The Coast Will Wait Behind You by Jake Campbell, Review #22

-Reviewed by Claire Trévien-


The Coast Will Wait Behind You is a pamphlet about two coasts: South Shields in the North-East of England, where Jake Campbell grew up, and the Sefton Coast, on the North-West, where he currently lives. The poems all seem to be borne of various commissions, with the end result printed by Art Editions North, an imprint of the University of Suderland. The majority of poems are inspired by the latter, with Campbell’s final long poem, which happens to be the title poem, dedicated to South Shields. It’s interesting then, that an arresting section in ‘The Coast Will Wait Behind You’:

The sea is only a copy and paste of the sky.
The sky is only a copy and paste of the sea.

echoes a section in an earlier poem, ‘Star of Hope’, about a shipwreck found on the coast of Sefton:

but the sky
is just a copy and paste
of the sea
and the sea
is TV snow
and metaphors
mixed like a headfuck
of cocktails
don’t help in the morning

Decisions like these make you wonder how much a pamphlet was a meditated end project for both sets of commissions – it certainly helps to tie the two together and make the final project feel like a whole.

As the extracts above show, this is very much post-internet poetry in the sense that Campbell views the seascape with the lens of popular culture and technology in mind. While I’d say the above extracts are successful (and elsewhere, I enjoyed the image of birds as ‘glitches, dead pixels’ for instance), I think he gets a bit carried away when he writes:

Mud flats, shiny as iPad screens, reveal their secrets

Bringing in a specific brand jolts you unpleasantly and makes you concentrate on the wrong thing. It reminded me of Adele’s recent music video Hello, where the director, Xavier Dolan, decided to use flip-phones instead of iPhones because ‘they’re anti-narrative, they take you out of the story’ – but instead, many people focused on this detail as an indicator of time period.

I enjoyed the magpie qualities of Campbell’s poetry overall, assembling the jetsam and flotsam of history to give us a vivid image of these two areas. The contemporary touches are mostly handled deftly, adding vivid visuals to his observations:

It’s an October morning dawn.
Rain’s pulled the credits down on summer.

This December, I have given myself the task of reviewing one pamphlet a day to raise money for next year’s Saboteur Awards. You can help by donating, or sharing the link using the hashtag #pamphletparty. I have given myself the aim of writing at least 300 words for each, a lower word-count than the usual reviews on Sabotage, in the hopes of making it more manageable! Here’s a link to the previously published reviews in this project!