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.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

"Pillars of Salt" by Judy Brown (Templar Poetry, 2006)

2 line stanzas5
3 line stanzas1
4 line stanzas1
5 line stanzas2
8 line stanzas1
9 line stanzas1
1 box stanza1
20 poems, none of them weak, in a pamphlet slightly bigger than A6, printed and bound in India! It doesn't seem to matter much how many lines there are per stanza, as long as each stanza of a poem has the same number of lines. Of the "Misc" poems, several have stanzas where all but one are the same shape - Guthrie's "little boxes, little boxes" but these are anything but tickytacky. Here's the start of "The Business Traveller", a 6 by 3 poem.

The grinding of the Gare St Lazare rubs at his room
as day falls away from the hotel's long windows,
and the things he knows draw tidally back

to the tightening coil of a single thought.

Note the arbitrary stanza break (the poem would fit better into a 2-line stanza form than some of book's 2-line stanza poems), and how simple statements are avoided - each phrase strains for effect, "told slant" to keep the reader alert, but risking the accusation that it's straight mimesis with linguistic frills. When there are direct statements, they're short, almost as if apologetic. The technique (which varies less than the subject matter does) usually works well. In "Best Drink of the Day" for example, the stream of description sustains its heightened register for a while. "Silvano fences a knife to sharpness. There's the scrape of spread on flags of toast" begins to sound laboured, but then we get the direct "I order tea" followed by the expressive "The mug comes steaming, pulled from the gasping dishwasher in mid-monsoon, a thick white saucer like a worn-out moon, brittle from too much shining". Amongst these lines is a phrase that saves what would otherwise be merely sub-Martian description - "By now so much of life is already decided but there's always a shiver in this waiting moment".

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