Sarah Dawson’s ‘Anatomically Incorrect Sketches of Marine Animals’: Review, & Some Notes on Poetry on Kindle
£1.14 / Self-published on Amazon
Posts tagged review
£1.14 / Self-published on Amazon
Matt Kirkham / Aged Fourteen My Grandfather Runs Away To Sea
The first & most remarkable thing about the eighth issue of Anon, the “anonymous submissions magazine”, is how much is packed into such a little magazine. (It is smaller than A5.) Poetry readers are accustomed to white space, as such is poetry’s luxury. But the ninety-six pages of Anon 8 are positively crammed, with fifty poems & three articles, & the generosity is invigorating. It is extraordinary value for money in a poetry magazine, even before considering the high quality of said poems & articles. & they are all very good, making the volume of material almost overwhelming.
(The only names I recognised were Caroline Crew & Jane Commane, but I suppose that’s part of the point. Although, admittedly, my knowledge of poets is patchy at best.)
The magazine is ideally suited for reading in fits & bursts — it will fit in your pocket — as reading it from cover-to-cover, as I’ve done more than once, can be a bit dizzying. I wonder a little about this scattered cacophony, especially as it seems some poets have multiple poems together, whilst others have theirs split up. Other than a cluster of items about Middle Eastern poetry & translation in the middle, the logic of the magazine’s order isn’t necessarily clear. Not that there need to be any obvious order, of course, but I have a feeling that the magazine’s move towards loose themes in future issues will improve it further still, assuming that it can attract enough on-topic submissions of the same impeccable standard. Based on issue eight, I can’t see any reason why this won’t be the case.
I was going to write down some ideas about anonymous submission, but these articles on the Anon website do a much better job than I could.
Claire Trévien / Low-Tide Lottery
£3.99 / Salt / ISBN: 978-1-84471-866-5
David Underdown / Time Lines
£7.99 / Cinnamon Press / ISBN: 978-1-907090-38-7
Some of the poems in Time Lines can be found here, as well as recordings by the poet.
Luke Kennard / Planet-Shaped Horse
£5.00 / Nine Arches Press / ISBN: 978-0-9565514-5-0
Claire Crowther / Mollicle
£5.00 / Nine Arches Press / ISBN: 978-0-9565514-2-9
All Nine Arches pamphlets are beautiful, but Mollicle’s bright daffodil yellow cover is particularly attractive, sharpening the black ink of the title & urging you to pick it up & read. The poems within are much the same, overtly simple but almost immediately urging you to read & re-read them. In an interview, Claire Crowther has described Mollicle as being about the “condition of women”, &, following the second title of the pamphlet, ‘Captured Women’ recur, appearing in a series of tense, anxious & immersive poems. Crowther has a knack for the puzzling & the unexpected. The best example of this is in the second half of ‘Blue Dog’:
Outside, an old woman
hands her a business leaflet:
‘If you dread explaining
a grandmother’s life is up
to you and named already,
call us: Blood Surprises.’
All winter, the women thought
of babies — their clear skin
even if bruised or bloodied.
The short lines, out of alignment with each other (which I can’t reproduce accurately here), accentuate the way in which each one uses something unexpected; almost every enjambment brings a surprise as it moves off in different directions from what the reader was anticipating. The most obvious of these is the final line, as no one saw “even if bruised or bloodied” coming.
Most of the poems, although not as noticeably as in ‘Blue Dog’, draw together apparently unconnected ideas, incorporate different voices, & generally cover a very large area in a small number of words. Poetically it is great value for money, & very compelling. In poems like ‘Emotion At Work, 1970’, ‘Heritage’, & ‘Young Woman with Scythe’ this works really well, as we are completely drawn in, & the prevailing mood is of uneasiness & of the scattered experience of the mind.
Creating this depth from such disparate ideas is not easy, & I don’t think Crowther is always successful. ‘The Fete of Mystics’ & ‘Woman in the Canon’ especially are technical accomplishments that nevertheless fail to stand up to much thinking. I can’t read ‘The Fete of Mystics’ without tripping up over “You shift’s done”, & in the end can’t figure out who was speaking, or what was meant to be happening exactly, or how even each sentence is meant to engage with the last. It seems that Crowther is creating a fable, but one for which the reader isn’t given the necessary clues to construct. It is the same in ‘Woman in the Canon’, wherein a point about women’s place in literature is reshaped into a fable inexplicably involving cabbages-for-heads. It seems this is a private association withheld from the reader, although I suppose I could just have misunderstood. There is also the sense, here & there, that Crowther is fabling a private experience of hers into a poem which will never hold a full story for anyone other than her. I can’t shake this suspicion when reading ‘Mollicle’ & ‘Ash-heart’, & believe it is what Charlotte Gann refers to when she writes of the pamphlet: “At times, it feels almost like she’s wielding words to fend off something difficult.”
That said, Mollicle is a very strong pamphlet. My favourites are ‘The Death of Alcyone’ & ‘Risk’, the latter being completely masterful. ‘Risk’ is like a poem with a garden simile has been pulled through & inside-out, so instead we have a description of the garden with “a woman poised to stay” appearing suddenly in the final lines.
where a wall of arches balances
like a woman poised to stay
— balances, stands or staggers —
even the cautious explore there
It is a powerful moment where the natural in a flash becomes a reflection of the mental world, as a sudden increase in signification. It is these moments which show Crowther’s skill, & which make the pamphlet worth reading again & again.
(Briefly, I don’t agree with Kirsten Irving that the notes in Mollicle are “overexplanatory”. Whilst perhaps they would be better in the back, rather than alongside or beneath the text (as the few are in Mollicle), more poets should give notes (even in the age of Google), not least just because they are interesting if done properly, & still helpful even if not.)
The winner of the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2010 was announced on Thursday. Paul Adrian’s rather clever winning poem, ‘Robin In Flight’, can be read here. The Guardian is kind enough to include a photograph in case you were unsure what a flying robin looks like.
This is what I think is interesting about this poem:
Its success comes from its strength of thought, as it “imagine[s] for a second” an alternative metaphysics whereby nothing is “a contained entity” in itself, but instead is constituted of the unmoving “particles” in the space through which it passes. Space is then a “still universe”, a fixed three-dimensional grid of particles, like an LED cube matrix, which is altered by “will” or “instinct”. The attractiveness of the idea, especially for poetry, is clear, as it exalts supposedly immaterial forces of consciousness and being – “will”, “instinct”, “thought” – as creators of the material world, as well as being primarily visual. (The suggestion of pixels on a screen in the “still universe” matrix is relevant, falling with the “film” and the technological hints in “code of its possible settings”.) This is a distinctly poetic mode of thought, as the list which occupies the second half of the second stanza enacts through language what it describes: producing an “infinite” number of possible things out of the same single “speck of world” that is the speaker’s voice. The infinite possibility compressed into the items of the list then serves to explode the compass of the poem, and the vertiginous speed and scope of this (found somewhere in the terror behind “the skin’s at the bullet’s/nudge the moment before impact”) gives ‘Robin In Flight’ its final impact. Paul Adrian’s achievement in this poem is in the way in which the flow of the poem unfalteringly builds pressure towards the impact of this explosion, which is the highest point in the fiction of the poem’s metaphysics of a robin as “a living change”. It is a powerful idea expressed with considerable control. (The reader is too distracted by the atomic robin to be very much upset at the absence of any texture in the language, so I suppose form and technique should escape any comment.)