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.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

"The State of the Prisons", Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet, 2005)

"China" is in 9 parts - rhyme, free verse and prose - so she's aware of the options. But why is p.12 in couplets? The assonance/consonance is at times so weak (e.g. "heads"/"omnipotence") as to be worthless. What's the layout of "Pilots" for? Why must only 13 of the 14 stanzas of "Juist" have 5 lines? "Reading the Greats" has one idea and one (albeit good) image in its 14 lines. "The State of the Prisons" has 6 sections of 6 stanzas, each of 6 lines, the rhyme scheme being ABBCAC. Line-endings include "remains/harm/return/fell/days/well", "success/along/nation/channel/flesh/irrecoverable", "stop/it/intolerance/midnight/Pomp/light" etc. Lines are any old length.

I'm unconvinced that the pumped-up language and poetic layouts always deliver much more than the prose summaries would. The blurb says that "there is a sense of surprise and discovery in the poems, and at the same time an inevitability in the development of images that recalls the work of John Ashbery" - which may account for my difficulties. David Morley in the Guardian said that her strengths include "her formal risk, not least the outrageousness and enchantment of her rhymes, but also the occasional pushed-to-the-brink line-lengths, some of which feel like walking the plank with the eye. You have to trust her". I guess I have a trust problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment