Ken is a widely published poet who has appeared in over a hundred magazines and anthologies both in the UK and the USA.
A full collection but black & white is better was published in November 2008.
Ken writes with remarkable clarity. His poems achieve the memorable resolution of a Robert Doisneau photograph and his subjects are unusual and arresting. In simple language he shapes a poem that is distinctly his own. Poetry with the genuine feel of inevitability ...
Alan Dent, The Penniless Press
Magma Review of but black & white is better
Ken Champion may not have quite the stylistic and formal range of Stammers or Jess-Cooke, but he appears to have a great breadth of experience to draw on. In but black and white is better, poems emerge from camera lenses, examine cultural misunderstandings, sex and religion during a sojourn in Africa, discourse on philosophy, love and disappointment, and tour various cities. They are short poems, none longer than a single page.
In Locations, a man finds places for shooting scripts, and becomes enraptured with those places, even if they don’t fit the movie’s genre – “I skip-read contexts: it’s a sci-fi says the director / but I like these Bermondsey back alleys.” Champion, typically, connects these observations with something deeper, and concludes:
Perhaps it was the same with you; you asked for love,
I gave counterfeit smiles, my time, bought you a watch,
you wanted to care for me, I enjoyed my carelessness.
But I’m going to change; be the man that spins the
wheel on the overturned car at the end of the film.
That’s a provocative, double-edged ending, one that takes time to sink in and, even then, it’s hard to pin down.
Ken Champion likes to use clipped phrases surrounded by commas. In some poems they work well as a cinematic technique, displaying a series of stills that merge in to one another. Cafe situates the narrator at a table drinking cappuccino. He leans back and:
suddenly the smell of sauceon hot chips, inimical,
attacking, remembering dad’s fists, the slit eyes, brown
teeth, the hands smashing down, fork spinning...
The idea is to convey a rapid stream of consciousness, memories fused together with the reality in the cafe. However, too many poems used this kind of syntax, not always to any real end, and an exploration of alternative syntactical approaches might have improved some of the poems.
Champion expertly dissects subtleties of the human psyche from unspoken language and behaviour. Moral Philosophy has the narrator suggest to an African student that she spends the night with him. She tells him to shut up but also “kneels close with her cheek / on my knee.” The narrator continues to flirt “until she pushes me playfully / to the floor and stands astride me / her eyes black and still,” but it’s time for church, the girl heads off, and the essay title on her screen is “Thou shalt lie only with whom you love./ Old proverb. Discuss.” The discussion has taken place, but only the narrator is left still asking questions. The well-paced narrative gets to the heart of the matter, as many of Ken Champion’s poems do.
My favourite from the collection was Marx in the Park which envisages Marx in 21st Britain coining the phrase, “technological determinism”, among Starbucks, tabloids and ipods:
pink chavs all around him,
aggressive blind eyes, tight pony tails, point at him,
loser, they chant, loser, fuckin’ loser.
Again, that’s a double-edged and powerful ending, from an emotionally-in-tune debut collection.