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, 25 May 2006

"Landscape with Chainsaw" by James Lasdun (Cape, 2001)

He sometimes uses rhyme and syllabics - "certainly among the most gifted, vivid, and deft poets now writing in English" wrote Hecht. Poems like "Deathmeadow Mountain" begin to live up to such acclaim, but what about the following passage about Citröens - "They were so rare in those days, owners saluted each other on the road. Not us though; our idea of a club was what, having first excluded most of the rest of the world, you then proceeded to snub"? Somewhere in that quote is a stanza-break and some line-breaks (hint - "road" and "though" are part of an end-line rhyme or assonance pattern). Could you have written such vivid and deft verse? Could you have written any of "Returning the Gift"? "A Tie-dye Shirt" goes on for a page about not much. "Between A and B" is a sonnet, though the rhyme-scheme dissolves in the sestet. "Woodstock" is excellent if one reads the rest first - it pulls the book's main themes together, unafraid to mix Greek Myth with F105s, the public and personal, the elevated and the prosaic (but always with a poetical layout).

Lasdun has written one of my favorite stories ("Ate, Memos or the Miracle"), and poems like "Locals" linger with me. He has a range of abilities, from isolated imagery to extended argument. I'm prepared to believe that the poems which don't work for me will work for others.

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