Early on in Genre Fluid, Dan Webber describes his own poetry as “a bit shit”. You shouldn’t believe him. It is, in fact, wonderful and the book as a whole is a treasure.
Genre Fluid is the poetry book that accompanies Dan’s comedy and spoken word show of the same name. Genre Fluid explores the concept of labels, in terms of both personal and professional identity and examines the human experience of being a gay man in 2019.
Not quite fitting in at the poetry or comedy festivals, the collection is both hilarious and insightful. It touches on the way that language evolves so that certain words drift between being polite to a slur to reclaimed as a proud identity. It tackles topics such as society’s attitudes towards certain people in a way that directly addresses the problems but still feel light-hearted and funny.
The book weaves between personal stories and pieces that offer more general commentary. They fit together very well, moving seamlessly from unique, intimate experiences, to broader observations that make sense sitting side by side.
There isn’t a poem in the collection that weighs you down with the issues on which it centres. Instead, Dan leads you laughing into a discussion, lets you enjoy his take on it and then leaves you to reflect in your own time. His writing is thoughtful enough that it lingers with you, so the impact of each topic unfolds at whatever pace suits you. The writing around the poetry offers context for each one and is no less lovely for not being the main event of the book.
Dan writes with a natural rhythm that makes it easy to follow the flow of each piece. It’s a delightful tease of what his live performances must be like.
He has a genuine talent for capturing the experience of a moment and delivering it concisely. In the space of a single line, you can find yourself fully absorbed into the scene. Dan is great at finding little details that zero in on a feeling – things like a sodden flier clogging an Edinburgh urinal or the stomach-churning feeling of a crush emerging for the first time.
Although a lot of the poems are based on specific personal experiences, it’s easy to place yourself inside them. Dan captures universal sensations so vividly that you can mix your own memories with his, blurring your own life into his description of falling in love or standing up to a bully.
The book is thoughtful and considerate and a little bit self-deprecating. It’s charming and provocative. You can’t help but like Dan. He’s sweet and smart, and shows off an enviable versatility in his writing. He can joke about important topics without undermining them, which is not at all easy.
Genre Fluid doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of society. But Dan’s approach to them leaves you with the firm belief that existence isn’t all that bad if you can find a space where you feel safe to look at the funny side.