Book Review – ‘From the Backseat of a Bus’ by Jeremy Mifsud

I received a complimentary copy of the Extended Edition of this book from the author.

Jeremy Mifsud’s chapbook From the Backseat of a Bus is a poetic montage of moments captured during his daily commutes. In this collection we see the everyday reframed, made poignant by the poet’s deeper gaze.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first, titled The Other, Mifsud reflects on what seem like small actions, and how humanity (or a lack of it) is reflected in them. In these vignettes we see a sadness at how people treat others, reflected in the apathy of onlookers as abuses happen in front of them.  The best intentions bring out the worst in people, and Jeremy describes the small ways we fight back. He reads aloud; persists in holding himself more worthy than a handbag of having a seat on the bus; begs drivers to be sensible in hazardous conditions. And in spite of all this, he still finds a lyrical beauty in these moments:

a gazelle never forgets a lion’s gaze.

In the second half, The Poet, Mifsud dwells in sweeter territory. Here the journeys are often in company, and Jeremy is lost in memories of love. Fleeting sensations bring the past flooding back; and moments are brought to life in vivid detail:

That’s when I knew

you were a poet too,

that you’d carve our initials

on the rocks upon which

we lay the first time we met…

Mifsud uses simile and metaphor to great effect to add colour to routine places and events, giving an emotional underscore to his descriptions. His free verse is playful in form, using indentation to juxtapose the surface image with the twist that adds an additional layer of meaning. This is exemplified in the poem Overheard, where the indentation occurs as the reader is shifted from what they suspect might be the reason the teenage girl can’t join her friends:

I overheard
a teenage girl
telling her friends
she can’t go out tonight.

Her parents
can’t pick her up
            & it’s too dangerous
            for a girl
            to walk alone
            after 9pm.

Jeremy is also skilled at enjambment and uses it to great effect to pull the reader through his poems and subvert their expectations. 

From the Backseat of a Bus is another accomplished collection from Jeremy Mifsud, following on from his full length collection Welcome To The Sombre Days. The second part of the extended collection is a delightful counterpoint as Mifsud turns his gaze inward, giving us glimpses of sweetness and yearning that are a relief against the harsher observations of human behaviour. 

From the Backseat of a Bus is available from Ghost City Press. The Extended Edition (reviewed here) is available from  Kindlepayhip, and Kobo.

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