We’ve all been there. On the garden path or in a dimly lit car park. We’ve heard the crunch, felt the unmistakable give of a snail’s shell under a misplaced foot. But who among us took this small moment of loss and crafted from the accident a collection of poetry in memory of the snail’s life? Jamie McGarry bore the burden in The Dead Snail Diaries.
In 2009, having discovered next to the body of the snail a near microscopic book later identified as the victim’s diary, McGarry felt duty bound to translate it from Modern Snailish so that readers everywhere may appreciate the dead mollusc’s work. What we encounter is a series of funny and uncannily touching poems that you certainly do not have to be a snail enthusiast to enjoy, accompanied by a delight of illustrations by the talented Emma Wright. Gandhi with snail is a particular highlight.
"…a clever and witty achievement by McGarry who may now rest easy in the knowledge that justice has been done for the poor snail…"
The poems are careful enough in sound and form to repent for the writer’s reckless action. There are real efforts made by McGarry in his reworking of classic poems such as 'Diary of a Church Snail' after John Betjeman and 'The Hollow Snails' after T.S. Eliot:
They say we have the look
of jamless jar, of pageless book.
Shape without motion; protection
without life to protect. Remember us –
if at all – not as gaping holes,
not as spent vessels of good souls,
but only as the hollow snails.
The dead snails.
Other poems spark with originality, such as 'Snail’s Postcard from Heaven' and 'The Haunting of the Poet by Snail' where we are invited to ‘Come on round, see the trails across my walls…and explain the vengeful holes in my fridge-ridden, cellophaned lettuce’.
Jamie McGarry’s The Dead Snail Diaries are a great atonement. This is a clever and witty achievement by McGarry who may now rest easy in the knowledge that justice has been done for the poor snail and move on to that fly he squashed back in 2010, or the fox he ran over in 2013. Would I were one of these creatures, that I might have a collection as sweet as this written for me.