Mike Di Placido
15 September 2020. 77 pp. ISBN 978-3-901993-80-0
£10.00 (+ 2.00 p&p), €10.00 (+ 2.00 p&p), US$ 12.00 (+ 3.50 p&p)

“It has been a long time since I’ve read a poetry collection as instantly engaging and enjoyable as Mike Di Placido's Alpha. Themed around an impossibly wide-ranging array of alpha male heroes, anti-heroes and celebrities (Al Pacino, Harald Hardrada, Paul McCartney, Barry Bucknell, Muhammad Ali, and Nostradmus to name but a few), the poems are written from the perspective of a self-deprecating, never-quite-made-it, beta male persona looking wistfully and sometimes enviously at their achievements. Those familiar with Di Placido’s three previous collections, Theatre of Dreams, A Sixty Watt Las Vegas, and Crow Flight across the Sun, will not be surprised to see Di Placido’s perennial heroes – George Best, Lionel Messi, Ted Hughes, Frank Sinatra – making appearances. However in Alpha, Di Placido seems to more overtly use his obsession with his heroes to cast light on aspects of his own life and experiences, which adds real depth and pathos. Alpha also engages more widely with Di Placido’s literary heroes and influences – the poems reference and discuss poets as different as John Ashbery, John Keats, R. S. Thomas, Simon Armitage and John Masefield. Di Placido’s technical range in these poems is as impressively diverse as the poets he writes about. He adopts a variety of forms, including haiku, quatrains, blank verse, and a wide range of bespoke forms. Alpha is quite a tour-de-force, a delight on every level – these poems are vivid, pro-found, compassionate – and often laugh-out-loud funny.”
Steve Ely

"Mike Di Placido would like to be an Alpha male – if that’s ok with all the others. These beautifully-crafted, witty, nimble, often self-effacing poems give us scintillating glimpses of a gallery of giants, from Genghis Khan to Al Pacino, taking in Marco Polo, Monty Don, T. S Eliot, Mallory, and a host of others along the way. This poet has a tongue-in-cheek approach that belies the depth and sensitivity of his writing, and which results in a hugely entertaining collection of poems of deceptive profundity. Other poets could learn a lot from Di Placido’s deft skill, his comic genius, his disarming yet powerful take on the world and its major players. A collection to treasure, and one which speaks to us like few contemporary poets can."
Keith Hutson

"I just finished reading Alpha. I love it! It flows well, it turns, it finds the back of the net. It’s moving to read “A Kingfisher for Mark”. My favourites are “Chow Lung’s Penultimate Talk to His Son, Ling Po” and “A Correspondence: John Keats to John Ashbery”. Mike Di Placido is a master of that more formal style. As a whole the collection has a ‘feel-good factor’, liveliness, energised by people, eccentrics, stars. It makes me smile and laugh, and it zips into deep truths too."
Ed Reiss

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from Alpha

Usain Bolt

He wouldn’t live with me
down the back lane from the chippie
to our ’ouse.
I’d leave him for dead over
the first ten yards, for a start,
and he’d never dodge the wheelie bin
outside no 13
or know to jump that hole in the tarmac
near our hedge.
I’d be waving bye-bye
on the right-hand camber
down the path to our door.
And when he came in –
panting and sheepish to the kitchen –
the kettle’d already be on.
Usain Bolt?
Hmphh …

Dear Mister Asteroid …

Notwithstanding the fact that we live in a pitiless universe,
governed by inexorable laws of physics which, in a few
billion years’ time, will deliver us into the blazing furnace
of the sun’s implosion; I have to say that what happened
to our guinea pig, especially after surviving a biting winter
(i.e., getting mortally trapped in that plastic maze of tunnels)
seemed especially harsh, considering the fact that they’d been
placed there solely for his amusement.

And that time, newly married, bright as buttons in our little cottage,
armed with gardening books and thinking of joining the Green Party;
it seemed particularly unjust, after labouring all one Sunday,
countersinking a little plastic pool bought from the garden centre,
to find, next morning, a hedgehog, belly-up, staring at a blue-flecked
cirrus sky and us. I mean, c’mon! Even Stalin would have tutted at that.

So I’m making this plea to you Mister Asteroid, as you set out your
co-ordinates, unerringly, on our little garden plot and pod of a cottage;
please, please, time your impact until after next summer, when we’re
over Xmas and New Year, and have had a Sky TV satellite dish fitted,
so that I can follow, in full, the Champions League and Final (after years
of terrestrial TV highlights) and witness the inclusion of Lionel Messi into
the list of all-time greats after Zinedine Zidane (the last valid addition, in
my opinion), despite the latter blotting his copy-book with that petulantly
violent and reckless – yet still rather impressive – World Cup Final head-butt.

Reviews of Alpha

"Mike Di Placido's fourth collection explores his heroes and anti-heroes, the Alpha types of the title. All male, of course; that's the nature of heroes. Yet it's more than this. It's also a collection that reflects on distance. In writing about the difference between their lives and his he can exploit to the full his particular brand of self-deprecating humour. This unites these poems, along with the bathos inherent in comparing himself to the Greats, whoever they are. It's a framework which provides a way into some tentative probing of his own life; the Alphas have all the grand gestures and glory, leaving him with their opposites. Mike Di Placido gets the mundane chores of a sub-alpha life devoid of celebrity, just like the rest of us. [...] Through these poems Di Placido stands in for Everyman, living the life we all recognise in ourselves, with rueful good humour and eager curiosity. This is a collection to savour."
D. A. Prince. "London Grip Poetry Review – Mike Di Placido". London Grip (December 31, 2020).
Click here to read the full review.

"Amongst Poetry Salzburg's recent publications, I found particular pleasure in Alpha by Mike Di Placido. [...] I suppose one might say - though I feel excessively solemn in saying it - that Di Placido's poems explore different notions of masculinity, putting the idealized impossibilities of the alpha male alongside the 'ordinary', often to splendidly comic effect [...]. Though his sense of humour informs many poems, seriousness is never too far away in Di Placido's work, as in the excellent "To R. S. Thomas" and "A Correspondence", made up of an exchange of letters (in prose) between John Keats and John Ashbery."
Glyn Pursglove. "Poetry Comment". Acumen 99 (January 2021): 110-120; 115-117.

"This is a collection that wears its heart on its poet’s sleeve, touching, funny and celebratory. The Di Placido in the poems is frequently hapless, slightly out of step, with his family raising their eyes at his exploits but loving him and them all the same. It’s a collection filled with love and empathy."
Pam Thompson. "Reviews for Spring 2021 – Mike Di Placido". The High Window (Spring 2021).
Click here to read the full review.

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