Wigan poet, Shaun Fallows, has produced one of the quirkiest and most thought-provoking books of poetry I’ve ever read.
I make this sweeping statement because I finished Access-Ability feeling as though things had changed for me in some way, though I couldn’t put my finger on how. It wasn’t a sense of impending doom, more a sense of impending revelation.
There are many elements to this book that I find satisfying. First, I am a big fan of poems with explanatory notes, and I find Shaun’s italicised introductions to all his works as good to read as as the poems. They aren’t just ‘asides’; they are integral to the work as a whole.
Also satisfying is his emotional free rein. Shaun is a man who does ‘quirky’ very well, but he also does ‘powerful’, ‘positive’, ‘angry’, ‘sensitive’ and ‘joyous’.
I experienced the joy myself when I read “When those mods and skinheads lifted my chair on a stage, so high, like 1966 all over again, I can’t lie – we never paused for the moment but I never wanted the moment to die”. And in ‘Where My Heaven Has No Hills’ I understood, momentarily, the joy experienced by a wheelchair user in a flat and accessible city.
I felt Shaun’s hurt and anger when I read ‘Speed Dating’ and the lines – “Your sorry smile, my frozen frown, it’s just to hide the mini meltdown. It went so bad I did think, to hedge my bets, I’d shout, ‘You’re all wankers!’ and say I’d got Tourette’s!”
I also felt the sadness and regret when Shaun talks of his mum and mental illness in ‘My Mum Liked the Supremes’. “I just wish I knew, the person we all begin with at the start, like those multi-coloured Russian egg dolls that go smaller as you pull them apart”.
Shaun has a talent for piecing together words and turning them into something beautiful, and his observation and reflection are key to everything. Standing out for me are “Cigarette coated hands, laden with bags, pushing prams, and she doesn’t talk, she’ll just text”, and “I still work, not yet broken, but I’m the manic machine-made melancholy from too much time on my hands. The manic machine set to be scrapped instead of a resourceful reservoir waiting to be tapped”.
Of course, ‘Access-Ability’ will appeal to readers who have an interest in disability issues, but also will appeal to readers who have never even considered that there may be such a thing as disability issues. It will also appeal to readers who have little interest in any form of issues, who will simply enjoy Shaun’s wordplay and reflection. Whoever the reader, all will gain much from his insights.