigma aplenty here and a sense of paradox ... which mixes high-end experience with longing and desire and a sort of bathos ... Briggs argues with himself eloquently and in an engaged manner and speaks for what's best in us while contemplating the worst."
[In] the facility with which he allows each poem to follow or disrupt its own internal logic and the bravura effects he is able to create by doing so, the work collected here moves across all manner of emotional and psychological terrains and consequently exhibits an equally varied poetics ... Briggs starts every poem from scratch, from a tabula rasa, on which his various constructions are built and assume their individual form, value system, and symbolic economy."
Open Cracked Skull Cinema at any page and you'll be drawn in by David Briggs's deceptively conversational voice, only to be surprised by where it takes you ... Poem after poem delivers like this, whether touching on history or politics or more personal situations. David Briggs writes stand-alone poems with exhilaratingly various subject matter, but he also places them skilfully within the collection to speak to each other."
Cracked Skull Cinema is replete with dynamic poetic forms and musicality ... Briggs engages with his subjects, colouring them with intriguing language and reflections that move beyond the sphere of the internalised self ... Cracked Skull Cinema contains multitudes. Through the tesserae of social commentary, humorous quips, and artefacts of popular culture come moments of lucid beauty ... The far-ranging subject matter shows a mastery over first-person perspective, creating an exploration of self that does not assume one's own importance."
The over-riding themes here [are] a sense of brokenness but also of some sort of redemption, be that illumination or something more spiritual, and how damage and the possibility of grace are held in balance ...These poems are full of careful, taut observations and considerations, all within 'the eager crosshairs of truth's opportune rifle' ... a sure-footed, agile, and wise group of poems."