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.

Monday 19 October 2009

"The Best Man That Ever Was" by Annie Freud (Picador, 2007)

"Given its imaginative risk and experimental daring, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Annie Freud's poetry is its effortless success: these ... poems all find their marks with unerring accuracy" (back cover). risk="hit-and-miss"? effortless="lazy"? "marks with unerring accuracy"="easy targets"? Start with "White" at the end of the book and ask yourself whether all those lines are really needed, whether the work is "startlingly original" (back cover). If you answer "Yes" to both of these, this book's for you. Hoping that the persona in "White" had interestingly miss-recalled the scene on TV (maybe it was really lipstick) I looked it up, but the poem reports the facts. I don't understand "Preferring Goats" either. And I think the trick of burying the lesser poems (e.g. "My Bird") 2/3rds into a book has been exploited.

p.10 would fit neatly and effectively into a Flash magazine. p.31 has some useful notes towards a short story. "Pankow Park - Berlin" is a short list of observations. "Under Starter's Orders" is different again, containing unresolved threads.

Below are the 1st stanzas of 3 consecutive poems.

The Best Man That Ever Was
I was never expected to sign the register
     as all was pre-arranged by his general staff,
but I did it out of choice and for the image that I made
     with the stewards and the bellboys
A Retreat in a Edwardian Manor House
The Welcome Session takes pace in The Barn after Tea. I am
handed an oval card with a waterlily on the front and
SURRENDER! printed on the back. The blood rushes away
from my head. I will fight to the death
The Most Beautiful Bottom in the World
When I admired the photograph in your kitchen
you told me that it was of a statue of a boy

famous for having the most beautiful bottom in the world
and that the emperor who loved him

The 1st piece has a non-prose layout, alternative lines ruthlessly indented. In the 2nd piece (which is fully justified) I suspect 'pace' should be 'space'. The 3rd is in couplets. To me these layouts could have been swapped round at random. The presentation does the poems no favours - the variation of tone and diction doesn't keep up with the restless shape-changing.

There are several -a-a rhymed pieces, but they're not the book's strongest. I like some of her observations, and sometimes they build into an interesting scene with psychological interaction. I liked "Rare London Cheeses".

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