Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Friday, 20 June 2003

"Starlight on Water" by Helena Nelson (Rialto, 2003)

Many of these poems are preoccupied not so much with identity but with the borderlines between people and how these can be punctured (by love, encroachment, etc). The I/you relationship dominates even when one party is inanimate. Of these poems I liked "Traveller", "The Invisible Man", "The Shades", and "Completing the Outfit" and many of the Philpott pieces (which are still growing on me).

Forms abound - the sonnets in particular work well. There's also much visual regularity - in at least 80% of the poems all the stanzas have the same number of lines even if there's no rhyme. The rhyming is regular in about a third of the pieces and mostly tight (the couplets in "Inside his house she built her house of words" are perhaps linked more by assonance and consonance than rhyme). Plath/Lawrence-style irregular end-rhyme is used effectively.

Sometimes I had doubts about the endings - too many poems use repeated words to signal closure (which reminds me of the fading repetition of old 45s), and sometimes the ordering of the poems alerts the readers to traits - "Dread" suddenly becomes popular, as does the use of "all" in the final line.

Throughout there's attention to detail and effect, with enough formal and thematic variety to keep everyone happy (one poem even uses bulletmarks!). It deserves to sell well. A sign of the times is that the WWW magazine Snakeskin gets onto the acknowledgements page.

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