Several Deer is the debut collection of a young Northern Irish poet. As much indebted to Bob Dylan and Lana Del Rey as to Emily Dickinson and George Herbert, Crothers writes about destruction, consumption, misogyny, gods, sex, failure, and rock ’n’ roll. But he does so with rhythmic subtlety and verbal craftsmanship, with unmistakable technical acuity. The poems are acrobatic: homophones, mondegreens, malapropisms, paraprosdokians, antanaclasis, polyptoton and puns are juggled with dexterity. Yet, for all their craft, the poems remain empathic, sincere, abscised from the particular experience rather than plucked from the common branch, addressing real people, albeit with the cynic’s ironizing compulsion. ‘Now send in the clowns’, ends the collection’s opening poem – and so they follow: happy and sad, wise and tragic, a touch melodramatic, wilfully misunderstood. They console themselves with rhythm, with rhyme, and with riffs on literary and pop culture new and old, high and low. Above all, perhaps, it is the air of excited verbal mischief that endears the ear to Several Deer. Easily sidetracked and keen to be soundtracked, the collection doesn’t take its sadness seriously. It listens to the hits.