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

"The Secret" by Zoe Brigley (Bloodaxe, 2007)

There's a glossary (Welsh), a preface to explain the poems, and 1.5 pages of notes at the end.

There's a poem in the shape of a disc (the globe of international trading?), a rectangular poem with a slot in it, and some centered poems. p.36 has rhyming couplets. p.45 is a sonnet, and there are many same-size-box poems.

There were some more puzzling forms. "Our Lady of the Rock" begins with a 4-line stanza whose 2nd line's indented by 2cm and whose 3rd line's indented by 1cm. Let's call that pattern A. In stanza 6 the 1st and 4th lines are indented by 2cm and the 3rd line's indented by 1cm. Let's call that pattern B. The stanzas are in the pattern sequence AAAAABAABB. The rigorous indentation doesn't highlight a rhyme scheme. True, one pattern dovetails into the mirror image of the other, but ... what am I missing? (In contrast, p.37 has equally shaped stanzas whose indented lines echo the rhyme-scheme). Another puzzle was that at the foot of p.28 it says "This poem does not contain the letter 'P'." but "placed" is on line 12. A joke?

Compared with Hadfield there's a lack of imagery (few if any explicit similes), and a surfeit of supporting props - Tarot, Myths, etc. "My Grandfather" could be mistaken for a self-standing anecdotal piece. It's centred, and rather suspiciously bland - "The drone of the engine continued its constant humming and he was rocking in time with the engine's perpetual growl", etc. In the end I got fed up of programmed sequences and only skimmed the final section. On p.85 she writes "I am very interested in intertextuality. The epigraphs draw on the following sources". Yes, there are many epigraphs. At the foot of p.43 it says "The poems above are dedicated to the numbers three, four and seven, all of which were sacred to the Maya". I just hope the numbers are more impressed with those poems (3, 4, and 7 lines long respectively) than I am. Or maybe it's her sense of humor again. And when you call a poem "Space-Time", quote some lofty science, then barely allude to it, it looks like name-dropping.

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