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, 5 October 2009

"Nigh-no-place" by Jen Hadfield (Bloodaxe, 2008)

I get the impression that she's not pre-programmed. Line and stanza lengths are not necessarily dictated by the length of previous units. "The Mandolin of May" is made of fragments, but it doesn't throw out the narrative baby with the bathwater. Some fragments have traditional imagery, some are the dreaded poetry-about-poetry

  • His gold teeth are radiant, a trove of sullen ore; the sweat runs from his skull to collar. Pouring from the car, the air-conditioned air curdles
  • The same spoiled poem over and over; mushy round the peach-pit of the poem before. The same commas maul it, like fruitflies
  • The gabardine mountain pegged up in rain, drooling dye like a pinafore
  • All the way up the lane, tyres lumping over ruts and sinkholes, a robin runs ahead like a pageboy

She uses dialect words (mostly guessable or onomatapeic - anyway there's a glossary) though she does fine with a wide range of more familiar words. In poems/sections like "Jellyfish" every image is successful, the final one being thimbles on the tide, all thumbs, or from another poem you can have huddled on the bobsleigh of the blanketed sofa

There are haiku and near-haiku. There's a poem called "Nearly a Sonnet". "Towhee" and "Love's Dog" are in couplets that mostly rhyme, but then don't - "cars/happen", "boil-wash/spin-cycle". There's a wide range of layouts too. 'witless ...' is shaped, I think. Is it a motorcycle crash-helmet? A Rorschach? "Burra Moonwalk" starts tight, then phrases drift apart, and drift into each other. "Gish" is one of several poems with a prose layout; multiple definitions of a rivelet - a leak from a washing machine; the black liquor that cooks out of mushrooms, etc.

"Self-portrait as a Fortune-telling Miracle Fish" and "Bridge End, October" (but not the title poem) appeal to me. My only grouch, I suppose, is that there are many pages where the poem ends early, so the poetry weighs in at about 30p/page.

1 comment:

  1. We can talk about poetic forms till the cows come home (Shetland sheep, too as that is where Jen H lives), but it all about how form and content express each other. Remember, this book won the T S Eliot Prize for this book. It is choca-full of allusions and references to writers.